Sunday, January 30, 2005

In The Dark With A Strobelight... Not Flashlight

It has been a very weird week, as previously noted. But. I also didn't know that I've pretty much been in the dark when it came to family issues. Found out that Mom was almost hospitalized with an upper respiratory infection (she also has emphysema which isn't a good combo) and she didn't go to work this week. I'm hoping that this thing passes because I do remember the days where she would take 5 minutes to get to the door dragging her oxygen tank behind her. She had been feeling so much better since her last neck surgery. Then my grandfather was hospitalized a few days ago after kidney failure. He's currently on dialysis (that on top of his diabetes, sleep apnea, hearing, heart issues and age) and feels his body is falling apart on him. After hearing about these things, I was jarred awake. I was able to go see grandpa last night at my cousin Sydney's birthday (also got to see Connor and Olivia - my nephew and niece respectively during the party.) Yes, it's scary thinking that you may lose someone but you also dwell on how wrapped up we get in our little worlds and that sometimes we have to remove the blinders for a bit. Should know more about grandpa on Tuesday... if I don't, I will probably try to run down to Boulder City to see them. I'll also try to stop in on mom as soon as possible.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Not Cooking With Gas

So, I'm driving home on I-95 and not far from the mall, my repair-proned Izusu starts sputtering. I still have enough fuel in it (just above the empty line and the gas warning light hasn't turned on.) I do what I can to get it off the road and think that maybe I'll get it as close to a gas station and take a look... didn't happen. So I park in front a strange house and look at the car. I'm able to start it but it sputters out. I recall having the list from the dealership mentioning the fuel pump may need to be replaced and it really didn't sound too good (almost like metal scraping) when I was pulling off the freeway. So, I give in and call the dealership and wait an hour and a half for a tow truck to arrive. I was lucky that they got their loaner car back so I wouldn't need to rent a car (even though I have coupons from earlier repair service claiming that they owed me a free day rental.) I brace for the worst the next day only to find out that the fuel sensor isn't working and is part of the pump which will cost $500 to replace. But, to do all that just to replace the dummy light that I became dependent on? Yes, it looks like I paid for towing and inspection of my vehicle because I ran out of gas for the first time in the car. Oh well... looks like I'm going to keep it as full as possible for the next year or so.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Putting The Eds In Educated

Yes, Nevada has been rated as one of the 'dumbest states' in America. It's also one of the lowest funded. Hmmm... go figure. But even though I'd like to see a state lottery to fund our education system (and not our residents going over the border to fund another states), I think there are a lot of other problems.

I was very lucky to go to a private school for the beginning of my education. It seemed fast paced enough to keep me interested but not enough to get lazy. In retrospect, I know that going from private to public school in 7th grade was a mistake. Maybe, heavy counseling or something may have helped. If you are used to reciting the works of Shakespeare and are suddenly performing the works of Shel Silverstein... there is a drop. Everything seems easier and you aren't working as hard as you once did. Once I got used to doing less, I watched as it got harder to keep up as my work ethic disappeared. I started to rationalize that homework was a sham and that you needed to either do as much as you could there before going home or try to do before you are asked to turn it in. It became a twisted little game. I do think about where my education could have gone and am content with where things went but... as I think about my niece and nephew, I hope that someone is watching our future generation a little more closely.

I've heard it said often that the goals of most parents are to make their children's lives better than their own so their children don't go through what they have. Yes, we probably have a lot less people walking 30 miles to school in snow without shoes but is our education system getting better or worse. If a family can't sit down at a dinner table for dinner, how much time are those parents going to find to call a teacher? At minimum, it'd be interesting to see more interaction with the faculty. I'd love to see a survey of how many parents can tell you their teacher's name.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Sweet Tomatoes

Yes, I am one of the pickiest eaters there are. I'll address that some other time but tomatoes seem to be on the top of my list of food issues. I don't like chunks of them in anything but blending it down into a sauce is the easiest way to fix that. I do believe it's a texture issue but you don't see me harping on high grit sandpaper. It could be the early impression of seeing my aunt put sugar on a sliced tomato and eat it. Who knows. On a similar line of thought, I also believe that everyone has their own one true tomato sauce. Sometime in their lives they are forced to make a decision over Ragu or Prago. It does happen (unless you are allergic to tomatoes for which you should discontinue reading) and it does sound silly but there are major differences. Prago does tend to be sweeter than Ragu. And I think that the only sweet thing about Italian food should be Italian ices... so I'm a Ragu man. Yes, there are more than two brands of sauce but none are more dissimilar. I figure that someone out there has probably even done a thesis on this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Everything Falls Apart

There was this song by Dog's Eye View with the title above that I tend to think about often. Things aren't made for status quo nor are they meant to zip by at imperceptible speeds. But, somewhere in the middle is life as we know it. The scratch-proof glasses will scratch, the removable media won't move, refined sugar will have something else in it... etc. And then there are cars.

The Izusu Rodeo went into the dealership for the fourth and hopefully final time. At this point, I was entirely pissed as I stared into the service persons eyes and asked, "Is it normal for a car to come back to you 4 times in a 2 month period?" The headlights were finally fixxed during the third visit... yes, third. But after driving home and then deciding to pick up dinner... the car wasn't turning over immediately. It took 4 turns of the key the first time and finally got to the point on Tuesday where I was praying for it to turn over. I at first blamed the new ignition switch (they felt was a problem) needing to be broken in. Of course, it would wind up being the starter. So, that's $1,600 for the first visit, $0 for the dabbling with wires on the second visit, $1,000 for the third trip (which finally fixxed the original problem) and now another $550 on the fourth. This smelled like something out of one of those consumer reports where a perfectly new car would be dropped off and something would be found wrong with it and something else would be loosened or "adjusted" to need repair soon after. Anyhow, the reasoning for the alternator going out was... "It was just time for it to go." Way too coincidental. After all this frustration built up, I called my insurance company (who originally had the work done on the car after the accident) who actually seemed as weirded out by the whole thing as I was. The local adjuster said that the $1,000 that I paid to get it back to pre-accident form will be covered by them and that they'd even be willing to pay half on the alternator. Of course, the skies parted and clouds disappeared... I even think I saw rays of light hitting the ground and little daisies sprouting (ok, it's winter but bear with me.) So, with that weight off my shoulders and some hope with the car, I am now looking at an interesting list the dealership came up with of other items on the Rodeo that need "attention." Oh well, I guess everything will fall apart and all we can do is try to put them back together hoping to not be grabbing our ankles during the whole process.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

What Lies Beneath

Scientists have long wondered about what kind of fish species thrive in the oceans depths that have yet to be discovered. Some of that was solved when the tsunami occurred. The shifting of the two tectonic plates not only raised and lowered land masses but it also killed a lot of sea life that is now just beginning to float ashore. A Russian blog site has been posting some pictures of what have been found. Do remember that it is in Russian and will take time to load due to heavy page views (and the fact that it is in Russia.) But after seeing some of these marvels, it makes you wonder about what else is out there. What other life forms are hidden here on earth while we search the cosmos? It makes me remember the more recent rediscovery of a coelacanth by some fishermen in 1998 in Indonesia. Hmmm...

Ok, it looks like it was a hoax. But not entirely. The photos were taken earlier than the tsunami but the sea life were really found and exist. Here are the other photos.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Where All The Unwanted DVDs Go

My normal Tuesday agenda is to go to Best Buy and check out the latest releases. "Street date" is a media business term used to spread equality through the retail stores by having one day that the movie, game, album or other item is to hit shelves on. Breaking street dates can actually be a hefty fine (I've actually seen the people that look at the new items and their placements in the stores on Tuesday.) But sometimes Best Buy doesn't get their items out by street date. Sometimes it's because it is in back for some odd reason or they just aren't getting it in. So when I don't see the item I want there, I start looking around.

So I went into Suncoast Video yesterday to see if they had what I was looking for. (Yes, I actually check online to find out street dates and get an idea of what is coming out that week... kinda cool to have Tuesdays off.) After deciding not to spend $30 on a DVD with 3 episodes of a series on it (yes, $10 a freakin' episode), a sign caught the corner of my eye saying Used DVDs. I find out later from the sales person that they are testing it out in that particular store but they buy used DVDs (you get more for store credit than cash) at sometimes a real bargain... for the store. Anywhere from $.50 to $10 depending on the title and popularity. But, if you have DVDs that you will never watch again and know that you will never get a decent price on eBay for them... it becomes a way of trading them in for credit and picking something else up. So I went home and looked through my enormous collection and pulled aside a good (or bad depending on how you look at it) 20 or so DVDs and brought them in today. Now, I just need to watch and see what else they get in so i can fix holes in my collection. Found a few DVDs for $10.99 that weren't too bad. Oddly enough, I didn't see Glitter or Gigli anywhere in the area so maybe beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

My Favorite Book Series

I knew at some point that I would have to talk about this and there is no better time than the present. I got hooked on Brian Lumley's The Necroscope in about 1990-1991 when a roommate was reading the series. What wasn't there to like for me. Vampires, horror, sci-fi, the paranormal, revenge and all other goodies. For those that haven't read it: It's set in Britain during the Cold War 1980's and about the mysterious Harry Keogh. If you think about all those people out there that can bend spoons, find missing items, forecast the weather, tell your future and contact the dead... what about someone that regularly talks to them? What do they see, know, feel or say? But then, it brings in a very unique vampire mythos that can make you rethink some of the other stories we have heard. I'm not going to spoil the series for you but there are 5 books in the first series, 3 in the next, 2 that fill in the blanks between those and a separate 3 that I shouldn't tell you about because they may spoil the previous books.

I was lucky enough to go to a book signing with my friend Teri where we saw Mr. Lumley. He and his wife are very nice people and they even asked several of us if we wanted to go to the food court and join him for lunch. I felt pretty bad about all the books I had signed (including my prized possession of his first published book) and the attention he was getting that I had his wife sign next to her husband a paperback of the first book. I've yet to hear someone read the first book and not want to check out the others and if anything, I've created a few fans for the series. But I think 13 books is all we will get. If you want a story that doesn't end, you'll have to look into Zanth.Posted by Hello

Monday, January 10, 2005

Let It Melt, Let It Melt, Let It Melt

Some people seem surprised that I grew up here in Las Vegas. They seem to think that everyone moved here in the last 10 years. They have... but some of us had to pave the way. I tried to move away but discovered that I hate the cold. My father was a smart man. As a tennis pro, he said, "Where is the city that gets the best weather?" You can't work your profession in snow. If anything, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't made for lower temperatures after attempting skiing and moving to Reno for 6 months where "black ice" is a normal thing on the road. I love the heat. I remember as a child that I'd use an electric blanket throughout the year. So, as you see the picture in a previous blog post, I was pretty shocked to see the snow. I've only seen it here in Las Vegas about 3 times. Snowmen melt really quick. Maybe, I'm just an indoor person -- housebroken and loving it.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

A Very Tired Marten's Breast Babbling

So, I went out late last night to help out my aunt and uncle (it's hard to call them that knowing they are my age) by doing some repair and maintainence on their home computer. (Yes, on top of my obsession with 80's music, I also try to learn everything I can about personal computers and pro football.) Got there a little before 9pm and the computer needed severe CPR. Norton Anti-Virus 2005 missed about 22 contaminated trojan horse files that were having fun with the machine which was slow to reboot after every change. I put AVG Anti-Virus on, installed Mozilla Firefox, added Spyware Blaster 3.2 and did a major clean-up of spyware, viruses and other hidden goodies with my eyes closing on my at 2:30am. I dashed home and moved as far away from my alarm clock so that I could get maybe 2 hours of sleep before it went off (still had to work). Was amazed that I woke up on time, got to work and didn't pass out. Left work a little early, headed home, layed down for an hour and watched the Chargers lose in overtime. Typed this up and am heading to bed. I can actually say that I'm going to dream about sleeping.

Before I went off on that tangent, I planned to talk about the female anatomy a bit. It was funny to see that I had the topic in mind when I went off to visit a mystery blog and ranted on there for a bit. But, I'm outing myself as a breast fetishist. No, it doesn't mean that I dream areolas and cleavage or have them on my walls. It does mean that I'm not staring at your butt or legs as you walk by... it means "I'm waiting for you to finally turn around." Knowing this, my friend Dion sent me this nice little link that brings me back to gradeschool and a song all of us know and love: Anyhow, I'm happy to out myself and get that off my chest.

Friday, January 07, 2005

1st Las Vegas Winter @ The Hennessy Residence

No, no, it wasn't pretty out at all. As you can see from the photo... it covered every inch of my house. Was interesting to find out that my DirecTV dish doesn't work with snow on it. Had to go out there on a ladder to brush it off to get a signal. I feared that something might not record on the Tivo if I didn't fix it ASAP.

I know the olive trees in the back have to go but I started thinking that maybe letting the birds eat the olives that dropped was a good thing for me, my yard and the circle of life itself. Until I saw that with all the fallen snow around my yard, there were dozens on under my patio cover crapping their digested olives all over my yard furniture. Not cool. So I tried scaring them away every 30 minutes. Then I decided to use a hose and remove any olives from the patio to keep them off of it. My luck improved later that night when the weather got better. A local or stray cat decided to visit my patio and I haven't seen a bird since. The olive trees are not long for this land.Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Where Does It All Go?

You know how it works: a little bit of cold medicine and it's time to type in the blog. I'd like to take this moment to talk about auto dealerships. They pretty much have a monopoly. Once you buy a car from them, you will at some point have to see them again. Currently, my car is at a dealership after it was repaired after an accident. Let me reiterate that: my car is at a dealership after it was repaired after an accident. Essentially, some mysterious force affected my car after the accident (but not caused by it) for which it needs "special attention." So, my car was paid off beforehand and being considered an older vehicle it means only a dealership can get ahold of the parts that I need. Usually, getting them in requires a freight charge (can you believe it cost $150 to ship a cable?) but they are the only people who can get it. Now, after the repair following the accident, my headlights go off while I'm driving (safe huh?) and a neat burning smell follows a clicking sound in my right dash.

The first time it went to the dealership they discovered a corroded battery cable and a leaky valve seal that was dripping oil onto my alternator which in their words ruined it. $1600 plus another $150 in car rental. But after getting it back, the same problem occurs. Already, I know that they didn't test it or they like me pissing $1700 away (of course they do, they are a business.)

So, I drop the car off a second time and I call to find out the car is fixxed and it was a few loose wires in the dash. I guess I feel lucky because they didn't grab for my wallet as I left. I get the car back right before Christmas so I can now go shopping for presents and upon going to a McDonalds drive-thru... my power windows don't work. They actually cause the same headlight issue. I call and they mention that during the holidays that the staff isn't at full force and it'd be better to stop by next week (I have Mondays and Tuesdays free.)

So, I drop the car off again for a third time. The second day they are looking at it they discover a section of wires that are shorting out and causing a buringing smell (like the one I described to them a long time ago) and that two soldering points on the ignition switch are broken. This will come to at least $900. This might be fixed by Friday but I'm not holding my breath.

So, if I had taken $4,000 from the insurance to total the car, I would still have to make payments on something new but I wouldn't have the guesswork involved in taking it to a dealership. You would think that they can do better than guess. So, I'll be financing $2,600 on cards etc and can look at that as a form of car payment or 10 payments of $260. But then again, that is if I don't have to bring it back to get the original problem fixxed.

In retrospect, I don't hate dealerships. It just makes me want to own one so I can extort money out of people for not doing what they are paid for.