June 19th, 2004


journey prime: may 21st, friday, through may 22nd, saturday, with a little waffling on both sides

Actually, this entry starts on the 20th.

On the 20th, I got to my aunt's house, chatted, ate food, and went to sleep.

Now you see why I started it on the 21st.

I had two main reasons for visiting my aunt's house. One was, obviously, to see my aunt and my cousin Rocky. The other was to get my car tuned and learn how to do it myself in the future - Rocky's a pretty good mechanic and had offered to help. Unfortunately he was busy on the 21st so I basically chatted, ate food, and went to sleep then also.

It was HOT.

Like, major heat wave. And humid - where you think it's probably going to rain but it hasn't quite managed it yet. So I basically tried to stretch out in the shade (next to the laziest cat on earth - I swear that cat moved no less than half a dozen times in the entire weekend I was there, and one of those times it was carried) and stay cool. Which I failed at miserably.

The house was pretty. It's near Princeton, basically in the middle of nowhere - you have to drive about five minutes to get to another house nearby, which is pretty impressive for New Jersey. Although there is that shriner's temple next door. Anyway. It's a tiny little house next to a creek, and I'm told the creek once had frogs, and now it's polluted and has tires. Such is life.

All of this occupied me for about two hours.

Let's just say I'm glad I had a lot of books on my PDA, and I'm glad I had Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (which I will beat someday, I promise.)

On Saturday we went to get parts, got all the standard tuneup equipment (distributor cap, spark plugs, fan belt, etc) then came back and installed them all, and then discovered that the car no longer ran as well. Where "no longer ran as well" is defined as "maxed out at 40mph and skipped cylinders randomly." I'm going to skip several hours of confusion and troubleshooting here and skip to the discovery that the distributor coil no longer was generating much of a spark - my theory is that it had been degenerating since New York.

Now, for reasons I'm not going to get into, I'd actually replaced my coil the *last* time I was in NJ also. So we called up the place we'd gotten them before and said "hi, we need a coil". They said they didn't have one.

This was confusing. The last time we'd gotten one, they'd insisted a generic part would work. This time, they said it was the wrong part. So my theory is that they did, in fact, sell me the wrong part, and it just picked precisely the wrong time to die. So it goes. And since there was no longer any time to call other people, we waited until Sunday, and that night wasn't any cooler than the nights before.

Yes, this entry continues to Sunday. Deal with it.

Luckily, we *did* manage to find a coil on Sunday (after calling about six different places), installed it, and tada, it worked fine again (as fine as it ever did).

There was only one problem. We hadn't managed to adjust the timing. The distributor was literally rusted in, and Volvo distributors that old have to be ordered, you can't just run down and pick one up. We couldn't get it free without risking destroying it, and if it was destroyed I wouldn't have a car for a few days. And I had people in Oberlin I had to see.

So I weighed my options and continued on my journey, going back up north to NYS and then heading west.

(no subject)

There's a rather popular pro-vegetarian meme that I've seen a few times recently. It goes something like this:

The Cost Of Beef
1 pound of beef uses:
* 24 square feet of rainforest
* 16 pounds of grain
* 2500 gallons of water

I find this seriously questionable.

For one thing, are they counting the water used to create that grain? (Who honestly believes they aren't?) Because if they are, they're doublecounting.

For another thing, what's with the rainforest statistic? It's not like we *have* to use rainforest. We could measure it in clubbed baby seals if we wanted, that doesn't mean every pound of beef involves several hundred trappers decimating the seal population. (I have no idea whether we do use rainforest or not - if we do, I rather doubt rainforest's sole use is creating beef, and therefore we should probably find a more fundamental solution.)

Another problem here is that it seems to be indicating these things are destroyed. I don't know about you, but I find it extremely unlikely that all that water is utterly consumed - for one thing, that would be about 20 tons of water used in 1 pound of beef, and there's some serious conservation of mass issues here. Sure, the water is no longer in drinkable state, but the *real* thing to measure would be how much it would cost in other resources (electricity, perhaps) to generate the water on-site, or generate it off-site and ship it.

Of course, it wouldn't look quite the same.

The Cost Of Beef
1 pound of beef uses:
* 94 square-foot-years of sunlight
* 2 grams of iron (lost due to friction in machines)
* 129 kilowatt/hours of electricity

Nope. Doesn't look the same at all. (Numbers are pulled out of a hat. If they're accurate I'm surprised.)

Which segues me nicely into the whole hydrogen-power rant, as well as a good True Costs rant, but I'll leave those for another day.