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Archive for September, 2009

Mr. Christian Bill

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

“Mr. Sluggo Needs Your Help With the Scenery!”

Can I tell you what a delight my leg injury has been?

On Sunday, I went to my church to help dismantle a set. I was in the way the whole time, and I achieved nothing. But someone managed to drop a set on me from behind, removing a whole lot of skin from my ankle and leaving a marvelous 3″-square raspberry on my lower back.

I began treating the ankle by hosing it with Bactine once a day and then applying gauze and soft tape. Let me say right now that I’d like to punch the ad guy who made up the lie about Bactine not stinging. It’s like pouring hot sauce and lemon juice on the wound. Before doing these things, I washed it in the shower with a washcloth. That was pretty awful, but not as bad as the Bactine.

I started smearing it with Neosporin before taping it up. I developed some soreness, so I thought it might be getting infected. Now I’m changing the dressing twice a day, and I’m starting each change by rubbing the wound with alcohol, to clean the crap off. WOW does that open your eyes. First that, then the horrible Bactine, then Neosporin.

I have to keep up with this thing, or it will take forever to heal. Guess I better hit the drugstore and get supplies.

Don’t let anybody drop anything on you. Spare yourself this misery. I can’t even imagine what a big area of road rash would be like. This is the same sort of thing, but it’s only a few square inches.

Ant Riding a Locomotive

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

“The Little Speck in the Window is Waving at Us”

I am hopeless. I wanted to get a cheap stereo for the truck, but I ended up going for a DVD rig with navigation.

I know I’m an idiot. I have no defense this time.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, though. I realized the CD receiver I had ordered was not going to cut it with a rear-view camera, and I really REALLY want a rear-view camera. These cameras are stupid when fastened to ordinary cars, but my truck practically needs tugboats. I can’t see a thing when I look out the back window.

I had a couple of choices. I could get a CD receiver and a separate camera and monitor, or I could get a DVD receiver and a camera. The price would not have been much different. With the separate systems, I’d have two installations to do. I’d have more hardware. And I wouldn’t get the added bonus of easier MP3-folder navigation, which comes with the bigger screen. When I found out I could get a GPS, too, toy-lust kicked in. And Crutchfield had an open-box deal which saved me another 60 bucks.

A GPS is one of the dumbest things you can put in your car, unless you’re going senile. But the fun factor is impossible to ignore. It will be useful. No doubt about that. But I seem to survive without one every day.

I will also be able to hook my cell phone up to the stereo, so I can have more accidents. There is no way I’ll do that. My big goal, as a chronically absent-minded person, is to learn to turn the cell off whenever I get in the car and then turn it on when I get out. Hooking it up to the stereo is like paying people to rear-end and sideswipe me.

I should make up my mind. Do I want a thumb drive, or do I want to put my old 40-gig MP3 player in the glove compartment? I think the drive is a better option. I’ll never fill a 16-GB drive, and a drive doesn’t require power, and a drive will never crash. At least I don’t think it will. It would take a burst of electricity, wouldn’t it? No moving parts.

The only thing I’m sure of is that I’ll never use this receiver to watch DVDs.

I still need nerf bars and maybe an engine tuner. I think that will cover me. Dang. Forgot the bed liner. I better get that before she rusts out.

Still Small Voice or Big Imagination?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Keeps Passing Tests

Today I got up and did my usual prayer and communion thing. I have been trying to learn to hear from God. One thing I’m trying is asking for guidance as to which scriptures I should read in the morning.

Weird things happened last week. Let me see if I can remember the facts. One morning, I asked what I should read, and I heard “Josiah.” But there is no book of Josiah. So I read Jeremiah. And it turned out the part I was reading was about Josiah, the last good king of Israel. Score one for God.

The next day, I tried again, and I heard “Rehoboam.” There is no book of Rehoboam. But I looked Rehoboam up, and once again, the scriptures I was looking at referred to Josiah. Three hundred years before he was born, a prophecy named him and said he would be a reformer.

That makes two.

A day or two after that, I wanted to read about the temptation of Christ. My mind said, “That’s in Matthew 4.” I don’t know the gospels that well. I know John 3:16, but I don’t know which book or chapter goes with which story. But I opened the Bible anyway, and there I found Jesus, refusing to jump off the temple. And he cited the psalm I was in the process of memorizing, which is number 91.

Almost creepy.

Today, I heard “Malachi 3:11.” My first thought was that I hoped Malachi had a third chapter. I didn’t know. But I looked. Here is what I saw:

And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts.

Dang.

I’ve heard that verse a lot. It’s very popular among prosperity preachers, both good and bad. It expresses a concept which has been on my mind lately, because I think my family has been under a curse. But I didn’t know the chapter and number!

I felt like documenting it.

I’m wondering if I should have gotten a DVD receiver for the truck. Why? Because a DVD receiver will accept a rearview camera. My truck is so big, I have no idea what’s going on behind it. Also, a DVD receiver will have a bigger screen for navigating folders and finding music.

I can send the new CD receiver back to Crutchfield. Thoughts?

Latest Request

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

MRI Blessings

My sister had her cranial MRI tonight. This is to determine whether the cancer has spread to her brain. They’ll interpret it tomorrow. Do me a favor and pray.

Mohammed Calls up the Rear Guard

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

New Bomb Method Plumbs Depths of Depravity

I guess I should call Line-X today. Day before yesterday I looked at the truck bed after a rain, and you could have used it to raise goldfish. I hope there is no rust under the drop-in liner.

Black appears to be the way to go. I thought red would be neat, and it would be more comfortable to deal with in the burning sun, but I’m positive it will be pink after a year.

I am going to upgrade the stereo a little. I am not a boom-car guy, but the factory radio is not inspiring. One problem: I can’t get below 70 Hz without a sub, and if I put it in the back seat, it will take up precious floor space. How am I going to hear Ray Brown? I may have to cave on this issue. I don’t expect great sound in a vehicle, but when notes are completely absent, it’s bad.

It turns out CD changers are obsolete. The Crutchfield guy I talked to confirmed it. He said you can hook a thumb drive up to your stereo and get the same effect. Granted, you may lose some sonic perfection due to compression, but car sound is car sound. I doubt I could tell the difference with the motor running.

I was thinking I might burn music DVDs and put them in a changer. But it looks like CD changers don’t play DVDs. That’s stupid. A single DVD can hold an insane amount of music.

Let’s see. A DVD holds roughly 5 gigs. A thumb drive–I better check before I make a fool of myself–16 gigs. So a changer holds less than two thumb drives, and it costs more than they would. Talk about “duh.” A changer would be a bad idea even if it read DVDs.

I have a 40-gig MP3 player I rarely use. I could stick it in the truck. It’s a hard-drive player, so it’s going to poop out eventually. Might as well get some use from it.

Crutchfield was great. They gave me good advice, caught me when I ordered too much stuff, and gave me free junk to move an old stereo to my dad’s Explorer. Thumbs up on that deal.

I’m thinking about going to an empty parking lot and spending some time practicing my parking. I keep missing spaces by 50%. I need to get it together. I won’t always have the Thunderbird to fall back on. I need to polish the remarkable head-out parking skills I learned in law school. Not sure if this will make things easier on the way in, but getting out will be less traumatic.

Miami has horrible parking lots with tiny spaces. I’m getting used to parking far from stores, where there is more room.

I love these polite Miami drivers. Where were they hiding back when I was driving a small car? They’re so eager to get out of my way, even when it’s their turn to go. I feel terrible about all the bad things I’ve said about them in the past.

Most interesting item in the news? The Al Qaeda butt bomber. I’m sure you’ve read about it. He stuck a cell phone and a pound of explosives in his rear end, approached Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and blew himself up.

The obvious ramification…unpleasant changes in airport security. Backscatter scanning reveals your private parts to bored TSA screeners, and you have to take off your shoes, and you may have to be checked with a metal-detecting wand. But as far as civilians know, there are no precautions that will weed out bombers with explosives in their rectums. A butt bomb could easily depressurize a jet. It could bring it down, so we can’t ignore the threat. Something is going to be done to counter it. And it will not be fun.

Maybe they’ll start ultrasounding random passengers. Won’t that be fantastic? I’m assuming ultrasound can detect machinery that has been concealed anally. Not something I know a lot about. If not, guess what? STRIP SEARCHES.

You have to wonder. Will this be the final straw that forces the government to acknowledge that terrorism is perpetrated almost entirely by Muslims? Can we finally admit that profiling the group of people that produces terrorists is a good idea?

How many blue-eyed, freckled, Christian grandmothers have we humiliated, trying to bolster our ridiculous contention that terrorism isn’t an Islamic phenomenon? We smiled and put up with it when they were merely feeling us up and making us take off our shoes. Will we be as patient when they’re stripping us naked and ramming instruments up our behinds in rooms full of strangers?

And for once, let’s be as creative as the terrorists. Let’s not be limited by tunnel vision. Let’s admit that airplanes aren’t the only targets. Imagine a flash mob of twenty butt bombers at the New York Stock Exchange or at a Presidential speaking engagement. Think your stocks are in the toilet now? You haven’t seen anything yet.

I can’t say it enough. Anyone willing to eat a piece of pork at a boarding gate should be allowed to bypass security screening. And we should make airline seats from pigskin, and airline passengers should carry lard with them. No bomb? No pig-molecule contamination for Mohammed’s servants. How can they object?

I think we need to start popularizing pork-based skin creams and cosmetics. Lard is a marvelous moisturizer, provided you refine it and remove the scent. We’re not even allowed to say “swine flu” because the intolerant among us can’t stand the word “swine.” We need to let them know they don’t make the rules. Lard-based lipstick. Lard-based hair conditioner. These things would make a glorious statement.

It’s not intolerance. It’s a response to intolerance.

Swine, swine, swine, pig, ham, bacon, Hush Puppies. Get over it. Somebody make me a T-shirt that says “Bacon is the Bomb” in Arabic.

Think how useful a little tube of lard could be in a hostage situation. You sneak it around to the other hostages, everyone smears it on, and then you tell the Muslim criminals. “Touch me, and you touch lard.”

Actually, I could say that as a general rule. But I’m losing weight every week.

Prince Abdullah’s butt bomber is going to father a generation of imitators, unless Islamic extremists have matured a lot over the last year or two. When they discovered the IED, it became an enduring craze. This should be no different.

And here we are, with a PC wimp in the White House. “Carter II” was an understatement.

It’s going to be an interesting fall.

Truck Continues to Surprise

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Run the Radio All Night!

I know I am inviting abuse by admitting this, but I didn’t look under the hood of my truck until today. After all, I did pay a mechanic for a six-page report. I checked the oil while filling up. It looks new in there. The oil looks very clean for a diesel. I had a Toyota that never turned its oil dark. Couldn’t figure that out.

One surprise: the truck has two batteries.

Can someone explain this to me? Is it because diesels are hard to crank, or is it just a gimmick to appeal to macho truck nerds? It definitely would have worked on me.

I’m looking at bedliners. The factory drop-in looks okay, but there is dirt under it, and the rails are unprotected. I’m thinking Line-X. I considered getting it matched to the truck, but I don’t trust it not to fade. They say red liners turn pink. Line-X now has a super-duper version that’s guaranteed not to fade, but what if it doesn’t work? Hard to fix. They could spray over it, but if you got a scratch, the red would pop out. Black, on the other hand, attracts heat worse than red.

I’m also wondering about paintless dent repair. The truck has a few dings. Not sure how safe paintless repair is. I don’t want to pull the paint off the truck while trying to fix it.

I think I’m getting about 15 miles per gallon, but I’m not sure. I can’t be certain what the odometer read the last time I filled it up. And I screwed up this time by pumping diesel after the pump went off. I thought it went off early, so I started it again, and I filled the tank higher than normal. This will throw mileage calculations off.

Seems to get better mileage than a typical Thunderbird. I can’t say whether that extends to my own Thunderbird, because I never bothered checking the gas mileage. I didn’t drive it enough for it to matter.

I ordered a wider rear-view mirror. Hope it works.

More

I feel like I’m dreaming.

I just found out the engine on my truck (the whole powertrain) has a 100,000-mile warranty. I was looking into modifications to boost the mileage when I found this out. You can put bigger injectors on it, and you’ll get 50 extra HP at the rear wheels, but you also get better mileage. Problem: it may void the warranty.

I can’t figure this out. Better mileage than my two-seat Thunderbird. Great acceleration. A 5000-pound payload. Four-wheel drive. And a ridiculous powertrain warranty. Where is the catch?

Maybe it’s the hundred-yard turning circle.

Hindsight is Not Always 20/20

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Mirror Problem

I’ve had it with the tiny rear-view mirror on the Dodge. It’s too narrow from top to bottom. I’m sure someone out there makes a good replacement for it. Any recommendations? I don’t want one of those three-foot-long jobs that will pull the mount off the windshield. Just a mirror in a realistic size.

Loaf of Joy

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Second Effort, With More Grease

I have a big pile of Orinoco bananas, with more on the way. I made banana nut bread to get rid of some of it. My sister is not taking food seriously enough. She seems to think she can turn food down because it’s not exactly what she wants. Not the right approach when you’re on chemo and starting radiation therapy. Who knows if she’ll be able to eat in a week? The banana nut bread ought to be helpful.

Here’s what I’m trying.

INGREDIENTS

3 ripe bananas, mashed (I used two Orinocos)
2 1/4 cups non-rising biscuit flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 eggs
1 stick butter
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped pecans
pinch nutmeg
pinch cloves
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

I think that’s all of it. I mixed it and dumped it in a Teflon bread pan, and I’m baking at 350º for one hour and fifteen minutes. You stick a toothpick in it to see if it’s done.

Last time I added a shot of banana liqueur, but this batter was too wet for that. Maybe if I added another quarter-cup of flour.

I’m hoping this will be moister than the loaf I made last time, which was excellent but not sublime.

I’ll tell you if it’s any good.

More

The bread is very good. I’m not sure 350 is the right temperature, though. It seems a little dark. Maybe 325 is better. Also, I think I’ll omit the coconut oil next time and just use butter. The salt needs to be increased. And I definitely need to get out the PAM and quit being brave. This loaf stuck to the pan.

Who ee Dees?

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Miami: Funhouse Without Walls

I’m glad to say I’m not having too much soreness after yesterday’s accident. I barely feel the leg injury, although I can’t say I enjoyed washing it in the shower this morning. I might as well have been pressing it with a hot iron. The sore place on my back hurts whenever anything bumps into it, so I’m trying to watch it.

The pastor called and explained what was going on. His son usually handles projects like stage demolition, and his son is a good organizer. But he’s away this week, and a guy he usually supervises decided to get this done for him. On top of that, he decided to surprise the pastor’s son by getting a two-weekend job done in one day. If that isn’t a recipe for death, I don’t know what is. This guy works hard but is not used to leading, so the job was chaotic. And it turns out he was the one who dropped the set on me. It’s strange that he didn’t identify himself or talk to me after he did it. Maybe he was embarrassed. When you injure somebody, you should say something, if only for the sake of your own character. Sooner or later, we’re going to meet up. Then it will be awkward for him.

I was afraid this was how things always went at the church. I know they have some organizational problems, and the financial picture is not great right now, so things are a little hectic, and I figured what I saw yesterday was typical. But the pastor says they don’t do business that way, and that this was an embarrassing aberration. That’s a relief. I was starting to think they were really floundering.

One danger of walking by faith is that you may find yourself counting on God a little too much. Often, you’ll have to get into things without a lot of preparation or support, knowing God will take up the slack. Think of the disciples who headed off down the road without money or changes of clothes. When you’ve taken that path often enough, you may start to feel like you don’t have to think or prepare. I was afraid that was what I was seeing yesterday. I’m glad I was wrong.

Now I feel bad about pointing out the problem. I don’t want to cause any friction up there or alienate anyone. I felt I had to say something. I could have come home in a bag, and other people were in danger, too. I don’t know what kind of insurance the church carries, but I’m positive a lot of the neighborhood kids who were helping have none. You don’t want to see someone end up on life support in a county hospital, because safety rules were not observed and there were no hard hats on the premises.

It’s remarkable that I was positioned so only about a quarter of an inch of me protruded into the path of the thing that hit me. It was just enough to remove skin, without tearing through it into the flesh. I am so lucky. I keep thinking about how different it would have been, had the set landed on my head.

I have been thinking about my dad’s new interest in moving up north. I just checked the weather here in Miami. It’s 81º and 89% humidity. I nearly fainted. I then checked Melbourne, which is not far from the area we’re considering. It’s about 80º and 70%, which is not good, but it’s certainly better. And here’s the real difference: several nights this week, the temperature will drop into the sixties. Oh, man. What I would give for a week of that. I’d lie naked in the yard all night.

Not really.

People always say humidity is worse than heat. That’s not the whole story down here. Another problem is the sheer intensity of the sunlight. You can work up a sweat just walking around your house once in direct sun. If you wear a light-colored shirt with dark parts, you will feel the dark areas heating up, because they absorb heat so fast. Last year, I was stupid enough to work in the yard in June and July. I’ve taken it easy this summer. The bugs benefited from my reluctance, but I saved myself some unpleasant times. Now that things are beginning to cool off, I can get out there and fertilize and spread poison.

When the weather is this hot and the sun is this merciless, you feel it even when you’re inside your house. When you lie in bed at night, the memory of the heat on your head will bother you.

Brevard County would be nice. Maybe north Georgia or southern Tennessee would be even better. I’d have to give up tropical fruit, but I’d have tomatoes, peaches, and apples. Maybe blackberries.

Tropical fruit is overrated. Mangoes are great, but peaches are better. Papayas have a funky smell. Guavas have an off flavor. Mameys taste like they have tiny hairs in them. Citrus is fine, but there is a good possibility that it’s about to become nearly extinct, due to citrus greening. Some clever Miamian brought illegal plants here, and they had the wrong bugs on them, and now Florida is likely to lose its citrus industry. That means no juice for the rest of the US and much of the world.

Bananas are also in danger. There’s a fungus attacking them. Here’s what I’ve read. No wild banana is worth eating, because they have gigantic seeds. All the bananas we have now come from one seedless ancestor, so there is little genetic diversity. That means a blight that will harm one variety will probably harm another. The blight is in Asia, and that means it will get here eventually.

If I’m up in Georgia surrounded by normal fruit, I won’t have to worry about stuff like this. And I’ll hear a lot of English, which will be soothing. Seems like every day I get this phone call three times:

Me: Hello?

Caller: Allo?

Me: Yes, I said hello.

Caller: Allo? [“If I say ‘allo’ twice, the person I called will magically speak Spanish!”]

Me: Hello.

Caller: Allo? Who ee dees?

Me: No hablo espanol.

Caller: [click]

Phone: RING! RING!

Me: Hello?

Caller: Allo? Who ee dees?

Me: La migra.

Caller: Ay! [click]

Then there’s the fun of playing charades at the store, trying to mime your desires because the “bilingual” clerk speaks no English. You have to be Marcel Marceau to order a hamburger. Okay, not Marcel Marceau. More like Cantinflas.

One other benefit is that I’d be less likely to get MRSA, also known as flesh-eating bacteria. It’s a problem down here. People bring amazing diseases to Miami. After I got scraped at church, I had to buy antiseptic, and if what I read on the labels is right, Bactine kills the MRSA bacteria. Good thing to know. I applied it liberally. It stung like you would not believe. I can’t understand why they put “no sting” on the label. If you’re going to lie, why be obvious?

I better go have a banana while I still can.

Wounded in the House of my Friends

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

OSHA is for Heathens

I went to the church today to help tear down a set. I was hoping to get to know more people and help out, but it did not work out that way.

I thought they were hard up for helpers, but when I arrived, there were maybe thirty guys hacking up the old set and moving it out. There was no meeting. No plan. There were no groups with specific tasks. There was no safety gear. There were no rules. There was absolutely no leadership. There was one guy who occasionally gave very vague instructions to no one in particular, and whoever got there first got whatever task he needed done. Everyone worked very fast. There was no communication.

I should have backed out slowly and gone home, but I’m not a blue-collar guy, so I suppose I’m not as sharp as I should be about workplace safety. And I wanted to be of some use.

The set consists of a number of plywood pieces propped up with two-by-four supports. It’s all held together with drywall screws. I suppose each section is around ten feet long, so they’re pretty heavy. There are also big aluminum structures that hold TVs. There are cables all over, and weird props like stage rocks.

I was not able to be very helpful, so I tried to stay out of the way until an opportunity arose. People kept wandering near me, carrying heavy things they didn’t seem to know what to do with, and I kept moving, trying to find a safe place to stand.

Right after I found a place that seemed relatively secure, I felt something bite me in the lower back and the back of my left leg. Somebody had dropped a section of the set, and the edge had hit me twice on the way to the floor. I yelled “JESUS!”, which probably was not a great idea, but I didn’t have a lot of time to plan it. The next time I get maimed at church, I’ll try to remember to watch my language.

I turned around and saw the set section lying there, with parts of it shattered. I looked at my leg and saw a lovely injury that started high with abraded skin and ended low, with a strip of skin peeled off. And the blood was starting to flow.

I never saw the person who dropped the set on me. I am told his name is Mike.

Some guy whose name escapes me sent me to the men’s room to clean up the wound. He said he’d find a first aid kit. When I located him again, we sat down and started patching up the leg. My back wasn’t scraped badly enough to need a bandage.

The kit had antibiotic packets, but when I opened one, it was completely dry. OSHA would tear this place up.

I assured everyone I was okay (in the sense that I did not need an ambulance), but I pointed out that the total lack of leadership and organization is what caused my injury. If that thing had hit my head, I’d be in surgery right now. Had I been one inch farther back, it would have opened my leg up to the point where I’d need expensive treatment. As it is, it will be a good two weeks before my leg is right, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s very painful to walk on over the next few days.

It’s a wonder nobody has been killed down there.

On the way home, I realized what they need when they do projects like this. They need one leader with supreme power. They need that leader to draw up a plan that calls for tasks to be done in a certain order. That would take fifteen minutes. He needs to decide how many men he needs. He needs to stand in front of the church on Sunday and ask for that many men. He needs to have a duty roster. When enough men sign up, he needs to tell the church he has everyone he needs. He needs to divide them into groups, with a leader over each group. On the day of the project, they need to have a ten-minute meeting where he explains what they’re going to do. He needs to hand out hard hats and gloves. He needs to give them basic safety rules. Finally, how about a prayer that everyone goes home in one functional piece?

He should also insist that everyone wear boots and jeans. I’d be a lot better off if I had done that. I didn’t have any idea how dangerous it would be. Most of the skinned area would have been covered by boots.

Christians forgive. So I forgive. I forgave all the way home. Several times. Eventually, it will stick. I will not let myself be crabby about this for the rest of the day. At least I hope not. Nobody intended to drop a set on me. Everyone there was trying to do something unselfish. These are good people. But it’s hard not to be annoyed when you get a painful, bloody injury that was completely unnecessary and caused by obvious mistakes.

On a DVD I watched, the pastor talked about his deformed left index finger. The last joint goes off at an angle. He hit it with a sledge hammer while he was putting up a tent in the rain. He was driving a heavy steel stake. Another church-related accident. It should never have happened. Back when I was on the kibbutz, they stuck me in the almond fields with a bunch of blunt stakes and a sledge, and they told me to drive them into the hard dirt and tie them to the saplings. I did it, but my right hand shook in the evenings. It was a very dumb idea. The Israelis marveled at my capacity to take abuse, because I was too stupid to complain. Later, one of them came out with a proper implement for driving stakes. It was a heavy pipe with two handles and one end welded shut. You drop it over the stake, and one person takes each handle, and you drive the stake into the ground in about ten seconds, without injury or strain. That’s what the pastor should have been using. Or he should have found someone with the proper power tool. I suppose a Bobcat would be ideal, if you rigged it up right. But hey, people perish for lack of knowledge. He mashed his finger (nearly losing the end of it), and I got my leg peeled. The next person may die.

I think it would be best if I excluded myself from this kind of thing in the future, unless they’re willing to start planning and quit using the Holy Spirit as a parachute. I really wanted to help, and I have faith that God will watch over me, but I’m not crazy.

Saturday Breakfast

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I am Nice to the Little People

Yesterday I went to a men’s breakfast at church. I really enjoyed it. There were about 160 men there. We had a good breakfast, and then we heard from an interesting speaker.

This guy was a shortish black man with a thick island accent. He was introduced as a local pastor. I thought maybe I should donate a few bucks to whatever he was doing. Given the nature of the area and his humble appearance, I figured he was running a low-budget operation out of his apartment.

He started talking about his background. He said he ran a church and three businesses. “That’s nice,” I thought, “he has some subchapter S deals going on, which he also runs from his apartment.” Then he said he testified frequently as an expert in bankruptcy court, and that one of his businesses had offices in London, and that he had eleven appliance stores. And he writes all sorts of expert commentary on asset-based lending, and he pals around with big-time CEOs, and in December, he is flying out to California, to baptize a corporate bigwig and his wife in the Pacific Ocean.

Guess he didn’t need my five bucks after all.

He said people ask him how he has time for ministry, when he does all these things. He said his ministry is in the marketplace. He goes after people he comes across while doing business.

He provided five rules he follows.

1. Don’t cart a Bible around. It turns people off, and you don’t need it to bring people to God.

I think that’s true. It’s pretty tough to pick through a Bible and use it to prove God exists. A testimony is easier and more convincing.

2. Be the best you can be at work, even if you hate your job.

3. Smile and have a pleasant demeanor. I guess you can’t win people over if you’re sullen and obnoxious.

4. Control the conversation. Consider the authority you have behind you.

5. Know how to lead people to Christ, and close the deal.

He cited Nehemiah, who was a cup-bearer for Artaxerxes, the king of Persia. Though he was a slave, Nehemiah did his job well and cheerfully, and on the one day he appeared unhappy, the king noticed and asked what was wrong. Nehemiah explained that Jerusalem was in ruins, and that he wanted to rebuild it. Artaxerxes commissioned the rebuilding of the city walls, and he sent Nehemiah to be governor of the region.

I don’t know if Artaxerxes came to believe in God, but he certainly did a lot for God’s people.

At the end of the breakfast, someone came and prayed the 91st psalm over the pastor (mine, not the guy who spoke), and I was freaked out for the thousandth time this year. That’s the psalm I’m memorizing this week.

I met a guy who was jailed three times for drug addiction. That’s how he put it, although I don’t know if it’s accurate. I assume he must have been dealing, in order to get himself imprisoned three times. He was jailed in Texas. Evidently, it wasn’t very pleasant. He talked about the spartan life he led. They timed the showers and gave everyone lye soap, and he said he had soaped himself up and failed to rinse in the allotted time, so he had to spend the next two days in a 115° cell with lye soap on his skin.

He said he had been delivered instantly from his cocaine addiction. Now he has his own ministry, and he sends newsletters back to the men he was in jail with.

I got the pastor to bless my truck. It still has a little olive-oil cross on the grille.

Today I’m going to drive up and help with the dismantling of a set or something. Not sure. Whatever it is, I’m sure I can be of some use.

The pastor proclaimed a fast for today. It’s not a terribly hard fast. Liquids only, from 6 p.m Saturday until 6 p.m. tonight. I’ll bet he inadvertently sold a lot of milkshakes when he came up with that. It’s our way of acknowledging Yom Kippur. We’re a day early, but work with us, okay?

I hope we don’t have to work outside today. I’m almost positive September has been hotter than August.

How Col. Kurtz Got His Start

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Up the Indian River

In a comment, someone said something about how I should use the new Dodge for something other than the McDonald’s drive-thru. I really don’t think this thing will fit in the nearest drive-thru. Taking the Thunderbird through it makes me nervous. It’s very tight.

The other day, I encountered one of the incredibly stupid, dangerous, and wasteful traffic islands the mayor of Karl Goebbels Coral Gables has put in our streets, and I had to back the truck up and correct the angle in order to get through it. Then I realized I could just run over it, so that’s my plan for next time. I won’t mash the little palm tree in the middle of it, but I’ll run my tires over the masonry. Sorry about that, Mayor Slesnick. You should have known better.

Suddenly I’m glad I bought the lifetime wheel alignment over at Firestone.

The mayor hates pickup trucks already. He was highly distressed when Coral Gables got dinged in the now-famous pickup lawsuit in 2007. For weeks, he could barely stomach his tofu. The guy who sued is the brother of a lawyer who beat me and my dad in an employment case. That lawyer handled the pickup case. I guess I can forgive him now. Thanks to him, I can park an aircraft carrier in front of my house. God bless him. Before the lawsuit, pickups were illegal, so the law was slanted in favor of vehicles such as Mayor Slesnick’s pink Prius covered with Miami City Ballet bumper stickers. I assume that’s what he drives. What else could it be?

I’m kidding. I guarantee you, it’s a Mercedes or a BMW. I don’t even have to look.

I can’t stand those traffic islands. They’re supposed to slow traffic down. I would guess that part of the purpose is to slow people down when they’re running from the cops. Miami is slowly sinking under a pile of traffic impediments intended to stop crime. Hopefully they’ll never block the streets to the point where people can’t leave for good.

Some of the islands are funny. I guess I should describe what they are, so you’ll understand. It’s a circular concrete thing in the middle of an intersection. It’s about four inches high and twelve feet across. They build the curbs up around them so, in theory, you’re forced to turn and go in a circle. But some of them are constructed incorrectly, so I just zip right through at 40 miles per hour. It’s not my fault they can’t build them right. I wish I could fly through one while Slesnick was on the sidewalk, walking his poodles. I would love to see the look on his face.

One of the islands near me was too open, so they rebuilt it. And it’s STILL too open. So I still shoot through! For some reason, I find that incredibly funny. It probably cost the city $15,000 to rebuild it, and they achieved absolutely nothing. It’s legal to drive fast through these things. There are no reduced-speed signs.

My sister has a standing offer to represent anyone who gets injured, running into one of these silly things. No charge. I look forward to the day when the Gables gets hit with a $50 million verdict. Then the islands will be removed, and hopefully, so will Slesnick.

I don’t really care. This place is beyond fixing. Either you like small lots, crowded streets, high taxes, and Nuremberg-worthy zoning laws, or you don’t. I don’t.

My dad is making noises about leaving Miami. A friend of ours up in Brevard County wants us to come up so he can show us around. I’ve been wanting to get out for a long time, but I didn’t want to leave my father here. A year or two ago, he got on the bandwagon, and we decided to look for a compound which we could fortify with Claymores and machine gun nests. But we never got it going. Now he’s saying he wants to drive up there. And we finally have a vehicle in which we will be considered presentable.

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Maybe that applies to me, as well as to men who are actually good. I feel like the pieces of my life are falling into place. A move out of this unpleasant city would be a wonderful example. I am tired of living in a city that has voodoo temples and goat sacrifices and nude beaches. And the country’s worst traffic. If I could get up every morning and look out over an acre or more and see a huge pickup truck and a whole bunch of fruit trees, I would think I had arrived in paradise. The land of Bible clingers and McCain stickers.

Is it too much to hope for?

Brakes are Good

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Home From the Garage

Man, am I having chest pains. I just paid the folks at Firestone. I opted for the lifetime alignment. I can’t see how it can fail to be a good thing. I have a bad habit of skipping wheel alignment, and this, more than anything, is what ruins expensive tires. They will also give me a free rotation every time.

I also had two brake pads done. What an idiot. For what they charged, I could have done all four. They claimed the brake fluid looked bad, so I let them flush the system.

I think I did good, except for the brake pads. And the brakes feel much better now. The last thing I want is to plow into someone with three tons of steel, right after being warned that the pads needed to be replaced.

I took my old man to get his Explorer, which was getting new ball joints. He loves that car. He probably could have bought one the same age for what he just put into it.

The mechanic said the ball joints gave out because it was a Ford. Apparently Fords do this. That’s horrendous. The car’s suspension has been making noises for forty thousand miles. That means they went bad in the first half of the car’s projected life. Can Ford really be this lax about this important issue?

All the way home, I felt like I had won the lottery. I am enjoying this truck way too much to be healthy. I started fantasizing about a new stereo and better speakers. But I did not pull into Best Buy.

A man needs a truck or a sports car or convertible, the same way he needs one good revolver and a barbecue grill and smoker. A wife can probably spend the rest of his money entirely on herself if she gives way on these key issues.

Well. I guess I forgot about guys who play golf. I cannot relate to their illness.

I am sorely tempted to get a vanity tag. I was considering something like “Jzbel,” but then it occurred to me that “Prov 3110” would be even better. A sports car is like a hot stewardess you stay married to for three years. A pickup is the girl you should have married the first time around.

Long-Term Wheel Alignment Contract?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Sucker Move or Genius?

A long time ago, Firestone was willing to align the tires on my car for $50–one shot–OR agree to align them over and over for eternity, for $90. I didn’t take them up on it. Now they ask $70 and $150. What do you think? Should I do it?

I guess the only thing to worry about is whether the contract is transferable to every Firestone.

Wheel alignment is one of those things people don’t pay enough attention to. For the cost of one tire, you can keep four tires running three times as long.

Massive Red Vehicle Unleashes Comment Storm

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Bible Clingers Love Trucks

I just got up and found 18 comments waiting for me. It looks like I finally discovered what my readers care about. Pickup trucks.

Somebody mentioned Rotella T oil as the local oil of choice for marine diesels. This is true. There are several gallon jugs of it over at my dad’s boat right now. I think it’s 40-weight. I don’t know whether it’s right for a small truck diesel. The boat’s diesels are truck diesels, I suppose. I’m not sure. I have heard that the original V71-series Detroits were used on World War II landing craft, but for all I know, they were on trucks before that. They rarely go above 2000 RPM, if that means anything.

I think I’m going to get rid of the Thunderbird. It’s been fun, but it seems a little silly as a second car. It would be great to have a cheap small car for errands, but the T-bird is not ideal for this. It gets something like 18 mpg (guess), and it has a trunk the size of a kitchen drawer, and on sunny days, it’s like an oven until the AC kicks in. I think it would be better to get a secondhand Japanese car I don’t care about. A beater. Put money in the guts and forget about the looks.

Here’s what I keep thinking about. How am I going to get a thirty-foot-long truck through the drive-thru at McDonald’s? I have to have a Mickey D’s breakfast once in a while. Is it irresponsible to want a small car just for McDonald’s? Of course not. That much is clear.

I will lose babe appeal if I sell the Ford, but I never had much of that to begin with, so it’s a small sacrifice.

Today I have to get my front brakes fixed. I’m tempted to do it myself, but little jobs like this tend to be pretty cheap, and okay, I’M LAZY. I’ll just admit it. I don’t want to haul the floor jack out and get grease all over me. Are you happy? I should also have the alignment checked.

I was very impressed with Plaza Auto, the place that did my inspection. They get raves from reviewers. But Firestone is way closer, and they do lifetime alignments, so you only have to pay once, and believe it or not, they have told me the truth in the past.

I found used nerf bars for $115 on Craigslist. I would ordinarily haggle, but that’s like $400 off the new price, and it’s about 40% of the cost of most used bars. I don’t have to be a royal pain all the time. Sometimes it’s okay to just pay and leave. I am looking forward to putting them on. When I get out of the truck, I feel like I’m base-jumping. I don’t know why it’s so high. I don’t think it was lifted. I guess the suspension on this model starts out pretty high.

I have to decide what to do about tires. I think I can get another 5,000 out of the existing tires, and if I replace the front tires, I should be able to go maybe 20,000. I don’t know what kind of spare this truck has. I assume it’s just like the other tires. I think it’s safe to bet it’s not a compact.

I should get a toolbox and put some basic breakdown supplies in it. Flares. Vise grips. Cheap screwdrivers. Fuses. Socket set. I don’t want a truck box. They take up two feet of bed.

I might upgrade the stereo a little. I definitely have to get the Cuban stations off the presets.

I chose Geico for the insurance because Progressive was a little more expensive, and because I didn’t want to keep funding Progressive’s bizarre political causes. The name “Progressive” ought to get you a clue what they’re about.

I’ll be honest. They’ve been fantastic. But so is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and I avoid that, too. A commenter says Warren Buffett owns Geico, but I don’t think he’s as far to the left as the Progressive folks.

The suggestions are very helpful.