Movie Review Haiku: The Avengers

Unexpected death.
Another Joss Whedon win.
Worth. Every. Penny.


What are they thinking?

Blogger just keeps getting worse. I moved to WordPress because Blogger didn’t have a built-in mobile format, but lately every time they change something it makes me glad I switched when I did. Their new Captcha is absolutely horrible to the point of driving commenters away (one person noted that it took him six attempts to get it right). The new comment page format is hard to follow – the separation between comments is so minimal that comments by people without avatars blend together with other comments – and the far left alignment (instead of the previous centering) is irritating on widescreen monitors.

The latest change is the most irritating, though. It seems that they’ve taken away the option for people to follow comment threads by email, an option I use consistently to follow the discussion on posts I’ve commented on or am interested in.

It’s almost like they’re trying to drive people away. Get a clue, Blogger!

Update: I’m not the only one frustrated by these changes, it seems. Hopefully, they’ll listen to their users.


Car bleg

I’ve mentioned it a few times in various comments around the blogosphere, so I figure I should mention it here, too. When I visited my parents for Thanksgiving, I started having some issues with the transmission in my car. Specifically, the clutch would start slipping when I was climbing hills, or needed to put a little more power to the wheels. This is generally a Bad Thing, but it’s especially bad when driving on the interstate.

Now, I had been having an occasional little bit of trouble with it when starting out uphill from a stop. There was one intersection in particular that was commonly an issue. The clutch fluid levels always checked out, there were no loose connections that I could find, and it was an intermittent and inconsistent issue (even at that one intersection). Thanksgiving was the first time it became prominent. So, when I got to my parents’ house, I asked Dad – a former mechanic and now a (retired) engineer – to help me track down the issue and figure out what would need to be done to fix it (later that weekend, since it was dark already).

Thanksgiving day, after dinner, my parents told me we would be going shopping for a new car the next day. Moreover, they said that they would pay for the car, on the condition that I would pay them back as I can. It seems they hadn’t been happy with my car for a while, and had been worrying that it would die on one of these 100-mile-each-way trips and leave me stranded somewhere I don’t have cellphone service. That scenario was, in fact, one I had worried about as well, since my car was a 17 year old Corolla with over 220,000 miles on it. So, the next day we went car shopping. On Black Friday, no less.

The general goal was for a small, 4-door car that would get decent mileage. Pretty much anything else was left up for grabs, since we were a little pressed for time (I had to go back home Saturday).

We were amazingly lucky. We started at the same dealership that Dad got his truck from, because they had been reasonable, and they had been good with follow-ups (maintenance, etc.). The very first car we saw in the price range we were looking in (which was much higher than I expected, btw), was this.

That’s a 2008 Saturn Astra XE, with only 40,000 miles on it. It was on sale that day for $2000 below book value, and about $4000 below the dealership’s normal asking price. After a short test drive, and a little discussion over whether Mom would get a new car and I would get her old one (she didn’t see anything she liked, so she didn’t), we left to grab lunch and check out some other car lots. During lunch, I used my phone’s browser to look up ratings, reviews, etc., on the Astra. With generally good reviews, a good impression during the test drive, and not seeing anything even close to comparable in age, miles, and price anywhere else, we decided to get it. I got a whole $400 for my old car, which they took for scrap value.

It’s the base model, but it still has a lot of nice little features. It’s the first car I’ve ever owned with power windows and door locks, and remote entry. I can even roll down all the windows at once with the remote, which will be nice in the summer. The rear seats fold down and the rear deck cover comes off easily to expand the cargo area. Combined with the rear hatch instead of a trunk lid, this gives me much more cargo capacity than my old car had. The wipers have an “automatic” setting that uses a sensor to control the speed. Plus, if the wipers are on when you put it in reverse, it turns on the rear wiper. It has OnStar, which I don’t plan to bother with. The computer shows mpg, miles remaining, trip time, etc., but also will show when to change the oil, when the wiper fluid is low, when certain bulbs are out, and some other things.

Like many things, there are a couple of minor shortcomings, too. The Astra was a “captive import”, so it shows the usual European disdain for drink holders – there’s only one that’s accessible from the front seats, and that is placed far enough back in the center console that it’s actually behind the seat back, so it’s a little bit awkward to reach. Despite being a 2008 model, when they imported it, Saturn didn’t bother to enable the auxiliary input for the U.S. radio. The wiring for it is there, and connected to the radio’s wiring harness, it just doesn’t work. The best guess on the forums (yes, there are forums, both for Saturns, and for Astras in general), is that the hardware inside the U.S. radio isn’t connected. To connect my XM radio and iPod, I had to buy an FM modulator and European antenna adapters.

But, overall it’s a very good car, especially for the money. I think I ended up with the best deal I could hope for.

With the exception of my grandfather’s old Ford Ranger, which I inherited but kept for less than a year, this is the first automatic transmission vehicle I have ever owned. I’ve actually been grateful for this over the last couple of weeks, since driving a manual transmission with gout in my left foot would have been an exercise in pain – enough so that it might have been dangerous.

Just as a side note: I did not expect my parents to do this. The most I even considered to be a possibility was that they would buy Mom a new car and I would get her old one. Even after they told me, I expected we would be looking in the $2k – $4k range. Instead, it was about $10,000. This is not a gift, it’s a loan that I have to pay back as I can, because they knew I could not manage a regular car payment right now. They gave me help buying a car, not a car. But they wanted me to have a good, reliable car that I’ll be able to keep for a long time without worrying, so they stretched themselves a little to do it. I am extraordinarily grateful to them. I didn’t earn it, I didn’t “deserve” it, but they did it anyway.

Anyway, that’s the story of my new (to me) car.


Gout update

It STILL #$@$ing sucks. Entering week 2, but I think (insert sound of me knocking on wood here) I’ve passed the worst of it.

The 2am super-attacks are the worst. This old description nails it pretty well.

The victim goes to bed and sleeps in good health. About two o’clock in the morning he is awakened by a severe pain in the great toe; more rarely in the heel, ankle or instep. The pain is like that of a dislocation, and yet parts feel as if cold water were poured over them. Then follows chills and shivers, and a little fever… The night is passed in torture, sleeplessness, turning the part affected, and perpetual change of posture; the tossing about of body being as incessant as the pain of the tortured joint, and being worse as the fit comes on.

If there were some way to artificially turn gout on and off, it would make an extremely effective form of torture – and would be banned by the Geneva Convention as inhuman.


Just FYI,

Gout #$@$ing SUCKS.


Is it dusty in here?

I seem to have something in my eyes.

Good people doing good for those who need it.


On shaving

Update: For those interested in getting into wetshaving, or just curious, there’s a series of good videos here. They’re worth the time!

A little off topic, but I just ordered some shaving soap, which got me thinking about it.

I am what is known as a “wet shaver“, which means I use real soap and water when I shave, instead of the canned foam or gel goop that most people use these days. Done right, and with the right supplies, you can get a better and more pleasant shave than with the more “modern” canned stuff and “system” razors, and you can do it for a lower cost, too.

My tools of choice are an antique Gillette safety razor (~$10 at a local antique shop), Derby blades (~$15 for 200 double-edged blades), an Omega shaving brush, and Col. Conk’s World Famous Glycerine Shave Soap (Lime scented) ($5 for one, or ~$13 for 3) in an old Burma Shave mug that was a gift from a girlfriend, with a small terra-cotta type bowl I got at the dollar store for building the lather. Occasionally, when I have time, I break out a straight razor – either the Dovo Classic (in black) or the Wapienica – and get a shave so good I wonder why I bother with anything else.

But today I ordered more shave soap, which brings me back to the point of this post – I simply cannot recommend Col. Conk products enough. They have a good selection of quality products for a reasonable price, whether it’s soap, brushes, accessories, or anything else. They even carry a couple of Col. Conk branded Dovo straight razors.

There are, of course, other brands that are just as good for the same price, or occasionally even better, but I haven’t seen any other one company with the same variety and consistently good reviews. They’re worth checking out, especially if you’re into or looking into wet shaving or straight razor shaving.

Also worth checking out are (a retail site that does run toward the higher-end products), (an informational site), and Straight Razor Place (with forums, blogs, a wiki, and other generally user-driven resources).


[Obligatory FTC disclaimer: I paid my own hard earned cash for all the above-named products, and for any related ones that aren’t named here, except for the Burma-Shave branded mug which – as I stated – was a personal gift from a (now ex-) girlfriend, so you can just kiss my hairy backside.]

On yesterday’s National Emergency Alert System test

Apparently, yesterday’s test had some… issues. I was listening to Sirius XM’s 80’s channel, and heard the tones and about 5-10 seconds of voice, then a few seconds of silence before the music started up again. I believe that’s called “failure”.

But Roberta X comforts us with this reminder.

You might take some comfort that on 11 September 2001, when a national-level emergency did take place, the news was disseminated rapidly. Not by the government but by the various companies that run for-profit networks all day, every day: ABC/CBS/NBC/Fox/CNN etc. all jumped on the story as it happened — and even pushed their scheduled commercials aside to do it. There wasn’t any question of the message making it to you; it had been reaching you 24/7/365 to hawk soap flakes and cornflakes already and when the stakes suddenly got much higher, it was already in place, working.

The free market succeeded in a real emergency where the government had failed to even test the system it had in place. If a true national emergency happens, you will hear about it – probably well before any national-level EAS alert is sent.


Out training

I’m still around. I’m out of town at a statewide EMS training conference, right now. Interestingly, I walked by one of the Occupy [$SOMEPLACE] locations as the police were shutting down the camp (though I didn’t realize that was what was happening at the time). There was a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio of cops to protesters.

I’ll have more later (it could be a day or two or three). Right now there’s a group getting together for dinner, and I’m hungry.


A 99 Purrcenter I can agree with.


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