Archive for February 17, 2010

“The battery’s the weakest part of a car…”

February 17, 2010 1 comment

That’s what the guy at the car repair place told me today.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This morning, I called the insurance company’s motor club to schedule a jumpstart and/or tow appointment once again, and this time I got faster service, in about 45 minutes.  However, one thing the insurance people didn’t tell me is that I’d have to pay cash for the service call.  And I had hardly any cash on hand, and the nearest ATM was several snow- and slush-covered blocks away.

The problem turned out to be a dead battery.  The guy came in a car, not a tow truck, so I guess he was expecting that.  He had a portable gadget about the size of a car battery that he used to jumpstart the car, and he told me I had to keep it running for a while.  After that, he followed me to the nearest parking lot I knew of to the ATM (turned out there were actually two closer ones but I didn’t think of them) and stood watch by my idling car while I slogged through the snow and slush to the cash machine.  Not fun.

He recommended I get the battery checked at a nearby garage, so I went there and they took a look at it for me.  I had a bit of a surprised reaction when the mechanic took my car out into the street, down the block, and around the corner; turns out that’s the only way to get to the area in back where he worked.  Anyway, they diagnosed it as a failed battery and recommended replacing it.  Said it’d be about 45 minutes to get one in (he didn’t have any in stock since they’ve been heavily in demand the last few days).  So I went to do a quick errand at the post office and then walked to the library (a difficult slog since I was on the less snow-cleared side of the street), looked around there for about 20 minutes, then went back to the repair place at the appointed time.  Only to be told the battery people had gone to lunch and I’d have to wait another hour.  My problem is, I expect people to be punctual.  So I walked back to the library, an easier trip on this side of the street but still with some rough patches.

At the library (which has been sadly lacking in new Star Trek novels the past couple of months), I read a collection of Justice League Adventures, a comic series nominally set in the continuity of the animated Justice League TV series, but like most tie-in materials published during a show in progress, they pretty much all contained things that were contradicted by later seasons of the show.  (For instance, they assumed Wonder Woman’s lasso already had the truth-compelling ability Diana didn’t discover until a later season, and their versions of villains such as Chronos, Amazo, and the Royal Flush Gang were very different from what the show later established.)  Still, there were some fairly good stories in it.

And it took just about an hour to read.  When I got back this time, the car was ready.  So I was finally able to go to the grocery store and get some milk and bananas and cheese and yogurt and bread and sandwich turkey and other stuff I was out of or nearly so.  I’m having a light, early dinner now, since I’ve had an exhausting afternoon and haven’t eaten since the early lunch I rushed through before the jumpstart guy got here.

The guy at the repair place told me that batteries are not only less efficient and more strained in the cold, but are having more and more demanded of them as cars become more computerized.  Apparently, even formerly hydraulic systems like brakes and steering are being replaced with computer-controlled, electricity-drawing systems.  More and more, the entire operation of an automobile is depending on the battery, which, according to him, is the weakest part of the car.  Seems like an unwise practice to me.

But I’ve heard there’s some promising research being done into new energy-storage technology.  Apparently there’s a material being developed that so thin it could be used to make the doors and paneling of a car, and would charge faster and function more efficiently than a chemical battery.  The repair guy was skeptical, but with the way materials science is advancing these days, I’m more optimistic about the prospects.

A blizzard did it

Being without milk or transportation, I’ve had to make do.  My makeshift breakfast this morning is a smoothie made with yogurt, orange juice, pineapple (since I’m out of bananas), a bit of applesauce, Cheerios (or their generic equivalent), and honey.  Ironically, I’m also out of ice, so I’m chilling the blender in the freezer for a few minutes before I add the cereal.  I’m not expecting a gourmet delight, but it’s what I’ve got.  In related news, once breakfast is done, I will be out of yogurt.  I won’t be able to do this twice.  In fact, I no longer have any dairy products at all.

Okay, this is not a very good smoothie.  I don’t recommend the recipe.  It would probably be better if I had real Cheerios rather than store brand.  And if only I hadn’t eaten that last banana as a snack yesterday…

And now… Science!

I gather that some political pundits are trying to convince people that the huge snowstorms we’re getting in the US are disproof of global warming.  Here’s why that doesn’t make any sense:

What is snow?

It’s frozen water vapor that falls out of the sky.

How’d it get into the sky?

Because somewhere else on the planet, it got evaporated.

What evaporates water?


Ultimately, even snow is caused by heat.  A bigger snowstorm doesn’t mean the atmosphere is colder, it means it’s wetter, that there’s more moisture to condense into snow when it reaches a cold area.  And a wetter atmosphere is a consequence of a warmer planet.

All weather is connected.  It’s all part of a single global system.  When it’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and vice-versa, so there’s always going to be heat and cold coexisting.  And the more total heat there is in the planet’s atmosphere, the more moisture and energy there’s going to be in the atmosphere, and that means all kinds of storms, rain and snow alike, are going to be larger and more powerful.

Which is exactly what the global-warming model actually predicts, despite the false assertions of the pundits.  And which, wouldn’t you know it, is what’s actually happening these days.

Science!  It works!

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