Category Archives: Annoyances

The Problem With the Jeep

Ever since we bought the Jeep almost two years ago, it’s had one basic problem.  We like it.  A lot.

This has definitely been the most high maintenance vehicle I’ve ever owned.  Seems like there’s always something up.  Sometimes little things, sometimes big things.  Even so, it’s not a difficult, nor expensive vehicle to work on.  Everything that has come up we’ve handled fairly easily.

But now it’s looking like the engine… and maybe even the transmission are about done for.  All said and done it would be around $6,000 to $7,000 to rebuild both of them.

So the crossroads we find ourselves at is this… we have enough money to replace the Jeep.  That being, the Jeep when running is worth about $3,500.  We could go buy another $3,500 vehicle.  But who knows what kind of work that will need, could be flawless (not likely) or it could be about to blow just like the one we have.  That’s a big gamble.

We’ve been looking around at vehicles in the $5,000 to $6,000 range and there’s a lot of crap out there!  150,000 to 250,000 miles with paint that’s all scratched up, interiors that are worn out.  There’s some decent “Grandma cars”, but Andrea flatly refuses to drive anything like that.  I guess I kinda understand.  You have to at least like what you’re driving or else you aren’t motivated to take care of it.

Or for $6,000 we get a brand new engine and transmission that has no miles on it at all, comes with a 3 year warranty and should be good for 100,000 miles if we take care of it, like we certainly would.

If we didn’t like driving it, it wouldn’t even be an issue.  But it’s comfortable, roomy, and it looks good!  Plus we just spent $1,000 on tires 6 months ago.

If we do this though, it pretty much guarantees we can’t sell it… ever.  It just wouldn’t be worth it.  Even after dumping $6k into it, it’s still a $3k vehicle to the rest of the world.

Sucks to be in this situation, but I always try to think about how we can come out better than before it happened.  Going to keep thinking and praying on it for now.

Vacation Almost Over

I took a week off of work.  It’s been really nice.  Breaking the doldrums of the same old same old.  I can say fore sure though, I didn’t get as much relaxing and gaming time as I had hoped.

The family and I all went out to Cimarron to help my Mom move to a new house.  It went about as smooth as a move can possibly go I think.  We started the heavy lifting at 8AM on Saturday, and we were done by noon that day!  We had a bunch of help, so that sure made thing go smoother.

I really like their new place.  It has lots of room both inside and out.  Luke loved running around and there are all sorts of different areas of the house that you can use for different things.  Upstairs is going to be a cool football room.  I had the pleasure of hanging my first flat screen TV on the wall.  It was actually a lot simpler than I thought it would be.  We got their sound system working and they have a pretty awesome setup now.  It will take some tweaking and organizing, but I helped get everything hooked up.  It’s up to Mom and Duane now to make it the way they want it.

We came back on Monday and on the way home, we realized that the leak I thought I fixed in the Jeep… wasn’t fixed at all.  The carpet on the passenger side was soaked from the condensation dripping from the AC into the cabin.  Thank goodness for the internet I found a fix.  Unfortunately it called for cutting a hole in the side of the frame on the Jeep!  Something I don’t really have any tools for.  But $25 worth of Dremel accessories and $5 of plastic tube and clamps later, I think I have it fixed.  I ran out of time to thoroughly test it because Andrea had to go bowling and I needed to watch Luke.  He’s just not to the age yet where you can go, “Stay where I can see you, don’t drink any poison.”  So letting him roam around the garage while I work on cars still isn’t a good idea.

On top of that, Luke and I took a shower and I noticed that the tub wasn’t draining.  This has happened before and usually I just have to plunge it out.  However this attempt of that has proven fruitless.  I even poured some drain clog remover down there, and nothing.  So I called the Landlord.  Something I haven’t had to do very often since we moved here.  Most of the time because it’s easier to just fix stuff myself rather than wait and rely on someone else.  But for this project, I got to the point where I said… “Why am I still screwing with this?  I rent!” so I took advantage of one of the benefits of NOT being a homeowner and called this one in.  A plumber is supposed to be coming over sometime today and I won’t have to worry about the bill!

So I planned on helping Mom move, that was the reason for the timing of the vacation.  But I didn’t plan on having to tear apart the Jeep and mess around with plumbing.  Feels like a lot of the time I’ve spent on “vacation” I’ve been working and fixing things.  Andrea says that’s sure not her idea of a vacation.  But you know, times like this when I can kick back on the couch with the laptop, a cup of coffee and write a blog in the middle of the morning… this is what it’s all about.

If anything this time off has helped me get back to my natural state, which is “laid-back”.  Work gets me so uptight and hi-strung sometimes.  I didn’t used to get all stressed out about stuff.  Just not enough time any more I guess, blah, blah, cue what everyone always says.

I feel like I can go into work now with a bit of a re-freshed perspective.  That is going to help a lot.  I really am going to dedicate myself to dumping the stress from my life.  Get done what I can get done and don’t sweat the rest.  That’s my plan.  We’ll see how long it lasts.

Self Improvement

SIC

The time change totally kicked my butt yesterday.  I vaguely remember my alarm going off at 5AM.  I’m pretty sure I remember hitting snooze, but definitely don’t remember finally dismissing the alarm.  Sure enough I wake up and look over at the clock which reads 7:07 AM and a notification on my phone that says, “You missed an alarm ‘Get Up & Go To Work'”.  Whoops.  So that means I slept through 10 minutes of my alarm going off before my phone finally gave up.

So I resolved to make some changes.  I updated the alarm on my phone to be louder.  I also picked a new song as my alarm sound.  I’ve found that I can’t use songs that I like as my alarm.  Because after a couple days of that song waking me up… I grow to hate it.  It totally ruins the song for me.  So I try to pick a song that I sorta like so it’s still pleasant to wake up to, but I’m not too attached to.  Thus I arrived at Frank Sinatra – “Summer Wind” as my new alarm.

retro-coffee

I made a point to set up the coffee maker the night before and set the program.  So that when I wake up, piping hot coffee is waiting for me.  (Which I am enjoying its full robust flavor now).  It makes it a lot easier to get out of bed if you have something warm and waiting for you rather than knowing the first thing you have to do when you get up is a chore.

The third change I’m trying to make is getting cleaned up and dressed right away.  Usually I lounge around in my bathrobe until the last possible second before I have to actually start getting groomed for the world beyond my front door.  And I’m usually groggy and lethargic all morning, until I actually start getting dressed, then I feel like I finally wake up into “day mode”.  So I thought, “What if I just get dressed right away?”  So far… seems to make a difference.

snooze

The final change I made is the most foundation rocking one of them all though…  I disabled the Snooze feature on my phone.  I am a chronic “snoozer”.      I will literally hit snooze for an hour in the mornings.  I just hate waking up.  HATE it.  Once I’m up, I’m good.  But if snoozing is an option, it’s an option I take every time.  So I decided to take that option away from myself.  Today… it worked.

But it’s going to take weeks to see if this move is successful.  “Sleepy Me” is a sneaky bastard.  I have been known to solve the two compound equations that my phone requires to turn off my alarm, go into the other alarm on my phone and set an alarm for T+1 hour, and go back to sleep.  Sometimes with only vague memories of it even happening.  “Sleepy Me” is committed to not giving up on the night.

All I really want is to get a reasonable amount of sleep each night, but not sleep more than I have to.  Sleeping is just time wasted in my book.

Does anyone actually wake up feeling refreshed and energized with a zest for life?  How do you do it?  I’d love to know your secrets.

Doing Something Interesting

I’ve had the urge to create, and it seems like it gets stronger every day.  Each time I have some free time to actually do something, or plan something. I am coming up COMPLETELY blank.  I feel like I’d really like to do something with video.  So as an exercise, I’ll list my strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths & Weaknesses in Making Interesting Videos on the Internet:

Strengths:

  • Not afraid of being an idiot
  • I think I’m funny (Might be a weakness?)
  • Have a decent camera
  • I like games (Games are popular on internet)

Weaknesses

  • No ideas
  • Not good looking
  • No time for editing
  • Need more equipment (Capturing direct footage)

Okay.  So there we go.  Writing those down was… not helpful.  Maybe I should just stick to this blog thing.

2013 is Here

I was doing so good posting on the blog.  Then all of a sudden it’s like the will and ability to post just wasn’t there anymore.

It’s been busy as every holiday is.  So many weekends in a row being gone, and my free time for producing anything tangible during the week is limited.  I have just enough time to start most things, but not enough time to finish them.  Right now I’m writing this at 9:00 PM while I’m still at work training one of our part-timers.  Which hopefully means I’ll be filling in for missing part-timers less often in the long run.

Hard to imagine with the utter lack of my existence online lately, but I really think I need to unplug.  It’s one of the things I love about camping.  There’s no radio, internet, TV or distractions.  And you just free your mind to think about things in a more deep and meaningful way.  So much content out there is trying to evoke some sort of desired emotional response, whether its outrage, desire, or excitement.  Everyonce in a while I need some utter solitude where there are no outside messages trying to influence my decision making and just let my mind unravel things as it will.

I’ve been playing some Tekkit on Bieb’s server.  I got my resource collection up and running to a point now I can just login and build stuff.  I’ll post some screenshots of my project once it starts to take shape a bit.  It’s something you should recognize.

I have a hard time really committing myself to Minecraft.  Everything I’ve ever built has been lost for one reason or another.  Server crashes, world corruptions.  It’s just a matter of time before its all gone in a digital POOF.  I’ve had a lot of fun watching the Yogscast Tekkit series though.  And it’s hard to resist playing for myself.  There’s that outside influence I was talking about earlier.

I also am anxious to get back into Guild Wars 2.  I mean REALLY anxious.  There is just so many damn things to do!  It’s a little bit daunting considering I want to do it ALL.  But I need to just take my time and realize I have years and years ahead of me yet to experience all that content.  It doesn’t help much that Andrea doesn’t play so I’m playing solo all the time.  I really would like to find a nice guild… but again, I don’t really have the time to commit to something like that.

So this was basically another chapter in “How Matt Became a Grumpy Old Man”.

Max

Look at this crap.

This just hasn’t been my day…

Why can’t I just buy NORMAL bulbs!?  Look at this cheap chinese Wal-Mart crap.  You’d think something as simple as some insulated wire and LEDs they could get right, but no.  These haven’t even been up a week and one strand is already out.  Complete bull crap.

Then when I’m heading to work, I notice that the dashboard in the Cutlass is indicating I have a bulb out.  So I do a walkaround, sure enough.  It’s still dark out so I can’t see all that well, and I have to get to work, so I waited until after work to check it out.  That’s when I see this:

Super… and a nice sized rock is still resting inside the lens.  So I’m on the hunt for new ones.  Yay.

Then I go to take the bulb out and the glass comes out leaving the metal part of the bulb stuck in the socket.  So more fun trying to pry that out.  No permanent damage there though, once I got all of the old bulb out, the new bulb works just fine.

I did get one thing done though.  I put a wreath on the Jeep.  Every year I see a few people driving around with them on their truck and I always kinda liked it.  So I wanted to see what it would look like.  We’ll see how it holds up with semi-trucks blowing past on the highway.  If it gets destroyed I’m not out much, but the way my luck is going it will probably somehow rip off the entire grille.

Tuesday Top Ten – Most Annoying Technological Advances

10. Wires:  Don’t get me wrong. Wires are an amazing technological advancement and enable pretty much every device and contraption that I use on a daily basis. But this isn’t a list of the worst technological advances, it is of the most annoying. And while functional and necessary, there’s few things I hate more than untangling wires. Headphone cables, extension cords, speaker cables. Cable management is a skill and an art. One that I certainly have not mastered.

9. LED Headlights:  When the LED tail lights were first introduced on factory Cadillacs, I thought they were pretty damn swift. Then luxury cars started using LEDs to accent the lines of the headlights. Ok. Now they’re on friggin everything. Mark my words, we are going to look back on the cars of today three decades from now and LED headlights will be the “vinyl tops” of our current day.

8. Digital Distribution: I’ve spoken on this in great length in the podcast. When you buy digitally you’re willingly giving up some control of your purchase. Want to carry that game over to your new system? Better hope the publisher supports it. Want to trade in your old software? Tough luck. I’ll take my physical copy every time, thank you!

7. Spam: A decade ago, this might have made number one on the list. But now, spam filters have gotten pretty darn good. Still you have to wonder, spammers wouldn’t keep sending out these messages if they weren’t effective. Someone, somewhere, is following through on these offers for blatantly misspelled prescription drugs. For the most part a couple junk e-mail addresses to use when you sign up for stuff and gmail, and you hardly have to worry about Spam anymore.

6. DRM (Digital Rights Management): Breifly DRM is copy protection that at its simplest prevents unauthorized duplicates of a copyrighted piece of work from being made. And at its most extreme restricts which devices you can use, and even how many times you can use it.
DRM in large is an effort to thwart piracy. Problem is DRM only hurts the honest paying customer, while the pirate still gets their content for free and without restriction.
I’m not saying I have a better solution, but I am saying DRM isn’t the answer. And if anything encourages piracy.

5. CGI Cartoons: I’m not saying that CGI can’t be appreciated, and that there is not some beautiful art direction that goes into CGI titles. I am disheartened that CGI cartoons have all but done away with traditional animated cartoons. This goes for the Saturday morning cartoons as well as the feature films. It’s rare to find an animated show that is truly drawn by human hands.
Cartoons are an art, same as movies, paintings, video games, or anything else. And it’s sad to see a very intimate style of art being lost to a more manufactured form.
I imagine that it is the way most things are in the world. CGI animation must be cheaper now than traditional animation to produce. Long live the almighty dollar.

4. Seat Belt Dingers: Don’t mistake, I wear my seat belt. Even moreso now that I’m a father. I feel like it’s the responsible thing to do.
But never once have I heard that DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING DING and thought: Ahh, thanks for the reminder. What I think is, “You #(*$&’n SOB computer! Fine I’ll put my @$#)& seat belt on! Chill the )&*% out!” What I would appreciate is maybe a SINGLE DING. After that if I choose not to wear my seatbelt… I’m on my own. I don’t need somebody nagging my ass to get things done. I get plenty of that outside my car. (No Andrea, I’m not talking about you!)

3. Automated Phone Directories: Few things piss me off more. How many times have you called a support line, listen to all the options and think… well, “It’s kind of a Press 3 question, but it’s also kind of a Press 5 question.” Sure as shit you’re going to pick the wrong option EVERY TIME.
When when you finally do get through to the person that barely speaks English and hates their job even more than you hate yours, GOOD LUCK getting transferred to the right person.
Usually if I can’t just google it… I just give up.

2. CFL Bulbs: This Top Ten list certainly isn’t on a linear scale. If anything it’s a hyperbolic scale. Let’s just say I hate CFLs a lot more than I hate everything else on this list. And that should tell you as well how much I hate number 1…
Why the hate for CFLs? The reasoning is three fold.
Number one: Warm up time. Remember when you flipped a switch and the lights came on? Not with CFLs, you flip the switch, then you get that half second of, “Didn’t I f’n turn on the light?” And then you have to wait a good minute or two for the full luminosity to kick in. Ever tried a CFL for a porch light in winter? Talk about useless.
Number two: Color temperature. If want pasty blue light I’ll spend more time at the office. I like a nice warm light. It feels homey. It feels more natural.
Number three: The look friggin’ ridiculous! Look at that picture! Is that not the dumbest shit you’ve ever seen!? Look! I have rotini popping out of my ceiling fan! I’ve even seen CFLs encased in plastic domes so that they LOOK like incandescents. WTF!? It’s like they admit no one want to lay eyes on these things! Worst of all they’re outlawing the ye’ olden light bulbs in some places. What has this world come to?

1. Cell Phones: More than anything else in the history of invention, I despise the cell phone. The last thing I want in the world is to be in continuous contact with it. The world sucks. I hate it. I want to exist in it in the most minimal way possible.
Nothing is more fun that being on vacation and the phone rings… “Hey, I know you’re on vacation but…” Seriously, what is wrong with just BEING GONE? I LIKE some solitude. I LIKE being disconnected.
And it’s not the fact that I’m constantly bombarded… as much as it is, that I COULD be at any moment, at any place. You’re constantly a slave to everyone else’s whims and desires. Whether it’s to come in and work over time, or just social chit chat.
If I leave my cell phone at home, head to the grocery store, roll my car and die because no one could find me. Know that at least I went the way I wanted to go… without being disturbed.

Stranded.

My car has only left me stranded once before in the 6+ years I’ve owned it.  And that was due to my own stupidity flooding the engine.

This time around the failure was more… catastrophic.

As you can see in the picture above, something “exploded”.  That something was the inside joint on my passenger side axle.  I had a mild vibration over the past couple months, and I couldn’t track it down.  So I just kept driving it.  Today on the way home from town, the vibration quickly started to escalate.  I slowed down to 50, and the vibration went away, but then started to come back.  I slowed down to 40… got better…. then came back.  I found a place to pull over and did a walk around on the car.  That’s when I discovered the mess.  The car still moved under its own power so I figured I would try to limp home.

I was about 10 miles from home and figured I’d give it a shot.  Thank God I decided to take the back roads home.  So I head down the county black top doing 25mph.  Everything seems like it was going pretty good.  Until I got to a decent sized hill.  Then POP!  WHZZZZ!  And that was it.  No more go.

So I got off the road as best I could with no power.  I pulled out my cell phone and of course “Your battery has less than 10% remaining, please plug in your charger.”  Nice.  I called my neighbor Chris with my final minutes of battery life and he brought out a truck to pull me home.

So the Toronado is now back in the driveway.  I ordered a new axle.  If there’s anything frustrating about this it’s that the part that broke is a part I replaced only two years ago.  With a 30 year old car that has over 260,000 miles, you figure its going to be one of the 30 year old parts that breaks… not a two year old part with maybe 20,000 miles.  But nothing you can do about it now.  The replacement part is only $70, so still not quite justified to get a new car yet.

At least I made it to the liquor store… I was out of beer.

Lazy Weekend

Well I really wanted to get a lot of stuff done this weekend.  Probably NEEDED to get a lot done.  Then I came down with a stupid cold.  Not a debilitating cold, by any stretch, but enough to say, “Ah, screw it.”  So instead of doing things like rotate my tires, I spent a lot of time on the computer, hanging out with Luke, and napping.

I did get the yard mowed.  But upon finishing the last section, the bracket that mounts the handle to the mower itself complete cracked and came loose.  The metal on the deck of the mower had rusted so much that it had no strength left.  So I’m tasked with either fabbing up a bracket to replace it, or get a new mower.  I’ve thought real hard about getting a riding lawn mower… but just can’t justify the expense.

Finally got around to installing WordPress on my server here in the basement.  http://web.bgwillers.com  Been thinking about doing that for a long time since I had just a basic placeholder page there.  It’s password protected for now, but don’t worry, you aren’t missing out on anything, it’s just a blank template.  I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it, if anything.

The one thing that I didn’t get done this weekend that I really could have was beat Metroid Prime.  I can’t believe I’m still talking about this game.  What I’ve done is put myself in a circumstance where I’m not getting any games played.  I don’t want to admit that I don’t like Metroid Prime… I think it’s a fine game.  But for some reason it just feels like work to play it.  And I don’t want to play any other backlogged games until I beat that one.  The problem is I’m getting to the point that if I don’t play it again soon, I’m going to forget what’s going on and have to start all over.  I don’t know if I should just give up on the game or what.

Back to work next week.  Then the week after that VACATION!  I can’t wait!

Hot Mammer Jammer

No AC for the last 5 hours or so. 100+ outside.

We’re having a heat wave.  Sure doesn’t feel like a tropical heatwave though.  We hit a high of 108 today.  And it’s times like this when you find out if your air conditioner is up to snuff.  Ours apparently was not.

First of all, my car doesn’t have a working air conditioner, it’s something I’ve resigned to.  I could repair it, but I keep telling my self the Toronado days are closer to the end than they are the beginning.  So unless I get the determination to drive this thing for another 4 years or so, I’m fine with weathering the 20 or so really hot days we have every year, just this year it started in June!

So I get home after a hot ride home and head into the house.  It takes about 5 minutes or so, but I start to realize, the relief I was expecting from the sweltering heat hadn’t yet set in.  I thought it was possibly because Andrea’s mom was over cooking in the kitchen with the stove and oven on.  But then I thought… no it’s still too hot.  I look at the thermostat and it reads 82.  Uh oh.  That’s not right.

It’s only then that I remember when I watered the garden right as I got home, I set my phone and bag by the air conditioner unit, and it wasn’t running.  I poke my head out the back to see if by chance it was running now… nope.  Last time this happened it was just a breaker tripped.  So Luke, who was getting impatient for supper, and I headed down to the breaker box to see if anything was out of place.  At first glance everything looked as it should.  At second glance… everything still was as it should.  So the problem wasn’t there.  Time to call the landlord.

Say what you will about renting vs. home ownership.  Each has merits of its own at times.  In this particular instance, I enjoy that from this point forward, someone else it taking care of it… and paying for it.  I know I pay for it over the months in rent, but I look at it as kind of a deductible free insurance policy.  When the hail took out the roof, I just made a phone call.  Now that the AC is out, I just make a phone call.  I may not be able to drill holes in the wall or build equity, but renting isn’t all bad.

So we are hanging out in the basement now. It’s 9PM and it’s down to 94 outside.  Here in an hour or so we’ll open up the house and try to pull in some cooler air.  Supposed to get down to 72 tonight.  Right on.  We’ll kick on the attic fan and suck in that fresh air, and then when I get up in the morning I’ll close it all up and try to seal it in as much as we can.  Considering it was almost 110 today, its remarkable that it never broke 90 in the house.

Repair man should be here tomorrow.  If not our neighbor already offered to leave the door unlocked so Andrea and Luke can go hang out in the coolness if needed.  Just another nice thing about living in a small town.