oh come on !

Saturday, 27 April 2013 00:43
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
the lack of a bold header, typoes and capitalization should tell you that i am sick and i don't care.

wednesday, the day of my second final exam, i came down with an intestinal flu. when i got around to checking my temp that evening it was around 103degF. Great.

i came home early and crawled into bed.

then there was a phone call from mrs dr phil saying she was waiting for aaa, that the bravada broke and the right front wheel was at a funny angle. MORE disasters? $1100+ for ball joints and other repairs?


water still trickling in

behind in grading

life sucks

dr phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Another Sign of Spring

So on Monday I posted about some of the signs of spring (DW). There are others. Last Sunday, despite it still being a tad winterish outside, the birds were singing springlike in the morning.

And look, children, the skunks are back! Actually, you don't need to see them, you can smell 'em. And I don't mean stinking in passing. I mean that the silly nearsighted skunks have ventured forth and tried to cross the roads. In the last week there've been a couple of pretty smelly skunks on the sides of the road, with great stenches following emergency and sudden evacuation of their odoriferous stink glands.

And on Wednesday, on my drive home, on a slushy 84th Avenue, I had to stay in my lane due to oncoming traffic -- and I must've run over a particularly special skunk that'd been there since about Sunday. The ice cold conditions really kept it in fine fettle and I may even have had a tire toss of the material onto the hot exhaust system.

Sure, it's on the outside of the newly repaired Blazer -- thank goodness I didn't have to take it back again and have the poor guy work underneath -- but we still have to air out the garage in the morning. Whew. One Special Skunk!

And that, is a sure sign of spring!

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Back To The Shop

Drove the Teal Machine home. No problem. In the afternoon, I went and got gas -- gas was trending towards four bucks before the Sequester, down to $3.86.9/gal now -- and then drove to Holland for a couple of things. Parked at Big Apple Bagels, took my foot off the brake...

And we rolled backwards.

In Park.

At this point I started back towards Coopersville, and called in. Told them the parking pawl wasn't engaging. Doesn't anyone use that term anymore?

I'd hoped it was just an adjustment. When I had a new transmission thrown on the 1985 Blazer, it wouldn't select 1st Only until the cable was adjusted. Alas, the cable was fraying and coming apart. The mechanic couldn't even start it in Park, had to go to Neutral by the time I got it up there. Of course at 4pm, they can't get the part until Monday.

Thankfully this didn't happen on my commute.

And no, I don't use the parking brake -- can't with my bad leg anyway.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
This Isn't How I Was Going To Spend My Spring Break

But I did get the 1996 Blazer back again this morning, all clean and shiny with a new transmission and new smart stalk on the steering wheel. And other things. For $4500.

After checking a few things, I threw it on I-96 back and forth between exits 16 and 19, verifying full 70mph speed and cruise control. The HVAC switch did not get replaced because they found a leak in the 4WD transfer case vacuum switch that let the vacuum lines suck up transmission fluid which not only dried out and rotted the vacuum lines, but also probably damaged the vacuum actuators on the HVAC mixing doors -- we'll put that work off until the summer AC season.

Will go out and do some errands this afternoon, but there's a longer list of things which couldn't get done this week. Which is probably just as well, as I've been keeping things easy as I discovered I'd built up a big blister on my heel and I've been trying to get it on the path to heeling.

Which, as it turned out, I had the time at home to do. Funny how the world works, isn't it?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
An Interesting Day or This Couldn't Last, Could It

So two weeks ago I noted that my 1996 T-10 Blazer -- the Teal Machine -- passed through the 300,000 mile mark (DW). At full speed, purring along at 70 mph.

Fast forward to last week, just before Spring Break. What with weeks of icy, slushy roads, long commutes and tight deadlines, purring along just fine. Oh, there are things wrong with a 17 year old machine, but nothing life threatening to either man or machine.

Of course, in the last week I had the turn signals stop working. I could manually make the rear blinkers blink by flicking the turn signal stalk, and the four-way flashers worked, but not the regular turn signals. Of course I've replaced flashers on vehicles before. But unlike the 1979 Suburban, the flasher mechanism isn't in the fusebox on the 1996. Huh. Can't even test this.

And then I noticed that in some settings on the HVAC controls -- heat but not defroster -- that I could hear a slight hiss. Hmmm, sounds like a vacuum leak somewhere. Hose maybe? Could it be that cheap? And Thursday on the way home the serpentine belt was being noisy. Back in the fall I had an idler pulley fail which threw the belt and left me being towed home in a rainstorm. So I've been a little sensitive in case that incident weakened the belt.

And recently I had an oil change, but I don't recall if they checked the automatic transmission fluid level. Given how thin the fluid is warm, it's a pain in the ass to measure. So when I wrote up a sheet for some work to be done during this Spring Break week, I included all these things. Sunday we ran the Blazer over to Chevy. And I noted that the Blazer seemed reluctant to go into Reverse.

So I called this morning to see what was what. And the mechanic reported that he had to practically floor the pedal to get the Blazer to back out of its parking space overnight.

Yeah. They're suggesting a GM Certified rebuilt transmission.

And it's the turn signal stalk that's bad. And yeah, the belt needs replacing. And the HVAC control switch.

Estimate: $4144.

Time to talk to my used car guy. He's got a 2002 Blazer, it's 4WD but it's a 2-door. 137,000 miles. It was listed on their website and there was a clean CARFAX result. We wandered up to Chevy to look at it. Transmission or new-to-me used vehicle? It's a toss up. Also talked to the service people about giving the 1996 a look over, is there anything else that needs to be done. Or another deal breaker.

The 2002 Blazer had some problems, including broken off seat adjustment levers. Given my size, that's not good. Also, it had a lot more rust than the six year older Blazer I already have. Nope. There's also a 2002 4WD Tahoe with 191,000 miles. That we gave a test drive. It actually was very nice, absolutely smooth. It'd be a lovely vehicle to drive on the road. But... it's a little tall for my bad leg right now. And the price was steeper than I wanted on short notice, and nearly 200,000 miles is a lot. Another time perhaps. I loved the Suburban and would be happy to have another 'Burban or a Tahoe sometime.

The look over showed three things that I already knew. The main engine oil seal, that would be easy to do with the engine already pulled for the tranny swap. And the idler arm repair? Why that'd keep me on the road longer. (grin)

In the end I asked if we could add those two things together and settle on a flat price, less than the grand total. Turned out, they could. This is what happens when you're a good customer. (grin)

We can rebuild it. Make it whole. Make it better. Make it go 70 mph. Okay, so unlike Steven Austin, a 1996 Blazer is supposed to be able to go 70 mph. At the end of the week, though, it should be able to do it for longer.

Serendipity it is -- don't like that these things occur, but I can't fault the timing. Or really, the expense.

Dr. Phil


Wednesday, 13 February 2013 22:22
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)

On the drive home today, the odometer on The Teal Machine, the 1996 Chevy 4-door 4WD S-10 Blazer, rolled over the 300,000 mile mark. I was heading west on the M-6 freeway, about milepost 2.5, just before Exit 1 (8th Avenue) and just past the Ottawa County line.

I don't remember the original mileage... oh wait, here it is from April 2006: 110,000 miles (DW). So I've put almost two-thirds of the miles on this truck. It's been a good ride so far over nearly seven years.

Twas a beautiful day -- sunny, warm, dry road, full highway speeds.

Pictures or it didn't happen.
©2013 Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (All Rights Reserved)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (hope-logo)
Different Company, Same Dinner

Last night did Pereddies once again in Holland with Momcat and Joe -- and I had my usual lasagna with meatballs. And I had the lovely key lime pie. Because we had a play, we had an early 5:30 reservation which was just lovely. Before we left the house, the weather map showed that Chicago was about to get clobbered by heavy storms -- I guess Lolapalooza down in Grant Park was suspended for a time as they had to evacuate -- and by the time we were done the thunder was rumbling on the way over to Hope College. But we didn't get wet.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
Hope College, DeWitt Theatre, 8:00pm

This is actually our second Hope Summer Repertory Theatre show for 2012. And such a fine show. The kids who make it to Washington DC for real seem very nice on TV, but this is a comedic musical, so everyone is major geeky. Best character was actually Mitch, a black man in dreadlocks and jeans riding low, who was serving as The Comfort Councillor to the losers as part of his community service on parole. He did much more than hand out hugs and juice boxes. Longtime HSRT Equity actor Chip Duford was perfect as the assistant principal running the event.

Going back to the play's roots in improv, they had some ringers from the audience. One guy turned out afterward to be the dad of one of the cast members, and when he got the word he was scheduled to go out on, he was immediately called back to spell some impossible Welsh town name. (wicked g-r-i-n)

The show seemed to have a lot of heart when we saw bits on the Tony awards a few years ago, and I haven't laughed out loud so much in years.

Good show!


Funny how things work out. When we got to the parking lot there was a distraught older woman who'd left the lights of her minivan on and her cellphone at home where her husband has Alzheimer's and now she needed a jump... The good well-scrubbed family values Hollanders were more interested in jockeying to get out of the lot faster, than to either help this woman or even be prepared and have jumper cables. Thankfully the storm had hit while we were all at the play.

Guess who stayed behind to help.

I'd run into this trick before -- after the battery is low the car alarm goes off and you can't start the vehicle until the battery is charged enough above dead to allow the alarm to shut off. Added only time and to the level of distraughtness on the part of the woman. But, we got it done and I think she was able to get home okay. The battery seemed to work adequately once we got it started again.

Oh, and 18-foot jumper cables are so much better than the 6-footers I had years ago. (third-rail-grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (dr-phil-driving)
First Time In The Office In A Couple Of Weeks

Been busy. It was 100°F+. I melted my catalytic converter. Went out of town. Had company. You know, what with not teaching during Summer I/II, the usual. Of course I knew that when I did make it into the office, I'd spend some time fighting with my computer because everything, no matter what settings I actually give it, ABSOLUTELY HAD TO UPDATE AND RUN MASSIVE SETUP PROGRAMS RIGHT NOW!!!!! So everybody collides and no one, especially the poor sop who owns the computer and would, silly me, actually like to get any work done on it, gets anything done in a timely fashion.

Add In The Laugh Track

So naturally, when I went into the garage to load up, back out and drive off, I was struck that the 1996 Blazer looked a bit... odd. Not tall enough. A quick inspection showed that, naturally, the left front tire was flat.

Now long time readers will note that I have this odd relationship with vehicle woes, in which I comment that sometimes these things happen at just the right time. Serendipity if you will -- big believer in it. Oh, you won't be disappointed here.

This is a two car garage and the right side tires are right up against the east wall, so that there's no way to get to them short of backing out. But it was a left side tire, and Mrs. Dr. Phil was long gone, so other than moving the recycling bin a few feet, the tire was perfectly exposed.

And the valve stem was up on the top.

And my AC powered compressor was still sitting on the side desk and easy to pick up, set it on two toolboxes sitting next to the tire, plug into a power strip sitting right there and hook it up to the valve stem.

Tire pumped up from flat pretty easily. Indeed, it wasn't completely flat, starting out around maybe 6 psi gauge pressure. I took it up to 40 psi -- recommended is 36-38 psi -- and while I could hear a slight hissing sound with the compressor off and disconnected, a hiss isn't going to drain a tire in five minutes.

So it was easy to go off to Chevy and pull it into the entry bay. There, one of the usual guys came over with a spray bottle -- he could hear the slight hiss as soon as I shut off the engine -- and spraying around, found the leak right about in the center of the tread area. Didn't even have to rotate the tire to find it.

Choice between putting on the spare and coming back for the fixed tire tonight, or just fixing it Right Now. The latter was estimated within a half an hour. Turned out to be a moment longer, but only because they took care of some corrosion on the aluminum wheels, so I won't have a bead leak on that wheel in the near future.

So now I'm running later than planned, but I'm up on I-96. I knew there was some kind of construction on US-131 through the heart of Grand Rapids, but decided to chance it anyway. One lane down from Leonard to 76th Street, which is most of G.R. But traffic was light and we moved at the appropriate 60 or 45 mph, as needed, and so really it was no bother at all.

The next-to-the-perfect parking spot was open when I got to Lot 61.

So yeah, it all could've been much, much worse. Still annoyed that I had to get any work done, but it all went swimmingly. And much, much better than if I couldn't have held the tire pressure on reinflation, had to call and wait for AAA to change the tire, take the flat into the shop and pick it up later.

And of course the computer has settled down after I left it have all its hissy fits, while I played Solitaire.


Dr. Phil


Friday, 6 July 2012 01:40
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Truck Work

The 1996 Blazer got dropped off at Chevy on the Fourth -- and on the Fifth it got fixed. With the high heat, overheating a bit is not good. Worse, was the loss of some power. Oh, sure, I could still drive at 70mph on the freeways, but getting there took a little time. What it reminded me of, though, was the feeling I'd gotten with the 1982 Cavalier wagon and the 1985 T-10 Blazer when their catalytic converters melted.

In those earlier cases, I could do barely more than idle. But when the '85 Blazer had its problem, it was a brutally hot summer day and as it drove worse and worse, I almost made it to Chevy, but eventually had to get it towed.

I did not want to let things get that bad.

But before I did my diagnosis, there were a lot of possibilities and I hate going to a mechanic with nothing more than "it ain't runnin' right." In this case I was spot on. I thought maybe I'd need some more exhaust work, because there was this rattling, ringing sound I thought was a loose or broken heat shield, but apparently it was the lump of platinum catalyst rattling inside its metal shell.

I hate shelling out money, though it did come in under estimate by nearly $50, but once again the timing couldn't have been better. Not teaching, and with the temp jumping from the 90s to the 100s, I really didn't have to be on the road to the office if I didn't want to be.

Okay, So It's Hot

Look, just as 0°F is just a number, so is 100°F. It's not that much hotter than 98°F, for example. And even 103°F, which Kalamazoo hit today, isn't the hottest temperature in the nation. And we have a ways to go to get to the all-time recorded high for Grand Rapids MI, at 108°F.

As far as hitting the century mark, there's 100°F and there's 100°F. The Bravada has an exterior temp readout, and given the heat buildup on pavement, 100°F isn't impossible to see in the summer. Officially GR hasn't been to 100°F since 1988. Unofficially, I know that our thermometers here in Allendale hit 100°F on Friday 30 July 1999 -- I made some memorial wallpaper for the computer. (grin) And I know I trotted that wallpaper out on another occasion a couple of years later.

Now I'm not complaining about global warming -- remember that weather and climate are different. What I'm grousing about it somewhat of the same thing as weather obsessions with single digit temps and wind chills in the winter. Historically, it's been 100+ before and sometimes in blocks of three or four days.

Of course, I'm happily living in air conditioning. No wonder it's not so bad. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (WWII-woman-aircraft-worker)
The Garage Is Back To Normal

As in there are two vehicles parked in it at night again. As mentioned the other day, I had to make a run to North Carolina and back over spring break. I made the decision to take the same 1999 Olds Bravada which had made the Thanksgiving and New Year's runs, since it has a little over half the miles of the 1996 Blazer. This didn't thrill Mrs. Dr. Phil, who hasn't driven the '96 Blazer much, as it has been my workhorse commuting vehicle for a couple of years, while she's been driving the Bravada. However, it all worked out.

Until Monday. First day back at teaching and when I start up the Blazer to come home, I smell coolant. Aw damn. Somehow, however, my serendipity streak continues, and instead of being really upset about something breaking, I have to marvel at the timing. (1) It didn't break on the road, since I didn't take it to NC, but given the mileage, I would've been in the middle of Ohio or Kentucky or West Virginia and shot my timeline to hell. (2) It didn't break for Mrs. Dr. Phil during the ten days she had it. (3) It wasn't actively leaking coolant onto the floor like happened to the 1994 Blazer one time. (4) And it wasn't all that cold on the drive back up from K-zoo with the heat off, as opposed to when I had to drive a vehicle with a bad heater core in 14°F weather in a 40 mph crosswind and a window cracked open to keep the windshield from fogging up. (grin)

I've Been At This Game Too Long

When we moved down to West Michigan twenty years ago, I believe the hourly rate at the Chevy dealer was $40/hour. Now it's $92/hour -- and they have a very nice and roomy new facility. But it's hard to get used to today's prices, because I've replaced a lot of heater cores in various high mileage used vehicles over the last 25 years and it hurts more than it used to. Seems the '96 requires pulling apart the dashboard. Six hours of labor. Total repair bill $832. Sigh.

But at least it didn't happen and leave me stranded in the middle of my road trip and I didn't lose enough coolant to overheat and damage the engine and it wasn't so cold that I was miserable driving it back.

Gotta take the pluses where you can. Serendipity, indeed.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
About Last Night

Thursday I needed to pick up Mrs. Dr. Phil after work, so I drove her Bravada and dropped her off in the morning. Naturally I transferred my parking hang tag from my Blazer -- and when we got home I stuck the hang tag in my bag.

Fast forward to after my first class, when for some reason I flashed on the fact I hadn't put the hang tag back on the Blazer's rear view mirror. Damn. In other times I would've run out to the parking lot and put it back, but given my current compressed nerve slash walking issues, that wasn't going to happen. So I called the Parking Office -- once I found the number, not that either the WMU website or the GoWMU "portal" makes this easy and I ended up Googling "western michigan university parking services" -- and the parking people no longer do a call-in and get day clearance to park. But I was given a phone number to call if I got a ticket. Sigh.


When I finished up for the day and went out to Lot 61, there was in fact no parking ticket. I'd just about figured that maybe on a Friday they hadn't patrolled the lot when I realized that the car on the next aisle facing me did have a parking ticket. Either that was some clever student who was using an old ticket as camouflage or the parking person passed by the Teal Machine knowing it was one of the Regulars. The hang tag is now back in place.

Occasionally one gets cut a break. (grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (seasons-best-kate)
I've Complained About This Before

The business of giving cars for Christmas. Especially the companies with the big red bows on the cars. Lexus does it. Mercedes has done it. Acura tried to change it up this year by talking big about overindulgent spending -- then claimed they had something like overindulgent saving. Nice try.

Now It's Christmas Stockings

Lexus has a new commercial where Dad is on the roof stapling a giant stocking to drape in front of the garage. Mom is taken out for the big reveal -- a Lexus with a red bow. So they've got the stocking and the red bow.

But there's two problems with this commercial. First, the car is parked perpendicular to the garage, which requires a wide garage. Very ostentatious.

Second, KIA does it better.

See, in the latest KIA ads, the Christmas give vehicles are in the giant stockings and they drive out. In fact the one SUV is in the damned living room. And when Dad drives out with the new toy, he even knocks over the reindeer statue by the road. Yes-sss!

Yup. The KIA commercials are much more fun.

Once again the Japanese are skunked by the Koreans in the car arms race.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (rolling-stone-boat-2)
I Never Thought I'd Write About This A Third Time

But that damned Erica's friends buy her the Toyota Corolla of her dreams commercial really annoys me. And one commenter says that the Facebook site shows "out takes" including Erica delivering cupcakes -- unwrapped cupcakes -- from the basket of her bicycle. Oh yeah, she's a professional baker, er, pastry chef.

I Really Was Going To Let This Alone

But I had a thought the other night that made me question the motivations of Toyota and their ad agency. Previously I'd mocked them for thinking that just everyone has a bunch o' friends who can fork over three thousand each and buy you that new car you want. And that I thought this terribly out of touch with reality for most people. People buying you new cars, they're probably not buying you a Corolla anyway, at least according to the Lexus and Mercedes Christmas ads. (grin)

So here's the thing -- Erica isn't after the car she needs for her business, since we've already established that she could probably have saved something to get a useable used ride to delivery her confections. No, she's after the car she wants. Yes, that brand new Toyota Corolla she can't afford right now is what she wants, not needs.

But... Pause to sprinkle special fairy dust on our special snowflake... oh look! Here come your special snowflake friends to give you what you want. Now here's where maybe I was wrong and this is where it gets insidious and devious. What if they want you to think that because she just got what she wanted, now you are entitled to get what you wanted, too? You're entitled! Just sign here on the dotted line, because you don't need to cough up the money to pay for something you want -- at least not at the start. Because we're hurting here and not selling enough cars, so you gotta do your part to help us.

Magical Financial Thinking

We have a current financial meltdown we're riding out that has been brought about because financial institutions had been trying to get people to buy the crap out of stuff they want, not what they need or can afford. Guess what? That didn't work.

Recently I was poking around Amazon looking at the current crop of Nikon FX sensor digital SLRs. Having grown up with Nikon 35mm SLRs, I'd like to have some modern digital full-frame equivalent cameras and because I haven't bought any Nikons in a long time, I wanted to see what the current offerings (and prices) were up to. I'd like them. I want them. I don't need them. That's why I haven't spent the couple of thousand dollars on those, and instead am making do with a decent little Sony digital camera with a far more than decent Carl Zeiss lens.

Still, that hasn't stopped me from getting an email from Amazon pointing out that I could buy the Nikon FX sensor digital SLR of my dreams on credit through them. As opposed to buying it on credit with my credit card. Or waiting until I can afford it. (grin) You know, if I was a professional photographer, I'd consider getting a business loan or even a consumer loan to finance the cameras and lenses, if I thought I was going to make enough money. But this would be for me -- so... No.

We've Been Doing This To Ourselves For A Long Time

People forget about this, but way back in the mid-70s we started seeing these big three lens projection wide screen televisions. And they sold some to bars and other public venues -- one was installed in the student union at Northwestern -- but after a while that market was saturated. And yet newer units were coming out, as well as the ability to make much larger picture tubes. 36" and 44" picture tube color TVs were unheard of before this. Anyway, in trying to figure out how to market and sell these as consumer items, the electronics industry went to the banking industry -- and the concept of the home improvement loan was expanded into the home equity loan and home equity line of credit.

Can't afford that giant 60" big screen TV? No problem, pay for it through your home mortgage and it hardly costs anything a month... for a lot of months. Pretty soon we had people buying big TVs, Hawaiian vacations and even cars, and paying for them over 10-30 years. A car on a 30-year mortgage? Really? Car loans were still 36-48 months then, not 60 or more months. And cars had to get a lot more reliable to justify paying for them over five or more years. So unless you're buying a Rolls or some really well-built solid car that can last multiple decades, this doesn't make sense. You'll be on your third or fourth car before you've paid off the first one.

And people did this. You could even argue that a home theatre was actually a home improvement and not just a big fancy TV. And at least this form of magical financial thinking had consumer products and income to back up the payments, something that the absurd mortgages of late didn't have.

So I'm Worried

Is the Erica Toyota ad a new invitation for people to forget the economic times and just satisfy their lust for a new car? Maybe. At least, at the risk of it being a mean and cynical ploy, it makes more sense than an ad agency and a car company thinking that a bunch of friends can just pony up and buy someone with a marginal business, and not a lot of signs they have a good business plan, a new car. One is trying to instill a new round of magical financial thinking, the other is just fantasy.

In my humble old jaded and cynical view. (evil grin)

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (rolling-stone-boat-2)
Updating Thoughts

The other day I wrote about the Toyota commercial where Emily's friends bought her a new car. Here are a couple of additional thoughts:

(1) As was pointed out on a Facebook comment, car companies seem to think that giving people cars as presents is something that happens all the time, especially at Christmas. Car companies expect you to give people cars.

Yes, but the cars which show up with those big bows are from Lexus and Mercedes. Not quite the same thing as a Toyota Corolla.

I guess if you expect a new luxury car with a bow to show up for Christmas, you are not "my people". (grin)

(2) Every time I see this Toyota commercial, I keep worrying about whether that apartment kitchen is licensed. And carrying designer cakes on mass transit? That just seems crazy to me.

(3) Erica's been "saving for months" to buy a new Corolla. This still drives me nuts. What kind of business plan is it to ship specialty food on mass transit while you wait to afford a new car? I still think that if she's saved anything at all, she should've bought a used car already. And if she hasn't, after "months", saved enough for a reliable used car, then she ain't serious about saving $18,000 or so for a new Corolla.

Hasn't Emily ever seen Ace of Cakes on Food Network? Now that's a cake decorating business. (evil grin)

(4) Maybe I'm thinking about this all wrong. Maybe her clients couldn't stand to see her show up in something that isn't a 2010 or 2011 model year. You know, snobs. The kind that would never ride mass transit themselves. Or else she's a snob herself and couldn't be seen dead in a small hatchback, wagon, minivan -- you know, something practical for a business.

Sorry Toyota

I still don't see this as a feel good moment endearing story. Instead, it seems to tell your customers that their car and their friends aren't good enough.

In this economy.

Are they dreaming?

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (rolling-stone-boat-2)
We've All Been There, Right? Right???

So there's this new Toyota ad running on TV which really annoys me. It's about "Erica", the woman who has the new pastry business. Seems that she bakes in her apartment kitchen -- first thought, has this kitchen been licensed? -- and has to use mass transit to carry her cakes to the customer. She needs a new Toyota Corolla -- I guess there's no point in buying a much cheaper used one (see comments in the next section) if she really needs a car for her BUSINESS.

Anyway, her friends feel her pain and so they get together and buy her a NEW Toyota Corolla.

What? (sound of needle scratching across record player) Huh? You mean a group of maybe six people have split the cost of a fucking NEW CAR and gave it to Erica? WTF? From US News & World Report:
2010 Toyota Corolla
Based on analysis of 28 Corolla reviews and test drives.
Avg. Paid:         $15,060 - $19,511
MSRP:              $15,450 - $20,150
Invoice:           $14,445 - $18,437

If it really was six people, they'd be ponying up $3000 EACH. Who the hell has a bunch of friends in the city who will drop three grand on you for a lark? THIS is supposed to be a feel good moment of common experience for past, present and future Toyota owners?

This is INSANE.
Toyota Corolla - What the Auto Press Says

The 2010 Toyota Corolla ranks 19 out of 30 Affordable Small Cars. This ranking is based on our analysis of 28 published reviews and test drives of the Toyota Corolla, and our analysis of reliability and safety data.

The Corolla is still a great option for those who want dependability, comfort and value. But it doesn't have the versatility, style or power of the top-scoring cars in the class.

Undeniably, the 2010 Toyota Corolla is a comfortable and fuel-efficient option. But in a large and competitive class or sporty and funky compacts and hatchbacks, the Corolla doesn't have much to set it apart. Nor is it the cheapest. And, with the recent recalls, the Corolla's reputation for reliability is slipping. However, there is one bright spot: the Corolla is a 2010 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick.

Okay, so Toyota isn't going to quote US News & World Report in their ads. But this chummy media savvy approach? Not working for me.
Erica needed a reliable 2010 Corolla to grow her pastry business. She got the surprise of her life. Every Toyota has a story. Share yours at... (Toyota's Facebook page)

By The Way

This ad seems to have replaced the stupid Toyota ad which touts how they've been spending all this money per day now to make great safe and reliable cars. To me, the subtext of this message isn't "Oh we're so sorry that we betrayed your trust while we were ramping up our market share to make more money" but rather "You were all such idiots to have trusted us before, but now you have to believe that we have your best interests at heart so you should junk your old Toyota clunker before you get hurt and spend a lot more money with us and get a new one... before the recalls start."

Cynical? Sure.

Now lest you think that I just have it in for Toyota, being an admitted GM/Chevy owner, I recently railed about the Chevy/Chevrolet debacle at GM, and I thought the GM "Look At Us We Repaid The Loan From The Government" ad was disingenuous and slimy, as most Americans immediately thought of the REST of the bailout money which far outweighed the emergency loan necessitated because the banking industry lost their collective minds -- conspiracy types assumed the bailout money was used to repay the load...

So I hate all the stupid ads. (evil grin) The Stupid -- it hurts.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (wtf-symbol)
Don't Take My Chevy Away

NPR reported on Thursday that GM had sent a memo out that henceforth employees not only should not use the name "Chevy" for "Chevrolet", but that offices should fine the employees a quarter (US25¢) every time they say "Chevy". General Motors, are you nuts?

There was a clarification update from GM that this only applies to GM employees, not civilians, but that's hardly the point. This has got to be another example of Middle Management Run Amuck, as someone or someones in the organization tries to justify their existence and idiots above them somehow think that This Should Be A Good Idea.

IDIOTS! Don't they realize that having a well establish nickname, one that you've used for YEARS in your own damn advertising (Chevy Tough / Chevy Trucks / etc.), is marketing gold? Other companies would kill for having a good nickname. VW and VW Bug -- gold. Toyota = Toy car? Yugo = You Go Nowhere? Not so much.

I grew up in a GM owning family. I don't really remember the 1956 car, but we had Chevy cars forever: 1960 Bel-Air, 1964 / 1968 / 1972 Malibu Chevelle. We didn't get a new Chevy in 1976 because my folks were starting to pay for Northwestern, but they bought one of the first Cavaliers and have had Chevy Cavaliers ever since. My first vehicle was a 1979 Chevy Suburban, followed by a used 1982 Cavalier wagon when we started needing two vehicles, a new 1989 Chevy S-10 Blazer (2WD), then used 1985 / 1994 / 1996 Chevy S-10 Blazers (4WD). Indeed, our first non-Chevy was the used 1999 Olds Bravada -- and not only was it a GM product, but hell, GM threw away the Oldsmobile label which had its own successful nickname, Olds.

It's all about branding. Sure. But a killer nickname? You can't buy good will like that. And to try to ruin it by banning it in the corporatespeak? GM, you're being idiots. And the publicity you're going to get out of it? Not one bit of it will be about professionalism or competence. Period.

Don't Bother Calling Back

One problem of being home during Sabbatical 1.21 is that I get the joy of receiving more stupid phone calls.


ME: Hello?

IDIOT: Is this Phil?

ME: Who's calling?

IDIOT: (long pause) This-is-(garbled)-from-the-Police-Benevolent-Society-returning-your-call...

ME: We don't do anything over the phone. (click)

I suppose that telephone spammers and scammers give themselves high fives whenever they come up with or steal a great new idea to con people into actually talking with them. "Returning your call"? Yeah, right. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like cold calling people, so it is HIGHLY unlikely that I'd be calling anyone, including a charitable organization, when I can contact them online or by mail. And I hate giving out contact information, so the very likelihood that you would be returning my call, which presupposes that I made a call first, is pretty much close to zero point zero. We. Don't. Do. Any. Crap. Over. The. Phone.

Pth-hhhhbt! It pisses me off that the politicians included exemptions for (a) charities and (b) THEMSELVES when they put together the Do Not Call List legislation. No points for creativity and ESPECIALLY no points for launching into a rapid fire mutterance which doesn't properly identify you, your organization (WHICH Police Benevolent Society? There are so many jurisdictions here, even assuming you aren't just a scummy scammer.) and trying to slip that little lie in about returning my call.

From Russia, With Love

While I'm bitching about phone spam, I should note that after several months of freedom after LiveJournal beefed up things on their end a bit, I've had several attempts to spam this LJ in the last week. Two were Anonymous and one had an LJ userid -- all were in Cyrillic and all could be translated from Russian to English by Google. What really pisses me off are the ones which try to add spam comments to my LJ postings with my stories in them.

It was because of these bastards I had to implement screening Anonymous comments the other year, though I still allow them. And sometimes you'll see some comment spam from someone with an LJ userid before I find out about it. My apologies for their bad behavior.

A Respite

Finally, just to take away the bad taste from above, [livejournal.com profile] jimhines posted this link about:
...this functional LEGO sniper rifle, built by Jack Streat. I’d probably want to double the rubber bands to get better range, but still — this thing has a working clip, tripod, and scope, and appears to be pretty darn accurate for a LEGO rifle.

I was amused to see that when loading the LEGO "bullets" into the magazine, you alternate which way they go so that the nubs don't lock together like LEGOs. (grin) Is there anything you CAN'T build with LEGOs?

Dr. Phil

Spurt Day

Friday, 26 February 2010 23:07
dr_phil_physics: (wmu-logo)
Friday 26 February 2010

Yes, once again it's WMU's Spirit Day. That magical day which was once before Homecoming in the Fall Semester, but was moved to the Spring Semester to balance the calendar and now allows them to "not" start Spring Break in February. (grin)

So... today was not a work day.

Recovery Day

It's been a long and busy week-to-ten-days or so. Though Spring Break showed up on the calendar at about the same time as in 2009, we started classes a week later, so it's been tough to keep up with a schedule and be ready for Exam 2 on time for Thursday. We made it. And then there's been the roads, which have included a number of days of either very long commutes or very icy glazes on the roads and long lists of crashes and slideoffs. Last night I found myself shimmying around on the highway when hit by hard crosswinds -- thank goodness for 4WD. It's not magic, but it does add stability to all four corners. We managed to get to/fro work as well.

Took the opportunity to get some extra sleep today, but also managed to catch the Women's Bronze Medal Curling match between China and Switzerland on USA network. Ran out to do some errands and was amazed at 3:21pm on the way to the bank to hear on WLAV-FM that the Men's Hockey Semi-Final between USA and Finland was already 4-0 in the 1st Period. Eek! A few minutes later on the way home and they reported that Finland had changed goalies and it was now 6-0. Still in the 1st Period.

Back End Of The Storm

Unusual weather pattern had us getting the back curl of the big Northeastern winter storm. It came at around noon with big soft flakes. Nothing like they got in New York, where 6-12" of fluffy white stuff was covering a thick, deadly heavy water soaked layer of wet snow. The heavy stuff was weighing heavily on the trees in Central Park, where one tree limb broke and killed a guy, and another tree limb took out a city bus before they closed Central Park to vehicles and pedestrians. [livejournal.com profile] slithytove in Philadelphia described a lovely wintry scene outside, without the heavy wet stuff where he lives.

Sometimes if there is no traffic on a snowy day like today I'll put on the four-way flashers and stop in the left hand lane to get the newspaper and mail from the road. But there was too much traffic, so I pulled into our driveway. A Chevy Astro van, which had been following me, pulled over to the side of the road... and was quickly enveloped in a huge cloud. Coolant. The young lady driving it was grousing about almost being where she needed to go, it was the second time there'd been a leak, she'd just put in a bottle of Stop Leak and what was she expecting for a beat up van she'd paid all of $100 for within the last two weeks. Her friend was coming to get her -- I suspect it was one of the nearby motorheads and they'd be much more capable of helping her than me -- so I wished her luck and told her if she was stuck out there for any length of time to come up to the house. I heard her hood slam when I was getting out of the Blazer in the garage, but couldn't see anything through the trees. She never came by and Mrs. Dr. Phil said there was no van on the shoulder when she came home. I hope it works out okay for her.

Spring "Break"?

I've got a list of way too many things to do next week. But after Monday, the weather looks sunny and warm -- in the upper 30s -- for the rest of the week. So we'll see what I can accomplish. And at the moment, I don't have a cold and my sinuses are in much better shape than the last couple of years.

There may be some news next week -- or maybe not. You can never tell with these things.

We'll see.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (deck-chairs-winslet)
The Last Two Days...

... have been full of blinding brilliant sunshine and blue skies, with afternoon temps in the 30s. They're talking about more January-like weather next week, but we'll take a couple of days of this.

Stink... Stank... Stunk...

The brilliant sunshine wasn't the stinky part. Rather as I drove in today I kept smelling bad smells. At first I thought maybe I'd contracted something moldy in the 1996 Blazer's ventilation ducts, which would be annoying, but a quick rolldown of the windows in the brisk 19°F morning before the turn south on 84th Avenue suggested that maybe the swamp near there was being a tad fetid. Coming out of Allendale, though, the sour smell was back -- well, at least there was another stink a-smelling. By now I realized that the smoke from the cheese plant near 48th Avenue was hanging low and the air was pretty still, so I suspect the cheese plant of that odor. And then on the other side of the Grand River, came another stink, but this one was familiar. The smell of the heavy sour West Michigan crude oil wells. That happens from time to time, especially in the winter. Sometimes it corresponds to when the dark green tank truck comes to suck the oil out of the storage tanks.

I was reminded of this on the way home, and remembered my thought of posting about the morning stinks, because the oil wells were still smelling at 6:30 at night on the way home. (grin) The good news is, of course, that the Blazer smells just fine. At least when it isn't driving through somebody else's stink. (double-grin)

The Fuel Situation

Last two weeks gas prices have been up and down for no apparent reasonings, after being pretty stable at $2.57.9/gal for regular. Dropped down to $2.41.9/gal, then shot back up to $2.55.9/gal, finally back up to $2.59.9/gal. At one point there was an 18¢/gal price difference across ten miles of M-45 Lake Michigan Drive. And that stinks.

Dr. Phil


Wednesday, 10 February 2010 22:11
dr_phil_physics: (award-kate)
"I Hate When This Happens"

Driving out this afternoon in search of milk and bananas, I noticed that a neighbor had a large industrial unit out by the road. Selling it? Using it to plow the driveway?

I don't think having some wheels up in the air -- and others dug into the snow -- is the way these things are supposed to operate.

Ooo, look, it's a Pettibone -- made in the U.P. in Baraga MI.

Nothing like cutting the turn too far and starting to fall off the driveway into the drainage ditch. Oops, indeed.

Dr. Phil
dr_phil_physics: (Default)
Buyer's Remorse?

I hate trying to call a snow day 24 hours in advance. About the half the time it's an easy call -- as the university ends up agreeing with me. (grin) My theory on Tuesday was "if the roads were this bad before the bulk of the snow fell and the wind picked up tonight, that the roads were going to be bad and worse on Wednesday". And Tuesday night the roads were filled with slideoffs and crashes.

This morning at 6:30am it didn't seem so bad outside, but there were still more than six hours left to the advisories. I-94 near Kalamazoo, which admittedly I don't have to go as far as, ended up closed in two places due to crashes, including one with three semi-trucks with one overturned. Kalamazoo Valley Community College, out by I-94 and Ninth Street, closed last night and canceled classes today as well. But KVCC really is pretty isolated and the winds can be dreadful out there.

At one point WGVU was listing nearly 200 school closures. Allendale, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo schools closed. But school snow days were also a function that today was scheduled to be the schools' second Count Day -- the census of numbers of students attending determines 25% of their next year's funding. The state sent out a memo to school administrators yesterday that they could postpone Count Day by a day if the weather warranted it. I'm sure some of the schools wanted to avoid anything which could diminish their census count.

By 9am, there was bright sun shining in through my living room window. Did I make a mistake? Well, I know from the traffic reports up to 9am that the major highways were reduced to one lane each way. And from previous winters, I can safely predict that the wind they were reporting would be crossing those lanes from east to west, adding to the slipperiness.

So... I probably could've made it to the office today, and certainly back home at night. But I don't know how messy it was in Kalamazoo yet or the problems my students would have getting in to class. And with 4½ hours of driving yesterday, it certainly seemed to be a trend.

Do I feel bad for declaring a Personal Snow Day? Hell no. Sometimes you have to make a call.

Anyway, It Doesn't Matter

The real news is that part of this storm which is hammering the East Coast again. Poor Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia getting whomped on a second time, and I guess New York City will be dumped on this time. Michigan, which can only report some snow, a lot of wrecks and slideoffs and three deaths -- is old news.

Dr. Phil


dr_phil_physics: (Default)

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