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Friday, July 28, 2006
Back on my High Horse
I've written a post or two or three about gas prices, and I've been on the verge of writing more, but restrained myself.

No more. I've got to speak out. I can't believe that I'm the only one bothered by this.

Someone please tell me where my logic is faulty. A few facts (as I see them).
  1. Every year there are a bunch of new drivers.
  2. Every year there are a bunch of old drivers that stop driving.
  3. Taking 1 and 2, it stands to reason that the number of drivers from year to year should not fluctuate wildly.
  4. Gallons of gas sold. If anything, perhaps this number should be going down, due to the rising gas prices. Even if it is going up, there still shouldn't be any huge dramatic fluctuations because there haven't been any huge revolutions in travel.
So I reach a few conclusions: If the number of drivers is relatively constant from year to year and the number of gallons of gas used is relatively constant from year to year, then as long as the gas companies don't play with their cut too much, their profits should also be constant, regardless of the price of crude. Right? If I profit $0.10 per gallon, then it shouldn't matter if the gas price is $1.00, or $10.00. I still get $0.10. Keep in mind that I'm being VERY liberal in my use of the word "constant".

HOWEVER, that's not the case. The gas companies continue to post RECORD PROFITS. This tells me that as the price of crude is rising, the amount that the gas companies tack on is also rising.

What's the solution? I sincerely wish that his tirade could end with a ground-breaking master plan to reduce gas prices, but I don't know. The goverment types say "Conserve" and that even a slight reduction in the demand would force a drop in prices. That's asking alot, because most people don't drive for pleasure. We have places we need to go! The end consumers are not the problem. It's the damn gas companies.

I've said elsewhere that this is disgusting, so I'm forced to resort to the dictionary: This is an outrage, and an affront. Makes me want to buy a hybrid car, not in order to save money, because calculations have been done to show that you don't really save that much, but to not give my money to Exxon and Co.

This is what would make me happy: The oil companies should take their current projections for their end-of-year profits, and drop gas prices with the goal of just breaking even. Lay bare the ledgers for all to see. To tell the truth, they don't need the money. They made more than enough last year. They should do this as a sign of good faith. It would be like them saying "See, we're not making any money, and still the prices are high. It's not us. It's the crude."

Wishful thinking. It'll never happen.

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Monday, July 24, 2006
My wife and I just checked into a hotel for the night just outside of Atlanta.

Get this: The place has two floors...but no elevator. You have to use the stairs.

Weird, huh?
This IS 2006, right?

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Thursday, July 20, 2006
I gotta ask...
According to this article, 18 year old Haley Joel Osment was in an automobile accident early this morning, and is in the hospital. Haley, or Haley Joel, or whichever is appropriate, if you remember, was the star of the movie Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis.

From the USA Today article:
Actor Haley Joel Osment was hospitalized early Thursday after he apparently lost control of his car while heading to his Los Angeles area home, authorities said.

Osment, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as a boy who could see dead people in The Sixth Sense, was driving a 1995 Saturn about 1 a.m. when the car collided with a brick pillar and flipped, said Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Greg Sisneros.

Let's all hope HJ is okay.

My question is...(I gotta ask)...Why was he driving a 1995 Saturn?

I appreciate perhaps more than the average Joe that the guy's not 18 years old and tooling around in a 2006 S-Class. But a Saturn? A 1995 Saturn?

Come on, Playa!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Retrospect is 20/20
I've been mulling over this whole "Car breaking down business". I've reached some comforting conclusions.

Look at it from this perspective: The Caddy broke down AFTER I picked up the Ghia, and BEFORE I put it on the road to North Carolina for the Family Reunion. Imagine how I would have felt if it had broken down just AFTER the Ghia had stopped, and DURING the trip to North Carolina.

You might say that if it was definitely going to happen, then it picked what will prove to be the best time.

So maybe it's not such a bad patch after all! My first stab at a diagnosis is a bad battery, and that's easy enough to fix, so I think we'll be back in stride again very soon.

I'm feeling a little better now.

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So...where to start?

Okay...let's first generalize, and then go into specifics. That should work.

The Generalization

You ever hit a bad patch? You know. Your dog dies, and then you get a flat tire or something on the way to work, and then it rains while you're changing the tire, and then you get sick. To top it all off, you have concert tickets or something, but can't go because you're just too sick! That's a bad patch. I'm having a bad patch.

The Specifics
So...Friday night, I'm heading out to hang out with one of my boys. Innocent and commonplace enough.

Let me give some background info. I have two cars. The first is the first car I bought with my own money. A 1971 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia Convertible. Yellow. The second is a 1997 Cadillac Seville. Black. Two vehicles a world apart. The incongruencies, however, keep me balanced. When I want to be civilized, I drive the Caddy. It has luxuries like...air conditioning (that's a big one) and a CD changer, and leather. When I'm footloose and fancy free, I drive the VW. It's simpler. In some ways, more dependable than the Caddy. There's just not nearly as much to go wrong with the VW. I like the combination.

So anyway, this past Friday night, I'm heading out into the streets. I'm driving up I-20, and I'm in the VW. I'm chillin'. I'm feeling good. I'm relaxed. It's a Friday night, after all. I'm cruising pretty good, when all of a sudden, I'm slowing down. I'm still pressing the gas, but I'm slowing down. I pull over. The car stalls. Sigh. I take a few deep breaths. I try to restart. Sigh. Looks like I'm not going to make it out tonight. I call my lovely wife to fetch me. She arrives. We call AAA. The tow truck driver arrives surprisingly quickly. Maybe even quickly enough for this to be a AAA world record. But I digress.

Luckily, we're pretty close to the shop where I take the VW, and they have a key drop. The tow truck driver follows us over there, and as I pull into the parking lot - Sigh. The place looks like a bomb went off or something. One wall has been completely blown out. Usually there are like 10 cars of varying vintage parked around. On this night, there were 4. There's a sign posted on the door. The gist of it reads "Closed until further notice due to fire. Chase will be doing some things for a few weeks, beginning June 3. His phone number is...whatever" By this time the landlord has staggered out of nowhere, and he looks "half-there". He ensures me that it's okay to call Chase so late (by this time it's like midnight). Chase mercifully answers, and tells me that I can leave the car, and he'll take a look at it the next day.

At this point, we have not reached "Bad Patchdom", despite having my car break down at 11:00 on a Friday night. Keep reading.

So...I'm not worried yet. The beauty of having two cars is that when one breaks down, you have another. PLUS, it's much more graceful to go from the simple car to the luxury car, than the other way. Everyone isn't so lucky to have a backup that has the aforementioned AC, CD changer and leather. Anyway, I drive the Caddy through the weekend and Monday. I hooked up with Chase this afternoon, and get the VW back. Parked the Caddy at the rail station a block or two away from the shop, with plans of picking it up later, but for some reason I wasn't really pressed. He tells me the story of what happened to the shop. He's moving the whole operation. Cost to fix the Ghia: $60. Nice.

That's all well and good. I make it back home to spend a nice leisurely evening with my still-lovely wife. We decide to drive together in the morning, so that she can drop me off at the rail station to collect the Caddy. At around 1:00am, I'm antsy, so I decide to go for a ride in the Ghia, to help it get over it's hospitalization and get its confidence back. This will also give me a chance to go move the Caddy to a better parking spot, since it'll be there overnight.

The clincher is coming.

I pull up at the rail station, walk up to my car, and the car is...DEAD. Nothing. Caddys have remote door openers. Doesn't work. No problem, that's why they also have keys. Maybe I just need new batteries in the remote? I open the door with the key. Nothing. No interior lights. Nothing. I put the key in the ignition and turn. You guessed it - nothing. Sigh. Did someone steal my battery somehow? Nope. Still there. Did I leave my lights on? A door open? Shouldn't matter. It's a Cadillac. They're smart enough to overcome stuff like that. It's a mystery. So...what did I do with my dead Cadillac at an almost-empty rail station at 1:something in the morning? Nothing. I locked the doors, walked back to the VW, and drove away. I did look at the Caddy as I roared past.

Here in the aftermath, I have vain hopes that I was somehow temporarily pulled into an alternate dimension or something. A dimension in which my car is dead. The beauty of this temporary visit is its fleeting nature. Tomorrow, my car will be fine. Right? Probably not. What will I do? I'm not sure sure, because the simple truth of the matter is that I've already got a list of things to do tomorrow, and "Muck around with a dead battery." is NOT on it. This, my friends, is TOO MUCH. I REPEAT. TOO MUCH. THE BAD PATCH NEEDS TO END HERE. IMMEDIATELY AND POST-HASTE. TOO MUCH.

Thank you very much. Deep Breath. Be calm.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006
When is Too Much...Too Much? all know I just got married back in April. We're just now starting the dance with the gift registry stores. Tonight we visited Bed, Bath and Beyond. Relatively painless exercise. Perhaps the best part is that you can cash in gift cards for cash or return gifts for cash, although this may change soon. The worst part was that the young clerk had to cash in each gift card separately.
  1. Swipe the gift card
  2. Tell the register you want to exchange for cash
  3. Give the customer a receipt
  4. Have the customer sign the return receipt
  5. Clerk signs the receipt
  6. Manager signs the receipt
  7. Repeat for each gift card you have. (We had like 10 cards.)
But still, it was a smooth, if inefficient, process. They didn't balk at any of the items we wanted to return, and it we were able to order or purchase unbought items that we wanted off of our registry that weren't in the store at a 10% discount. Couple this with the 20% off coupons that everybody gets in the mail that gave us like $30 off our vacuum cleaner and $20 off our nice stainless steel trash can, and we did pretty good.

This post is about the vacuum cleaner - The Shark Professional Commercially Rated Upright Vacuum. It was relatively easy to assemble, but the maintenance is just crazy.
  • A monitor to tell you when the dust cup or the HEPA filter needs to be cleaned. (decent, actually)
  • A dust cup to clean (standard).
  • HEPA Filter (also standard, but after this it gets kinda crazy) that should be cleaned after EACH USE. If you clean it with water, then you must let it dry for 24 or else risk destroying your sharp-looking Shark. Even though you're knocking dust off of it and sometimes rinsing it out with water, you should still replace it every 3 - 6 months.
  • A debris screen. Under the HEPA filter looks like. This must cleaned with water after every use before putting it back into the machine.
  • A secondary filter. Actually situated between the HEPA and the debris screen. It's washable, but the Sharkies (that's what I'm guessing they call themselves) recommend that you change it every 3 months.
  • An exhaust filter. Located in the bottom of the filter near the motor. Clean it by rinsing under lukewarm water and allowing to AIR DRY ONLY. Put a hair dryer to it, and risk voiding your forfeiting your soul.
  • A pre-motor filter. Also rinse this in lukewarm water and allow to AIR DRY ONLY. The manual specifically warns against cleaning it an a washing machine and drying it with your sister's/wife's/aunt's/mother's/grandmother's/great-grandmother's/fiancee's/girlfriend's/live-in's/"just a friend"'s hair dryer. If this filter is particularly filthy, feel authorized to upgrade your water from lukewarm to full-on tepid and add a mild detergent.
I almost put the damn thing right back in the box when I read all this. If a simple vacuum cleaner comes with such directives, how long will it take me to read the manual when my wife and I bring a baby home?

I'm not making ANY of this up! I expected the next two rules to be "Don't get it wet." and "Don't feed it after midnight."

It is sharp looking, though. Looks like a race car.

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