Five Screws


I figure the title to this post would probably generate some interest from that portion of the populace that Daughter and I don’t normally reach.

So be it!

Simply stated, I am here to declare that over the weekend I managed to take the above pictured box o’ computer parts (Daughter’s much-abused laptop) and produce an almost complete and correctly reassembled machine.

I had my doubts and figured that my probability of success was somewhere south of 50%.  See previous discussion here.

Fortunately, there’s YouTube.

Fortunately, the videos there all feature a “Pause” button.

Using “The Rule of My Father,”* I calculated that it would take me approximately four hours to put the stupid thing back together, since I spent nearly an hour and a half taking it apart — and that was weeks ago.  And as I examined the IT Detritus piled before me, I swear I couldn’t remember most of the details associated with disassembly.  Age and an amazing lack of hubris will do that for you, dear Muggles.

*The Rule of My Father explained:  Take any task and multiply by three the time duration of the original estimate, i.e., “Son, it will only take you about an hour to clean the garage this morning.”  Translation:  At least three hours will be required to approach any level of completion. 

Though I really, really attempted to be systematic in my efforts during this project, I failed miserably in segregating the multitude of screws that held the entire device together.

Basically I had some big parts that somehow consisted of little parts, and the entire shootin’ match was held together by approximately 37 miniature screws of varying lengths and thread types (don’t ask me how I came to know about that, please).

I will spare you most of the gory details, but my faith and confidence were spurred on by the words of one of my IT-savvy co-workers who said, “Don’t worry about reinstalling all the screws.  They really overbuild these things, and they aren’t all really necessary.”

I think that’s roughly the equivalent of a guy at Pep Boys saying, “Your car only really  needs three tires most of the time to drive okay.  The fourth just balances things out.”

Or some such.

Suffice it to say, there came a point late Saturday afternoon when I definitely began to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The Box o’ Parts was starting to take shape, by golly!

And then it happened.  I tightened the final screw on the bottom of the laptop, and I was done!

I only had five really tiny screws left over.  They couldn’t be that vital, could they?

Success!  Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!  I Be Special!

Of course, that feeling lasted approximately five nanoseconds; maybe shorter.

Because when I flipped the laptop over, the keyboard promptly fell off.

“Hewlett-Packard.  We have a problem.”

Addressing this issue required retracing my last seven steps and basically taking apart most of the machine’s base.

You see, I discovered I needed the really long screws to secure the keyboard, and they were already buried somewhere else in the bowels of mechanism.  Fortunately, I found them soon enough, but still couldn’t really place where the other five “extra” leftover screws came into play.


Next step:  Power.

I plugged the beast in, hit the “On” switch, and held my breath.

Wouldn’t you know it?  It booted right up and everything worked.

CPU Thermal Paste?  I laugh at you, even though I don’t know what you really do and why I smeared some of you on a copper plate next to a circuit board.

I got to thinking, “Hey, there’s not much I can’t do, really.  If I can put this thing together, then the world is my oyster.”

Then I received the first report back from Daughter:  “Hey, Dad, the keyboard seems to keep falling out.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I replied.  “It just needs a longer screw.  Just keep it level, and I’ll figure it out in a few days.”

I do not intend to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory, so my story for now is, it works.

And, once again, I’ve prevented dogs and cats sleeping together.  You know:  mass hysteria.

World Order has been maintained.

Using those terms to describe fixing my kid’s computer?

Age and an amazing lack of hubris will do that for you, dear Muggles.

- Dad

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No Good Deed


Sometimes you can’t win for losing.  That’s an expression I learned from my pals in Louisiana.  Except they pronounced “can’t” as “cain’t.”

No matter.

About two weeks ago I spent the better part of an afternoon replacing the spark plugs on my pick-up.  It was, unfortunately, eerily characteristic of many of my mechanical escapades.  I took on a seemingly simple task and managed to turn it into my own personal assault on Mount Kilimanjaro.

I’m in no shape to be climbing mountains, let me tell you.

Even though I managed to get everything under the hood reasonably reassembled, I hadn’t taken the truck out for a real spin to check my work until last Friday.

Once I turned on the ignition, I noticed it was idling a bit high.  I attributed it to the engine being cold and the new super duper plugs I had installed.  As luck or fate or both would have it, the symptom didn’t go away.  The more I drove it that day, the worse it sounded.  Things reached a fairly crappy climax in the afternoon when the dreaded “Check Engine Light” suddenly illuminated.

Well, that really chapped my a**, as my Southern buds would say.

All kinds of resolution scenarios started flowing through my mind.

Had I forgotten to reconnect one of the thousands of vacuum lines properly?  Did I screw up the intake manifold somehow?  Am I sure I even know what an intake manifold is anymore?  Did I install the wrong kind of plugs?

Really, the possibilities were endless.

And I absolutely suck at complicated automotive troubleshooting.

But instead of taking my vehicle in for professional advice, I decided to tackle the diagnosis myself.  I had little to lose, I figured.

Clearly, I had done something wrong, but what?

Since many, many prior personal automotive problem episodes preceded this one, I made the wise investment years ago in purchasing what’s known as a “Code Puller.”  Basically, the Muggle Mechanic plugs this thing into the vehicle’s computer, and out spits various unintelligible letter/number sequences that translate into specific problems currently plaguing the vehicle’s DNA.

After running the device through a couple of cycles, I wrote down the associated codes and headed inside to the internet.

P0502:  High Idle Condition.

Well, no sh kidding.  That was helpful.

Next stop for me, still on the internet, was visiting various websites and owner’s forums to determine if anyone else had ever screwed up experienced this problem, and if they had, what was the fix?

It turns out that in my zeal to not only change the spark plugs, but also to address a couple of other issues I found in the process (namely carbon build-up in the throttle body, which I diligently cleaned), I quite possibly managed to destroy one of the most expensive and sensitive parts of the intake system.

All because I was trying to be thorough and do the right thing.

I guess that teaches me.  From now on, I am returning to my scattershot, half-assed automotive repair methodology.

It’s clearly less risky and less expensive.

However, before I became completely distraught, I stumbled across a very thoroughly explained engine computer re-set procedure that, if executed correctly, might be the answer to my troubles.

In order to successfully complete this step-by-step process, timing (to the second) was critical, and disconnecting other devices under the hood was required for everything to work out properly.  The whole thing was fairly complicated.

More defeated than confident, I threw caution and what was left of my self-esteem to the wind, and gave it a go.

Well, it took me three tries, but eventually I got the process right, and it seemed to work.  After I buttoned everything up, I drove the truck around for a bit and, indeed, I cautiously declared success.

I went inside and beamed to my Lovely Spouse, “I think I fixed it.  But I’m not 100% sure.  I don’t want to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.”

“That’s great,” she replied.  “I didn’t know there was a problem.  Where do you want to eat dinner tonight?”

Ah, normalcy.

Which brings me to today’s crisis:  Daughter’s Computer (pictured above).

In a rousing bout of self-restraint, she recently declared she’s going to hold off replacing her iPhone, but could Dad please replace the cooling fan in her dying laptop?

“No problemo, Daughter!  I just single-handedly (not really — an internet cast of thousands helped) repaired my 2006 pick-up truck, which had a very complicated issue that I resolved.”

I mean, how hard could replacing the fan in her computer be?  A couple of screws here, a panel there, and Voila!

It took me about an hour, and I somehow removed about fifty miniature screws in the process, but I got the stupid thing apart and the fan out.  This time around, for help I referenced a YouTube video, where some dude in a ballcap took apart the same laptop in about five minutes.

When I examined the faulty fan, I discovered it was jammed with five years’ worth of dirt and dust.

Daughter had killed it.

So after a quick trip to Fry’s (“Nope, we don’t stock that stuff.  Go to Amazon.), I placed an online order and her new fan is on its way from China.

It may get here in thirty days.

It may not.

I know one thing.

I will have forgotten absolutely every detail associated with taking the stupid thing apart by then.  I will, indeed, need God’s Help (and some nuns’, too) to put it back together again properly.

I put the odds of success at roughly fifty percent — if one of the cats doesn’t knock the box of parts over in the meantime.

If that happens, all bets are off, and Daughter probably becomes the beneficiary of a new device.

I guess I need to hide the box now.

- Dad

Men Are Pigs


And I’m one of them!

Over the past several weeks I’ve been meaning to write a post about the unfortunate wildly common public behavior known as littering.   I just couldn’t put my finger on the appropriate trigger incident, from which all of my posts meander along.  I chalked up my inability to get this theme on virtual paper because the act itself (trashing) is just something that goes against a deep-seated gene in my DNA.

I liken it to leaving food on my plate.  From my earliest memory, that was drilled into my cranium as a mortal sin.

Yep:  “Finish those peas (or beets, or squash, or kale [for God's sake, kale?]).  There are children starving in India.”

Though I was mostly able to abide by this dictum, I still have an image of my brother, sitting alone at the dining room table in front of his plate, with the lights turned off, abandoned by all.

I guess that showed him!

Anyway, somewhere in the deep recesses of my psyche, the notion of people acting badly was circulating.

Then it happened, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  And a little background is in order first.

In the nondescript office building where I work, we share common restrooms with the other Muggle Worker Drones who inhabit the hive.  Of course, I utilize the Men’s, though I’ve heard the Women’s is very nice.

I’m going to make some very broad generalizations here, based on my years of experience visiting and spending time in public and semi-public men’s restrooms (Whoa, what are those?) over the years.  In general, apparently most guys feel they have complete license to act like pigs behind those closed entrance way and stall doors.

Guys?  Know what I’m talking about here?

Used and unused paper towels all over the place, all manner of stains and detritus in the sinks, and the smell.

Lord, the smell.

At this point I would like to make the distinction between locker room protocol and restroom rules.  In a locker room, I think it’s a generally accepted notion that there are very few things that are considered out-of-bounds:  brushing teeth, shaving, conducting various acts of personal hygiene, walking around buck-necked (or not) — pretty much no one is going to bat an eye.  In fact, most everyone averts their eyes and attempts to pretend they are talking to someone who is fully clothed and not leaving a puddle of sweat at their feet.

On the other hand, the decorum in a restroom is altogether different.  Sure, you can take care of bodily functions, but that other stuff I just mentioned is, for the most part, out-of-bounds.  It’s just not done.

So it was with great displeasure last week when I walked into the restroom at work and was met by someone plastered in front of the mirror doing something to his face.  Worse, he continued his activity even though I had made my entry behind him.

Bad form, dude.  That’s simply not done.  The correct procedure, upon realizing you are now sharing the space, would be to stop the activity immediately, pretend as if you were doing something else, then wash your hands, and leave.

Sure, you are free to return once I’ve departed, but please be considerate of those around you.

Oh, I forgot.  All men are pigs and what goes on in the trough, stays in the trough.

Not really.

Well, this guy clearly last week clearly hadn’t taken the time to educate himself, because he just kept at it, oblivious to my presence.

What was I supposed to do?

There I was, minding my own business (and doing it, too), and staring at a stupid sign some other Nameless Muggle had taped above the urinals (pictured above).

That’s right.  It seems that many guys have a problem with their aim.

If you stop and think about it, of all the things in this world that men should and shouldn’t be good at, “aiming” should be one of their better talents because it is practiced so frequently.

Oh, I’m here to tell you that it’s simply not true, and I don’t know why.

Well, maybe I do, but it’s too gross to contemplate, much less discuss.

Anyway, I finished up and went to the basin to wash my hands.

The guy was still at it.

I averted my eyes, grabbed a couple of paper towels, and high-tailed it out of there.

But I did make a vow to return and right the wrong I had witnessed.

Of course I’m not referring to the universally bad behavior of men in restrooms.


The sign above the urinal needs a comma after the introductory phrase.  I plan on inking one in.

After all, we may be pigs, but some of us still watch Masterpiece Theater.

- Dad

A Sad Day in Dandy Dogdom




I’m really a Martian Dog, or maybe from Vulcan. You can only tell in certain light because my eyes turn green!

Now don’t get too excited.  No one dies today.  We just experienced general unhappiness.

Though I haven’t conducted true academic research on the subject, it is my understanding that German Shepherds typically latch onto one particular person in the household pack.  I am not that person. 

It is Mom.

It is also very clear to me that Dandy Dog has a very well-developed sixth sense when it comes to understanding that, somehow, today the daily routine will be disrupted. 

Thusly, so we found ourselves this Saturday.  

Mom had plans to be gone from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.  That means Dad has to conduct the morning walk, has to feed Dandy breakfast, and has to endure his forlorn, empty eyes — not staring at me, mind you — but absolutely fixated on the front door for hours on end. 

Let me take you through the routine. 

The Reluctant Walk.  Have you even known a dog, any dog, not excited to grab a leash and head out the door?  Then you haven’t met our dog.  He is only truly interested in walking if it is with his Mom.  With anyone else it is simply a Dog Charade, and it goes something like this.  After much cajoling, he will mope over to whomever is holding his lead, not at all excited about the prospect of leaving the house.  After being dragged outside, he will slowly, very slowly, walk down the hill on our street, pausing at great length at the first convenient bush. 

I don’t mean ten seconds.  More like forty-five or fifty.  I know.  I’ve counted.  And then he’s been known to stop by the second most convenient bush and pretend.  That’s right.  He will pretend to do something.  Like he thinks most of us Muggles are complete idiots and can’t tell.  And after that, he feigns excitement that he has relieved himself and turns tail back to the house. 

And the preceding cinema happens mainly with me.  With any of the kids attempting the same activity, Dandy basically goes on strike.  Oh, he might walk down the hill, but that’s it.  No farther.  He’ll just stand there with a dumb look on his face and refuse to move.  In that way, he is smarter than us Muggles, since he knows the Younger Muggles will simply give up and allow him to lead the way back home. 

The Hunger Strike.  With Mom gone, no eating will take place.  None.  However, if a cat happens to wander by his bowl of Hardened Dog Kibbles, he will position himself strategically between the two so that his stash is guarded.  He will only return to the carcass later in the day, when the pack is reunited. 

The Thousand-Mile Stare.  Dandy’s entire existence is spent by the front door on those days that Mom disappears.  Perhaps he thinks she will never return, but he will sit, lie, and sleep by the door, finely attuned to any sound on the other side that even faintly resembles Mom’s van.  His focus is intense, and can only be bested by sitting on his lead in the front yard, so that he has a commanding view of the road and his Mom’s potential return.  Although if a delivery person happens to wander by, Dandy will be more than happy to try to attack him or her and kill. 

The Walton’s Home for Christmas.  That pretty much describes the scene when Mom returns.  The sun comes out, the Red Sea parts, and John-Boy spreads good holiday cheer throughout the Walton household.  Angels also sing.

How do I feel about it?  Well, the whole deal is really pathetic, when I think about it.  But then again, I’m not the object of Dandy’s affection. 

I had a cat once that was attached to me in much the same way.  He would wait for me to come home from work, would only eat if he was touching some part of me, and followed me around the neighborhood on walks.  It is clear to me that my old cat behaved much like a dog might. 

And Dandy?  He’s somewhere between a cat, a wolf, and a Muggle. 

Mom’s okay with that, and in Dandy’s world, that’s all that matters anyway. 

- Dad

You Were Our Best Patient Today. We Only Had Two!


“I swear to God I’m going to pop, so stop smiling! And, by the way, who is your tailor?”

Any day is a good day when you go to the hospital in the morning for a procedure and actually leave the afternoon.  Apparently, a lot of folks are not as fortunate. 

So the good news is that I’m home today, and slept in my own bed last night.  But that doesn’t mean the Muggle Medical Personnel didn’t make it interesting for me while I visited their domain.

First, you have to admit, they’ve got all of us beat in the Clotheshorse Department.  What I wouldn’t give to wear clogs, baggy pants, and mult-colored smocks all day!  They all look so carefree and comfortable while they are busy jamming you with sharp objects and confirming for the tenth time when and what you last ate. 

“Yes, I’m being truthful.  It was popcorn at 7:00 p.m.  I thought it was okay.”

I tried to figure out if there was some kind of rhyme or reason associated with the medical togs.  Sadly, I discovered there was none, as the most senior doctor dressed the same way as the lowliest orderly — and they all looked so damned comfortable!

Second, pretty much everyone in the place who is not a patient is somewhere between 12 and 15 years old. 

“Where did you get you undergraduate degree?” I joked with one of the orderlies, thinking he hadn’t yet finished grade school.

“UT-Austin, then my residency in Dallas, and now I’m here,” he replied.

Clearly I was in the presence of some type of super-race of uberexcelling children, because this guy looked younger than my eleven year old.  If that’s the case, I thought, then why isn’t my eleven year old already practicing medicine? 

Sedation will do that to you. 

Third, there is no sound-proofing anywhere, which can be unsettling.  There I lay, post-procedure, trying to figure out why my shoulder hurt so much when the operative incision was nowhere in the same vicinity.  I spied a guy who had a purposeful look wandering around the unit examining charts.  At first I thought he was some kind of doctor, but he was dressed too uncomfortably for that role.  The next thing I knew he was talking to the old dude in the slot next to me — we were really only separated by a curtain, so I heard mostly everything he said.

“We have to live with our choices,” he advised this guy, in a very soothing voice. 

“I know,” came the reply.  “I’m not afraid of death.”

Whoa!  What’s going on here?  Guys, I’ve got a sore shoulder.  Let’s not get my mind wandering. 

“You know, alcoholics like us have to learn to experience pain, without help.”

Again, guys, I’ve got some pain going on here, without the benefit of alcohol.  Can you try to be more pleasant? 

The conversation went along in that vein for awhile, and eventually they wrapped it up and made a point to get together again real soon.  My hope was that I would not be the next one in line to be visited and, thus, become entirely bummed out.  After all, the hospital promised me lunch after the procedure, and I was anxiously looking forward to water and jello.

As it turned out, I did receive a sumptuous feast of Saltines, jello, ramen soup, a muffin, tea, and water.  It was freaking awesome because I was so hungry. 

And I didn’t have to talk to anyone regarding my thoughts on the Hereafter — exactly how do you high five a thousand angels?  I’m gonna find out!  I’m not sure how that’s going to go over with the resident counselors.

And finally, there has to be a downside to all of this, right?  Of course there is, as no good deed goes unpunished in my world. 

Not long after eating my wonderful meal, I felt the need to visit the Necessary Room. 

“Nurse, may I use the restroom?”

Turns out the Muggle Doctor who performed the procedure on me is a stickler for post-operative protocol. 

“The doctor’s orders state you need four hours in the bed, no exceptions.” 

I mean the restroom is all of ten paces away.

“If you really, really need to go, here’s a container.  We’ll close the curtains for privacy.”

Missy, I’ve got news for you.  That container ain’t big enough to hold what’s coming down the pike.

In the end, I managed to hang on until I received my bed release, so I felt doubly wonderful when I finally managed to leave the hospital just a bit later. 

The next adventure was driving home with Wife and Daughter Number Two, and in a stunning case of role reversal, I was able to comment the entire time on my Wife’s driving habits as we sped along.

A short time later, after stopping for foo-foo coffee, she asked me if I would like to drive the rest of the way. 

Of course I answered in the affirmative.  Sweet.

- Dad

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