Saturday, July 15, 2006

797 Cease-Fire Demands

"Israel on Saturday laid out a set of demands to the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which it said were its conditions for a ceasefire in Lebanon." Read them here.

It sounds very reasonable to me, but not so easy to implement.

I can see that Lebanon has to take some blame for having turned a blind eye to Hezbollah. But it's a little harsh to now demand that Lebanon rein in Hezbollah, after having made it much more difficult for Lebanon to do so.


796 To Read

Please read this, posted by Lisa Goldman at On The Face.

A little history, a little analysis, a lot of common sense. And that's what I find scary - that at the level where decisions are being made, there is little common sense.

795 Aborted Auction Action

Saturday, July 15, 2006

I went to an auction this evening (auction at 5:30, preview just before). They usually go to almost midnight, but I left at 7 pm.

There wasn't much of anything I was interested in, or curious what it would sell for. Most of it seemed like just junk. There was one pretty little carved walnut cameo back settee (that needed reupholstering), but I already own 5 Victorian settees (one a reproduction), so I certainly don't need another. I decided if it looked like it was going to go for less than $100, I'd buy it. It went for $125. That was a very good buy. There was also a 1967 Camero convertible (one owner, a woman who had won it on a TV quiz program forty years ago) that went for $18,000. I was curious about that.

After the settee and the car sold, I discovered I was reading my book and paying absolutely no attention to any of the items being auctioned, so I decided to leave. First time I've ever left an auction before the last page of the catalogue. What's more, I believe it's the first time I didn't bid. Not even once.

You know, I wouldn't have left if there had been any interesting men there. Seems like all the men at these auctions are with their girlfriend, or with their boyfriend. The only men there alone are in their 80s

... except for the caterer. He's a gorgeous black guy about 6'5" and BROAD, with nice eyes and a deep quiet voice. A Culinary Institute graduate. Daughter met him once, and had pretty much the same reaction to him that I have. The food at these auctions is as famous as the antics of the auctioneer. We have curried chicken pasta salad, sausage casserole, the best baked ham I've ever tasted, mushroom or spinach quiche, pineapple bread pudding, various fruit pies, stuff like that. Gorgeous, and he can cook, too. He complimented me this evening on my weight loss, shortly after I turned around too quickly during the preview and ran face first into his midsection. Too bad he's at least 20 years younger than I.

Off to watch my Saturday night PBS Britcoms. I've seen every one of these ancient episodes a hundred times, but it's relaxing anyway.

794 Quote

"politics seems to rid normal human beings of basic anatomical functions such as logical thought"

...from DNA, of Mindbleed, in a thoughtful and anguished post. The "SM" he refers to is The Sandmonkey.

793 Links Are Fixed! (I hope)

[Later edit - The corrections have finally shown up in the link panel on the right. I have tested the Israeli and Lebanese links and they now work.]

I apologize to anyone who attempted to follow the links on the right to the Lebanese blogs. I screwed up the entries when I added one to the list. They should be fixed now (or as soon as Blogger catches up). If there's a bullet in front of the blog name, the link should work.

Let me know if any don't.

Friday, July 14, 2006

792 Friday - Flirtations and Fears

Friday, July 14, 2006

I volunteered at the Maritime Museum today, and finally, finally, a man came in who was worth flirting with!

He had come in with a woman. They were working with an environmental action group and wanted to find maps or aerial views of the river bank, and to use the computer to look some stuff up on their way to a meeting. I thought it was cute that he mentioned that they had "met up" to do this research and would have to go back such-and-such a way so she could retrieve her car. He didn't have to mention that. (Like, "Um, just to let you know we don't live together....") I was sure to mention that my late husband and I had attended blah blah, and I mentioned the village I live in (just in case he wanted to look in a phone book or anything like that).

I'm not going to sit around waiting for a call, but it was good practice. He leaned over the counter to read my badge at least three times, it was clear he was memorizing the name, so I might have done something right. I'm rather proud of myself. Flirting is new to me.

I didn't get much else done today, beyond stopping in at the Suzuki dealership to ask what that blank green rectangle on the dashboard display is (they didn't know), and to order a 2003 book. The 2006 book just doesn't make it.

The Hairless Hunk and I spent some time discussing what has to be done with the woods (damn, he's good looking!), and I had nice phone conversations with Daughter (who is visiting Penn State and her old fraternity house for the first time since she graduated), and Piper, and Roman.

The Hunk told me that he had talked recently with the young man who had cleared my woods. I had sold the guy an easement on my property for his electric line, for the house he's building behind mine, for $1 and the clearing of the woods. Coming across my property was about 1/3 the distance compared to coming up from the highway. It turns out that to come across my property requires that they put in another pole at the corner of my lot, and that one pole will cost him $10,000 to have it planted! So it turns out that it's actually cheaper for him to run the line up from the highway, since there would be no poles involved. Ouch! I almost feel sorry for the guy.

I spent a lot of time today reading Israeli and Lebanese blogs (see links on the right. Note - Links will be there on the main page, but not if you are looking only at this post). The contrast between what we hear on the news or read in the newspaper and what these bloggers are saying, is ... I can't think of an appropriate word. If you know what's really going on, the reasons and implications, you might be as frightened as I am.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

791 - Unhappinesses

Thursday, July 13, 2006

I drove the minivan today. The radio/CD player seems to have fixed itself. I went to the hardware store, took the long way. Bought some insect and weed sprays. Coming back, believe it or nor, the van stalled at the intersection right in front of the Chrysler/Dodge dealership. How interesting is that?

They said to bring it in tomorrow, but tomorrow I have to work at the museum, so I'm to take it in on Monday. I think Saturday or Sunday I'll chance it, and drive it to the mall. I need a new dehumidifier, and the van is my only means to get it home. The basement is starting to smell musty.

A complaint. Howcome whenever a movie or TV show wants to age a character with makeup (and we've talking comfortable middle class here, not bag ladies), they show them with half-open eyes, red around the eyes, and grey skin with what looks like black dirt in the creases? They put bushy eyebrows on them, especially for some reason the women. And they make the women's hair all fuzzy. Do they think the elderly get no sleep, are half asleep, never wash their faces, and never comb their hair?

Think of some elderly folks you know. As long as their minds are sharp, their eyes are likely to be MORE sparkley, not less. Their skin is likely to look more softly "baby-bottom pink", not grey or thickened. Older women are more likely to have sparse eyebrows from years of plucking, not bushy ones. And older women are more likely to have their hair professionally done.

Where are these makeup people getting their idea of what age looks like? It's really starting to annoy me.

790 Machu Picchu

Thursday, July 13, 2006

[Edit - minor clarification - ignore if you've seen this already.]

Dinner last evening was at Machu Picchu, a Peruvian restaurant in Newburgh. (Interesting coincidence, Machu Picchu, Peru, was the locale for a "Nightline" story last night. When I was younger, I'd always wanted to go there. Now I know I can't handle the altitude.) The menu was a surprise. It included tripe, and some of the sauces contained potatoes, and there were Chinese items. I ended up with a thin (but tender) flank steak covered in sauteed tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions, with a scoop of rice on the side. The guy across from me had lo mein with the same vegetables mixed in, plus sweet and hot peppers.

There were only four of us. One woman (a professor at West Point, whose husband is currently in Iraq) had brought her toddler, so she had to leave early. The remaining three of us wanted dessert, but they didn't have any. Angela mentioned that there was an ice cream place "just up the road", so we decided to walk to it.

I forgot that Angela thinks nothing of a 10-mile run, and the 25-year-old guy with us runs several miles every morning. "Just up the road" turned out to be about a mile and a half - a three mile round trip. Ick! I was wearing flip-flops. Plastic flip-flops. (Not on purpose - they're what I wear around the house, and I forgot to change before I left.) But the goal of REAL frozen custard kept me going.

When we got there, the ice cream parlor was now a pizza parlor. There was a Baskin Robbins across the street, so that's where we ended up.

I'm sorry, Newburgh, but I find your Broadway scary. Maybe that's why we had so few people show up for dinner. Heading back to the cars after ice cream, we walked past at least two examples of your fearless cops in action, patting down suspects. We also saw several police cars flashing lights on the other side of the street far ahead of us, but by the time we got there the excitement was over. That's on a Wednesday night, about 9 pm. I'd hate to see Saturday.

But the trees lining the street are pretty. They distract attention from the crumbling concrete.

789 Places I Have Lived

Just for the fun of it, this is a list of places I know I have lived. All I'm sure of in the first seven years are places where siblings were born - I'm sure there are more that I don't remember, because when my father was in Air Force schools in radar and electronics, we moved about every six weeks.

Scranton, Pennsylvania
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Biloxi, Mississippi
...other places I was too young to remember
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Hershey, Pennsylvania
Benton, Pennsylvania
Ottawa, Ontario (city)
Ottawa, Ontario (suburb)
Benton, Pennsylvania
Red Rock, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Benton, Pennsylvania
Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
Hanover, Pennsylvania
Bristol, Pennsylvania
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Schwenksville, Pennsylvania
Kingston, New York
Ruby, New York
Ballwin, Missouri
Germantown, Maryland
Highland, New York
Where I am now.... and have been for 12 years, the longest I've ever lived anywhere.

I guess I'm mostly Pennsylvanian, although the last 23 years I've lived in New York..

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

788 Crossed Fingers

I turned in the rental and picked up the new (to me) Aerio today. One of the papers that came with it has the name and address of the previous owner, so that's nice.

Then the Chrysler folks called. The minivan had been driven 56 miles by the technician who took it home, with no problems whatsoever. "Yesterday's stall must have been a fluke." So they came and got me, I paid (Almost $800 dollars!) for diagnosis, spark plugs, and rotors, and brought the van home. No problems with the motor or check engine light, but the second I pulled into the driveway, the radio display flashed "ERR---" and the radio cut out. I turned the radio off and back on, and it seems to think there's a CD in there, but there isn't one. Fooey. I wonder if they messed around in the dashboard with whatever they did. There's a scratch across the face of the radio display that wasn't there before.

Which makes me wonder - maybe I should try lowering and raising the ramp sometime soon.

I'll be driving the Aerio to Newburgh for dinner this evening. Maiden voyage. Cross fingers.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

787 More Minivan Misery

I got a call from Chrysler service at 12:45 pm today saying that the van was finished and I could come and get it.

Whoop whoop!

I said that I wasn't sure when I could get there since I had to call a taxi. They said they'd come and get me, "just give me a minute to find out who's free."

At 2:55, I called and asked if they knew yet when someone would be coming? I'd been hesitant to leave the house, even to get the mail. So the guy came then. He drove my minivan, and it was nice to see it coming up the road.

We headed back to the Chrysler place, he still driving, and ....

I was back home by 3:35, without the van. It stalled on the way back to the shop, so they've still got it.

Well, at least the "check engine" light didn't go on.

At 4:30 I got another call, asking for permission for a technician to take it home with him tonight, so it'll get more miles of test drive. They'd tried driving it around, and they'd let it run, and they couldn't get it to stall again. It didn't hesitate before it stalled this afternoon, so I think the "mixture problem", if that's what it was, is fixed. In my humble opinion, it needs the fuel injection thingy and the fuel lines cleaned.

A few people have scolded me for not taking it to the dealership in the first place. Well, I've had very bad experiences with dealer service in the past (Ford and Chevy). In his defense, Mr. T. is really very good. They have no idiots in their shop - it's a family business, and all the younger folk have grown up in it. Mr. T. worked under his father until he died a few years ago, and now his son is moving up in the business. In fact, the Chrysler guy today said "Oh, yes, They're good. We sometimes send work to them when we can't handle it." So I don't feel that I made any bad choices. Mr. T. also doesn't charge when he doesn't fix.

Before I started taking the Ford Taurus to Mr. T., I had taken it to the Ford dealership shop. I noticed something odd. Every time they fixed something, within a week or two something else major went. Every six months or so, I had to get two, three, or four things fixed one after another. Once I started taking it to Mr. T., when things got fixed, there were no further problems for a long time. I really don't think it was just coincidence, because several times when I wanted something done and Mr. T. couldn't fit me in the schedule, and I'd take it to the dealer, the same pattern happened again.

The Chevy dealer shop was just plain incompetent. Plus they never listened to symptoms, and never took them into consideration. They just replaced things in some kind of priority order until something worked. And charged me for everything, of course.

An example was when I had some kind of electrical problem with the Cavalier that occurred ONLY when water splashed up from underneath. No problem in ordinary rain, mind you, unless I went through a deep puddle, or if it was raining hard enough and I was going fast enough that road water splashed up. And even then, it took a good 20 minutes or 30 miles before it started happening. Never any problem on dry roads, and never any problem starting even in pouring rain. So I took it to the Chevy dealer and described it as specifically as possible.

They replaced the fuel pump. I freaked. "It CAN'T be the fuel pump!" They said they tested it, and it's fine now. "How did you test it?" We drove it to uptown and back and it was fine. "That's it? It hasn't rained in a week. Did you run it through water?" No, why would we want to do that? "Agggghhhhh..........!!!" I refused to pay for the fuel pump. So they replaced some other stuff, belts, seals, whatever. Nothing that made any sense whatsoever. And they always insisted it was fixed because it had no problem on sunny days. Three more replacements and a threat of lawsuit (because I refused to pay for replaced parts I had not approved), I took it to Mr. T.

He replaced the spark plug wires. He said they were carbon and have a history of shorting out when they get wet. Problem solved. (Partially. He had to replace them with exactly the same thing, so that fix lasted on average 10 months, and then had to be done again, so there was some basic design problem somewhere. You'd think that if Mr. T. knew about it, the Chevy dealer would too.)

So that's why I went with Mr. T. and resisted the dealership for so long.

Monday, July 10, 2006

786 I Bought a Car

Monday, July 10, 2006

Busy day today. I got up early, drove to Mr. T.'s, picked up the minivan and drove it to the Chrysler-Dodge dealer's, talked to the service folks there, and then read my book for an hour until one of their people could give me a ride back to Mr. T.'s.

Then I stopped in at Piper's office to get some advice about what I could afford to pay for another car, but he wasn't in yet, so I went to the cafe down the block and had a late breakfast. Saw Piper's car arrive, called him, he said come on in, so I did. We ended up back at the same cafe for coffee (& tea).

He: "You can afford any new car you want. Why are you looking at used cars?"
Me: "Because I fully intend to buy a new car in a year or two, but when I do, I want to really research it. Test drive a lot. Talk to people. That takes more time than I have now."
He: "You don't have the time now? What's the rush?"
Me: "I don't want to keep paying rental car prices, and there's no guarantee when the minivan will be fixed. And I'm going to Orlando in early August, and I want something reliable to drive to the airport in Newark. I need something NOW. I'm essentially BUYING this flippin' rental car, and they STILL want me to give it back someday! I may as well buy a car I can resell later."

So he's cutting a check for me.

He asked exactly when my flight is, and it so happens he has meetings scheduled that afternoon near the airport, so he offered me a ride down. I said thank you, but I still have to get back home, and the long term parking isn't expensive, I don't mind driving. So when he went back to his office this afternoon, he rescheduled some other meetings so he can pick me up after the return flight, too. Very nice of him. It's only now, sitting here alone, that I remember that the last few times we've had lunch someplace we had to drive to, I drove, because his driving scares me. And I don't scare that easily!

Daughter, don't scold me, "You're leading him on!" He offered as a friend, and I accepted as a friend. He knows the score. I've often been told that I don't accept gifts or offers of help gracefully. I'm trying.

After leaving Piper, I went across the river to the Subaru/Suzuki dealer, and looked again at the used Suzuki Aerio sedan. I test drove it. It's a good thing I had read the reviews yesterday, so I was prepared for the strange steering (hard to describe - tight, and it doesn't feel connected to the wheels) and the way it revs very high before shifting. From what I'd read, I know that's normal for this model. The steering takes some getting used to, and it revs high until it's well warmed up. The speedometer is a digital readout instead of a needle on a dial, and it took me about 30 seconds to decide I really really do like that. You don't have to visually/mentally process it when you look at it.

I asked if the car was local (thinking "no Katrina car, thank you") and if the service records were available. The salesman wasn't sure where the car came from, but then he found the folder, and the car was originally purchased new from them, all the major service was done by them, and the previous owner is well known - he buys a new car every three years (when the "everything else" warranty runs out). I believe him. It still has the drivetrain warranty, so if there are major problems he's not mentioning, it's their problem. So far so good.

I bought it.

It's a bit funny looking - like a cross between a sedan, an SUV, and a tank. Here's a picture of a 2003 Suzuki Aerio sedan. Mine's white, with barely visible sparkles in the paint. Four door. CD player. A/C. Power everything. About 36,480 miles on it. Four years remaining on the drivetrain warranty, and I also bought a one-year extension on the "everything else" warranty. Back seats (split) fold down if you want to put long stuff in the trunk. Nice clean gray suede-like upholstery. No evidence of any bodywork or replaced glass. Less than $9,000.

I asked the sales manager why they were selling it for less than the Blue Book value, and he looked stunned for a moment, then waved his arm at the used car lot, and said "We're mainly a new car dealer. We get a LOT of trade-ins. We gotta sell 'em. We're not losing money on the sale...." (Note to self - If I ever buy a new car there, drive a hard deal on the trade-in value they'll allow me. There's apparently some negotiating room.)

They'll handle financing (I plan to pay it off as soon as Piper's check arrives, so I don't care what rate they get, and NYS doesn't allow penalties for early payment), registration, plates, insurance, etc. I get to pick it up Wednesday, at noon, all legal and ready to go.

When I got home, there was a message on the phone from the Chrysler/Dodge shop regarding the minivan. It will be finished and ready to go tomorrow. Duh? I called them back "right quick I tell ya what!"

He: "The front brake rotors are pitted and it needs new spark plugs."
Me: "Ok. No problem. I did feel a pull in the brakes. And the hesitation-stalling-check engine light problem?"
He: "That's the O2 sensor. The connections were bent."
Me: "The O2 sensor? Which one?"
He: "The same one that's been replaced twice already. It looks like when somebody put one in, they forced it, jammed it in, and it bent the connections. So the computer was getting intermittent bad data, and was feeding the engine based on bad data, and that's what was causing the hesitation and stalling, and the check engine lights. We just straightened out the connections. No charge."
Me: "And this is going to fix everything?"
He: "Yup. 'Course you'll have to drive it a bit to make sure, but those bent connections were definitely a problem."

The latest O2 sensor was installed by the second-choice service station, remember? The guys I forced to honor the warranty and do it free. If this DOES fix the problem, you can bet they're going to hear about it. I guess that's the automotive equivalent of spitting in my food.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

785 Magic - The Ball Knows All

I lifted this from Ally at Simply Me Ally. (She takes nice photos, BTW.)
I had an 8-Ball when I was a pre-teen, and it's funny how much faith I still have in its answers! I even test it by asking questions to which I already know the answers, and it's always right. So, therefore, it must be right on all answers, right?
Click the 8-Ball to begin...

784 New SUVs

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Anyone else notice that the new SUVs look a lot like mini-minivans?

[Personal to Caroline from the UK, I replied to your comment.]

783 Nothing Sunday

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Nothing day. I was awakened early this morning by a call from the Maritime Museum - they needed someone to tend the gift shop today. I said I couldn't. I considered it, but I need time to catch up on stuff here after having been away Friday and Saturday.

Tomorrow will be a full day. I have to move the van from Mr. T.'s to the Chrysler dealership first thing in the morning, then I need to talk to Piper about the best way to handle the car problem, and by 5 pm I hope to have the problem solved, by finding and starting the paperwork on another vehicle, I hope....

I'm liking the used car I found on Thursday at the Subaru lot more and more. I hope it's still there.