Saturday, November 16, 2013

Synaptic Homeostasis for the 911

In the fall of the year my Porsche must to be put into storage for the duration of the oncoming winter; it's the only sensible option in this climate. The vintage of Porsche that I own has a non-galvanized body shell, so any suggestion of salt or slush will start the car to rust immediately and rust is onerous to repair, if it is possible at all. Mechanical mechanisms can be fixed or replaced in a straightforward way, but rust is an insidious cancer that never sleeps once it gains a footing. Best to stay away from rust in the first place by installing the car in a dry and warm place, with moth balls. Well, I've done that - too soon I thought, but it snowed and they spread salt on the roads, and they use enough salt around here to over-brine a batch of schmaltz herring.

A 'rust-free' car here might be considered a 'rust-bucket' in another part of the world, but my car is not near a state of collapse just yet, so I carry on, secure in the knowledge that it is solid after all. I hope.

Once corrosion has been forestalled by comfy, clean storage, those pesky mechanical bits that have been getting loose and tired can be attended to at an unhurried pace during the cold months (-40ยบ is a potential here with the windchill, so stay indoors in your cozy workshop).  This renewal of functional parts is an operation that might be equated with the dusting and cleaning that goes on in your brain while you are asleep; synaptic homeostasis, a process occurring during sleep, is a phenomenon that prevents the nervous system (i.e. brain) from plunging into chaos. 'Cleaning out the cobwebs' some might say. I wonder if this can also be accomplished through meditation. . . Neurons in your brain need a regular renewal in order to function smoothly, strongly, and well, just as do many pieces of an old car.

Spark plugs expire and need replacement now and then, and your brain's synapses need their gaps cleaned a bit, too, so to speak. All complex systems require regular maintenance, whether animal (you) or machine, and this is best performed during sleep time, be it overnight in bed, or over winter in a workshop. Don't simply park the car and forget it till spring, that's not nice. The thing is that the brain does its maintenance procedure automatically, whereas the Porsche just sits there looking needy. The only automatic event concerning the Porsche is the drain on my wallet. 

A Porsche as old as mine doesn't have any electronic computing gizmos to complicate things, it's all mechanical, so you don't reboot, you install new boots - rubber ones. I have a batch of rubber parts lined up on my workbench, right next to the turbo tie rods, throttle springs, A-arm bushings, a clutch cable, 'frunk' lid struts, and an alarming number of other bits. It will take a while to install all of this - I don't work very fast, but it's a long winter here. It's possible that the car will be off the road for as long as six months, so what you see in this post represents half of the life of this car under my semi-arctic stewardship.

Owning a Porsche like this is not the same as owning a new one. I'm sorry to point this out, but many new and bedecked Porsches are fashion statements for the glitterati, and such owners may be unclear about the location of the engine, but they believe it is in a peculiar place that offers a mysterious advantage to their revivifying driving experience. Actually, owners of new Porsches are prevented by law from fiddling with their car's functional systems, given that their efforts might result in an embarrassing faux pas and concomitant disinclination to purchase next year's model. Being seen in the car might be as important as seeing out of it, although since an alarming percentage of chichi Porsches in the world of uber-urban cultural privilege are often only driven at metropolitan speeds, this might not matter. I own a raw, visceral, loud, bumpy car. This is a decided safety feature - it makes so much noise inside that you think you are going wildly fast when you are only going way too fast, so you might survive it and live to drive another day.
(At a later and more sober moment, looking back at this paragraph it seems to me that I have been too harsh in my characterization of certain owners of gleaming new Porsche cars; I painted with too broad a brush. On occasion there is a capable owner to be found, and he or she will actually wring the bejesus out of a new car on the track at a DE day, without so much as a single fatality or putting the car topside down.  Excuse me for this; my rash error, but I can't help promoting the cars that I appreciate most - old ones - even if I step on toes in the process. Today's Porsches are technological marvels; I guess I find romance in the DIY stone age. Okay, I'm jealous. Not really.)      

KrazyGlue injected into tiny cracks stops them from growing
For me the winter break is good. Downtime is useful. When I know that there are issues that need to be resolved with my car, my summer driving pleasure always has awareness of that need in the back of its head, because I tend to wallow in the difficult details, instead of skimming over them so that I can smell the roses.  

As your brain repairs itself while you slumber, nonessential chaff gets erased, you might say, so that there is adequate elbowroom for the thinking tasks of the following day. Replacing Porsche parts isn't exactly identical to erasing them, but as long as you are getting rid of potential problems, what's the difference? Renewal is renewal.

Details . . .