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Friday, March 30, 2012

Rest Easy. All is Well. Even the Tests.

Be at ease. The Mumbler met me before class with a reassuring hug and told me he wouldn't tell anyone about the blog, even though he thought most of them would get a kick out of it. He thought it was quite funny, which is cool.


Yesterday's class was reassuring in more ways than one. I went into this endeavor hoping to get an education out of it which, historically for me, is closely tied to the final grade. It is very hard for me to differentiate between the "must get an A" mentality and the "must get an education" mentality. Back in college, after a miserable start in Microbiology and meeting ThatGuy in Chemistry (Ah, young love. I don't think either one of us passed that class), I figured that area of study was probably not my forte and switched to the ambiguous English degree (15 years later, I can't quite recall my specific area of concentration of English literature). Even with that rough start and having to struggle through three French classes (such a beautiful, lilting language--too bad I retained absolutely none of it), I still graduated with a 3.87, of which I am proud.

For me, success comes in pessimistic degrees. You only succeed if you get an A. A B is simply acceptable and only considered a full success if it's French class. If you get a C, you may have passed the class, but you're only halfway successful. A D is a completely fail and will haunt you for the rest of your life. I still remember that horrible Organic Chemistry debacle.

ThatGuy has told me that the purpose of this whole exercise is to learn something--not to get an A to keep my GPA up. So my new mantras have become: "My final grade may or may not reflect my end knowledge" and "I do not need to be proficient in every aspect of class in order to succeed." It helps me keep priorities in perspective. Should I study all day or spend some time with Rain and study the rest of the time? Do I have time to goof off with Nanook and ThatGuy, or do I need to sequester myself with my 82-lb textbook for hours on end?

So, back to why yesterday's class was reassuring. On Tuesday night, Mr. Shado told us that we were going to have a quiz on the two chapters on alternators the next night. I did not immediately freak out and start typing up notes from the textbook. I did not even take my text book out of my car that night, nor did I take it into work the next day.

I did not want to study for the quiz so I did not study.

You have no idea how hard that sentence was to write. I resisted the urge to study anyway and trusted in the knowledge that I learned in class to make a good (enough) grade on the exam. And it was. In fact, I got 20 out of 25 correct (which, oddly enough, computed to a total grade of 100%), which pleased me greatly. Those 5 incorrect answers did not disturb me nearly as much as I thought they would.

Plus, I know how an alternator works. And I call that a complete success.

In closing, here's a t-shirt that All-American wore the other night and I found myself relating to it. Aren't we always on a search for ourselves? If you think you've found me, please let me know. You might be right.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Batteries, Alternators and Facebook Makes Me Foolish

For the past week or so we've been going over batteries and alternators. We all know how a battery works (in general): it's a case that has stored electricity. You hook it up to something and it'll provide electricity until it dies. Your car's battery doesn't die because your car's alternator feeds electricity back to it to keep it charged. Your battery's main goal in life is simply to start your car. After that, the alternator feeds the "hungry little bears" (as Mr. Shado would say) that make up all the components of your car.

One of the most interesting things I've learned in the past 10 weeks (interesting to me, that is--this may be basic knowledge to most of you) is that magnetism plays a huge role in the creation of electricity. I never realized this; I guess I never even thought about how electricity was created. If you move a wire over a magnetic field, current is created inside the wire. Current running through a wire creates a magnetic field over the wire. This is why a compass will change its direction when moved closer to a wire.

So you have a battery that needs help to maintain a charge, and you have an alternator that uses a little bit of the battery's charge to create a magnetic field that creates a whole lot of juice that feeds both the battery and the rest of the car components. Make sense? 3-5 amps of current going into the alternator can become 100 amps coming out of it.

Call me weird, but I think that's pretty cool.

Finally, The Mumbler has found me out. I blame it all on Facebook and The Mumbler's step-daughter. You see, he's shown me pictures of artwork his step-daughter has done that is quite impressive and pretty. I wanted to show it to my cell-mate at work because her daughter is also a really good artist and thought she would enjoy seeing it. He also asked me about some pictures I took from our Disney trip a few years ago and I offered to share those with him. So fast Facebook friends we became.

It didn't register to me that I post blog updates to Facebook and that I might want to continue my incognito journey for a while longer, until I got an email notification of a new comment on my post Dangers, New Players and I'm Found Out (Kinda):

My initial reaction was that it was a fluke. Someone's just playing a prank. But then I thought a little more about it and realized exactly how I outted myself. Stupid Facebook. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. My next thought, of course, was of damage control. Will he out me to everyone in the class? Should I backtrack and revise anything in the blog before I get crucified tonight? Not that I've said anything bad or evil or untrue--it's just that people don't like to find themselves the topic of conversations without their knowledge, and I can understand that.

The last place I want to find myself is having to defend something I've said online to these boys, but I'm not going to make any changes. I'm going to play it very cool tonight. Maybe it was just a prank. Maybe The Mumbler doesn't go on Facebook very often and my posts are always on the bottom of his update list. Yeah, right.

Having said that, if I could change anything, it would be the player names, especially The Amateur. The name I gave him doesn't really fit him, but I really wanted to write about him and wit wasn't something I was blessed with that day. I still don't know what I would call him. His true and proper nickname eludes me still.

But for tonight, please cross your fingers that all goes well. I'll report tomorrow on what happens (or doesn't happen). If you don't hear from me, you should probably worry. Those boys have lots of guns. And let's not forget about Jiffy's leaf-spring bow.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MBTI Test Results

As part of my very first semester at school, while waiting for the auto tech program to have a spot open for me, I took EMPL1000 Interpersonal Relations, which was a required course and I likened it to "Hey! Congratulations! You just graduated from high school and here's how you work well with others and get a job!" Part of that class was taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, which is a personality test to determine your tendencies for extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving. Once they determine those levels, they can give you a list of professions that should most complement your personality traits. The results were quite interesting. Please bear with me while I give you my results. Jobs were scored on 100 points, with 100 being the most attractive job. I've bolded the professions that I've considered in the past. Please note where mechanic fits into the list...

Most attractive jobs
100-school teacher, librarian, school administrator, university faculty
93-artist, coach, musician, reporter
82-community service manager, career counselor, clergy, social worker
72-pediatrician, dentist, physical therapist, lab technician
70-biologist, chemist, economist, psychologist
67-gardener, tree trimmer, housekeeping, lawn service supervisor
Moderately attractive jobs
59-bank teller, receptionist, clerical services, legal secretary (this is what I currently do)
56-lawyer, arbitrator, paralegal, court reporter
53-personal trainer, hairdresser, child care provider
51-farmer, agricultural inspector
44-chef, bartender, programmer, database administrator, mathematician
41-marketing, human resources, finance
39-veterinary assistant, nurse's aide
39-real estate agent, insurance agent
34-architect, mechanical engineer
Least attractive jobs
28-military (infantry member, air crew officer, radar operator)
24-cabinetmaker, power plant operator, machinist
22-carpenter, plumber, electrician, stonemason
20-pilot, air traffic controller
18-firefighter, police officer, mechanic

That's the end of the list. The very bottom. It doesn't go any lower than 18. This doesn't mean that I can't become a good mechanic. It simply means that if I truly want to be a mechanic, I'll have to put forth extra effort and work really hard to do it. The question becomes, how hard do I want to fight against my nature to achieve the results?

The answer is that I still don't know.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Getting Dirty and Lessons Learned in the Process

Last night was our general automotive class. Before Spring Break, we were instructed to bring oil and an oil filter if we wanted to change our oil during lab so, knowing my car desperately needed an oil change, I was sure to buy all the right things before class yesterday.

I admit I was quite excited to get my car up on the lift to get a good look at the underside and finally learn how to do something on my own car, even if it was something as simple as an oil change. But part of a proper oil change is an inspection of your vehicle and I was really more interested in getting to know the ins and outs of my particular car. The following should be checked during routine oil changes: air filter, cabin air filter, tires/tire pressure, rotation/balance of tires (and if off balance, check the brakes for reasons why), fluids (brake, transmission, power steering, antifreeze), lights, hoses, steering/suspension (bounce test), and a general visual inspection for leaks. It's also nice to know the past service history of the vehicle so you can determine when rotors, belts and other things were changed. The Amateur commented that the vast majority of people did not know any of these things and I believe he's right; I don't remember the last time my timing belt or rotors were changed/serviced. Apparently, I don't even know how many miles are on my car (see below).

Mr. Forrest is very pragmatic about the realities of working in a shop so he was sure to say that not every mechanic will inspect all of these, but a good mechanic will not only inspect these items, but also check service information to see what routine maintenance is recommended for the specific mileage of your vehicle (if only to upsale the oil change into additional work).

Before we headed out to lab, I was already learning stuff about my car. Or, rather, I was learning what I did not know about my car. Specifically, I had no idea my car had 120,000 miles on it (I guessed around 85,000), or that it was an Elantra GT instead of an Elantra GLS. Lesson one: These are things you need to know in order to look up accurate service information about the suggested manufacturer's maintenance schedule.

When I drove my car up to the lift machine, we started our inspection. Everyone was crowded around the car and Mr. Forrest was in front of the hood. "OK, Holly. Pop the hood." I popped it. People were talking and goofing off so a few seconds later, he said again, "You can pop the hood, Holly." I popped it again. Twice even. He still couldn't get it up. And then I hear The Amateur's voice coming from the back of the car: "Holly, you're popping the trunk!" followed by a lot of laughing and head-shaking from the whole group. I don't think I'll ever live that down. Lesson two: Know the difference between popping the hood and popping the trunk before you attempt to do anything in front of a dozen car-boys.

Visual inspection showed that I needed two lights (left rear brake and front left side blinker), power steering and antifreeze top-offs, and a hold down mechanism for my battery. My cabin air filter was missing entirely and my tires looked awesome but needed some air. And so began my oil change. Lesson three: Oil can be very hot when it comes out of the oil pan so care needs to be taken to avoid burns. It's also a very, very messy affair.

All-American toted me to the car store to purchase the extra stuff. I was glad to have experienced help in locating the items until I realized five seconds into the store that I was going it alone when All-American spoke to the guy behind the counter. "Hey, Eric. How's the Mustang coming along?" I politely interjected my questions around pictures of tires and engines and discussions of other car-related things that have no meaning to me but clearly enthralled All-American and Eric for quite a while. Eventually I learned lesson four: There are two types of antifreeze that you can buy: pure antifreeze and 50/50 blend. Always buy the pure antifreeze as the blend is simply 50% antifreeze and 50% water and you can mix it yourself at home. The price difference is staggering.

At the end of the night, I felt like I knew my way around my car much better than before and left with a renewed belief that the education I'm learning is beneficial in its own right.

But I admit I was quite wary driving down the interstate and half-way expected something I touched during the lab to pop off and cause a big accident with great bodily damage. Lesson five: I'm not extremely confident of my car-prowess just yet but hopefully it'll come with time and experience.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Decision-Making Time

I have really thought hard about this post. I have Spring Break this week and since none of my young and crazy classmates invited me to Panama City Beach for the week, I'm stuck at home. Well, I would probably be stuck at home even if they did invite me to PCB, but honestly, as a whole they seem less the PCB-type than the why-go-somewhere-when-you're-only-going-to-drink-beer-on-the-couch-type. That might be stereotyping, but I've never been known for my tact.

This Spring Break marks a great turning point for my schooling. We've been instructed to register for the next two classes in our diploma program: Steering & Suspensions and Automatic Transmissions. Now is the time for me to decide whether or not I'll continue with the program. So, after a lot of thought and if I'm completely honest with myself (and you), here a few things I've learned in the past 8 weeks:

  1. I like the idea of getting my hands dirty, but haven't really had the chance to test this idea. We haven't done much car work. But let's face it: I've had many opportunities to go investigate my own tires after learning about them in class, but I never did. I'd rather stay inside reading or goofing off than look at my car.

  2. I don't understand it as well as I thought I would. That's not to say that I thought it wouldn't be difficult--I did. I just thought it would all make more sense in my head than it does. What I'm finding is that my brain doesn't work very well in the mechanical field. To say that invisible magnetic fields create electricity sounds easy enough, but my brain hears it, acknowledges it as truth, and then promptly forgets it. There's no flow of thought or reasoning behind it (at least to my brain). I'm much more of a persuasive thinker and not a factual thinker, if that makes sense.

  3. I enjoy my classmates. But I dislike them at times as well. Like when they start telling dirty jokes (and not dirty jokes that you might hear on The Tonight Show, but seriously dirty, nasty jokes), or like when Jiffy said a rhyme to help remember the colors on a fuse that talked about raping girls. Things that I really object to (and I don't object to much).

  4. I really enjoy writing about them, though. In fact, the blog has been a really nice result from my schooling. I enjoy writing and talking with everyone about it.

  5. I miss my family more than I thought I would, and Rain hasn't adjusted as well as I would have liked. I call her every night during my breaks, but I don't think it's enough for her. It's not that we did very much during the week before school started, but the simple fact that we're not able to do anything now upsets her.

  6. I still have moments when I get discouraged with my day job, but I don't see myself pursuing auto tech as a profession once I get my diploma. But at the same time, that doesn't affect my decision on whether I will continue in the program; I think it's time well-spent in itself.

  7. I desperately miss my free time. I haven't picked up knitting needles in weeks and I haven't checked out my forums on in even longer. I miss my Friday night knitting group!

  8. Things may become even more chaotic in our household. Nanook is waiting to hear about her acceptance into a Physician Assistant program and once that starts, she'll no longer be at home during the day to take care of homework and dinner before ThatGuy gets home.

Having said all of that, I have a few weeks before I have to register for next semester. I'm still on the fence about it. I've enjoyed my time, but should I move on? Should I stick with the program for another semester? Should I register for a different diploma program and start all over? Should I bow out and accept that the knowledge I've gained as enough?
I'll let us both know when I figure it out.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Package Shows Up and The Amateur's Dark Past

The missing package showed up Monday with no real answers to the conundrum of its recent whereabouts. See that mark by "Express Plus"? That was me. See that mark by "Standard"? I don't remember doing that. Now, I'm not denying the possibility of a psychotic lapse in judgment or momentary black-out, and I admit that I don't have the best of memories and I've found myself doing stupid stuff occasionally that I don't remember (especially since the appearance of Rain eight years ago), but I don't think I made that X next to "Standard" and I certainly wouldn't have done such a sloppy job of it. But who did? Maybe the person sending it to us. Maybe the store where he dropped it off for shipment. Maybe the UPS driver didn't see my X and thought it should go ground? The only thing I'm confident of is I'm going to hold tight to the lessons learned and let the rest fall behind. The deal closed on time. Signatures were sent and received. My boss did not kill me.

So, in the interest of moving on, I thought I would share a story that The Amateur (who's not really an amateur now since he got a job at a real shop) related to us the other night. He doesn't always have the best of luck (do you remember the story about his snapping off the door of a vehicle because he forgot to close the door before he backed it out of a garage?). It turns out that he has some history with the law. And with his luck being as it is, a good plan can turn south really quickly. For this story, his lawyer worked really hard to negotiate down his jail sentence to only a week. He knew beforehand which week he was going to the pokey so he simply took a week off work, told them he was going way out of town and wouldn't be available at all, and they all wished him a happy vacation.

Then the paper publishes the mug shots of the people going to jail and his job sees his happy mug staring at the camera (well, I'm sure he didn't actually smile for his mug shot but he did feel some measure of satisfaction in maneuvering to keep his jail time secret). Needless to say (given his luck), his job sees his mug and they fire him, which sucked. I feel bad for the guy. He did his time and still got fired.

This week we're continuing our discussion on starter motors and then have a mid-term exam Thursday night. Wish me luck! We're also getting a new roof on Thursday. Busy day!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Networking Night

Last night we had a "networking night" for the automotive classes. It was the first of its kind so there was bound to be a little incongruity as we didn't know what to expect from the speakers and the speakers didn't know what was expected of them and the organizers didn't seem to guide anyone into a particular direction. I thought the first speaker was appropriate. He was the general manager of Setco, which is a spindle company (for use on grinders and other shop equipment). He wants to set up a co-op program within his company and invited those mechanically-inclined in the room to apply. The most interesting part of his spiel was his list of requirements for applicants. First on the list was a mechanical ability, but the rest dealt with personality: works well with others, sense of humor, positive attitude. He said that they can train you how to do the job, but you would have work well with the other employees in order to have and keep the job. Which I think is entirely true.

The second speaker was more of an inspirational speaker without the inspiration. He went through his history and how he got to where he is and everything he's been through to get there. But it wasn't very inspiration or helpful. In fact, he was in the military at one point and worked on a tank/truck that The Mumbler also worked on in his stint in the military and The Mumbler really called the speaker out as an idiot when we got back into the classroom. Even Mr. Shado didn't have complimentary things to say about him. The man loved to hear himself talk. And talk he did. For entirely too long. At one point, the speaker was talking about Syria and a river in South America (I can't remember which one) and The Mumbler said afterwards, "I might not be a geographer. Or a topographer. Or even own a globe. But I know those two places are halfway around the world from each other." I thought the most revealing thing he said was that on Friday nights, he treats himself to five straight hours specifically to get lost on wikipedia, which allows me to deem him officially boring. Everyone knows you're supposed to get lost on wikipedia during working hours.

TGIF, everyone. My weekend is going to be spent interviewing roofing companies, helping Rain with her multiplication tables and division homework, reading my automotive textbook and doing chapter review questions, and sleeping. Hopefully a lot of sleeping.

This was one of the reasons I took up auto tech school in the beginning:

Have a good one.
P.S. The missing package is still missing.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Jiffy and the Po-Po, New Tools and Lost Kitties

Jiffy almost got arrested yesterday. He finally finished his leaf spring bow and arrow set and had gone out with his friends a few times to the high tension power lines area (for a long, open space) to do some test runs. (here's wiki on leaf springs) The first time went off without a hitch. The arrow traveled 300 yards and made some notes on what adjustments needed to be made to the arrow (steel tubing instead of rebar and adjustments to the counterweights). Yesterday when they went out, someone called the police saying that they were shooting off a cannon. So the police showed up, cuffed everyone and kept asking where their cannon was and wouldn't believe any of them when they denied having a cannon. Four hours later, the police finally believe them and they're uncuffed and dismissed just in time for Jiffy to get to class.

ThatGuy bought me some mechanic's tools! My friend Blondie at work thinks I need to paint it pink. In fact, she insists I do so and I probably will. The boys in my class would love it. Either that or they wouldn't care at all. It's impossible to tell with them. I tried to show Jiffy a picture that Rain drew and he did not oohh and aahh like the ladies at work. He did not show the proper respect for an 8-year-old's drawings. He actually showed more interest when I showed him a picture of my cat. I can't figure these boys out.

And speaking of cats, SciFi took hold of my comments yesterday about welcoming kitties with open arms and threatened to drop off a basket of kitties at my house one night while I'm sleeping. You see, SciFi has a problem. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" belongs on SciFi's front door instead of the Statue of Liberty. The neighborhood kitties have probably pissed a sign on her front stoop that announces that the hotel is open for business--SciFi just can't see it. Is it cold and rainy? SciFi will crack her garage door for you. Hungry? SciFi will not only feed you a can of kitty food, but will sprinkle little appetizer treats on it when it's especially cold or rainy and you need a little extra love. If you act real sick, she'll probably even take you to the vet and deny that you're her kitty, but if you look at her just right, before you know it, you have a new name and a new home. One set of my in-laws is like this, only with dogs. They're unable to walk away from a puppy in pain and since my father-in-law reads meters, he walks a lot of neighborhoods. Animals recognize a kindred spirit when they see him and he's unable to refuse.

But what would the world do without the SciFi's and In-Laws out there? My hope is that for every idiot ass who terrorizes or abandons or mistreats an animal, there's at least one SciFi or In-Lawa out there with hearts large enough to feed and pamper the rejected animals. Who knows what situations these little creatures escaped from? SciFi and In-Laws are far from those crazy hoarders who can't take of their animals; they keep them clean and healthy and fed and happy. So thank you, SciFi and In-Laws. You make the animal world a safer and happier place. Just don't bring any of them to my house in the middle of the night!

Finally, the missing package still hasn't shown up. I'm ignoring its entire existence and hope it has jumped off the roof of some tall building never to show its face again.