Thursday, October 20, 2005

100,000 Miles

My Ford Focus turned 100,000 miles today. It sits in my parking lot at the moment with a grand 100,009 miles on it.

I know it's not that big of a milestone for some folks, but this is huge for me. My Focus is the first car I'd ever purchased brand spankin' new. I actually set out to take relatively good care of it, doing oil changes every five- or six-thousand miles (or so... you know how it is).

Certainly beats the 30,000 miles I let my old Tempo go without an oil change.

Did you know that changing the oil is absolutely essential to maintaing a car's engine? I did not know that!

I discovered that not changing the oil is a bad thing with that car. My father-in-law pulled the valve cover one afternoon (it was making strange clack-clack-clack noises and I didn't know why), only to discover I didn't have oil in my engine, so much as I had a thick tar that really didn't do much to lubricate anything. Needless to say, I learned a lot with that car.

I also learned a lot from my 1989 Ford Taurus that burnt to the tires in front of my daughter's elementary school back in 1996.

Did you know that power steering fluid is flammable? I did not know that!

My x-wife (we were still married at the time) comes home one afternoon, telling me the steering wheel was awfully hard to turn, and there was a lot of smoke coming from the engine. Hmmmm. I checked the power steering fluid, and sure enough it was low. So, naturally, I filled it up, which of course just added fuel to the fire when I went to pick up my daughters at school later.

I rolled up across the street from the school and parked. I noticed a small waft of smoke coming from my windshield defroster vent - INSIDE the car, so I got out, and noticed a small waft of smoke coming from under the engine hood. Silly me, I wanted to see what was going on, so I opened the hood.

Did you know that, if you have an engine fire, the LAST thing you want to do is open the hood? I did not know that!

So I opened the hood, and the small waft of smoke make a gigantic "whooooosh" sound, and became an inferno in about, oh... 5 seconds. To the amazement of parents and kids alike, my car burned down to the tires, passenger compartment and all, in the space of about 10 minutes. The fire department got there and put out the fire, leaving my now thoroughly baked car a blackened hulk of smoldering, twisted metal. It was really cool the way the tires exploded (all four of them), sounding like shotgun rounds. The fireman said I was really lucky that I'd just filled my gas tank before picking up the kids, because a full gas tank is less likely to EXPLODE than a less-than-full tank, because it's the fumes that explode, not the liquid.

I did not know that!

The kicker to the burning Taurus story is, I was in the process of taking out a new insurance policy with a different company, and the day the Taurus burned was THE last day it was covered under the current insurance policy. How's THAT for timing? I was amazed that the insurance company didn't bat an eye, just paid up. I think it was All-State. Good hands, ya know?

So, anyway, I'm proud of my little Focus. It's been a really good car. The only major thing I've had done is had the clutch replaced, and that goes out with normal wear and tear on most manual transmissions. Oh, and the starter had to replaced back at 36k miles. Other than that, it's been a sweet little ride that gets almost 27mpg around town!

I was thinking about trading it in for a mini-van back before Katrina hit, but I think I'll belay that. 27mpg in town, and about 38mpg on the highway is nothing to sneeze at now!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Trashing the 24-hour News Cycle

I think the 24-hour news cycle is about the worst thing American has ever done to itself. As a result of our never ending thirst for profit, a very smart man tapped a very deep vein of American voyerism and paranoia, and created CNN. I think the creation of CNN was one of the most cruel and mis-guided, if not truly destructive media events in the history of our nation, and quite possibly the world.

Ted Turner truly had a hand in transforming the world. The launch of CNN brought news from around the globe into our homes at all hours of every day. What CNN launched has been imitated and even surpassed by the likes of Foxnews, Skynews, and other news powerhouses around the world. Now, with very few exceptions, many of us welcome crime, disaster, war, politics, terrorism and devastation into our homes on a daily basis.

Very, VERY rarely are the good things in life invited into our homes. Very rarely are the heroic events of everyday life brought to the forefront on our evening news. It's sad to think that the lovely things of life aren't titillating enough to satisfy America's voyeuristic need to see pain and devastation.

Think about it! How many of us, myself included, were watching just a few weeks ago when the airplane with the broken nose wheel landed, live on CNN and Fox, at John Wayne airport here in California. We all cheered when the plane landed without incident, and said "good job" to the pilot, then turned back to whatever diversion was on before. But how many of us were secretly disappointed that the plane didn't burst into flames and wreak havoc at the airport? I'm sure we would have watched longer.

Today, I when I left work, I turned on the radio, and Mike Savage's show was on. I know a lot of people like his show, and that's fine. It's a personal taste thing. But he was just droning on and on about how sheepish the American people are, how Bush is doing the wrong thing, how America is being sold down the river by so and so...... it was just too much.

I turned the radio to The Fish, our local Christian music station, and just let my mind go.

I get so tired of the constant drone about how horrible things are, when outside my window the sun is shining, the weather is nice, and I've had a good day. I know bad things happen, but I'm refuse to allow myself to wallow in garbage I have absolutely nothing to do with. I have my own share of garbage and I'll deal with it, with the help of family and friends, just as people all around the world do.

I think the Apostle Paul had it right, in Philippians 4:8: " whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue in them, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Seems like good advice to me.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Parental Pride

I've been working 55 and 60 hour work-weeks lately, so needless to say the blog kinda get short shrift. I could post each day "worked hard, long hours, very tired", but I think that would get... well.. tiresome... very quickly.

Ok, so my daughter Lindsey has a couple of friends over after school today. They are discussing book reports they wrote about the book "Native Son", the contents of which I have absolutely no inkling of. However, I gather from their conversation that the protagonist somehow murdered two women, and they are having a fairly deep conversation about whether or not the protagonist, based on his actions (murder, namely) can be considered "a fiend" or not.

Hmmm.... Murder in my book makes you a fiend, but the point I'm making here is, my daughter and her friends are actually discussing the ethical and moral implications involved in the story, and looking beyond mere circumstances to try to get a great understanding of the protagonists motives! Racial motives, childhood wounds, circumstances and emotional drive! What fun!

He IS a murdering fiend, but the discussion is wonderful! Who says kids don't get an education today. Some do, I'll attest to that. My children and their friends make me proud.

On the other end of the parental spectrum......

My dad and I went to lunch this afternoon, after my short shift of overtime at work, and had a wonderful conversation about his experiences with the Sacramento Society for the Blind. He's been teaching/mentoring at a live-in school designed to encourage more blind seniors to become mentors to other blind seniors.

I marvel at his transformation.

My dad is 79 years old. He's had glaucoma for years, since being diagnosed at about 40 years of age, and macular-degeneration as he's gotten older. About seven years ago, he had to quit driving, and face the fact that he is going to become completely blind.

He became, for a season, a very bitter, angry, depressed man who's life in retirement he was hoping for had been taken away and replaced by a handicap and darkness.

After my mom literally dragged him to a Blind Society meeting, where he discovered just how much assistance is available, and how much of life there was left to experience, he began learning and challenging himself. He attended a 10-day Senior Intensive Retreat (SIR) where he was introduced to cane-travel and the basics of living life blind.

For instance, how do you cross a busy street?
How do you grocery shop?
How do you order a meal in a restaurant, and figure out where the food is on your plate?
How do you find your way around a shopping mall, a coffee shop, or buy a pair of pants?

It was probably the best experience of his retirement. Now, this very old man walks miles, visits coffee shops, McDonald's, rides the bus to Arden Mall, and teaches other seniors how to do the same. He has turned his disability into a chance to do new things, meet new people, and influence lives for the better.

I love this man. He's been a wonderful dad, and I'm glad to have gotten to know him as well as I have.