MEDiA: Enjoying George Carlin Lambasting Religion

I’ve been aware of George Carlin for many years. And even occasionally watched little bits of his stand-up routines online. But I’d never really bothered to ‘check him out’. And, truth be told, that largely remains the case even now.

That said, I just watched about a half-hour’s worth of him ‘roasting’, as I think they call it these days, religion. When I say religion, really I mean – or rather George Carlin usually means – Christianity, that being the big one in his neighbourhood. And mine too, as it happens.

30 minutes, or thereabouts, is my biggest single dose of Carlin so far. And it was fun. He did allude to other religions a few times, such as when discussing the bewildering array of religious headgear, and rules surrounding it. Or the ‘every country’s army believes it has God on its side’ thing.

It’s kind of weird that we can and do live in a world that holds all this mental or psychological dissonance. Weird, and simultaneously totally predictable. One of life’s enduring paradoxes, perhaps?

On the one hand it seems very obvious to me that the irrational thinking promoted by religion, be it the ‘personal revelation’ or the ‘socially coercive’ kinds, or any other, has been – and perhaps still is? – very useful for the surviving and even thriving of both individuals and groups (often to the detriment of other individuals or groups) at times in our evolution.

And perhaps that’s why it’s so hard to shake? And that brings me to the ‘on the other hand’ aspect; it all seems so obviously foolish and ridiculous. I’m with Carlin, every step of the way, on this (and probably other things, see below).

Funny and wise. Great combo’.

Some folk I know are like, why are you so bothered about all this? Well, because I was brought up in it. Or in certain bits of it. And because it’s still such a big force in the world around me.

Anyway, God rest his sceptical Soul! I think I’ll try and watch the documentary picture at the top of this post.

DAYS iN: Home & Garden

Hollyhock avenue.

Yesterday and today I’ve been out in the garden, filling in a hole I dug a whiles back. I had hare-brained plans to dig an underground drum bunker music studio. Actually I still do. But I was eventually persuaded that, for now, such schemes weren’t really on.

More Hollyhocks.

I took these photos whilst working in the garden. What an absolutely gorgeous day it’s been! Our long thin garden is looking lovely. To my eyes at any rate. It’s cluttered and messy, just like ever single room in our home! And that’s actually something I’m determined to start dealing with better.

Look at the roses. Lovely!

I haven’t bothered to document the re-filling of the concrete slab ‘ole. Tho’ I may take some pics tomorrow. As there’s (literally) tons more earth to shift. Pretty flowers and grasses seem more uplifting!

Our ‘cottage garden’ long grasses are out of control.

Fortunately the large tree at the end of the garden meant I was mostly in the shade when doing the earth-moving. We wound up inviting some new-ish neighbours over to have a look around our garden, which was very nice. But it did stop me from doing as much spade work as I’d hoped.

‘Strategic neglect’ creates meadow!

Yesterday I picked up two spades and two forks, all nice old fashioned stuff, from a local Facebook seller, for £5 each. I thought these would be useful for this job, and just to have generally.

Returning to the theme of clutter. I’m determined that 2022 will be the year I turn that side of our home life around. In every area: every room, every outbuilding, the garden. The whole damn lot!

‘Egbert the Egret’, by his ‘nest’.

And to finish, a pic of a bird sculpture. We got two of these, one for us, and one for my mum. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally go for. But Teresa wanted it, and I’m mellowing and allowing her to change me, in many ways. For the better, I hope!?

MUSiC: Dan-tastic!? Two Bits of Intriguing Steely News…

Released over 50 years later than planned!

Two bits of intriguing Steely Dan/Donald Fagen related news: 1) I Mean To Shine, by Linda Hoover, has been released, after over 50 years in the vaults, and 2) Peter Jones’ Nightfly, a biography of Donald Fagen, is due out in September.

I’ll be reading this when it ‘drops’, as the kids these days say!

Will either be any good? I don’t know. But I’m willing to give both a try, and to find out. Will Amazon offer free Vine copies to everyone but me, as they do with my other main interests (from Napoleon and Hitler to Tintin and Haddock!)? Who knows!

Hoover’s album, recorded in 1970, and featuring Becker, Fagen, ‘Skunk’ Baxter, and five numbers written by the ‘indomitable duo’, pre-Dan, was masterminded by Dan man, Gary Katz.

Tragically for Hoover, Roulette Records label owner ‘Mo’ Levy – not known for treating his acts right – angrily pulled the plug on the whole thing when he discovered publishing rights for almost all of the tunes resided elsewhere. And, ironically, whatever nascent flames I Mean To Shine might’ve promised Hoover, were snuffed out.

Obviously Don, Walt, Skunk, Katz and co. were more persistent and, ultimately, successful, as we all know. Hoover, now 71, has had a long wait for another chance to reach folk with her music and, perhaps, shine.

The only time I’ve encountered genuine 24 carat Steely Dan gold in an unexpected place is when I learned that Canadian Star – a beautiful instrumental track by Dr Strut on their self-titled 1979 album (on Motown, no less!) – was in fact a Becker/Fagen composition.

Once you know Canadian Star is The Dan, it’s sooo obvious. The lush chords, the serpentine melodies, the fantastic arrangement. It’s a tribute to the artistry of Dr Strut that they had both the chops and the soul to lay down such a great rendition.

I have this on vinyl. Can’t recall when I last actually listened to it!

Other forays into the ‘early’ musical adventures of the cats who would become The Dan have been less rewarding. For example, an album called The Roots of Steely Dan, and another, You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It, are both distinctively underwhelming.

I haven’t heard I Mean To Shine yet… not sure whether to buy the CD (£14), the MP3 album (£8), or just stream online? Hmmm…

SPORTS: Wimbledon 100: An Excellent Day of Tennis!

Watching this one right now.

In addition to enjoying time out with the family today, there’s been some stellar tennis at Wimbledon.

Alcaraz serves…

The new young lions were brilliantly represented by Sinner (20) vs. Alcaraz (19). The tall skinny orange haired Italian (looks more Dutch than Italian!), Sinner, against the swarthy and stockier Michelangelo-esque Alacaraz, was a great match.

Sinner prepares to return…

Sinner somewhat confounded expectations by beating the emergent darling Alcaraz. The latter did claw his way back a little by winning the third set tie-break. But it was a temporary reprieve. Sinner returned to dominance, and took the match.

Victory for the Italian Sinner.

This meant that Djokovic’s match was delayed. And Djokovic, widely held, especially amongst his fellow professionals, as the current GOAT, was set to play a virtual unknown, Dutchman Van Rijthoven.

Van Rijthofen‘s a cool card!

At the time I’m writing this it’s nearly 10pm, and they’re level on sets, one a piece, but Djokovic is, as McEnroe just said, totally ‘dominating this set.’ After two long sets, the Serbian is making short work of set three!

But Djokovic is like granite.

And Centre Court is 100 years old today. What a great pair of gladiatorial combats for such an anniversary!

CARS: MX5, The Saga Continues…

More supplies from BOFIracing.

Since fixing the cam-belt the car’s been running pretty well. But it’s felt a bit syrupy, or even porridge-y recently. It’s hard to get across exactly how one knows or feels this. Things just feel a bit sluggish. There’s also quite a bit of engine vibration when one starts and moves off.

I’ve heard this can be either timing related or due to misfires. Hopefully if it’s either it’s the latter, as I’ve gone to great pains to get the timing properly aligned!

VVT spark-plugs, wires and spark-plug socket.

Rather disappointingly the VVT spark plug wire set is just two leads. In a normal engine it’s all four. This is because there are two ‘coil-on’ plugs or packs, which are rather complex, and, apparently, not available commercially. At least not easily, commonly or cheaply. Bummer!

Uh-oh! Oil in the second spark plug chamber.

When I did all the cam-belt work I didn’t take the plugs out. I thought about it. But I was busy enough with everything else. I kind of wish I had now! Why? Because I found that there was oil inside the second from front plug well. It would be interesting to know if this problem predated my work, or was a result of it.

The old plugs. Second from left is the oily one!

I had the cam-cover off several times during the cam-belt and cam-cover gasket changes. According to several YT videos I’ve watched on the ‘oil in your spark-plugs’ topic, the most likely cause is a faulty gasket on the plug’ole.

Now mine is a new gasket. But has the on and off business damaged it? I guess I’ll have to check again after this job is done. But in the meantime, once the old plugs were all out (see above pics), I had the cam-cover off yet again, to really clean it.

This is the oily one.

I took numerous pics of all the spark-plug holes, both before and after, for my own reference. But I’m only putting up one or two of those images, not all eight plus of them!

The cleaning of the cam-cover was the most time consuming part of this day’s work. And it’s only really a cosmetic thing, if I’m honest. I should’ve done this the first time I had this part off. And actually I did, just not so thoroughly.

Cleaning the cam-cover.

This time I spent a couple of hours, repeatedly washing the top, with a little washing up liquid in warm water. Then I scrubbed it, again repeatedly, using Swarfega, getting into all the nooks and crannies as best I can. I used wire brushes, wire wool, and plastic toothbrushes, both large and small, going over it all multiple times.

I then rinsed it all off in warm soapy water, and dried it using lint-free cloths. After that I went over the entire thing several times using wire rotary tools in a hand-drill. Then it all had a dry-clean with the lint-free towels. And to finish off, a thorough rub down with isopropyl alcohol, to clean up.

I had to remove or mask certain bits.

This whole cleaning period took ages! And during doing it my iPhone battery died. So I didn’t get any photos of the masking I did, nor the removal of sundry bolt-on bits, nor even much of the cleaning itself. Thanks Teresa for capturing me at work in my home-made denim apron!

Whilst the cam-cover is certainly much improved, it’s nothing like as clean or shiny as I’d really have liked. There’s still a residual ‘rash’ effect. And the embossed lettering was hell to try and clean out.

This and the above are the ‘after’ pics.

With the cam-cover cleaned, mostly top, but also bottom, and the gasket cleaned and re-installed, I put the four new spark-plugs in (see pic immediate below). It was at this point that one of my major frustrations with this day’s work came to a head.

Throughout the work I struggled to find all sorts of things I needed, from my car keys to the socket set I prefer to use (I have several!). And then – and this was the real cherry on top – part way through the work, I appear to have lost or mislaid a crucial socket-set adapter.

New plugs in.

This means I can’t torque the bolts down to specific settings, but have to guess, and do it all by feel. Not very satisfactory for a newbie grease-monkey like me. The room that leaves for anxiety over cock-ups is grand-canyon-esque!

So I had to ‘button everything up’ in an approximate manner. And at this juncture it’s worth noting that, if one’s learns from mistakes, I ought to be learning plenty! Here are a few I made during this particular session of maintenance:

  • I took all the VVT bolts out before loosening – or make that trying to loosen – the 40NM torqued banjo bolt. This led to the bending of a ‘hard line’ hose. I’ve tried to bend it back, but it’s still misshapen. This makes re-fitting the whole VVT arm harder. Doh!
  • I couldn’t find the ‘loosening’ sequence – tightening yes, loosening no – for the cam-cover bolts, so had to guess (based on reversing the tightening sequence… ‘ish).
  • When I did the sequence I got to the ‘end’, only to realise I’d somehow skipped one bolt, leaving that one tighter throughout, with the danger of deformation or even cracking of the cover. A visual inspection seems to indicate I’ve gotten away with it this time.
  • During cleaning myriad little things occurred: using tissues that leave debris everywhere; getting cleaning stuff meant for top only underneath; snagging the rotary wire brushes on the towel on which the cam-cover was sat, sending it flying (another visual inspection promotes a relieved sense that I probably got away with this).
  • Constantly mislaying stuff, from car-keys to tools. I need to tidy, streamline and get properly and thoroughly organised… in advance!
  • I’m sure there was more… but I forget!

I sincerely hope I do actually learn from this litany of errors! Some of these are already repeat mistakes, shoddy organisation being my most repeated ‘sin’!

All back together. Looks nice!

And at day’s end, when I took the car for a test-drive? After all that work it felt exactly the same. Grrr!!! Has oil gotten into that spark plug chamber again? Do I already need another cam-cover gasket, having had this one on and off repeatedly?

Two other new parts – a thermostat gasket and a little plastic doodad that’s supposed to fix floppy roof latches – both failed more or less immediately. So perhaps the new cam-cover gasket has as well?

At least the engine bay looks a bit nicer! But what good is that if she still runs iffily? Guess I need to check to see if oil’s still getting into the second spark-plug well. But without the torque adapter I’m not keen to be taking stuff apart again right away.

Birthday stuff for mum.

Plus we’re due to go out today to meet my mum for slightly belated birthday tea and cakes at Anglesey Abbey. So no further fiddling about under the hood! I just hope we don’t have a repeat of the original ‘on the road to Anglesey’ debacle, which required an expensive AA tow home!

HOME/DiY: Fixing A Hotpoint Washing Machine

We have one of these; Hotpoint WMXTF 842P

Today I decided I’d try once again to sort out our washing machine. I’ve tried several times before, without succeeding. According to the rather scant Hotpoint support, on YouTube, 90% of issues are due to the filter getting blocked.

I’ve attended to this filter several times. It’s occasionally had a little crap in it. And I really mean a very little. But mostly it’s been pretty clean and empty, i.e. free of any serious obstructions. Never enough to have caused the blockage and drainage issues we’ve faced.

Eugh! The area under the machine was horrid.

The most recent and worst of these was when it stopped draining altogether. Meaning that we had to empty the drum using a measuring jug. A faintly unpleasant smell gradually but inexorably turned to a truly rank odour!

Intuition and common sense suggested that as the filter was pretty clean and totally not blocked, then logically the blockage must, surely, be in the drainage hose?

So I took the hose off – much easier said than done! – and stuck a trombone cleaner down it. Alas, the ‘bone unblocker isn’t as long as the hose, so I had to attack it from both ends.

Tipped her on her side, to access the hose.

After this, I rigged the pipe so it was on a constant downwards gradient, and started running hot water through it. After about five or six flushes, the stinking opaque effluence had turned, if not into wine, at least into clear clean water!

After re-assembling the washer, and clipping the hose back in place, I ran a cleaning cycle with some soda crystals added to the drum. It was then that another recurrent fault reared it’s ugly head: the machine never reaches the end of any programme.

Not sure why, exactly, but whatever program we run, the machine always ‘hangs’ on one minute remaining… forever!

Hoses and a tub, outside, in case of overflow!

To finish any program off, requires turning the entire machine off, and restarting it set to a rinse ‘n’ spin (which in turn won’t actually finish!). Bit of a palaver. And a lot of a pain!

But not having to bail out stinking dirty water is a tremendous improvement! Compared to which having to fudge finishing wash and rinse cycles is but a minor issue.

I’m not a slick blogger or YouTuber, and very rarely if ever document these things thoroughly, let alone well! But the few pics here do give an idea of just how dull a job this is.

The black clip in the centre releases the hose.

That said, and despite the as yet unresolved ‘won’t finish’ fault, improving the situation does come with a certain pay off.

It’d be great if we could fix the ‘one minute remaining’ issue. And we do also need a new front door seal, as well. But, little by little, we’re getting somewhere.

CARS: MX5 Cam-belt & Gasket, cont

Spark-plugs reminder photo.
Working in dazzling sunshine.
Note that banjo bolt (rear of VVT) leaketh not!
Later in’t day, torch now required.
Happy grease monkey; engine starts!

And lo, it came to pass, that ye olde engine was fix-ed! Hence the happy mien, and Churchillian two finger salute above. The image below is just a reminder of an earlier – and at this point gratifyingly absent – OBD fault diagnosis.

Adopts Inspector Clouseau voice ‘Yes, I know that, you fool!’

But at this point I still have a major coolant leak.

MiSC: Free Speech – Wit, Humour, Quotations, and The Idiot Robots of FB*

* And their compliant human drones.

Oh dear, the humourless idiot machines are winning!

It’s kind of shocking when one learns that films like Idiocracy turn out not to be mere satire, but Über-Nostrodamian prophecies, or even just simple documentaries.

As Iain Overton says, in his book, The Price Of Freedom, and others do elsewhere (for example Sam Harris, in The End of Faith), the responses to perceived threats are sometimes more damaging – usually by dint of curtailing the freedoms of the more docile many in order to supposedly more fully control the errant few – than the threats that supposedly prompt them into existence.

So I can’t make a particular joke, quoting Count Arthur Strong, in a FB group dedicated to him, because a human will do the bidding of a robot that doesn’t understand or can’t differentiate between my innocent humour – and let’s not forget it’s a quote, so it’s not even me saying the allegedly egregious thing – and a genuine incitement to violence.

This is of course utterly ridiculous. Those intent on acting out violence will both do so, and find ways to express themselves, regardless of what anybody else does. And such folk are, thankfully, are a very small minority.

Meanwhile, a much larger and more benign majority have their freedoms curtailed, in a very real way, and to no real benefit. The idea that maybe one day we’ll be the slaves of robots is grotesquely outdoated. We already are!

And, in a tip of the reality had to the apparently ludicrous fantasies of The Matrix series of films – whose overall adolescence of aesthetics rather undercuts the more sinister and prescient ideas about what constitutes reality, and our relationships with technology – we, the soft machines, are already becoming the willing collaborators and enforcers of this joyless, soulless, brainless automaton culture.

My reply to the citing of ‘evidence’ re a former ‘offender’.

It doesn’t bode well for the future of the species!

Little did I expect it to be a flippant and lighthearted response to a Count Arthur themed post, in a Count Arthur based group, that would bring this home so forcefully!

Adopting the CA voice, ‘Well, I mean… is it any wonder we tire of this ceaseless handholding? And you robots, you have to meet us at least halfway. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up!’

CARS: MX5 Cam-belt & Gasket, Day 4

Today I hardly took any photos of the work I did. Most remiss of me! Maybe it was because today was mainly re-assembly? But frankly I really should’ve taken lots of pics!

The above screen capture was taken to help me work out how much oil I needed to refill the engine with. Most of the helpful videos are American – the call their Mazda MX5s Miatas! – and everything needs to be changed from foot pounds and quarts to NM and litres.

I walked into town – not far! – and had a slice of pepperoni pizza from Dreggs. I also checked out some larger wrenches, in Boyes and what used to be Thing-a-me-bobs. I can’t recall what the latter is called now!?

I wound up buying two 300 mm x 36 mm – one foot long with an inch and a half ‘mouth’ (in old money) – Rolson adjustable spanners. At £6.99 they were a wee bit dearer than the Boyes ones; it’s the latter pictured above. But they looked and felt both bigger and better quality.

Actually, whilst they look decent enough, they’re not great. Are any adjustable spanners any good? The adjustment is always fiddly, and very prone to slipping or working loose!

I left off all three of the cam-belt guard plastic bits, as they were pretty mangled to start with. And removing them had further damaged them. I think this metal plate screwed into one of them. There are two metal bits n this line that are not fixed back in place.

Took two shots of this bit, which now seems poss’ redundant. Ended up removing it altogether. in total there are three plastic cambelt guard sections I’ve left off, and two metal brackets, this larger one, and a much smaller one.

A chunk of today – two hours, poss’ more? – was given over to a trip to Halfords. After buying the two spanners and a bit of pizza, I caught a bus to the big roundabout on Wisbech Road, which is pretty close to Halfords.

I bought a new oil filter. I was expecting it to have a ‘crush ring’. But it didn’t. Rather tragically and annoyingly I failed to install it, as I was unable to remove the damned old one!

I wanted to catch a bus home, but didn’t want to walk to Tesco. I would up walking all the way home, with a rucksack full of heavy tool, engine oil, and even a little ‘dolly’ trolley (the latter in lieu of a larger and more expensive inspection trolley).

I stopped at The Hippodrome en-route, for a refreshing lager shandy, and to rest my poor aching feet! I’m not fit any more. The walk home was horrible!

As I said at the top of this post, I totally failed to document the re-build. I replaced the cam-cover, inc adding sealant gasket gloop where indicated.

One of the only bits of documenting I did arose out of the balls up I made of the radiator re-install. For starters I totally wasted a whole bottle of coolant/antifreeze, by failing tore-attach one of the radiators’ lower pipes.

Pouring the whole litre in, it simply drained right out, via the lower and still disconnected tube. It was a mother to re-connect that particular pipe, as the clip on it, and the end of the pipe itself, we’re not in tip too condition.

Then, when refilling the coolant mix into the re-installed radiator, I discovered further leaks due, once again, to missed connections. This was a thinner pipe-work segment, and it only haemorrhaged coolant when the radiator got pretty full.

But even after connecting all the errant lines, and tightening up all tubing and fastenings, there remained a terrifically annoying leak. This turned out to be the thermostat housing, the gasket inside of which had fallen apart.

I tried to bodge it, with gasket sealant. But I put it back together wrong; a whole 180° out of its proper alignment. So when I’d reversed it, or corrected it, the ‘temporary fix’ suggested by a BOFIracing dude, didn’t come out as planned.

So I wound up ordering a new thermostat housing gasket today, plus four new undertray fasteners, all from MX5parts.co.uk I hope they get to me ASAP!.

What was most g-g-gutting and g-g-galling, was getting everything back together only for the engine to not work, still. I have to be honest. This necessitated a bit of a lie down! I was, frankly, utterly crushed.

After about an hour of rest, I decided to go out and look at the car again. A friendly neighbour then took me to Halfords, for my second visit o’ the day – at 7.50pm, ten minutes before they shut! – where I bought some coolant.

Still from my video that WP won’t upload!

Topping up the coolant revealed several leaks. the easiest to repair was a small hose I’d missed. Next I tweaked a few of the clipped hose connectors. But, alas, coolant continued to leak. And a video under the area revealed that the thermostat gasket bodge hadn’t worked.

I tried to add that video to this post. I had to shorten it to even upload it. And then, once added in WP, the post no longer updates… gaaargh!!! So I’ve taken a still image from said vid’. Not great, but better’n nowt!

Bizarrely, the coolant, which was streaming out initially, but only dripping by the time I got my iPhone camera on it, seems to be dripping not from where the two parts meet, but just behind that. Weird!?

Anyway, that’s that for this post. I guess tomorrow I just keep on keepin’ on…

CARS: MX5 Cam-belt & Gasket, Day 2

How I looked/felt at day’s end, last night.

Last night, after emailing Greg Peters at ‘carpassionchannel’ (thanks, bro’!), and much – mostly fruitless – googling and watching of YouTube, I finally found out what the thing circled in the image below is.

Turns out this is a power steering pressure sensor.

Having established what it is, I was able to find a YouTuber removing it, and thereby learn how to do so myself. I did that late last night, sporting a head-band style torch, as it turned dark.

In the YouTuber’s video, as so often, it looked super easy. In real life, for me, it was very, very, very tricky. I used needle-nosed pliers to simultaneously grab the whole thing whilst depressing a tiny little lever, all the while also pulling upwards.

After lots of worrying (about breaking it whilst manhandling it so roughly!) and a fair bit of swearing, the ficker funally came orff…

The pic at the top of this post is how I looked and felt at day’s end. Note the new mechanic’s style overalls! £20 from the local Boyes.

Yesterday it was raining in the morning. And it remained damp, drizzly, and cloudy all day. But the afternoon was workable. Today the sun is out, the sky is blue. It’s beautiful, and so … wahoo!