"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Saturday, March 31, 2012


This is a speedloader ...
from bearonarock.com

It's a device to help quickly reload a revolver.  In the model pictured above, you insert a cylinder's-full of cartridges (5 for my weapon) and turn that knurled knob at the back to lock them in.  When reloading, you eject the spent cases from the cylinder, shove in a full load with that speedloader, and turn the knob to release the cartridges. It is supposed to be very fast.

Problem is, it has to be built to very exacting standards.  The model I bought, a long time ago, was apparently not made to those standards, allowing the cartridges to wobble a bit in the loader, and causing them to mis-align frustrating your attempts to insert them into the cylinder. In an emergency, that is not desirable. So, I threw that one away.

The events in my previous post, Accident Report - A Work in Progress (it is still in progress), mean that I will be dependent on buses and walking to get about for a very long time to come; perhaps for the rest of my life.  There will be places I will want to go to (if I'm ever able to walk again), at night, and unless I'm going to be a prisoner in my apartment, I'm damned well going to go.

That means, it's about time to take advantage of the Concealed Carry License I went to so much trouble to obtain years ago.

The speedloader (if I can find one I can depend on) would be a nice companion for this ...
(Yes, the picture looks faded. That was deliberate, in an attempt to better show something black and shiny against such a light background).

That is an old model Charter Arms Bulldog with a 3" barrel, in .44 S&W Special caliber.  I bought that years ago, and that target shows the first five shots I put through it, at ten yards, firing double-action (a misnomer actually, but it's commonly used to describe firing a revolver without cocking it first; just using a long pull of the trigger*).

That flyer (the one furthest from the rest of the group) was the fifth one. With a .44 Special in such a light gun, the recoil is a very sharp slap that will sting the palm of your hand; not a fun gun to fire. But it satisfied me that it should certainly get the job done.

A long time ago, I bought (and still have) a special fanny pack made for concealed carry, with a fast-open compartment.

I would truly like recommendations for speedloaders for that weapon, that are made to standards that should insure reliable loading.

It's possible that I may have to reconsider my ammunition of choice. I favor ...
from smith-wessonforum.com

... because it's reliable, accurate, and falls into the "will get the job done" category. To more easily feed into the cylinder, I may need to look at rounds that have a more tapered nose.

(And before anyone warns me that "lots of indoor ranges ban the use of Blazer ammunition as unsafe, blows up guns (often showing spectacular pictures of blown-up revolvers)", well know this ...

A lot of police departments throughout the country use this ammunition, for budgetary reasons.  While the quality of their rangemasters may vary quite a bit, I suspect that most of those departments are very knowledgeable on lawsuits. That they keep using it is to me a pretty good sign.

I think that what indoor shooting ranges really hate about Blazer is that they sweep up the fired cartridge cases and reload them. The Blazer rounds use aluminum cases, which don't re-size as well as the brass used by most other manufacturers. They also use Berdan primers (needing a special two-pronged decapping tool) instead of the more commonly used (over here) Boxer primer that can use a single pin though a center hole for removing the old primer.

All that trouble probably keeps them from making a profit on reloading the Blazer cartridges.

I've never encountered an outdoor shooting range that had any problem with users using the Blazer ammunition. They probably don't collect and reload the cases because it may be more trouble than it's worth to separate and clean them from the dirt, rocks and other debris on the ground there.)

Anyways -- if any readers have suggestions for speedloaders for my gun (that I can depend on), I'd love to hear from you.

I'm quite aware that a compact automatic, with extra clips would be the smart way to go, but there's simply no money for that. "You go to war with the Army you have."

Well, I have to go to war with what's at hand.

(* - Ok, then. What does "double-action" really mean? It means there are two ways to fire the weapon.

One: Cock the hammer first, allowing you to fire it with a light pull of the trigger, usually more accurate.

Two: Use a long (usually heavy and rough, although it varies greatly among different weapons) pull of the trigger, to cock the hammer and then release it in one motion. This is fastest, but not always very accurate. Mileage varies greatly among different weapons. Some Smith & Wesson models have very good and smooth trigger pulls when used this way, as does that Charter Arms Bulldog of mine.

So, one of the greatest misnomers is a weapon described as DAO (Double Action Only) when it in fact has just a single mode of being fired: by pulling the trigger to cock and release the hammer.

Ain't semantics wonderful? :-)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Accident Report - A Work in Progress

Final Update - 00:45 CDT, Sun, 15 Apr 2012 - Phoenix!!!
(This is a work-in-progress, and will be updated whenever I have something new to add).

This really, really sucks, almost beyond my powers of description (which I like to flatter myself as being pretty good).

Sunday, 18 Mar 2012, between 15:30 and 16:00 CDT

While on the Katy Freeway ( I-10, outbound, approaching Blalock ), the left rear tire of my car blew, my car swerved left into an 18-wheeler that was alongside, and I spun out and ended up along the right retaining wall on the overpass above Blalock.

I had heard a load bang, and a noise as if I had driven over something, and then lost control.

The left rear wheel is damaged beyond repair (as is the tire) and the left rear hub and suspension may be bent.

The left (driver's) door is badly damaged and will not open (although the window still functions Ok).

The truck I tangled with appeared to have suffered minor scrapes and dents to the front bumper, at and just back of the right front corner.

When I spun out, a third vehicle mostly managed to avoid major impact, but suffered some damage to its left front fender, just in front of the door.

No one was injured.

At present (20:55 CDT, 18 Mar 2012) my car is at an auto storage lot, awaiting a visit by the insurance people to see what comes next.  My agent's office is just a few blocks from my apartment, so I will be heading his way Monday morning, 19 Mar 2012.

The wrecker driver gave me a lift home and told me that there was a pretty good chance that the insurance people would total it and give me a check for the blue-book value.

He also said that if I didn't want to go looking for a used car (and I surely don't, having neither the time nor the means to do such shopping), I could probably buy it back from the insurance company for a fraction of the check they might award and could maybe find someone (and I definitely do have someone in mind - see $446.99 ) and could maybe get it fixed well enough to be drive-able for the amount that would be left.

We shall see. If that could be managed, I'd have infinitely more trust in the result than I would in a used car I knew nothing at all about, bought under the chaotic circumstances I now find myself in without any means of getting around.

Son -- of -- a -- B*TCH!!!

Update - 16:00 CDT, Mon, 19 Mar 2012:  I walked over to my insurance agent's office this morning, and started the claims process.  He told me that a claims adjuster would get in touch with me, but that ain't happened yet.

I so wanted to tell the adjuster that, as much as possible, I would greatly prefer that my car be made drive-able rather than totaled and replaced by a used car that I could never depend on, and may soon need something that I simply wont be able to pay for.  In my present circumstances, that would be lethal. It really is just as simple as that.

My greatest fear is that may be exactly what is going happen.

Update - Thu, 22 Mar 2012 - Where things stand - Accident Report: Part 2
(This was originally a separate post, now deleted and incorporated into this one.)

At the moment, I'm still waiting to determine if the third (and final part) will be titled "Black Border" or "Phoenix".

The first choice is from a Victorian custom of using stationery and/or envelopes bordered in black to warn the recipient of very bad news inside (often a death notice).

As for the second possibility, I really hope it's not necessary to explain to a reader here that I am not referring to the city in Arizona.

Today is the fourth day after the accident.  I've learned that my car has finally been moved from the storage lot to a place where the insurance claims adjusters will look it over and determine its fate.

I also checked with the place where I would like it repaired, and the manager there said he would have to see the report from the claims adjuster before he could determine if the repairs were feasible (being constrained by safety and liability issues).

So, everything 's still up in the air.

A friend emailed me, "But... it is/was just a car and you're physically OK, and that ain't bad considering."

But, in Houston there ain't no such thing as "just a car".   The lack of one here can really grind you down and just suck the life out of you.

I sure hope I will know more tomorrow.

Update - Sun,  25 Mar 2012 - Well, that "tomorrow" has come and gone, and I still don't know anything new.  Trying to get information out of these people is as much fun as do-it-yourself dental surgery.

Yesterday, I finally sent this email to their claims office (up in Dallas - apparently this very large outfit doesn't have one in the FOURTH LARGEST CITY IN THE UNITED STATES).
"***** ****® wants to communicate with you in the manner that's easiest for you. If you would like to communicate with us via email, you may reply to this communication. Please be sure to include only your claim number in the subject line, so that we can associate your email with your claim."

Well, if that hasn't become abundantly clear by now, that IS the way I'd prefer to communicate.

Playing phone tag with you is extremely difficult for me because of my work schedule, intermittent to non-existent cell-phone reception at work, and hearing that is WAY less than perfect.

Having learned from a lady on Team 22 that a statement I wrote up and gave to my agent had never been sent to you, I emailed a copy to you on your secure email system.

So, as of today (Sat, 24 Mar 2012), where do things stand?

I KNOW the website says "Open" for the status of my claim, but ...

Now that you finally have my car at your facility, has anyone yet had a chance to look it over?

Are you awaiting an opportunity to do so (too many vehicles, and too few people available?)?

I'm not asking the impossible from you, but it would be nice to know what the situation is, and what's going on.

Thank you.

And that's the way it is, so far.  I think I've finally gotten the inspiration for my upcoming "...like being nibbled to death by ducks!" post.  :(

(Well, perhaps not. I put up such a post, but I'm not in the right emotional state to do it justice.  It amounted to a scream of pain, so I pulled it. Maybe down the road I can make it work.)

Update 09:50 CDT, Mon, 26 Mar 2012 - Just got this email ...
Dear Mr Gordan:

I just received your email. The inspection of your vehicle will take place today. We should have it in our system late this afternoon.

If there is anything else you have questions about, please feel free to email or call us.

A little earlier this morning, I had forwarded a copy of my inquiry email to my agent, noting ...

  I think I'll pass this along as FYI.

  If you learn that I've dropped dead from heart failure,
  your first thought will be, "He actually got a reply from them."


Well, my heart is racing, but the fact that I'm typing this is probably a good sign.
(And, YES, I have noticed that an amazing number of people seem to have difficulty in spelling "Gordon".)

Update - 17:47 CDT, Mon, 26 Mar 2010 - I may have just been killed.
The claims center has finally put something up.  It is an estimate, in which they appear to have totaled it.  No mention whatever of a report that I can take to the shop to see if repairs are feasible.  Can't talk to my agent, his office is already closed. Will have to wait until tomorrow to see what is what, and what can be done.

I'm truly scared to death now.  If it comes to that, how in HELL am I supposed to go used-car shopping when I'm dependent on buses and can barely even walk?


Update - 17:50 CDT, Tue, 27 Mar 2012 - Hopes raised, and then dashed :(
This morning, I revisited that estimate.  While cutting and pasting data from it into a personal file, something I clicked on produced a widget letting me download and save a PDF file of their repair estimate file. Seeing nothing in there that would preclude (because of safety issues) Pep Boys from making the car drive-able again, I printed out a copy of that file and visited Pep Boys on the way home from work. They didn't see any no-no's in there either. This is the "Hopes raised," part

BUT, when I got home, this email awaited me ...
Good afternoon Mr. Gordon,

I am emailing you, per your request, about your vehicle, 2000 Honda Civic. We typically send the attached letter after we have communicated the information to you verbally over the phone with regard to your vehicle. Since we have not spoken, I am attaching the document at this time.

Unfortunately the vehicle is a total loss and the attached document states the value of your vehicle plus tax, title, and fees, and minus your deductible and assuming there is no lien on your vehicle. The amount payable to you is $4,023.47.

I see your car has been moved to one of our storage free facilities and am wondering if you have gotten all of your personal items from the vehicle? If not, I can provide you with the address to the facility so that you can go by to get your belongings. I will need advance notice if you will be going by the facility as I need to give them authorization for you to access your vehicle on their lot. Also, do you have a clear title of the vehicle?

Once you have gone over the attached document you can call and we can set up a place for you to pick up your settlement. The number you can call to reach us is 866-***-**** ext. *****. We will need to make arrangements to collect the 1) clear Texas Title; 2) your signature on a Power of Attorney (so State Farm can take the vehicle into our name after we pay you); and 3) a copy of your driver's license.
You've probably guessed that was the "... and then dashed." part.

After managing to avoid throwing up again (blood came up in last night's episode, and I certainly don't need a repeat of that), I was able to conjure up this reply ...
What is your criteria for "total loss"?

The fact that your repair estimate exceeds the Actual Cash Value?

That estimate appears to be what it would take to restore it to at least the level it was at before the accident.

What if I was willing to settle for it just being "useable"; so I could drive it without getting arrested?

WHY am I so relectant to let it go? Because I KNOW that car. I've had it almost 12 years now, and would have infinitely more trust in a drive-able version of it that I would in any used car I could probably find for the amount you're prepared to pay. With such a used car, the first time something major goes out in it, I almost certainly wont have the funds to repair it.

This doesn't even take into account that, at the moment I have NO way to go shopping for a used car, being totally dependent on the buses, and barely able to walk.

That Honda probably has a LOT of life still in it if one is not concerned about trying to make it look new again.

Is there major frame damage that would preclude Pep Boys from being able to make it useable again?

What options remain to me?
So, that's where we are at the moment. This thing should finally come to a head pretty soon.

BTW - Who the Hell are the Pep Boys I keep mentioning above? In my post $446.99 (about the radiator replacement in my Honda), I mentioned a "My Mechanic" shop (part of a local chain) that I use a lot, because they are very competent, doing first-rate work at about 3/4 the cost of having it done by a dealer.

A while back, the chain sold most of its locations (including the one I use) to a national chain called Pep Boys. Still the same team, under a new banner, and still just as good. I highly recommend them.

I just hope they eventually get a chance to prove it on my Honda. I'd really love to finish this post with a section called "Phoenix".

Update - 17:20 CDT, Wed, 28 Mar 2012 - Well, it ain't gonna be "Phoenix".
Whether "Black Border" would be appropriate remains to be seen.

I've filled in the settlement value (which had been asterisked out) in the earlier email above. It was $4,023.47, arrived at (from their estimate) by ...

 The amount payable to you was determined as follows:

     Actual Cash Value/base price: $4,682.09
     Plus:       Taxes:            + $292.63
                 Title Fees:        + $35.50
                 Registration Fees:  + $0.00
                 Inspection Fees :  + $13.25
     Less:       Deductible:     - $1,000.00
     Retained Salvage Value           - $n/a
     Total Amount Payable:       = $4,023.47
     Net amount payable to you:    $4,023.47

On one hand, Yes, I can remember when that was real money. My first new car (1967 Volkswagen Beetle, bought in December 1966) was $1699.00 + 4% sales tax. A few used cars afterwards, and then my second new one was a 1980 GMC pickup bought in September 1980 for $5295.00 + all the et-ceteras. Things appear to have changed a bit.

On the other hand, I am surprised that a twelve year old Honda was actually worth that much.

On the way home, I stopped by Pep Boys, talked to the manager, and got his advice on whether I should salvage the car or look for another. His advice appears in the email I sent in reply to this one that awaited me when I got home...
Good morning Mr. Gordon,

Your vehicle qualifies as a total loss because the repair costs exceed the value of the vehicle. You have the option of keeping your car, in that case the amount payable to you would be $2,818.83. Texas salvage branding laws will apply. You will need to speak to a qualified repair facility to get the vehicle safely operable. If you have any further questions please feel free to respond back or call at 866-***-**** ext. *****.

I called the manager at Pep Boys, talked with him some more, and finally made a decision. I tried calling the 866 number, but the party had already left for the day, so I sent the following email, which makes my final decision pretty obvious ...
I received your reply about the possibility of keeping the car and receiving a lower settlement of $2818.83.

Everyone I've talked to (including the manager of the Pep Boys facility I had in mind for repairing it) recommended accepting the original settlemnt of $4,023.47 and just go looking for another car. My fears about doing that still remain, but that manager offered to check out whatever car I considered.

So, I have decided to accept the $4,023.47.

I tried to phone you (about 16:25; you'd already left).
I'll try again tomorrow (Thu, 29 Mar 2012) when I get home from work
(probably around 15:00 CDT).

To answer your earlier questions:

1) There a few items of mine in the car, but nothing that I'm interested in keeping, and certainly NOT worth the trouble of going out there to retrieve.
So, I do NOT plan on going by there.

2) As for a place where I can pick up my settlement, Why not ***** *****'s office at **** ***** Drive, Suite *, Houston, Tx 77019. He's my agent, and that location is only a few blocks from where I live. Don't forget that this whole mess means I am dependent on the bus for now, and can barely walk.
We can discuss this when I call tomorrow.

3) I DO have clear title to the vehicle (and have managed to find it).
There are NO liens on the car.

4) I have no problem with the Power of Attorney (assuming that you provide the form).

5) Ditto about a copy of my driver's license.

Lord! I just hope I haven't managed to come up with a new way of suicide by this decision, but everyone I've talked to seems to feel that my hope of salvaging the Honda is just not realistic, especially when considering the reduced amount of money available for repairs if I choose to keep it.

And, I suppose the literary desire to add a section called "Phoenix" to this post might not be the most rational of reasons to take such a chance with a vehicle that challenged an 18-wheeler - and lost.

You think?!!!

Update - 18:21 CDT, Wed, 04 Apr 2012 - Gamble
Well, I've gone back and forth on whether to salvage the Honda or take the full payout and look for something else. The title of this update is probably a clue as to which way I've been blown this time.

This was my pride & joy when I first got it, almost 12 years ago ...

And this is what it looks like now ...

After requesting copies of the photos taken by the claims adjuster, what I finally got today was these black & white printouts I've just scanned.

This is ***** ****'s definition of "Total Loss"; in their case, meaning costing more to restore it to before-crash status than its fair market value.

But, what would it take to make it drive-able?

That left rear wheel is a lot worse than it looks, as is the tire. The hub it's mounted on is probably bent and very likely the whole left rear suspension may need replacing.

The other problem is the driver-side door.

I couldn't open it at the accident scene, and feared it might have been wedged by impact into the rest of the body shell. I never could get a straight answer to my query if there was any frame damage, but my agent told me that if there had been, I never would have had the option of keeping it.

Just looking at those photos, I'm beginning to wonder.

Note the window in that door. It was all the way down when the accident occurred. Afterwards, before leaving the scene, I was able to roll up that window partway (reaching in from outside the car). In the picture, they have it all the way up and the glass doesn't appear damaged at all.

I'm beginning to suspect that maybe the door lock is just messed up from the impact, and that it may be possible to get that door functioning again. If so, tacking on a driver's side mirror to that door (with sheet-metal screws if necessary) might be enough to make it street legal.

The gamble I've made is to keep the car and accept the lower payout I've already mentioned above (and which should be mailed to me within a few days).

***** **** has agreed to tow the car to the Pep Boys shop and I stopped by there today to give them a heads-up about incoming. They should get it tomorrow, and then I may find out if I'm being delusional about this.

At the moment, I think not.

The bottom line is that searching online for used cars on various sites (including the autotrader.com recommended by the manger at that Pep Boys found a lot of cars in the price range I was looking for, but too damned many of them had over 200,000 miles on them. That's just about when an engine or transmission overhaul can be expected in the very near future.

Had my job not been outsourced in 2004, that Honda would have over a quarter-million miles on it by now (if I had kept it; which I very probably would have). But, that job loss cut my driving way down, resulting in only 110,000 miles on it so far. The engine and transmission are rock-solid and I have much more trust in them than I would have in any used car I've found so far.

Am I certain? Hell NO!!! That's why this update is called "Gamble".

But, I really think it's a good one.

To be continued.

Update - 08:15 CDT, Fri, 06 Apr 2012 - Waiting: A day lost.
That "tomorrow" I mentioned above came and went thusly...

While at work yesterday, I got a message from the Pep Boys manager saying that the car had been delivered to them that morning, but without the key; and they couldn't do anything without it.

By a miracle I had a spare key in my pocket (from a habit I developed after locking myself out of the car once), but my work shift didn't allow me a chance to get it to them until shortly before their closing time of 18:30.

He was non-committal about my speculations on the extent of the damage so far, saying he couldn't really tell anything until they get into it. I'm probably driving him up the wall on this, putting him into an impossible situation where he's trying his level best to avoid even the appearance of promising something he may not be able to deliver.

I plan on going by there this afternoon, by which time they should know more.

That was a long damned day yesterday. There's apparently a big difference between exercise which builds you up and strengthens you and just plain work and toil which only seems to wear you down.

Before I got the IT job I later lost when it was outsourced, I went through over nine months of unemployment, losing the car I had then (a 1994 Dodge Intrepid - "Snake Bit") through repossession just a few weeks before getting that job.

I spent thirteen months without a car, depending on the bus and walking all over the place to get by. I do not recall getting any stronger over that period; just getting more and more ground down. The healing didn't even begin until I got that car (the one that is the subject of this post)

So, just waiting.

Update - 22:30 CDT, Fri, 06 Apr 2012 - Hope.
This afternoon I got a call from the Pep Boys manager, saying that he could probably have the car ready tomorrow.

But, one hitch that will make it take longer is that the check from the insurance company has yet to arrive.

When asked, he told me that $2,300.00 was what it would take to get it back in usable condition. That's for replacing the rear wheel, tire, most of the left rear suspension system, the driver-side door, and realignment.

My speculations on that door turned out to be a lot of wishful thinking (delusional). They did fool with the locking mechanism, but the door truly is wedged into the door frame enough that he's going to have to cut it away.

He wants to go ahead and put a left rear wheel and tire on it (so they can move it around) and he has found a place that has a usable door ("...but it'll be red!" - OKay ...). I told him to go ahead and get those parts (as I can cover that cost now), but the rest of the work should wait until that check has been deposited and cleared.

I confirmed on my account at ***** ****'s website that the check was issued on Apr 4 and that it should be in the mail now, probably arriving on Monday (maybe even as early as Saturday).  He figures that the work can be done in a day (provided that no surprises show up when they have it on their rack for the alignment).

My brother could probably accomplish this for half that amount, but he lives out in the country where no apartment manager would object to the work being done there (I would probably be evicted if I tried that where I now live), he's stronger and in better shape than I am (while I've done major work on cars a long time ago, it would damned near kill me to try it now), he probably has more tools than the Pep Boys location I'm using (compared to the piddling handful I now possess), and has access to all manner of places for the necessary parts.

So, I'm content with the estimate I've gotten. Another factor is that, in this economy, used cars (especially small, economical cars) are at a premium, as are usable parts for them.

Barring any unpleasant surprises, I just may have wheels again by or before the middle of this coming week. It may be a silver Honda Civic with a red door on the driver's side, but that will only make it distinctive. Changing that color will probably not make it onto any priorities list of mine.

Please, God!

Update - 19:00 CDT, Sat, 07 Apr 2012 - $2,300.00 to fix THIS?!!!
Went over to Pep Boys and took a few more pictures ...

Those aren't just smudges below the door handle;  they're linear rips in the metal. I still have difficulty grasping that the door will have to be cut away.

$2,300.00 just to band-aid it. But, you have to trust people sometime. I've had work done by them for a long time now and have never had reason to believe they were anything other than completely honest with me. Behavior does not exist in a vacuum, and I doubt that this manager was suddenly possessed by the Devil and decided that I was his golden opportunity. There's probably a lot that I'm not taking into account on bodywork, fitting a car door into a frame that may need a bit of stretching here and there. In short, appearances may be deceiving here. I simply do not know. I'm going to trust their judgment here.

And, of coarse, the insurance people estimated more than twice that amount to restore the car to its pre-crash status. Things simply cost a lot these days.)

Hopefully, the check should arrive Monday or Tuesday and I can give the go-ahead.

("Are we there yet?" :-)

Update - 06:50 CDT, Tue, 10 Apr 2012 - STILL waiting for the check.
It was Wed, 04 Apr that I met with my agent and decided to keep the car and accept the lower payout.

The page on my account on ***** ****'s website shows that the check was issued that very day. It is less than 300 miles from Dallas to Houston, so WHY (six days later) do I not have it? I'm sure that Pony Express was faster. By the time I get home today, it will be too late to go to the bank and deposit it.

All the same, I think I will stop by Pep Boys on the way home and sign the work order, so they can start as soon as I call and say "Go!". Naturally, I'd feel a lot better about saying that if I was backed up by that check.

Today, hopefully.

Update - 19:30 CDT, Tue, 10 Apr 2012 - Conspiracy Theory.
I suddenly had an epiphany about what is probably going on with that check that is taking so long to get to me.

I just got home about an hour ago, and when trying to phone the claims adjuster, had to settle for someone other than the one handling my case (because the one I wanted to talk to had already gone for the day).

While waiting for her, a recorded announcement warned to wait seven days for the payment to be processed. The one I finally talked to said pretty much the same thing, and to wait until Friday before starting to worry.

That reminded me of an ancient post of mine (An Ode to PayPal..., which was a follow-up to Anatomy of an eBay Transaction...). In Ode, I noted ...
"Although the rapidity with which funds exit my checking account raises hope that lightspeed may NOT be an ultimate barrier, movement in the other direction takes days. They say that banking rules are responsible for this but, tragically, I've gotten a bit cynical in my old age. I can't help thinking that interest on funds they are holding may have a bit to do with it."

I was assured, by several friends who know something of the process, that that is exactly the case.

Almost certainly, that is what is going on here. While that payment is being processed, those funds are still drawing interest.

Mystery solved.

Update - 20:40 CDT, 12 Apr 2012 - Is the US Postal Service really that bad?
Up there I had a nice conspiracy theory all worked out. But, however much I may like it and think that it explains a lot, "It ain't necessarily so."

I finally got the check today. I managed to get home early for once, the mail had arrived early, and there was the check in time for me to catch a bus, go to my bank, deposit it and make the call to the Pep Boys manager, telling him "Go!".

Worse even than taking over a week to get from Dallas to here (a bit under 300 miles), it was sent from Austin (only around 185 miles away). My agent (whom I know and trust) swears that the check went into the mail the very day it was issued (Wed, 04 Apr 2012), therefore taking eight days to go from Austin to Houston.

The water in my apartment complex is billed from Addison, Texas (on the north side of Dallas) and twice my payments to them (sent by mail) were not registered until about 10 or 11 days later (it used to be that two days were pretty typical). After I sent an email tearing the billing company a new one, a very nice lady there noted in her response ...

I do apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you, but the mail service is not what it used to be either. So many post offices have closed down since the 1st of the year and it does take longer for us to receive the mail. (Emphasis mine).

I know that CYA may be involved here, but something about the general tone of her response (of which the above was just a small part) makes me believe her. Is she onto something? I've already heard similar from a few others. Is this yet another thing that has gone into decline since you-know-who came into office?

Anyways, lost amongst the political conjecturing there is the fact that things are finally coming to a head in the great saga of getting wheels again.

More episodes coming up.

Final Update - 00:45 CDT, Sun, 15 Apr 2012 - Phoenix!!!
With any luck, this update should be my last words on this subject. This post has gotten a bit long with all the updates and is downright tedious in places. But, I like the ending. I hope you will too.

I got my car back Saturday afternoon.

I almost had it Friday evening, but for a glitch with the replacement door. The one they found had power windows and power locks. They swapped out the window cranking mechanism from my old door but discovered that the power operated lock could not be worked by the rods used for mechanical lock (original lock was too mangled for reuse) so they had to send out for another door latch, making it impossible to finish the car yesterday.

Today almost got hung up over the most insignificant and nit-picking detail. You may have noticed, in the black and white prints from the insurance people, that no license plates were on the car. They had removed them (probably to prevent them from being liberated while the car was in their lot). They included the plates when the car was delivered to Pep Boys, but they failed to hang on to the fastening screws.

When the Pep Boys manager went to re-install the plates he discovered this, and then discovered that he didn't have any screws that would work. The last delay was a quick trip to a parts store for six screws to get me on the road again (without having to explain to some policeman why I'm driving without any plates on).

Somewhere above, I mentioned having a hard time grasping that the old door would have to be cut away.

Well ...
That's the old door. I didn't pick the best angle to show that, at the edge of the door, a vertical cut was made, along with two horizontal cuts, to allow folding back a piece of metal the size of a small notebook so they could get at the lock mechanism which had been twisted by the impact.

Here's the car with the replacement door ...
Well, HELL!!! I was just getting reconciled to the idea that the door would be red. Apparently they had to go with another door instead. But it works just fine. Also, the replacement wheel they found is black, instead of the silver of the other wheels. Oh, the humanity!

But, before taking them to task, remember this. Because I'm so damned cheap (out of necessity), I had asked them to just concentrate on functionality;  getting it where I could once again have something to drive.

And, that they delivered on. In spades. It still has battle scars, but, boy does it run!!! As soon as I was driving it again, I lost all of my apprehension over the gamble I had taken on electing to salvage this instead of going for another used car.

So, what was the bottom line on this?

Operation                                      Parts         Labor   Other
Steering/Suspension evaluation                  0.00         19.99    0.00
Replace driver's side door                    342.25 (Used) 321.00    0.00
Replace left rear tire - mount, balance, etc.  56.99         10.49    0.00
Valve stem, tire handling charge (disposal)     6.24          0.00    0.00
Replace left rear lower control arm           102.93        127.40    0.00
Replace left rear trailing arm                412.63        245.00    0.00
PEPGUARD LIMITED EXTENDED LABOR WARRANTY        0.00          0.00   55.86
Shop Fee (Miscellaneous supplies)               0.00          0.00   35.00
Remove and replace door mirrors   (2 x 41.99)  83.98         74.90    0.00
Computerized wheel alignment                    0.00         79.99    0.00
14 inch steel wheel                           101.25          0.00    0.00
Left door latch                                82.39          0.00    0.00
Silicon lubricant                              12.32          0.00    0.00
Totals                                       1200.98        878.77   90.86
Sub-Total: 2170.61
Tax:        101.97
TOTAL:     2272.58

Up above, in earlier updates, I asterisked out a lot of names because this was an open claim and I had yet to see how things would go.

As everyone involved has done right by me and helped me enormously they deserve to be acknowledged.

To State Farm insurance agent Scott McNab and his team here in Houston, to State Farm claims adjuster Stacey Sutton and her team in Dallas, and especially to manager Mike McCrary and his fantastic team at
 Pep Boys Automotive Supercenter #1487
 4141 Greenbriar St, Houston, TX 77098
 (713) 528-8811 ...

To once again be able to go where I wish, when I wish, in a reasonable amount of time and not arriving soaked in sweat and on the verge of collapse, well, what you folks have restored to me is nothing less than life itself.

You done good!

 Although not from ashes,
 this is still a true rebirth;
 for car, and myself.

(Not a true haiku,
 needing a season somewhere;
 I'm a TEXAN!!!  'Kay? :-)

Does anything more ...

... really need saying?
(From theblaze.com)

Didn't think so.

But, I'll add something anyway. From Finally: The Obama Spangled Banner ...
  The final insult to veterans? The flag is made in China.


Monday, March 12, 2012

NOT Safe For Work ...

... because you can lose yourself all day in this, really endearing yourself to your boss. :-)

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day
   ( http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120312.html ) ...

The Scale of the Universe - Interactive
Flash Animation Credit & Copyright:
Cary & Michael Huang

... a modern version of the classic video Powers of Ten, is a new window to many of the known scales of our universe. By moving the scroll bar across the bottom, you can explore a diversity of sizes, while clicking on different items will bring up descriptive information.

This is an incredible interactive Flash video, and if I can load and run it on my antique dial-up connection, most of you should have no problems at all.

Click on the music note in the upper right corner for a very nice (and appropriate) piece of background music.

It ranges through 43 63 orders of magnitude (be sure to go to both ends of the scroll bar).

Enjoy - and don't forget; I warned you. :-)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Schadenfreude ...

... over the new movie John Carter (2012).

The title of this post (pronounced shahd-in-froid-uh, as near as I can tell) is a German word meaning "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others".

This post is not a review of the movie itself (which I found to be pretty damn good), but of the nearly insane reactions of some people to it.

First, there were the gripes about it being a rip-off of Star Wars (1977) and Avatar (2009), although in fact it's based on stories written a full century ago by Edgar Rice Burroughs (who would later conjure up Tarzan), and those later movies actually owe a lot to those stories.

Then, there was the nit-picking over the title.  For a long time, "John Carter of Mars" was a dream project for many who wanted to see the stories brought to life.  When Disney announced the upcoming movie would simply be called  "John Carter", the screams could be heard for miles.

Ok, then. How about that title?

Burroughs' first (as yet untitled) novel, featuring John Carter as the leading character, was written in mid-to-late 1911 and serialized in a magazine (as "Under the Moons of Mars") in 1912. It didn't get published as a novel until after Burroughs became a success with his Tarzan series. In 1917, for a hardcover edition, the title was changed to "A Princess of Mars".

Ten more books were written in the John Carter series;  the eleventh (and final) installment having the title of "John Carter of Mars". So the purists were up in arms over Disney apparently dropping "of Mars" from the title, even though that was never the title of the book that opened the series in the first place.

The movie posters and previews simply say "John Carter".  A few minutes into the movie, the opening title just says "John Carter". BUT, the end title of the movie, just before the credits, appears as "John Carter", immediately followed below it by "of Mars". I do not believe for a second that this is a gimmick, nor a last-minute appeasement to the gripers, but that it is an integral part of the story.

John Carter was a former Confederate cavalry officer who got transported (by some form of astral projection in the novel, and by an alien device in the movie) to Mars, and while caught up in events there, was naturally obsessed with finding a way to get back to where he belonged. The bit with the opening and end titles reflects his evolution into realizing that his new home is where he now belongs and that he truly is "of Mars".

Thirdly, when you hear that a movie is reputed to cost a ton of money, you can count on the knives coming out.  This one is estimated to have cost around $250 million.  Well, so what?!!!  That's peanuts these days.  Have you noticed the prices of everything else lately?

James Cameron has been down that road twice. I got hooked on the internet in the late '90s and movie newsgroups were some of my favorite fare. In those groups, for a solid year before the release of Titanic (1997), its reputed budget of $200 million had large numbers of commenters predicting disaster and bankruptcy for Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount Studios.

What struck me then (and still does) is the absolute glee with which they made those predictions, seeming to want so desperately for that man to fail.  And then, he proved them wrong when Titanic proceeded to make more money worldwide than almost anything else in movie history. That was unforgivable.  Hell hath no fury like a detractor proven completely wrong.

Twelve years later, to really rub it in, he did it again with Avatar (2009). Same issue (costing boatloads of money), same gleeful predictions of disaster, and same result (making more money than the GNP of some small nations).

Also similar in result was the pure vile hatred from some of the commenters over his success. There must be psychiatric wards filled with his detractors over his stubborn refusal to just fall down.

Now, whether Andrew Stanton (the director of "John Carter") will have a similar experience to Cameron's has yet to be determined. This is his first live-action feature. His previous films were animated (Disney/Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E").

I suspect that his work in animation was excellent practice for pre-visualizing a story and having a pretty good idea of just where he was going to go with it.  While not perfect by a long shot, it is superb, very enjoyable and a damned fine first live-action effort. But, he may have to face the same storm of furies that Cameron has had to put up with, especially if "John Carter" turns out to be a box-office success.

Trying to explain that bitterness (envy?) directed to some (Cameron attracts it like a lightning rod, as does Steven Spielberg and perhaps Stanton will also, but George Lucas appears to have been spared much of that) who succeed in creating and delivering something truly remarkable, was the whole point of this post in the first place (and why I chose that title).

But, I fear that may be way beyond my pay grade. It's probably more within the purview of a professional psychiatrist like Dr. Sanity.  She might have her work cut out for her on this one.

Bottom line on "John Carter", in this not-really-a-movie-review: Pretty damn good!



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