Repair Lessons, Dealers Bad, mmmkay?

A couple months ago I took my S10 pickup truck into Larry H Miller Chevrolet to get the tailgate suspension cables replaced on a recall. Foolishly I had left the recall notice home (it was a 3rd or 4th notice, I hadn’t been in a hurry to fix something so small). When I got there I was told that there was no recall notice for my vehicle and if I did actually get a card that I needed to bring it with me to prove such a recall existed. A couple weeks later I did return with the card and got the cables replaced. While I was there I asked about the cost of fixing some bad alignment that was causing tire wear. For about $80 they fixed the problem and I was pretty satisfied. Somehow that lulled me into a false sense of security about dealing with the dealership, despite a small parts department fiasco.

I had broken the release latch for the drivers rear half-door a couple years before and my brother had broken his several times and complained about it being such a flimsy part. For about three years I had put off fixing it, because I figured I could cast a bronze latch from the broken piece and have a durable part that I made myself. While the car was having the alignment checked I walked down to the parts department and inquired about the latch replacement. They quoted me $60 for the replacement, which I thought was insane, so I went back to the casting idea. Upon relating this story, my friend Sam pointed me at and I found the same part for $6, plus $11 in shipping, so I bought it. I still want to cast the part, but at least my door is working for now.

This leads me up to the nice spring weather we were having last week. I was driving along and rolled the windows down to enjoy the weather and noticed that my brakes were squealing in a bad way. My last truck was a Toyota manual that I had for 10 years and over 160,000 miles. I’d never needed a brake job on it, and hadn’t had one in the 40,000 miles I’ve put on this truck, so I’ve never really had any experience with brakes. Intellectually, I knew that brakes are something I should be able to do with a little internet research and a trip to the parts store. I’d even chatted up Jack, who I knew had done it recently, and he offered to help. But the return of crappy winter weather and basic laziness overcame my thrift and Monday I ran back to the dealership figuring that I’d just get it done.

In short order they came back and told me that it was going to cost $250 per axle, and that all four brakes needed to be done. With what I hoped was my best poker face, I said I thought I’d take it somewhere else. The repair liaison said ok, and he’d put it back together. As he was checking me out he told me he found a coupon online that I could go home and print out that would save me about $50 per axle, if I remember the figure through the red haze of anger that was building. I acknowledged with a nod as I signed over the $55 it was costing me to have the evaluation.

When I told Debbie, she said I should have taken it to her cousin’s place. I hadn’t even thought of that, even though we’ve had her old car in there a couple times. I went in today (without telling them about the dealership fiasco) and they came back and told me the front brakes were ok, with about 40% of the pad left, but the rear were down almost to the metal. They were able to replace the pads and turn the rotors for a total price that was way below what the dealership wanted for just one axle.

Now the final straw that pushed me into publicly telling this tale was when I got back to work after having the repair, I got an email from my brother that had a forwarded message he’d received from Larry H Miller that was addressing me asking me to take a survey about how well my visit went. Somehow they’ve even crossed up our info in their database.

So I’m done with LHM and dealerships in general, and if anyone is looking for a good mechanic, I’d have to recommend The Back Shop in West Valley at 3105 West 3500 South.

Fun with Bryce3d


Back when I started working with Jared at ZDSC he showed me this 3d artistic rendering program called Bryce 3d. I think at the time it was the most I ever paid for a non-game piece of software, but I used to sit around on Sunday afternoons and just play with the boolean architecture creating little ships and scenes. I’m not quite sure where along the line I shifted on to other things, but I kept the software current on my computer for years. I even dug it up and put it on Debbie’s computer down in Mt. Pleasant before we consolidated households, although I didn’t do much more than show it to her and Kayla.

Now I have this new Mac and still haven’t come up with a home computer since the epic technological failings of 2010. I just installed the other software I need to be learning so I can help with the media responsibilities I’m sharing with Sam for SC11, so I thought I’d look for some online help. While I was poking around for tutorials on illustrator and Final Cut Pro I ran across the current version of Bryce, Bryce 7, and found it was free for personal use.

So here I am, after 10:00 on a Sunday night, just like old times with a rough little rendering of a calvin-and-hobbes’ish daydream of organic spaceships hunting each other across rugged hostile terrain. Maybe next week I’ll get something productive done.

Ouroboros Route

I come in to the office abnormally early, my mood black as my nerdy t-shirt, a relic of a defunct corporate handout. The once flashy logo cracked and faded on the sleeve. My sleep, plagued by jittery dreams as if sourced from a scratched phonograph endlessly skipping back seconds to replay what would be my final act.
I am granted admittance through the act of swiping my ID, a near meaningless hi-tech sacrament repeated without reflection. I avoid the elevator and turn counter clockwise, winding up the stairs numbering each tread in my mind. 13 stairs to a flight, 2 flights to a floor, 5 floors to my level. I pace an additional 14 steps to the second carded gate I must pass. 144 paces in all. 12 squared, and the 13th Fibonacci number. I must pass this portal with more than a perfunctoral scan of my badge. I place my thumb on the altar of plastic, “I am me”.
With a tinny click corroborating my existence I push into the priory of geekdom. I’m not as old as some, but I remember a time when the pre-dawn glow would have been a greener monochrome. Out of the corner of my eye I see the sleeping monitors their surfaces reflectively dull and speckled with dust. I pass another old-timers cube, his monitors’ sleep function overridden and dancing with a simulated waterfall of Matrix code.
I turn counter-clockwise once more at the end of the aisle to my low-traffic station. My monitors alive and endlessly drawing and redrawing what would seem to be a layout of aged European cities. As I fall into my Aeron Chair the screens awake seemingly in anticipation. I drop my hands to the keyboard in another holy rite and my fingers affirm my password without the aid of thought.
For the first time I hesitate. I have little inkling what derangement led me to this juncture, but I find my inquisitiveness overrides all caution. Maybe it’s the endless knocking of near-do-wells and outlaws at my digital gates. Somehow I got the idea in my head that maybe there was more to the endless, mindless probing. Possibly it was one too many Laundry novels; some Pratchett predilection that posited the path I now undertake.
Many things are unnatural, and most have consequences. I begin my work of undoing to weaken the world. Opening an xterm I use secure shell to connect to another machine and invoke the virtual machine manager. The manager spawns a Windows minion in a new screen. Inside the virtual windows machine I call upon xming and SSH back to my desktop completing the unholy circle. Machine alerts begin to register in my task bar and I see the load begin to spike under a deluge of requests for admittance. I feel I can hear the nameless horrors I’m about to receive. One last command to type before my newly profaned processors perish. My hand hovers over the enter key…