Sunday, August 31, 2014

Winning on the Internet

The other day we decided to switch my daughter from her five-point harness child seat to a booster seat configuration. This required removing her seat. That proved hard because the LATCH system anchors were synched in tight. So I had to work hard to get it out. Ultimately I had to move the front passenger side seat all the way forward.

(Incidentally, when I'm God-Emperor, I'm going to ban child safety seats for children over the age of 1. Let the little devils sit on their dad's laps while he drives, smokes and drinks beer at the same time. It's how we were all raised and we all survived to adulthood. It'll toughen 'em up!)

This was all well and good until the next morning when we got in the car, and the passenger side seat was stuck in the forward position.

Oops.

We have a 2003 Toyota Camry XLE, and it turns out that running the electric seats all the way forward often causes them to get stuck.

I wish I had known that.

So, the choices became letting the missus sit in the back (which we did for the day), taking it to a dealer to get it fixed (more on that shortly), or trying to fix it myself.

Turns out I just happened to have a Chilton's Manual for this car from the library. Kim read through that while I drove yesterday. No help in the manual. So then she hit the internet.

First she found that this was a common problem. And she also found that many people were being given quotes from their mechanics that the fix (involving removing the seat and replacing the electric motor) in the $1,000 to $1,300 price range. Yowza! Don't have the money, and wouldn't want to spend it anyway.

Bu she also found solutions. The easiest way involved using a hammer. Unfortunately, that didn't work. I suspect that method would work, though, if you stopped fiddling with the seat once it was stuck, which I didn't do.

But that got to the method that DID work. There was even a helpful YouTube video! This worked. The only thing I had to do was get an S2 drill bit. (I may have had one somewhere, but didn't find it.) So yesterday morning, while out on another errand, I stopped in at Sears and picked up an S2 drill bit. (Along with 100 other bits, as this handy Craftsman 100-Pc. Drilling and Driving Kit was on sale for $14.99.) That, and the video, and about five minutes were enough to fix the seat.

And since I needed more masonry drill bits anyway, the big drilling and driving kit was also a win. (It's good to have all those bits in one place anyhow. I have some stuff here, some there, a lot in my main tool boxes, some security Torx bits in my computer repair kit, etc.)

Thus the internet saved me a lot of money AND inconvenience.

But this gets me to an interesting point. This is the kind of issue one could use to test one's mechanic for both knowledge and honesty. Fixing this would cost you some money at the mechanic. The mechanic WOULD be using his time and equipment. But it should come in around $50-$100 if he knows what he's doing AND is honest. If, on the other hand, he comes back and tells you it will cost $1,000+, then you know something is wrong, and perhaps you should get a new mechanic.

Squirrel of the Week: Wait for it ... Wait for it ....

For the week of 8/24/2014 to 8/30/2014

This week I briefly thought the Brangelina marriage wold be the squirrel. But then, Joan River's collapsed! Surely THAT would be the squirrel.

But no, it was not to be. Showing how he dominates the US media (but little else), Obama provided his own squirrel this week:

The tan suit.APTOPIX Obama-Tan Suit
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, file)

The suit obscured Obama's comments about the wars in Ukraine, Iraq and Syria, possible US involvement in those wars, the threat of terrorism to Americans abroad and at home. It especially obscured the fact that his comments undercut his State Department, Defense Department and his intelligence agencies.

The President also admitted he didn't have a strategy for dealing with ISIS. 

But the only thing that mattered was the tan suit.

What the Hell happened to America?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Over 19 million people live in the state of Florida ...

... and the best we can come up with to run for governor are Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. The amazing thing about this race will be the combination of the negativity, which will be high, and the fact that most of the negative comments about both contenders are true.

Revolting.

But it must be particularly depressing for Democrats. Seriously, the best candidate they can find is the worst governor in living memory, who happened to be a Republican up until he couldn't win Republican primaries?

Even by the current debased and degraded standards, this is awful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: The Golf Vacation

For the week of 8/17/2014 to 8/23/2014

The issue isn't so much that the President is spending so much time on vacation playing golf. Rather, it's that he's no less effective when doing so than when he's in the White House.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: Tie: Robin Williams suicide and Michael Brown's death

For the week of 8/10/2014 to 8/16/2014

Both events seem to have largely overshadowed events of much greater import elsewhere, such as the evolving Ebola crisis, the continuing crisis with ISIS in Iraq, the slow boil war between Russia and Ukraine, and so on.

This is not to say both stories don't merit some attention. If Robin Williams wasn't widely beloved, he was as close to it as possible without achieving the goal. But the Brown situation, like the Trayvon Martin case or the Casey Anthony case, really merits no more than local attention.

But that's not how things work.

Incidentally, the note how the big story last weekend involved Tony Stewart and the fatal track accident he was involved in. That went away pretty much entirely after Robin Williams death was announced.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Squirrel of the Week, Chess Player Edition: Garry Kasparov

For the week of 8/3/2014 to 8/9/2014

Garry Kasparov has been running for the Presidency of the International Chess Federation, know by its Franch acronym of FIDE. He has been running against the 19 year incumbent, one Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The incumbent is someone that got rich from running a small semi-antonymous republic in Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Among other things, he is alleged to have had at least one opposition journalist murdered, and has claimed that he was abducted by aliens and taken to the moon for consultations. (This last allegedly happened in 1997, while President of FIDE.)

Kirsan has been an awful President of FIDE. But he has been masterful at buying votes come election time, and has held onto his office for a long time. And he will get another four years as today he crushed Kasparov in the election for FIDE President. He has expressed his interest in being President for life.

But Garry is the squirrel in all of this. In fact, Kirsan is something of a squirrel. The problem is with an international sporting federation that is so poorly designed that someone like Kirsan can come to and maintain power. The election is meaningless, and unless changes are made to FIDE's structure (and they won't be) nothing will change. Chess will continue to be a very marginal sport, with a joke of a governing body.

Squirrel of the Week: Stephen A. Smith

For the week of 7/27/2014 to 8/2/2014

It's very late, but it was Stephen A. Smith for his confused and/or awful comments about domestic violence. Frankly, it is too late to care now, and I didn't care then. Deciphering SAS's thoughts is something not worth the effort.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Squirrel of the Week: The NFL as Social Engineering Device

For the week of 7/20/2014 to 7/26/2014

One hesitates to wade into it. Last week we had Tony Dungy getting blasted for not loving gays enough. We Had Chris Kluwe blasting Dungy at the same time we found out that Kluwe had previously harassed a co-worker by making non-stop child rape jokes.

(Punters should be seen, not heard. Kickers should only very rarely be heard from, namely when and/or if one: makes a clutch game-winning field goal; or produces a great on-side kick, or has a Garo Yeprimian Moment. In that last case, the kicker should be forced to explain himself. Or possibly do a deodorant commercial. "Damn!")

But the real story concerned Ray Rice's suspension for domestic violence. I'm not going to go into all the details of that, you can look it up if you care enough. And I'm certainly not going to talk about the Stephen A. Smith sideline, not at this late date.

What I will say is this: It is ridiculous to expect that the NFL should punish Rice to a greater extent than the law did for this incident, given that the NFL has no contractual reasons to do so. Much has been made of the NFL suspending other players for drug use, especially marijuana. But those guidelines have been drawn out specifically in contract negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA, the players' union. And they have been negotiated because of the effects drugs have on the game, not because drugs are immoral or bad in-and-of themselves.

Instead, this falls under a kind of "general discretion" set of language. Again, I'm not going to go into the NFL's particular ruling on this case. I will just say that it actually _IS_ in line with many other violent offenses committed by NFL players. In fact, Ray Rice is getting punished more for this than Ray Lewis (also of the Baltimore Ravens) got punished for his participation in a double murder. (Lewis ultimately pled guilty to obstruction of justice in that case.)

Let me reiterate: Rice is getting punished more by the NFL than he is being punished by the legal system. And before I hear another complaint about how rich people get away with all kinds of things because of their money (although they do), this isn't one of those cases. Consider my idiot neighbor.

Idiot neighbor has been arrested and charged with violent crimes 19 times. That would be for a total of 14 felony charges, 12 misdemeanor charges and five unclassified charges. At least 2 of the felony charges and 10 of the misdemeanor charges, as well as all five unclassified charges, have been for domestic violence.

Most likely some of the other violent charges are domestic in nature but I can only get so much from the Orange County Clerk of Courts website. Not all concern domestic violence, however, as he has one "hit and run" charge and a couple for physically assaulting a police officer.

These charges also do not count drug charges, tampering with evidence charges, or a long string of traffic citations that do not include hit and run. And these are only records for one county in Florida. I have reason to suspect he has been in trouble in at least one other Central Florida county. (And yes, I know an awful lot about him. His behavior, both on his own and with his dogs, has forced me to look into his background in order to protect myself.)

He's been in a lot of trouble. He's also skipped bail at least twice, and violated terms of probation on many occasions. He is not a "good person", as demonstrated by a long record.

So when he got arrested on 1 felony count and 2 misdemeanor counts of domestic violence, again, in March of this year, I expected that he would FINALLY get the book thrown at him. After all, he had five felony convictions at that time, as well as 9 misdemeanor convictions, with two of the felonies and all nine of the misdemeanors being for domestic violence. (As well as those five unclassified charges, all of which were for "Domestic Violence with Children [Present]".) And this time there were multiple witnesses who did not seem to be interested in dropping charges.

Instead the two initial misdemeanor charges were dropped, and the felony was reduced to a misdemeanor in exchange for a no contest plea. He got six days time served. And all this happened AFTER he skipped bail again on another charge, skipped the felony trial for that other charge, and eventually was caught and pled guilty to another felony. Six days in jail for his 17th domestic violence conviction.

And my neighbor is dirt poor. He's still trying to pay off a fine from 2004!

So, Ray Rice being put into an interdiction program, especially after his then-fiancee-now-wife pled for leniency, isn't really all that big a stretch, even for someone without money.

Thus, I see no reason for the NFL to punish Ray Rice more than they have. It is NOT their job.

It IS the job of "the authorities", however, and focusing on Ray Rice, Roger Goodell and the NFL let's those who should be responsible off the hook.

The NFL is NOT a social engineering device. It is a sports league dedicated to making money. Expecting it to be more than that is a bunch of promotional hokum, purveyed by various bands of hucksters. (Including the NFL itself, of course.)