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Car repairs

In answer to Pieter, yes, the mechanic is the same one that filled up the oil weirdly.

I have made an appointment with him for Thursday 30th April to replace the little dodah that converts gearbox turns into something for the speedometer. The receptionist said I should count on it taking an hour.
Which, believe me, I'm not happy with.

Why? Well, let's look at the part:

The lump on the right is what translates the gearbox to the speedo cable. The flat spade part (top of the right in the photo) pushes into a rotating thingy on the gearbox. The entire part on the right screws into the part on the left, as the part on the left is what holds it in place. Note that there are three holes, for three small bolts (they look like they might be little hex bolts).

Now, consider, five minutes to put the car in place and raise it on the platform. Maybe fifteen minutes to swap the piece (it's literally undoing a screw-in cable and three bolts, lining up the replacement, and screwing it all back up). Five minutes to lower the car. And five to drive around the car park to make sure that the speedometer does something.
If it works, great. If it doesn't, as long as the piece is correctly fitted, then leave it be as a continued failure would indicate that it's something inside the gearbox (though, it's most likely this part - I think it is two plastic cogs inside).

Great. So, um, what's the other half hour for? A thirty euro coffee break at my expense?

The time estimates, by the way, are how long I think I would take, if I had a way of getting underneath. And I'm not a mechanic, just a guy who knows which end of a screwdriver to hold...


So why am I going there? Because lockdown.

I got in touch with the place that sold me the car. They are open, they can check the bearings. But I would have to drive to them, and they're in Mordelles which is the far side of Rennes, or Mezieres which is even further away. They do have a pick-up service where they can come out, collect the car, do the repairs, and bring it back. But, alas, such a service is currently counted as "unessential travel" so they cannot get my car, and going to them isn't exactly feasible.
Because, as Pieter rightly points out, a garage that manages to fill up the gearbox oil in an extraordinary manner is not a garage that I'd entirely trust to do important work on the car. Not just because I believe they're inflating their time estimates, but also because I don't want them to do something unpleasant like "it didn't want to fit so I hit it with a hammer", and also because the mechanic told me that it was "a vibration" but he didn't know where from exactly. While me? I've narrowed it down to the brake unit or the bearings of the front left wheel. It took me about twenty minutes, and half of that was remembering where I put the jack (the wheel isn't loose). Remember, I said I'm not a mechanic...? What's his excuse?

So I'll have to leave the rumbling until mid-May when hopefully restrictions will ease a little. I would prefer a garage that understands Aixam to deal with this, as currently I am buying my own parts from either NessyCar or, in the case of the one pictured above, eBay...because the local garage doesn't appear have any supply for parts for such cars (they're a little bit specialist, but then if I can do it, what's their excuse? they could get the parts from the same places, whack on a 50% markup, and be laughing).


I should be at work...

It's Friday. Yet, here I am. Sitting under the shade of a tree, writing this and watching the swallows. Clouds are brewing in the distance so the predicted thunderstorms may yet arrive, half a day late, but straight up it's deep blue. A gentle breeze that isn't particularly warm but isn't cold either, helps to balance the heat from the sun. In short, it's a lot more pleasant than what I'd normally be doing at noon.
It's also pretty cool to be working three day weeks and getting mostly the same pay, because France wants to do everything it can to keep companies going and people in employment. I think, long term, this is going to be better than mass unemployment. I hear the figures of how many people in America have registered as unemployed, and it is startling. Although, with Trump's handling of the entire COVID affair, from his failure to take it seriously until reality smacked him in the face [source], to offering large sums of money to try to buy CureVac (a German company working on a potential vaccine) to move the entire research wing to America to develop a vaccine "for the U.S. only" [source], I suppose we probably shouldn't be startled that 34,641 have died, 678,210 reported cases, and twenty two million now unemployed.
Compare with China, where this started, with no advance warning. And I much greater population. 82,367 declared cases and 4,642 deaths. Even if the Chinese government is lying about the actual figures (and they probably are), it's literally an order of magnitude less than that of the United States.

Something worth noting, however, is that as bad as America's figure may seem, it's actually fairly par for the course. France's 165,027 declared cases and 17,920 deaths might seem greatly more than the US when you consider France has a population of 67 million and America 328 million. However a moment of number crunching gives is a figure of 807,893 cases and 87,727 deaths if France's population was the same as the US. Interestingly the death count is off the scale, like more than double, while the infected count... isn't actually that different considering. What is different is that while each country will have hotspots where the infection takes a far greater hold, America really suffered in its capital city. Somewhere like Wyoming (the back of beyond) has a mere 401 cases (and 2 deaths), while the primary locations in America are New Jersey (75,317 and 3,518 dead) and New York (226,198, 640 new, and 16,106 dead). New York (state) alone, with its population of about 19½ million, is far in excess of France, Germany, Italy, and even Spain. It just goes to show what the virus can do when it takes hold.
We can't really do much more number crunching as this is an event in progress. Will New York manage to keep the deaths down? Because France's death rate is running a mite over 10%. Time will tell.

These are today's figures from, a week or two from now could be a different story.

So we, here in France, are in lockdown because the government has recognised that something really bad is happening. The numbers keep rising as there's a delay between infection and symptoms, not to mention the apparently large number of people who may actually have contracted the virus but show no signs of illness (yet are capable of spreading it). And me? I'm not at work today. Hmmm...


As far as my car is concerned, luckily I'm only going out three days a week (or 75km/week right now; or ~300km a month, vastly down from before, I'm not even going into Châteaubriant at all any more).


Dead easy meals with a smart rice cooker

I bought some carrots, a bag of potatoes, and an onion. And a box with 10 onion-infused frozen burgers. So...

Burger soup

Takes about 10-15 minutes to prepare, and an hour and a half to cook.

Quantities are vague, it depends upon how hungry you are...

  • Break some frozen burgers into the bottom of the pot. Add hot water (you did not the kettle on for tea, right?) to cover the meat, plus a little extra.
  • If you like garnishment, this is when you can throw some pepper or chopped chives or a bay leaf into the pot. As you wish. I prefered it with only a light peppering, let the flavour of the meat speak for itself.
  • Peel and wash some potatos. Chop them into smallish lumps.
  • Likewise with a couple of carrots.
  • Hack the end off an onion, then slice off two rings. Peel off the skin and outer layer, and finely chop what's left.
  • Mix up all the veg and put that into the pot on top of the burger bits.
  • Close the lid, select Soup cycle, and let it run for about an hour and a half.

When it's done, spoon it into a bowl.
It's surprisingly nice. Boiling the burgers in the vegetable water not only makes them extremely succulent, it also helps to lend a meat taste to the veg, and a veg taste to the meat (particularly the carrot).

If possible - prefer organic produce. It usually tastes better.


Soy burger rice

Exactly what it says on the tin.

  • Measure out some rice, about 2/3 of what you would normally have. Wash it, add it to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add water, but calculate water for 3/4 amount of rice (in other words, a little more than normal).
  • Taste extravaganza: a little pepper, some finely chopped onion, as you wish...
  • Break three frozen burgers on top. Don't worry if it looks a bit ridiculous, the burgers will shrink.
  • Let it run on the normal Rice cycle. It'll take about an hour or so.
  • When it is done, use the rice scoop to gently break the burgers into edible lumps.
  • Add a decent gloop of yakitori sauce (it's sort of soy and caramel). Failing that, use sweet or low salt soy. Prefer Japanese varieties (they're less salty than Chinese soy sauce).
  • Mix it all up, and serve.

As before, the mixture of boiling/steaming the burgers gives them this amazing succulent texture that is also picked up by the rice. The addition of a sweetish (non-salty) soy based sauce really helps to bind the parts of the meal together into one lovely gloopy whole.

If possible - prefer Japenese koshikikari rice (or, at least, anything calling itself "sushi rice") over the likes of Uncle Ben's, which in a great rice for chilli (or "chili" leftpondian ways), but not for this sort of meal.

I'm making it again right now (yup, I liked it!). ☺


Bread maker belts

These arrived in the post yesterday. Ordered from two different vendors, came from the same company in Tremblay-en-France (somewhere in Paris). Given Amazon's long delivery estimate, I actually expected them to be coming directly from China!
Well, if it's raining on one of my additional days off, I now have something to do!



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David Pilling, 18th April 2020, 02:28
Maybe the mechanic could get the Haynes manual. 
I saw Macron announcing an end to lockdown in France, for a few weeks hence. Guess he did that to show people the end was in sight, cheer them up. 
It is a pity that BBC and co did not report what went on in China in detail. But then again they've not told us in detail why the situation in Germany is so much. better. People will be writing papers about all this for many years to come and will work it all out. 
David Pilling, 20th April 2020, 15:50
Did you see the wolf yet.
Rick, 20th April 2020, 17:44
David Pilling, 21st April 2020, 15:55
Yup a Wolf! Headed your way. 
"A large canine has been captured by an automatic camera in Normandy, northern France. Authorities believe the animal is a European gray wolf. If their suspicions are correct, it would be the first wolf seen in this region of France for more than a century. 
According to a local news report, the image of the lone canine was taken overnight on April 7-8 in Londinières—a village northeast of Normandy—on an infrared camera." 
Rick, 21st April 2020, 18:29
Good luck to it. Local residents are foxes and wild boars, neither of which I can imagine would take kindly to an interloper. 

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