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Well if I haven't been blogging lately, then what have I been doing?I certainly have not been working on the house, for the most part. My wife has done some organizing and rearranging since she finished school, which is an improvement, and I have started to unpack the last room, the office/study room upstairs.But no electrical work has been started yet, nor any other major changes. Hopefully I will get to some of that before September, but I make no promises. In chronological order, as near as I can remember, here are some of the things that have been going on in our neck of the 'burbs. Aaron Strout and Mike Allen came to visit. They have been threatening to come see us for about three years, and it was excellent that they finally made it. We got to show them around Philly a little bit, and Aaron slept about 18 hours a day. The highlight of that week may have been when Mike mowed my lawn. He was determined to do so, and I didn't have the heart to stop him, even though he had to repair Patrick's mower to get it to work. The lawn hasn't been cut since, so if anyone wants to come visit us, our doors, and Patrick's garage, are open to you. Our car had been acting up, converting from a gasoline burning engine to a cash burning engine, and that always makes things interesting. I had a water pump and overflow tank installed, under the guidance of Ernie, my friendly mechanic here in the city. After a few visits with Ernie, the car began idling rough, and Aaron and Mike recommended a tuneup and perhaps sparkplug job. I decided to take the car somewhere else for this stuff, because Ernie is a classic example of the Minimalist School of Auto Repair. I will explain.When you buy cars like I do, rarely paying more than $3,500 per individual vehicle, the inspection process is something to be avoided whenever possible. Quite frankly, if the car will bring me to where I want to go, I don't care much about its other problems. This is a horrible way to treat a human being, incidentally, but a fine way to handle automobiles. Everyone needs a mechanic to whom the inspection process involves precisely the following steps, no more and no less: 1. Pull the car into the garage. 2. Did the car make it into the garage? If yes, see step 3. 3. Apply inspection decals to windshield. 4. Charge owner $50. This is the sort of mechanic Ernie is. He will fix things when they are clearly broken, or when you tell him what to fix. In my case, the car was clearly overheating to the point that hotdog vendors were complaining to the police that their freezers of frozen furters were becoming instantly cooked and ready to serve whenever I drove by. So he fixed it. And he did such a good job that I asked him to fix it again 2 weeks later. For further insight into Ernie's approach to repair, I give you the following transcript: Me: ...and also while you have it in there, i've got a strange rattling or knocking sound underneath, like something is loose. Ernie: ok i'll take care of it.(i return later to pick up the car) Ernie: you're all set. Me: did you figure out what was causing that sound underneath? Ernie: yeah, i looked and didnt see anything. Me: great! And that was that. So my car and I headed home, while I cranked the stereo up loud enough to cover the knocking sound. So the following week Aaron and Mike are over, and they convince me to get a tune-up and some new spark plugs for my car, which I did. At this point, between the visits to Ernie and this new place, I spent about $650 on car stuff in one month. The week after that, we drove up to Framingham, MA for a conference, and on the way home the car died. Totally kicked it. On the New Jersey Turnpike. The guy that came to tow it off the highway said to me "yeah, you're engine's gone, I can smell it." The second tow guy, from AAA, who brought it from the garage of the first tow guy, contracted by the New Jersey Highway Authority also said he could smell it. Any hope I had left of salvaging my car had been snuffed out by the noses of those more auto-savvy than I. More stories later.

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