How to break an auto tech’s heart

When your car conks out, whom do you blame? Yourself? Of course not! You

Hand it over!

Hand it over!

blame whoever made it or whoever takes care of it under the hood.

Let me tell you, whoever takes care of it says choice things about you, too. I once was assigned to find out which problems auto techs felt were most inflicted on them by owners. You may be surprised that it wasn’t customers who demand an over-the-phone diagnosis; owners whose cars are so dirty, they could plant grass on the hood; or customers who curse them when a tired, old car needs a major fix.

To be sure, from the customer’s perspective, maintenance and repairs aren’t cheap. So neglect and avoidance kick in. Little problems become big, the costs go up — sometimes way up, until the customer nearly believes the mechanic moonlights in the garage of the devil himself.

Most auto techs have hearts, however, and here are a few of the ways customers break them. Here, too, are ways to keep your wallet intact while loving the person who looks after your wheels’ welfare.

Never change or check the motor oil.

What it is: Motor oil lubricates the engine and removes contaminants, such as teeny-weeny bits of metal that can cause big damage over time. Engines do bad things when they have low or no oil.

What to do: Change the oil yourself or have it changed at the mileage suggested in the car’s owners manual – usually 3,500 miles. Check the oil level every week by pulling out the dipstick, wiping it with a clean rag, More

How many Andrés Cantores does the World Cup need?

Oh, Dios mío, I thought, I had better call 911. A neighbor across the main road was hollering in distress. I couldn’t quite make out what he was hollering, until he


Oh, my God, I thought, I’m glad I didn’t call 911. Obviously, the only emergency was that the United States was ahead in its World Cup match, and I happened to be living only the length of five fútbol fields away from an  Andrés Cantor impersonator.

Even if you don’t know the name Andrés Cantor, you know the sound. He’s the Argentina-born, California-raised soccer announcer on Telemundo (formerly on Univision) who goes basically batshit crazy over goals. English-language TV stations run video of his famous “GOOOOOOOOOOL!” for comic relief; in fact, he appeared on “The Simpsons.” He’s not really an old yeller; he’s a much-beloved fixture of televised soccer games – much so that GEICO and Volkswagen used him and his “GOOOOOOOOOOL!” More

Cracking the ‘nut graf’

Nut grafs made one of my students cry. She couldn’t get the hang of them. I wasn’t connecting with explaining them.

Gimme the nut! (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

Aw, nuts! (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

On the way home, I threw the textbook explanations out the window. I decided to explain the long way and from the heart. This is what I wrote to her. She said it helped, and I saw that it did. It might help anyone who’s having trouble cracking nut grafs.

I thought about how a nut graph might be explained more clearly, and it’s this:

Writers approach articles from the inside out. They know what the story will cover, where it will end and how it will get there.

Readers approach stories from the outside in. They read in linear fashion from the first word to the last. After the lead, they bump into the nut graph, which gives them a road map to the rest of the story. The nut graph is like a synopsized version of what the writer already knows: where the story’s headed.

As writers, we try to see the story from a reader’s perspective. This is a big part of our craft. Without a clearly defined nut graph, the reader continues More

Happy Blogathon haiku day!

A poetic day/unlocks possibilities/in beautiful words! Here goes:Wild iris


Parched summer breeze sucks

the laundry dry on the line.

I save fifty cents.


Heat forecast: Relief

can’t reach me when the cat stands

In front of the fan.


Brown beer bottles lie

dry of all their inner joy

along the highway.


Egg on the sidewalk,
Butter melts and now you sit
Staring at the sun.


Coffee’s down the hatch,
Deadline’s on the calendar.
More haiku must wait.

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