Archive for the ‘ unsolicited rants ’ Category

snow rant

Every winter I get in trouble with my Southern friends because I complain that the snow we get isn’t really snow. I’ve tried hard this year to restrain myself.

This last week we got the Big Blizzard of 2010 – an “arctic blast” as termed by the trusty meteorologists down at Channel 4. Stores ran out of milk and bread, school was called off for three days. My doctor’s office even shut down and canceled my appointment.

Snow removal trucks were sent out far and wide to protect us from deadly black ice, which comes in the middle of the night to steal away small children and pets.

Here’s a view down our hill after the big storm.  PS: All that white stuff is road salt to protect us from the 4 inches of snow that never did come.

how not to buy a used car

As you now know, I’ve gotten myself a new job. As such, the wonderful carpooling arrangement Steph and I have had for the last 3 years is being disrupted and we need to get a car so she can get to work. Unfortunately, the vast majority of my time off so far has been dedicated towards this end, and if I’m honest, this has been the most awful car buying experience I’ve ever had.

I’m now going to offer you a detailed case study on how not to buy a used car:

This is the story of how Steph and I purchased a lemon bomb of a terrible car and then blew $600 extra dollars on a car I never truly owned.

We started out two weeks ago with your typical internet searches and used car lot shopping. Our goal was something truly inexpensive – cash only – reliable enough to get Steph through for the next year, 10 miles of driving a day. We had some decent leads, but nothing remarkable. But then we stumbled upon a ’97 Infiniti i30.

The price was right: $2,500. The car looked good on the outside and according to the owner – a private seller – had been an extremely reliable car for the past two years. Now hear me through. Regardless of the debacle about to unfold, I still have no ill feelings toward the seller… he’s a good, honest guy and I think we both got sucker punched.

The Ill Fated Purchase
After a couple test drives we decided to buy the car. We were both comfortable with it, were aware of it’s known quirks, and were anxious to make a purchase because I was leaving town for the week.

Now it’s important to know that I, a fool from Minnesota, bought a car with the ‘check engine’ light on. Um, OOPS!! In my naivety I didn’t think that a ‘check engine’ light was a big deal, and in Minnesota it’s not. We don’t perform emissions tests in Minnesota and growing up it seems my family has always owned a car with that silly light on. It’s not a big deal – usually some obscure electrical fluke.

Well, in Davidson County, Tennessee they don’t treat the little orange light as obscure. As soon as we bought the car we took it to the testing facility where it promptly failed. The $10 test indicated that our Knock Sensor and Speed Sensor were failing.

Flailing Attempts To Fix Our Failing Car
We figured we should take it to the closest mechanic shop to see what was up, so off to Christian Brothers Auto. They charged us $85 for a diagnostics test – likely used a piece of equipment that cost little more than that – and told us our Knock Sensor and Speed Sensor were failing, and causing the ‘check engine’ indicator.

Estimated cost to replace both sensors: $938.

After gathering the bits of shattered bone lying on the floor from our jaws dropping, we hightailed it out of there.

May I Have A Second Opinion?
Since the car was in fair working condition I left town for my road trip, leaving Steph with the new Infiniti for the week. Miraculously it worked ok while I was gone.

Then on Friday when I got back we took the car to a local mechanic, recommended by a friend whom we knew could be trusted. He again charged us $75 for a diagnostics test and told us that the Knock Sensor and Speed Sensor were failing. Thank you for the insight.

But this particular mechanic did offer some helpful advice and cautioned us that these error codes we were seeing were likely the result of other hidden issues impossible to detect, most likely an imminent car computer failure ($800+ to fix). Our $2500 car was quickly becoming a $5000 money pit, just to pass the emissions test, and I guarantee this car was NOT worth $5000.

4th Down And 9: Punt
By this point we are quite angry and beyond frustrated. It’s clear we have to unload this worthless piece of junk – this ridiculous lemon of a car. So we went to CarMax to get a quote for dumping it.

$1200 is what they offered.

But that was before the alternator failed on our way out of the parking lot.

On A Search For Grace
Please understand the fury I am trying to restrain within myself at this point on a cold Friday night.

The long and short is I’ve got nearly $3000 sunk into a car that I’ve purchased and desperately need to get rid of. But I cannot even sell it!! I cannot sell the car because I technically don’t “own” it. I don’t own it because I can’t get a clean title. I can’t get a clean title because I can’t get it registered. I can’t get it registered because I can’t pass the emissions test. And I can’t pass the emissions test because total repairs will cost me well in excess of $2500. And this I can’t afford.

Reluctantly I call the previous owner who sold me this time bomb on wheels and explain my awful plight. I present a scenario where either he buys the car back from us at a reduced price, or he helps us sell it at CarMax (because we need his signature).

He requests some time to think about it. Steph and I go to bed stressed out of our ever-loving minds.

Meanwhile we begin shopping for another new car for Steph, knowing that one way or another the Infiniti is going bye-bye. We spend a better portion of Saturday traipsing all over Southern Tennessee used car dealerships.

And then somehow, in an act of charity I’m still trying to comprehend, the previous owner of the ill fated Infiniti calls and offers a full $2500 buyback of the car. Talk about dodging a bullet. In a moment of gracious weakness I offer to help him split the cost of fixing the alternator since it “happened on my watch”.

Adding Insult To Injury
My act of charity involves getting the car to an affordable mechanic to fix the alternator, so after some phone calls Monday morning I get the thing hauled to Firestone. $400 repair on the way.

I spend the rest of Monday and then Tuesday (today) shopping for cars (this time from dealers… no more private sellers). And I’ve learned my lesson here as well: demand that the car be taken to a mechanic for review.

Adding insult to injury, on my way back from a mechanic reviewing a car, I get pulled over by Nashville’s finest on Old Hickory Boulevard. This particular cop is unhappy that I am driving 50 in a 45, and is also curious if I can show the registration and proof of insurance for the car… which I explain that I cannot because it’s obviously a dealer’s car (hence dealer plates on the back). He is not all that amused and proceeds to cite me for all three offenses.

Total cost of the moving and non-moving violations: $162

Oh, then Firestone called and said the alternator on the Infiniti was fixed, but the battery is now dead.

New battery: $80.

Infiniti = Infinite Problems
I’m sure many people own Infiniti’s and don’t have a problem, but my two week experience was excruciatingly painful.

Finally this evening we made a purchase on a new car for Steph (an Acura), and we unloaded the Infiniti on the previous owner (which I feel bad about, but it was necessary).

So here’s a tally of the total damage…

Lessons Learned
I’ll leave you with these final tidbits of advice…

  • Never buy a car with the check engine light on; it will fail emissions test
  • Never buy a car without first having it checked out by a mechanic you trust
  • Don’t speed while test driving a car
  • Ask the dealer where they keep the registration and proof of insurance before you leave the lot
  • Kelley Blue Book and are your friend
  • Make friends with a mechanic – I highly recommend Tom Chubb at American Tire (Antioch) or Blake Sellars at Firestone (Brentwood)
  • Don’t buy a used ’97 Infiniti i30

culture shock

I had a disturbing conversation with Steph this morning that I felt the need to share. It started as an offhand discussion we had this weekend regarding race and marriage and whether or not it was acceptable for people of different races to marry each other.

Both Steph and I are from Minnesota, so I think our views of this are in general a little more accepting than maybe other parts of the country. Neither of us think that interracial marriage is inherently wrong. If two people love one another and they want to get married, then they should, regardless of what color their skin is.

Steph works outside of the city (Nashville) – that is to say, she works with a handful of true red-blooded Southerners. She decided to do a little investigation Monday and get their take on the whole interracial marriage bit. What she discovered really shocked me. I was naively living under the assumption that we’ve made great strides in overcoming racism over the past few decades in America. I was wrong. Here’s a smattering of responses:

  • “My dad would kill me if I brought a black man home for dinner.”
  • “My pastor taught us growing up that it was wrong to marry black people.”
  • “If you spend too much time with black people you start to act and talk like them.”
  • “The Bible says not to associate with people from different cultures.”
  • “I don’t want to hang around black people because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.
  • “There’s a difference between black people and niggers. There are some good black people, but then niggers are like the black version of white-trash, and it’s just not right to associate with those people.”
  • “It’s a sin for people of different races to marry.”

Allow me to be very clear here: If you agree with any of these statements you are wrong and you disgust me.

I cannot believe that in 2008 we are still using the Bible to justify our cowardly selfish racist mindsets. That is absolutely utterly shocking to me. I’m sorry I was so naive to think that we had progressed beyond this sick and disgusting state. I also can’t believe that I have to spend a blog post outlining why the above statements are the most ridiculous and stupid things I have ever heard.

Specifically my comments are aimed at white Christian Americans who find themselves agreeing with some semblance of the above statements:

God Does Not Operate On A Class System:
At the core of all these statements is this sentiment that one race is better than another – that somehow God has selected white American’s as the preferred culture of people, and all other races are lesser and degraded forms of the above. Sounds like a Nazi propaganda if you ask me… while we’re at it, should we weed out the blond haired, blue eyed folks and just do off with the rest of us?

When it comes to a “chosen” race in the eyes of God, I assure you it’s not white Protestant Americans… it’s the Jewish people of ancient Israel. This is a culture through which God first spoke and demonstrated his love – and wrath. What color do you think their skin was? The great thing for all races though is that he made His love accessible to all of us through the death and resurrection of Jesus… this is the reason we all get to share in the blessings of God. The Apostle Paul effectively tore down the barriers of race throughout his life and persistent ministry to those outside the Jewish culture. All are welcome at God’s table.

It Is Not A Sin To Associate With Other Races:
I’m having trouble figuring this one out – where did this idea come from that white people aren’t to associate with black people, or anyone else of another race? Since when are Christians isolationists? Weren’t Christ’s last words on earth “Go into all the world and preach the good news”? This doesn’t sound like separation to me… rather, this sounds like a command to start making some diverse groups of friends. And no, I don’t simply mean a four day mission trip to Columbia – the gospel of Christ is a genuine message of relationship that speaks to true lasting friendships and acceptance of people from all walks of life.

It Is Not A Sin To Marry Outside Your Race:
I understand that precedent and tradition have led to a general societal taboo of interracial marriages, and that is what it is. But it doesn’t make these marriages wrong. For Christian’s to take a verse like Genesis 28:1, “So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him and commanded him: ‘Do not marry a Canaanite woman,'” and then improperly conclude that God has commanded Christians not to marry individuals of other races are incorrect in their interpretation.

This command, and ones like it, speak to spiritual matters – not racial matters. The Canaanite culture of the time was known for their blatant disregard of God, and as such, it would not be right for a Jewish person to be married to someone who did not share their worldview and belief set. Likewise, it would be unwise for a Christian to pledge their life to an individual who does not share their beliefs, but again I emphasize, this has nothing to do with race.

It really saddens and frustrates me that thoughts like the ones I listed above are prevalent in our culture – it really irritates me that I’m hearing these thoughts from a group of self-professed Christians. I’m certainly not trying to say that Christians are “morally better” than the rest of society, however, Christians have been given an example in the Bible as to how we should treat and interact with the people around us. We need to strive towards this and as a faith-group set a positive example of how to treat those around us with respect and without prejudice.

You tell me if you think I’m out of line here, but I think you’ll be hard pressed to find an argument that holds water.

random monday update

I’m just going to tell you right now this will be a boring post. If you want to be really bored, keep on reading:

I go to San Francisco this week for a sales meeting with a fruit company. That should be interesting.

Gotta give props to Flash for the great recommendation on the band Stateless… really liking this self-titled album. It’s an interesting blend of Brit-rock, electronic trip-hop, and ambient soundscapes. There are elements of Radiohead, Massive Attack, and a hint of Sigur Ros throughout… all good influences.

While I’m talking about Flash, head on over to his blog to answer his question of the week about embryonic stem cell research. I don’t know what my answer is yet.

Twitter is interesting. I find this strange compulsion to broadcast my rageful inner thoughts on the thing, and somehow at the last second find the willpower to not press ‘send’.

I’ve heard of people having internet addictions. I wonder if I’m coming down with one.

Prison Break is over for this season. I really thought they were going to end it this time around, but looks like we will have another season. I like the show a lot, though the beginning of this their third season was a little far fetched. Oh well, just a TV show right?

Something walloped our house in the middle of the night two nights ago. Like really hard… I thought there would be a dent in the side of the house. There wasn’t.

George Bush Sr. “endorses John McCain” today. Goodie.

I agree with Tim that the Knight Rider movie Sunday night was an absolute travesty. I gotta admit that I was really looking forward to it, and also gotta admit that I couldn’t stand more than about 8 minutes of that horrendous show.

Tim also says piano playing is for stupid heads… yeah, I’m just gonna let that one sit.

the unfortunate character assassination of tim

It would seem that the only way to get Tim to comment on my blog these days is to write a scathing post in attempts to destroy his character and bring him to ruin.

Tim is a terrible human being. For one, he used to hate me. Aside from that he never blogs anymore. In fact, three out of his three last posts have centered around the fact that he never blogs anymore. It took him four months to say this three times.

In addition to never blogging, he rarely comments on my posts, unless of course he’s hungry, and on the way to the refrigerator stops by his computer to burn a couple calories typing. The end goal of this has nothing to do with commenting on my blog, but rather to justify himself for the pizza and beer he is about to consume.

Tim is therefore an awful person, and as such, he is placed in an terrible predicament. He can only do one of two things…

  1. He can comment on my blog in a feeble attempt to argue that he is not awful, or
  2. He can choose not to comment on my blog, in which case he proves that he is an awful person.

The truth is that Tim wrote a post today, and I’d really like to comment on that post because I feel I have some valuable things to say to him… but the fact is, Tim wouldn’t read my reply… in truth he won’t turn on his computer for at least the next three weeks because he is so busy sitting in his sewing room knitting sweaters for Frisbee teams and putting iron-on patches on jerseys.

in defence of bear grylls

Earlier this summer there was a lot talk in the media about Bear Grylls, his Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, and the accusation that he staged and faked some, if not most, of the events depicted in the show.

In truth I should have written this post a few months ago to lend my support to Bear, but the media reports kind of blew over, Bear made some statemtents on his own behalf, and so I let it go. Then Jon had to go and get me all worked up over it again last week, so this is for you Bear:

Many who have taken hold of the media reports on the Man vs. Wild point to three primary areas of question, which I’ll outline below. But first, those same people often point to a similar Discovery Channel show, Survivorman, as the better and “more pure” alternative to Man vs. Wild, and to that I will say this…

Man vs. Wild and Survivorman are different shows with different intents. I liken it to this analogy: Survivorman is a show about enduring the wild, purposefully, with only the bare essentials – kind of like a road trip without a map. Man vs. Wild on the other hand is like a wilderness “worst case scenario” – like a road trip where your car goes flying off into a ravine, completely destroys everything, and now you have to fumble your way out back into civilization. They’re both fine shows, and personal preferences may lead you to watch one over the other, but keeping in mind that the end purpose is different in each, and I think it’s a stretch to say one is intrinsically better than the other.

Anyways, the critics of Man vs. Wild have pointed primarily to the following three issues:

  1. Bear Sleeps In Hotels: They say that Bear sets us up to believe that he is surviving in the remote wilderness for a week, but instead sleeps in a cozy luxury hotel and eats blueberry pancakes each morning. However, the show has always stated in the opening sequence that in instances of severe danger or in matters of “life or death” Bear can receive help from his team, producers, or outsiders. If I take that for what it’s worth, then yes, there have probably been some pretty extreme nights out in the wilderness, and in the interest of human life someone made an executive decision to get the team out of danger. On the other hand, there have been plenty of documented nights in the wilderness where Bear legitimately set up camp and suffered through the night, and during some pretty rough weather as well. Case in point, Episode 3 – The Coasta Rican Rainforest – downpour all night long, and he was sick as a dog too. These instances of sleeping in hotels every night and eating pancakes are a little over dramatized by an overly-zealous British press.
  2. Bear Can’t Make His Own Raft: In one episode Bear escapes from an island using a hand-built raft, but whistleblowers “outed” him by indicating Bear had to be shown how to build the raft first, then it was torn apart and Bear built it again for the camera. I wouldn’t call this an earth shattering discovery… It is no secret that in each episode Bear relies on the wisdom of local survival experts at each location he is in, and these survival experts are credited in each show. Furthermore, Bear has indicated that he goes to each location several days early to get a lay of the land, meet with local experts, and confer on particular items that he may encounter while shooting the episode. I liken it to a reporter doing research – Bear does research by engaging with the locale first and then presents his findings during the episode. Bear just happens to be very qualified for this particular genre of research… it’s not like they threw Matt Lauer out there.
  3. Bear’s Remote Locations Not So Remote: Another aquaintance who is evangelistic on Survivorman being better than Man vs. Wild [what is it about you Surviorman people?] pointed out this YouTube clip. The clip shows a location on a Hawaiian lava field where an episode of Man vs. Wild was filmed, and then pans far to the left to show a road with cars driving on it, implying that Bear’s remote wilderness locations are in fact not so remote. We have to remember that Man vs. Wild is a television show, and this particular show is not intended to be a “diary” of a week in the wilderness [Survivorman]. This show is intended to demonstrate survival options – tools to employ if you are ever caught in a similar situation. Secondary to this, I believe, is the idea that Bear is out there on his own trudging through all of this hundreds of miles away from civilization. And so if on certain outings the camera has avoided showing certain roads, or buildings, or telephone lines for dramatic emphasis, then fine – it allows the episode to maintain consistency and keeps us focused on the actual content, which is how to protect your hands by climbing through the lava fields using your socks as gloves.

I’ll concede that the nature of the show likely set us up to believe certain things that weren’t necessarily 100% true. I’ve come to the conclusion that this wasn’t done with any deliberate malice, but rather was done in the effort to create a captivating and engaging television show to demonstrate “worst case scenario” survival techniques. Since the allegations I believe Bear has been very forthcoming regarding the history of the show, and specifically I would want you to read this very transparent posting from Bear on his personal blog as well as this article in Outside Magazine which clears the air on a lot of the issues above.

So let me end with this… Say what you want about Bear Grylls – call him a panzy, a fake, or the “adventure equivalent of a cheese souffle” for all I care – but first I want you to go visit your local zoo, find a fresh pile of African elephant dung, hold it above your head to squeeze the juice out and take a long hard drink.

… Until then, enjoy Man vs. Wild for what it is as you sit comfortably in your couch watching the Discovery Channel in your warm and heated house, eating pizza and drinking Coke. As for me, it is DEFINITELY time to be getting back to work….

i’m actually posting about weather…

Finally, a cool enough weekend where we can actually turn off the freakin’ air conditioner and open the windows. This summer has been long enough. The hottest on record they say, and I for one want to be done with it.

So, to celebrate, I’m going outside to play.

words i wish i never had to hear again in the context of work

Crossover Potential
5000 Pound Elephant
Value Add
Drill Down
Core Competencies

What annoys me even more is that I find myself using these ridiculous phrases in conversations during meetings…. WHY OH WHY?!? I disappoint myself.

some things i just don’t understand

The thing to drink down here in the South during a hot summer-time meal is “sweet tea”. For the Yankees, this would be known as iced tea with sugar. It is truly one of the most fantastic elements brought by Southerners to the world of cuisine. It’s addicting, and I could probably drink a gallon of it at a time if left to my own devices. The difference between sweet tea and iced tea with sugar is that the sugar is added to sweet tea immediately after brewing before it is served. For sweetened iced tea, the sugar is added by the drinker after it has been served – this is not sweet tea – this is a waste of time.

In my opinion sweet tea is the one and only way to drink cold tea (with the exception of an iced chai, which is something completely different). Of course the option is always available to you at a Southern restaurant to get unsweetend ice tea, but I believe this to be the most god-forsaken beverage known to man. It does not taste good. There is no redeeming quality to the unsweetend iced tea, and the Southerns know this.

Were you to walk into a restaurant and you wanted good old-fashioned sweet tea, you would simply say, “I’d like some sweet tea”, and they would know exactly what you mean, done deal, and your beverage is on the way.

But were you to walk in and say, “I’d like some iced tea”, they would immediately know they are dealing with a moron. Next they are forced to ask the question, “Would you like that sweetened or unsweetend?” Each day they set aside a few gallons of their brewed tea and leave it unsweetened for idiots. So you order your “unsweetened iced tea”, and what happens next – as soon as it’s brought to the table, you start dumping packet after packet of sugar into it. That’s just an excercise in foolishness if you ask me. And as for the unsweetend iced tea (left unsweetened)… why in the world would you take a wonderful meal and finish it off with a nice tall glass of crap? Why don’t you just blend up some chalk and drink that?

Sweet tea goes particularly well with certain types of food: Burgers, fried chicken, BBQ, catfish, etc…. you know, Southern food. Unsweetend iced tea is good for, oh, I don’t know… pouring down the sewer, dumping on your cat… water balloons. Some things I just don’t understand, and unsweetend iced tea is one of them.

bear grylls today; a short bed tonight

Was happy to see Bear Grylls featured on the Today show this morning – got to catch a glimpse of the new season and him crossing an Icelandic river at 40 degrees below 0 or something ridiculous like that. They should have had Matt Lauer interview him though… should not have prissy Meredith conversing with Bear… “oh my gosh, is that a worm you’re eating!?!? eww!!!!”

So Steph and I were laying in bed last night (don’t worry, this is a graphic as it gets), and she says to me, “Of all the blogs and myspace pages out there, I can’t believe no one has ranted about this yet… why are beds so short!?” And she has brought up a fine point. 1) We’re poor, so we have a full size bed; 2) I’m tall and my feet hang off the end of it; 3) No one has ranted about this before on a blog, so I shall today.

So what the crap? What is it with full size beds and them being so short? It’s not just a tall person problem – Steph doesn’t like having her head scrunched up against the top of the bed, so she sleeps down a ways as well, and her feet dangle too. I think they’re making a bad assumption if they think that tall people and non-head-scrunchers are the only ones that sleep in queen and king size beds. Respect the financially burdened and monetarily squeezed!! We need a bed just like the rest of America, and if we are to be productive in life and earn the money we need to make our eventual bed upgrade, we need to have a good night’s rest!! We cannot go through our nights with our feet dangling off the end of the bed while every day the trials of the world dangle our very lives before us!! This is a call to rise up! This is a call to support those who are forced to sleep diagonally each night while their wive’s are pushed closer and closer to that dangerous edge! This is a call to wake up for the sleep we all deserve!!!

Call your senator and voice your support for the “Longer Beds For Taller People (and shorter people who want longer beds too)” bill being brought before Congress this week.

Today you should listen to:
Travis “Under The Moonlight