Crazy weekend.


It’s been a great weekend, thanks to Batman Movie Night on Saturday, & the Food Allergy Walk today.  I hope to eventually blog about both… but I’m kind of up for just some relaxation tonight.  I just wanted to say right now that I have an awesome wife, fantastic friends, & a great family.  Thanks for helping me have fun whirlwind of a weekend!

Thanks to everyone who donated for the walk today… I’ll be shipping the special edition Ernie and the Berts King Krab Orange T-shirts from Erin “Ernie” Payne this week for those who qualify!

Anyone have a car jack I can borrow?  I think the thermostat needs replaced on my Subaru… looks easy enough to do, if I can get to it.  The car stayed at work over the weekend.

Man stuff.


I have pretty much no mechanical ability.  I know this.  There are certainly things that I can do… like change the oil, but where we’re at now with on-street parking  it’s not worth the minimal difference in price for the convenience.  That’s about the extent of my ability though.  I can change batteries, air filters, maybe an oil filter, and am now confident I could install an alternator… but that’s about it.  I won’t do brakes.

Shouldn't there be a belt there?

Shouldn't there be a belt there?

This morning, on my way to work, I ‘m going down a side street in Mt. Lebanon and the battery light & Brake warning light both come on at the same time.  I know this usually isn’t good.  Two lights generally = “oh shit”.  My power steering was gone.  I checked that level, and the brake fluid level… both were in the good range.  I had pulled over in front of a nice large house on a side street in Mt. Lebanon.

I called my wife to come get me, took her to work, & commandeered her car for the day… so I could figure out what was going on.  In having no mechanical knowledge… I have “a guy” that I trust with all my auto repairs.  Only problem being the auto place is where I grew up, not where I currently live.  I called the guy to ask what the meaning of the battery charge & brake warning light combo could be.  (My wife Googled it on her phone, but I wanted to confirm.)  He was thinking alternator too…  I thought I was going to have to learn to replace an alternator today.  Towing the car to where I grew up and paying a professional to install an alternator weren’t in the budget this week.

After getting prices from several local auto places (& after posting on Facebook/Twitter and maybe Google+ asking for advice, and looking around online on how to install an alternator), I decided to go check my car out again before buying an alternator.  Luckily… I noticed something was missing: a belt.  I have no idea what it’s called… but it connects the alternator & power steering.  (Which I found out after a 2nd call to my “guy” to confirm that all the symptoms would be the same.)

So, a belt seemed easier & cheaper than the alternator.  Sadly, I have no idea where the first belt went.  I traced my route several times… no belt on the road, or on the side of the road.  Someone must have grabbed it minutes after I dropped it.  I had to go on the advice of the helpful guys at Advanced Auto.  I’ve had good experiences with them in the past… their pro-rated battery warranty is killer.

No fit good.

No fit good.

I go to Advanced Auto location one… and get the belt that’s recomended for my car.  I never questioned if it was the belt I needed… I mean, their database wouldn’t be wrong, would it?

An interesting aside, that I will chuckle about until the end of time…  The guy at Advanced Auto location1 tried to sell me a belt that was $18.99, but even thought the computer said there were 2 in stock… he couldn’t find them.  So, he said there was one for $11.99.  I asked if I should be worried about the difference in price… if it meant a great deal of difference in quality.  He said “Well, yeah… but this is all we have.  Basically, the cheap one is made overseas and the expensive one is made here.”  That made me feel better.  It’s a Subaru.  I don’t care where the parts came from.  They’re all probably from Japan or Mexico even though it was all assembled in Indiana.  When I got the cheaper belt… and went to install it, it said “MADE IN U.S.A.” in big white letters.  I literally laughed out loud.  Can we get over this “other countries are inferior to us in making stuff” thing?  It’s 2011.  Advanced Auto ought to put a bullshit meter on that guy.

Well, the physical removal of the bolts, the belt cover, and loosening of the alternator was ridiculously simple.  The belt wouldn’t quite go on.  No biggie, I thought.  There’s got to be something else I can loosen… or maybe I’m not thinking of something else.  I called by uncle who’s a tinkerer and who has shown me how to replace a starter for some advice.  I figured there’s some magic shoehorn kind of move where I can slip the belt on, no problem.  After a chat, we assumed that I had done everything… I just needed a bigger belt.  He even looked up the part number for me online.  Armed with knowledge and confidence, I headed back to Advance Auto location one.  I described my new dilemma, asked for & received the larger belt, and headed back to my ghetto Subaru broken down in a fancy neighborhood.

The new longer belt went on with little effort, and then… wouldn’t pull taught even when the alternator was lifted the while way up.  My patience was being tested today.  I called Advanced Auto… and asked… if there was a size in between the two sizes I had.  I was told that there was, but that I probably didn’t want it.  The guy told me to un-bolt the pulley from the power steering, and move it to make the smaller belt fit.  I could tell that even if I got the smaller belt to fit, there wouldn’t be enough slack to lift the alternator off of the close by A/C belt.  (I learned some new terms today.)

I went to Advanced Auto location #2, also thankfully close by… and asked for the in-between belt.  I was again told that I probably wanted the smaller one again if the bigger one didn’t fit.  I went through my explanation of why I wanted the middle size… and was advised to buy both the smaller and middle size (that all said made in the USA and were the cheaper brand by the way), and to really try to make the smaller one fit “because that’s what the computer says belongs on the car”.  Good logic, but we’re past that.

For poops n’ giggles, I tried the smaller one… again… and ran into the same problem… again.  I used the in-between size, and it fit perfectly.  There’s enough room to loosen it if I need to, and there’s enough room to tighten it if I need to.  It’d Goldilocks’ proverbial “just right”.  Thanks to Advanced Auto’s awesome return policy, I was able to return/exchange all the belts I didn’t use.  I returned the last one again to Advanced Auto location 2.

(Odd aside #2 – the longer belt was $1.07 cheaper than the shorter belt – but also “MADE IN U.S.A.”.)

That’s 4 trips to 2 different Advanced Autos to buy 3 different sized belts to find the 1 that fit.

So, what should have taken me about 5 minutes took all day. and probably half a tank of gas.  At any rate, it’s done.  $11-ish for a belt is cheaper than $129-ish for an alternator and me doing it = more savings.

If you have a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback and need to replace the belt that goes from the Alternator to the Power Steering… and the prescribed 345K5 doesn’t fit.  Try the 350K5 before you try the 355K5.  I’m not arguing with Advanced Auto’s HAL 9000 or “made in ‘Merica” employees.  I’m just sayin’.

Thanks to everyone who helped today… with comments, advice, and moral support… whether it was by phone or social networking.  I really appreciate it and am glad I had so many people willing to help out!  If you ever need auto advice, don’t call me.  You can call me for cooking or PC advice… maybe even general electronic gadgetry.

Favorite movies from my childhood…


I felt like listing some of my favorite movies from when I was a kid.  They’re in no particular order, just how they came to mind.  Some are 80’s movies, some are earlier, with a few early 90’s ones thrown in.  They were all new to me with the advent of home video rental stores.  We used to go to this place called Network Video, & eventually the general store by my house started renting videos too.

I keep adding to the list as some of these movies remind me of others, I may have to do a part 2 or something someday…

Star Wars | Original Trilogy

  • Star Wars – This one’s obvious.  I’m talking the whole original trilogy here.  I really don’t feel the need to elaborate.
  • Ghostbusters

  • Ghostbusters – I remember laughing hysterically at “We came, we saw, we kicked some ass!”  This was the perfect mix of creepy and funny for a kid like me.  I used to rent this one all the time.  I even loved the Saturday morning cartoon.
  • The Goonies

  • The Goonies – I have probably watched this more than any other movie on the list, except maybe Star Wars.  I can still watch this over & over again.  As a kid, it was really easy to be immersed in this movie.  I have felt a little bit like Mikey, Data, Mouth, & Chunk many times.  I just saw something about the original cast reuniting for a 25th anniversary celebration.
  • Gremlins

  • Gremlins – Who didn’t want a Mogwai after seeing this movie?  Regardless of the danger, Gizmo would be the best pet ever.  I actually remember the gremlins being kind of scary too.  (Hey, I was 7 when this came out.)
  • Monster Squad

  • The Monster Squad – This was like “Goonies vs. the Universal Monsters” to me… so, of course, I loved it.  Mr. Alucard called for you.  How scary is that?  This made me want to start a monster club myself.  I may just have to get this on Blu-ray… even thought I already have the VHS & DVD…
  • The Last Starfighter

  • The Last Starfighter – The movie for anyone who’s ever imagined that they’re actually in a video game.  Great plot-line for a kid who likes video games, or sci-fi.  From what I understand, it was one of the first movies to have major use of computer generated graphics.
  • Batman (1989)

  • Batman (1989) – I remember thinking (even at a young age) “Michael Keaton?  The guy from Mr. Mom, Gung Ho, & Beetlejuice?”  I was as surprised as the rest of the world when it turned out to be the scariest and most awesome Batman movie to date.  The comic book nerd in me was overly pleased with Nicholson’s Joker too.  Even though he had always been portrayed in the comics as a lanky degenerate loon… Nicholson seemed to capture the spirit of insanity perfectly in that cool demeanor that only he could deliver.
  • Batman (1966 film)

  • Batman (1966) – I loved the TV show in reruns as a kid, it was like a 60’s comic come to life in all its campy glory.  Plus, the Joker, Riddler, The Penguin, and Catwoman all in one movie?  Wow!  Ha ha ha.  This one still has the coolest Batmobile.
  • Explorers

  • Explorers – Space travel… with a home computer, a Tilt-A-Whirl car, and a junkyard.  What’s not to love about this one?  Again, to a kid, this all seemed quite plausible.  This could have been “Goonies in Space”.  Ha ha ha.
  • Leonard Part 6

  • Leonard Part 6 – Part 6 of a nonexistent line of films… Bill Cosby fends off mutant vegetarians with magic meat.  It burns them like holy water on vampires.  That alone will make you want to watch this even though Cosby hated it and spoke out against seeing it while he was supposed to be promoting the film.
  • The Experts

  • The Experts – Does anyone else remember this movie at all?  There doesn’t seem to be much  about it on the web.  It’s classic 80’s comic Commie cheese.  Two guys, one John Travolta and one other dude are somehow transplanted to a 1950’s style town in Russia set up as an experiment…  where the people think they’re in 1950’s USA.  It’s like Pleasantville, only not.
  • Cloak & Dagger

  • Cloak & Dagger – This was another one where you could really imagine being the kid in the film.  This YouTube clip sums up the mood quite well.  It’s a great kid-centered spy movie with a good deal of action, if I remember right.
  • Funny Farm

  • Funny Farm – This has got to be one of the most absolutely hilarious movies ever.  Andy Farmer is driven to the brink of insanity by an incredibly odd small town and a series of classic (& at the time still funny) Chevy Chase pratfalls.  The telephone operator,  Yellow Dog, mutton balls… all favorite movie moments.
  • WarGames

  • WarGames – Yeah, I just wrote about this one.  Every kid with a computer envisioned hacking into a government computer… or at least hacking into something… and this was all before the internet.
  • Flight of the Navigator

  • Flight of the Navigator – This movie is excellent.  I know I wore out the VHS, and watched it every time I happened to catch it on TV.  Alien abduction, a morphing spacecraft, time anomalies, government conspiracies.  Intense!
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – I loved this move and still crave Reese’s Pieces every time I think about it.  I wanted to build a communication device with my record player too.  This movie probably started my distrust of the government.
  • Weird Science

  • Weird Science – Geek movie extreme, with that 80’s “my life will end if I don’t get laid” vibe.  Less believable than WarGames, more believable than Explorers… Sort of.  I never watched the TV show that this spawned, but the movie was a favorite.  Oh yeah, the theme song was cool too!
  • Willow

  • Willow – Best fantasy movie ever?  Maybe.  It had a 2-headed dragon, sorcerers, a hero, an unwilling little-person hero, tiny funny guys, a villain that looked like Skeletor, and endless amounts of awesome.
  • Back to the Future

  • Back to the Future Trilogy – If there was an order to this list, this would be very near the top.  These movies were fast paced, exciting, and visually stunning.  This is what movies should be like.  Plus, Christopher Lloyd is bat-shit-nuts and that’s always entertaining.
  • Project X

  • Project X – As a kid, I loved monkeys, chimps, gorillas, and pretty much any primate.  Pop them into an action thriller, and of course I was hooked.  This is probably another reason why I distrust government so much.
  • Big Trouble in Little China

  • Big Trouble in Little China – This movie is just ridiculous.  Martial arts, Uzis, lightning bolts, and Kurt Russell.  What more do you need to throw in to have a winning movie?  Oh yeah, creepy monsters and a Chinese sorcerer.  That’s what.
  • Indiana Jones

  • Indiana Jones Trilogy – Yeah, just the first 3 here… they were, after all, the only ones out when I was a child.  Indiana Jones is the movie hero.  The hat, the whip, the attitude… it’s iconic.  These would also be at the top of an ordered list.  I think that goes without saying.
  • The Last Dragon

  • The Last Dragon – Martial arts plus Motown.  We used to watch this during lock-ins where I took Taekwondo as a kid.  Bruce Leroy vs. Sho’Nuff had a very Jedi-like vibe, and there was lightning.  This is super cheesy, but it’s what makes it a great flick.  Sho’Nuff!!!
  • Coming to America

  • Coming to America – Ah.  Once upon a time Eddie Murphy was funny, & not afraid to say dirty words.  Sadly… this movie probably sparked the fat-suit movies to follow with Eddie and Arsenio playing multiple roles.  But there are so many things in this film to love…  McDowell’s, Soul Glo, Sexual Chocolate.  Priceless.
  • Enter the Dragon

  • Enter the Dragon – Bruce Lee’s final film, and (I think) the first one that I saw.  What kid doesn’t love martial arts movies?  The crazy mirrored room scene is my favorite.
  • Star Trek

  • Star Trek series – Yeah, I like both Star Wars and Star Trek.  Star Wars is more awesome, but don’t get me started.  In school, a lot of us nerdy kids were into Star Trek… the show, the movies, the shows that came after…  it was awesome.  The play between Kirk, Spock, & Bones gets better & better with each film in the series!
  • The Karate Kid

  • The Karate Kid – As a kid in a Taekwondo class, I loved these movies.  All three were good, but especially the first one.  (We’ll forget about The Next Karate Kid, and the new Jackie Chan one.)  I wanted to be the Karate Kid, only in a Cobra Kai uniform.  “Sweep the leg!”
  • Labyrinth

  • Labyrinth – This movie still creeps me out.  David Bowie’s Goblin King is more than a little creepy.  The Muppets here are the stuff of nightmares… almost as bad as the ones in The Dark Crystal.  This is like a darker Wizard of Oz type film… it really put me in another world.
  • The Dark Crystal

  • The Dark Crystal – We need more creepy Muppet movies.  Forget this GCI and 3-D stuff, I want puppets and stop-motion!  I honestly can’t even tell you the full plot, but I watched this several times and loved it.
  • Just one of the Guys

  • Just One of the Guys – I think this became a favorite just because I’ve seen it so many times.  I mean, it was always on.  And, there was like 3 seconds of boobs.
  • Short Circuit

  • Short Circuit – Johnny 5 is alive!  No disassemble!  Very funny childlike innocence in a robot come to life thanks to a lightning bolt.  Wacky comedic adventure,  loved this one.
  • The Princess Bride

  • The Princess Bride – A very funny tale with the infamous Inigo Montoya.  All movies should be this fun.
  • The Toy

  • The Toy – If you’ve never seen this, I recommend going to get it right away… or any Pryor movie except Superman III.  It’s just fun & goofy.  The Wonder-wheel is my favorite part.  And, there’s a lesson in there somewhere…
  • Revenge of the Nerds

  • Revenge of the Nerds – This movie made me want to be a nerd, if I wasn’t one already.  The 2nd one wasn’t all that bad, ether.  I think this made me want to start a nerd band too.
  • Police Academy

  • Police Academy series – I generally like all of these movies… I think I wanted to be Larvell Jones, or at least Zed.  Heh.  The eyebrow gag is the best…  I love movies that are just goofy to be goofy.
  • Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend

  • Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend – Perhaps this is why I still believe in the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, and Mokèlé-mbèmbé… and why I say “No problem!” all the time.
  • “Crocodile Dundee” – For a while in the 80’s, there seemed to be this odd obsession with all things Australian.  I don’t know if this was a cause of that or just another part of the wave, but I remember thinking how cool Australia was for quite a long time.  It was a like a fresh quirky cowboy movie.  The Simpsons episode where Bart prank calls Australia also pokes fun at this fascination.
  • The NeverEnding Story

  • The NeverEnding Story – What kid didn’t love this film when it came out?  It was visually amazing, sad, exciting, a little scary… it was an incredible adventure.  I bet Gmork would still scare me if I watched it now…
  • Don't Tell Mom, The Babysitter' Dead

  • Don’t Tell Mom, The Babysitter’s Dead – This movie has two things; the line “The dishes are done, man!” and Christina Applegate.  All I needed in 1991 was Christina Applegate. I would of watched 3 hours of her doing anything. Ha ha ha.
  • PredatorPredator

  • Predator – This movie was scary and thrilling.   It has one of the best movie lines ever… Jesse Ventura’s “I Ain’t got time to bleed.” …as well as many others.  This kind of film is so easy to get drawn into.  I was in this world when watching this film.  Heat vision?  Invisibility?  I think I wanted to be the Predator… ha ha ha.
  • I could go on with the Superman films, Spinal Tap, Dick Tracy, Howard the Duck, Harry and the Hendersons, Moving, Aliens, Beetlejuice, Gorillas in the Mist, The ‘Burbs, One Crazy Summer, Planet of the Apes, Gleaming the Cube, Pump up the Volume, King Kong, the Godzilla flicks,  so many good ones…