Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New/Old Leaders

Here we have Key West's new mayor Craig Cates in an official campaign photo with his wife Cheryl beaming enigmatically at the camera. Cates beat out the incumbent mayor with no need for a run off vote and apparently not much need for a visible campaign. Cates, whose name is associated with a former car dealership, a former city commissioner (his mother Emma) with assorted other relatives who have served in positions of responsibility. A vote for Cates wasn't exactly an anti-Conch vote. Discussion of Cates' win centers on outgoing Mayor McPherson's failure to keep his mouth shut on a couple of major recent scandals. giving credence to the notion that possibly a lot of people wanted to vote against Big Mac, but didn't want to seriously upset the city management apple cart. Cates was their candidate, he won by not saying much.
His campaign platform is the usual bland order of business, pulling people together, encouraging talented people to use their talent etc etc... He also wants to run the city in a more businesslike manner whatever that means. In a nation beset by gruesome economic problems Key West isn't doing too badly it seems to me, but perhaps we will now lose McPherson's more outlandish, and expensive flights of fantasy, like water parks and buying Christmas Tree Island to allow a developer to develop it and stuff like that.

Cates wasn't alone in getting a seat Tuesday night and if anyone thinks his election was the creation of a new city order look more closely. Jimmy Weekly is back after 20 years of service in city hall he gets another go, back as city commissioner this time. And Clayton Lopez representing a piece of old town centered on Bahama Village gets another term. His election is interesting in that his campaign was reported to be rather frisky in trying to make deals with his opponent to let Lopez have another term, the newspaper said, in return for a non campaign. In the end Lopez won his seat handily, so what his campaign manager was doing trying to make back room deals, seems rather odd and pointless, if the story was accurate.

There has been a lot written about the Randy Acevedo effect, where McPherson spoke out in support of the former school's superintendent at his sentencing, and McPherson was also reported in the paper to be boasting about his role in getting his sister appointed to the Florida Keys Community College Board. She subsequently voted to support the "resignation" of the controversial President who had upset quite a few people with her brusque leadership style. Not least McPherson's brother employed at the College and "reassigned " (demoted) by President Landesberg Boyle. I suppose using your influence to help a friend or relative could have become tiresome to city voters but I suspect there is more to the ouster of McPherson than these two tidbits in the newspaper.
Truman Waterfront is to be redeveloped soon and a player in that land bonanza is the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust whose leader and McPherson failed to get along at all. Reportedly Cates and Norma Jean Sawyer get along much better. Yet Clayton Lopez is no friend to the trust and he got re-elected in a solid vote. The newspaper reported preliminary findings of an audit of the Trust reporting financial problems with the Trust. Cates, Lopez and Weekly will have lots to do as the 34 acres of prime waterfront land is turned from a former military base wilderness into a spectacular developmental showpiece. How that goes may be more a reflection of the election than recent courtroom dramas.

Oil Change Heaven

Let me be blunt for a change. I hate working on things mechanical. The problem is that I am surrounded by them and from time to time they need to be tended to and an oil change is an absurdly simple thing so I am forced, kicking and screaming to undertake this simple task from time to time.Years ago, frustrated by America's unwillingness to join the One World Government conspiracy I bought a Metrench tool kit off a television advertisement. In my defense my wife and I were planning the sailing trip of our lives and we were nervous as hell and unable to sleep so we stayed up late at night and assuaged our fears by buying things off the television. The tools in the kit have oddly shaped edges and cover both SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) measurements in fractions of an inch (arrrgh!) and metric sizes measured in individual millimeters (sweet!). I wasted hours looking for a gallon of Mobil One synthetic oil I bought at K-Mart on sale ages ago and have now lost. So I took off and picked up four quarts (American quarts are .946 of a liter so are essentially indistinguishable. If you want to know why Imperial and American measurements are different I will explain another time if you ask rudely) of Coastal synthetic. Hey man these are the Keys and you can't just bop out and expect to find Mobil oil at the Mobil gas station in Big Pine. I should have gone to the Mobil in Summerland but then I'd have been tempted by Dions Fried Chicken and that would have been the wrong kind of grease. 29,000 miles ago I made my first change on my 865cc Bonneville twin and discovered it takes precisely four quarts with a new oil filter. I dropped in the last half quart very carefully, waiting 15 minutes to make sure I hadn't exceeded the oil level. And I found four quarts fit nowadays I throw in four quarts and forget about shaving off a hundred centiliters here and there like the book says. In two years I have 31,000 miles and a nicely running engine. Works for me. First, park the motorcycle in a flat cement area which you won't mind spotting with used and fresh engine oil (flooding if you screw up and kick something by accident). Use the optional $250 Triumph center stand to make the job easier and less likely to drop the 500 pound machine on top of you. Whip out your 13mm box wrench (spanner) and stick it on the oil drain nut. If you are in this position facing the rear wheel pull the wrench towards you, hoping the last twat to tighten it up didn't overdo the job. Crack the nut and start to loosen it with your finger:
If you are a namby pamby tort-lawyer-raised person or someone who worries about the viability of their testes or ovaries you might want to wear rubber/latex gloves to keep all petroleum products from giving you cancer. I am a rather more devil-may-care type of chap and go at this job bare handed with the inevitable result: my finger nails get a black rim to them for several days, despite my best cleaning endeavors. Oil gets everywhere:Make sure the collection tray is well in front of the hole...the warm oil will spurt quite a ways under pressure. A word about warming the oil. Most schools of thought agree that running the engine for five minutes to warm and circulate the oil is the best way to start this job. Some people, just to be perverse no doubt, think you should do the job cold to make sure any contaminants are in the bottom of the crankcase/oil tank. Me? I warm the engine, always have and always will not least because the oil runs more freely. Everywhere.
I let my bike get a professional oil change every other time because the Bonneville gets a major tune up every 12,000 miles, including a general lubrication, valve clearance check and yes, an oil and filter change. So usually the nut is on good and tight and with my pansy little tools my meaty hands tend to get in the way. Viz the blood:
So, we now have the warm oil draining into the pan, oil on the floor, and on my hands, a couple of oily rags with blood spatters as I try to a) get the carcinogenic oil particles directly into my bloodstream and b) use the oily rags to keep the dripping blood to a minimum. And let's not forget to remove the oil filler cap to allow the oil to drain faster and we hope more efficiently. In the Haynes manual they use a 50 pence coin because they are English. In the US and Canada you could use a quarter. At my impecunious house we use a screw driver.
While we wait for the old oil to drain we pass an oily rag over the bottom of the motorcycle, wiping off crud and checking nuts bolts and frame welds. We look at the plug with it's aluminum washer. You are supposed to change the little aluminum ring when you change the oil. I never have any to hand so I just stick the old one back on and forget about it. I expect the shop to replace it every other oil change and that should do. You can be as compulsive as you need on that one. Tra la tra la we wait and wait for the oil to finish draining...You could take the filter off now and perhaps speed it up but that makes an even bigger mess so I just wait and think about how valuable engine oil really is. It lubricates, which is to say it prevents moving metal parts from touching each other. If the piston ever actually touched the cylinder wall as it runs up and down the result would be what's known as seizing, usually with fatal results. The hot oil provides a film a millionth of a millimeter thick that prevents the parts from touching. Bearings do the same thing, spinning essentially in a very fine oil bath. All this at temperatures that would burn your hand were you to touch the oil. Oil washes the parts it lubricates and carries any stray dirt or particles to the filter, which like the human liver, washes the oil clean for it's return trip ( the liver washes the blood, we aren't supposed to have engine oil in our veins). So you need to change the oil on time if not sooner. Some weirdos make the claim that changing the oil too often doesn't allow it to break down and do it's job. Whatever. change it as often as you like as far as I'm concerned if you have the time and money to waste. The Bonneville is supposed to go an incredible 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers) between changes. I can't last that long...In the good old days 3,000 miles was considered as long as you could go.
Drip, drip, drip. Still waiting. Oil from diesel engines comes out looking completely black and some people think the color of the oil determines it's useful life. However if we remember that engine oil cools by lubricating we understand that the important part is not the color necessarily but the consistency. For fun (and to help the cancer along) you can rub the oil between your fingers and see if it feels like water or lubricious like oil. Remember too it needs to feel like a lubricant at a lot higher temperatures, and high temps like to break oil down, so even if the used oil feels like silk at these temperatures it is still probably time to change it.
DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THE DRAIN PLUG BACK. Do it now, before you do anything else. Tighten it tight enough but don't overdo it. You'll feel it get snug, even if you don't have a torque wrench.Now we deal with the oil filter. If you don't have a filter skip this part. If you are intimidated by the filter change get comfortable changing the oil only and take the bike to the shop after a few thousand miles to have an early "proper" oil AND filter change. When the engine is new filter changes are important. As the engine gets old they remain important. Personally I'd rather get just the oil changed if that was all I could manage and leave the old filter in place. It will probably still do it's job just fine and fresh oil is a great good thing for the engine. If this job is new to you learn a little at a time and one day changing the filter will be as easy as draining the oil. Tools help.You can get filter wrenches that come with little straps you slide round the filter and pull to give greater leverage. They don't work for me as the filter is usually tucked up in a space that doesn't allow the strap and handle to maneuver. This universal wrench from Advanced Autoparts works nicely for me. As seen upside down, grab the filter and twist gently. It should break loose easily.
When it comes loose finish the job by (gloved) hand. Oil will run down the filter as the thing is a cup and may contain 250 milliliters (one quarter of a quart= a cup!? Oh, new world order where art thou?) which has to go somewhere. Hopefully you have spread an old towel under the bike and are lying comfortably as you grope. I bought my oil collection pan from Napa ("No Auto Parts Available") and it has a proper little hump in the middle. Thats the place you put the filter to allow it to drain.Gently push the pan aside and use an oil rag to catch the last drips from the filter housing. Push the pan gently, or cause a tidal wave and get oil EVERYWHERE. Now get your new filter, hopefully a Triumph original part because they are guaranteed to work with your bike, or if you live in the Keys or some other isolated place and your dealer recently closed you will make do with a fine, properly sized after market brand. Stick your (gloved) finger into a bottle of fresh oil...
...and apply it gently to create an oily film on the rubber gasket of the new filter.You can use burned oil if you want but what the hell, we have fresh oil to spare. It only takes light lubrication. This is to prevent the oil gasket from tearing when you screw the new filter on. If you forget to lubricate the gasket it may catch and tear and create an oil leak, and we don't want that. Immediately stick the filter back on, tighten by hand, and if your hand is greasy than wrap the filter in a less oily rag and keep turning the filter on it's housing. You will feel it get tight suddenly. Triumph kindly puts the filter under the engine on the Bonneville series. Some manufacturers put the filter where removal will drip oil everywhere. Some people prefer a hidden filter hoping it won't get hit by a rock when riding in gravel. Personally I like it just where it is. Everything about this oil change is easy.
Now you have the plug back in the engine, the filter is on hand tight and you have a funnel in the oil filler hole behind the right hand cylinder. Wedge the funnel with some rags else the weight of the oil will tip it over. Pour in four quarts, or if this is your first time pour in much of the fourth quart and keep adding gobs at the end and checking the little window to make sure it is at the right height. When you have it at the right height, put the cap on and run the engine. Let it sit for 15 minutes and see where the level is. This gets very tedious especially if you don't have a center stand. I chuck in the four quarts, replace the cap and clean up.
DO NOT THROW THE OLD OIL DOWN THE STORM DRAIN. Surely you know to recycle it? Some people may not know and if so they are best off leaving this whole operation to a professional. For the rest of us, take your empty bottles, prop them up with old towels to prevent the weight of the oil spilling the bottle and slowly and gently pour the burned oil back into the bottle. I couldn't photograph this complex operation easily so you'll have to imagine it. I still spilled copious quantities of oil onto the towel but do your best.You may think you are pouring less oil into the containers than you got out. Remember the factory puts oil in bottles by weight not volume and you have probably spilled a fair bit here and there and some has been absorbed by the rags. if your engine is neither leaking nor smoking you are fine and your engine is probably not burning mass quantities of oil as you ride. Time to get geared up and ride.Before you hit the highway, and take the burned oil to the recycling center in your saddlebags (you do use your motorcycle daily right?), start the engine and make sure the red oil pressure light goes out almost immediately. If it doesn't or the alarm pressure buzzer sounds stop the engine, and figure out the problem. The green neutral light should stay on otherwise the motorcycle in gear will roll forward and fall over.

Then put your pink Crocs to the foot pegs and go for a ride.
This job shouldn't take more than 30 minutes if you do it slowly and methodically. It's very easy but if you screw up any small portion of it you risk wrecking the engine beyond repair so be thoughtful. Do not interrupt the job. Josh sent me a text message in the middle of this which I ignored, fearful I might miss a step along the way. And I have been feeling obliged to do this smelly greasy job on my motorcycles for the past four decades. On days like these I miss two strokes, and if you don't know why they don't have crankcase oil changes hit Wikipedia and find out. You'll be a better person for the knowledge, just like I am.