Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lights, Camera, ...Deception


Feeling compelled to weigh in on the story of a hoax that played out in Carbondale, IL regarding the
fictitious serviceman Sgt. Dan Kennings who was purportedly separated from his daughter Kodee. Now I could go off on how it points up lazy journalism and the school's reputation, or do a whole little thing on hoaxes and urban myths, or even compare it to the Jessica Lynch story…

But I’d rather focus on a specific part of the above linked article – the part where the little girl’s parents allow her to go to other states with a woman they barely know under the pretext of making a movie.

Let’s assume for a moment these parents are not in on the hoax. This means they were so trusting (or blinded by an imaginary Hollywood limelight) that they would allow their daughter to travel unescorted by a family member to a movie taping. I find this hard to believe, but stay with me. Can you see every child molester who hears this story developing the perfect crime?



Yes, I’d like your child to star in a movie! It’s shooting in another
state. At night. It’s a horror movie that takes place in the woods.

Why thank you, of course I’ll have her home right after Labor Day to start
school…

Or better yet: It’s a movie about an abused child. And of course it will be very realistic…


Also, did you notice the parents thought she was shooting a documentary? What part of documentary means actors? I suppose you could do a ‘reenactment’ of a true event after the fact, but again, that doesn’t quite say documentary to me, so I think the parents were either very dumb or in on the prank for a few bucks. What ten-year-old thinks a movie is all ad-lib? No script, no retakes? Again, hard to believe.

Let’s all applaud the Tribune’s efforts to find the truth behind this event, and hope they go on to expose others.


Killer Bees?

Who knew bees were carnivorous? I thought they flew around sweetly all day pollinating apple trees or something. Not anymore.

Came home from work and set about making sure the turtles had fresh water and food. On top of their chicken-wire outdoor enclosure lay a dead song bird. This is not unusual, as many birds fly into our picture windows with such impact that they never recover.

I leaned closer to see if I could determine what type of bird it was, and was greeted with a grisly surprise. The beak was hanging by a thread, and there was no head of which to speak. A pink brain was still attached to the spinal cord, all of which dangled from the otherwise intact body. A swarm of bees was furiously working on the neck and shoulder area, and I can only surmise they will strip that of flesh as well. Bleah! It was so gross, I was temped to display a photo of it here.

Meet Me in the Coffee Lobby


Hey, I know! Let's get Coffee declared a vegetable, just like Ketchup! That will give us the caffeine boost needed to climb to the top of the food pyramid where those scrumptious fats and sugars reside. Plus, we'll be able to serve it to school children! No child left behind!
Or in his seat.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization


Forget those annoying fruits and vegetables. Seems the healthiest thing most Americans do is visit a Starbucks-as evidenced by a study saying
coffee provides more healthful antioxidants than any other food or beverage in the American diet. Mmmm! Make mine a Free-Radical fighting Rainforest double mocha latte, please! Can the study linking Diet Coke with Lime to increased I.Q. be far behind?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Didn't Miss Much

Spoke to some ladies who went to the big Foreigner/Bad Company concert held at a local airport. Bad Company? Like Paul Rodgers? Not quite, they explained. Each band had only one original member in the line up. They said the Bad Company part wasn’t so bad, but the wait for Foreigner was forever and they couldn’t see anything. Everyone was on lawn chairs and blankets spreading back from the stage. They were so far away all they could do was listen, and it wasn’t that great. Loud, but not great. Said there was too much set-up time between acts. They got cold and hungry and left early, despite paying $33 to sit on a runway. Glad I missed the whole shebang.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's a Swing and a Miss


Drove an hour back to the Acura dealership to try out the automatic 160hp cheapie model. First off, it was the most hideous shade of bright blue I have ever seen. Yuck. The car itself was lackluster, and reminded me too much of the Toyota I am looking to unload.

Mr. I’m Just Here to Support You, Right? showed up and I explained the base model wasn’t good enough. Also, it was a 2006. I thought it was going to be a 2005 left over from another dealership. No negotiating leverage there. So I ask about the orange one in the window, the one I really wanted all along. It now has a ‘sold’ hangtag dangling from the mirror.

A) they put it there because I tipped my hand the last time I was in and had admitted I liked the orange one, and nothing creates interest like perceived unavailability, or
B) it was actually sold

I asked Skippy to find out if they could locate another orange one. (Now on the net I had read of dealers that were too lazy to import the car a buyer wanted and figured they’d just take what was on the lot. The buyer drove six hours to get the car and felt it was worth it.)
He came back and said they could sell me the orange one; the buyer had failed to materialize.

A) they were calling my bluff, or
B) they knew there were five other orange ones in the area and should I buy one, they could have another sent in overnight

I took another test drive of the RSX S-Type and did like it better than the automatic. It’s far from perfect, but I really need to give up on the ‘perfect’ concept here, or I’ll be selling cocaine with John DeLorian to finance my own marques soon.

Unfortunately the last time I drove the WRX was like last October so that test drive was not fresh in my mind for comparison, but I really need to make a decision here. Car was sticker priced at $24K and change, and Skippy ran off to get an estimate of trade in value for my car.

I insisted on having my car keys back before negotiations began. He asked if I just wanted to know what my car was worth. No, I assured him, I want to know how much the RSX will cost. They offered the same insultingly low price as Subaru (they must have the same Big Book of Dealer Rip-offs to Consult – brought to you by the same folks who do college text-book buybacks).

He came a whopping $975 off of list price and had some outrageous add-ons – like $495 for floor mats and mud flaps. Give me a break. Here’s where my version and Mr. Right Like I Remember It’s diverge.

He says Skippy was willing to come down about $1600. I say Skippy made no promises, wrote nothing down, and said things like ‘maybe’ and ‘perhaps’. His figures varied widely. He never once said I can give you $ more for your trade, or anything like that. He wanted to argue they didn’t have that much profit in the car, etc. I shut him down.

(Don’t waste my time, I think. Your numbers are imaginary. I’m not that dumb. Also, it’s the end of the month, this is a 2005 car and I see you are getting the 2006’s in. There’s way more you could do.)

So we end up sitting in silence for five minutes. The one who breaks the silence loses, so I don’t know what to do next. Mr. Right helps out by saying he thinks they could do $1500 better. (I think they could do $2K better). No, I say, they could do way better. I offer him $4K less than his asking price. He says no, he can’t do it. Ok, I say, and we leave.

Mr. Right says he thought I didn’t want the car. I say I did, I just thought that if I made a real low offer we would dicker back and forth and meet in the middle, $2K less. He says I didn’t give Skippy a chance to negotiate, I made it impossible. I say I never felt that, I felt he let me walk away. At any rate, it was a great moment in poor communication skills. Nothing like an impatient negotiator meeting up with a crappy sales person. I wasn’t listening; he wasn’t trying to find out my true demands. Oh well, win some, lose some.

Bet Skippy calls tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

TMI, NEDM*

Potential Purchase?


Time for another edition of “I Can’t Decide Which New Car to Buy”.

Yeah, I know, there’s a famine in Africa, a war in Iraq, unrest in Israel… and all I can whine about is what twenty-five thousand dollar car do I want to buy. Deal with it. It’s all about me, remember? Anyhoo…

Ah, the good old days. There was only one model: T. Color: black. Not much option there. Things were simple. But boring. Very, very boring.

I love choice. I like to think I’m getting something that suits me. Welcome to car buying in the twenty-first century: thousands upon thousands of makes, models, colors, options, engine types, finance agreements and incentives. This dizzying array of decisions can slow down even the 92% of buyers who think of an automobile as nothing more than transportation. But throw my mindset into the mix, and you’ve just asked for ten months of trouble.

A car is not merely transportation in my book. It is my persona, my public face. It says I’m way cooler than you could ever hope to be. It says I love to drive. It says I love to wash and wax. I love high payments and crappy gas mileage. I hate snow. Who needs a blog when you drive a rolling billboard of your Weltanschauung and insecurities?

I do believe there are several area car dealerships that have me on their no-hang-up list. This means if I walk onto your lot, do not end that phone call to your spouse, since I’m just going to browse anyway. I will test drive every permutation of every make on your lot only to say two hours later that I need to think about it.

Pontiac? No. They stopped making the Trans-Am with Ram Air, so at least that inappropriate choice is out of the mix. But the Sunfire, Grand Prix and G6 failed to impress.

Ford? Other than the Mustang, they fail to inspire.

Chevy? Can I even look at a cheap one with that Vette four feet away?

Toyota? No, not that happy with the Celica.

Mazda? Nice, but consumer reports gave it poor reliability ratings.

Dodge? The Charger is too big for me and the Neon too cheapo.

Nissan? Too big.

Subaru? Perhaps. I’ve been mulling that one since last October.

Acura? Getting close. Trying out the RSX line in the hopes of making a commitment soon.

I decided to research the RSX vs. the Subaru WRX online. I stumble across chat rooms where the debate rages – who knew? Seems these are the two premium sporty autocross choices with legions of followers who are only too happy to defend their choice. I spend countless bleary-eyed hours far into the night reading testimonials, tire recommendations, performance tips and the like. Seems the RSX needs better tires if I am to drive in wet and snow. Some claim the WRX turbo has too much lag and is too high – maintenance. Bottom line: both cars need high octane gas and are in just short enough supply that dealerships can treat you like dirt when buying one. Why me?

I always pick the expensive, difficult car that I have to drive to the ends of the earth to obtain. I must secretly enjoy the challenge; otherwise I would have bought a Ford Taurus long ago.

So the nearest Acura dealership is some forty miles away. Mr. You’re Going to Make Up Your Mind Soon, Right? Was kind enough to go with for another exciting round of test-n-think.

We enter a very plushy and upscale dealership. After my usual grubby experience at the local Toyota joint, this wooden-floored-black-leather-couched showplace is a welcome change. I ask for Dan, who spoke with me on the phone before my visit. He turns me over to Skippy the trainee.

Skippy is all of twenty and has no clue. About anything.

I tell Skip that I would like to try out one of the RSX’s. I can’t stop fondling the orange one on the showroom floor. I really like it. This is a good sign. It’s an obscenely expensive impractical race car in a hard-to-find color. Yep. This will be the one I will make an offer on. I can see it now: no agreement is reached or I will wait so long it is sold and I spend the rest of my life trying to find another orange one at the price I want to pay. I never get the first one I negotiate for. That would be waaaay too easy.

So we pile into a sedate grey version and go for a spin. The six-speed gear stick is the smoothest and easiest shifter I have ever driven. The car glides. You can’t even tell it is a manual transmission. The six speeds are confusing me however, and the tight pattern has me picking the wrong gear a third of the time. Of course, I would get the hang of it after two days or so, but on a ten-minute test drive there is no time.

I apologize for the missed gears and bring the car back to the front of the dealership. Usually the dealer is very picky about how the cars are parked for display and insists on parking it themselves (too many people hit things while backing, I’m sure). Skippy asks if I can park the car, since he can’t drive a manual transmission. Boy, glad I apologized for that missed gear, huh?

Skippy is very proud of the sub-woofer in the trunk. I’ve since learned from my net buddies that it is there to drown out the tire noise. I ask him to write down the vin # so I can insurance-shop. He fumbles for a scrap of paper. I observe that perhaps his business card would be a good place to put it for me. I am surprised he has a real business card. Maybe all the twenty-somethings have the same John Doe business card. I should corner another one and see.

Skippy asks what brings me to his Acura dealership. You’re the only one for forty miles, I observe. Why couldn’t you put any in...? and proceed to name several huge markets near me. So, how long have you been looking for a car? Since last October.
This guy couldn’t sell a side of beef to a starving cheetah. He just missed a chance to not only sell me a car, but an entire franchise.

He says he will call when they get the base model with an automatic transmission in so I can try that for comparison. This of course would be a much better buy: better on gas, insurance, cheaper list price, etc. Sure enough, he calls me today and now I have to make the commitment to driving back over there. I hope he has been reading his little sales manual. I really need to make an offer on something soon.

*Too Much Information, Not Enough Decision-Making

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Better Than Employee Pricing


Remember the good old days when you would buy a new car and they would give you a full tank of gas free? I think I deserve a new car with my next fill up....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Weapon of Mass Distraction


Seems infants have been denied boarding on flights because their names are the same or similar to those of possible terrorists on the government’s no-fly list. Well, I don’t know about you, but I think toddlers in general should be on a no-fly list. Think a plane jacking is going to wreck your day? How about suffering through an international flight seated in front of eighteen month old bent on kicking your seat, screaming and throwing up on the back of your neck? That would be enough for me to commandeer a jet air craft and crash it into a nearby skyscraper.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Would You Like Outrage With That?



Credit or Debit?
-Beep-
Credit

Would You Like a Car Wash?
-Beep-
No

Would You Like to Use Your 401K to Pay for This Transaction?
-Beep-
Yes

Stopped at the gas station as my gallons-per-mile monster wanted to be fed the good stuff. This car says ‘Feed Me’ more often than Audrey II. Paid $2.75 a gallon for 93 octane and ended up with a bill just under forty dollars. This is disgusting. How can you invade an oil-producing nation and have any oil to show for it? Wake up America. Oil interests are running this country and are making us suffer so we will let them drill anywhere. National forest? Sure. My back yard? Eminent Domain. Darn convenient how no one has ever made the refineries maintain, upgrade or add to their holdings. Perhaps I can squeeze a few oil-soaked ducks into my tank. Meanwhile Korea is cloning dogs (Wonder what they’re up to a few degrees north?) and Iran is laying in a store of peaceful plutonium, yet we don’t say boo to them. Get in your SUV and drive to the polls, people. Try voting for someone who can win a war and is not afraid to keep the spoils.

Vintage Vette Virago

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Excuse Me?

From the Aug 2005 issue of School Library Journal:


"Being a fustrated writer is not a reason to have a blog"
Alice Yucht, educator and blogger


And what would be your point there, Alice?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Happy Birthday to Mr. Always Right

You shouldn't have, honey...

I'm telling you,
I'm NOT wearing the pink shirt!

So it's not Starbucks. So sue me.


Is there a recipe for this?

Going out to eat: safer than the drive there.

Still Here Blog

Sorry I’ve been too busy enjoying the heat wave to post. Watching gas climb to three dollars a gallon takes too much out of me for other pursuits. Stay tuned for a future post regarding all the media reports I’m seeing about how the high gas prices are not slowing drivers. Preview: Are high drug costs decreasing the cases of cancer?

In other news, I just bought the new Alice Cooper CD “Dirty Diamonds” and will give a full review soon. On the book front, I’ve read The Secret Life of Bees and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I give it four paws up. Ha ha. Get it? Never mind.

Bees: Well if ever a book had “Oprah! Pick Me!” written all over it, it is this one. Not only does it have Oprah Book Pick written on every page, but it also has “Oprah! Buy the movie rights! Produce, Direct and Star in me!” between every line. That said, it’s an OK book. Good. But not great. I was hoping for more twists, drama, etc. For example, I was hoping that it would be revealed that the little girl’s mother was the reason for June being left at the altar years ago. Things like that. No such luck. Boilerplate happy ending. But it was tempered with loss and facing the truth, so it was supposed to be profound and bittersweet. Whatever. Hope Oprah gets an academy award.

Dog: This is the (very brief) novel told from the point of view of a fifteen year old autistic boy who discovers a murdered dog and sets out to find the culprit. It was an interesting story device and in the short span of pages, there was no time to become bored with the premise. Not bad. Again, this was a blockbuster that has lingered on the best seller charts for quite some time, released in two covers: one for adults and one for teens. The book certainly has wide appeal and was good. Again, good, not great.

What is great? Great is my blog. Have you been telling all your friends about it? Hmmmm?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Birthday to Be Blog


Apples, Oranges, and Mr. Right in his new pink birthday shirt....

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mouse Potato?




Mr. Right just called me a Mouse Potato – someone who prefers to sit up all night in front of a computer rather than interact with real humans. Is this an actual slang term? Must be, I found images on Google. The more hours I spend blogging and surfing the net, the more I realize TV is for people without the fortitude to sweat out dial-up.

It's a Pink Shirt I'm never gonna wear!


Well, I guess the honeymoon is officially over. Mr. Right’s birthday is next week and I’m getting him a sexy and romantic leaf blower. With gutter cleaning attachment! Whee. No end to the thoughtfulness I put into a gift. Let’s face it, anything I pick he will hate. I can recall years ago how he would hold up a wrapped gift and guess exactly what was in the box. I mean he was annoyingly good at it.

Now I don’t even bother wrapping anything or removing the price tag. What’s the point? It will languish in a corner unused. Retractable hose reel, anyone? Scientific function/graphing calculator? Flight simulating computer software and joystick? The list goes on…

Or worse yet, become lost. Do you know how much Oakley sunglasses cost? I sure do. I bought him two pairs.

Anyhoo, I want him to have an extra special meal and birthday cake. For his own safety, I’ll take him out to dinner. He shouldn’t have to risk my cooking.


Imagine the household fun with a leaf blower!


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I'd Be Healthy Too


If I were a millionaire whose daddy got me into an Ivy League college, avoided any dangerous military service and had no conscience whatsoever to stress me out or cause high blood pressure.

Oh, a job with a ton of vacation days so I could bike all I wanted wouldn’t hurt either.

Did I mention all the free health care me or my family would ever need?

Yep. I’d be in
great shape too.


In a related story: Exactly how many calories does speaking out of the side of your mouth burn?

Will Blog for High Octane


While still agonizing over the purchase of a new car (still can’t find that Ferrari with snow tires) , I’ve come across a website that might be of some general help,
Illionisgasprices.com.

You may now check an icon at the bottom of my blog that lists the state’s high and low for the day. As a member I can join in such exciting posts as “Does your car have a name?” or “Are you driving less now?” Yes and Yes. If I drive around and record local gas prices and submit them to the site, I can earn valuable prizes! Like maybe a gallon of gas.

Blog Provocateur

Heard the rock band Foreigner is going to play at a local airport. A really tiny airport out in the country. I think they have one paved runway, I’m not sure.

Number one, if I were a nearby resident in the beautiful and pricy housing surrounding the airport I’d be pretty upset that the next ‘Woodstock’ was being hosted in my backyard.

Number two, when you are playing an airport that lacks a control tower, your career is over. Instead of the Agent Provocateur tour, this is the Need a New Agent Tour. Makes me wonder how many original band members will be in the line up.

Monday, August 01, 2005

No Accident

Weapon of Mass Destruction


Here’s another for the disgust and disbelief file:

A 23-year-old woman decided to “end it all” - by taking not her own life, but the lives of three innocent people on their way to lunch. Seems she had just had an argument with mommy and decided to ram her 2000 Mustang into another vehicle at a speed of at least 70 MPH. Read an official report
here.

The death penalty is being sought. Can you say irony, boys and girls?

Would Fox news classify this as a Homicide attack, or a Suicide attack?

Can’t even kill yourself right, honey. Give it up. (Hint: there are cement barriers all over the Interstate)

Was the argument with Mom over how she drives?

Mustang’s New Motto: Enough Ponies to Do Some Damage

If you can’t be brilliant and amazing, kill someone who is

Sign O' the Times



It just doesn’t get any better than this.

Our city’s Economic Development Corporation* has donated money towards a sign. A big, flashing, accident-causing-eyesore of a sign, to be exact. This electronic billboard will be placed downtown to announce school and city events. I guess the existing tote board with its static letters just isn’t good enough. Encouraging cell-phone using motorists to try and read detailed messages in light pixels as they cross the intersection is a much better idea. Well, actually, depending on which way the board faces, you may have up to four minutes to read the messages, since the traffic lights there are idiotic.

Anyhoo…at an estimated cost of $30K, this is a really good investment. Especially since one of the planned uses of the sign is to tell everyone when the next school board meeting asking for more funds is to take place. Let’s see… thirty thousand dollars could buy how many books? How much PE equipment? Teacher’s aide positions? Speaking of positions – what about that new $40,000 a year position of ‘Public Relations Director’ for the school district. Why can’t that person drive out to my house to tell me the schools need more money? They don’t want to leave an air-conditioned office? The sign will do so much more for city morale….


*Motto: We Know it’s a Hell-Hole, That’s Why So Many of Us Don’t Even Live Here

Harry Potter and the Half-Baked View

Harry Shot First!



Since I personally know parents that won’t let their children read Harry Potter due to its themes of magic and wizardry, I found it particularly humorous that the Pope has also spoken out about the dangers of reading Harry.

A) I hope the copies of the latest book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, ordered by the Vatican from Amazon.com are actually read and analyzed before making any further judgments

B) What would the Pope suggest as a healthy, safe and fun alternative for young people? Become Altar Boys? Wouldn't that also fall under your "subtle seductions, which act unnoticed and by this deeply distort Christianity in the soul before it can grow properly.” Naw. Couldn't be.


Do your job, parents. Read the book along with your children and discuss any issues that do not agree with. Oh, wait. Can you read well enough to get through seven hundred pages?

Boyblog

Well, well, well…our little ‘always be prepared’ friends are in the news again. Let’s see… how many deaths and injuries occurred at this years’ National Boy Scout Jamboree? At least five deaths and hundreds of heat-related illnesses, according to this account. Hmm…Seems to me if they let gay scouts in, there would have been a badge for party-planning, and the disaster could have been averted.




Putting a tent up under power lines is just shoddy Feng Shui, am I right, boys?