January 31, 2005

Dogblogging: Day 2

He's just so darn cute!

Shelby already covered last night and most of today pretty well. Now she's off spending the evening in Torrance, and I'm home alone playing Mr. Mom to the two dogs.

Digory is still doing really well. He wouldn't eat again tonight, though -- he barely took a single sniff at the offered bowl of kibble -- but he is a Beagle, so I know it's only a matter of time before he breaks and starts chowing down. But despite only having had a half-cup of kibble or so since he got here, he's still a total bundle of energy. After Shelby left, he and I played run in the yard! -- just running, back and forth.

After a few laps, Scout came on the scene. Scout looked ready to play; she was certainly sending all of the signals, making a 'play bow' -- prancing around, barking, head and front paws down low, butt wiggling high up in the air. But then Digory came at her, and she was more than a little taken aback. Teeth were shown. After a brief tussle, she turned tail and ran back inside the house, jumping up on the couch (high ground; a defensible position) and whirling around. More teeth were shown.

I think that Scout is used to playing with us. She can give us the play bow, and we'll chase her around the house -- but we don't try to wrestle, nor do we play-bite at her neck. And neither of us humans has an inexhaustible ball of puppy play-energy at our core. It looks like Scout and Digory still have some work to do when it comes to setting limits and understanding what's acceptable.

But I'm not worried at all, really, since just a little while after their confrontation, they spent forty-five minutes sleeping like this:

... I think that everything's going to turn out just fine.

Posted by Kevin at 06:38 PM

January 30, 2005

Beagle City!

Scout and Digory

We broke down and did it -- got a second Beagle! Beagle number two is a boy, just over a year old, who we've christened Digory. Digory came from Beagles and Buddies, a no-kill animal rescue in El Monte.

Read more about our trip to get Digory in Shelby's blog, or see some pictures from Digory's first day with us (today!)

Right now he's sacked out on the couch. Typical Beagle ...

Posted by Kevin at 09:48 PM

January 28, 2005

News Roundup

  • The World Turned Upside Down: I used to think, once, that Dianne Feinstein would make a good future candidate for President -- a woman! a Democrat! from California! -- but no longer. While I find myself surprised and pleased at the recent performance of our state's other female Senator, Barbara Boxer, who is asking tough questions in hearings about voting irregularities and President Bush's lousy cabinet nominees, DiFi is continuing her long slide downward into irrelevancy. Thanks to her and a Republican Senator from Missouri, you may soon have to show your ID and sign a registry before the pharmacist is allowed to reach behind the counter to sell you the cold medicine that you can buy off the shelf today.

    But hey -- anything's okay as long as we're fighting drugs and saving the children, isn't it?

  • Western Civilization Is Doomed (from Crooked Timber):

    At the Creative Commons conference last week, I heard a story to the effect that when the owners of one of these games [Everquest and the like] tried to prohibit item trading they were sued and, in the course of litigation discovered that the plaintiff ran a sweatshop in Mexico where workers participated in the game solely to collect salable items.

    A sweatshop full of people playing video games? That's like a bad science fiction plot come to life. Has modern society become that horrifyingly decadent? I guess that employment in a video game sweatshop is better for the workers involved than a job in a clothing factory or a slaughterhouse, but still ...

Posted by Kevin at 10:28 AM

January 23, 2005

World Travel Notes

I see that this past Friday, Ireland finally eliminated what was one of my primary sources of confusion while driving there by changing its speed-limit signs to use kilometers per hour.

During our visit this past summer, we had a rental car with a metric-only digital speedometer, and distance signs were in kilometers, but speed-limit signs were in miles per hour -- with no indication of the units being used on the signs themselves. I got the hang of left-side driving right away, but I thought that 60 km/h (36 mph!) was a little low for the first big road that we pulled on to as we left the airport ...

Posted by Kevin at 06:34 PM

January 21, 2005

Scout's Asian Woman Fetish

Last night Quynh, a friend of mine from high school, came by to visit, and as soon as Quynh came through the door, Scout started displaying one of her more bizarre behaviors: her Asian woman fetish.

You see, we have another friend, Wendy, who knows how to give Scout the very best ear-scratchies ever. Wendy knows how to find that one special spot that none of the rest of us have ever been able to find. As soon as Wendy starts in with Scout's ears, Scout goes rigid, putting all of her concentration into maintaining perfect posture for maximal hand-to-ear connection. After a while, Scout starts making weird keening grunts of pleasure that we've taken to calling the 'eargasm' -- mysterious (yet highly entertaining) noises we'd never heard before, and have subsequently only heard when Wendy comes to visit. Scout really, really likes her Auntie Wendy.

Wendy happens to be Japanese-American. And unfortunately, since Wendy and her husband Marc moved to Denver, we don't see them very much anymore. Putting it all together, it means that whenever anyone who looks even sorta-kinda like Auntie Wendy walks through the front door, Scout goes bonkers. The moment that Scout set her eyes on Quynh, she started barking -- Scout only barks at people she knows (some watchdog!) -- and just wouldn't quit. Fortunately, Quynh is a dog person and gave our little attention-hound the affection she was looking for (even if she didn't know how to do the ear-scratchies).

Last night Shelby picked up a fetish of her own, for the Toyota Prius. Quynh just bought a Prius -- through a combination of canny maneuvering and special circumstances, she was able to get her top-of-the-line Prius in just a month, rather than the eight months to two years that most people sit on the waiting list. After we came back from dinner, Quynh let both of us test-drive her car around our neighborhood. It is very geek-seductive -- it has a large multifunction color touchscreen in the center of the dashboard that controls everything, provides you with a GPS-backed moving-map navigation display, and has an realtime powertrain graphic that shows you exactly how your car is powered (or whether it's recharging itself through regenerative braking) along with your instantaneous gas mileage at any particular moment. (And like any high-end consumer electronic device worth its salt, the Prius has a startup screen when you turn it on.) Driving it at slow speed, or being stopped at an intersection, was eerie -- the car produced no noise at all. It was like driving a golf cart.

We were both suitably impressed, but Shelby fell really hard. Once we dump our Contour, I think I know what our next car is going to be ...

(And like everyone else I know who's bought a Prius, Quynh can't stop boosting the car to other people. I've never seen another car that inspires this much enthusiastic loyalty -- it's the Dyson of automobiles.)

Posted by Kevin at 10:55 AM

January 19, 2005

The Drive of DEATH!!!

Well, the bad news is that my laptop's hard drive is dead, dead, dead -- despite some additional attempts at resuscitation this morning. Plugging it into another machine caused that machine to die instantly on startup, just like Shelby's. We even used the hard drive copier (apparently sold mostly to the police forensics market; it comes in a padded cloth bag with a screwdriver and flashlight, so that you can suck the kiddie porn or illicit financial records off of the perp's computer in the dark while your partners trade shots with his associates) -- the copier transferred the contents of my drive to the new drive without a hiccup, but it also copied the fatal flaw too, as that drive then became Son Of The Drive Of Death.

The good news is that IBM will be sending me a new hard drive tomorrow (maybe Friday). The double-plus good news is that my Thinkpad is now old enough to be eligible for replacement, and there's money in the budget, so I'll be getting a new computer soon. (The bad news is that it'll be another Thinkpad, but you can't have everything.)

Posted by Kevin at 07:27 PM

But Other Than That ...

It's a great day! After a week or so of incredible rain and general gray gloominess, we've had a string of beautiful why-live-anywhere-else days here in Southern California -- skies are clear and sunny, and you can wear shorts in our eighty-degree-warm weather while staring up at our snow-capped local mountains.

(Although the rain seems to have kicked all of the green growing things into action, and now that it's dry and sunny again, Shelby and I are sniffling around the house with allergies. Hopefully we'll get over all that soon ...)

Posted by Kevin at 10:08 AM

Computer Woes

Even so-called 'computer professionals' like myself are plagued with computer problems from time to time -- and right now I'm being hit with the worst. Yesterday, my Thinkpad crashed in the middle of something innocuous -- and now it won't reboot, even in so-called 'safe mode'.

All of my extreme measures are failing: I went to Fry's and bought an external hard drive chassis, thinking I could hook that up to another computer and test the disk. I took the drive out of the laptop, put it in the chassis, and attached it to Shelby's computer -- which made her machine immediately crash! After that, I went back to Fry's, bought a USB floppy disk drive, and attached it to Shelby's machine so that I could make a set of Windows XP install disks -- because not only can they be used to install new copies of XP, they offer an option to fix old copies. Well, I made the disks, brought them over to my computer, and waited for it to chug through six disks' worth of setup material. I finally got to the Holy Grail, the last screen, where I pressed "R" to Repair an existing installation of Windows XP, and then -- crash!

Today I'll be taking my laptop and my screwdriver over to my dad's office in Tustin, to see if I can have better luck with plugging the drive into a machine there. If not, it's time to call IBM service -- which means that I'll be sitting on my thumbs for a few days, followed by a couple more slowed-down days as I start over from scratch with a blank hard disk.

(Side note: I hate Thinkpads. Everytime I find a "what kind of laptop should I buy?" discussion online, there's always a cheerleader who says "Buy a Thinkpad! Buy a Thinkpad! They're dependable! They're durable! They're well-engineered! They're bombproof! They're the very best machine that a hardcore road-warrior businessperson can possibly buy!!!! Rah rah rah!" This is the second Thinkpad I've had fail in exactly the same way -- and in the meantime, our 'consumer'-level Toshiba laptop, which has been dragged across the world and is a year older than both Thinkpads put together, is still going strong and is about to have its hard disk scrubbed so that it can be handed over to my little brother.)

But at least I still have my Mac! Hey, I can be a full-time Mac guy! And it could've been worse -- at least the machine didn't catch fire while we were out of the house ...

Posted by Kevin at 08:48 AM

January 14, 2005

The Car, Part II

The situation with our car, post-accident, has turned out to be far less bleak than anticipated in my previous report. We've learned a few important things:

  • Our uninsured motorist coverage has no deductible;
  • Using the uninsured motorist coverage doesn't make our insurance rates go up (except in the abstract as we all end up paying higher UM premiums, thanks to inattentive road-zombies like Mr. Miguel Muņoz).

I took the car to see GEICO's estimator on Wednesday afternoon. Surprisingly little has to be completely replaced (the rear bumper, the left taillight), but a lot has to be rebent and/or readjusted; it seems like almost the entire left side of the body has to be removed and reassembled in order to realign things that were pushed forward during the accident. The whole package comes at a cost of $1,650.26 and nine days with only one car (estimated).

Now we're waiting for Muņoz's former auto insurance company to confirm to GEICO that he is in fact uninsured. Given our experience to date with them, that should take a nice long while ...

ad: The United Smarts of America!But really, just forget about all of that.

Imagine my joy and surprise when I found this full-page ad on the back page of the latest issue of the California Staats-Zeitung! The car that we enjoyed the most out of all of our European driving experiences is now available in the United States!

Why would I want to bother with an eight-year-old, now-battle-damaged Ford Contour when I could get a Smart? Click on the ad for a version that's big enough to read -- or skip that and just go directly to smartcar-usa.com, since I know that you'll want to get one (or two, they're small) for yourself.

This isn't DaimlerChrysler's official introduction of the Smart to these shores; rather, it's an "Americanized" version that's brought up to US specs by a company called ZAP. Unfortunately, ZAP isn't importing the Smart Roadster (the model that Shelby calls the "Batman car").

(Okay, so I'm being a little facetious; the Smart was probably our most interesting driving experience, but it certainly wasn't our most enjoyable. Still, I think that it'd make a great city car for the average SoCal driver -- if Shelby didn't already have the Miata, and if we didn't need a more-than-two-seater in the family to fit dog(s) and whatnot, just maybe ...)

Posted by Kevin at 10:57 AM

Just In Time For My Birthday!

Last night we went to Disneyland, and I was lamenting (once again) how Disney had torn out some of my favorite rides from my youth, like the Skyway and the Motor Boat Cruise -- but now, for a limited time only (and at least $5,000), I can relive some of the magic -- at home!

Posted by Kevin at 09:04 AM

January 07, 2005

Short Shorts

" ... of Anaheim": Regionalism may yet win the day in the "Anaheim Angels" versus the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" battle, but the city of Anaheim isn't doing itself -- or people who dislike names containing prepositional phrases -- any favors: just guess what the gigantic parking-lot sign outside of Angel Stadium says. That's right! "Angel Stadium of Anaheim" ...

The Mystery Neighbor ... Revealed?: Last night I was out working on the front porch, when a woman walked past with a small dog. I said some generic greeting; in response, she bit her lip, looked down, and started walking faster. Right after she walked by, I leaned over the edge of the porch and looked down the street in her direction of travel -- to find that she had already vanished! I'm pretty sure that she doesn't live on the corner, so she must be -- our mystery neighbor! From her reaction to my greeting, I'm guessing that she's either an extreme misanthrope, or she doesn't speak English -- which would explain why we and the gringo neighbors on the other side have never met her, but our Latino former homeowners were able to describe her completely.

Posted by Kevin at 08:03 AM

January 05, 2005

Food & Wine Notes

Last night Shelby and I went to Pasta Pomodoro in Orange. It feels a little funny to me to get warm and fuzzy over going to a chain restaurant, but Pomodoro happened to be our favorite close-at-hand 'decent' restaurant in San Jose, so it's nice to have one near our new home. (And hey, it's a small chain.) Plus, they serve one of my favorite pasta dishes, Ravioli de Zucca -- the ravioli are stuffed with squash, rather than meat or somesuch, so they have an unusual (in a good way!) sweet taste.

Before Pasta Pomodoro, we stopped at the Wine Exchange, which is just down the street. The Wine Exchange is like a national treasure right in our neighborhood; Shelby's dad says that it's one of the best wine stores in Southern California, and he would know! It's a larger store than anything I've experienced; walking in, it reminds me of the wine section of one of the large department stores in Germany (like, say, the Alsterhaus in Hamburg, or the KaDeWe in Berlin) -- only even larger, with better selection, and (sorry, Alsterhaus) climate control.

We were running low on 'drink this anytime' wines (versus our expanding stock of 'I'm saving this for at least a moderately special occasion' wine), so we wandered around and picked out a half-case of $15-and-under wines. We drank our first bottle last night -- a $9.99 2002 Vinum 'Pets' Petite Syrah. With a label like this, an on-the-bottle promise that part of our purchase would be donated to animal shelters, and a "90" for the previous year's vintage from Wine Spectator, how could we resist?

Posted by Kevin at 10:00 AM

January 04, 2005

The Long Arm of LA

When we lived in San Jose, our city had a municipal inferiority complex against San Francisco -- we've got more people than them! We've got more jobs than them! So why is it that they call themselves "The City", and nobody calls us anything?

Now that we're living in Orange County, we've got a countywide inferiority complex against Los Angeles. This week LA delivered a couple of swift kicks to OC's psyche:

  • Shelby already mentioned the fact that the owner of the World-Series-Champions-of-a-couple-years-ago Anaheim Angels decided to rename his team the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" this week. Sports fans across the county are upset, but more importantly, the City of Anaheim is not pleased. The city, having fairly recently sunk $20 million into improvements at Angel Stadium, is planning on taking the Angels to court, claiming that the name change violates the Angels' stadium lease.

    Good for the city! Giveaways to pro-sports teams have to be one of the stupidest municipal handouts out there, and it's good to finally see a city -- my city! -- showing enough backbone to demand something in exchange for shoveling its cash into the pockets of an entity that doesn't need it. Hopefully other MLB teams will take note of this incident before whining to their host cities that their stadium needs publicly-financed luxury skyboxes or gold-plated bathroom fixtures -- and hopefully any unpleasantness with the Angels will make Anaheim think twice about their urgency to attract an NFL team to our area.

  • El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, 4700 acres in the middle of southern Orange County, was closed in 1999. The Navy was supposed to start selling off parts of El Toro to commercial developers tomorrow, with the remainder to be converted into the "Orange County Great Park". Today, the City of Los Angeles revealed its desire to lease the entirety of El Toro from the federal government, so as to reopen the property as a civilian passenger and cargo airport. (LA is facing big legal troubles as they seek to expand LAX; the theory is that having another airport in the region will take off some of the expansionary pressure.)

    I don't have any problems with an airport continuing to exist at El Toro (I just bought a house by the railroad tracks, so I can afford to be smug at idiots who bought a house by an airport carping and whining at the fact that there might continue to be an airport there!), and I think that OC will need a new airport to replace our anemic John Wayne Airport sooner rather than later, but county voters have firmly indicated their wish for El Toro to move on to other uses. This seems like a audaciously big reach for LA -- but then again, the city has some experience at operating property far outside its municipal borders in the face of increasingly-hostile opposition.

Posted by Kevin at 02:22 PM

January 03, 2005

Arrrrrrrrrgh Dammit (Driving Is So Much Fun)

(One in a continuing series ...)

Remember just before Christmas, when Shelby was rear-ended while driving home from her parents'? Remember how we both wrapped up our accounts of the event with "well, at least he had insurance!"? Well, early this morning our inattentive driver's former insurance company called me up with the news that Mr. Miguel Muņoz had let his insurance lapse six months ago.

So, naturally "his" insurance isn't going to pay for any damages. Nor did they seem particularly disturbed to think that Mr. Muņoz was going around committing insurance fraud by claiming to still be covered by one of their policies.

Adding to the mix is the unfortunate fact that while Shelby got his name, license plate number, and "insurance info", she was too flustered to collect his address or phone number (and I'm sure that his oh-yo-no-hablo-the-Ingles act of total noncomprehension didn't help either).

Since it's state law that everybody has to carry auto insurance, surely our government will help us, right? Ha! Looking at the DMV's Web site, both Shelby and Muņoz are supposed to file an "SR-1 Traffic Accident Report" within ten days of the accident (so, today). What does that buy us? Well, for $20, we can get a copy of the SR-1 that the other driver filed (thus discovering his reported address and insurance information), assuming that he filed a report. For another $20, we can make a second request to get a certification that the other driver was, in fact, uninsured -- again, assuming that he filed a report. It doesn't appear that the DMV will give out any information that the other party doesn't personally volunteer.

So, it seems that we can pay $40 to obtain information that doesn't exist. And if we're Good Samaritans and report the accident unilaterally, we do ourselves the 'favor' of putting a collision on Shelby's driving record:

Every accident reported to DMV by law enforcement shows on your driving record unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault. Every accident reported by you, or another party in the accident, shows on your record if any one person has over $750 in damage or if anyone is injured or dies. It does not matter who caused the accident. The law says DMV must keep this record.

Really, the only thing that filing an accident report will give us is the satisfaction of knowing that Muņoz will have his license suspended for a year -- or longer, if he can't manage to scrape up a new source for insurance. And while that is satisfying, it doesn't result in money to repair our car -- and for a guy who's already driving without insurance, is the lack of a driver's license or current auto registration really going to keep him off the road?

We could sue Muņoz in small-claims court (assuming that we can somehow divine his address and phone number) -- but again, if the guy can't scrape up enough money to pay for auto insurance, what's the likelihood of our collecting, versus our effort and frustration in fighting for a victory?

Since the accident took place in Anaheim, and since Muņoz seems to live in Anaheim, I plan to call the local police as soon as we get the letter from "his" insurance company stating that Muņoz lied about carrying insurance. But I don't expect it to do any good.

Really, it seems like everybody wins but us:

  • Muņoz! He gets away scot-free!
  • Workmen's Auto Insurance Company! Muņoz doesn't actually carry their insurance -- so they don't actually have to do anything!
  • GEICO! (our insurance company ...) Not only do they get the benefit of the $1,000 deductible that we were carrying on the Ford, I'm sure that this is going to result in their raising our rates. They raised our six-month premium by a few hundred dollars when we did nothing but change our mailing address from Torrance to Anaheim, so how could they miss this opportunity?

. . . so, it's really the perfect crime. We'll be out $1,000 plus years of increased premiums, and nobody really cares that yet another inattentive, uninsured driver is dazing his way through SoCal traffic. But it could be worse -- I've been giving thanks every day that Shelby wasn't driving her car, where Muņoz's bumper would have been at the level of her head, rather than at the level of my trunk.

(Oh, and a hearty f**k-you-too to Workmen's Auto Insurance Company for taking almost two weeks to tell us that our buddy wasn't insured. Thanks for the quick work on that one, guys!)

Posted by Kevin at 05:34 PM | Comments (1)