Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, August 06, 2005

No Prophet

I'm no prophet, but with public support for Bush's war in Iraq tanking, I'm thinking something big has got to happen. I suppose as long as he still has the support of Congress, and it appears that he pretty much does, probably that's all that's necessary to continue with this agenda, but how low can the polls continue sagging before Congress begins to get the message?
Sometimes I momentarily tune in to Public Radio. Today I happened to catch a trivia bit on "What Do You Know" that there are no horses on Bush's Texas ranch. Imagine that... But a day or two back I heard a guy, an American professor or something like that, who was apparently connected to the CPA government in Iraq and is on the Hoover Institution saying that it was only in the past few days that he had realized that the Bush Administration's agenda includes permanent military bases in Iraq from which the US can further it's military interests to promote US hegemony in that part of the world. Wow, huh? Like this is late breaking news?
Remember when so many yards had yellow ribbons out on display out near the road, maybe on a tree or on the mailbox or on telephone poles? Then after many many months they all got faded out by the sun and the rain when the troops didn't come home the way we were expecting they would? Then almost two years ago those magnetic yellow "Support the Troops" plastic magnets started showing up on the backs of all those patriotic American cars and trucks and SUVs, remember? Those things don't seem to fade, do they? They're easy to find, pretty cheap to buy, and easy to put on. But it has always puzzled me that some folks think it is possible to support the troops when you don't support what the troops are doing. It always seemed to say to me, "Support the Troops and Support George's War."
There are millions of young chicken hawks who preach support but would never in a million years volunteer to fight in Iraq...
Cowards, every one of them.
There are lard-ass talk show hosts preaching hatred to a willing audience of people who seem to find it impossible to come up with original thoughts of their own so they waste countless hours every week listening to these preachers, and then, if they do speak out, mimic the current conservative talking points as though they were the first people ever to think of them. Of course, as soon as the talking points change, the hatred-spewing hosts and their flocks all seem to change their minds at the same time.
There are the right-wing Christians bickering amongst themselves, the norm for right-wing Christians in my experience with them.
But eventually the fading tide of support for this war will actually force politics to deal with changing public opinion, unless we have another 9/11 type of event. Again, I'm no prophet, but the terrorists have pretty much always acted (as if) on cue whenever the Bush people needed some public support. What will it be this time? Any guesses?

Friday, August 05, 2005

As Is

I bought a used car about three weeks ago from a man who said he is a deputy sheriff and the head of the bus department for a school system not far from here. I had never met the man before, but I trusted him when he said he had used the car every day up until recently and there was nothing seriously wrong with it. It seems to me that there should be some trustworthy souls left on earth and with this man's responsibilities, it seemed to me that he should be one of them. I paid top dollar for the car considering it was a private deal and he sold it "as is."
The car wasn't registered so I couldn't test drive it, but I overlooked a few key items in my zeal to get a good deal on a relatively low mileage used car. One was the heavily worn rubber on the clutch pedal. After I started driving the car, I realized that the clutch chatters, the pedal feels tiny bit softer than it should, and twice now with little provocation, the clutch has smelled hot, a sure sign of a badly worn clutch.
The second sign was two new tires on the front and two badly worn ones on the rear. After I started driving the car I realized that the rears were even unsafe to drive on and made strange road noises.
The third warning sign was that the driver's "automatic shoulder belt" was jammed in its track halfway between engaged and disengaged. Driving a car this way was illegal despite the fact that this man is a deputy sheriff. He told me he didn't know if the problem was serious or not but that it might be as simple as a door switch. I didn't notice at the time, but both the dome light and the ignition switch chime worked on the other tree doors but not on the driver's door.
He did tell me that the engine had been changed since he bought the car, but there was some confusion about how long it had been since that was done and also about how long ago he and his wife had bought the car. He assured me that the replacement engine had fewer miles on it than the one that failed shortly after he bought the car.
I bought the car, a 1996 Escort with 83,000 miles on it, for $2,000 and the seller marked the bill of sale "Vehicle sold as is." I gave him $200 to hold it till I could raise the cash (he wanted to give me one day to do that but I asked for 5). I got the money, then got the title, registered and insured it, and drove it home.
I began with the automatic seat belt by testing the door switch. It worked fine. Then I bought a repair manual and took apart the track for the seat belt. The first thing I found was that the wire for the whole assembly was unplugged in the door post behind the plastic trim. A small access door made that a simple thing to do. But plugging it back in didn't solve the problem so I kept digging and removed the whole assembly. I found that the drive cable was pinched in the track and when I pounded the cable back in place and hooked it all back up, everything was back to normal. But...
1. The seller, a deputy sheriff, sold me the car in a condition where it was illegal to drive.
2. He acted as though he knew nothing about what was wrong with it.
3. Someone had disconnected the plug after the cable jammed in its track.
After that, I thought I should check the spark plugs since the engine seemed a little bit rough at times. I couldn't believe what I found. The car had Motorcraft Platinum spark plugs that had been in the car so long they had burned open to a gap probably twice as large as the original .055. The odometer was just over 83,000 miles and this seller assured me that the engine had fewer total miles on it than that. OK. But why weren't the spark plugs EVER changed and just how many miles does it take to wear Motorcraft Platinum plugs this much?
The first trip we took in the car, I realized it was unsafe to use the rear tires any more, so we bought two new tires at Sears, "H" speed rated to match the two new ones that were already on the car. That quieted things down and really helped the steering, but it was evident that the wheel alignment was way off so I made an appointment for an alignment at a reputable shop this week. When I went in for the alignment, though, I was told that the right rear strut was leaking and that the right rear was sitting lower than the left, an indication of a probable broken spring although the mechanic didn't find a break in it. The estimate was outrageous so I just brought the car back home. But on the way home, I stopped at this seller's home and had a talk with him. I told him about the strut situation and the $680.00 estimate I got from the shop. I told him about the chattering clutch. He told me he had no idea about the strut situation, but that the clutch was new and he couldn't believe it was worn out. He did tell me, though, that the clutch was replaced before the engine so I was hoping I might find that there was a new clutch bolted to a broken engine in some mechanic's back yard. I found out who had done the work for him and had him call the garage and let them know I would be coming over to ask a few questions.
Here's what I found out...
1. He had owned the car for well over two years and had put about 22,000 miles on it. That is significantly more use than he seemed to be saying when he was selling me the car.
2. The engine went soon after he bought the car. The crankshaft had broken in half. The clutch repair happened a year or so later and the mechanic had noticed clutch chatter the past couple of times he had driven the car, a sign that someone was rough on the clutch. I'm guessing that the engine flywheel is warped from overheating from slipping the clutch too much. This man's wife was in a bad accident about a year ago and had a hard time even walking for awhile, but apparently she continued to drive this car.
3. Nobody seemed to know anything about the rear struts, but they aren't too expensive to repair and broken springs are common on the rear of a Ford Escort. It shouldn't cost me $680.00 to repair.
So I did some pricing and then took the car home and removed the rear struts. Here's what I found...
1. Someone had removed the struts at least one time before. There was evidence of this on the nuts on the left side of the car.
2. The right rear strut was indeed leaking, but instead of there being a broken spring, there was a brand new spring on it. Apparently the new spring didn't sit quite as high as the old original had even though it still had the labels on it clearly identifying it as a Ford part. I called the Ford garage in our area and their records showed the sale of a single spring in January of this year. My guess is that I am the proud owner of that spring even though the car's owner didn't seem to have any idea that it had been replaced!
OK, I confess, I overlooked a lot of clear warning signs when I bought the car, but I trusted the man I bought it from. I trusted that he was telling me the truth. Clearly, though, it was ignorant of me to place trust in a stranger even if he was a deputy sheriff and worked at a job in which he must have had knowledge of mechanics.
My guess is that this man is a Republican... Probably his wife is too... My guess is that Karl Rove and George Bush are role models for this pair. But that's just a wild guess, isn't it?

Late Update...
A correction: I found two new springs on the rear, not just one. For that, I thank whoever did it, but jeeze, why springs and not struts while you're in there?
I replaced the struts today and test drove the car. Things are looking pretty good. It still needs alignment but at a total cost of around $225, not $680. That I can handle. I do love driving this car and I love the feeling when I gas it up and put $15.00 worth in the tank!!
Now for the clutch.....