And so it begins

I have started my new job, and have survived the first week and a half so far. 🙂

I am now working on hybrid powertrains for General Motors. I can’t really get into a lot of detail on what EXACTLY I’m doing, partly because I’m still figuring that out, and partly because I’m working on FutureStuff again and it’s Sooper Sekrit. 😉

Why am I posting during the day? Well, one of the interesting things GM has is a phone-tree system that will call you in the event of an emergency. Which is how I got a call on my cell at 5:15 this morning informing me that my particular location is without power today, and thus I should work from home or at a different GM location. As I have my GM-issue laptop and GM-issue phone (I don’t have a desk phone, I have a cell phone), I really can work pretty much anywhere I have connectivity.

So, one software VPN connection to GM via my home LAN later (and there’s nothing like hot-testing a shiny-new VPN connection at a time when you REALLY need it to work!), the workbox is up and running on the outrigger of the Jerker desk while I type this on my home box. Ain’t technology grand?

I just hope the batteries hold out in the phone — the AC charger is at the office, and I’ll have to go out to the truck to plug it in if it dies.

Another bonus: I don’t have to burn through more of my $98 tank of diesel going to/from the office today. Yep, filled up last week at US$3.699/gallon. Ouch, my wallet!

Other news: about half my relations in Oklahoma don’t have power right now (ice storm). My visit down there the week after Thanksgiving was good — ate TWO double-meat cheeseburgers with the onions fried in at Claud’s, had good Mexican, got to play with my 18 months-or-so nephew, and… spent most of a day in the family’s auto repair shop for what may be the last time. Uncle Tom is looking to retire, and the one member of my generation who’d like to take it over a) isn’t really capable of running the business side of the business, and b) doesn’t have the financial ability to buy Tom’s share of the business, while the two of us most capable of running the business don’t want to (we’re engineers, we have good-paying jobs creating stuff instead of fixing someone else’s broken stuff). Plus the lady who owns the Dodge store behind them wants the property and is willing to pay handsomely above market value for it. So an era is likely drawing to an end soon. Grandpa started the business in 1947 and it was incorporated in 1948. Not often you find an auto repair shop open for 60 years, owned by the same family the whole time.

And then there’s the tricky question of what happens to Grandpa’s tools and machines. There’s a lathe I would love to have, and also Grandpa’s two rolling tool cabinets and a whole host of specialty tools he made or adapted (which are more curiosities at this point. Not that many people need bearing molds for Model A Ford engines or a kingpin puller with jaws specially made for a 1925 Chevrolet). That I will likely have to wait until Tom’s done with them is a foregone conclusion, and one that I’m entirely comfortable with. If it works out that one of my cousins gets them (I don’t know how the various wills play out), that’s also fine by me. The key thing is that these things stay in the family and get used for what they’re supposed to be used for: fixing stuff and making stuff. They don’t do anyone any good sitting in a drawer unused.

Grandpa was not just a master mechanic, he was a master machinist. If he needed a tool for a particular task, or a specialty part, he’d just make it rather than buy it. And he never threw that stuff out — he might change or alter it to do a different task, but it would never get tossed. So there’s much more than money in those crates and cabinets — this is history.

So my visit to the shop was a bit nostalgic and a bit melancholy. It’s not the same building it was in when I was coming up, but it’s the same tools and the same people and the same (correct) smells and the same feel. That shop is a big part of what made me who I am, and it makes me sad to think it’s going away. Not so sad that I’ve taken leave of my senses and suddenly want to quit my job and take over the business and not pay myself while keeping it open and alive (something that Tom does with alarming frequency).  Better that it goes out while still at the top of the game, reputation intact as an honest shop where broken stuff comes in and leaves not broken.

Ah well, new gig, new people to meet, new language to learn (acronym hell!), and nifty new tech to develop. All that, and they pay me handsomely, too. How cool is that?



  1. Glad the new job is going well (nice gear!) and that you got back home before the ice. A friend of mine makes a lot of his tools, too; he’s a goldsmith and designer and has some of the coolest tiny carvers and pushers and such.


  2. Glad to read you again. I was afraid they’d swamped your boat with a lot of work. Your Grampa sounds like my SO/DH, although I don’t know if he qualifies as a master machinist. Still, he doesn’t throw anything away, and always knows how to tweak this or that so that something works again. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to know jacksh*t about car mechanics, or maybe it’s just that he doesn’t like cars. He’s had his licence for nearly 30 years, but just got a car about 3 years ago. He treats the car like he would NEVER treat his other tools. Sheesh!


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