A Little Oil

1. A story, Sci-Fi or something like that, I think it might have been by Harlan Ellison. About a spaceship crew that had one member whose job was fairly undefined. Several previous missions had gone out and all had ended in disaster; where anything was known of their fates, it was that tensions had gone critical and the crewmen had killed each other. Or something like that. This time there was this guy whose name was not exactly a household word, and whose job actually was "a little oil" -- when the ship returned to Earth the crew learned what everyone on Earth knew, which was the mystery guy was a famous comedian or clown or some such, and had this stage name that all the crew knew but they didn't know it was him. This is probably the best 4th grade book report I've done in years.

2. A story, non-fiction, New Ham[p]shire 1975. I was working for Wayne and Virginia Green in Peterborough, and computers were just starting to happen. Wayne published a ham radio magazine and was looking into the idea of starting a hobby computer magazine. There were a bunch of newsletters around the country, and one of the more promising ones was done by Carl Helmers who lived fairly nearby in Massachusetts. Wayne set up a meeting to see if maybe a magazine could be put together on the subject, and my job was to make lunch. There were five people at the table: Wayne, Virginia, Carl, and his housemates. I could see little thought bubbles over both ends of the table: "Who are these people and what do they want from me?" My thought bubble had this in it: "I know what these people need -- butter!" I fed each of them a whole stick of butter. Now your thought bubble has this in it: "How the hell did you do that?" Easy -- stuffed artichokes.

3. If your external disk drive is starting to make weird noises but there's no data loss, the problem is likely in the fan bearings. And if strange sounds, as if the Chrysler Building were preparing to blast off into orbit, are coming right out of your computer, it might be bearings in a chip fan. Most Macs don't have them, but a few do, and they're common in Wintel boxes. It's amazing how much noise can come from such a little thing. In either of these situations you can often oil the fan bearings by getting a hypodeemic nerdle from the local pharmacy or veterinary supply house, drawing in a little light oil, poking the needle through the label on one side of the fan, and putting a couple of drops of oil in there. Then wash off the label with 409 or some other cleaner and put a piece of tape or a small label over the hole you made. This all might work on the fan that's in the power supply in your machine but I'm not going to tell you to go in there. It's all dark and dusty and full of spiders and scary things.