Thursday, September 28, 2006

Grace, Where Are You?

Here's a blog milestone I never wanted to reach: I'm dropping the first two links I ever had here, to Grace Nearing's Scriptoids and The Next Blog Blog. They haven't been updated since June and March, respectively, and have thus become the equivalent of broken links. It's the sort of thing that makes me think gloomy thoughts about accidents or sudden illnesses -- she hadn't given any hints that she was thinking of dropping her blogs, and I don't have her e-mail address, so I can't just get in touch with her in the usual ways. Anyway, she's a gifted writer with unusual "takes" on lots of things, and I surely hope she's OK. I retain the bookmarks for those blogs, and plan to continue to check frequently ... if she resumes, the linkage will be restored promptly.

Grace, are you out there? Leave me a comment or something! I'm not the only one who misses you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Deal With the Devil

I believe it was in a foreward to The Screwtape Letters that C.S. Lewis reminded his readers that "he who sits down to sup with the Devil should bring a long, long spoon." In light of Hugo Chavez's recent characterization of the Great Decider, this seems like particularly apt advice to some of our federal lawfakers, who recently reached a "compromise" with the Sulfurous One, whereby he and his minions get to keep torturing anyone they want to torture, without any trifling worries about war crimes laws. It turns out that some of them are shocked -- shocked, I say! -- that the operatives of Jorge "Diablo" Bush may have slipped a few jokers into the deck:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States could detain more foreigners as enemy combatants under legislation Congress will debate this week after a last-minute change in the bill, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

Democrats complained that Republicans quietly made several changes to the bill defining procedures for trying foreign terrorism suspects after an agreement last week between the White House and a group of dissident Republican senators.

"There are significant changes," said Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. He said the new elements could complicate efforts to push the bill through Congress before lawmakers leave this weekend to campaign for November elections.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key negotiator on the bill, said enemy combatants would now include those who provided money, weapons and other support for terrorist groups as well as those involved in actual operations.

Graham of South Carolina said the term "enemy combatant" also would apply to those fighting a U.S. ally.

"We're making sure that an enemy combatant could be defined as something other than a front-line troop," Graham said. "We want to make sure that giving material aid and support to terrorism would put you in the enemy combatant category."
Yes, Sen. Graham wants to make sure that you can be readily added to the ranks of the Enemy Combatants. Oh, no, you say, you are an American citizen -- that can't happen to you, right? That's only the swarthy and be-turbaned foreigners! Guess again:
Graham said U.S. citizens could not be deemed enemy combatants under the bill, but several human rights advocates said the language was so broad that they believed Americans could be detained under it. The Center for Constitutional Rights said even attorneys representing Guantanamo inmates could be deemed enemy combatants.
Yes, but doesn't "material" support mean sending money or weapons or peanut-butter sandwiches to the turr'sts? Well, maybe. Maybe it would just mean saying the wrong damn thing in public -- in your blog, for example. Maybe it would turn out that crimethink is a reliable indicator of the secret provision of material support. Maybe it will turn out that Jorge knows you're a Bad Guy because he got the Word of Knowledge™ from John Hagee. The point is, once you're renditioned and Gitmo-ized, you'll undoubtedly have many opportunities to discuss these fine points with the guard, when he comes to conduct you down the hall to Room 101 for your waterboarding sessions. As long as he's in the mood to converse, that is. If he's not, I'm sure he'll find some tactful way to use his boot to say so.

We didn't say anything when they came for John Walker Lindh, because he did seem like a bit of a jerk, at least. We didn't say anything when they came for Jose Padilla, because he had a funny name and looked like a dirtbag. And when they come for us, we won't say anything then, either ... except maybe, "I'll sign anything -- just please, don't hit me any more!"

Monday, September 25, 2006

Big Important Choices Department

When it comes to issues of significance, such as imperial wars for world domination, our glorious two-party system allows We The People to govern ourselves and determine our own destiny, right? Because, after all, we're just the free-est people ever!

So, if you're tired of the warmongering chickenhawk Republicans getting your kids killed, squandering your money by the mega-bale, and slaughtering and torturing anyone who gets in the way, you should be grateful that there's a Democratic alternative:
Iraq is not the central front in the war on terrorism, Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh said Sunday in New Hampshire.

“Iraq is taking the focus away from Afghanistan and Iran,” Bayh said.
[Emphasis added.]
Yes, you hear Little Evan correctly. He's lusting after an emphasis on Iran.

Or at least those are the words that emerged from his youthful lips. About what he really thinks -- if anything -- we have not that first clue. Because:
Bayh is exploring a possible run for the Democratic presidential nomination. He was making the rounds of receptions honoring Democratic candidates Sunday and today.
Ah, yes. Apparently that's the calibrated "position" given him by his own low-priced version of Karl Rove. Not "stop the wars;" just "better-managed and bigger and other" wars.

But, of course, Little Evan is foursquare in favor of leaving Iraq, at some indefinite time. But not to go home. Oh, no, no, no, silly blogger!
The United States needs to begin the process of leaving Iraq by stabilizing the country so more focus can be placed on Afghanistan and Iran, he said.

“We’ve diverted so many resources to Iraq,” he said. Bayh said the U.S. should apply pressure to the Iraq government to control warring factions in the country.
So, there are your alternatives -- your contestants in the race to see who's more satisfactory to Likud. Your elephants: "Stay the course! We'll get to Iran soon enough!" Or your jackasses: "Change course -- we want to get to Iran right now!"

Don't forget to vote. Your vote counts! Your vote is your power! Your vote changes things!


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Travel Report

It was, for me, an unusual week. As I mentioned in a previous post, Mrs. Bartleby and I participated in a road rally, photos from which can be seen here. The event was organized jointly by Scenic Road Rallies LLC and the Indiana DNR. There was nothing "racy" about it -- it was a backroads tour of southern Indiana, starting from Brown County State Park, stopping overnight at Spring Mill SP, and ending up at Clifty Falls SP. No time element was involved, and there were many opportunities to stop and look at unusual sights and historical markers, to climb fire towers, to walk across out-of-service covered bridges, and to rustle up odd scavenger-hunt items. So obscure and meandering were the roads selected by the rally designers that I still have only a vague idea of where we went, despite the fact that I drove every mile of it. A good time was had, I think, by all ... certainly by us, anyway. If they do it again next year, I'll certainly consider participating again.

So, we got back to the Fort on Wednesday afternoon, and I quickly grabbed a shower, purged my bag of used clothing, added some clean clothes, and headed to the airport to leave for Boston. At my day job, we're procuring a large collimator (a test optic) that's being built for us by a firm in the Boston area, and it was time for their critical design review. Accordingly, east I went. The review looked quite good. Afterward, some of "those guys" offered to take me along for dinner in Boston's North End. We went to Giacomo's, which I knew right away had to be a fine place, since people were lined up on the sidewalk outside, they don't take reservations, and the lady who waited on us was somewhere between 60 and 70, I'd guess, and quite possibly was the owner. She treated us with what you might call your authentic colorful rudeness. I ended up drinking an entire glass of that-there vino ... a bottle thereof simply showed up at the table, a glass was poured for me, and I didn't want to be a complete Hoosier by asking if I couldn't get some Diet Mountain Dew instead, so I tried to look semi-sophisticated and worked my way through it. Don't think I'll ever develop into a wine connoisseur; it was pretty much grape-ish vinegar, as far as I could tell. The food (calamari, mussels, and scallops on a massive bed of linguini with the pesto sauce) was good, anyway.

So, all in all, it was an unusual week. Good times, for the most part. Still, I'm ready for a return to my usual rut: the oft-unappreciated "dull routine."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Probability of Posting: Less Than Ten Percent

Not that my output is so prodigious even at the best of times -- but this'll be my last post for about a week. Mrs. Bartleby and I are going to slip away for a few days' (in-state) vacation during the first half of the week, and then I'm immediately leaving for Boston -- I have a design review to attend on behalf of the day job. Meanwhile, you know what to do -- just read everybody else, as you normally would.

I wish you all a wonderful week: a week in which everything that you want to happen, happens; and everthing that you don't want to happen, doesn't.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

An Unusually Dangerous Time

The murderous maniac pictured at left is acting as if he can feel it slipping away: the quasi-dictatorial power, the spurious significance, the illusions of adequacy, the sweet sense of triumph over all those cleverboots whose book-larnin' enables them to speak in complete sentences. Of course, I can't know what sorts of notions flicker dimly through the cobwebbed passageways and booze-corroded machinery of the Preznit's atrophied brain. But if appearances are any guide, he's becoming aware that things are going badly for him -- slipping away.

My first inclination is to savor it. But that needs some thinking-through. This vainglorious clown still has his paws on the controls of a very substantial war machine. To be sure, the sort of war machine that invades and occupies is pretty well used up and tied down at the moment: trying to maintain a semblance of control in (parts of) Afghanistan, replacing Saddam as Iraqi tyrant, and squatting in Korea, waiting for the chance to become a sacrificial tripwire there. But other killing capabilities remain undiminished: plenty of airplanes, plenty of ships and submarines, lots of cruise missiles, a bounty of chemical and biological agents, and ... nukes, lots and lots of nukes, nukes of many sizes and flavors.

So, I'm not rejoicing. The war criminal who feels everthing going sour can still arrange to make a great many people dead, dead, dead. And other criminal maniacs such as Ehud Olmert, "Bibi" Netanyahu, and Condoleezza "She of Many Bizarre Doubled Letters" Rice still have his ear. There's still lots of foreign civilians that they can rip up like paper dolls. There's still many Americans who can be enticed, or forced, into being his "button men" and losing their limbs, their lives, their souls, or all three at once. There's still-deeper debt that can be incurred to pay for expensive military toys that are designed to destroy themselves at the same time they lay waste to other people's bodies and property. And there are some remaining liberties that can be taken away from Americans.

Congress: get him out of office, preferably yesterday. Every politico of either major brand party, or any minor brand party, for that matter, who isn't spending all of his or her energies and abilities to impeach Bush, or defund his deadly foreign adventures, is just as guilty as he is.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Here's Another Way to "Support the Troops!"

James Madison:
"A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people."

Patrick Henry:
"A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders? Will your mace-bearer be a match for a disciplined regiment?"

Henry St. George Tucker, in Blackstone's 1768 Commentaries on the Laws of England:
"Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."

Yeah, but what did those old guys know? Now comes the well-upholstered Michael Wynne, the Secretary of the Air Force:
Nonlethal weapons such as high-power microwave devices should be used on American citizens in crowd-control situations before being used on the battlefield, the Air Force secretary said Tuesday.

The object is basically public relations. Domestic use would make it easier to avoid questions from others about possible safety considerations, said Secretary Michael Wynne.

"If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," said Wynne. "(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

The Air Force has paid for research into nonlethal weapons, but he said the service is unlikely to spend more money on development until injury problems are reviewed by medical experts and resolved.
Well, all right, then, Secretary Wynne. You look like the sort of comfortable, well-to-do careerist who would have a nice wife, a collection of kids and grandkids, and maybe even a cute golden retriever bounding about the back yard of your suburban DC home. Next time you gather the whole crew for a nice cookout ... well, that seems like an ideal time to check out some of these crowd-control weapons, doesn't it?

Folks, this was on CNN's site day-before-yesterday. I wouldn't have known anything about it, except for a link at (Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. Horton.) What's it going to take to wake us up?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

License Branch Philosophy

In my little corner of Paradise, license branches are open "late" (7 pm) on Tuesdays.

[Let me pause briefly here, just in case the term "license branch" isn't standard in the places where my readers live. Here in Hoosierland, a "license branch" is the annex of Purgatory where one does business with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. And now, back to our story.]

Recently, a guy I work with bought a new car -- madness, I tried to tell him, but he had the new-car fever and succumbed. Having taken possession of his new Hyundai Sonata, he turned his attention to getting rid of his previous ride: a base-model '92 Mercury Topaz with only 130K miles. When he let it slip that he would only be asking $500, my ears became active. I've known him the whole time he's had that car, and I know it hasn't had any significant issues and that he's taken care of it. And it gets much better fuel economy than does my '92 F150 longbed pickup. And, while gas is currently "clear down" in the mid $2.30s here, I know that as soon as mid-November rolls around, and the election is safely past, $3+ is coming back. So I talked him down to $450, and pulled the trigger on the deal. So, this evening after work, I'm waiting at the license branch. And waiting ... and waiting.

Now, I'm not going to make any of the standard cliche complaints about such places. In fact, I have generally found them to be at least semi-efficient, and the employees are frequently quite pleasant. After I'd waited the requisite (and quite ample) amount of time, my turn came, and the ridiculously-young lady who waited on me actually simulated interest in the book I was reading (an excellent biography of Isaac Newton by James Gleick). But while I was waiting, I spent only part of my time reading. I spent the balance of it brooding about taxes.

I paid my friend $450 for his car. The state of Indiana collected $22.50 from me, under an excuse called "sales tax." What was the state's justification for taking that money? Did they earn it, by facilitating the sale in some way? Of course not. The car was on the road last week, generating gasoline taxes and license-plate fees and county tax and "wheel tax" and so forth; and it will be on the same roads next week, doing the same thing -- only with a different person driving. And because this one change happens, Indiana gets $22.50.


Really, I think there's only one answer. It's the same as the answer to the classic (off-color -- sorry) question, "Why does a dog lick his balls?" ("Because he can.") They collect this tax simply because they want the money, and they have the power to get it. Remember the big, tough kid who took lunch money from the little, scared kid in grade school? Same deal. The little scared kid gives up his money because he knows if he doesn't, the big kid will pound him. And we pay some of these least-rational taxes for the same reason -- the government will put us in jail if we don't.

'Way back in feudal times, the dirt-scratching peasants used to pay the nobles and royalty various sorts of tribute because of a vague notion that those noble folk were semi-divine and, in some sense, owned the peasants, along with the dirt they scratched. In 1781, we Americans got rid of the king, finally, at Yorktown. But I think the peasant lives on in us, because it seems that we didn't waste much time in replacing him with the "democratic" equivalent. I wonder if we're just not happy without an owner of some sort. We complain ritually ... but we always seem to have someone telling us what to do, and when, and how much.

We must be the enemy. We're terrorists! We hate our freedoms.

Hayhurst Watch: Suspended

After this much time, I'm sure I won't be hearing from Dr. H. So -- time to put that particular business behind me. If he does happen to check in, I'll certainly share whatever I learn here.

Just to be clear: I'm sure he's a good guy in many ways. I'm also sure he's not doing a good thing with this candidacy.

(As far as that goes, I bet even Souder's mom can tell you some good things about him. But you know how it is with moms -- they can love just about anything.)

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cowardice and Comment Moderation

For anyone who's been following my oh-so-pleasant experiences with the Allen County Democrats, be aware that I posted a response to Mr. Knuth in the thread in question on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Knuth practices something called "comment moderation," by which comments do not appear online until the blog's proprietor approves them. It seems that Mr. Knuth has dumped my most recent comment, apparently finding it necessary to "have the last word" by any means available, fair or foul.

Conclusion: Kevin's not just an asshat; he's a coward as well. Allrighty, then ... so be it.

I should add that Kevin K. isn't the first or only blogger hiding behind "comment moderation" that I've encountered; a certain local spice vendor did me the same way, a while back. This demonstrates the truth of the folk proverb that "water seeks its own level" -- in this case, down in the sewer somewhere.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"It's Quiet ... Too Quiet."

Seventy-two hours and counting. Congressional candidate Hayhurst's Sphinx impression continues.

Not so with local Democratic Party chairman Kevin Knuth. I posted a comment to a related thread on the local party blog, and Mr. Knuth suggested that I really should have called the campaign on the phone with my request. These clowns must think they've already won a bunch of elections, and are in charge of something ... they act like lifetime-job-security clerks at the License Branch From Hell. Party motto: "The voter is always wrong."

I notice that he didn't offer an answer to my question either, although he easily could have done so, rather than pick a quarrel as he chose to do. I can think of two reasons why he didn't enlighten me: either he knows as little as I know (nothing, that is) about Hayhurst's opinions and intentions concerning America's Middle Eastern military misadventures, or he does in fact know the answer but is Hayhurst's teammate in pseudo-clever silence.

I have learned something from all this, though. I won't be so amazed any more about the absolute GOP dominance of this corner of the state. I halfway believe that these folks are the paid agents of Steve Shine.

Hayhurst Watch: (Late) Friday Edition

Forty-eight hours later: silence.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

If Orwell Were Alive ...

... he'd be bored, by now, with having been proved right so many times. Here's another:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA operates secret prisons abroad for holding key suspects in the war on terror, President Bush acknowledged Wednesday.

Though Bush said the United States never tortures suspects, "alternative" interrogation methods are used to glean information from them. These procedures "were tough, and they were safe and lawful and necessary," he said.

Bush's acknowledgement came as the president announced that he was sending legislation to Congress that would authorize military tribunals for terror suspects and set clear rules to protect U.S. military personnel from facing prosecution for war crimes.
George Orwell, from "Politics and the English Language:"
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
It would be justice if there were some lively alternative interrogation awaiting Georgie and Dickie and Rummy and Condi. It won't happen, but it would be justice.

Primarily of Local Interest (If Any)

I generally don't write about Fort Wayne-area matters in this blog, because they are really not all that interesting to me, and probably less so for that large fraction of my few readers who do not live in Indiana's 3rd congressional district. But I've just returned from a disappointing visit to the website of the Democratic opponent of the Republican incumbent in this district, and I was moved to use his "contact" link to ask him to make good a significant shortcoming of his campaign site:
Dear Dr. Hayhurst,

Please help me. I'm trying to make my electoral plans for this November. I absolutely refuse to consider voting for your principal opponent, on the entirely-sufficient grounds that he is a smarmy little chickenhawk creep who richly deserves not only to lose, but also to trip and fall face-first into a fresh pile of dog excrement immediately after learning of his loss. Ordinarily, I would simply vote for the Libertarian candidate, as a strategy for harmlessly throwing away my vote. This time, though, I sense the critical importance of the bloodthirsty and warmongering GOP losing power in as many ways as possible, and I'm considering voting for you.

Your website, however, makes this difficult. I was hoping to discover your thoughts and intentions concerning the Empire's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war that will probably be launched against Iran before November, and our additional surrogate wars being fought against Muslims using our Israeli mercenaries. Unfortunately, I was able to discover nothing about these matters. Do you not think they are important? Do you hope that, by finessing these questions, people on both sides may be enticed into voting for you? Or is there some other explanation?

Please help me to arrive at a decision. I always like to know whether I "have a dog in this fight," or not.

Thank you,

If I hear anything interesting from him, I'll share it here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Four Minutes

That's how long it takes to check this out. Recommended.

Pay For It, and Still Not Get It

Lew Rockwell has an interesting piece today on the Libertarian Party's junking of its platform. I wasn't aware until now that Murray Rothbard had played such an important role in the genesis of the LP. It doesn't sound as if there would be any place for him in today's party.
But once it was created, Rothbard threw himself into the goal of minimizing the damage. He worked to make the party platform a statement of principle and a means of education, a public document that would shock and alarm people into rethinking their core political assumptions. He believed in the power of ideas, but not the power of power itself. This is why he sought make the LP into a cultural force for telling the truth. Since it could never win elections, and the attempt to do so could only result in watering down and selling out, he sought to make the LP into the best it could be.

So it has been for many years. But over time, the LP became a source of frustration for serious people. With the platform now gutted, the inevitable has happened. The organizationally empty shell that was the LP has come to be occupied by people who have no clue.

This is all the result of a brain drain from the LP that has been going on for decades. The smart set is a tiny and demoralized minority. The archetypical LP activist today has a very thin knowledge base from which to draw. He is a child and the LP is his sandbox. Details of issues like monetary reform, safety regulations, secession, the theory and policy of monopoly, and international trade are completely beyond him.

Not that the platform editors cared. Nor should we be surprised. If you put a garage band in charge of editing a Wagner opera, you are going to end up with something very different indeed. This is essentially what happened to the LP platform.

So the overarching feature of the new platform is that it has been seriously dumbed down. Thus, for example, the old platform said: "We favor the repeal of the Logan Act, which prohibits private American citizens from engaging in diplomatic negotiations with foreign governments." The new crew struck it down.

In fact, all smart-set planks are gone, with something like 80% of the platform tossed out. This old passage on international travel and foreign investment was fabulous, for example: "We recognize that foreign governments might violate the rights of Americans traveling, living or owning property abroad, just as those governments violate the rights of their own citizens. Any effort, however, to extend the protection of the United States government to U.S. citizens when they or their property fall within the jurisdiction of a foreign government involves potential military intervention. In particular, the protection of the foreign investments of U.S. citizens or businesses is an unjust tax-supported subsidy."

Now, this is a hugely important plank that zeros in on one of the major excuses for foreign wars: the bad guys abroad are stealing from and hurting Americans. But the new group in charge of editing just cut it out.

It takes a smart set to see through the haze of the political-cultural moment, and divine the true motives of the state. Just one example: the use of the phrase national security. The old platform saw it as a ruse. "We call for repeal of legislation that violates individual rights under the color of national security," it said. "We oppose all violations of the right to private property, liberty of contract, and freedom of trade, especially those done in the name of national security."

The new one, however, is uncomprehending about the uses of that phrase: "Ensure immigration requirements include only appropriate documentation, screening for criminal background and threats to public health and national security."

Oh, I see: the LP endorses the current system!
Watching the LP from the outside, I have noticed this "brain drain" phenomenon, as ordinary correct spelling and capitalization seem baffling to some Party officials. Indeed, the organizational shell has become home to a lot of people who have no clue -- specifically, to Republicans who are discontented as the party of Nixon has become the party of Bush (how precipitous a decline is that, anyway?).

Mr. Rockwell goes out on a limb and ends his piece with a concrete prediction:
Here is a prediction, and, yes, I'll be happy to admit that I'm wrong if it turns out not to be the case. The new LP platform will not increase the percentage of votes the LP will receive in the national election. By demoralizing the serious activists and talking down to intellectuals, it will result in a diminished percentage of the overall votes.

Thus will they have given up principle for power and not even gained that. The LP won't cease to exist. It will just take its place among the many other third parties that you have never heard of, such as the Prohibition Party.
"If voting could really change anything, it would already be illegal."

Monday, September 04, 2006

In Case You Have a Similar Problem ...

Well, there went a three-day weekend without a single post.

See, it was like this. My daughter's been away at school for a week, and she came home for the long weekend, primarily because she wanted to pick up a cheap couch or futon of some sort for the suite in which she resides. Turns out that this year, none of her suite-mates owns such a piece of furniture. So, she located a nice cheap one -- floor model, it was, at Value City. She paid for it, and I took her back there on Saturday in my truck to acquire it, which we did. So far, so good.

Of course, this meant that I'd need to drive down to Indianapolis today, since the couch, while small, is well beyond the capacity of my daughter's chariot. Now, my truck is a '92 F150 with the 4.9-liter in-line six cylinder and the five-speed manual transmission. It's the only vehicle I've ever bought brand-new for myself, and so in my mind it's still "my new truck," even though it's got 240,000 miles on it and it's approaching voting age, with drinking age in sight. Well, anyway, it occurred to me that its last oil change was 3400 miles ago, so I wanted to remedy that before starting a 300-mile round trip. So, Saturday evening, I'm in the garage, making good my delinquency.

According to my usual custom, I added 5 quarts of the new oil, then started it up to check for leaks or other obvious problems. Seeing none, I shut it back off and put in Quart Six. While I was at it, I topped up the coolant reservoir and the power-steering fluid, which has started to leak at a noticeable rate. I also noticed some of the evil white-powder corrosion on the negative battery terminal, so I pulled both cables off, used the baking soda solution, and sandpapered terminals and cable clamps before reassembling. Slammed the hood, hopped in, hit the key ...

Yep, it wouldn't start. Cranked enthusiastically, but wouldn't start. Not a hint, really, of wanting to fire ... just RRRR - RRRR - RRRR - RRRR, and so on and so on. So, I said "shucks" and other expressions of displeasure, and went on an inspection tour. Nothing doing. By then, it was getting late. Went inside and retired, feeling put-upon.

Fast forward through Sunday afternoon, through the installation of new plugs, new distributor cap and rotor, new plug wires. Checked the emergency fuel pump shutoff switch. Checked all panel fuses. Checked all the bigger fuses in the engine-compartment power distribution box. Now it's today. Went around shaking all connectors, looking for something loose. Jumped in to try once more -- and it started! Ran nicely for a few seconds, then quit. Wouldn't start.

Thought it odd that the thing started one time after I'd been on a connector-shaking tour. Went on another one, more vigorously this time. And I noticed that a relatively skinny branch off the negative battery cable goes to a stud on the inner fender, along with two other black wires ... and they are able to be turned on this stud. After playing with it, I notice that there's a bunch of green corrosion where this stud threads into the inner fender (actually, into a threaded insert behind the sheet metal). Looked sort of likely.

I got my jumper cables out and used the black cable to connect this stud to the alternator mounting bracket. Hit the key -- fired right up. Ran good until I was bored with it and shut it off.

As the English might say: a dodgy ground.

Got a new bolt to replace the stud; sandpapered everything to brightness; and, for good measure, ran a short piece of heavy wire to another bolt in the fender (fastens the battery tray, in fact). Started up fine.

Quick shower, and drove to Indianapolis with the daughter, then drove back. Starts first time, every time. Life is good.

So: profit by my "lost weekend." Check the ground connections. Rust never sleeps.

And I hope and trust that you readers enjoyed your weekend?