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The Hundred Year Old Car In My Driveway

Today, I spoke in my Toastmasters club. This is a speech I gave called, The Hundred Year Old Car In My Driveway.

Technically, it’s not 100 years old. It’s only 95 years old. Next year it will be 100 years.

And technically, it’s not a single car. It’s actually five cars.

How many of you have ever had a car break down?

Did you pay a mechanic to fix it?

I used to pay to have my cars fixed. Years ago I had a 1978 Ford F250. It was “mostly green.” I loved it, but it did occasionally break down. When I got ready to sell it, I asked my mechanic how much I should list it for?

Based on how much you’ve put into it, I say about ten or twelve thousand dollars.

However, in recent years I became “a car guy.” I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve found I am no longer intimidated by car repairs. We were going to be there a week so I opted to drive my Suburban. Somewhere in Northern Nevada it died. Fuel pump went out. It was $1000 to replace. (In hindsight it would have been cheaper to fly.) I was relating the story to my aunt,

You should have called us. We’re great at fuel pumps.

It’s not that I didn’t believe her. But, I didn’t really believe her. It was A THOUSAND DOLLAR repair!

Two weeks ago, I replaced the fuel pump in my son’s 1992 Chrysler New Yorker. To replace the fuel pump in that car you have to siphon out the fuel and then drop the tank to access the fuel pump. Three days later the fuel pump went out in my 1994 Dodge Dakota. To replace the fuel pump in the Dakota, you don’t have to drop the tank, but you do have to remove the truck bed. Once you get the entire back of the truck removed, the access to the fuel pump is pretty easy.

Two thousand dollars worth of repairs if I’d had them done in a shop. The two repairs together cost me just under $300 in parts. In fact, my 1996 Lexus is sitting in my driveway waiting for me to replace its fuel pump.

I’ve found I enjoy my new hobby of keeping old cars running. Obviously, a major benefit is the cost savings. My dad used to say,

Everyone makes a car payment. You either pay the bank or you pay the mechanic.

I discovered there’s a third option. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you pay the auto parts store. My son’s 92 Chrysler is probably worth about $500 or $600. It’s vinyl top is in shreds. It’s been in a few accidents prior to him getting it. Last summer I replaced the power steering pump and alternator. A job that would probably cost $800 at a mechanic. More than the car is worth. I did the work for about $200 in parts.

My daughter recently was in a minor fender bender in her 2001 Honda Civic. Unfortunately it was her fault, and fortunately no one was hurt. Her car ended up with a crumbled hood, broken headlights and a mangled top radiator support. Probably $2000 to repair in a shop. Currently, it’s up on blocks in my driveway. I’ve been to the junkyard twice scavanging parts. It will probably cost $500 to fix.

And that’s the second reason I enjoy working on cars. I keep learning new things. YouTube is a wonderful tool. But, much of the diagnoses and actual work is learn as you go. The top radiator support is spot-welded to the frame. I’m learning to use a grinder to grind through the welds without damaging the frame.

But, even more than the cost savings and the opportunity to learn new things, I’ve discovered that car repairs are “my happy place.” I normally work as a Program Manager. I end up dealing with the intersection of people, computers and problems. I enjoy my job, but it’s mostly conducted via email, Skype and phone calls. I have to involve a lot of people to do my job. I enjoy it, but sometimes I enjoy the opportunity just to “putter” in my driveway with a socket wrench and an old car.

Maybe that’s why I have old cars. My son’s Chrysler is 26 years old. My Dakota is 24. My Lexus is 22. My daughter’s Honda is 17. Our “new” car is my wife’s 2012 van. Together they are 95 years old. Next year they will be 100 years old. And hopefully, I’ll finally have them all running at the same time.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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The Day I Knew I Wanted To Be A Trainer

How do the routers know which route to use when there are multiple paths?

I’m not sure.

I mean, if one route has four hops, but they are a fast connection, and another route has two hops, but they are slow, how does the router decide?

I still don’t know.

So, if . . .

LOOK! It doesn’t matter how many times you ask me that question, I STILL don’t know the answer! Now, if we can get back to lesson six, let’s talk about subnet masking.

I was attending a Microsoft training class. It was a two week “Introduction to NT Networking” class. Those of us in the class were brand new to networking. Well, all of us except one particular man. He was changing jobs. Like all of us, he was going into the support teams. But, unlike the rest of us, he was coming from the Helpdesk team.

The Helpdesk team was responsible for fixing network problems. I’m not even sure why he was in the class with us. He was well versed in network topologies and strategies. He was certainly far beyond where the rest of were at.

Unfortunately, he didn’t understand that the class was for beginners. He kept trying to drag the discussion down into the technical depths.

The instrutor’s name was Tim. He introduced himself the first day of the first class.

Welcome to Windows NT, New-to-Product training. My name is Tim and I will be your instructor for the next two weeks. One thing you should know about me, I’m from New York and people tell me that it shows.

He was not a gentle instructor. He was willing to be even harsh in the classroom. Not because it was a good teching technique, but because it was his personality.

At one point during the course, my computer broke. I teamed up with the person sitting next to me. The lectures we did independently. But, for the labs, we both worked on a single computer. It required a certain amount of talking. During one of the labs Tim leaned over the front of the monitors,

Are you done with the lab?

No.

Keep the chit-chat down until you’ve finished the lab.

I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t say anything. His comments, despite my having done nothing wrong, were completely in character. He really did simply teach using his own personality.

And it was fascinating. It was intoxicating. I had been a trainer in the past, but I had never seen someone so comfortable in front of a class. And I’d never seen someone take control of a class the way Tim did.

I realized at that moment, that training, or more accurately, being a trainer, was more than delivering content. It was almost like a performance. The trainer was as important as the material. In fact, the trainer was more important. I don’t remember the content of that class I took all those years ago. But, I do remember Tim. I remember him answering questions. I remember how he took a class with 30 computers and 35 students.

I also remember that he approached me later after he’d made the comments about the lab.

Rodney, I just wanted to say I’m sorry for getting after you in class like that.

No problem.

I didn’t realize that your computer was broken and you were teaming up for the labs.

Thanks.

I finished that class and then took another two week New-to-Product course on Microsoft Mail. Later I would go on to work in the training group. I would write training materials on Microsoft Exchange, and I would travel the world delivering the content.

I can trace my desire to be a trainer to that day in Tim’s class.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Schrodinger’s Fuel Pump

Have you tried it?

No.

It looks like it’s all put back together.

It is.

So, why haven’t you tried it yet.

Schrodinger’s cat.

Erwin Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist. In 1935 he devised a thought experiment. The experiment is commonly known as the problem of Schrodinger’s cat. The experiment goes like this. There’s a box and inside the box is the famous cat and a bottle of poison. The bottle will break at some point and release the poison killing the cat.

Now, the question: Is the cat alive or dead? Schrodinger postulated that so long as the box remains unopened the cat can be assumed to be both alive and dead.

It’s an observation on the nature of quantum physics. The essense of quantum physics is the idea that a quantum particle can be both present and not present at the same time. If you attempt to observe the particle (if you open the box) then the quantum particle is either there or not, but it no longer has the unique property of being both there and not there.

What’s that have to do with my truck and my broken fuel pump? As long as I don’t actually attempt to start the truck I can consider the fuel pump both broken and fixed. It’s only when I put it to the test, when I open the box, that I will know.

When you suspect that your fuel pump has failed, there are several tests. After all, lots of things can keep your car or truck from starting. A bad fuel pump is just one of them. It could be a blown fuse, a shorted wire, a dead battery, a bad alternator.

The easiest test is to turn your ignition to the on position and listen for the fuel pump to turn on. In a car, you can typically hear it as a low hum. It’s harder to hear with a truck. The fuel pump is located inside the fuel tank. The fuel tank is located underneath the truck bed.

My friend was not as interested in the quantum nature of the repair.

So, give it a try.

I’d been dreading opening the box. I spent a long time trying to fix the cat. If I turned the key and the quantum particle was not there, I would have spent a lot of time and the cost of the new fuel pump for nothing.

And honestly, since I started doing my own repairs I’ve found I have a serious distrust of my mechanic.

My neighbor stood next to the stripped down frame of the truck near the fuel tank.

Try it now.

I turned the key to the On position and listened. I still heard nothing. However, glancing back, my neighbor gave a big thumbs up.

When you install a new fuel pump, the fuel lines are empty. You need to prime them before you can actually start the engine. After a few seconds, I turned the key back off for a second and then turned it back to the On position. After a few more seconds, I cranked the engine and it caught on the first try.

In my tortured analogy, I think that means Schrodinger got his cat back.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A One, And a Two, And a. . On Second Thought Let’s Leave It At Two

I have four drivers at my house. Two kids with licenses, my lovely wife and myself. I have five cars at my house. Every driver has a car and there is a “project” car that is waiting for me to devote the time to fixing it. It’s a 1996 Lexus ES300.

Over the past summer in addition to the Lexus (affectionately named Iron Man,) my son’s 92 Chrysler has been “in the shop.” The shop being the spots in my driveway closest to the garage.

Finally a few weeks ago, I finished with his car. I had finally tracked down (with the help of a knowledgeable neighbor) the last of the issues with his car. It was barely out of the driveway when I got a call from my lovely wife saying my daughter had been in a minor fender bender.

I went from two broken down cars to one broken down car to two broken down cars in less than a day.

So, my daughter’s car is in pieces in my driveway. (She rear-ended another car.) While I was driving around gathering parts for her repairs my truck quit. I parked it in downtown Provo for lunch with a friend. When I returned, it wouldn’t start. Not even a little.

Fuel pump. The same repair I had just completed on my son’s car. Friend’s towed it back to my house.

I now had three broken down cars and only two working ones; an unacceptable ratio. A long half day’s work, some help from my sons and friends to lift off the bed and canopy and the truck’s fuel pump was replaced and the truck running again.

Several years ago the fuel pump went out in my Chevy Suburban. I remember having money, but no experience. It was $1000 and several days of work in a mechanic shop.

And yet. . .within a week, I found I’d replaced two of them. I don’t feel that different than the man I was those many years ago. And yet, I am.

My daughter’s Honda is not really drivable. The hood was all crunched up, the headlights were smashed and the condensor and radiator support were bent. I didn’t even bother to YouTube any of the repairs. I ordered a new condensor. (That’s the thing that looks like a radiator that sits in front of the actual radiator.) Everything else I got from a junkyard.

As I found a suitable car to part out, again, I found myself easily removing the parts I needed. A few screws, popping out a few rivets and I piled the parts into a wheelbarrow.

When did I get so confident? When did I find myself able to confidently wander through a junkyard choosing and dismantling cars without hesitation?

Next week, I’ll start the assembly process on my daughter’s car. I’ll see if I can’t get back to just one broken down car in my driveway. And I’ll think about the man I was and the man I became.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Fully Committed To My Halloween Costume

Today was Halloween. Probably the strangest holiday that we celebrate. Adult men and women dress in costumes along with the children. Teenagers enjoy an unseasonable warm Fall evening to run around with their friends. Some TP gets thrown. Some pumpkins gets smashed.

Each year I tell my children that my costume is of a father of 13. This year, I decided to dress up. Kind of. I can’t say my costume was particularly original. I put on a set of blue overalls, black work boots, and nitrile gloves. I then held some tools.

By no small coincidence this is the exact costume I wore while replacing the fuel pump in my 1994 Dodge Dakota. The fuel pump went out yesterday while I was having lunch with a friend in Provo.

We had to tow the truck back. I have wonderful friends and neighbors. They came to help me, spending hours of their day.

I bought a new fuel pump and installed it today. To install the fuel pump on a truck, you typically take the bed of the truck off the frame. It feels like something that shouldn’t be possible by simply removing a few bolts and disconnecting a couple of wiring harnesses. The bed weighs about 250 lbs. My sons and neighbors helped remove it.

We did one final test of the wiring before starting on removal and verified the fuel pump was bad. After replacing the pump on my sons car where I had to drop the tank, this was simplicity itself. In fact, the entire job was mostly done and we were in the middle of reattaching the truck bed when my daughter and her family showed up for trick-or-treating at 6:30.

Come around to this other side of the truck. My feet are over there, but my head is over here.

My feet stuck out the driver’s side of the truck while My head and hands were on the passenger side. I was reattaching the bolts that hold the bed on.

My daughter’s family were dressed as characters from the Nightmare Before Christmas. As I’ve never seen the movie, the significance of the costumes was lost on me. But, the costumes were very well done. And my grandkids were very cute.

My costume met with great approval from my grandkids. My daughter cast a knowing eye on the authenticity of my outfit. The dirt and grease were real. The tools were not mere props. In fact, I was using them as they walked up and after they headed off to other family, I went back to using them.

Yes, I have to say I definitely fully committed to my costume this year.

(And my truck is back on the road with a new working fuel pump.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Working Yourself Out Of A Job

I should be in Vicksberg. We have a call center there. Normally that’s where I would be this week. But, I’m not. I’m still here in Salt Lake City. We are adding a new line of business in Vicksberg.

We have over twenty lines of business across all our call centers. In the past, the pattern has been the same. The IT team (that’s me and a bunch of others) make preparations to route the new call type to our new call center.

We start with our training classes typically about a month before the GO LIVE date. I’m typically there for the start of training. We try to prepare well enough that nothing will go wrong, but if something unexpected happens, I’m the one that the team looks to to fix it.

After training is complete, I come back for the GO LIVE. It’s typically a big deal. The GO LIVE is stressful for me. Nothing should go wrong. We test and we check, but things still might go wrong. Until we’ve taken the first call, I don’t really relax.

Anyway, that’s the way it typically goes. It’s not going that way this time. Last year we made a major change to our architecture. We spent 18 months moving our call routing to the cloud. It was a major undertaking. Our new architecture centralized the administration of our tools.

Now, instead of changes at our local center, all the changes are done online. Agents who supported one line of business can have their profiles updated and quickly be switched to another. We worked hard to design a system that was management, but most of all stable and secure. We built well.

I no longer need to be on site when we start a training class for a new line of business. As we looked forward to the launch, I realized there was literally nothing for me to do.

The training launch went very well. As expected. In a month or so, we’ll be ready for the GO LIVE. It’s still undetermined if we will need IT to travel to Vicksberg for the GO LIVE.

If not, I really have worked myself out of job. . .or at least part of it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Guest Column: Adam Hofstetter – What Have You Done Today To Help?

The following was written by Adam Hofstetter. They express the thoughts many of us have had over the weekend. Expressed better than I could.

Used by permission

Every year, I am asked to speak to my school’s entire 11th grade about chessed (acts of kindness and charity). The first year was a week after terrorists murdered four innocent people at a kosher supermarket in Paris. Every year since then, I’ve given some version of the same speech.

Every year, I talk to them about how easy it is to lose hope in this broken world. I talk to them about the horrific events of September 11, 2001, which happened before this year’s 11th graders were born. I talk to them about how heartbreaking and painful and terrifying it was to watch on TV as the towers crumbled. I talk to them about how hopeless I felt.

And then I talk to them about what happened a few hours later when I walked, alongside thousands of fellow New Yorkers, across what is now called the Ed Koch Bridge into Queens to get home from work because trains, buses, and cars were barred from entering or leaving Manhattan. I talk about getting to the other side of the bridge and seeing dozens of ordinary Queens residents lined up to give us cups of water in case we were thirsty after the long walk on that unusually warm day. I talk to them about how that small act of kindness (that chessed) not only quenched my thirst but restored my hope and inspired me to do more to help people in need, and still inspires me today.

I talk to them about Mr. Rogers and his famous quote: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ … To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

And then I tell them that, as wonderful a woman as Mr. Rogers’s mother must have been, she was wrong. When tragedy strikes, our job is not to look for the helpers. Our job is to BE the helpers.

I talk to them about how to do that. I tell them that the key is to always ask yourself one simple question whenever disaster strikes: “What can I do to make things better?” No matter how far away you are or how insignificant you feel, there is always something tangible you can do to help.

I’ve spent a lot of time today trying to answer that question: “What can I do to make things better?” I don’t have any groundbreaking answers, but I’ve been inspired by several things I’ve seen and I’m moved to share them here.

You can hold a blood drive, like the Pittsburgh Penguins are doing tomorrow (https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/413550-pittsburgh-penguins-will-host-blood-drive-collection-to-help), so that when senseless violence comes to your community the victims can get proper medical treatment without delay. Contact your local blood bank to find out how to hold such an event. And if organizing an event is too much for you, you can donate blood on your own.

You can donate to HIAS, the 137-year-old organization whose life-saving work helping refugees from all over the world get settled in and acclimated to their new countries so infuriated the monster who murdered 11 Jews yesterday in Squirrel Hill: https://www.hias.org/ways-give. Better yet, get involved with HIAS and help them save lives: https://www.hias.org/take-action.

You can donate directly to Tree of Life to help the victims and their families cover medical and funeral expenses and help the congregation repair the building: https://www.gofundme.com/tree-of-life-synagogue-shooting.

You can donate to the GoFundMe campaign to show gratitude to the Pittsburgh Police for literally running into the line of fire to end yesterday’s massacre (four of them were shot in the process): https://www.gofundme.com/4xyy6bpw.

You can donate and/or volunteer to help protect a house of worship in your community, like more than 1,000 Muslims did for a synagogue in Norway a few years ago (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/denmark/11427713/Muslims-form-ring-of-peace-to-protect-Oslo-synagogue.html).

And, especially if you usually don’t, you should attend prayer services at your chosen house of worship this coming sabbath to show them they have more support than they may think, to show the world that we will not be intimidated, and to pray to G-d to help us heal this broken world.

There are many other tangible ways we can help the people in pain, prevent or minimize the next act of senseless violence, or make the world a less hateful place. I know I don’t have all the answers. But I’m doing what I can. I hope you are, too.

The world needs more helpers. Let’s be the helpers.
– Adam Hofstetter

Here’s to the helpers. Let’s be the change we want to see in the world.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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