Saturday, June 26, 2010

3002 Spinning around the webs

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nostomania - An overwhelming desire to return home or to go back to familiar places.


Sixty years since the Korean War (or "Police Action", if you prefer). I was a small child at the time, so about all I know about it comes from "MASH". For example, I didn't know that there were troops from 21 countries on "our side".

I've read differing accounts of casualties - one account says two million civilians on both sides were killed, and almost two million soldiers from the North Korean and allied sides.* That does not include maimed - that's killed. The active battle part of the Korean War lasted only three years! Given that the population was a lot lower then than now, that's unbelievable. Unbelievable that we now hear very little about it, about the toll. Unbelievable that there wasn't rioting in the streets. Compare those three-year numbers to the numbers from Iraq and Afghanistan over what, eight years? has a photo spread up.

(*One way that you get differing numbers is that some lower totals include only those who died during hostilities, on the battlefield, so to speak. Higher totals often include those who died some time later, but as a direct result of injuries suffered during hostilities. Also, since so many countries were involved, reports and therefore counts differ.)


Go to and you can converse with an artificial intelligence. Well, ok, with a program. Just type a statement or question into the box to get started, or if you click on one of the two "Think..." links, Cleverbot will start the conversation for you.

I didn't find it all that intelligent - it seemed more like a preteen with severe ADHD. I guess the key is to put only one topic in your responses. If there's two, he gets confused and thrashes.

I have to admit that a few of the stored conversations (the "Thoughts..." link) were kind of cute.


Roba has a cute post about what your email address says about you.

3001 The lemon got squeezed

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Between friends there will always be disputes.
It is not in the disputes themselves that we know our true friends,
it is in the way we address them."


Last evening I went to dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in Troy. At about 6 pm, I was heading west on route 23, and exited 23 to 23B on the ramp leading to the Thruway. I stopped at the stop sign on the ramp where it met 23B, planning to turn right to go to the Thruway entrance. There was a lot of traffic coming from the left, so I waited a bit. To the left is a slight curve and an overpass where route 23 crosses 23B. (Map here.) There was a break in the traffic, so I started forward, crept forward, really, and then saw another car coming under the overpass, so I stopped.

The guy behind me didn't.

It wasn't a very big bump. I had my left foot on the clutch, pressed all the way down, and it jarred enough that I knocked the block on the clutch pedal loose, but my head didn't even hit the headrest. No injuries, no airbags deployed. Other couple are ok, too.

We pulled over to the side to look, and I didn't see anything wrong with Hal at first. The guy's front license plate was held on with big hex-headed screws - and Hal now has two very neat hexagonal holes punched into the rear bumper. And the faint imprint of the guy's plate number in scrapes and plate-paint smears between the holes.

Sigh. Hal's only six weeks old!

The guy readily admitted it was his fault. He looked very green when he realized what he'd hit. We traded info and I called my insurance company when I got home after dinner. I guess Hal's gonna get a new bumper. I wonder how much a new BMW bumper costs. Given that a new bumper for Suzie the seven-year-old Suzuki is over $700, I suspect his insurance company is going to have a fit.


I picked Hal up at the service center yesterday morning. They admit there's a computer program problem and they're working on a fix, but they found no problem at all with the trunk opening, and the anti-theft system. It worked fine for them.

The trunk is now working fine for me, too. Maybe all the test sequences they ran inadvertently fixed it. The antitheft thing is so random that I can't test it, so I don't know if that's fixed. I stopped for lunch on the way back from the service center, took "the book" in with me, and reread the section on antitheft. Well, more than reread. I studied it, analyzed it, and took notes, and then compared what I read to what I'd seen happen.

The alarm system is turned on when you lock the doors. But since you might leave a person or animal in the car and don't want the motion detectors freaking out (yes, there are motion detectors in the cabin), if you press lock a second time, it turns the alarm off.

I'm pretty sure I didn't press lock twice those times when the alarm should have worked and didn't, and I'm certain I didn't lock the car at all on those times when the alarm went off when it shouldn't have.


I am famous for static electricity. I generate power. I have caused '70s-era mainframes to program check simply by walking past them. Before battery watches, back when you had to wind them, a watch wouldn't last more than a week on my wrist before it got magnetized or something. Once the heat goes on in the fall, I get really jumpy.

I wonder if Hal's remote key is simply too sensitive, and it's picking up a static pass over a button and interpreting it as my having pressed the button? That would explain why the alarm was off although I actually pressed the button only once, and why the door was locked although I didn't press the button at all. And it was very humid yesterday, which might explain why the trunk is working - less static when it's humid.

The similarities to 2001's Hal are increasing. He very well might lock me out someday.


After lunch yesterday I discovered something else interesting.

I've given up searching for the van key. I copied the VIN from the dashboard, went to the Dodge parts guy, and he cut a key for me while I stood there. Very quick.

Now, what was odd is that he didn't ask for any kind of proof that I actually owned the vehicle. It could have been any random car that I saw on the street, decided I liked, and wanted to drive, or at least get into.

The Hairless Hunk said it was because it is older and therefore not valuable. If it were a newer car they'd have asked for proof.

Hmmmm. Like a less valuable car won't have anything valuable in it? And there are lots of older vehicles some people might like to "borrow".

I wonder if it's illegal to cover the dashboard VIN plate.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

3000 My lemonade has no sugar.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The little boat floated gently across the still pond
exactly like a bowling ball doesn't.


I got a call from BMW today.

The "Service engine soon" message is coming from a bug in the computer code. I am not surprised. In my long history with The Company, I was famous for being able to break any code. They could test and test six ways from Sunday, hand it to me, and within minutes I'd hit bugs. The last release of the operating system I worked on had upwards of 25 testers testing full time, and yet I wrote more than half of the trouble reports on that release, and I wasn't even testing it. I was just using it.

Computers hate me.

It seems that plugging in the key without actually starting the engine within a certain period of time, in combination with a few other factors, causes the "Service" light to go on. At least that's what they're telling me. So, BMW is rewriting the code. It won't be available for a while. In the meantime, they have turned the light off, and if it goes on again, I can continue to drive as long as the car "is driving ok".

Sorry, but that makes no sense to me. The light has meaning, right? Other things going wrong can cause it to go on, right? If it has no meaning as long as the car "is driving ok", then why have the stupid light? Since if the car isn't "driving ok", the average owner will take it in anyway.

From now on, I guess I'll just call it the "do nothing" light.

The other thing that bothers me is that I *didn't* plug the key in and leave it on without turning the motor on within a reasonable time. I am absolutely sure of that because 1) so many things go on when you plug in that I worry about running down the battery, and 2) it went on Saturday morning, when I KNOW I started it quickly.

The second annoying thing is that even though the intake woman witnessed the trunk not opening, and witnessed the alarm go off when I pushed the button properly, she says that the mechanics couldn't make it fail, therefore found nothing wrong. And, oh, by the way, I don't have to use the button in the cabin, there's a latch under the medallion on the back of the trunk and I can just use that.

Um, yeah, ok, if it won't open from the remote button, I can use the latch, but that's a work-around! I'm not supposed to have to do that! A work-around is not a fix!

As to the random alarms (actually it's more like an ear-piercing siren), again they could find no problem. She assured me that it was impossible for the alarm to go off when the car is unlocked because blah blah blah. I am absolutely certain, 100% certain, no question in my mind whatsoever, that the car was unlocked that day it freaked at the deli.

So much for impossible.

I am very frustrated.

[Much later edit - the alarms were going off because there was a mouse living in the car, who tripped the motion detectors. Really, a mouse.]

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2999 Anniversary, and rental car gas

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Everything worth knowing leaves bruises.


Oops. Yesterday was the 6-year anniversary of, well, not this blog exactly, since I started on AOL, but of my blogging, I guess. The posts are numbered from the beginning, so the sequence number above is real. That's about 500 posts per year. Yikes!


Am I remembering wrong? It's stuck in my head that not so very long ago when you rented a car, it came with a full tank of gas, and you had to return it with a full tank, and that was easy. What's this "It's 3/8 full, so you have to return it 3/8 full" crap? How the heck are you supposed to do that? Dribble some in, turn the car on so you can see where the needle is, dribble some more, repeat until the gas station attendant throws you out?

I said, "That's not easy." So he offered to sell me the gas already in the car, "...and then you can return it empty".

Does he really not see that that is not easy either? If I have to drive this thing a few days, I'll be putting gas in it, so without a siphon and a gas can that I can use in the Enterprise parking lot to empty the rental, it's well nigh impossible.

I suggested that they fill it, and I'd return it full. He said they're not equipped to do that. Um, all you have to do is drive it down the road to the nearest gas station, fill it, then give me the keys. What do you mean, "not equipped"?

I think they just don't want to pay for gas, any gas.

(It's not just Enterprise. I've rented several cars in the past few years, and it's been like that every time.) Very annoying.

2998 Maybe BMWs do come in lemon flavor

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The first testicular guard, the "cup", was used in hockey in 1874
and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it took only
100 years for hockey players to realize that their brain is also important.


Well, Hal went in for service again this morning. Three problems:
  • the "Service engine soon" message has been on steadily since Saturday,
  • the remote button to open the trunk doesn't open the trunk, but sometimes sets off the alarm,
  • the anti-theft system seems arbitrary and random.
So, with the speaker wire problem of a few weeks ago, that's four problems in six weeks.

I called Monday morning to make the appointment, and was told that if the car was acting ok, I could drive it with the service light on. So I did. (And yes, the gas cap was checked by a service station attendant on Sunday, and it was tight, so that's not it.)

The problem with opening the trunk has been around for a while. It worked fine three weeks ago, but then got intermittent, then wouldn't work at all, then last week started with the siren thing. When I told the intake woman about it she said, "Oh, it's probably in valet mode. When it's in valet mode, the remote won't open the trunk." So we went outside and checked and it wasn't in valet mode. So she tried the remote, and the trunk opened. Three times. So I tried it, and it opened, once. The second time it wouldn't open. The third time, the siren went off. She tried again, and it opened. But her second and third tries, it wouldn't open.

I'm glad she saw it in action (or inaction), or they might never have believed me.

The anti-theft thing is harder to demonstrate, because it's so arbitrary, but having demonstrated the trunk, maybe they'll be more likely to take my word for it.

I think my car hates me.

I got a call late this afternoon. They call after they've looked at it to give an estimate of how long they expect to have to keep it. She had no estimate. Uh, they are "in communication with the BMW engineers", and waiting to hear back from them.

Ack. That does not sound good.

They didn't have a loaner for me this time, so they rented a car for me. I asked that they make it a small one. Enterprise picked me up at the BMW garage, and when I asked if they had something small for me, the guy said yes, it's a Ford Edge, a small SUV. My eyebrows shot up. Isn't that kind of like saying "a small Clydesdale"?

The hood on that beast is higher than my shoulder. I have to climb up into it, onto my hands and knees on the seat, then turn to sit down. It's pretty nice driving, though. Smooth. It has the electric seats that I didn't get for Hal because if I'm the only regular driver, they'll mostly stay in one place once I find the optimal setting, so it didn't seem worth it, but they are really nice on a rental, that I have to fiddle with to get right.

Well, anyway, Hal is well named. I was afraid of that.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2997 No cougar cubs needed, thank you.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error."
-- John Kenneth Galbraith --


For the past five or six years, two Pakistani guys (they look like brothers) have been working shifts at the gas station. I've been calling them Tall, Dark, and Handsome #1 and #2 - TD&H1 being the older, quieter, family man, and TD&H2 being the younger and friendlier. I don't know how old he is, but he has traces of gray in the temples.

Anyway, TD&H2 has fallen madly in love with Hal. When I stopped in yesterday, he asked if I'd please take him for a ride sometime. He got off at 3 pm today, and we went for our ride, through the Bard college campus (he's always flirting with the college girls who stop in at the gas station, so I thought he'd like that) and then across the river and down to a town park, where we sat at a picnic table and watched the river.

It was a beautiful day for it, warm, sunny, slight breeze, big puffy fluffy clouds in a deep blue sky.

Somewhere along the line he seemed to transfer his adoration from the car to me. I have a new admirer.

He knows I've been dating someone, and that I'm not interested in complications, so he's decided we should be friends. He wants to have a drink some evening next week after he gets off the evening shift. When I said ok I was thinking at the bar in the village. Turns out he's thinking "your place or mine". Uh, no. That's not going to happen.

It's amusing how many younger men have told me lately how much more interesting mature women are.

Sigh. Yeah, we are more interesting, more even-tempered, more reasonable, and better in bed. But somehow, I don't really believe that's what interests them. Cougars can be cynical. Mostly we do know what's going on, but what the hell. Sometimes it's worth it. Sometimes it's not. And sometimes age confers the wisdom to know which is which, when to pounce and when not.

2996 I Believe, repeating an old post

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle."
-- George Orwell --


I've been wandering through my old posts again, and found this one from December 24, 2005:

I believe.

I do believe in some form of reincarnation. I have powerful and personal reasons for my belief.

I believe that we come back over and over to learn lessons. That each pass through, there's some important lesson or lessons we are to learn, and by paying attention and learning these lessons, we grow in some way. Call it spiritual strength if you like. Those whom people say have "old souls" aren't really older, they've just learned more of the lessons.

I believe that the pain and hardship some people suffer in the life they are born into has a purpose. It's how they are started on the path to knowledge. It's the necessary first step of their lesson.

I believe that at some point you learn enough to reach completion and "graduate". I suspect that "God" is a committee of completed souls.

I believe that most of those lessons have to do with interpersonal relations and care of the earth and all that has been given us for our use, although it's really much bigger than that, it's beyond mere planet, it's beyond universal concepts. It has to do with the source of energy, the spinning. I have the feeling but I don't have the words to describe it.

I believe that the important people who come into and leave our lives with great effect are there for a purpose, as are we. Either we are to teach them something, or they are to teach us, or both. Sometimes it's easy to identify these people, sometimes not, but it's important to pay attention. To share what you have to offer. To learn what they have to teach. I call these people intersectors. It's important not to push away an intersector. It's important not to turn away from being one, no matter how difficult it becomes.

I believe that the earthly world is a great temptation. To become too engrossed in getting power, in telling your neighbors how to live, in fussing over physical constructs that in the greater scheme don't really matter, takes away from the real purpose of life.

I believe that most organized religion keeps people from the introspection required to learn their own lessons. I believe this is on purpose.

Perhaps I should be a Buddhist nun. (Although I have looked into Buddhism, and that ain't quite it.... Close, but not quite. Or maybe that's lessons 956 and 957 for me, next life.)


I was born into a family where there was no love. Our father beat us and berated us all physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our mother pretty much left us to suffer or survive as best we could. My siblings played one against another to gain favor or redirect beatings. We tried to love each other because we thought that was the way it was supposed to be, but anger and hate and avoidance and past betrayals and a lack of faith and trust made it near impossible. Besides, we didn't know how.

When my father died, my mother was finally able to look up and see the damage that had been done, and she tried to repair or make up for what she could, but she didn't know how either, and it was too late anyway.

I grew up with no concept of what it was to love without fear, and to be loved for myself.

We can't really know what our own lessons are, but I suspect I know what one of mine is.