Wednesday, February 29, 2012
At my day job, we’ve been working really hard on getting a certain deal to close. Last Friday we sent out big packages by overnight delivery with documents for people to sign and then overnight back to us. To make everything simpler, we included a return UPS slip that I had already filled out with our information. All the people had to do was sign the pages and slip them back into the package and, zoom, off it would go only to show up first thing in the morning on our doorstep like a little lost kitten wanting to find a home. And we would smile and welcome it with open arms.
But when neither package had shown up by 9:30, I started to sweat. Neither package showing up implied that the return UPS slips were wrong. And that meant, worst case scenario, I could have delayed closing a day or more, every one of the 50 documents would have to be re-dated to a new March date, our clients would have to regroup and sign everything again, the other side would have to regroup (from different states, no less) and sign everything again. And not just everything – 4 copies of everything. All because I probably forgot to put a little tiny X somewhere in a little tiny box on a UPS slip.
What’s worse is that I forgot to save the tracking numbers for the return packages. And the recipients didn’t save them either. My boss (bless her little heart) could see that I was on the verge of hysteria so she did her best not to say “Why the hell didn’t you keep the tracking numbers?!? A lesson was learned here today!” but I could see it. Hell, I was saying it. 10:30 rolled around and one package showed up. I barely refrained myself from reaching out and embracing the guy from the mailroom and laying a good one right on his lips. He took half of my troubles away.
At noon, we decided to go to Plan B, which was to .pdf all the signature pages, email them to the lawyer on the other side and ask his clients to re-sign all the documents before the final call in the morning at 9:30. They would have to email back their signatures and put the originals in overnight mail to us. Simply accepting that the other package was not going to show up and moving on to Plan B helped calm me even more. But there was a rush to get it all emailed out so I could leave on time to get to my class. As of this writing, the second package still hasn’t come in and I’m still stressed on whether there will be a little box missing its X and all eyes will fall on me again.
After a stressful day at work, class was also stressful. Mr. Shado walked in and said “So, does anyone have any questions on how a DC motor works?” What? Huh? DC Motor? Oh, yeah, I remembered, I forgot to read the chapters I was supposed to read. The ones on the cranking system. Great. After a lengthy and confusing discussion on motors, our homework was to write a short paragraph on how the DC motor works, so I thought I would do it here:
A motor is a way to convert electricity into mechanical power—how you get a battery to create physical motion. It all has to do with magnetic fields. You have a moveable armature that you surround with magnets. When you hook up current to the armature, it magnetizes the armature to where one side is attracted to the magnet on the other side of the motor so it moves towards it. By the time it gets to where it’s going, there’s a break in the current and the other side of the armature gets attraction that makes it also move and the inertia pushes the first part of the armature away from its magnet, which becomes attracted to the other side of the motor. And round and round it goes.
For someone who has never thought about the inner workings of mechanical things, this concept was hard for me to understand. But it eventually sunk in. During class I asked if we could make these simple DC motors at home and Mr. Shado commented that he made one when he was a kid out of a Cub Scout book and now I can too! Jiffy volunteered to go to Hobby Lobby to pick up a kid’s motor kit so this 35-year-old woman can understand how it works. Maybe we should just snag a 5-year-old Cub Scout to teach me. On the way out, Mr. Shado commented, “Holly? Do you get it? Are you beginning to understand? Because if you can understand it, I think the others in the class can too. You know, since you’re starting from zero and all.”
Didn’t that just make me feel like the smartest tool in the shed. I went home and enjoyed my two well-earned beers before bed. If that package ever comes in and has a missing X, I claim the rest of the 6-pack.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
At 15 years his senior, I'm just now starting to learn how to do this. In the past, I've always done things because the journey was only significant in that it helped me get to the goal, which was clear and purposeful. I really thought that there's no reason to start a journey until you have a clear idea of what your goal is. It wasn't until I signed up for this auto mechanics course that I realized I have no idea what the destination looks like and the journey is changing every day. It's kinda fun.
In class, we've transitioned from learning the basics of electronics into how electricity works in a vehicle, starting with batteries. And batteries are kind of boring.
Yesterday, Nanook was teaching Rain how to cut a mango and Rain started talking about our household experts. It was quite enlightening to see how Rain views our roles in the household. We each had two areas of expertise: SugarFoot's was in not eating dinner very well and being a 3 year old; Nanook's was in cooking and growing things; ThatGuy's was in doing nothing and computers; and my expertise was in reading and coffee. Interestingly, Rain's expertise was in cutting things and drawing (Alternatively, I would deem Rain's expertise is watching TV and complaining about SugarFoot touching her stuff). I noticed that no one's expertise was in cleaning (my mom would be quite disturbed and very disappointed). So what does this say about our household? Well, obviously, she thinks we should be doing more stuff. At least, ThatGuy and I should. In my defense, I just can't bring myself to sit with her and actually watch what she prefers to watch on TV so I pick up my nook and read in the living room while she watches TV. When ThatGuy's on the computer or in his office, she doesn't see what he does so she deems it nothing when really, he's doing something worthwhile. I'm sure of it, although I also don't know what he's doing...
The Mumbler came in with this t-shirt on last night. Again, his 17-year-old stepdaughter picked it out, which I think is awesome.
Have a nice day.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
See that little LED light? It blinked when it was supposed to, which is totally awesome. There's a capacitor in there, an integrated circuit, three resistors and lots of wires. I was really proud of myself. At least, I was until Rain came home from my parents' house and we attempted a more complicated circuit together and couldn't get it to work. But fear not, I can be a stubborn little wench when I need to be and plan to try and try again until the damn speaker beeps when it's supposed to. I'll keep you posted.
On Saturday night our good friend Rocky came down from the boondocks and we indulged ourselves with a rare dinner out. Steaks and burgers and beer and margaritas with all the fixins. It felt great to go out with friends (and without kids) with nowhere to be afterwards so we could take our time and just enjoy each other's company. I found myself sitting around a table with my husband of 15 years and two girlfriends I've known for longer than that and I realized that I've known and loved these people for half my life. We have a solid history together. Through divorces and addictions and financial problems, we've always had each other with no judgments or accusations or drama. Rocky lived with us for a while a long time ago and Nanook currently lives with us, so we've all grown accustomed to each other and to say that dinner was relaxing is an understatement. It was just what I needed to rejuvenate myself from the stress of work, school and life in general. I'm sure those of you out there who have friends like these would agree that it's a special kind of blessing.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Monday, February 13, 2012
Before last night, I had never touched a tire before. What's more, I had never used a ratchet or torque wrench either. While I had touched a battery (to get it out of the way so that I could replace my headlight--that was before I knew that you shouldn't tilt your battery), I had never removed one before. Let me tell you, you've never been under the gun if you've never had a dozen boys stand around telling you how to use a ratchet all at the same time. And of course all that pressure made me very nervous so I immediately forgot how to use it so they had to tell me again. And then again when I was loosening instead of tightening. I was rushing too, trying to make sure I wasn't the slowest in the class, but wonderfully, when I was done The Ex smiled and said that I did it faster than some of the others before me, which made me happy. For the tire, we had to take off the lug nuts, remove the tire and put it on the floor, visually inspect the tire, replace it and then torque the nuts to 100 ft. lbs.
By the way, if you are installing two new tires and keeping two old ones, the new tires should be installed on the back of the car regardless of whether you have a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. If you don't believe me (and ThatGuy doesn't), see this information from Michelin for an explanation.
We were allowed to go home once we finished the assignment and The Mumbler went first but didn't go home (his wife was "talking to" the kids tonight so he figured he would be better off just staying away for another little while to see if he could avoid the drama). So The Mumbler was close by when I started working on my tire and was very helpful (I was supposed to do it all by myself, but I think Mr. Forrest gave me a little leeway in that regard). The Mumbler helped me hold the tire on while I was taking off the lug nuts and when I was reaching to pick the tire up off the floor, he leaned down and asked if it was too heavy for me. Which was very chivalrous and appreciated, but at the same time, I've got to learn it all for myself so I politely declined. And then my feet got caught on my own Birkenstocks and I almost fell down. Such is life. At least I didn't fall down on my ass.
And speaking of lug nuts, The Mumbler came in wearing this shirt last night:
Apparently, his wife and 17-year-old step-daughter found this shirt at the local Goodwill and told him he needed to wear it to class last night. He later apologized if I was offended; he told his wife and daughter that he would wear it before remembering that there was a "lady" in the class who might be offended. I wasn't offended by his shirt (I found it quite funny actually) and his chivalry of the evening was refreshing. And he's not the only chivalrous guy in the group either. Pitbull told me that he wouldn't want his wife stranded without assistance so he offers his assistance to other stranded women whenever he can.
This is important, gentlemen. Every damsel in distress doesn't need to be saved, but it's thoughtful to offer assistance. And the ultra-feminists out there who might be offended need to understand that not every man offers his help to a woman out of pity for the "little lost girl who can't do anything for herself." If you turn him down, all you've done is refuse help lifting that tire. And dude, tires are heavy. I think about my mom who I’m sure knows how to change a tire in theory, but she probably doesn’t have the physical strength to do it herself. If any of you see her on the side of the road, please stop and help her. I’m sure she would appreciate it.
But my highlight of the night was when Pitbull caught me in the classroom before I left and asked me what "my secret" was to learning all of this stuff. Apparently, I come off as a quick learner (at least to him). Pitbull has been a technician (of some non-auto related industry) for 12 years and told his wife that this girl in his class who's never touched a car was learning all this stuff easier than he was and he was a little intimidated.
Intimidated. Can you hear the sound of my awesomeness coming through the computer? Probably not, because I'm struggling with the information (and told Pitbull that I appreciated the sentiment but I'm probably the most lost person in the class). I picked up this Electronics Learning Lab from RadioShack over the weekend, but haven't figured out enough about it to even start playing yet. Diodes and potentiometers and transistors and transformers and LEDs and P-type material and N-type material and zener diodes and all other kinds of crap that I seriously have to figure out, and really soon. I made index cards over the weekend; maybe that'll help.
We go back to electronics class tonight so, unfortunately, probably more confusion to come.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Let’s meet some new people!
After-market upgrades can be dangerous! When having electrical components installed, please go to competent technicians. Meet The Jock. He’s buff. And wears very stylish glasses. Who was that American Idol candidate who ended up with his own line of eyeglass designs? The Jock could totally do that. Anyway, his brother wanted to upgrade his audio system so he had a tricked out system installed on the cheap. They didn’t add the proper fuses and a few days later, his car burned to the ground. Many insurance policies won’t pay for after-market upgrades and he signed a waiver about the system before the installation (another hint that it might not be on the up-and-up). So dude was up you-know-what creek without a paddle. Lesson: You sometimes get what you pay for.
Amateur Technicians can be dangerous! Meet The Amateur. He fixes cars in his down time, and it seems like he keeps pretty busy doing it. But he’s not always so good at it. Let’s call him a work-in-progress. Everyone knows (hey--even I can tell this is a good idea) that you should close all the doors of a vehicle before backing it out of the garage. Well, an afternoon brake job turned into a two-week debacle when he ripped off the driver’s side door of a car. His customer was not a happy camper. But, hey--he tries. Just remember: paying your neighbor to fix your brakes on the cheap won’t always work out in your favor.
He works at Express Oil Change during the day and his hands are always dirty. I’ve been deliberating on his Buxom Wrench name and it wasn’t until he came to class with a red bandanna around his neck like he just came in from a train heist that I figured it should be The Bandit. He’s another very knowledgeable car guy, but heartily disagreed with Jiffy and Boom-Box about whether it’s better to super-charge a racecar or install a twin-turbo. Whew! It was a close few minutes in the class--I was starting to think it would come down to fisticuffs.
It took 13 class days before I heard him say anything other than “here” during roll call. That’s thirteen 4-hour classes. 52 total hours of almost complete silence. And he only broke the streak when The Amateur accosted him during one of our breaks and accused him of being antisocial. He denied it; he just prefers to listen to everyone else and not say anything during class. And then I borrowed a dime from him so I could buy a Diet Coke from the vending machine.
We’ve lost The Kid. He was the one who graduated from the tech high school. Maybe he was more advanced than us and decided to drop the class.
The Mumbler found me out! The thing about the Mumbler is that, even though his resting position is with his head tilted slightly and his mouth agape, he notices more than I think he does. He knows that I talk about all my classmates to my friends and has seen me writing in my little blue notebook (I take class notes in it too). He came over to visit me during one of our breaks and our conversation went something like this:
The Mumbler: “Is that your little blue book where you write down everything about us?”
Me (suspiciously): “Um, yeah...”
The Mumbler: “Did you write down that I’m fat?”
The Mumbler: “Did you write down that I’m ugly?”
The Mumbler: “Well, then you’re telling lies.”
I simply smiled at him.
The Mumbler: “I bet you have a website and one of those blogs, don’t you?”
Uh oh. If my boys find out about this blog I might have to quit class! I have a feeling that my status as the class pet only gives me a limited amount of leeway.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
And then there were all of his “helpers” who thought they were doing good deeds by adding to the information Mr. Forrest was doling out. All-American, especially. He’s just so excited about all of his car knowledge that when he started describing how a CV (constant velocity) something-or-other works, I had to stop him in the middle to say, “Wait. What are we talking about again?” And I can’t get mad at him--his big smile and passion is quite contagious. And he should be passionate. All-American is a 23-year old (or, as he would say it, an “almost 24-year-old”) with an Associate’s degree in business and a double-major Bachelors' with some other kind of business degree. This mechanics degree is his “fun” degree. We should bless his little heart, as well.
Jiffy was also in an extremely good mood last night. When I acted like I was going to whop him over the head with this huge tool thing that Mr. Forrest was passing around, he said that I should just go ahead and hit him--it still wouldn’t bring him down. He’s normally such a reserved guy so I had to question him. See, there was this ex-girlfriend he was having a hard time getting over. She called him last Friday night to get together, but then he found out it was just so she could make her current boyfriend jealous. This episode helped him realize that he didn’t want her anyway so he sent her a nasty text telling her to bugger off and now he gets the closure he needed to move on with his life. That made him happy and since I like to see him happy, I get to be happy too.
And finally, little Rain has made her small screen debut on HBTV, the morning TV news program at her elementary school. She’s been a news anchor for the past two mornings. When I asked her how it went, she said she was “shaking like a bare naked Chihuahua!” I’m really proud of her (and told her so). Another example of how it’s good to step outside your comfort zone every once in a while. Not that she's incredibly shy in general, but this is a situation that made her very uncomfortable. Right now she’s a back-up in case someone is late or doesn’t show up, so here’s hoping that she gets a permanent position soon.
In class, we also discussed hazardous materials and their disposal. Did you know that one gallon of oil can make one million gallons of water undrinkable?
Thursday, February 2, 2012
Here’s a picture of my first solder! Wouldn’t you know it, I made a bracelet. At first it was going to be for me, but then I talked to Rain on one of my breaks and she teared up with sadness because she hadn’t seen me practically at all the whole week. I told her I had a surprise for her and plan to put it on top of her glasses tonight so she can get it first thing in the morning. On the way home I started thinking of all the different kinds of jewelry these electronics could make. Bracelets and necklaces. I need to give that some serious thought. They have a bunch of different colors of wire that would make an awesome choker all put together.
That’s the really hard part of working during the day and going back to school at night: I hardly get to see my family anymore. I’ve learned that a few minutes of shared time with friends and family can make or break you. Just a little connection at night with ThatGuy and Nanook brings me back down to earth and refocus my energies, and seeing Rain in the mornings before I leave for work is the only time I get to love on her. Hearing her cry on the phone out of frustration because we kept missing each other's phone calls just broke my heart (she was in tae kwan do during my break and I was back in class when she returned my call). She said she wished I wasn't in school at all, which totally depressed me because I think school is a good thing for me: I get to learn something new that challenges me and makes me step way outside my comfort zone. That can only improve my perspective of the rest of the world and I'm trying to teach her that it's a good thing to do that. I also miss my Friday night meet-ups with my Knitting Girls, but at least I can catch up with them on the forums during the weekday while I’m at work. By the time 8:00 rolls around on Friday nights, I can't keep my eyes open anymore. I’d still like to see their faces, though--we're quite a close group.
Back in class: It turns out that Sleepy is quite the little delinquent, which doesn’t really surprise me. He’s heroin-skinny and walks around with his pants really low and doesn’t make sense most of the time. Whenever Sleepy says anything in class, Jiffy turns to me and says something like “that dude totally freaks me out.” Sleepy just gives off that weird vibe. So when the police show up at the beginning of class, I wasn’t too shocked to see it was for Sleepy. The cop asked him to step outside the class (and to pull his pants up while he was at it, which I thought was awesome). So Sleepy left with the nice officer and everyone pretended not to notice. I leaned over to Jiffy and said, “Are you surprised by that?” He replied, “Nope.” But Sleepy came back in a few minutes later and all progressed normally for the rest of the night.
We’re currently studying wiring and wiring diagrams and all that goes along with it. They have this really cool Toyota wiring structure they use for teaching the Toyota students. I had to take a picture of it to share with you all. It's awesome.
Mr. Forrest promised a trip to the garage on Monday so maybe (finally!) I’ll be able to touch a car.
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
I was bombarded with the Angelic Chorus as I walked into class last night to see the Snap-On Tools guy in residence. Now, ask any technician you know and they’ll say that Snap-On Tools are the bomb. Expensive, but you can’t get any better. How expensive, you ask? Well, ladies, you know how you can’t afford any of the clothes when there are no price tags in the store? You got it. No prices anywhere on Snap-On Tools. They have these awesome beginner tool sets that are made for baby mechanics and I think I’d love to have me a set of those. Um, no. With the 50% student discount, the price is $1700-1800. They even have an mini-baby beginner mechanic tool set that is slightly less awesome, but with the student discount, even that is $900-1000. Jeez Louise.
Oscilloscopes and Attention Spans
I worked with Jiffy and All-American on our circuitry lab (which we didn’t finish because those damn boys kept getting off task). Unfortunately, our circuit set was right next to the front desk where Mr. Shado was playing with a Snap-On Tools oscilloscope (which is a scan tool that measures voltage over time so it has a fancy screen that shows fancy graphs, and is complete with a very fancy price). It was so enthralling that I could have taken off all my clothes and danced naked to the cheesy synthesized music from my cell phone and Jiffy and All-American would have simply asked me to hold it down so they could focus on what Mr. Shado was doing with his fancy toy. Seriously.
After not finishing our lab, we still had to sit through another 1.5 hours of lecture on wires, wire gauges, oscilloscopes, wiring diagrams and such. As we walked out, The Mumbler caught up to me and handed me a sheet of suggestions for tools because he didn’t want me to get all caught up on the tool issue as a baby mechanic. So I thought I would share those with you:
Good tool brands: Craftsman, Robalt, Husky, Easco, KD, SK, Napa, Stanley, Klein, Dewalt, Milwaukee, Ryobi, Starrett, Popular Mechanics (lower end of decent tools; buy only if very low price)
Places to get good prices: pawn shops, yard/garage sales, flea markets, consignment shops, Lowe’s, Home Depot, Harbor Freight Tools (very cheap prices -- must know how to judge a good quality tool to get a good buy)
Tips: Don’t buy anything without a name stamped on it. Look for quality in manufacturing: smooth grinding, crisp lettering, straight edges, clarity in gauges. Signs of bad tools: excessively thick heads, non-uniform grinding marks, bubbles in handles, uneven grinds on bit tips, no brand name on tool, uneven stamping on letters, non-symmetrical components (handles, drive heads, etc.), looseness between components (i.e., screwdriver blades and handles)
I don’t know much about these brands or his tips, so I didn’t question him on anything. I’m becoming his pet too, and I’m cool with that. I’m beginning to think of all the guys in the class as “my boys” anyway.
Finally, apparently I need a Project Car. Everyone else in the class is working on a 1978 This or a 1989 That or a 2003 Somethingorother. Mr. Forrest suggested a nice Honda for me. Jiffy said I had to get a 1989-1993 Ford Mustang. I said I thought a VW beetle or bus would be awesome, which was quickly and completely dismissed because they have all the wrong parts for what we’re learning in the class and I need to start out a little easier. Mr. Forrest reiterated his Honda suggestion, to which I said that Hondas have no flash. Jiffy said that I didn’t need any flash, which I took to mean “girl, you wouldn’t know what to do with flash if you had any,” which I don’t necessarily disagree with.
So I'm still on the hunt for a good Project Car. Any suggestions?