Friday, June 12, 2009

Oil change, part deux

My second oil change today went a lot better than the first one, 9 months ago. Still a bit of drama, but not too bad. I already had everything I needed, and a plan, and the entire process took almost exactly 45 minutes from beginning to end.

Only bummer is that once again I overfilled the crankcase. Not too much, just a little. I'd partially-filled it, ran the engine a while, then checked the level before topping up, but the oil was so clean and clear that I couldn't really see how full it was. I noticed a lack of power, probably from the crankshaft sloshing around in oil instead of powering the vehicle. So after driving on it a while, I pulled the drain plug and drained out maybe a quart or two extra. Out of 4 gallons, not too bad.

The secret next time will be to run the engine for a LONGER time after partially-filling it, and before checking the dipstick-- long enough that the oil gets dirty and black and I can clearly see the level.

I found Rotella CJ-4 oil at Kragen this time too, really easy, and relatively cheap-- no special out-of-the-way trips to locate the stuff.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Seeing/hearing ghosts

Lately I've been avoiding the urban areas I used to park in, and feeling a lot safer, healthier, and more secure in the suburbs. I don't feel safe downtown anymore, among people living on the street and lots of fellow vandwelleers. I feel bad about it, but I much prefer the suburban areas of San Francisco, or the suburbs of San Mateo County surrounding it... or of course the beaches or out in the woods when I can there!

The other night I parked in a very safe suburban shopping mall parking lot. It was a windy night. At almost exactly 4:00AM (what is it with 4AM?) I was awakened by loud rap music booming, my van being shaken, and the sound of my van door being opened! I made my most intimidating-sounding angry shout. I heard nothing.

I looked out my peep-holes. I saw-- or thought I saw-- a vehicle parked sideways, aiming directly towards my vehicle. WTF? And nobody else around. I felt very, very scared and alone. I was in a panic for about a half hour, trying to decide what was going on and what to do. A car thief would have left as soon as I shouted. Who was parked there? Why were they parked that strange way? What did they want? What if they were armed? What if they tried to break in again?

After a while, I decided I'd climb out and start my vehicle, and drive somewhere else. As I got out of the box and into the cab, I noticed that everything I thought was wrong. There was no vehicle pointing at mine; there was a limo parked right next to mine, and the streetlights shining on it made it look like headlights aiming at me. I was not alone; there were dozens of cars parked all around. There were also people coming to work at one of the stores already, and a security guard on duty!

So what happened? I was perfectly safe. I got back the van and went back to sleep.

There were several problems. First, the peepholes make everything look really far away. It's a fisheye lens. There were cars parked all over me, and people a very short distance away. Secondly, my van was shaking because it was windy, or because someone parked too close to me and banged their door into me. Third, the sounds I heard was probably whomever owned that limo, parking it after getting off a night of work (it's prom season, after all). Fourthly, I'm a little skittish from being in the city for a while, or a little soft from being in the suburbs and out in the country.

I was seeing ghosts. No break-in attempt. No gang-bangers. No danger. Just the echoes of it, a delayed reaction.