About Me

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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Say That Again...

Still struggling to find a catchy title to use for posts on quotes...perhaps that it?

In any event, today's quote has been rolling through my mind lately, though it's a recurring inner thought and has been for years:

The difference between the perfect word and the almost-perfect word is like the difference between fire and the firefly.
~Mark Twain

This quote speaks volumes to me; I try to pick my words carefully (though I fail a fair amount of the time), and I'm usually conscious about the nuances that words convey and the connotations that they carry. The result of trying to be careful about the words you choose, however, is that you may often come across to those who don't know you as pretentious and / or arrogant. And not for nothing, but you might come off just the same to folks who know you too!

I can't tell you how many times I've been reprimanded to 'speak English'. My usual retort: this *IS* English...you should learn it.

But really, words do have specific meanings and I feel that we should try to use the right one at the right time. It is enormously difficult to get a specific idea in my mind faithfully duplicated in someone else's mind; using the wrong words just won't do.

I've gotten flack for using the word 'aroma'...apparently the listener found it pretentious, and they suggested that I should just use the word 'smell'. No matter that the words are different, eh? 'Smell' can mean any number of things from a horrid stomach-lurching stink to a pleasant...well...aroma. 'Aroma' narrows the definition significantly and puts one in a pleasant state of mind. We don't typically talk about the aroma from the trash.

Were I to describe something as a smell, the listener would not necessarily know if I was trying to describe a pleasant smell or an unpleasant smell. The rebuttal came that I could use 'good smell', or note that 'it smelled nice'.

Because that's easier than using the word 'aroma'??? Why not just use the right word?

I recall talking to a fellow once who was saying that someone had described something to him as 'nebulous'. Not knowing that word, he asked what it meant, and the speaker, she told him that it was like 'mysterious'. SO, questions he, why not simply use the word 'mysterious'?

Fair question, the answer to which is that they are not synonymous. That speaker fell into a bit of a trap and disseminated a wee bit of ignorance. When asked for a definition, she went searching for a synonym, and landed on a word that is 'like' nebulous (or at least the sense that she had been using at that time), but it's not quite 'nebulous'. And he, my friend, walked away with the understanding that these two words are the same, and how pretentious it must be to use 'nebulous' instead of 'mysterious'.

Here's one of my favorite character descriptions:
At bottom M. Bonacieux's character was one of profound selfishness mixed with sordid avarice and seasoned with extreme cowardice.
~Alexandre Dumas

When I read this, I felt that I truly knew what Dumas was trying to convey to me across the one-hundred-sixty-some odd years since it was penned. I thought it was great. Others have told me that it's too wordy; why not simply call him a coward and be done with it?

Well, because it's not the same, by gum! If you simply call him a coward, what does that mean, exactly? Do you get his utter depravity? His complete lack of care of how others get along? No. You might get nothing more than a fellow who does not like to fight.

And I rather like the culinary allusions too, as I can readily appreciate the difference between something that's 'mixed' into a larger whole, and how a 'seasoning' has a different impact entirely. Dumas' description of Bonacieux made my lip curl in derision to that character, and implanted in me (in a very quick and efficient passage) a deep-seeded dislike for the fellow.

Were he to simply be called a 'coward', I would not have been so emotionally invested in how he played his part in the story.

And now, in an unprecedented move, a third quote that always comes to mind when I rant to myself on this topic:

Your writing should take full advantage of the language's manifold wealth, but, at the same time, avoid pretentious pedantry.
~Writers.com Newsletter Vol. 3, No.1 January 2000

A fine line to walk, that. But I take this to heart, especially when writing my own fiction. I use the word that I think conveys my meaning, and if the reader doesn't know that word, well, perhaps they'll look it up and learn a little bit more English (or American) :)

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject; it is too often loud in my ears, and I often feel that I'm the only one who cares! Anyone else out there care?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

If you Have an Important Message for me, you Better Have a Human Calling me

One thing that I really hate doing is talking on the phone. I did that when I was dating my wife because I wanted some and it wasn't guaranteed or permanent. But even with my best friends, I do hate talking on the phone.

I have a brother with whom I DO typically enjoy talking on the phone, but that's because of the typical brevity of our conversations. Even a call on a birthday might look like this:

Well, actually, *Vibrate*
Check name on caller ID.
"What's up?"
"Nothing. Just called to say "Happy Birthday."
"Oh, cool. Thanks."
"See you."
/hang up.

Awesome. A full conversation in less than a minute.

As a rule, I don't answer my house phone (so don't expect me to answer someone else's house phone). Sometimes I do, though, or the office phone at work, which you're more or less obliged to answer most of the time. I really despise it when I answer, and you get that little click that lets you know that you've been called by a computer, and then a computer starts telling you that they have a very important phone call for you.

If the call is so damn important, you should be making it with a person.

Or how about "Please call our office at XXX-YYY-ZZZZ as soon as possible on a very important business matter." Well, I'm not in the habit of calling strangers; who are you? What is "our office", exactly? Sometimes I think that if I call that number, I'll find that it's re-routed to a Nigerian Prince who has some issues that only I can help him with, and all that I need to do is to give him a bank routing number for which he'll pay me a million dollars in a month. If that dope needs to get money into America, all he needs to do is to contact a drug cartel...they seem to have figured it out pretty well.

Even worse is at politics time: phone rings and if you pick it up you find that it's a prerecorded message from some candidate running for the office of State Liar who desperately wants your vote. Those messages are about five minutes long and you don't have the opportunity to ask questions! You do have the opportunity to hit "delete" though. I love my delete button. Those buggers call about every evening too. ALL of them. One Liar position open, and five people running for it. Of course, those calls wouldn't be better if a human was on the other side of the phone, because then I'd have to be rude!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I Get no Respect...in my Prius

Between my wife and me, we've got two Toyotas: a Prius, and a Tundra. The Tundra is ostensibly mine, and the Prius is ostensibly hers, but we've had to trade off with each other a number of times over the years, so we each find ourselves driving either one on any given day.

One of the things that I notice is that I get absolutely no respect on the road when I'm driving the Prius, though when I'm driving the Tundra, I tend to get a lot of respect. The Mrs. has noted very much the same thing.

I fancy myself a pretty laid-back driver; it doesn't matter to me, by and large, if someone is ahead of me or not. i tend to not cut people off, and I won't even "argue" with other folks to whom it seems so important to NOT let me onto the highway in front of them.

But good golly, there are multiple times in every commute in the Prius that other drivers cut me off and accelerate from my flank when my directional goes on - they don't want me to move over a lane and be in front of them.

I don't have this problem as much when I'm driving the Tundra though. All of a sudden, no one's cutting me off although it's clear that they don't want me in front of them on the highway, they're still not likely to accelerate so that I can't get in.

It's an interesting thing, and I'm not sure what goes into it, though it's been so prevalent (and the Mrs. observes it too) that there's got to be something to it. Am I more dangerous because I'm driving a pickup? Am I a tree-hugging peace-loving Milquetoast because I'm driving a Prius? Are other drivers just not worried about pissing off a Prius driver, but very wary of pissing off a pickup driver?

Or perhaps they're so stupid that they think that an accident with a Prius will 'work out well for them' while an accident with a pickup will work out not-so-well. From an engineering perspective, a 50MPH accident is going to suck no matter what caused it.

Of course, perhaps it's the thought that the Prius driver won't push it because they don't have very much protection, while a pickup driver might be able to drive right over you. So I, as an idiot driver can push the Prius driver around a little, secure in the knowledge that the Prius driver is more afraid of an accident than I am.

Maybe all I need to do is to mount a rifle rack in the back window of my Prius?

Do any of you have similar experiences driving large vs. small vehicles?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Humans Consuming Animal Flesh

In our last exciting episode (HERE), we discussed whether or not mankind developed a large brain as a result of eating meat, or as a result of catching the meat in order to eat it, or whether there might have been still some other evolutionary pressure that transpired at a similar time when we started eating meat (like, plus or (more likely) minus 100,000 years or so).

The comments from that post largely echoed a theory that I've developed and embraced regarding humans eating meat in general. I've had this conversation many times, and almost to a time the person to whom I've spoken has taken a viewpoint opposite mine, which is why your lovely comments were so interesting to me.

The premise of this theory is that humans were not designed to eat meat.

As I've mentioned in the past, I watch a lot of documentaries. I like to watch animals running around in their natural habitats trying to survive. I get a kick out of that, for some reason. I also like to watch Bear Grylls or Les Stroud bumble around in crazy remote locations, showing us survival techniques. Next time that I wake up, having mysteriously been transported to a remote wilderness location, I'll thank these guys and their tutelage.

In any event, you watch enough of these shows, and (as CarrieBOO observes), it seems to me that you can't help but notice that the animals that were designed to eat meat have a few things in common.

BIG, POINTY TEETH is one of those things.

Big, strong claws are frequently a part of the design:

^%^#%$#%^$  no, no, nooo...THESE claws:

Friggin' editors.

The bottom line is that, given our design (without the big brain), I really can't see humans living long enough "back in the day" to procreate.

Can you see Pee-Wee Herman out in the wild, looking for food?

'Daddy, I'm hungry. Can you get me something to eat?"

 "I want cave bear!!"

Humans don't have any of the tools that would be necessary to catch meat, even if we define meat as the dodo bird (nice and friendly and would walk right up to you for a cup of coffee). History proves that we'd have eaten all of them in no time, and then what? Kangaroo look nice.

Small claws, no huge teeth...I can do this.


We don't have the speed to reliably catch squirrels or chickens, we don't have the claws to rip into thick cow hides (even if we got past the horns and legs that kick harder than the Rockettes), nor do we have the teeth to tear off large chunks of meat. And not for nothing, a big part of eating meat in the animal kingdom is defending your food from other beasts that also want to eat it. Seems to me that a dead monkey in the wild would serve as good bait for other animals who want to eat human.

I do think, though, that we are pretty well designed for eating plant and staying out of the way of things that eat meat. Opposable thumbs, for instance: great for picking through thorns to get at the berries and climbing trees to get away from dogs and kangaroos (even dodos). Our front teeth are a great design for scraping fruit rinds like melons, and the rear teeth are good for grinding other plant matter like corn.

Standing upright allows us to carry fruits back to the young'ns and also to stand like a meerkat looking for danger.

You know, I don't think that we'd be able to reliably catch a meerkat without a bigger brain. Pretty damn easy to catch a watermelon though.

Good eatin' too.

PLUS, you can make clothes out of them:

And protective gear:

Really, who wouldn't want one of these:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meat and Brainpower

I like to watch a lot of documentaries, and I like to talk a fair amount of philosophy. Conjecture, theory, logic, all make for great and interesting conversations. More interesting than most any other form of conversation, in my opinion.

I have seen documentaries that allege that mankind's brain got larger after he started eating meat; apparently the concentrated protein is necessary for the development of larger brains. Without eating meat, we'd all have remained forever living in trees or caves, unable to make fire or use tools. No boomerangs, even.

Now, then again, I had a very interesting talk with a friend of mine who refutes this logic. Of course, the argument went (and I agree with this part), there's no way that we might be able to tell that mankind's brain grew before eating meat, or after. Like I say: we can agree to this part. It could be, on the one hand, that some hominid somewhere started eating meat, and his or her offspring came along a bit smarter, as did the next generation and thereafter again.

OR, so my friend is thinking, eating meat required skills that we hadn't had before (ie: hunting, breaking open bones, spooning chili on the bun, and such). Our brains began to get larger because we had started to figure out how to obtain meat. Exercising one's brain leads to larger, more well developed brains.

I have a slightly different thought. I'm not all together convinced that eating meat has anything to do with whether our brains grew large or not. I think this because if we accept the premise that eating meat or catching meat has anything to do with the size of our brains, and we couldn't have gotten these large brains without either eating or catching meat, well, I would think that sharks and alligators would be ruling the world right now.

These critters have been roaming this world since long before the dinosaurs...well over 200 Million years (according to birth certificates)...eating nothing but meat and license plates. In fact sharks? Sharks have been eating nothing but fish, which (they tell me) is brain food.

I'm thinking that some other evolutionary pressure generated the big brains. Of course, I *could* be wrong, as I don't think that I've burned through my quota of wrong today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Future of Glass

This is pretty cool (though perhaps a bit long for us short-of-attention), and worth looking at, as it provides an arguably likely look into the future:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

We've Come a Long way, and Gone Nowhere at All

You know the proverb 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'? Well, that is certainly true, as this quote demonstrates:

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.

I've mentioned of late how I feel about politics and politicians, and by the responses that I saw, we're all of a pretty similar mind. So, too, it seems, was Aesop.

And one thing that I know about Aesop is that he was an observer of humanity, and this tells me that he arrived at this conclusion by looking around. And seeing (to one of Yogi Berra's oft-repeated points).

Aesop lived about 2,600 years ago, and by this particular observation, I'd say nothing has really changed in politics in that time. I guess in many parts of the world, if not most of it, civilizations did evolve out of governments in which people were voted into and out of office - to governments of caste and ruling class...royalty or warlords or whatnot - back into elected government.

Seems like we're faced with a lose-lose proposition, and we always were.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why is Water so Expensive?

To make a bottle of water, "manufacturers" must pump the water out of the ground, filter it, clean it, purify it, and bottle it. I know: some of them actually add minerals (Aquafina does this), but those ones taste gross. For this conversation, I'm going to go with my above scenario.

To make a bottle of soda, the manufacturer must do all of the above, but also must add other crap (sugar, syrups, flavors, caffeine, etc).

Why is water so expensive? The cost delta has shrunk over the last few years, but gallon per gallon water is more expensive than most sodas. I can understand that in large part it's about volumes: the soda companies have long since been set up to make a ba-gillion gallons of soda every year, so their bottling cost per gallon is more efficient, but still, they have to manage supply chains that the water companies don't have to worry about. Not just one or two, either, but supply of all those yucky things that they put into their drinks.

There are a bunch of logistics to worry about, mixing machinery, testing, extra personnel, guarding secret formulas, NOT getting the orange drink mixed up on the machines for the grape drink, hyper-active mixologists that have to sample all the drinks all day. PLUS, I'm sure that the soda manufacturers have more repairs to perform on their machinery since the caustic nature of all the sugars and chemicals in those sodas are far more corrosive than good ol' water.

The water companies don't have to worry about most of that stuff. Pump-Clean-Bottle-Ship (yeah, I know: a bit of testing, but I'm betting for water, a lot of that testing is done by machine..."Vision" Systems).

Shouldn't water be easier to "manufacture", and thereby cost less? Does this seem odd to anyone other than me?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Volunteer Work

Have you ever accidentally volunteered for something? Or, have you ever NOT volunteered for work that other people *thought* you volunteered for? This seems to happen to me pretty regularly.

A few jobs ago, one of the R&D managers showed up in the door of my office and asked me if I knew anything about vibration testing. "I do." I replied. "I used to do a lot of that sort of testing."

TANGENT: Vibration testing is a lot of fun: you tie a thing down on a table and shake the bejeezus out of it until buttons, resistors, capacitors, and other components start flying off of the item like popcorn kernels popping in the bottom of the pot. Great fun destroying things.

Anyway, I talked to this fellow for an hour or so on how one might subject his particular device to vibration testing, how long it might take, how much it might cost, etc.

Two days later my boss asked me why I volunteered to lead the testing effort for this device. I hadn't, I explained, I only had a conversation about how it might be done.

More recently I was asking about compliance documentation that seems to be missing from a device that my company is contemplating marketing. Today one of our controllers asked me how the compliance program was going. someone said that I was working on getting that project completed.

Nuh-uh. Not my job, man. That's what we have Project Managers for.

I have run afoul, however, of two tenets that permeate the business landscape:

1) You touch it, you fix it;
b) If you ask the question, you often end up dealing with the problem.

Both of these tenets, naturally, create an atmosphere where folks do as little as possible, and don't ask the questions that they know should be asked, people being a bunch of lazy buggers.

You ever volunteer for work by accident?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

If you Listen Hard Enough, you can Smell the Stupid

I've invented a pill that can keep you from getting dehydrated. All you need to do is dissolve this pill in eight ounces of water and drink the water. Eight times every day.

Can you smell the stupid?

At the end of just about any diet pill commercial, while they're extolling the great weight loss folks have experienced by taking their pill, the sales pitch looks like: "This pill, taken every day can help you lose just about all your weight when combined with diet and exercise."

Huh? Won't diet and exercise do that without the pill?

I was listening to the radio the other day when a fellow came on and alleged that women over 40 had to exercise for 1 hour every day just to maintain their weight, but he has a great shake that can help you NOT gain weight.

On the surface of it, this sounds completely idiotic to me. It suggests that if you're a woman over 40, you can either drink this stuff or exercise for one hour each day, or you will just keep gaining weight. How much weight? Does it ever end (before death)? Are you expected to be half a ton by the time that you're 75?

But wait: if you drink this stuff you won't gain weight? No, not exactly. You have to drink the stuff AND you have to live a healthy life. As in, eat right, and get some exercise.

Again, won't eating right and getting exercise do this without the drink? Isn't that what the guy said at the beginning of the commercial? So why do we need the drink?

If you read the study, it sheds a little bit of a different light on things too. There's a summary here.

60 minutes of "moderate" (walking, playing with kids, household chores...) activity is sufficient. If you can support "brisk" (running, swimming, basketball...) activity, 30 minutes is sufficient.

I kind of remember being told this when I was in seventh grade.

Thank goodness they've done a study on this. Almost as good as the studies on how much methane cows produce. And now, you can buy a shake that will do...what exactly? Nothing, assuming that you're not a complete lump of lazy sitting on your continually growing ass all day eating bon-bons and watching soaps (maybe it's good that they're gone; they are, aren't they?).

So long as you regularly get up out of your chair and do laundry, or play with children, go grocery shopping, etc...you'll do okay without the damn shake. And not for nothing, the commercial narrator told you that at the beginning of the commercial.

I don't now about you, but I smell the stupid.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I Hate Politics

I really do. I'm in a position where I have to decide who is lying the least, and who actually *thinks* they can do what they are promising to do. Who's the greater scum ball? Who's saying what you want to hear? Who actually thinks that they can deliver on their vague promises? Where are all the stand-up candidates?

At the end of the day, I have to vote for the least scummy SOB that I see on the pulpit, without every actually seeing who these guys are, as they hide themselves so adeptly with half-truths or quarter-truths and not-quite lies, and obfuscate the issues through misdirection by casting foul aspersions at the other candidates.

The mud-slinging is also troublesome. It seems to me that candidates' camps sling their mud because they don't have anything positive to say about themselves. Can you see the meetings?

"It's time to make a commercial, Mr. Candidate. Let's take a look at your record and come up with reasons that the American public should vote for you."
"Ok, let's look at the records of your co-runners and see what sort of crap we can sling at them. We'll look better because they'll look worse."

And then there's the statements that sound great, but if you think about them, you know that the candidate can't deliver. "First thing I'll do when I get to Washington is reduce taxes and fix the healthcare system." Sure. Reduce taxes for whom? The healthcare system won't get fixed because the people fixing it are the people making money on the current system. The people who are allegedly trying to fix Social Security have no incentive to fix the system, since it doesn't impact them...they are going to get paid for the rest of their lives, so what do they care?

The president can't just up and change things, because of our system of checks and balances, which works great on paper, but you season it with special interest, greed, and power hungry louts, and nothing ever really gets done going forward. They know this, but they keep telling us what they will do when they get there, even though they know that they can't just up and do those things.

Knowing this, they then go on to the mud-slinging.

Friggin' politics. All you can do is hate one guy less than all the others. pbpbpt.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Voted and Quoted

So in the first ever Votes on Quotes poll, the votes broke down as:

Adventure: 1 vote
Beauty: 0 Votes
Justice: 1 Vote
Popular Opinion: 3 Votes

As you can see, the winner by a huge margin, with 300% of the votes of the nearest contender, is "Popular Opinion". Thus, I give you:

I'm not sure I want popular opinion on my side - I've noticed those with the most opinions often have the fewest facts.
~Bethania McKenstry

I'm not sure where I got this quote, but it was very likely from a mail subscription to "Quote of the Day", which I used to subscribe to. It certainly struck me, though, as a very real truth. Or two, really, since this particular quote is kind of a "two in one".

On the one hand, there's the hint that just because a bunch of people hold a certain opinion, the opinion is not necessarily true. To wit:

A sample of very old (but in my opinion wrong) Popular Opinions:
The earth is flat;
The earth is the center of the universe, and the sun revolves about the earth;
Wives are the property of their husbands;
Cigarette smoke is harmless;
You can't grow without eating meat.

A sample of rather new (but in my opinion wrong) Popular Opinions:
If a person is skinny, they are therefore healthy (or at least healthier than someone who is not as skinny);
Jersey Shore is good TV;
Global Warming is the fault of human beings;
Level of education is a direct measure of a person's intelligence.

As we see, just because an opinion is popular at any given time, it is not necessarily true.

The other message in this quote is interesting to me as well: some of the most annoying people I've ever met (besides myself) are those who have opinions about everything, and ESPECIALLY about things that they've got little or no knowledge of. I think that we've all known someone like this.

One particular dolt that I worked with once was quite the epitome of this sort of person. At his height, he spent a couple of hours giving me pointers on parenting how to's and what to not do, what I had been doing wrong, and why parenting seems so hard but is really easy (it's the parents themselves that make it hard) and on and on and on. Of course, he had no kids at all, and I had four (at that time, my oldest was early teens).

The stronger a person's opinion, the more it seems like they've got a dearth of actual information.

One thing that I found really interesting with respect to this quote is that I've got no idea who Bethania McKenstry is (or was). Internet searches on her name bring up pretty much nothing other than this particular quote. It's like this lady ONCE said something that was worth capturing and repeating, and never said anything of value again. Very odd.

Thanks to those of you who participated in my little poll; hopefully we can do it all again sometime!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I've Never had any Issues with my Car

People are a strange breed; they too often make decisions based upon emotion instead of data. I'm guilty of this myself, although I like to think that I research most of my decisions carefully, and review quality and reliability data. Especially when it comes to my vehicles.

I'm a big fan of Toyota, both because of my long history with the brand, and because of what the data says with respect to reliability of vehicles. I did find, a few years ago while researching a reliability presentation, a set of data published by Consumer Reports on 14 million cars. That data said very clearly that domestic cars aren't (or perhaps weren't at that time) as reliable as Honda, Toyota, VW, Hyundai, or other imports. In fact, there were no domestics in the top ten most reliable car brands. Trucks were not part of that data set.

I have several friends who are die-hard Ford fans. They swear up and down that their cars never gave them any issues at all, and they have had numerous fords, owned any given one for hundreds of thousands of miles, and never, ever had any issues.

One tried to talk me into buying a ford truck instead of my tundra. His argument was that there was at that time a recall on the tundra, and I should not get that vehicle for that reason. The recall: a floor mat was slipping forward and interfering with the break. He said that I should buy a ford F150.

Never mind that there was also a recall on the ford F150 at the time where those trucks were bursting into fire spontaneously because of an electrical fault in the cruise control circuitry. He was ok with trucks bursting into fire, but had a problem with a floor mat that could be simply removed. I just don't understand.

I was talking to that same friend the other day, and I had heard that his 2-year-old Ford F150 had been in the garage for some work, so I asked about it. Turns out that it had a defective transmission, which needed replacement. The vehicle was 53,000 miles old (or so). But to him, it was not a problem, since it was being repaired under warranty.

The warranty must be 60k miles, I asked.
Well, said he, he had bought the extended warranty, so it was 7 years and 150,000 miles.
Good thing he bought that warranty; what provoked him to do such a thing?
Turns out that his wife's Expedition had transmission problems early, though out of warranty, and they figured that if history repeated itself, they'd rather be ready for it.

Is this not a pattern? To him, it was not an issue, as it was under warranty, but to me it's an issue: the damn things break early.

I also learned (from talking to his wife) that his wife got rid of her Expedition in favor of a Nissan Armada because she was sick of the Expedition breaking down all the time. She said that she had been having troubles with it practically from day 1. HE said it was never an issue.


I'm reminded of a fellow who, years ago, was trying to get me to buy his GMC Pick Up. He too told that he never had any issues. Although in his next breath he told that he did all his own work. He had changed the struts, the springs, a tie-rod, and one or two other components that had failed.

No issues?

This makes me think that the definition of a "problem" changes from person to person. My observation is that these guys who claim to have no issues despite having to do a seemingly endless amount of repair work on their vehicles are all mechanically inclined people who do their own work. It's like how a master chef might tell you that it's 'no problem' to whip up a batch of Tartine croissants.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a car that didn't have anything break on it in the first few years than one that, if anything *were* to break, would be covered by a warranty. I think that reliability is more value than a warranty. Of course, no car manufacturer is without error; at the end of the day it's a statistics game and for me, I lean towards the manufacturer who has the fewest issues and the longest history of corporate quality and reliability, PLUS, I factor in my personal experience.

As for Toyota's sudden acceleration problem, Toyota was thrown under the proverbial bus. All modern vehicles experience this issue, as is reported on the Sudden Acceleration website (Here). I personally am of the belief that it's caused by one electronic system interfering with the electronic speed control system of modern vehicles, although that's extremely hard to demonstrate positively.

Be sure to read this recent and informative article too.

For me, I like to consult Consumer Reports when I face making any significant purchase; being of Irish decent, I sprinkle in a bit of salt too. :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Flash Fiction

I stumbled across a post on the Warrior Muse's site heralding a "Flash Fiction" contest. I had never heard of this thing called "Flash Fiction", and as an amateur (as in: I do it for myself) writer, I thought it might be fun to enter. Her post is Here, on her site.

Never one to look at rules, I quickly scanned the requirements of this contest, and read that it has a basic theme of "Are you devious at heart" and had a 100 word maximum. Yikes! 100 words max for an entire story? Crazy!

So I wrote a little something based on a character I've been playing with for a while. I was going to submit it, but I'm too cheap to spring for the $10 (which is a bargain, really, but I am at heart a cheap old fart...I hate to spend money on a sandwich for lunch, and I'm guaranteed to get something for that $10!).

In any event, I thought I'd post what I did here, for giggles. So:

Upon Mine realization of the vile satyr's possession of mine brother, I did set mine thoughts towards exorcism. I know not these paths, however; mine is the way of the arm: the way of axe and shield. I need must bring him unto The Academy.

Keen of the thought that he'd not of his will (which was not his own, after all) subject himself to this exorcism, I was forced to scheme about his back; although I am not devious of nature, still this thing must be done, though it did raise mine bile and keep me from mine bed.

Expiration Date...NOT

I have a certain credit card that expired this past fall. I was very happy for this, as there were a few on-going subscriptions and charges that were linked to that card, and automatically renewed. I figured that as the card expired, so too would these charges.

Oh, what a naive nincompoop I am. The date came and went, the new card showed up (the old shredded), and the charges continued to come along. I called the credit card company to talk about this, and they told me that these charges would continue to be honored despite the fact that the vendor would not have had the correct expiration date.


I know that when I go to a store with an expired credit card, I can't buy anything because it's expired. My Amazon account no longer worked, but they only charge to that card when I tell them to, not when they decide to or on an on-going basis.

So really, the only person who absolutely needs to have the correct expiration date on a credit card is me! Or more likely we, the owners of those cards. It's no problem if the 900 number book of the month club wants to continue to charge to an expired credit card, but when I go to the store to buy extra small condoms groceries, I'm hit with a decline.

If I have the expired card in hand, along with evidence that I am me, I can't access my funds. BUT, if some somewhat anonymous vendor puts in a charge, it's no problem for them to continue to charge to that same expired card.

No flippin' wonder the banks are the only ones getting richer!