Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Do car troubles come in threes?

Faithful readers of my blogs know I keep 3 cars in my home. With the daily schedule my much-better-half keeps running with kids, and my long commute, we cannot afford to be down to one car for any real length of time.

Her car is an '06 Toyota Highlander, with some 66,000 miles on it. My daily ride is an '01 Toyota RAV-4 (262,000 miles), and the back-up (and weekend workhorse) is a '92 Chevy Blazer (211,000).
About 6 weeks ago the check engine light came on the RAV. I took it in for a routine oil change and my mechanic said it was the catalytic converter throwing the signal. He reset the indicator, and told me to call him if/when it came back on. Well 3 weeks later it came on again, so we agreed it was time to replace the 'cat'.

So I scheduled to take my car in last Saturday (the 24th). Then I realized the Highlander needed its annual inspection before month-end. So a week ago today (20th) I called to change the appointment to the Highlander.

Late Tuesday, I was running the Blazer to a Boy Scout Meeting (giving the RAV a brief rest) and when I hit the brakes, the pedal floored. I have either a blown brake line (relatively cheap) or a caliper ($$) or worse. I was fortunately close to the meeting so I was able to limp into the parking lot, catch a ride to a buy brake fluid, and was able to get home without any incident.

So I kept the Highlander's appointment, and then brought the Blazer back, after the inspection. I managed to get the Blazer to the shop without ever touching the brakes, which is no mean feat, given the hills in-between my home and the shop (downshifting and the parking-brake all the way down.

I get to the shop and learn - are you ready? - the Highlander will need rear pads and rotors to pass inspection. So let's see... when the Blazer is done, swap it for the Highlander, and oh yeah, finally get that cat for the RAV.

When it rains, it pours.

The mechanic will draw me up a firm quote forall 3 and I'll pay him in cash... can't wait for next month to begin

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Gifts for Dad

Here then is my infrequent contribution to Dad-Blogs.com Fatherhood Friday. 

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

I am not a fan of getting gifts.      I had a fairly lengthy post on the topic 4 years ago, and nothing has changed over the years.    I enjoy giving gifts, but dislike shopping for them; I always over-think what the recipient would enjoy receiving.   So far, as near as I can tell, I haven't given any gift that has been soundly disliked.  When receiving gifts, I am cordial and thankful, but on balance would prefer if I didn't get any.

My thoughts on receiving gifts are fairly simple:  if I need something, I generally go out and get it as soon as it is practical.   I no longer want things, at least not in the sense of wishing for them to be given as a gift to me.   In my mind, I don't need to get gifts from my much-better-half, kids or others because they - the givers - certainly have more important things to spend their monies on instead of me.   

There are things I want to have, of course.     Case in point, I saw something that I would love to have (but in no way expect ever to receive).  From the Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog:
You will participate in the unique whisky-making process step by step, for an insider's look at how every detail makes every glass a special occasion. This gift experience includes a two-bottle memento of the rarest Maker's Mark bottles ever: Two golden bottles will be etched with your likeness and dipped in gold wax with 24-kt. gold flecks. You'll also get to hand dip six of your own 375ml Maker's Mark bottles in signature red wax and take them home.

All for the value price of $7,500 -- and I am certain worth every penny!!  (Oooh!  Free shipping on this item!)   Maker's Mark is my favorite bourbon and adult beverage of choice.    Still, the caliber of this item, as fabulous as it is, is something I would never expect to receive, nor ever actually purchase.   Indeed, I'd be angry if my family purchased this for me. 

Sure, were my kids sufficiently through college or should we hit it big in the lottery, I'd have a different position on the matter, but something like this is so far out of bounds it's worthy of a few aww, wouldn't it be greats and that's all.     A lot of my reasoning stems from being the only source of income in my home:  that's in no way a slight to my spouse, but the practical realities of our lives.  

The idea for this post came to mind last week while I was waiting at the pharmacist counter for a few scripts to be filled. I readily identify with the guy's position, as I've had this very same discussion with my mate in the past.   The couple looked as if they were in their late-20s, early-30s.  Dialogue at least 95% accurate, as I jotted it down shortly after the discussion took place:
SHE: So, your birthday is next month, what do you want for your present?
HE: Nothing.  You know I don't want anything.
She: Come on... we go through this every year.
HE: And every year I say the same thing.
She: How can I know what to get you if you don't tell me?
He: I got you, that's all I want!
She: Cute... come on, tell me what you want.
He: I don't want anything.
She: Well what do you need?
He: If I need something, I buy it.  Right now I don't need anything.
She: You almost never buy anything for yourself!
He: Because I don't need anything.
She: But it's hard for me to get you something you like.
He: You always get me great gifts.
She: I always tell you what I want.
He: You do, yes.
She: That way you know what to get me.
He: Either by your telling me or when I ask Lisa.
She: Lisa is three.  Come on now, what do you want?
He: Nothing.
She: There's absolutely nothing in the world you want?
He: Of course there's stuff I want,
She: Okay then.
He: But we can't afford what I want, so why bother?
She: Come on!
He: Fine: a big screen, high def TV.
She: (pause) What's wrong with our TV?
He: See?  Nothing's wrong with it, so we don't need a new one. 
She: Well the big ones are pretty expensive.
He: No kidding!
She: So that's all you want?   What if I get you a gift card for some place?
He: Right. Use my money to buy me a gift card for stuff I don't need.
She: Why are you being difficult?
He: Who knew saying 'I don't want anything' was being difficult?
She: You are so childish.
He: I'm not the one insisting on something I can't have.

Their prescription was ready, she signs for it and they both turn to leave.

She: You know what? You're getting nothing for your birthday this year.
He: Isn't that all I ever said I wanted??

You know, I felt bad for the guy.  Here he is, being open and honest, and he's getting no credit for it.    

So is it just me and this guy, or do other men think the same way about getting gifts?

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Evidence of how state-run healthcare costs everyone more

A lot of people asked why I wasn't actively supporting Mitt Romney for president.  Gov. Romney's conservative stances are very clear, and his track record speaks for itself with one glaring exception:

Massachusetts health care.   The model that is held out at what the health care reform winding its way through Congress could be.  And that's what scared me then, and scares me now.

HotAir.com has a post regarding how one notable Liberal Wendy Burton, a former speechwriter for President Obama and Senator John Edwards, found that her premiums more than doubled simply because she moved from Washington, D.C. to Massachusetts:

Button has to pay a whopping 144% increase in premiums over her costs in DC, not exactly a city known for its low cost of living in the first place.  In order to provide coverage with all of the mandates Massachusetts imposes, health insurers had to more than double premiums to meet the costs.

Nor is this the only such example of economic disaster that government-mandated coverage generates.  Earlier this summer, we looked at Maines DirigoChoice, an Orwellian term for a program full of mandates on individuals and insurers.  The combination resulted in premiums over 300% more expensive than in neighboring New Hampshire, and in an operating deficit so large that it no longer can accept all of the applications by uninsured Maine residents.
So before we all embrace this health care reform nonsense, take a good look at where it's been tried, and see for yourself the downside to such government intrusion.

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

You know you're getting old when..

This weekend I was at a Scouting event during which several parents were gathered and talking amoung ourselves.

Besides me, in the group were 4 parents, male and female.  One mom, the parent of 4 (3 boys, 1 girl) was discussing something related to high school, and how her oldest son would start in just a year.   The conversation drifted to other related topics, including graduations.   It was then I began to speak on my own experiences:

Me: Well, when I graduated, it was 1982, and ...
She: Wait!  You graduated when?
Me: I said I graduated in 1982, and ..
She: Oh, my God!
At this point, the group of parents are more concerned at what she's apparently shocked at regarding 1982 - including me - rather than the point I was about to raise.
Other Parent: Did something exciting happen to you in 1982?
She: Um, no, not really.  I was only 5 in 1982!!

Now every one started to console me about my apparent old age but I didn't care.. I never think about aging, or getting old.    Too many more important things that can be controlled are more pressing than worrying about aging.

Still, the shocked look on her face was priceless.

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