Looking again

day I started looking for a new truck.
The reason is rather simple. My old Chevrolet S-10 is on its last legs. The fault is not the S-10s, in fact it has been a poster child for the things Detroit does well. It has been reliable, economical, asked little of me and performed when I asked it to. I bought it new when my old car failed and I needed to be at work Monday morning, and it really, really has been a good car. Rather it's death lies rooted in a parking problem. A few years ago I bought a Ford Focus SVT, a sweet handling little hot hatch which provides still a superb balance between performance, comfort and economy. And that's when the problem began because my driveway is precisely one car wide and my neighbor's house means it's not getting any wider. I adapted by parking it out front, and taking away a bit of front lawn. Then I recieved a blessing. My employer decided to let me start driving the service van I use at work home at night. He did this because I am often on call, and may need to rush off and fix something at any time, but also saves me a good deal of money, wear and tear on my own vehicles. But now I have three vehicles and a one car driveway-- something that got worse when my girlfriend came to visit. I tried putting both trucks on the lawn, but that sucked and frankly I got really tired of playing automotive musical chairs. Something had to give.

Then the City of Columbus decided to line off designated parking areas on my street, something of artery on the north side. Also cool. After a while, I decided the thing to do was to move the S-10 out onto the street, so I could still have my choice of available cars. And for many months all was well. My S-10 saw duty during winter, when I needed to move something large, and once a week to keep the seals and other such things flexible and free of leaks (hint, bring a car or truck up to full operating temperature once a week if you want it to last). The truck was happy. I was happy.

Then somebody sideswiped my truck, amputating the driver's side mirror. No, they did not leave a note. Then it happened again. Finally, about four months ago somebody ran smack into the truck's rear end, hitting it hard enough to push it in front of my neighbor's driveway. Ever since then the truck has missed, and missed badly, and none of the fairly simple things I have tried improve the situation. When I let down the tailgate, the bed had flexed so much it can no longer be closed. Now rust holes have appeared behind both door sills. Oh, and a brake line blew, requiring replacement and nearly causing a crash. The combination of body damage/rust and an increasingly unhappy engine has made putting more money into the truck a losing proposition.

So I need a new truck? But that presents further problems. I liked the nimbleness and economy of my old S-10, but no street truck can touch my Focus in the fun-to-drive category-- at least not without a bunch of expensive mods. The 2.2 four gave good economy, but didn't produce enough grunt to tow a pop-up camper, much less a race car. On the other hand, I do not currently own a race car, nor am I likely to in the near future. So while towing capacity would be ideal, a major towing capacity would be expensive and rarely used. For most of what I use it for a full sized truck would be overkill. And fuel mileage does matter, even in a vehicle I expect to drive around 3-4,000 miles per year. So it's a tradeoff, capability versus economy and costs. Trucks are better at loads, but a mid-sized SUV has more interior room and comfort, and up to 20% better fuel economy.

And then what to spend. The truck I really want would run about $30K and there's no way I'm dropping that much into a truck. New cars and trucks lose a ton of value the moment you drive them off the lot. No reason not to take advantage of depreciation. After about six weeks of searching the ads on Craigslist I noticed something. Full sized American trucks hold their value really well, at least when gas prices are reasonable. So does almost everything Japanese, except their big trucks, but not many Titans or Tundras come available. What seemed to drop in value the most was the Chevrolet TrailBlazer (or its twin, the GMC Envoy). They aren't well loved by the automotive press, except for the engine, but it's more a case of cheap materials and a live rear axle then major reliability issues. Each and every one of them comes with nice amenities, like power windows and a trailer hitch pre-wired for brake controls. And dual-zone air-conditioning. They are rated to tow 6,500 pounds, enough for a light race car on an open trailer. Or a small camper for weekends at Mid Ohio or Nelson. True a full-sized pickup would tow better, but size is everything in towing and I'm not towing to California! Three hours is the longest tow I contemplate. I've seen 2002 TrailBlazers offered for under $5K at a dealer. You won't find a decently-equipped full-sized truck for that! At least one that isn't a lot older.

But going that cheap has its own disadvantages. I could pay off the $5K car in a year without breathing hard. But I'd also be getting a vehicle with 100,000 miles, a notorious maintenance milestone. My friend Chris thinks I should think about spending more like $8-12K. He argues I'll be getting a car with much less wear and tear, one that could conceivably last me for fifteen years, while the cheaper vehicle will go away much sooner, even with my low mileage. He has a point whose value would be magnified if I lost my work van, and had to take the Blazer to work. But I don't need to decide now. Better to enjoy test driving a whole lot of trucks and cars while salesmen schmooze me.

Knives and blades

The house next door to me has been an issue for a while. It was okay when Jeff lived ther. He drank too much and played in a band. So you could hear him practicing but there are people there. But then he inherited a new house, moved out and found out he couldn't sell it. So sometimes he rents the place.

And because the house needs a lot of work and Jeff doesn't market so well the tennants generally turn out to be characters. Like the family who had their water turned off, so they got it out of my hose for months, claiming Jeff wouldn't pay to have the line repaired. Turns out the line was good, but someone moved in during the summer the gas meter had been long removed. And it never returned, even though the house has gas heat and it's been kind of cold.

Last night I came home and noticed the meter can sitting on the ground next to the meter can. In electrician speak, that translates to the electric meter had been pulled. Only when the power company does that they cover the can and take the meter with them. Usually the pull the fuses on the pole as well.

Of course I've pulled many a meter in my day. Pulling one is a good way to kill power to a house when you want to do something like replace their panel. But in this case it was to steal power. A meter can has a set of crimps so the meter is pushed straight in. they clamp down on blades which just out of the back of the meter. In this case the puller had replaced the blades with knives, restoring power but without the meter.

This is dumb as a rock. For one thing the new meters are electronic and report directly to the company. Soon the power company will come out and simply disconnect their service.

Finally jeff showed up at my door, drunk at two in the morning. Loaded asking if they had 'fucked with me" and saying he was about to perform an emergency eviction. I didn't feel like talking for long, but wow. It's wierd. And I wonder what will happen until they go.

Really, i like my drama much father away.

A Wizard, A True Star

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Wizard (6th Level)

Ability Scores:







Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


BZArcher, Alex and I went to see Avatar tonight at the Marcus, and in 3D.  It is possible to reduce my review to three words.


For those of you who do not fully embrace brevity, I will explain a bit further.  The films primary protagonist is Jake Sully, an paraplegic ex-marine recruited to join the Avatar program on the moon Pandora, a Jungle paradise inconveniently occupied by its own sentient species, the Naavi.   The Avatars look exactly like Naavi, and are being used by a team of human researchers to investigate the Naavi.   The scientists, led by  Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), really want to learn.  Unfortunately , the money men want something different.   Pandora is prime source of a rare mineral classically-named "unobtanium" and the Naavi's home stands right on top of a whole pile of the stuff.   They want the natives moved so we can mine, and their military leader (played by Stephen Lang) thinks ex-Marine Jake just might be the key to great tactical intelligence on the blue, twelve-foot tall aliens.  And Jake's up for it too, because that might get him the use of his legs back.

But then he meets them, particularly the sultry Neytirii (Zoe Saldana) .  Sam goes native, the corporate types decide to use the military option, and there's a big battle. It's predictable in may ways, and the corporate type and military humans caricatures.

But none of that matters one whit.   Pandora is so beautiful, it's ecosystem so brilliantly designed and executed it the predictable plot doesn't matter a whit.  This is a world of wonder house beauty and once there.  This world is brilliantly drawn as Middle Earth, its ecosystem a marvel, and the discovery and action move so quickly the films 2 hours and 41 minutes glides by.   It's wonderful, breathtaking and absolutely convinced me that I need Blu Ray player.  See it immediately, on the biggest baddest screen you can find.   The 3D version is wonderful,  and utterly immersive.  Some have complained of headaches, but not me and my friend's agreed the film was well worth it.  

Whatever excuse you need, find and it see this film.  Avatar is a wondrous journey, one I plan making again.

Brando Mumbles

If the aliens came to Earth, asked about the guitar and I could choose only one guitarist, I think I'd choose Richard Thompson. The tones and timbres, the fullness of his sound, the complexity that sounds so simple. This world is loaded with monster players, Holdworth, Fripp, Morse, Bruce Cockburn, Hendrix (formerly), Jeff Beck,  Reeves Gabrels  but for me the most versatile is Thompson.

And he writes songs too!

At the movies

It occurs to me that right now is a very good time to visit your local theater.  There are a number of fllms in theaters now that look interesting, and also score well on the Tomatometer.   Cloudy With a chance of Meatballs looks like a delight for both young and old. The comination of Steven Soderbergh and what's supposed to be a great performance by Matt Damon makes The Informant look like a great time.  Drew Barrymore made her debut as a director in Whip It, which looks like a hoot and stars the immensely talented Ellen Page. And finally the Coen Brothers have another film out, and I have  yet to see a Coen film that didn't leave me thoroughly entertained, starting with Miller's Crossing.  A Serious Man opens tomorrow.  I'd like to go see them all.

  And then there's Zombieland.  B-movies have been making fun of Zombies for years, and Shaun of the Dead taught us that the zombie apocalypse can be fun with a pint of beer.  But Zombieland had me from the first trailer. It might be typecasting to have Woody  Harrelson play a red-neck zombie killer with style,  hey in the trailers it really, really works for me. Abigail Breslin as a shovel-wielding survivor, no problem. Jesse Eisenberg plays a local survivor, Columbus with nervous and fragile geekiness which seems like a great counterpoint to Harrelson's divine madness. 

My brains require that I go.  Anybody up for a Friday night movie or a Sunday matinee?

Joe Wilson's Folly

In Britain and many other countries. it's nothing at all for a member of Parliament to stage an outburst when the Prime Minister says something the minority doesn't like. But in America we like to pretend we're a lot more civil here, so it came as a shock when South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson called President Obama a liar when he said that the heath care reform bill would not cover illegal immigrants. But in the end it may be that President Obama who benefits from Wilson's unprecedented-- and dishonest-- outburst.

First of all it was mean and partisan. While 'the base' of both parties may not be tired of partisanship, most Americans are. Obama had already offered a few olive branches to Republicans by praising John McCain's call for co-ops (though many insurance companies are chartered as non-profits, in part because of their roots in crop insurance) and even offering a fig leaf toward tort reform. But then came Wilson's outburst.

It's fairly normal for conservatives to insult Democratic presidents and even to call them liars but generally they leave that Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and that set. Mitch McConnell may hate every fibre of Barack Obama's but Congressional Republicans generally use far more diplomatic and positive language. It's the way things are done. People are well used to Glenn Beck spouting off, but not their Congressman.

Worse for the Republicans everyone who actually bothered to fact check Wilson's claim on a neutral source found out Wilson himself was in fact lying. Nor is it credible for Wilson himself to claim he was 'misinformed'. He is, after all, in Congress, debating a bill and if he felt competent to challenge the President on something he is responsible for knowing what he is talking about. The fact that he was wrong and flagrantly wrong tars the entire right.

When you combine Wilson's outright lie with the forceful and systematic way the President made his case you can see what those still undecided might do, like take a closer look at the rest of the right wing claims. Where they will discover even more outright lies, such as the so-called 'death panels'. While politics has never been a game for choirboys lying has become endemic among conservatives in recent years. Part of it in my view is an unfortunate consequence of the old myth of Liberal bias in the media. While it was true that in the 70s and early 80s most reporters leaned left, the claim was exaggerated at best, particularly in light with the right's overwhelming domination of media ownership, particularly at the local level. Often accepted as gospel, that claim allowed many conservatives to simply view uncomfortable news as a result of bias. When the Reagan administration ended the Fairness doctrine that opened the door for people like Beck and Limbaugh. The came Fox news who pretends a lack of bias but whose real agenda is gleefully lampooned almost weekly by Jon Stewart & Company.

For many conservatives, particularly movement and religious conservatives, the new right wing media allowed them to retreat into an incestuous news cycle. They read right, watch right, and listen right. And that creates a feedback loop which encouraged more and more extremism, one where Ann Coulter's famous claim that "liberals need to know they can be killed" is simply a exposition of what many already feel.

It is this incestuous media that created the 'tea-baggers' and their ilk, and many of the outrageous statements about evolution, global warming and other issues they consider the property of the left. In that context Wilson's statement is not outrageous, but rather a representation of what Wilson believes his constituents feel, that Barack Obama, being a liberal, must be lying when he tells people that right wing claims must be false.

Is Wilson's statement a dagger in the heart of movement conservative? No way. Movement conservatism has endured many more potent errors in recent years, such as the damage done to free-market idealism in the wake of the 2007-8 economic crises. It will take many more to undo that. But it did once again expose the right's true center lies in an imaginary world. That while they may claim others do not know, they have no claim to knowledge themselves.

Moreover, Wilson helped galvanize Democrats, particularly the "Blue Dogs' Obama's speech was really aimed at. It made clear their need to join together, greatly abetted by the President's flexible but informed approach.

Thanks to Joe Wilson, I feel far better about health care reform today then I did the moment his lips came unzipped.

Auto-blogging on Deceptacons.

Today was really tiring.

I got out of bed Because you have to start early to overthrow the American way.

I feel sleepy because I spent all night with a stack of Playboys.

I'm so happy. I just found out that I have been accepted into Harvard. And Yale. I don't know which to choose... oh, why is life so hard sometimes?

Last night I had to masturbate twenty times. I'm so horny. Click here to see my website.

I want to tell the world that Obama is the anti-Christ and i am his henchman!

I am really annoyed with those assholes at _are_you_hotter_than_us_?, because I am so much cuter than them, and those photos don't do me justice. They can't reject me, so I'm starting my own rating community. Click here to join (the first five applicants are automatically accepted).

Today, I got a digital camera! Yes! a high-resolution is just what I need now that a hot girl has moved in next door.

I want to say thanks to the academy for giving me this award.

I went to the doctor yesterday, and he said I have bipolar disorder, and a healthy imagination.

You should all do this quiz! It's amazingly accurate. You just put in your name and birthday, and it will tell you who you're sexually compatible with.

Wow, work is really hard. I mean whoever thought it would be so hard to work.

That's enough for now. But I'll leave you with this thought - sharing your life with strangers on the internet is the cheapest form of therapy available. Leave a comment and tell me I'm beautiful.

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