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Well, Fine, Then! You Should Learn More About Cars, Too!

Date/Time Permalink: 08/22/10 03:46:09 pm
Category: General

bad car analogies get their own motivational poster

How many times have you had this happen while trying to explain Linux to a Windows user? You point out that you like Linux because you can get into the source and change it, you can tweak it how you like, you can fix problems from the command line, and so on. And after a few cringes from the listening party at the idea of doing things with your own computer, you'll get back The False Car Analogy:

"I drive a car every day but I have no interest in working on it myself. Why should I need to work on my own computer?"

"I don't know how my car works; why should I care how my computer works?"

"No, I don't compile my programs from scratch. I don't machine-lathe my own engine blocks, either."

[ Addendum: A great example of what I'm talking about happens here. A perfectly reasonable IT guy says "learn something, anything, any little thing, even one thing about computers if you use one every day of your life." and gets crucified for it. Right after "TheLady" screams and foams at the mouth, "taceo" brings out the Dreaded False Car Analogy. Happens every time. The tide may not come in tonight and the sun may not rise tomorrow, but bet your soul that every time you tell somebody to learn anything... ANY. THING. about computers, you will get the False Car Analogy read out to you like the Riot Act. ]

If nothing else, the person who throws out The False Car Analogy is telling you that, in addition to being a complete loss on the computer, they're also a lousy driver on the road as well.

This time, I'll forget the usual argument that cars and computers are completely different things. True, rules governing how you interact with your swimming pool don't govern how you interact with your toaster-oven, and in fact no logic whatsoever is to be found in analogizing any two devices ever. But we've been saying that until we're all blue.

No, instead, I like to take the bullkaka by the horns and play idealogical chicken with the straw man on their own turf. So: I'm a computer geek, if there is anyone on the planet who meets the definition. My whole site justifies that statement.

Guess what? I also wrench on my own cars! Yes, I can rattle off the details of the four-stroke engine's workings (intake compression combustion exhaust). I have, in my time, replaced transmissions, master cylinders, brakes, carburetors, radiators, pumps, starters, alternators, distributors, and seals. I've done my own tune-ups and oil changes. I have even done some "hacks" such as resealing a leaking water pump using a Pepsi can and JB-Weld until I could get out of the vast Arizona desert I was crossing.

And, oooooh, if only you people knew how badly you get robbed almost every time you take your car to a mechanic! I'm sure some mechanics are ready to leave furious comments telling me off for painting them all with the same brush, but I'm telling you that I've dealt with dozens of mechanics in four states and have had nine out of ten of them try to take me for a ride! Time and again, I'll pull in someplace and ask for an estimate - $400, $800, $2600, for a repair involving a ten-dollar part and thirty minutes work. I laugh and go to the parts shop across the street, do the work right there in the parking lot - looking right at them - and drive away honking bye-bye. I am dead serious, try it yourself.

Granted, I'm more "old skool" - I tend to fall behind the times with modern engines - but even if I take a car into a shop nowadays, I am sure to bring the Chilton's manual with the page marked showing the exact part I need replaced. Even then, even after I have demonstrated as much, if not more, knowledge than the person I am about to pay to do the work, I still get the occasional leech trying to gyp me.

My knowledge of car mechanics is borne of the same kind of desperation that drove me to Linux. I don't like mechanic work. In fact, I openly hate mechanic work! If I never have to fumble through a greasy socket set looking for the 13/16ths while hitting my head on the starter and getting hot oil in my eye again, it'll be too soon. Unfortunately, the lack of honest people out there drives me to self-sufficiency.

I apply this philosophy in just about every facet. It isn't always paranoia about getting cheated that motivates me; sometimes it comes in handy knowing how to do things for yourself, just... because. Living in the Midwest is part of it - it sure is better if you can relight your own pilot light on the furnace in the middle of the night, because with ten feet of snow and ice out there, the furnace guy is not coming out for a long time. Cooking your own food at home is its own reward (Roasts? omelets? stroganoff? Bah, junior stuff. I've graduated to baking my own pies now.). Having all kinds of boy-scouty skills like finding your own way out of the woods can be a lifesaver. And heck, I've fixed gadgets and appliances all over the house, from toasters to DVD players.

Even if I don't do something myself, I at least double-check the expert I'm trusting. I'll still get professional council for legal matters, but there is a public law library in every major city and I am by God not going to let paragraphs of boilerplate intimidate me out of marching right in there to read the law books for myself. I go to doctors, but I research the prescriptions and side effects online before I just docilely gulp down whatever the pharmacist hands me. I pay a plumber to fix the sink, but I still know how pipes work (oddly, contrary to auto mechanics, I have never had a plumber try to cheat me).

Everything can apply! Yes, really, it is possible to live this way!

I don't even see it as anything special. I don't call it being a geek. I call it "being alive" as opposed to "letting life happen to you like a goldfish in a bowl."

I have to wonder sometimes what some of you people out there do with your time.

So, yes, you should be car-savvy and computer-savvy. And "entering a search term into Google" is not the equivalent of "replacing your own intake manifold gasket." Instead, "not knowing how to enter a search term into Google" is the equivalent of "pulling the car over to the side of the road at sundown and sitting there all night because you don't know how to turn the headlights on!"

hardcore GNU/Linux knuckle tattoo

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