Friday, April 27, 2007

Like always. Like never before. Like, someday.

Before I get started, I need to wish blogger Ariel, my dear friend Gabriella, a happy birthday a couple days late. I can't hold a thought, so remembered several days before the event but totally lost the thought on the day of. It's a subject she and I have had trouble with for years and I swore this year would be different. I have failed, again. Anyhow, I love you and I hope your day was excellent.

Today was the day I pretended that there's any zen in my life and went to the Saturn dealership to get my car tuned up. I know from previous experiences that one should pack a thick book, headphones, a hat with blinders at the sides, snacks, soda, and a thick wallet when one goes there for periodic maintenance. I had forgotten though that I should also bring a notebook for observations, and chose not to bring a camera because I didn't expect to leave the building (though I did see the wildest icicle light display you could hope for shortly before May Day). forest for the trees I checked my car in at 9am and told them that there were two items that needed attention: the engine doesn't sound quite right and hasn't since the day of my last tuneup (draw your own conclusions), and look at the brakes because they make a rr-rrr-rrrr sound when I slow down between 20mph and a stop. Louann, the counter person with the ample bust and foundation a couple shades north of her real skintone, told me all would be attended to and have a seat for an hour while they check stuff out.

I've spent many hours in this dealership in the nearly six years I've owned my SL1, almost all of which during checkups because my car has never caused me any debilitating trouble. I got it with 8 miles on it in August 2001, out of necessity (the ol' Grannywagon died a death), a month or two before financing rates went into the basement in response to 9/11's economic slump. It's completely paid off and my wife just bought a car a few months ago on a six-year plan, so keeping this beast running is important to me. The dealership has two waiting areas: one in the front near the sales force which has windows and two vending machines, and one in the center of the building with a large television, magazines, and free fresh snacks. I've learned over time that I prefer the one with the windows because I don't like their choice in no-one-is-actually-watching television programming and I'm happier without being around other customers or February's issues of Motor Trend and Time. I can watch traffic. I can watch cars come in for service. I can watch Louann smoke. (That was a buzzkill.) I can listen to other lovers of visual silence talk on their cell phones about their medications. It was okay when the cute well-packed redhead was doing it, she was easier to watch than TV, but the grandmatron later on who was comparing the effectiveness of Lunesta and Ambien when used in combination with her other meds, she inadvertently convinced me I could use more oxygen. The signs on both of the vending machines begging coin-inserters not to shake or pound the devices were ineffective, especially when the machines were approached by employees. I brought two issues of Funny Times and had half-filled my MP3 player, so I was good for at least a couple hours.

Louann stepped in after about an hour to tell me what they'd come across in the basic care and diagnostics of the car, seeking my approval to look further and do what I'd brought the car in for them to do. The estimate at this moment is $500, which is one or two hundred dollars more than it usually is, but whattaya gonna do? I settled back in with my tunes, enjoyed some more stories and cartoons and the redhead reading a backissue of Time, and eventually dug out the granola bar and Mountain Dew that I had packed. Louann stepped in after about an hour to tell me what they'd come across in the advanced search of why my car coughs in idle and first gear, and said they were not going to touch that issue(!) until a little more diagnostic work had been done; she sought approval to inject some ultraviolet dye into my engine somewhere to figure out where this leak was coming from, and I would need to bring the car back in 200-300 miles, at which time they could then fix the stutter, but in the meantime the motor mounts are worn and loose so those should be replaced. The estimate on what more needs to be done goes up another $400, but I have to get to work daily so whattaya gonna do? I settled back in with my tunes, finished my magazines, finished my soda, wandered around while the old lady discussed pharmacological interactions, and eventually (it's now noon) through the service department to confirm I didn't want to be in the other waiting room whereupon she said my car would be ready any minute now so why not pay for it now. Being Saturn, "any minute now" means the work was done fifteen minutes ago and now the 17 year old who is paid to vacuum the carpets and wash the exterior should be done leaving dirty streaks and missing the crumbs on your dashboard in ten minutes.

$402 in parts, $498 in labor, $79 in tax, and a question of "what if..." regarding the potential findings of the UV scope in a couple-three hundred miles -- $120 and an hour if it's just the cover, $1600 and two days if it's the cylander head (which is a rarity, she said) -- and my car materializes in the parking lot. It sounds exactly the same. Louann gets into the driver's seat and starts it up to demonstrate this fact. We say our goodbyes, and I drive around to another parking spot among the new vehicles so I can go chat with my auto agent Kerry who is about to finish a deal. 1954 - not standard equipment Kerry I trust, which is a compliment since he is a car salesman. I wanted to know whether Saturn was going to have some worthwhile hybrids coming out. At the moment in stock there's the VUE Green Line, which is an SUV that gets 32mpg highway and according to the literature is only electric when parked and uses gasoline to move, and available is the AURA Green Line sedan which gets 35mpg highway but there have been some technical issues so this dealership isn't hyping it strongly. Coming up in 2008 or 2009 will be hybrids closer to what some other brands already offer (electric at city speeds, internal combustion at highway speeds) as well as plug-in hybrids (yeah!)... and that's a span to wait when you may have a valid reason to trade your vehicle in by the time next year's model lineup comes to market. Kerry already grits his teeth that we didn't buy Paige's new car from him (but the same group owns both dealerships, they're two blocks apart), imagine how he'll feel if I have to leave the Saturn family due to their getting products on the market too tardy and the present lineup not using their electrical system for anything more than idling (which may be 30% more fuel efficient but is still totally dependant upon fossil fuel for its locomotion).

So today I spent $980.86 and three hours of my life, with more to come soon before they get to the real engine issue. And yet my car still goes rr-rrr-rrrr when I slow down at stop signs.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

sifting the sands of time (poetry with soundtrack)

[The intended soundtrack for this introduction is The Outfield's Since You've Been Gone, which should help some things make slightly more sense.]une petite chou, December 1984

Bear with me, my dear readers (both of you), because I'm going to break into freeverse which doesn't have to make sense to anyone but me. It'd be something (blessing? curse?) if meant something to the person I am writing about (obliquely? directly?)... but I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean to anyone, including myself and especially her. I haven't written anything poetic in ages, possibly because there hasn't been a lot I've needed to somehow say in years (blessing? curse? obliquely? directly?).

[The intended soundtrack for this writing is Meatloaf's Cry Over Me, which is surprisingly spot-on, in either timeframe.]
- - - -
there was a dream that drove me
when all around me was jagged edges and learning curves
I chose one who I felt was in the same sad space
and for awhile we made each other alive

it wasn't her job to validate me
but for a time she did and she got to dance as well
until she came to a point where it wasn't me
the jagged edges and learning curves took her

wanting something to exist doesn't always make it so
-- but sometimes it works for awhile

by the time I could understand
and she landed where she could see clearly as well
there was a different incongruency in our pieces
a whole different set of dangerous terrain

it isn't her job to validate me
but she could try and I would gladly return the favor
the space in time where we may have needed each other
either was spent elsewhere or has yet to be level

wanting something to exist doesn't always make it so
-- but someday it could work again

hey, wanting made it work once.

for the boy who never understood "yes" and "no"
and the girl who never understood "how" and "why"
who finally learned what those things mean...
and may have grown past having a purpose to know.

-m³ 4/22/07 11:22pm

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Any time you have 50/50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% possibility you will get it wrong

It's a fantabulous night for a moondance. All seems to be pretty good here in the neighborhood of make-believe, though not without some blatently stupid things going on around me. wily woman with whisk Such as yesterday's observation that the wall cabinets in my kitchen are 40 inches tall, while the largest one can special order is 36 inches and the largest ready-to-install or you-build cabinets I've seen in the big-box stores are 30 inches tall. There are a couple cabinet warehouses that might be of help, but they seem to have another stupid thing going: the all-wood unfinished ones you stain yourself only come in one door style, and all the rest with pretty doors aren't solid wood inside. Now I see why cupboard door replacement businesses have a niche other than in the remodeling-the-existing realm. Oh, and one other really dumb thing about cabinetry has surfaced, too. Every cabinet that I've ever been exposed to growing up had permanent shelves -- they sat on strips of wood nailed to the sides. Somewhere along the line someone got the idea that shelves should be moveable like is seen in assemble-it-yourself bookcases, and the primary way this is accomplished is by using plastic clips that get stuck into holes in the sides. That's just moronic, five to twenty years from now a lot of people are going to have shelves that don't stay up or flat because of broken mounts... and though the idea was portability, people are going to break those brackets trying to move their shelves. GRRR!!

And on that note, nothing more has been done in the home improvement arena lately but there has been plenty of research of tile (for the kitchen counter, the backsplash, the fireplace front, and for covering the painted-white brick of the fireplace) and lighting for the kitchen. [ten hours later: okay, we've purchased 3 of the 4 overhead lights, thus something has now been done lately.] I'd rather be buying Christmas clutter at the antique places, really. CWU educated janitor? But every so often that sense of my own mortality reminds me that I have too much crap as it is and a lot of it I don't use. I need to go nihilistic and strip myself of many of my material possessions that are just that, material possessions without actual purpose. Some call it Spring Cleaning, others call it dunging out the corral, and I've always been pretty lousy at getting rid of stuff. Others have always done it for me against my will and wishes, and it's preferable to the psyche to have control over such changes (especially since other people tend to throw out the valuable stuff, resulting in a peal of "do you know how much that goes for?!" or "but I got that from my great-grandmother!!" and other blood-angrying-up sentiments). A bit more organization would probably help, or as I look around my office, but this doesn't change the fact that I have two large dead CRTs that need to go to the recycler and three crates of items at my left that I haven't looked at in years... and you don't even want to know about my closet. I'll get to it. Sometime. The thought people have is "I have time", and I figure I do, but I also fear getting to a medical point (sickness or untimely death) or age where I can't physically do it. Don't want no clueless people pawing MY stuff yet again! Hopefully near the same time I dung out my life I'll get a will written so that the crap I keep can go to those who appreciate crap.

Nope, I don't know what either of these photocopies seen taped up around Ellensburg actually mean. But I love cryptic messages by photocopy artists. One of my favorite wheatpaste posters of my teen years, which I wish I had a photo of but lacked a camera, was in Post Alley in Seattle; it was a long-before-Photoshop heavily edited photo of an overjoyed person with her eyes replaced with quarters and a lot of money piled around her, with the single caption "Consumer Fascism".

Sunday, April 08, 2007

what is the sound of one heart clapping?

when you look at the past, the past looks at you... and sometimes it smilesSomething which I could not have predicted and never believed would happen transpired between There and Here. After I posted that last Stupidities entry, I checked my email and there was a fifteen-line poem from Karen, which was enough to seize my breathing. And the poem made oblique reference to something she'd told me in a letter nearly twenty-two years ago, which was enough to stop me dead in my tracks. Not only had she remembered me, she'd remembered what she'd said to me when we were seventeen. Never in my wildest. I wrote her eighteen lines in return, then described what had happened in my life since the summer of 1986. She wrote back a summary of her last two decades, and the conversation was established. Yesterday I drove a 290 mile round-trip to spend the day with her, talking on parkbenches and laughing in little restaurants. (And I now have the first facial tan of 2007.) It was nothing like what I'd pictured it would be over the years; it was good. To be fair, she wondered why I'd ever think it wouldn't be, other than how when we parted company long ago it wasn't on happy terms, and I guess I never pondered that particular question before... for the sake of self-preservation I didn't want to be optimistic and was self-critical, perhaps. She looks as good as she did back in the day, perhaps better, and definitely exudes more positiveness because she's found some peace and place in her life. My theory is that she's at version 4 of herself (1 is child, 2 is teen, 3 is adult adrift, 4 is adult grounded), and when I ran the notion past her she liked that description. Just like how you can't count sheep without wolves, you can't find yourself until you've been lost, and contrary to every hope I'd had for her since graduation she did find herself on the steep learning curve searching for her Happily Ever After a few times. We had a very good time together, asking those nagging questions and getting those closure-granting answers, and I took a lot of photos around town plus some of this pioneer cemetary I've seen a hundred times along the highway but never had the ability to visit.

So how do I feel, having looked into the eyes I've not seen in so long? For the longest time, on those rare occasions I'd let myself give the matter any thought, I feared the worst. (to qualify: I mean internally. It's hard to hear over your own mental dialogs.) I was quite happily wrong when it happened. ZENN in downtown Ellensburg WA I feel very good, though I'm still putting together some pieces. It's the moment I've been waiting for, and always mindful of the statement "be careful what you wish for, you might get it" I was not disappointed. I mean, my day was filled with all kinds of great serandipities -- I parked in a 2 hour zone and the ticket in the green jacket on my windshield said it was merely a warning with a $0 fine; when I was doing 82 miles per hour down the highway someone was coming up to pass so I got into the other lane to let them, and it slowed down once past me because there was a cop hanging out his door with a radar gun half a mile ahead, so I was saved from getting busted. I could not have asked for a better day, other than making it longer (which was an option, actually, because she invited me to her place for dinner with her family). I left town while it was still light out because I'd had about four hours of sleep prior to leaving home, so questioned my ability to drive after dark and after a meal (I like driving at night when I'm conscious!). Thank you, Karen, for surprising me all over again. Attached to this paragraph is another electric car, a ZENN Motors [ZENN = Zero Emissions No Noise] neighborhood vehicle, which passed me when I was walking down the street to my car and had parked next to me when I finally got to my car. It looks great but it seems to be a $12,500 car-shaped golf cart: it goes 35 miles on a charge and has a federally mandated top speed of 25 mile per hour. I want something like that but distance- and highway-capable... heck, update those government regulations to make that thing Pacific-Avenue-capable (where the speed limit is 35 mph) and I'd give it some thought.

Postscript: I got the 1950's-1960's advertisements DVD yesterday and have put two Bill Ding TV ads up on his pimpin' webpage [see previous entry]. They're 50 seconds each and 2.2 megabytes per file.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Real Live Stupidities - Fresh, Not From Concentrate

Greetings, citizens! I just got done watching the DVD of Who Killed The Electric Car? and it's a rather eye-opening film. Venturi Fétish In 1996 General Motors put out an electric car in California called the EV1 [Wikipedia] and would only offer lease options, not purchase. With the weakening of California's Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, GM quietly recalled all their leased vehicles and had them destroyed between 2004 and 2005. Only a handful of these cars survive, all in museums and engineering schools but with their batteries and controllers removed to neutralize them. I can't tell you how much this annoys me. I've said it before that the auto industry and the oil industry have a stranglehold on the American transportation market, preventing the thing the people demand and the government claims to want (despite constantly giving incentives to the opposite) -- cars that do not use gasoline. A similar fate was slated for the Ford TH!NK [Wikipedia] but there was such a protest that the remaining stock was sent back to its manufacturer in Norway rather than crushed. Same effect though: an energy-efficient vehicle has been taken off the American road where it was sorely needed. We have some amazingly backward-thinking people, government officials, and industries in this country.

Alternatives do exist but not supported by the big auto names, making them both expensive and rare. Image above is the Venturi Fétish [Wikipedia] [Homepage] from Monaco and below is the Tesla Roadster [Wikipedia] [Homepage] from the USA, which both get the equivalent of 125 miles to the gallon yet do not require gasoline. On the more affordable and better supported by the big names front, there are plug-in hybrids -- basically the same kind of gas/electric hybrid you see on the road now but that have more reliance upon the electrical powering so internal combustion is used as a backup source, rather than the present system of electrial at city speeds and gasoline at highway speeds. You can learn more about those options, and see images of the deleted pure electrics mentioned earlier, on Plug-In-America's website. -end of green rant-

As longtime readers know, I have a yen for the old advertising icon Bill Ding. I did a Google search for him the other day and on page 16 there was a mention of him: a website that archives old television ads and offers them as DVD collections listed one disk containing a TV ad of Bill Ding offering paint. Of course I must have this. The page in question, however, was an older one which still exists on the site's server but isn't linked on the site because the DVD titles offered have been changed. I did two hours of hunting on the site trying to find what happened to this video, "Trademarks - Classic Advertisements #1". Never could locate the video, and the search function on the site only looked for titles, not contents (for example, a search for 'chocolate' will yield nothing, but the description of "Candy Advertisements of the 1950's & 1960's" uses the word 20 times). So I did what the customer service area of the site ("[Our] customer service goal is simple: We are committed to providing our customers total satisfaction. Every time. Guaranteed.") suggested and emailed the powers-that-be about the Bill Ding ad. The next day I got a reply, simply stating, and I quote: "go to [the website]. the videos on DVD...not sure with volume, check list". First word involuntarily out of my mouth: duuuuuude! Tesla Roadster I replied pleasantly that this is what I've done, that's why I'm writing you and had a flash of inspiration -- I went back to the site, got the seven-page listing of the commercial DVDs (they offer 35 disks) which had the contents of each in their descriptions, and used the browser's Find function to search for Bill Ding... and it was on page 3, disk 17. Messy and impractical, but it worked. Okay, had to have, ordered. Can stand the $20 for the disk. Got the above-mentioned candy DVD for my wife's birthday too. Questioned why the shipping on two DVDs would be $12 since two or three or four disks cost the same thing to ship as one, which is a bonus stupidity.

My two plans for the weekend were to get a haircut and to give the lawn a haircut. With the return of the rains, I only got one of those trim-jobs done. My new shift at work (the 2pm-midnight 4 days a week) starts tomorow, and while you'd think I'd get to sleep in on my first day I have a dermotologist appointment at 9:45am so no.

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