Monday, March 31, 2008

The Lexus Lives!

or: A Tale of Two Alternators (okay, three, really, maybe four)

I spent the day working on the Lexus. I went to O'reilly Auto Parts where I first asked if they had an alternator for a 1994 Lexus LS400. Annie checked; they didn't have one, but another store did and they could get it to this store in about an hour. So I went ahead and placed the order, also picking up a thermostat and its associated O-ring (the thermostat wasn't bad, but I figured I'd go ahead & replace it since I was in there) as well as the O-ring for the PS reservoir - she picked the right diameter, although it looked a little thick - and some coolant and PS fluid. Then I went to breakfast with my lovely wife and we picked up some Goo-Gone (to clean some of the old, leaked PS fluid that was gunked up with dirt & stuff, making things a nice mess (isn't that an oxymoron?) under the hood). (Wait: maybe "oxymoron" is what dumb people breath... sorry, I can't help it). Oh, and we got some Publix diet sodas, too (they're sweetened with Splenda).

Anyway, I stopped by O'reilly on the way home, and they had the alternator in. On the way out the door I noticed that while everything else looked right, the plug on the alternator was circular, and the one I'd pulled off had an oval plug. Went back to the counter, and Annie was helping another customer, so Charlie compared the two, went online, called around, finally determined that the alternator I'd pulled off my 94 LS400 was a 95 model. The only thing I can figure is that the original owner (before my dad bought the car in 97) must have had an issue with the alternator, had it fixed under warrantee, and the Lexus place must have only had a 95 model alternator in stock, so they modified the connector to use the 95-style plug. (I could have adapted it if they'd had a plug in stock to fit the round connector, but I didn't bother mentioning that since they'd found a suitable model that could be at the store in another 1.5 hours.)

So I went home and started working on the stuff I did have, very quickly tearing the O-ring when trying to install the PS reservoir. I then took the new one (now torn) to Auto Zone and asked if they had one the same diameter but not quite as thick, which they did. I bought two, just in case (but I only had to use one). Installing the PS reservoir was much more frustrating and difficult than removing it was... I eventually even pulled off the radiator fan (the mechanical one; the LS400 is interesting: it has one large fan on the interior of the radiator that's mechanically driven as well as a pair of electric fans on the outside of the radiator) as well as loosening the PS pump in order to slide it forward to be able to get the reservoir back on, and even then it was still difficult. The thermostat was a breeze. After all that, I called O'reilly, and the manager didn't know what all had happened, but eventually figured it out, and, yes, they had the part in, and Charlie said it was the same as the core (old one) I'd left at the store. So I went and picked it up, and it was the right part.

I installed the alternator (that was relatively painless, too; then again, I did have the fan off as well as all the other stuff), put the PS pump pulley back on, reinstalled the serpentine belt (which was much easier with the fan off), reinstalled the fan, put fluids in everything (oh, I had already spent some time cleaning things with the Goo-Gone, using the entire bottle in the process), and attached the battery jumper and started the car. No "charging system" light on the dash, hooray! And no apparent leaks. Now, the LS400 has a strange coolant fill procedure, but I did follow it. Hopefully there isn't any air in the PS system, although I did get some bubbles in the reservoir at first.

After all that, I reinstalled the radiator shroud (complete with super-gluing the broken parts - I hope it stays!), reinstalled the underneath engine shield, reinstalled the air intake extension, and eventually even worked on the seat belt, which previously didn't like to tension itself (retract) - now it's better, perhaps even too tight, and while still not perfect (it would have been better to replace the retractor, but I didn't have a spare one handy), it's an improvement.

I just wish the car wasn't boring to drive. Oh well, at least we have two functional vehicles now! (And I have very sore fingers, a sore back from all the bending, dirty fingernails, sore arms...)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Death of a Lexus (could be "inspiration in adversity" if you read it that way)

My fingers are dirty. And sore. I just spent several hours taking apart various parts of my dead Lexus (1994 LS400) to get to the parts that are dysfunctional. In the process I managed to discover the cause of the death of the Lexus: a malfunctioning O-ring in the power steering pump reservoir. This malfunctioning O-ring allowed PS fluid to drip onto the PS pump and then down onto the alternator, causing the alternator to short out and die, which of course then caused the whole car to die (once the battery was drained; fortunately, it got me into the driveway while it was still running on battery power, but wouldn't restart afterwards). One tiny little O-ring.

Now, my friend Dean would probably try to extrapolate this into a long post about how, similar to the body of Christ, each little part - as insignificant as it may seem - has an important role to play, and how, when that seemingly insignificant, hidden part doesn't do its job, it can cause the entire vehicle (the "church") to falter and die. I won't make such a leap, however... you'll have to wait on him to take this and run with it (if he ever does). I'll only share my frustration at the design... you'd think that someone could have foreseen this issue and designed it such that a PS fluid leak wouldn't cause the death of the entire car (because of the alternator shorting out). I mean, if you were on a trip cross-country and this died in the middle of your trip, that would be pretty lousy. Fortunately, for me, it was around town and we made it home before it died completely.

I'll also express my frustration at "modern vehicles" - they cram things in there so tight it's nearly impossible to get anything done. The PS reservoir was irritatingly difficult to take off, and managed to get PS fluid all over the place (despite my attempts at emptying the reservoir with a suction-type food baster and to cover things with paper towels to catch the remaining fluid). I also managed, while attempting to push the radiator hose a little in order to get a better view of things, to cause the thermostat housing to crack its seal and start leaking coolant (actually, I think the O-ring that seals that housing probably needs replacing, too, although it wasn't leaking before I stressed the housing by pushing on the radiator hose). The alternator is not exactly an easy piece, either - after getting it loose, I struggled with getting the electrical plug out (finally resorted to a pair of pliers to get enough grip to pull out the plug). Then it still wouldn't come off the stud that holds it since the PS pump pulley was in the way - I had to pull the pulley off the pump in order to get the alternator off the stud. And there still wasn't enough clearance to get the alternator out, and I had to pull the radiator hose off (spilling a lot of coolant in the process despite my attempt to drain the radiator through the drain hose - it did drain a lot of coolant that way, but apparently not all of it) and the radiator shroud.

But I did finally get the alternator off, and it's in a box ready to take to the parts store tomorrow (my wife was out with our one functional vehicle, so I couldn't go get the parts tonight, assuming they're even in stock at the local auto parts store). One little O-ring. Probably a $6 part (maybe less, that's the figure I saw for the part from Lexus, although I haven't actually seen that price quote from a Lexus parts place). Hours of hassle and effort (not to mention plenty of frustration, and a period over which we had no running vehicles because of our van breaking down previously), a $142 alternator, sore and dirty fingers, and gallons of coolant and quart(s) of power steering fluid. Oh, and I broke the radiator shroud when removing it... hopefully some super glue will fix it.

I have other thoughts (different subjects), but I'll wait to post them in a separate post in order not to overload you with too much at once (you know, keeping the post-size and number of subjects per post to a minimum). :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


In keeping with the "pulse" theme of the last post, I thought I'd let you all know that today I was (re-)qualified for CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automatic external defibrillator). I thought I'd let you know that the latest compression-to-breath ratio is 30 compressions to 2 breaths (it was 15-2 when I was in my high-school health class, and I think 5-2 when you had two-person CPR, but it's now 30-2 in all cases). Also, the AED is a pretty nifty device, but is an additional tool to be used during cardiac arrest, not a replacement for CPR. And it's not a toy, and should be used carefully. If someone else is touching the body of the cardiac arrest patient when it sends the shock, it can be the cause of death for the person touching the body (as he/she may receive the shock intended for the patient, causing his/her heart to go into a bad rhythm, and then that person is out of luck because the AED is already in use on the first patient and likely doesn't have a spare set of pads to be used on the second victim!). Of course, during my turn at giving CPR to the dummy, I forgot the head tilt/chin lift, but was able to cause the dummy's chest to rise anyway with my breaths, so I guess the airway was open already. Oops. Hopefully I'll never have to use the training we got today (especially on you, my loyal reader, as there's no guarantee of success, and I'd hate to lose you both as a CPR patient and as a reader!). Also, I hope I don't get in trouble for sharing this info - I'm not a qualified instructor, just qualified to perform CPR. But as our instructor said: "Bad CPR is better than no CPR."

In other news, we still haven't fixed the Lexus, so we're a one-(working-)car family at the moment. This isn't easy, as my wife and I tend to work slightly different schedules (she typically doesn't work past two in the afternoon). But we're getting by so far. Hopefully we'll have a second vehicle ready to go soon. You know, in some ways it seems a shame that we've allowed ourselves to become so dependent on vehicles. Oh well.

Since some of you may have missed the passing comment in one of my earlier posts, I thought I'd mention the public library as a video "rental" place again. You may want to check out your local public library's video rental section (I assume they have one) - it's a great way to get movies to watch for free. Granted, they'll typically only have one copy of any particular video, but then again, your local movie rental store typically only has one copy of older movies, too. The library may not have the absolute latest release like your rental store, but the cost is infinitely better - free! You also can often find older releases on VHS that are no longer carried by Blockbuster or other rental stores which have moved exclusively to digital media (DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, etc.). On top of everything else, if your library is part of a network of libraries (such as the Huntsville-Madison County library system), they can transfer items from more remote locations to your local branch, usually for free or for a small fee. And if you go get the video from the remote location, you can usually return it to your local branch for free (at least that's how it works in the Madison County library system). And it's also a great place to get books to read that you'll likely read once and then never touch again... you don't have to pay $6.99 + tax (or whatever, more if it's a hardback) at your local bookstore and then have the book cluttering your house once you've finished it. I did that with a Xanth book not too long ago (I've read all the books in that series with the exception of Air Apparent, the latest in the series - I'll have to look for it when I return the latest set of movies we borrowed from the library). After all, your tax dollars are paying for the library, right (I could be wrong here - but if not, who does?)? Why not enjoy it?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Giant Straw & elevated pulse

My wife ordered some kind of "mint mocha" (or similar) frozen drink thing at a Bento Box Asian Eatery while we were out tonight (on our "Monday night date" which usually is just coffee at Starbucks, but we had to take our daughter to Rooster's for a church student leadership meeting, so we had dinner at the neighboring Bento Box instead). Included with the frozen drink was a giant straw - see the pictures (the one with her pinky in the drink is to demonstrate the monstrous size of the straw). It was rather unique... I'm not sure I've seen anything like that since some of the "spoon-straws" used with Icee drinks. It wasn't a spoon straw, though... just a large-diameter straw (it did have an angled tip down in the drink, I assume to prevent the massive suction required to pull the drink up the straw from locking the straw to the bottom of the cup). The food there is very good, by the way - and very reasonably priced. (A bento box is a Japanese food container often used for packing lunches; I saw these frequently while I was in Japan last year.)

After we returned home, I decided to hop on our elliptical (exercise machine) to try to work off some of the calories I'd just intaken. (!? is "intaken" a word?) We haven't been using it recently, much to the joy of my lazy muscles. Anyway, after about 3 minutes I put my hands on the pulse reading part of the machine and, after it settled, it was at 152 beats per minute. I think that may be slightly high for my 36-year-old heart... especially since I don't regularly exercise. I slowed the pace a bit and got it back down around 140. I quit after 9 minutes and 61 calories... not nearly as much as I'd taken in (or intaken, a word I apparently created in order to not end a sentence in a preposition). I guess I should spend more time on that thing, or out walking the neighborhood, eh? For a while, about a year ago, I got to where I could do the entire 30-minute program, even with the resistance set to a higher level. I suppose I should get back to that regularly... the numbers on the scale have been getting bigger recently, and I'm afraid it's probably not a faulty scale.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Facebook Picture Plug

Hey... if you have a Facebook account, I highly recommend putting a good, recognizable picture of yourself in your profile. This way, when people search for you, they can see whether or not you're the one they're actually seeking. For instance, I recently went through the "friend finder" there searching for an old Navy mate. Fairly unique name, so not a lot of hits to run through, but his picture, very obviously him, is what sold me on contacting him through "add a friend." And you know what? It was him. (If you care, here's my Facebook profile... I realize now I should probably change my picture there, but I'll get to that later.)

So, I guess there's something to this "social networking" thing after all... Amateur was right! Hope to see you all there sometime...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Check yourself out!

Once upon a time my wife called me and said, "I just checked myself out at Wal-Mart!" I started laughing, causing her to realize what she'd said. I knew what she meant of course: the "self checkout line" at Wal-Mart.

In theory, a great concept. However, like all other lines at our local Wal-Mart, it's become horribly congested. You can't get out of our local Wal-Mart in less than 15 minutes unless you simply don't buy something. Not even in the speedy-check-out line (20 items or less? come on! that doesn't save anyone any time!), of which usually there is only one open at any given time, with a line that stretches back at least twice as far as the "regular" check-out lines, thus negating any benefit from the fact that the people in the line are only carrying (typically) 25-30 items. (They really should put a limit on the scanner at that type of lane such that, once you've reached the 20th item, it will no longer allow any more items to be scanned - that might help ward off those who have more than the "max number of items," which ceases to be a "max" when you don't enforce the limit.)

Anyway, back to the self-check-out. Today I had one item. One, tiny, clearance, $1 item. I was third in line at the self-check-out (on the other side of the store from where I'd come in, of course). Naturally the people in front of me, with 40+ items, didn't offer to let me go ahead of them, even though (when I finally got there) it only took me about a minute to check out. Instead, I had to wait another 10 minutes while she struggled with the self-check-out counter, having to get the clerk to come and reset things a few times (apparently once you select "skip bagging" more than three or four times, it requires self-check-out clerk assistance to reset the scanner so you can continue the process), trying to figure out how to scan weighed (vegetable) items, etc. A total of about 20 minutes I spent in the self-check-out lane (one of six open at the time, out of eight total self-check-out lanes). During this time, I watched an older lady across the way, again in a self-check-out lane, being assisted by the self-check-out clerk as well as two or three other customers behind her.

I had a thought. They should have a self-check-out test. If you pass the test, you get a self-check-out card that entitles and enables you to use the self-check-out lanes. If you don't have the "self-check-out qualification card" you aren't eligible to use the self-check-out lanes (i.e., you have to scan your "self-check-out card" before it enables the self-check-out lane and allows you to scan items).

That, and they should have a "one-item" lane where you can scan only one item (possibly self-check-out, but again with the self-check-out card required, such that you can't self-check-out more than one item by making repeated transactions; once you've used the self-check-out card in the one-item lane, it has a timeout before it will allow you to use the card in that lane again, unless overridden by a self-check-out clerk, such as when it's 3 am and you're the only person in the store and no other self-check-out lane is open, but in that case, why would they have the single-item lane as the only one open? maybe if the others were all malfunctioning, or something).

If they don't want to preclude self-check-out for those who can't pass the test, perhaps have both "qualified" (you have to have a card to use these) and "non-qualified" (anyone can use these) lanes. Also, they could have "self-check-out express lanes" where a max number of items (e.g., 10) can be scanned (once the number is met, no more items can be scanned). This would require the self-check-out eligibility card in order to prevent people from processing multiple, back-to-back transactions without leaving the self-check-out register.

These steps would help to ensure a quick self-check-out process and an even quicker check-out for people with a single item. It would also make a lot of Wal-Mart consumers happier, I think. In general, Wal-Mart should improve their check-out times... it's no fun to wait 30 minutes or more to reach the check-out cashier. Especially when you have one item to purchase. On more than one occasion I've simply decided not to get something when reaching the front counter there (ok, I rarely shop at Wal-Mart anymore; I generally prefer Target these days, although their check-out lines are starting to show signs of Wal-Martiness... not terribly bad, but heading in the wrong direction). And, interestingly, I recently found better deals on Energizer and Duracell rechargeable batteries and Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (I can see Amateurink's cringing at this thought) for better prices than either Wal-Mart or Target at the local Publix Grocer, which is actually closer than either of the other two "discount" marts.

Sorry for the ill-natured post... just venting a bit, I think. I did just finish watching "Enchanted," a very cute movie, which has helped my bad mood from shopping (and why am I letting that get me in a bad mood, anyway?).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Strange subject... it's a combination of "TiVo" and "vote" - I'll let you guess what this post is about.

The last shall be first: voting. Now, I won't pretend to give you political advice (that's probably worse than my financial advice). Well, not right now, anyway. But I will point out this guy's post... it makes a lot of sense. Nearly pulled straight out of Proverbs 11:14 - "Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers." Just think about it. Think for yourself, and for our nation. A lot depends on it. Don't let someone else make up your mind for you.

Now to TiVo - I'm still struggling with what to do. We're one of what is probably a very small minority of people who (still) use a Series 1 TiVo with a lifetime subscription, and an even smaller percentage who use TiVo with only an over-the-air (OTA) antenna signal. The problem? In 335 days analog broadcasting will be shut off. At that time, my TiVo will be essentially useless, other than to pause what's currently being shown. And that's assuming I get one of the converter boxes, which will be subsidized by the DTV converter box coupons I should receive shortly (subsidized, yes, but the converter box(es) will still not be free, something like $10 to $30 plus tax each for the two on which I can use the coupons). So... my perfectly functional TiVo will become a non-functional TiVo simply because the government wants to reclaim some portion of the Analog TV spectrum.

My TiVo has a lifetime subscription, which is for the lifetime of the TiVo box. Problem is, that will soon no longer be the case - it will be changed to "lifetime of the TiVo box and/or the analog OTA broadcast spectrum." In other words, the government's mandate will cost me my lifetime subscription. I went to the TiVo website, but there is no information there at all concerning DTV converter boxes. What they do offer is for me to purchase a new HDTiVo box ($299), along with offering a lifetime subscription on the new box as a "promotion" (they don't normally offer lifetime subscriptions anymore), at a cost of $399 (60% more than the original lifetime subscription cost back in 2002, which was a gift). In other words, I can keep my "lifetime TiVo subscription" active for $700 (admittedly, with new features in the newer model TiVo). Say what? My "lifetime" subscription is going to cost me another $700 in order to keep it active simply because of the switch from analog to digital broadcast? Something doesn't seem right about this whole thing... I'd consider trying to initiate a class action lawsuit, but I don't know how many others there would be in my "class" (OTA Series 1 or Series 2 TiVo subscribers). That, and I don't know how to initiate a class action lawsuit in the first place. :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Warning: multiple subjects

As the title implies (well, not really implies, it rather comes right out and says), this blog post is going to have multiple subjects.

We just finished watching Bee Movie... it was amusing. It went back and forth between clever and stupid, but overall the "clever" beat the "stupid." (I guess that's what to expect from Jerry Seinfeld, eh?) I can't bee-lieve they missed the ending, though... at the end, you see the bees fly by, and the screen goes black, and the words "the end" show up on the screen. What they should have done was to have the bees fly by, freeze the screen on the tail/stinger of the main character, and have the words "bee end" show up on the screen... that would have been right in line with some of the other comedy in the show.

I wonder if there was some subtle underthemes in there... like making fun of frivolously stupid lawsuits, and how we should be careful about trying to make major changes to things (they'll work themselves out, like global warming: the planet will take care of itself; there's not a lot we should, or even can, do about it). Of course, I could just be reading things into it... did you ever wonder if those authors you read in your literature classes really meant any of the things you wrote about in your essays about their stories? Maybe they were just writing a story and didn't really have any underlying themes in there. For instance, my aunt, Peggy B. Jolly, wrote a college textbook called The Freshman Sampler. It's a collection of short stories. She asked if I wanted to write one for it, so I did: "The Dogs of Draaken" (you can pronounce it like "dracken" if you want, but really I was aiming for more like an old English "dracula" - sort of "drocken" perhaps). It's in that book (thus, I'm officially a published author!). After using the book in her class for a couple of semesters, she sent me a copy of the book as well as some of the essays some of her students wrote about my story, and all the underlying messages I'd subtly woven into it. Yeah, I didn't know I'd put all that stuff in there!

Over to the left you'll see the crew that went scavenger hunting yesterday. All except for yours truly (which is a strange way of saying "me"), since I's ("I was" - "I'm" would be mixing verb tenses, I think) behind the camera at the time this picture was taken. Now, take a look over on the right... apparently the ducks at Aldridge Gardens are allergic to (or maybe just simply don't like to eat) geese. Whatever, just don't feed the ducks geese.

As a final note for this post, Π. That is, "Pi" - the Greek letter that represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter (you know, C=Πd, where C = circumference, d = diameter (and can be replaced with 2r, where r is the radius), and Π = Π). Why Π? To have a reason to post this video:

By the way, that's not the end of Pi - it's a non-repeating, infinite (?) sequence. Go read that Wikipedia article if you're interested in Pi... some strange stuff there, like a Chinese guy who recited 67,890 digits of Pi (over a 24-hour, 4-minute period) without error (apparently beaten by a Japanese man who recited 100,000 digits, but the article says that's not yet been confirmed by Guinness). Or the Cadaeic Cadenza, a story written such that the number of letters of the words in the story make up the first 3834 digits of Pi. (If you're interested, the text is here - I've not yet read it, so I've no knowledge about its content.)

Hope you've enjoyed this post! Hope it wasn't too hard to follow, or too long...

If you like 2001... or 2010...

You may be interested to know that Arthur C. Clarke, co-author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, died tomorrow. (He was, at the time, on the other side of the International Date Line, which is how I can accurately predict this. Kind of like my birth in Japan, where it was Monday morning, and my dad called my granddad and said something like, "Tomorrow at such and such time your grandson will be born; he'll weigh 6 pounds 6 ounces and be 21 inches long...") Looking at his partial bibliography on Wikipedia, I see I have a lot more of his stuff to read. If you haven't read the article above (or here), it's kind of interesting.

But now I must go eat and watch Bee Movie...

Monday, March 17, 2008

I'm happily tired.

We went to Birmingham today, to the Aldridge Botanical Gardens, where my sister-in-law had invited us to a scavenger hunt of sorts - the "Itty-Bitty Magic City Scavenger Hunt" (in The Birmingham News). They had 25 pictures of close-ups of things in and all around the gardens area, and you had to find them and write them down and then send in the answers. We spent hours scouring the area. There were 9 of us altogether (my family of 6, my sister- and brother-in-law, and a friend of our daughter), so we split up into two teams, boys vs. girls. The boys won, of course, in a come-from-behind finish that is still being contested (the girls said we "cheated" by trading help with other seekers; however, we never simply copied an answer, and no one ever pointed out to us where any items were - we had visual confirmation of every item on the list! and we filled in all the blanks first, which is what we consider victory). Anyway, it was a lot of fun... out and about all day with the family (and then some). But now I'm worn out.

I highly recommend stuff like this when the opportunity presents itself. That's probably one of the reasons I enjoy geocaching - it's a fun family time (at least I try to make it that way, although I have done some on my own).

One question though: is it currently buzzard season? I hope so, since we were scavenger hunting... :)

Best fast food ever

For those not familiar with Milo's, see the picture. This place is my favorite fast food in the world. Well, in the places they serve it anyway.. Only their tea has made it to the Huntsville area.. Which is a shame. Then again, if it WERE in Huntsville, I'd probably spend all my income there and never get out of debt.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Floppy post

Go learn how to avoid wearing out flip-flops. According to the article, flip-flops are more flexible than sandals - I'd always kind of lumped the two into the same footwear category, but I guess I wa wrong. In summary: don't drag your feet, don't let dogs chew on them, don't stretch them, and take care of them. What a stupid wikiHow... useless!

I ate way too much chips & salsa at the Mexican restaurant for lunch. WAY too much! Now I'm sitting on the sofa, and I think it's enlarging. I am really, really full. Not that you probably care...

I think I'm going to take a nap now. Sorry for the lame post today... but at least your flip-flops may thank you for reading it! (Not really, they're inanimate object and thus lack the ability to thank you altogether.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Done!

I (finally) filed my taxes today. I should have done this a while back... but kept putting it off. But it's finally done. My dad usually gets really busy this time of year... he's a CPA (in fact, he's Emmitt Smith's accountant... at least until he retires, likely later this year). Funny thing: his birthday is April 15. Go figure. My birthday was around Christmas... maybe I should be a Santa Clause or, even better, a gift receiver! :)

For those who may not have noticed, SiRF Technologies, whose stock I mentioned the other day (in my last super-long blog post), closed at $6.50 today - that's up over 18% from two days ago. Now, again, let me reiterate: I'm not a financial advisor. If I had spare money, though, I'd probably put a bit of it into SiRF Technologies stock. (Of course, the fact that I don't have money ought to be a pretty strong warning about my financial sense; I'm working on that, though - I now have a plan to get out of the debt I've allowed to accumulate over the years - woohoo! Just don't ask me when I'll be debt free... I've a ways to go, but it's a solid plan. Assuming I stick to it.) Here's a wikiHow that might help: How to Be Happy With Your Car. Still haven't fixed my car... need to get my tax refund in order to have money to order the parts...

Ok, I have to end this now... otherwise it may be a "long post" - and at least half of you prefer short posts - the other half doesn't care (see the poll to the right). Oh, and my wife said I can't post the picture of the mouse in our mousetrap... but if you really want to see it, contact me (I did take it with my phone, so it's not that great in terms of quality). Later, all... have to go eat my Sprees, drink my Diet Coke with Splenda, and watch a movie.

New effort saving technique

As you can see in the attached photo, here is a new technique I've developed to save effort while drinking. When you drink from a straw, when you release the suction, the drink falls back into the glass. Then, when you want another drink, you have to withdraw the air at the top of the straw as well as getting the drink back up the straw. Well, using my technique, you no longer waste that extra effort! Just bend the straw with your hand before releasing the suction, and the drink will stay put! Bam, less effort required on the next sip! Ingenious, eh? It further has the effect of minimizing flatulence and bloating, since you'll be ingesting less air on every sip. Feel free to use this technique with no fee required.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

All natural!

Interesting article here on avoiding high fructose corn syrup. Might be good for your health. Some strange suggestions, though, like:
  • buy your soft drinks in bulk from across the border
  • buy from the Passover section of your grocer
I didn't even know there was a passover section in my grocer! And I'm not close enough to the border to buy from there (if you were in Puerto Rico or the Florida Keys, would Cuba soon be considered "across the border"?). My son, however, loves Jones Sodas, another of their suggestions. I've had the green apple Jones - it wasn't bad.

On another note, reader Christy might be able to help out on some of the bad things that Aspartame does to you... I only have heard that (among other things) it slows your metabolism (which sort of defeats the purpose of an artificial sweetener anyway!). Although sucralose (sold under the brand name Splenda) apparently has some similarities to certain pesticides, it also apparently isn't processed by the human digestive system, leaving in the same form it enters. Thus, no harm done, and no effect on the human digestive system or metabolism or anything, just a sweetened taste at the time of consumption.

Anyway, stopping my writing now so that Dean can finish his pizza or whatever... :)

New post style

In deference to Dean's reading preferences, this is the first in a new post style: "short posts."

Monday, March 10, 2008

2 days left...

Only two days left to vote on my blog post poll (you'll have to go to my blog site to vote, can't do that from e-mail or a feed viewer). There's only been one vote at the time of my writing this.

I need to quit hanging things (clothes) on my bed (we have one of those beds with really tall corner posts, with rods connecting them on which you could put curtains or something). I realized last night that one set of clothes, which tends to be shadowed, looks like a grim reaper figure, with his two arms raised, but with a squirrel or a parrot on one of them. Weird. My wife, on the other hand, will tend to wake up and see the outline of a large man near the foot of the bed (different set of things hung up there). I wonder if that has anything to do with some of the strange dreams we have at times... I doubt it, as it's usually from whatever movie we've stayed up too late watching, or from other influences, but who knows.

We recently took a trip in our new (to us; technically it's not new, since it's used) 2006 Kia Sedona LX. It did very well, although we did have a "Malfunction Indicator Light" (aka "check engine light") on the way back - it was off today, but I ran it over to the local Kia place to have it checked out, and a PCM (Powertrain Control Module) upgrade was in order (no cost, warranty covered). The trip was to the Mentone Wedding Chapel for my brother's wedding (note to those who may be interested: I'd carried the GPSr, actually had the directions to the place in there, with a cache list for the area as well as for the trip, but due to timing - and being dressed up for the wedding - we decided not to cache, either to or from; I'll have to head out that way again sometime to find some of those caches, though!). Funny: the ring bearer, his three-year-old son, didn't want to come down the aisle at first (and they had the rings on the pillow); then he started walking down the aisle, then he ran and threw, from about 10 feet, the pillow with the rings at his dad (my brother) and the pastor.

Reminds me some of my wedding... I had the cutest 5-year-old in America as my ring bearer. Not kidding: it was my cousin (3rd cousin or something, the son of my mom's cousin) and he'd been entered into a photo contest and was officially voted "cutest kid in America 5 & under." They'd tied the real rings to his ring pillow. When it came time for the rings, he was nowhere to be found. He'd gone to sit with my aunt out in the audience, and she had to bring the pillow with the rings up. Then the pastor tried to untie the knot, but knotted it worse, and eventually had to pull his pocket knife out to cut the ring off the pillow (his comment at the time: "I usually don't pull my knife on a congregation, but...") - when my wife put it on my finger, it still had part of the string on it. Other things: the flower girl, my wife's little sister, decided to sit on the prayer bench (where we were supposed to kneel for prayer or communion or something, I forget; my wife may beat me when she reads this), and eventually my mother-in-law or someone had to go and remove her from the bench in order for us to be able to kneel there. Oh, and the pastor hadn't come to the rehearsal, and forgot part of the ceremony (where we take two candles and light one in the middle to symbolize unity) - we had to remind him about that - he was expecting us to go ahead and make our way back down the aisle.

Afterwards, we went back to her house so she could change and we could get our stuff, and then we headed out of town for a couple of days... and went through the drive-through at Arby's on the way out of town, me still in my suit, all the "just married" stuff still on the car... kind of like when our daughter was born, and I was working at Long John Silver's... on the way home from the hospital, in that 1977 Chevy Pickup I'd mentioned (borrowed at the time because it was cold and we didn't have antifreeze, only water, in the Toronado, which was parked in a garage and thus safe from the cold) with her in an infant seat in the middle of the truck's bench, we went through the drive-through at Long John Silver's - I ordered a large water and some napkins (just to be funny) and showed her off at the drive-through window. She's still show-offable, at least as pretty now as she was cute then, but I don't think she'd fit in an infant seat anymore.

Speaking of funny at a fast-food place, I once (at an Arby's) ordered partially solidified hydrogen oxide. (In case you, like the guy behind the counter, are filled with a blank stare, that's a fancy way of saying "ice water." Of course, if you're reading this blog, you're probably among those who would have come up with that way of saying it and don't need this parenthetical hint.) You might try that sometime if you're feeling mischievous (which, by the way, only has three syllables, not four).

Well, I think I ate too much Dinty Moore Beef Stew (one of my favorite food groups). Think I'll just lay back the reclining portion of the sofa and finish watching Deal or No Deal...

Oh, wait - before I go, I almost forgot to mention that apparently there are pharmaceuticals in your drinking water. An investigation by the Associated Press has revealed trace amounts of various prescription and non-prescription drugs in the water supply of communities all across the US. Go read the article for yourself. What do I think? I think this is probably more of a real problem - and definitely more of a man-made problem - than "human created global warming." One that actually might be worth us spending time and effort to try to minimize our impact on the planet (this definitely is affecting things, and definitely is of human influence on the world). From the article:

Contamination is not confined to the United States. More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world. Studies have detected pharmaceuticals in waters throughout Asia, Australia, Canada and Europe -- even in Swiss lakes and the North Sea.

In the United States, the problem isn't confined to surface waters. Pharmaceuticals also permeate aquifers deep underground, the source of 40 percent of the nation's water supply. Federal scientists who drew water in 24 states from aquifers near contaminant sources such as landfills and animal feed lots found minuscule levels of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.

Yeah, we're doing bad things here. For example:
Pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life -- such as earthworms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.
Interesting, though: "in the laboratory" - um, how are they "testing" wildlife in the laboratory? Maybe they mean they're attempting to simulate the environment in which the zooplankton exist in the lab. Not really sure on that one. But they have noticed effects (not "affects" by the way - the pharmaceuticals are affecting wildlife by effecting the changes described) in wildlife (at least the article indicates they've noticed such).

Funny... the DoND (Deal or No Deal) girl only won $150. But it was a $10 case she sold for $150 - I wish I could make that kind of investment! If I had money to risk, I'd probably consider SiRF Technologies as a potential investment, but I don't have money to risk, unfortunately. Then again, I'm not a day-trader, or a stock analyst, a financial advisor, or even wealthy (by the world's standards - I have my wonderful wife & family, and my salvation, and friends, so what else could I want?), so I'd recommend not taking my advice and instead getting your own. But it does seem like they (SiRF) have fallen on hard times as far as their stock price is concerned, but I think they'll likely bounce back before too long (or perhaps be bought, which will also probably cause the share price to rise - again, I'm not an advisor, this is just speculation on my part).

Wow, look at all the keywords I've added to this blog post! Talk to you later...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Found the Nationwide Commercial

I told you I'd post it when I found it! Go here and then click the "Click to load" on the "Bank Brat" commercial (at the time I posted this, it was the third one on the top row), then press "Click to play video" in the video window in the upper right of the page. Then sit back, enjoy, laugh, cry, remember when this happened to you (hopefully that's not an option for you).

Woohoo! Bambi meets Godzilla!

I saw this a long time ago on HBO as a prequel to whatever their feature was... and just found it on youtube! I love the credits at the beginning... pay close attention or you'll miss one of the funniest parts...

Hope you enjoyed that! I did!

Blogger count still off?

I just noticed that, when I go to "edit posts," it shows "of 111" meaning I have 111 posts on my blog. When I look at the "post archive" on my blog page, it shows 112 (53 in 2008 and 59 in 2007). November shows 40 posts, but looking at the number of posts, there are only 39. What's wrong with blogger? It can't seem to count! Stupid computer thing. Oh, and I suppose it'll be 112/113/54/59 after I post this, uh, post...

And my daughter said a computer can't make a mistake, can't do something on its own. (This comment stems from our periodically ongoing discussion as to whether there is really any difference between a frog and a laptop computer. More generally, it's a discussion on the true definition of life... whether a laptop computer can be considered to be alive - I argue that, according to all the definitions of "life" that she has offered, I can say that my laptop computer is a living being. If you're interested, I can put some of the discussion points in a blog post sometime.)

Hey, short post this time! Go do something nice for yourself in celebration. Oh, and go vote on my post poll and let me know which type of posts you prefer...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

All my vehicles - a recollection

I'm sure no one really cares about this post, but I thought I'd take a quick inventory of all the cars I've "owned" (that have been mine, even though a couple were in my dad's name) in my lifetime.

So, you've been warned. Here we go, in roughly chronological order:
  • 1978 Alfa Romeo Sports Sedan - this was my first car, technically owned by my dad, that I received in 1987 (I think); it has the driveline of an Alfa Spider, but is a four-door sedan body (weighs about 300 pounds more than the Spider) - very fun to drive. Looks similar to the picture, although that's a more recent version, and mine was beige/cream in color; in fact, if you've seen "Ferris Beuler's Day Off" then you've seen one very similar to mine - Ferris's friend's brown "junky" car that he drives to pick up Ferris at home (before they drive off with the Ferrari). This was a DOHC 2.0l four-cylinder, manual transmission, rear-drive car. I did spin it out one time on a wet road, no real damage to anything, on the way home from a "Scholar's Bowl" competition. It had "inboard disc" brakes on the rear - that is, you had to pull the axles to do a brake job on it (or something like that) - the discs were not at the wheels, but were at the place where the rear axles attached to the differential. It unfortunately didn't live well with my driving - the car had the old Bosch mechanical fuel injection, which threw a lot of extra fuel into the cylinders to start the car, but if it didn't get warm enough for long enough it wouldn't burn off all the extra fuel and would end up fouling the plugs & injectors. My trips were short, and this happened too frequently... about the third time we had it towed away because it wouldn't start, my dad decided that it was time for something else.
  • 1983 Renault Feugo - this was what we traded the Alfa on... a French car. Again, a 5-speed manual transmission, this was the non-turbo version. A fun car to drive, with the typical French roll in corners - leans a lot, but hangs on quite well. In fact, once my friend and I were on a really twisty road; he was driving a 280ZX and I this Fuego - although his car easily would out-drag mine, I went in first, and despite my slipping clutch came out well ahead of him due to the handling prowess of this vehicle. It had numerous issues throughout my ownership - we ended up replacing the engine, then the radiator leaked out all its coolant, the power steering hose leaked (I fixed that myself), the shift lever bushing broke, and it would disconnect the shift lever from the transmission, leaving me stuck in one gear - once I had to drive home from downtown in first gear, that was quite a trip. I searched for the bushing, but the only junkyard in Alabama with one of these wouldn't sell me just the bushing, but the whole trans linkage for $150 - I ended up taking out the bushing, punching a hole in the "closed" side with a #3 phillips head screwdriver, and inserting the bushing backwards - worked great! Eventually the throttle linkage broke off down inside the cylinder head (not quite sure why they designed it to go down through there), so I set the idle at 3000 RPM with a pair of needle-nose pliers and drove it down to the place where we had the engine replaced (a French car garage) and we sold it to that guy for parts for $500 or something. I once broke the rear hatch, and managed to find one in a fairly local junkyard and the guy said $100. When we got there, he said, "Well, I told you $100, so that's what I'll sell it to you for; I didn't know what I was dealing with when I gave you that price - should have been much more!" It would have been over $1000 to import a new hatch from France. Once upon a time we had something like 8 or 9 people in this little 2+2... I was driving, my then-girlfriend (now-wife) and her sister were in the front passenger seat, four or five people crammed across the back seat and another sitting across them, sideways... I don't think we went far, but I don't recall for sure. It was also one in which I had the brakes fail as I was rounding a curve about 80 mph and there were people stopped at a red light... I managed to get off into the turn lane and use the emergency brake and heavy engine braking to slow the car, no collision occurred. I also managed to accidentally drive it off-road along the side of a steep hill in the dark - there was a one-lane road, but I was unfamiliar, and yielded to the guy coming at me, and suddenly the car was sliding down this hill. Made it back up ok, though. I also managed to get this thing up on two wheels once... and didn't know it until the next day when the guy I'd just dropped off said, "Man, I thought you were going to lose it when you got up on two wheels yesterday!" I just thought the car was pushing (understeering) really badly, but I did then remember a mechanical "clunk" when I backed off the gas...
  • 1985 Oldsmobile Toronado - this was the car my dad gave me when I got married - it had been his after I totaled my mom's 1987 Mazda 626 GT (in a one-car accident) and he gave her his 1987 Taurus to drive. He'd bought the 1991 Park Avenue before giving this one to me. It was an automatic (as are all Toronados, to my knowledge) with the Olds 307 V8. I had it from 1991 until 1993, at which point I sold it to a junkyard for very little as I was moving to Virginia and didn't want to take it with me. It was well-wrecked by then - driver's door was smashed (not my fault) and the interior door panel no longer was attached, and the rear bumper was turned under (again, not my fault). This was the car in which I managed to get a $400+ ticket (ok, two tickets) - speeding (84 in a 55) and expired, out-of-state license plate (the car wouldn't pass South Carolina inspection, so I'd never bothered attempting to register it since I was only going to be there 6 months). In my defense, it was the first day back at work after Justin was born, and Ninfa had been through quite an ordeal (nearly died) and I wanted to get home to her.
  • 1984 Buick LeSabre - this was one that my grandmother's husband (step-grandfather - he was a Cadillac salesman, and did his own selling on the side, even after he'd retired) had found, and they "financed" for us. Four-door, automatic, Olds 307 V8, actually a pretty decent vehicle, was fairly reliable, and even did a decent job of going places in Virginia snow. One time, while driving back from Norfolk to Yorktown, my friend was sleeping in the passenger seat when bang! - suddenly there were sparks flying along the passenger-side window. Pulled off the interstate, sure enough, the right-front was flat. Went to pull it up a bit onto the paved area, and the guy with me said to quit. Apparently it wasn't just the tire flat and the rim on the road causing the sparks... the lower ball joint had broken, dropping the lower control arm onto the pavement at 65 mph. Hence the sparks. We walked back down the exit ramp we'd just passed and had his wife come pick us up... unfortunately, there was an accident at the exit ramp, and the cops noticed my car, and had it impounded (for a disfunctional vehicle on the interstate) before I could get a towtruck out there to pick it up. That was expensive and horrible timing - it was our only vehicle at the time, and we had to pay not only to get it fixed, but to get it out of impound as well, since I was about to head out to sea and leave my wife with nothing to drive.
  • 1991 Park Avenue Ultra - the non-supercharged version. This was another one my dad gave me (I've received a lot of vehicles from him!). Excellent vehicle, don't recall any problems with it - strange for a modern GM product! :)
  • 1995 Ford Windstar - baby-blue color. We got this when we traded our two Buicks, along with a nice cash gift from my dad (he'd just made a nice profit from some stock or something). We wanted the 1996, as it had a more powerful engine and less miles, but it was a couple grand more than we had. This one, of course, was just out of warranty. Had it for about a year and a half (maybe just a year) when the transmission went out. Traded it for a 1998 Chevy Venture, but we'll get to that one in a minute.
  • 1987 Ford Taurus - This was the one mentioned above, that my dad gave to my mom when I totaled her car. It's also one of very few that I remember of her cars that wasn't wrecked when it was exchanged... of course, my brother tried to keep that streak alive when he spun it, jumped a curb, and dropped it nose-first off a 15-20 foot embankment, but it survived (was never quite the same afterwards, however). This and our old 1985 Peugeot 505 STI TurboDiesel, although it had terrible electrical problems which could have been considered to have "wrecked" the car, leaving my mom stranded on several occasions before it was traded. (She got a 1990 Mercedes 300 CE - which she still has and so far hasn't been wrecked :) - and they had no use for the Taurus anymore.) The Taurus also had transmission problems - my dad had it rebuilt when it destroyed its second gear. Eventually it poured out all its coolant while I was sitting in line at Krystal, and I attempted to remove the water pump to replace the gasket, when one of the bolts holding it on broke off, and naturally it was in the space where there was only about two inches of room - not enough to get a drill in there to use a screw extractor. That's when I decided to get rid of it.
  • 1998 Chevy Venture LS Extended minivan - bought this one new as one of a couple of remaining 1998 vehicles in October of 1998; nothing but problems with this vehicle. Air bags (fixed 8 times under warranty, eventually just ignored it - had a friend who bought a 1998 Venture and they, too, had recurring airbag problems), charging system (three batteries in the first two years of ownership - replaced under warranty - and a couple more later, as well as other charging system issues... and changing the battery in this thing was a horrible experience!), driver side window (fixed 3 times under warranty, then the warranty was up and they wanted $850 to fix it... terrible design of the window components!), engine replaced at 120,000 miles (you shouldn't have to replace an engine at 120,000 miles in a modern vehicle! if you need to do that, though, check out AutoZone - they have some pretty good deals on rebuilt engines with nice warranties!), heat wasn't working, brake problems (spent over $1000 on brakes at various intervals), body hardware issues, seatbelts in the back seats started working sporadically, passenger side window (motor replaced under warranty, went out again after warranty was expired), ABS failure, etc. etc. etc. Nice power, decent ride, lots of space when the (heavy) seats were removed (fit a big, bulky couch and love seat in there), terrible reliability.
  • 1977 Chevy Custom Deluxe 10 Pickup Truck - this was a long-bed, 4.1l straight six, three-speed automatic pickup truck that was my grandfather's - he always said, "Everyone needs to have a truck around." It was originally seamist green - but it was accidentally repainted a dark green (my step-grandfather asked them to match the color and then go "a shade darker" to counter the sun fading, and they really blew it). It was kind of beat up on the body, but not too much. And only 67,000 miles when I eventually sold it. This was the truck that I remember collecting loads of aluminum cans & running them down to the recycler when I was young, the truck everyone used when they needed a truck. At one point, I asked my grandmom if I could borrow it to move some stuff, and when I got there to pick it up, she asked if I wanted to take it - her husband (my step-grandfather) had a truck, and this one just sat and was an insurance and tax burden to her. Of course I accepted! I wanted to keep this forever, but I broke it - there was a cooling issue, and I'd left it at my dentist's office. I tried to get it home later so I could fix it, and managed to blow the head gasket & break a cylinder before I got home (don't really know why - it was cooler when I was taking it home, and the distance was the same, but it broke anyway). I'd tried to fix it, but I guess I'm not that good a mechanic, and never got it to start afterwards. For several years it sat in my driveway until I got another truck (see below) and then sold this one to a guy I work with who then just put a 305 in it instead of repairing the old straight six. I think he still owns it. At this point, I'd gone from a pair of Buicks to a pair of Fords to a pair of Chevy's within a 2 year period. Traded this one in 2007 as a two-for-one on a Suzuki Forenza (see below).
  • 1984 Buick Riviera - very similar to the 1985 Toronado, even down to the Olds 307 V8 engine. Note: Rivieras and Toronados are nice cars; big, not necessarily exciting, but they do handle fairly well for such a large vehicle. Got this one from my aunt & uncle in order to minimize mileage on the Chevy Truck. Eventually gave it to a friend at church who was in need of a vehicle.
  • 1993 Ford Escort - gold, 4-door hatchback, manual transmission. Borrowed this from a great friend for too long (about a year?) before buying it from him (they weren't using it) when the truck broke. Got a good bit of use out of it before the clutch went out (and it had an exhaust leak) and I sold it.
  • 1967 Ford Mustang GT - cool, eh? My uncle bought this car brand new off the showroom floor in November of 1966. In 2001, on my 30th birthday, he gave it to me. In 1987 he had it shipped to California where a family member had it restored (but painted it the wrong color - it was originally dark forest green, he had it painted Firethorn Red - a nice color, but not original), but then let it sit in front of his house and fall apart. All original (except for the passenger side window glass, which was broken by a rock from a weed eater), with the exception of having the interior redone as part of the restoration. All the chrome is original (was rechromed). This is a 289, four-barrel, four-speed. Fun! Not the roller-rocker motor (the 271 hp version; it's just the 225 hp one), and it didn't have the factory dual exhaust (the only two GT options it didn't have) - some guy had special ordered it, then decided he didn't want it, and my uncle was in the dealer that day and bought it. It needs some brake work and a carburetor, and a little body work and probably a paint job, but overall it's in pretty good shape.
  • 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V - this was my "graduation present" to myself; went to the local Nissan dealer, and no one even came out to help us, so I went across the river to Lynn Layton Nissan in Decatur, where they were very nice and made the deal I wanted without my even having to argue with them (then again, I came in with knowledge of the existing Nissan rebate as well as a college graduate rebate that the salesman didn't even know about - I guess they figured I'd done my homework and made the deal easy!). Highly recommended dealer. This was a fun car... I probably shouldn't have traded it, but I did, 13 months later.
  • 2005 Toyota Tundra SR-5 Extra-cab Stepside - ok, I admit it. This was a mistake. I wanted to have a running pickup, and I even got a green one to mimic my granddad's pickup. Should have simply kept the Nissan... but I didn't. Kept this one for two years.
  • 1995 Mercury Villager Nautica - another gift from my dad. When he took over payments on my brother's Honda Odyssey (he had gotten in over his head on that one, and then a divorce led them to want to get rid of it, but were way upside down on it), they didn't need two minivans. We used this as a replacement (for the Venture) family vehicle until just recently. Traded it on a used Kia Sedona (see below).
  • 2005 Suzuki SV-650 - this is a motorcycle; bought to save gas (yeah, right!), which it did - about 48 mpg average. Wrecked it (slightly) on Halloween of 2007, and I've not yet gotten around to replacing the handlebars & shift lever.
  • 2007 Suzuki Forenza - the link is to WikiPedia's "Daewoo Lacetti" article, as the "Suzuki" is really a GM-Daewoo made vehicle. Kind of interesting: GM-Daewoo, made in korea, the engine is built by Holden of Australia and based on an old European Opel engine, and it's sold in the States as a Japanese-branded Suzuki. Not much power, but actually a pretty decent little ride, with the manual transmission. I took my youngest son with me to the dealer, and he'd wanted me to get a gold car, and this one was gold. We'd had a tax debt from 2006 and were making monthly payments to the IRS, and I wanted to get something that would reduce my outflow from the Tundra. This was the only thing that would fit the prearranged financing and take the hit from the Tundra deficit (remaining loan was about $5k over its book value) and lower our payment. Bought at Suzuki of Huntsville, a Driving 2000 dealer - and I highly, highly recommend the Driving 2000 buying experience. Anyway, had this for a month and a half when I made the mistake of leaving it unlocked in my front yard on July 4th evening. You see, someone for the last few years has been putting fireworks in our mailbox (sometimes burning up our mail), and I guess this time it wasn't good enough - they threw a large roman candle into the passenger seat, destroying the interior. It was eventually totaled by the insurance company; we got about $3.5k less than the loan amount, but that's still coming out ahead since I went in with about a $5k deficit off the Tundra.
  • 1994 Lexus LS400 - yet another one of my dad's old cars, received as a gift. He was "bored" with it and gave it to his mom when he bought his 2003 BMW 525is (he'd bought the LS used in 1997). She no longer drove it, so he took it back to give to me after the Forenza fireworks incident. He's right... this is a boring car. Nice, but boring. It's currently in need of repairs (power steering pump, PS reservoir o-ring, alternator). I'm borrowing a car from a friend until I get this one fixed (low cash at the moment).
  • 2006 Kia Sedona LX - bought this one 6 days ago; pretty remarkable story how it all happened. This is the larger, redesigned one. Plenty of room for the family - I expect we'll keep it a long time. The wife is happy! Yeah!
And that, I think, is the complete list of vehicles I've owned. Sorry to bore you with it all. One of these days I'll augment it with a list of cars I've driven... perhaps not in as much detail (then again, it is I who'll be writing it, so it may be even longer...). Have a great day - I'm late for work, so I've to go! Don't have time to proof it at the moment, so I apologize in advance for any grammatical, typographical, or non-sensical errors!

2nd post of March (in case you're keeping track of that sort of thing)

There's an interesting article here on wikiHow about "How to Think Ahead" (you know, for times like when I haven't posted a blog article in a while and you don't know what to do with all your free time you'd have otherwise spent reading my blog... in that case, you can go back and read (or re-read) past articles, comments you may've missed, add new comments, or consider what great things you can do with all your spare time because I'm not causing you to waste your time reading this drivel).

Anyway, if nothing else, the picture (to the right) in the article is pretty neat... if you click on the picture, it'll take you to its page on As a warning, though, don't overanalyze things... that's what we perfectionists tend to do, and end up doing nothing and being unproductive. As an alternative to thinking ahead, you could just live in the present. Of course, that means your entire life would be reactionary instead of actionary (hey, that's not a word!), which might or might not be a good thing. But it might be carefree, if you don't care about or for anything. Hey... is that what it means to have a carefree life, that you care about and for nothing? If so, I'm not sure I want to live a carefree life, since I like caring about things (like my wife, my kids, my friends), but there are of course other things for which I care that I probably shouldn't quite so much (like my "toys" - guitar(s), car(s), computer(s), video game(s), geocaching - wait, that's a good family hobby, a great way to spend some time outside with the wife and/or kids, so it's probably ok).

My dad used to have this problem, this "caring" issue. Once upon a time, he bought a 1991 Buick Park Avenue Ultra (just before the Ultras came with superchargers), brand new. On the second day (I think) of ownership, he was out showing it off by taking my mom, brothers (I was in college then), and my grandmom out to lunch, when someone in an old, beat-up station wagon changed lanes into the front of the Park Avenue. Turns out the guy was unemployed and uninsured, and said, "They make the hoods on these new cars too low, you can't see them." My dad never got that fender or parking lamp fixed - on purpose (it was still broken when he gave me the car several years later). It was a daily reminder to him that "things" are just that - "things." They're not what's important in life. (That's a lesson I still need to learn sometimes.) Years later he bought a 2003 (I think) BMW 525is (again, brand new). He was sitting in his office when a coworker came in, rather distraught, and said, "Ray, I just backed into your car." (She had a large SUV.) He said, "Ok." She was taken aback and said, "Did you hear what I said? I just backed into your car!" And he said, "Ok." Evidently he had learned... it was just a "thing" - and (although he did get it fixed this time) that's all it was to him now... just a "thing." Not something important, just an item, one that is only temporary anyway.

I guess I could have titled this post "inspiration in adversity part 3" (see parts one and two), although this was older adversity.

I guess I don't really need a Sony Xperia X1. Of course, I'll still happily accept one, if some benevolent feeling reader wants to offer me one whenever they come out. It would make my blogging away from home much easier... and then you wouldn't have to think ahead so much as to what to do with all your free time because I haven't posted anything in a while. Just a thought.

I guess that's all for now... but a question: if earthworms were on mars, what would you call them? (my answer: dead)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

First Post of March!

Ok, the first LBD post of March. I realized it's been a while... sorry about that. Friday we got our van (2006 Kia Sedona LX... not a lot of options on it, but that helped keep the price down - and it has the room we, a family of 6, need). Saturday was the AWANA Grand Prix (pinewood derby race) - we set up scaffolding at the end of the track, and I'm up there along with the announcer - I'm running the software I wrote to interact with the timer to keep track of the various heats and proclaim the winner of each category, although I'm pretty much rewriting it for next year. Sunday was church, of course, and I was pretty tired from the Grand Prix (and a rough week the week before). Monday (yesterday) I took off 1/2 day from work, spending it running around doing errands and stuff (wasn't really "off time" - just not at work), and then worked a bit late. Today we had the first day of a major customer demo/presentation, and I'm just overall fairly beat. Oh, and I still haven't fixed my Lexus yet... still borrowing a car from a family at our church to use for going back & forth to work.

Anyway, I thought I ought to at least put something out here, even if it's boring. Sorry about that. Also, I'm testing something on my blog page (I put the link there in case you're reading it in e-mail or on a reader or something) - over on the right hand side, you'll see "My WIMZI" - that's something that will let you contact me via AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) - that is, when I'm signed into my GMail account, anyway. That's where I do my IMing... through the Google Talk portion of GMail. And it will pull in my AIM connections, and connect to AIM, and you can now talk to my AIM account via my blog page. Cool, eh? Maybe.

I've also added the "Google Talk Chatback" thing (over to the left)... that's probably cooler than the AIM one, although it does pop up a new window (but that's probably a better interface anyway). Actually, I think I'd prefer you use that one... and I'll probably pull the AIM Wimzi off the blog page before too long (it takes up more room than the Google chatback one).

For those who may have missed it, Gary Gygax died today (Tuesday, 3/4/08). You may be familiar with that name if you've played Dungeons & Dragons (I'm neither endorsing nor condemning the game here - you'll have to make up your own mind), as he's the co-creator of the game (I think his name is cool... "Gygax"!). The guy had 6 children... that's even more than I have!

Ah, well... I'm a bit tired, think I may go to bed soon...