It has been an interesting 24 hour period when it comes to vehicles.

Starting on 4/25, I sold the 2005 Infiniti FX45, my treasured commuting and skiing companion during the end of my California tenure.

Then on 4/26, I sold the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 coupe, my first true, new from the factory car and my weekend fun vehicle. It was my occasional valley carver and fun day toy.

Now I’m down to the current company vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado LT truck.  It possesses neither of the FX’s or C6’s charms, but is a useful hauler of people and stuff.

I enjoyed my time with both the FX45 and C6, but I hope that I have helped them find good, new homes. Both will be missed.

 

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For some reason today, Labor Day, I decided that I had to have something from my childhood as a reward for the dusty work around the house that I performed. It seemed only fitting that this treat have some kind of Coca-Cola flavoring to it, since that is one of the most vivid and constant memories I had growing up. Problem is, I really dislike the way Coke tastes now in the USA, so hopping over to the local Safeway for a beverage certainly wouldn’t do.

First I thought it would be a good time to stock up on some Mexican Coke again. I live in California, I have a Costco membership, this should be no problem… except that it’s Labor Day, Costco is closed, and none of the Costco’s nearby carry the sugary drink any longer. Strike one.

Alright, how about that kiddie treat standby, the vulnerable Coke Slurpee? I asked Google Now where the nearest 7-11 store was and I headed out the door. Upon arriving, I searched around the store to find the magic machine of frozen drink deliciousness. Only once I got close to the machine did I discover the sad truth: the machine was broken, flashing, and leaking some kind of darkened ooze. The store clerk was of no use, simply repeating what the machine had already communicated and then returning to his headphones and music. Strike two.

I set off for yet another 7-11 location. I am now discovering in my search that it is far easier to find Starbucks locations than it is to find frozen wonder drinks. After driving around for another 8 or so minutes, I find the next frozen delivery den. Inside there is a working cola flavored Slurpee machine. I grab a cup, turn the switch and delight in the process of fulfilling my admittedly short term goal of Coke nirvana. After paying the clerk and walking out the door I take my first straw-full of Slurpee and…. I am disappointed.

All of this searching, driving and anticipating had raised my expectations to levels that were unsupportable. I was left with a mildly cola flavored, ice crystal drink and a series of questions about how I recall my childhood. Was the Slurpee always this tasteless and bland? Is my memory fading now such that I couldn’t recall the previous bouts of poor cola taste? Had the secret recipe changed somehow in the intervening years while I wasn’t watching?

I believe I’ve learned an important lesson here: lower expectations are better expectations. And that it’s probably better to buy Mexican Coke, some vanilla ice cream, and make my own concoctions at home. Figures.

It was bound to happen at some point, but today is the day the T-28 met its demise while flying in my hands. Fittingly, it was a mid-air collision with another T-28 (and another former Bayside member) that ended its flying days so abruptly. Seems there are some things that EPP foam just can’t recover from, and of course I found this out the hard way.

Goodbye ParkZone T-28, I’ll miss you.

Dear people of the internet, please help yourself out by verifying that the email address you sprinkle to every web site, sweepstakes form, shopping cart, government entity and social network is actually an address that belongs to you. I’ll even tell you how to do this, just follow these simple, basic steps:

  1. Open your email client (Outlook, Thunderbird, Mail) or web mail site (Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, etc.)
  2. Create a new email message.
  3. In the “To:” field, type in the email address you give out to everyone online.
  4. In the “Subject:” field, type “This is just a test”.
  5. In the body of the email, put in a trivial bit of text that only you should know.  It could be something simple like “I have three cats” or “I really like chocolate bacon.”  It doesn’t matter what it says, it just has to be unique to you.
  6. Hit the “Send” button.
  7. Wait a few minutes.
  8. If you receive the email you just sent without any error messages and it looks exactly like what you typed in above, congratulations! You win at using the internet. The rest of this article is not for you.
  9. If you didn’t get a response back, wait another few hours. If you still didn’t get the message, you need to read on…
Generally speaking, I am a nice person to be around (or so some people have toldme). I try to help people out when I can and offer suggestions when people get stuck or need some assistance. This is a courtesy I often extend to people I encounter on the internet as well, but to be fair, I don’t know for certain that these so-called internet people are actually real.

Over the past year I have started getting an increasing and alarming amount of personal and private emails delivered to my Gmail address. Normally, when I see an email that clearly has nothing to do with me I delete it or mark it as spam and be on my way. But during the past 12 months some of these internet people have really been pushing the boundaries of what I would consider safe or secure information to share online.

In at least three separate occasions that I can recall, I was so worried about the outcome of these internet people not getting these private emails that I directly intervened by calling the sender (using that old school voice telephone technology) and letting them know that they most certainly did not reach their intended receiver.  In each of these cases the sender was shocked that I wasn’t the internet person in question and then asked me to verify that I was who I said I was.  After the disbelief sunk in, they asked me, sheepishly in many cases, to please delete the messages and disregard any further emails sent from their address.  But this isn’t the sad bit of this story.

The really terrible thing is that these internet people just keep using my email address as their own, and on some pretty important forms and sites.  A small sampling of these repeat offenders are:
  • A notice from your landlord that your rent check bounced and that eviction is imminent
  • An official letter from your university that you have been put on academic suspension and have been asked not to return
  • Multiple emails attempting to confirm your financial records for a car and home loan from your bank
  • Appointment emails setting up and moving the times and places for your job interviews
  • Forms you must fill out to qualify for your state’s unemployment benefits
  • Confirmation emails for hundreds of dollars of computer equipment to be shipped overseas
  • Notices from your auto insurance and health insurance companies letting you know that your coverage has been dropped, the cost raised, or your claims were denied
  • Discrete FedEx tracking emails to let you know that your vibrator shipment is delayed
This doesn’t include the dozens of friend and family emails attempting to find out where you’ve been for the past month, why you won’t return their calls, why you were so drunk at that party last weekend and to let you know that your grandfather just died.  You would think that somewhere these internet people would wonder “hey, where did all of my friends, family, job, healthcare, insurance and banking emails go?”  But you would be wrong.

So consider this my plea to you, humble internet visitor: check your email addresses and make darn sure that the ones you are handing out actually belong to you.  Because I’d hate to be the one to tell you that your trip to Florida was cancelled after you spent all that money booking hotels and plane tickets, just because you didn’t get your confirmation numbers.

Your helpful internet do-gooder,

MS

This is the first post on the new web host. Hopefully all is well and this will post up just fine. Time will tell if this host is any better than the last one, as the last one was positively awful near the end…. but more on that issue later.

For now the key is to find out if any of this works out and so far it looks like it does, or mostly does.

Just by reading the headline you can see that I have no problems leaving 2009 in the dust. It was a crappy year in just about every sense. But rather than drone on and on about what really sucked about the ’09, because really, I could, I will instead pull the old “look back” list trick from my friends in commercial journalism. It works for them so it ought to for me.

  1. The economy – I really should not have to explain this one. If you had stocks, bonds, a retirement account or any kind of savings you know it sucked this year. Enough said.
  2. Employment – or the lack thereof. By ending the year at 10% the US finds itself in bad shape for those wanting work. In California where I am it’s a cruddy 12.3%.
  3. Healthcare – one of the “benefits” of working as a self-employed or small business owner is acquiring your own healthecare. It is neither beneficial nor cheap, I’ve learned. And it seems that Congress would like to make it worse. Way to go, elected officials.
  4. The Financial system – big bailouts, too-big-to-fail thinking, insane back-room deals to help out insurance companies, messed up mortgages and bank failures. Oh, and your credit card APR is going way up.
  5. Climate Change – yes, the Earth is getting warmer in some places. But it seems to do that on its own from time-to-time. Now the truth is coming out and it looks like global warming is all about getting fatter government grants.
  6. Sarah Palin – enough already! Between her book tour, crazy fans, crazy family or just plain dumb things to say this would-be candidate really needs to be given a reality TV show so the rest of thinking American can tune out.
  7. AT&T – their network bites, they are beginning to losing money on services and they really have bad customer service these says. It may be time to start looking for other options.
  8. Apple’s walled garden – better known as the App Store to most folks. It’s been a bad year for Apple on this front and next year doesn’t look to be much better given recent events.
  9. Netbooks – this abomination of technology really needs to die. It may be doing so already. There are no profits in making them, users are unhappy after buying them and most of the internet won’t run on them. I know people are cheap, but come on, spend an extra $50 and buy a laptop.

I thought about going on and listing some hopeful predictions for 2010, but let’s just think about the track record for such things: they just don’t pan out. If you can’t predict the easy stuff, like tomorrows weather, then trying to guess how a whole year will turn out like is just nuts. I will stick with my current belief that next year will just be a bit like this year, only with a “ten” at the end of it. We’ll see.

Two different events conspired to make today suck: an email purporting to be from the FBI and US Mail from a former employer telling me that my identity may have been stolen.

The FBI mail is the typical Internet scam, but this time with more legit looking information and 50% less bad grammar.  It tells me that:

your e-mail address was among the e-mails that won this year promo award of UK National Lottery, that is the fund that was transferred to Africa , and it has been recovered.

Of course, I completely forgot about that lotto ticket I picked up when I was in London five years ago.  How silly of me, and how wonderful that the FBI took the time to track it down for me.  I’m sure someone will fall for this but it’s just another hoax in my inbox.

This second one is more serious.  It seems that a former employer who will remain nameless contracted with an accounting firm which had my personal identification (and that of others) on a laptop.  That laptop was stolen and the firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, says it had all kinds of security to keep my information safe, and that I shouldn’t worry.  Sounds fine until you read the next paragraph:

… as the laptop was in use at the time of the theft, we cannot be certain that these security measures were enabled.

So now I’m told that someone can go out and masquerade as me, creating new bank accounts, credit cards and personal loans and that all PWC can say is sorry, we’re not liable?  I realize that the 21st century was going to be new and exciting but I didn’t realize that personal or corporate responsibility wasn’t one of the 20th century carry-overs. Shameful, I say.

fbivspwc

October is here and that means another trip to Thunderhill to track the C6. This year was no exception, and although I’m tired and a bit sore the car and I are no worse for wear, so far as I can tell.  The stats of note for this round of driving are as follows:

  • Average gas mileage: 8 MPG
  • Top speed achieved: 121 MPH (when I managed to look)
  • New things learned: Skipping the cool down lap means cooked brake fluid (and no brakes)
  • Sad fact: The gas gauge read empty at just 124 miles… while lapping another car, thus ending my driving for the day

I could find no new cool cars at this track day to take photos of so an artsy pic of my car and helmet will just have to do this time around.

CA DMV logo

For those of us living in the republic of California and owning older vehicles, we have to put up with an annual mandatory visit to a “certified” SMOG test station to see if our vehicle is still “legal” to drive on the road.  Unlike safety inspections found in other states, however, this test is nothing more than a way to extract additional money from your pocket if you wish to keep driving on the roads.  It works like this:

  • You first pay about $90-ish for the registration and license fees
  • Instructions tell you to go and SMOG test your vehicle for “a nominal fee”
  • The SMOG test station finds ways to have their costs add up to $65 or more
  • If your car doesn’t pass the “test” you have to pay the $65 again once you figure out what’s wrong

This setup seems like a way to fleece those folks who, like me, mindlessly follow the rules set forth by the state.  I’ve seen cars with current registration stickers which clearly spew forth a toxic stew while driving, so am I to believe that the DMV feels these furnaces of CO2 pollution are OK to drive on the road?  Meanwhile, if you haven’t replaced your car air filter in a couple of years you fail the test and another $65 is removed from your pocket.

All of this silliness is almost enough to make someone move out of state, or at least put their vehicle registration elsewhere.  Sheesh.