Sunday, August 3, 2008

Toll Road Followup


She's out there. La gran estúpida.

This really happened, this week:

Coming south, through the West Little York Toll Plaza, I'm in the Easy Tag Only lane and the usual morons are tying up traffic as they get into the Tag Only lane and then discover (or is it "discover" since I suspect that a lot of this is intentional) that they are in the wrong lane ... and they have to then block everyone while they try to nudge their way into one of the adjacent cash lanes.

So this woman in front of me, with an Easy Tag plainly visible on her windshield, begins to roll smartly along with the traffic as the morons clear away from in front of us.

She gets up to the Easy Tag reader and STOPS!?! (whereupon, I almost rear-ended her; and the guy behind me almost rear-ended me; and the guy behind him ... ad infinitum)

No horn from me, because I'm a REFORMED Road Rage Psychopath and every person has the right to drive safely and with the level of conservatism to which they are comfortable (gack! I want to retch every time I parrot those "good driver" platitudes.)

Away she crept from her stop at the reader. The toll gate went up (don't get me started -- yes, the damn things are back) she rolled up even with the gate and SHE STOPPED AGAIN.!! That ripped it.

She got the horn. I almost got rear-ended, again, and the other good drivers went wild with their horns.

She got moving, so out we all roll. I passed her and looked over to lay my most evil, rotten, "You're sooooo stupid!" dirty look on her but she won't look my direction. Ms. Gotta-stop has the pedal to the metal and is going to break the speed laws. On a mission.

Yeah, genius, stop twice in the toll gate but then get out there and drive 80 miles an hour while everyone else is doing 65-75. Makes perfect sense -- NOT.

That's O.K., I'll probably pass her in the next tool plaza after she stops suddenly, again, and causes a 37 car pileup. I'll save my "look" for then.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Was Right All Along

I just knew that our old truck, Suzie Isuzu and I would get crosswise sooner than later.

O.K. Yeah, I’m spoiled. I’ve driven new cars for decades. After I’ve driven them awhile, they start to break, and I go get a new one. So, shoot me.

Regardless, there didn’t seem to be any sense in getting a new or near-new car for Costa Rica, driving it for a couple of weeks, then parking it in the garage for months, until our next trip to CR. Logically, we bought a 1994 ol’ beater. Dependable enough, but not breaking the bank. And NO PAYMENTS.

But then I started driving her and my love affair with Suzie started to sour:

• She burns oil.
• The rear doors are sticky and won’t always unlatch, without a jiggling and banging session. (And if somebody KEEPS slamming her seatbelt buckle in the door, they’re really hard to open.)
• The outside spare tire rack rattles and squeaks.
• The driver’s window sometimes won’t go all the way up, leaving a tiny crack that whistles air and dribbles rain.
• Radio? There’s a radio?
• The front windshield washer doesn’t work.
• She stalls a lot when she’s cold.
• She burns a lot of that $6.00 per gallon gas.
• The hatch window lift gas struts are worn out. They won’t lift all the way by themselves and they leak down, slowly letting the window close on your noggin while you’re loading groceries.
• She smells like an old truck that has been used to haul everything except (maybe) dead bodies.


Then I remembered, “No whiners allowed in CR.” So I sucked it up and we started to get along.

Things were going pretty well one Monday, considering that I’d received 2nd degree burns across the top of my left leg that morning.

That afternoon, we had driven to Alajuela to see Maritza and Venicio and to introduce them to our daughter, Jenny, who had arrived from the States for a visit.

Time kind of slipped away during our visit and before you know it we were saying our goodbyes in the dusk. A short stop at a roadside restaurant put us out on the road home even later -- well into the darkness.

THUNK! Clang-ity-clang-cling-dinkle-dinkle-dinkle.

“What was that? Did you see anything in the road? We hit something,” I said to co-pilot, Pat.

“Didn’t see a thing, but yeah, I think we must have hit something,” she responded.

We drove for about 10 more minutes, putting us well up into the mountains, on the winding stretch with no shoulder and no pull-offs.

PHWUMP PHWUMP PHWUMP. I knew the sound and feel of a flat tire.

Absolutely no place to pull off. No way to stop on these blind curves … in the dark … with the pavement wet from the evening rains. Cripes.

Then a couple of those Pura Vida drivers started flashing their lights and honking their horns because: a)., I had a flat and was driving on it (duh); and, b)., I’d slowed down to below the speed of sound on these curves because, I brilliantly reasoned, a flat tire probably doesn’t get as much traction on wet pavement curves as does a fully functioning tire.

Tensions went up inside the cockpit as the girls tersely informed me that I shouldn’t be driving on a flat tire and that I needed to … well … uh … do something! Okey dokey.

It was probably at least a half mile before there was even the hint of a semi-flat spot along the shoulder of the road. I started in towards one and then saw that it was probably soft mud. Bailing back out onto the road irritated yet another Tico and earned me his ire, manifest by a little ol’ blast on his horn.

Thankfully somebody lives somewhere back in them thar hills as a driveway entrance suddenly loomed in the headlights. Driveway = flat (ish) and driveway probably = gravel. I pulled right in.

We’re parked at the top of a hill, at the end of a blind curve, about a foot off the road’s pavement. I hit the 4-way flashers. Yee-hah, they work. Score 1 for the home team!

O.K., we might as well get on with it. I knew the location of the jack due to an accidental discovery of its little hiding cubby while poking around inside one afternoon. That much we had going for us. And, oh yeah, we knew where the spare tire was … right there on the back hatch, always in the way. Two things going for us!

In very short order, the jack was out of its storage, and yippee, the lug wrench was in there too. Three things to the plus column!

You just know there are going to be some inhabitants of the minus column, don’t you. Bingo. You’re right.

First, pop that spare tire/wheel off the carrier on the back hatch. Slip the lug wrench onto the first bolt … skreeeek … it squeals loose and backs out; do the second one … ooof! … tighter but out it came … the third one should be easy because it’s on the bottom and I can put all 300 pounds down onto it. Nope.

By the time I was finished jumping up and down (painfully) on the lug wrench, the head of the bolt was starting to round off and there hadn’t been so much as a little “click” of promise out of the stubborn fastener. A couple of times I just let my arms drop to my sides, figuring that the game was over. That 3rd bolt was not coming out.

We momentarily discussed locking up the mess, calling a taxi and getting a wrecker to take care of the problem in the morning. That didn’t sound fun. One last go at it. The hell with how my leg was feeling, lean into the bolt head with everything I’ve got and then kind of fall down against the lug wrench. It squeaked a little! Re-purchase the bite on the bolt head … and pound down on it once again and it turned. That pig was completely cross-threaded – who knows how many years ago – and was probably hammered home with an impact wrench. It ground out of its hole by hand, but not willingly.

Pat started to cram the jack under the side of the car. But I knew that there must be some exact spot for this jack to go and that just anywhere wouldn’t work. What I didn’t know was that the inscrutable engineers at Isuzu had thought long and hard about how to set up their jack/vehicle “exact spot” in a location most likely to cause pain, anguish and suffering for any stupid old gringo loony enough to get a flat tire in the dark and then park over sloshy-wet mud/gravel. Oh, yeah. Let me.

I found the old owner’s manual in the glove box (amazing!) and dug into the “Changing A Tire” page. Oh, lord. The jack must be positioned directly under the rear axle, immediately next to the inside of the leaf spring bracket. In other words, WAAAAY the hell up under the stinking car.

Great. I’m dressed in cut-off jeans – cut off so that my bandaged leg didn’t have the pain of anything pressing against the burns – a brand new shirt and Crocs. Pura Vida. No whining.

Under the truck you go, boy. Not that hard. Just skud the jack through the mud and feel around in the dark (I had brilliantly taken our flashlight out of the truck the day before and forgotten to put it back.) The jack nested right up under the axle tube. The jack actuator wheel turned easily as the jack rose up and made contact. The actuator wheel stopped turning. That thing was going no further without a serious handle.

“Anybody see a jack handle?” No answer.

Dragged my bod up off the mud pan and started through every nook and cranny of that *&%$ truck. Nothing. Yikes.

Oooo. Oooo. The owner’s manual.

Remember those inscrutable Isuzu engineers that designed the lift point for the jack in an impossible place? Well, the same guys were on the team to find a place to put the jack handle. Without the owner’s manual, nobody would ever find it. Ever.

Here’s the trick. The rear seat and seat back fold down to give extra load space. While folding the seat forward, the very underside of the seat becomes visible. It is completely covered with the same carpet/fabric as are the floors. That (I guess) is supposed to be a clue. “Why would anybody upholster the underside of the seat?” you’re supposed to ask yourself. As you may have guessed, with a clever array of Velcro closures, the underside upholstery peels away. And, there, amid the springs and foam rubber, are little clips holding the two long jack handle pieces.

Oh, uh, but they are just straight bars. No handle off to one side so that you can crank the durn things.

Owner’s manual is no help on this one.

Search, search, search. The girls looked everywhere while I lay on my back underneath Suzie trying as best I could to turn the jack’s wheel with no crank.

“Are you SURE that there isn’t a handle under the seat somewhere?”

Jenny is standing near my feet, holding the lug wrench. “What does this little slot do?” She asked, examining the lug wrench handle.

Sure enough, punched through the middle of the lug wrench handle was a little slot that I guess we were supposed to simply know was the exact size of the flats machined on the end of the jack handle. What a leap of logic.

O.K., now I bet you’re thinking that all I had to do was to just slide that handle in place and spin the jack up.

Nah. Isuzu has engineers.

Some feces-face little geek in god-knows-where, Japan, designed this jack’s gearing so that the jack handle, which is already too long to rotate a reasonable arc beneath the truck, can’t possibly exert enough force to lift the truck smoothly, given the normal strength of a regular person. You get to lay on your back, way under the truck, let out a karate shout, while simultaneously pushing with all your might on the jack handle. It moves a quarter turn and then clangs into the truck’s undercarriage. (If you pull on the handle, you just lift yourself up out of the mud.) Re-set the handle for another push and repeat.

So with way more effort than I EVER expected to put forth while on vacation, I grunted and groaned the damn truck up a good two inches.

I was resetting the wrench/handle when I perceived the truck moving. I shouted something to the girls and did a twisting roll out from under the truck as it slid in the mud and fell off the jack.

Hey, this is getting fun. Now the gauze on my legs is fully saturated with mud – it feels really good – and we get to start all over again.

The girls went on a rock hunt and somehow came back with several stones big enough to wedge under the tires, ensuring that Suzie wouldn’t take any more unplanned strolls.

I went back at it and finally got the beast up high enough to remove the flat.

But not high enough get the new tire onto the lug studs.

Crank; clang. Crank; clang. Crank; clang. And then the engineers struck one final time. Ya see … they didn’t want to waste all of that money designing and building those fine jacks with ¼” of extra, useless lift capability … so they didn’t. The ol’ jack ran out of travel and quit with, oh, maybe 1/16 of an inch of clearance under the spare as it finally slid onto the studs.

But it went on and the girls took over the final installation and tightening of the lug nuts. And the jack cranked right down, with ease, so long as the weight of a whole damn truck was pressing it down.

Within 15 minutes we were home, covered in mud and grit (all 3 of us). Those on-demand water heaters proved to be up to the task because we all wanted and took some really long showers.

I love this car.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Obvious Name

If you are sensitive to strong language, swearing, cursing, invective or whatever you want to call nasty words -- do NOT read any further. Go away.

If you are under 21, go away.

Are you ready?

This is serious stuff.

This is going to be rough.

Take a deep breath and hold on.

Here we go ...

If you've been over to the family blog, you know that we bought a car down in CR and Pat thinks we should give the new wheels a name. She even has a survey over on that blog so that you can vote for a suggested name or even suggest one of your own.

When she asked me to suggest a name, I immediately knew what to call the new buggy. This critter is a 1994 Isuzu Rodeo. Remember those old tanks? Solid.

But, being 14 years old and having seen a lot of duty on some pretty rough roads, I'm betting that this old lizzie will hear some invectives from me (gasp!).

{I've been trying to get rid of this bad invection, but I'm pretty sure that this is a Multi-Antibiotic-Resistant Invection (MARI). Groan.}

Seriously, here's the name:

"Fucking Car."

Perhaps even, "The Fucking Car."

Why, you ask?

Think about it. How convenient that name would be and how easily it will roll off my tongue.

When going out for a ride, or shopping:

"Get in The Fucking Car."

When coming home:

"Get out of The Fucking Car."

Let's say you're out for a day of shopping at the big mall and it has been so long since you arrived that you can't remember:

"Where's The Fucking Car?"

You can blame things on it with an innocent tone in your voice:

"The Fucking Car broke down in front of the bar, so I just went in to look for a mechanic."

Think about getting a flat tire:

"The Fucking Car has a fucking flat tire!"

What if, during idle conversation about exercising, you need to determine if your partner really feels like a jog or a ride:

"Do you want to take The Fucking Car or walk?"

As old as it is, it will certainly cost me repair money, whereupon I shall say, disgustedly:

"That Fucking Car."

I've already felt the vibes from Pat and I don't think The Fucking Car will formally initially be known by this name I'm suggesting. That's O.K. Everyone knows that it will eventually shed its cute anthropomorphic name in deference to the name it will answer to.

I'm taking The Fucking Car on a beer run. So there.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bagging On Bags

I'm sure you've noticed that every product that comes with a storage bag -- air mattresses, tents, sleeping bags, quilts, etc., -- all come with storage bags that are sized so that the intended contents can only be folded small enough to fit back into those bags if you are a professional "Folder," working from a Folding Blueprint, and have arms and hands as powerful as Popeye.

If you're a normal person, chances are that your best efforts, along with multiple re-folding attempts, will only result in a lump of product that either won't go into the storage bag at all or which sticks out of the end of the bag.


Message to manufacturers: You shit heads! I'm paying hundreds of dollars for your stinking product and you can't spend 30¢ to enlarge the stinking bag ... oh, maybe get crazy and slip in 6 whole inches ... so that normal people can put their valuable purchase away after using it. Sheesh!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Stir Star Awards (Toll Road Division)

For those of you who don’t have toll roads or may not even know what they are, please indulge me. Read on. You might recognize a stirring performance that you’ve seen elsewhere.

The guy in the full service pay-lane that waits until he is stopped in front of the toll booth before he leans over to fish out his wallet; and, then he has to dig around in it to come up with the appropriate folding money.

Why am I in the full service lane anyway? Ya gotta be here in Houston to know. At some toll plazas (like the West Little York, on the West Sam Houston) if you are getting on the toll road at Little York, to go south, you are barred from using the main automatic lanes. And, the toll road authority brain trust has decided to only install a single automatic lane for EZ-Tag and that usually backs up beyond belief. Thus, if you want to get home while supper is still hot, it is quicker to go to a different lane. Sometimes the full service lanes look like they’re moving faster. That’s when I end up there.

Now, why is it such a reach for me to expect a person to plan ahead just a little … and BE CONSIDERATE (you clod!) of the dozen cars behind you. We don’t need to watch you finger through a wad of bills in your wallet while you select THE special dollar that you’ve been saving for years, just in case you ever have to pay a toll. Get that shit out before you even start to drive, dunce boy.

Taking your foot off the gas at the electronic toll gates, over on the EZ-Tag-only side.

Oh, all right, these people probably only deserve 1 stir, but this is a pet peeve of mine.

And, admittedly, there are signs that tell you to slow down and even signs that tell you to slow to 45 but this is the only State on Earth where some fools actually do it. Some states (e.g., Illinois) have even built the automatic lanes far away from the cash lanes, separating them by berms and trees. They command you to not slow down.

So, WHY do so many Houstonians slow down?

Are you afraid that the Tag reader won’t be able to read your Tag? It works on radio waves, Einstein. They’re travelling at more than 186,000 miles per second. Do you really think you can drive fast enough so that the speed of light waves cannot get down to your car and then be received in the return signal?

Scared of other drivers changing lanes right up at the readers and that they then might side-swipe you? We’re only changing lanes because people like you are impeding the flow of traffic when you slow down, pudding head.

And, what’s with you people at the Westheimer Plaza? What is so special about your fears and foibles that you need to slow down to stop & go for the automatic lanes? Who starts that mess? Please, some cowboy, shoot them.

Stop it. Just stop it. Keep your stinking foot smashed down on that stinking little narrow pedal on the right.

On the side of the toll road where EZ is mixed in with Full Service, getting into the EZ-Tag-Only lane when you don’t have an EZ-Tag.

Are you truly that unaware of your surroundings? Or are you just a mega-turd that thinks he’s getting to the head of the line … screw the rest of the world.

What happens, is that all of the lanes are filled up with long lines of cars needing to pay cash. In our single lonely EZ-Tag lane, the traffic usually moves significantly faster because we don’t have any clown digging under his seat for loose change.

Note to HCTRA: I’ve written to you jack-wads twice about leaving gates down across EZ-Tag lanes. One of your little minions even admitted that she couldn’t think of any reason why they are left operational. TAKE THOSE DAMNED GATES OUT!!!!!

Back to the story …

So, while we are moving reasonably steadily (5 mph,) down the long canyon created by lines of cash-pay cars, inevitably some anti-Mensa either doesn’t notice that he’s in the EZ-Tag Only lane or he’s trying to get to the head of the class. Either way, he then tries to push his way out of the Tag lane and into one of the cash lanes.

But it can’t be done. The cash lanes are at a dead stop and they only creep along one car length at a time. We, then, are trapped behind this clever person, building up our own traffic backup.

Please, oh please, give me Sidewinder missiles on my next car.

Stopping fully in front of the toll gate in an EZ-Tag lane when you have an EZ-Tag.

Ohmigod! What are you thinking!?! Oh … right. You haven’t the capacity to think.

Very close to these people are the folks that make a mistake in lane selection and then not only stop, but they begin to back up. I’m not making this up.

Patricia and I were driving back home one day, at about 75 mph (oh, get over it). She was driving and talking to me. I was lazily semi-focused on the road ahead as I listened. Something caught my attention. Something didn’t look right in the traffic way up ahead at the toll plaza.

Once the old synapses processed the message and I shouted, “Car backing up!” Pat barely had time to react. She got into a different lane and we went by that 7-stir. As we sped away down the road, I watched him in the side view mirror, expecting to see a fireball as he got run over by an 18 wheeler but, alas, no fireworks that day.

That’s the rant for the day. Many of the wackos that I mentioned in earlier posts about Houston drivers are doing their surface street tricks up on the toll roads, also. Sometimes it is just too bizarre to even award stirs.

Why are they breathing my air?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


I B Flummoxed. How else can I be?

A bit of background:

My company uses fairly large quantities of hydraulic oil. So, rather than have a zillion steel drums sitting around, we store our oil inventory in 275 gallon "totes."

Totes look like giant cubic plastic boxes. Picture your favorite refrigerator box-wine large enough to hold 275 gallons. Now, replace the cardboard wine box with a steel cage and make the plastic bag have thick enough walls so that it holds its shape. That's a tote.

But, because anything can leak, and because neither I nor the EPA want hydraulic oil running down the street in rivers, all users of big quantities of hazardous liquids are required to set up "secondary containment" around or under all "primary" containers. In other words, if the tote leaks, it has to leak into a tub or something so that it is contained for disposal.

For totes, we use specially made "pallets" that look like a monstrous kid's square wading pool, with a thick grill over the top. The totes sit on this grill and if they leak, the oil simply drops down into the "wading pool."

However, the secondary containment pool has a finite volume. If you let the pool fill up and don't empty it, then subsequent leaks would overflow the pool and run out on the floor. Therefore, one would think that every person would think of that when they saw the pool filling up, over time. Wouldn't one always strive to keep the secondary empty and dry?

One would also think that folks working around these totes and their secondary containment pools would object to the smell of the hydraulic oil emitting up from the pool, if you leave oil in it.

Finally, one would think that just out of general good housekeeping practices that workers wouldn't want all of that leaked oil sitting around out in the open. Oil just seems to get everywhere when you have it out in the open.

BUT ... our pudding heads are not (apparently) folks that think or act in any of the ways that "one" would think!

My morning:

Arrived at 8. Plugged in my laptop and booted it. Shuffled a little paper and decided that it would be a good time for me to do a sweep through the shop, ensuring that safe work practices are being observed.

Walked out the door, into the shop, and there's a tote, perched on its secondary containment, with piles and piles of granulated absorbent heaped up around it.

"What's going on?!?" I gasped.

"That funny tub thing got a leak," said one of the braver workers.

"How ... uh ... wha ... hey. How would the secondary leak? It's supposed to be empty?" I spat out.

"No. It always has a lot of oil in it ... at least since they were filling those hoses the other day and spilled a whole bunch down in there," said Brave Boy.

"No," I said back, "No, there is never supposed to be ANY oil in the secondary containment unless the tote leaks!" I said, starting to lose it.

"I didn't know," said Brave Boy, now meekly.

I'm thinking, "Yeah, but there are a half dozen "old salts" standing around you that know damn well that there isn't supposed to be oil in the secondary," but I sucked it in and kept the thoughts to myself. Time for a safety meeting -- for sure!

"Wait," I said, "That's a new secondary. How could it leak?"

Now the troops within ear shot are starting to look REALLY busy. Way too busy to be a part of this conversation.

Brave Boy goes on, "Well, we were sliding the plastic thingy into the pallet rack and when he backed out, his forks were tilted up too much and he ripped a hole in the bottom of the thingy."

Two more stirs.

The metal cage around the tote has fork lift channels under it so that one can lift these totes up off of the secondary containment for filling or discharging them. Steel. Strong. Fully protecting the tote's plastic bladder. In contrast, secondaries have narrow, thin PLASTIC grooves under them so that you could, if you were stupid, lift directly under the plastic wading pool to lift the pool and the tote, together, as a unit. Well over a ton of load on the little pool bottom.

Huh. I wonder why it split?

So-ho-ho-ho-ho, now I have a ripped open, useless $2,000.00 secondary; plus, another 10 gallons or so of liquid contaminated (hazardous material) oil to pay someone to dispose of; plus several 40 lb bags of "kitty litter" oil sorbent, soaked with oil (hazardous material) to also pay someone to dispose of.

Maybe if I'm lucky, tomorrow somebody will jam a forklift fork through this tote's steel cage and gash the plastic bladder open. I've always wanted to see if those oil containment booms work well. I wonder if we can get them deployed before the oil seeps under the office wall and into the office carpet?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Learning From Our Mistakes

What ever happened to “learning from our mistakes?” Is this time-tested precept of the higher apes also passing away as a distant memory of a few elders in the clan of mankind?

One of our “experienced,” albeit newer, employees was hired to lead some teams and sort of take care of the newbies and the dolts, thereby avoiding losses, embarrassments or accidents. To hear this guy’s personal testimony, he’s waged wars, fought fights, conquered countries and validated virgins from Timbuktu to infinity and beyond. One would think that there had been a few teensy mistakes along the way and our hero, who I call “Slinky,” should have learned a thing or two.


Many weeks ago, my company mobilized large machines, portable control rooms and gobs of tools to rig out an offshore demolition boat. (Our parent company manufactures machinery that cuts apart pipe and steel structurals, under the sea.)

A critical little tool – a cutter – is terribly expensive for its size so we don’t keep hundreds of them on the shelf. We don’t have to. One of these palm sized little cutters will zip a 3-inch diameter hole through a sunken deck plate in minutes and keep on “punching” more holes all day. At almost $500.00 each, they better. So, we had only about 20 of them in stock.

Slinky supervised the load-out of the equipment for this boat, knowing full well that this would be only one of many boats to be equipped from our inventory. But, a couple of days after everything was shipped out, the boss, Tree Tall, went looking for a few of these cutters to be used in a demonstration. The shelves were empty.

“Where’d they go?” he wanted to know.

“Well, I sent them all out to the boat,” said Slinky, lamely.

With no love in his voice, Tree asked, “So what were you planning to send out on the next boat?”

No answer.

That’s when I got sucked into the fray.

Tree wanted at least two (preferably 3 or 4) cutters for his demonstration; and, he knew that another boat was coming up for outfitting in a couple more weeks. He turned to me to locate more cutters.

I contacted all the vendors and discovered that our normal cutters were 4 to 6 weeks delivery. Another vendor proposed an alternate cutter design which we accepted out of dire need. We cleaned that guy’s inventory out, bringing all 10 of the available alternate cutters into Houston on Fedex Next Day. I also promptly put in an order for 10 more from the usual vendor who would build them to our regular specifications.

I sort of lost track/interest in the cutters after that, although I did notice that “da boyz” were doing several extra demonstrations that might eat into the cutter supply. No worries, I thought. These guys have just been through the wringer over these things and they’ll tell me when they need more cutters. Besides, in about a week we should have the second order of ten pieces.

Then came an order for a third boat.

And in came an order for a training demo.

Both used these hard to find cutters.

But, I’m not aware of these events, so I don’t bump up the inbound order quantity.

This immediately past Saturday, Slinky and da boyz worked like maniacs to get everything out the door for boats two and three. The training demo is tomorrow (for divers who will eventually work from one or more of the boats we’d outfitted.)

Today, Tree wandered out into the Houston shop to grab cutters for the training demo.

“Who moved the 3-inch cutters?” he said. He probably had a knot in his stomach, fearing that he knew the awful answer. He dialed Slinky’s cell phone. “Where are the 3” cutters, Slink?”

“Why? I sent them to the boat.”

Worst fears confirmed.

“All of them,” said Tree, more as a statement of resignation than a question. He looked at me. I shrugged. He shook his head. The same stupid move had been made again.

The 6-week-delivery cutters aren’t due in for another couple of days. I found one dusty old cutter on a vendor’s back shelf and that’s the best we can hope for.

Do I think that there’s a possibility that Slinky and his team learned anything this time?

What do you think?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Stir Star Awards (Freeways)

“Freeways” around Houston aren’t really “free” anymore but they are supposed to be free of impediments and cross traffic that can lead to accidents and slow the flow of traffic to an inefficient pace. Here are some of my favorite stupid people tricks done on our freeways.

Going 45 mph. (or even going the speed limit)

Ya know, Slick, in some states if you drive at 45 mph the cops won’t bother giving you a ticket for impeding traffic. They don’t have to. The other drivers will simply kill you.

You want to go 45 and feel safer? Stay on the surface streets.

If you’re having car trouble, get the hell over to the far right lane and put on your hazard flashers – then get off the freeway and over to the repair shop ASAP.

When you’re going 45 and the big bad 18 wheeler is going 70, you’re going to be hit as if you backed into a wall at 25 mph. Lots of damage bro.

As for going 65 (or 55 in the damn construction zones) get real. Please observe the other drivers. NOBODY IS GOING THE SPEED LIMIT. Pick it up, homeboy. We all have to get to work.

Playing “Sheriff” in the fast lane.

Did you know that we have several dozen Special Enforcement Sheriffs scattered in among the citizenry of our fair city? Yep. These are every day folk that drive their car over into the freeway fast lane, set it at some speed, such as the speed limit, or some such nonsense and thereupon they enforce THEIR perception of propriety and the law by holding back a line of 20 cars that are trying to get from here to there in the shortest reasonable time.
These self-appointed sanctimonious mouth-breathers will just cruise along, happy as you please, reveling in the knowledge that they have kept some more careless heathen from going to hell a little sooner than later.

Get out of the way, Pudding Head, or somebody'll help you from the freeway to the glory road.

The idiots stopping at the bottom of an entrance ramp.

How … oh, how did ANYbody ever figure that it is right, correct, proper, safe, or even sane to haul their ass to a halt at the bottom of the acceleration lane, right where the entrance ramp merges into the freeway’s slow lane? They stop! Not a California rolling stop. I mean, they STOP!

I think most of these mental heavyweights have either been killed or arrested because I only see about one a year now. Just a few years back, all of us normal drivers were always on the alert for the ramp stoppers. We just KNEW that today was the day that another one of them was going to toss out the anchor just as we were getting up to merge speed, coming up behind them.

Slowing down to exit.

What? Do you think that because you’re coming up on YOUR exit and that you’re finished with YOUR commute that the rest of us don’t have to keep going to our destinations? How can these people (a majority of drivers) possibly think that it is O.K. to decelerate in the main lanes of traffic, as much as a ¼ mile before their exit ramp.

Exit ramp, a.k.a. Deceleration Ramp, stupid.

EVERY morning, at the northbound Sam Houston exit ramp to Tanner Rd., there is a slowing down and backup because these lemurs are dropping down to 50 mph or less in the right one or two lanes. STOP IT!

Not accelerating in the acceleration lane.

Horse feathers. The price of gasoline isn’t that high that you have to nurse your way up to speed at an acceleration rate slower than a Moped.

These on-ramps are the site of more trick driving than anywhere, I think. The clowns are out and the circus is beset with their antics.

People … hear me … the entrance ramps are an acceleration feature of the freeway. Your State of Texas Professional [chortle] Engineers have designed them so that the average under-powered rice burner can reasonably be up to freeway speed by the time that they get from one end of the ramp to the other. Don’t insult our State Engineers (that’s my job.) Get your butt up to speed by the time you try to cut me off as you merge.

Speed and depth perception challenged.

I suppose these people are more a source of entertainment, rather than a source of irritation or a hazard. But I should mention them here anyway.

Don’t you just love the cretin that you’ve watched for miles as he slowly creeps up to pass you, from the next lane over, and then waits until the very last minute as he comes up on a slower vehicle. Then, way way past the last possible second for the safe execution of a pass (to get in front of you) Mario Andretti steps on the gas and zooms up beside you, only to have to slam on the breaks behind the slow vehicle.

I see this happen more often than I see a clean pass. Who are these people? What is wrong with their sense of speed and their depth perception? I shouldn’t complain. I really do get a good laugh out of these particular Pudding Heads.

Leave that left turn blinker going … forever.

Yeah, I know that it’s a cliché, but these encounters can be fun if you try to guess what the driver looks like before you get up next to them. Or, if you have a passenger, you can make book on which way the blinky fool is going to really move, and when.

Going straight for the 2nd lane when getting on.

I actually love this about people. I’ll bet you didn’t ever notice that virtually 100% of the vehicles entering a multilane freeway will stay in the first lane only as long as they are forced to stay there (by traffic, etc.) Then, the will immediately move to the second lane in from where they entered. (Some may continue to move further and further to the left.)

I use this human foible to my advantage, every morning.

Normally I set my cruise control to exactly 72 mph, based on my GPS speed reading (accurate to within 1/10th kph.) Since the far left, fast lane, keeps speeding up and slowing down, I usually get all the way over to the rightmost lane and stay there. There’s almost nobody there, on the Sam Houston Toll Road.

Sometimes there might be a truck or something in that lane but when they come up towards an entrance ramp, they get over a lane or two, expecting merging cars to be running slowly. What actually happens is that, first, the truck moves over and then every one of the merging cars goes immediately to the 2nd lane or further. If everything is spaced out right, I have clear sailing and never have to switch off the cruise control. Happiness.

Cops pulling people over and impeding the traffic for 15 minutes during rush hour.

I’d say, “Those pigs,” but that wouldn’t be nice. The fact is that Constables (Texas pseudo cops) are allowed up on the freeway so that they can raise money for their politician bosses. They’ll find some dope doing something outrageously stupid – something that will stick in court no matter what. They then get to pull the clod over.

O.K., you have your victim, you have his plate, you have his driver’s license, you probably have his photo on your patrol car video. GET OFF THE DAMN FREEWAY!!!

A cop, with his flashing lights on, will instantly slow down traffic, resulting in a dizzyingly fast traffic backup.

Think (?) about it officer. You’re scared, walking/standing on the roadside with the traffic wizzing past you at 70; you’re really rolling the dice that nobody is going to crash into you or your car during the stop; and, there is nothing that you can do up on the freeway that you cannot do down on the feeder road. So, tell your victim to carefully exit at the next interchange and write him up in a nice safe frontage road location.

See … you’re safe and I’m happy.

Cops conducting a multi-hour “investigation” on the freeways.

Oh, this one sticks in my craw. The poor s.o.b. is dead, damn it, move his ass and all the twisted metal off the stinking freeway NOW!

I’d like to see the statistics that show that all of the photos and measuring and supervisor visits and interviews have EVER made a difference in a conviction or lawsuit. Get real. So many vehicles ran over all of the bits and pieces before you got there that any “evidence” was obliterated. The freakin’ dead guy doesn’t care. Supervisors … do your job and give your people the authority and responsibility to get the highway cleared expeditiously.

Come on. Tell me in a response to this post, what the real advantages are to keeping a roadway closed or restricted for hours and hours while an “investigation” is completed. Go ahead. Try.

Cell phone up, gas pedal up.

Here’s a new anthropological theory: Many Houston drivers have a tendon connecting their right foot to the hand with which they lift their cell phone to their ear. And this makes their bodies work like this …

Phone rings; stupnagel picks it up and raises it to his ear; as the hand raises, the foot is pulled up away from the gas pedal by the magic tendon. Works every time.

Put down the phone and drive you slugs or at least set your cruise control so you don’t get distracted off in your little phone world and drop your speed to a crawl.

Yes, once again, I've finished a rant. Do you think anybody will read this and change their behaviors? Me either.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time to Modify the First Amendment

Ya know … Freedom of the Press was a good idea. The printing press was an integral part of keeping extremes of behavior in check. The operators of those presses that distributed news depended on the acceptance of the people for their livelihood. Tell lies or publish things too off-the-wall and the people wouldn’t buy your publication. You were gone. The survivors were therefore largely honest and straight forward.

Other than the short heyday of Yellow Journalism in the William Randolph Hearst era, the true press had some real integrity and responsibility.

Even up until the mid-1960’s this was still the case. Your job as a journalist was to tell who, what, when, where, why and how; and, your editor would chew your head off if there was an obvious slant to what you wrote.

Then came 1968 and Happy Talk “news” at the ABC broadcast outlets. Professional Journalism was on its way out. The honored profession about which the Freedom of the Press was written would soon be gone – at least in broadcasting and the yellow news outlets.

Here we are, 40 years later, and the Happy Talkers have degenerated to a bunch of chittering morons feeding us masses of garbage sensationalism, crappy grammar, twisted language structure … and now, blatant irresponsibility.

Today’s big story? The two leading “big box” stores, Sam’s and Costco, have put a limit on how much rice you can buy. It’s a crisis!

Isn’t there anyone at least 40 years old and in charge at these “press” media outlets? Is anyone responsible? Remember the society-clobbering, press-created "crisis" of gasoline and toilet paper we endured 35 years ago?

For you younger folk, here’s what I’m talking about:

1973: Members of an oil cartel in the Middle East started cutting back on production and refused to sell oil to the United States. (The reasons are complex.) The popular press hammered and hammered on this story, spinning endless gloom and doom scenarios. One of the clear messages was that at any moment, there might be no more gasoline available.

Suddenly, people were worried that when they got up the next day, there would be no more gasoline for sale. So, if you were down to a half a tank, you darn well knew that you better go fill up.

Do the math. Probably 1/3 of the cars normally ran around with a ¼ of a tank of gas, or less; another third might have had anything from a quarter to three quarters of a tank; and, the final third might have just filled up. Let’s say that this averages to a half tank times several million cars. That was the demand on the U.S. refining and gas distribution infrastructure – and, therefore, that was their capacity.

Suddenly everybody wanted a full tank (times millions of cars.) There wasn’t that much gasoline available.

What happened?

Cars lined up for blocks and blocks, outside every gas station; and, gas stations with no gas. A national plan went into effect wherein you were only able to buy gas on even numbered days if your license plate ended in an even number and vice versa for the odd numbered license plates.

All because of stupid sensationalist and ill-informed “news.”

It was so laughable that the comedians of the day constantly poked fun at the “gas lines” and society’s situation.

Then one night, in December, a super-famous comedian, Johnny Carson, made a joke on his nightly national television show and the public went nuts.

Johnny mockingly told a bit of “news” to his audience. He said that he’d heard that there was going to be a shortage of toilet paper. Pretty funny. Toilet paper fergodsake.

Suddenly, normally sane people were rushing to the grocery store (Costco & Sams didn’t exist yet) buying shopping carts full of toilet paper. By the end of the next afternoon, there was no more toilet paper on the shelves.

The broadcast “news” people jumped right on this “nationwide shortage” and by the end of the second day, there was no more toilet paper in the distribution warehouses.

Carson retracted his joke while the news people pontificated that they were really amazed at how people behaved. About 24 hours later, it was over. But that was a long 3 days in hell.

2008: The news pudding heads are pounding on a rice “shortage.” One of these feces distributors, ooops, I mean news outlets, even had an interview with some old guy who said, “I don’t remember any other food rationing since World War II.”

Screeeeeaaaaaaaam!!!!!! Now they’ve gone from hammering on two stores keeping you from buying more than 100 lbs of rice in any single purchase to, “We’re about to repeat World War II food rationing.”

So let’s get back to my headline.

Since these pin heads cannot seem to police themselves, let’s really go back to World War II. Let’s set up a National Censorship Board to vet what news people want to flood out onto the national psyche. If they’re going to talk about gasoline, toilet paper, or freakin rice … black them out, off the air!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Just in case you thought I was kiddng about insanely irritating and stupid Automatic Attendant Answering Machines:


This has to be one of the "best" I've heard in a long time. If you listen to it, imagine that you are a new customer, with a $700.00 order (which I was) and you need the parts urgently.

Oh, yeah.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Stir Star Awards (Surface Streets)

The sheep all getting into the left lane.

Several weeks ago, TX-DOT closed the freeway flyover from the eastbound I-10 to the northbound Sam Houston Toll Road because of construction. Now, this former flyover traffic must take a new, temporary, exit and run along a 2-lane feeder road, beneath the Sam Houston, wait at a traffic signal light, then left turn to the Sam Houston feeder for about a mile to the first old northbound entrance ramp.

This temporary I-10 exit and the 2-lane feeder back up every morning. The worst time is when I’m usually on it, 7:30am. But there is a really interesting behavior of The Sheep that I get to take advantage of, every day, week after week after week.

Darn near everybody fights to get into the left lane of the feeder: everyone from all of the cars streaming off of I-10 to the many cars riding the feeder road from somewhere back to the west. Yet, the right lane consistently moves far faster. I now make it a game to pick out some distinctive vehicle in the left lane, as soon as I get to the right lane and then I watch that vehicle fade into the distance behind me as I move up and turn left through the traffic light.

Are these left lane people all asleep? They win 1 Stir.

Don’t you dare tell any of The Sheep that you know. I don’t want them coming over into my lane.

Having no idea how big your car is or where your bumper is.

If these people weren’t an occasional danger to me and to themselves, this would only be a 1-star award because they usually are simply funny to watch.

I get a real bang out of seeing “Mom” in her Nissan Armada or Toyota Sequoia (what obscene names) try to inch her way past a “tight” spot in traffic. We other drivers can all see that she has 2 feet clearance on either side of her car but she’s convinced that she’s about to scrape an expensive wheel against a curb or scuff the paint on her precious Land Barge.

It happens with far smaller vehicles too. Some people simply have zero concept of the perimeter extents of their vehicles. What a hoot. Maybe they should go back to the days of little vertical wands mounted on the tips of all 4 bumper corners so that they can get a clue.

When the light turns green, waiting for the car in front to open up a full gap before touching the gas pedal.

This population of ding-dongs thinks that they need to sit, stopped dead, at a traffic signal that has turned green, until the vehicle in front of them has opened up a gap equivalent to the gap that they think is proper for when both vehicles are moving at full speed.

This almost always happens at intersections where the green light is ridiculously short and in the best of times, only a handful of cars will get through on any given light change cycle.

Here’s a driving lesson: Everybody needs to ease away from zero mph and get the hell across the intersection as close as reasonably possible to the slow moving car in front of you so that the maximum number of poor slobs behind you can also get through the light, YOU DUMB APE. Once you’re up a few car lengths beyond the intersection you can ease off and let a little gap open up. Take a deep breath and take a chance.

Leaving a car length or more between you and the car in front when people are trying to squeeze in behind you.

This, for example, is an issue at any intersection where there is near-gridlock or there is a short left turn lane that a lot of people want to get into.

Let’s say that you get a chance to get through an intersection on a green light but there is only room on the other side to fit two more tightly packed cars because of a traffic backup. But you, in all your mental magnificence, stop way back from the car in front of you causing the car behind you to hang in the middle of the intersection, impeding traffic. Why?

This is freakin’ Houston. It’s flat. The chances of some old manual transmission dope rolling backwards into your front end are really slim. Pull the heck up.

To make matters worse, I’ve noticed that a bunch of these Big-Gappers are folk with missing rear view mirrors or intact mirrors that haven’t experienced a glance from your eyeballs in over a year. Wake up.

Poking away from a stop when the light turns green when the green is short.

“Hey,” you say, “This is the same as the guy waiting for a gap to open up before starting to move.” Not quite.

These people aren’t roped into their stupidity by misguided “safe” driving habits. Gaps are important. Moving away from your stop just a little faster than a speeding glacier has nothing to do with safety.

Put your foot in it, Uncle Stupid. Some of us have some place to be. We really don’t want to sit through another one or three 4-minute signal light cycles at Westheimer.

Not moving into the intersection for a left turn.

This antic seems to be uniquely Houston. Maybe it occurs in other parts of Texas and I just don’t know about it.

These darlings have never been taught that when the light is green in front of your simpleton eyes, and you’re going to make a left turn, and there is oncoming traffic, it is perfectly allowable and safe for you to move forward, up to the middle of the intersection so that I can also move forward, behind you, and maybe get through this light, you stupid funk. (Whoops! Bet you thought I was getting nasty there. Fooled ya.)

Not pulling up in an esplanade when making a turn or when crossing.

These mental midgets are similar to the fine folk that don’t know where the back end of their car is, in relation to their butts and the front end of their car (or, more often, pickup trucks.)

They pull into the cross-over area of a boulevard or other esplanaded roadway but they only pull a teensy way in. That leaves a foot or more of their vehicle still sticking out into the active traffic lane. I love this. And, if you honk at them … oh, the indignant looks you’ll get. How dare you. They have every right in the world to block your ass and perhaps get you run into by the car behind you. So there.

Driving in the dusk with no lights on.

What, are you Egyptian or something?**

When’s the last time you had to replace a headlamp or taillight because you used it too much and burned it out? Get real and get the damn lights on.

You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you.

And, here’s something to rant about the good ol’ USA. Why aren’t driving lights mandatory here, 24 hours per day. This safety issue has been so proven that virtually all States finally now require motorcycles to run with driving lights burning in daylight. Uh, what’s the big difference with cars? They’re bigger? So’s your fat head.

** For those of you that have never experienced the sheer terror of driving at night in Egypt … in most (all?) of the cities – even busy Cairo – everyone drives with their headlights OFF. Fast. Aggressively. At first I thought that it was optional. Then I experimented by turning my lights on one night. Oooooo. Egyptian drivers can get really ugly to other drivers that are “blinding” them with those stupid headlights. Unimaginable? Yes, but strangely true.

Driving in the fog with no lights; just parking lights; or high beams.

Yeah, you swami’s get the big 7. Didn’t you at least start out your life with the power to think? Can’t you do exercises for the brain damaged and try to get at least a tiny little bit of grey matter action going?

No lights: Do they glare a little? Well how are you going to like the glare of MY headlights up your nose as I t-bone you in some intersection because I didn’t have a prayer of seeing you coming.

Just parking lights: Saving those headlamps for something? Or maybe you’re part of the, “It glares,” group. See previous.

High beams: Sure it glares, Brain-Boy. It blinds you, just like every driving instructor and publication on earth told you. Now you’re blinded so that you can drive right through that red light and …. see above.

Drifting in lanes during a multi-lane turn.

Multi-lane turning areas are dangerous. Haven’t you figured that out? You really need to pay special attention at EVERY multi-lane turn so that:
a). You don’t accidentally drift into somebody else’s lane; or
b). Somebody else doesn’t drift into your lane.

Helloooooo. (knock knock knock) Anybody home upstairs?

Last week I saw the ultimate in a brainless multi-lane crash. The ornamental babe in the Corolla in front of me turns left, short, from the left-turning lane on the right and the boob in the pickup turns long from the left-turning lane to our left. Wham!!! Fortunately for them, they were both turning at about 5 mph when they hit so there wasn’t more than a few thousand in damage between them.

Big trucks in the #1 lane.

I can’t see. Get the hell out of the fast lane. I don’t care how fast you WANT to go. You shouldn’t be going that fast with all that freakin’ weight on your brakes anyway. Stupid.

Slow drivers in the #1 lane.

I keeeell you. Get out of the fast lane. What? Are you from Japan or the U.K. or something? This is Uhmurika and the right-most lane is where you belong if you want to go 50.

Keeping the Kirkwood exit lane closed for a year.

So … they took the Sam Houston southbound flyover to the westbound I-10 and did 5 years of improvements. Construction everywhere. Lane closures and interruptions to traffic flow everywhere. We went from 2 lousy lanes to ………… uh, 2 lousy lanes.

Yeah, the flyover was totally closed for 6 months while they tore the old one out and put up the new one. And they, in their infinite wisdom, gave us zero new capacity.

But the best came later.

They did construct an extra exit lane for the Kirkwood exit from westbound I-10. Two lanes. Cool. And one of those two lines up with the right-most lane of the new flyover. Think about it! I can zoom over the big flyover (except in rush hour, when I creep over the flyover) and dash right down the new 2nd exit lane to home – NOT.

TX-DOT has not snapped to the idea of opening the new 2nd lane. The lane that has been finished for almost a year now. (Even the feeder road lanes have been re-striped to accommodate the new 2nd exit traffic.) The lane that has collected an inch of dirt and trash just building up as we longingly look over there. The lane that causes the Big Pinch at the bottom of the flyover because the big orange barrels are set across the front of the new lane.

What’s the matter with your skulls at TX-DOT?

Construction workers crossing/closing/blocking lanes during rush hour.

Who the heck writes the TX-DOT contracts. Fire that dolt.

Other States don’t allow disruptive work on freeways or main surface streets during rush hours. Even the City of Houston is smart enough to ban permit loads from 610 during the rush hours.

Dummkopfs, it’s really simple to write into the highway construction contracts that they either work at night or that they cannot move equipment or otherwise cause disruptions of the active traffic lanes during rush hours. Is this really that hard to understand? Don’t you read our trade journals or go to road engineering conferences?

Oh. Yeah. I assumed somebody at TX-DOT could read. Sorry.

Pulling out from a side street when oncoming cars are 100 feet away.

Here’s a Houston goody for you. This is a true story.

Years ago, I saw my 20 year old secretary pull out from our parking lot directly into the path of an oncoming truck. I sucked wind, bracing for the inevitable crash, but the truck managed to lock ‘em up and missed her “by that much.”

The next day I asked her about it. Her honest to god response was, “Well, my daddy taught me that it’s my right to just pull out. He says that ‘they’ll stop.’ “

That girl has grown up now and has her own kids that are driving age. I see them and their generation all the time. And they’ve learned the tricks of Houston driving from their parents – and learned them well. They know you’ll stop.

Or at least we all better hope you do.

If you’re going to joy ride, go do it somewhere you won’t be impeding traffic.

I can’t be clever or droll with these turds.

Listen up, Feces-Face. Just stay off the busier roads and stay away from me. Go out into the country and knock yourself out, tooting along and sniffing the pollen in the air.

Doing your makeup while you’re driving to work.

I hope you poke your eye out.

How can you people have that much to talk about?

Now, goddamnit, once upon a time, I was a pretty important dude, and I had dozens of employees clamoring for my opinion or approval or whatever. I had a cell phone back then. And a radio car phone before that. And I NEVER had to have the blippin damn phone up to my bleepin damn ear all the flukin time!

What are you people talking about? Who are you talking to? Whatsamatter with you?

Oh, I know … it’s 6am here and you’re getting a last quick call into your office in Bahrain before they go home for the day. Yeah, right, you look like you have an office in Bahrain.

Turn your “music” down.

Here you go kids. The old bastard rags on your tunes and your “rights.”

You can’t shit a turd. I played my music loud when I was your age. I did it to piss off “the man.” And I knew damn well that it wasn’t some god-given right. So do you.

But here’s the bad news, stupid.

We only had little tiny, tinny car radios that put out, oh, maybe 10 watts of big booming power. So when we “cranked ‘er up” all we got for our efforts were dirty looks from Old Man Peterson when we went by his hardware store. There wasn’t enough power to do anything permanently damaging to our ear bones.

You, on the other hand, are going to be deaf, Dude. Hee hee. Stone Cold Steven Deaf.

And that, my little bubbas, is what I tell myself every time I hear your boom boom boom shaking my car as you roll up behind me at the traffic light. I laugh maniacally to myself and gleefully form a mental picture of your future wherein you miserably suffer along, unable to hear your wife, your grandchildren, the television or the really cool sound effects of your latest 6-dimensional VR game.

Mmwah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaa!!!!!

P.S.: Hearing aids can’t fix that kind of deafness, Slick. Giggle.

Sit up, jerk.

What cultural elements caused certain ethnicities to think that it is cool to drive along “Doing the Lean”? You look so stupid. We know you ain’t tough. Same goes for “The Slouch” where you drive along like some 90 year old woman, with your nose just barely up to the steering wheel.

But, really, don’t stop. You brighten up my day with your comedy. Thank you.

Pull over for emergency vehicles.

This one totally caught me by surprise. I didn’t think that there was any culture or any location on Earth that didn’t know that the rule (and the undeniable right thing to do) is to pull over to the right and stop your vehicle when you become aware that an emergency vehicle is approaching with lights and siren going.

In Houston almost every time I encounter an emergency vehicle answering a call, I also am sure to encounter at least one hump head that seems either confused as to what to do or completely ignores the emergency.

I really think that the cops should put down their donuts and travel behind every moving emergency vehicle and nail these chigüirotos to the wall. In short order, word would get out and the scofflaws would stop whereas the truly stupid would learn the rules of life.

Hey, old guy, do you know how ridiculous you look in that Corvette?

Clue: If you’re over 50, do not buy a Corvette, WRX, Evo, or any non-classic road sports car. You look ridiculous driving it.

Here’s what you’re thinking (please correct me if I’m wrong): “Oooo, this car makes me look so studly and some gorgeous babe is going to come on to me at the next traffic light!”

Here’s what everyone that sees you is really thinking: “Oooo, what a sad, pitiful old person that can’t let go of his youth and is out trolling like some old lecher. I wonder how he can treat his wife like that.”

If you can’t turn your head & torso enough to look behind yourself, stop driving.

Oh, yeah, here I go. The AARP’ers are going to go for my throat.

Dear Driver, if you cannot turn your damn torso and neck far enough around to look behind your car:
a). Never put the car into reverse; or,
b). Quit driving, damn you.

Chariot wheels or “Twenny Foh Dees”.

Oooo. Let’s get some. Or 26’s. Or 28’s. Oh, fluk, just go for foaties.

Well, that's it for today, campers. Get on back here in a day or two and I'll reward you with more Pudding Head ratings in the greater metro Houston area!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Distraction

I was busy writing my first Stir Star Drivers aricle when I got distracted by a pet peeve. Soon I was going on and on about a little tiny sub-article of this bigger stupid drivers topic. Well, the only solution is to break this topic out from the regular Pudding Heads rants and give it a life of its own.

Disclaimer: I normally won't descend to the depths of name calling, swearing or red herring. Below, I depart from this.

Here goes.

The first (perhaps only, ever) 4-stir Pudding Head Award (Kind of like a 4-Star General of Sub-Intellect) goes to ...

Vehicles still sporting W-04 stickers

Where to begin? I guess I should start out with a

WARNING: The following rant is NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN or sensitive psyche folk; so, do NOT continue if you are under 18 years of age or are offended by raw cussing.


Are you gone yet?


The cussing follows immediately below:

Scrape that fucking W-04 sticker off your fucking car you stupid stupid stupid fuck.

In 2000, you are forgiven. I even fell for the George W campaign that year. My reasoning was: kind of a dummy; but, seems like a good person; and, he’s surrounded by really experienced people; and, look at the alternative (ack!)

But, by 2004, you were still supporting the guy? Were you living in the deepest reaches of the Congo or somewhere like a Patagonian mountain summit? Even though Kerry was a sickening alternate choice, you still should have been on board with the ABB (Anybody But Bush) movement. O.K., I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you worked for the Republican Party or you were subject to some peer pressure.

Now, it is 2008 people. “W” is now ready to assume the role of probably the worst post-agricultural-age former president of all. The guy is now subject to open evaluation and the ledger doesn’t look good:

• W is public proof that you can college educate a chimpanzee; and, that a masters degree from one of the most prestigious business schools doesn’t help at all.
• This is a super-rich frat-boy prankster that never grew up. He thinks life is fun. His handlers know better. They are dancing their clown in front of your eyes so that you can’t see what they’ve done or wanted to do. (Even they couldn’t pull off all of their plans. See the next bullet.)
• The economy has been in a train wreck and might be declared “totaled.”
• Pollution is worse and we now have had 8 more years of doing nothing about it.
• Even Monkey-Boy has recently admitted that perhaps he may have been mistaken about global warming. Maybe he should have “believed” sooner and started on a road to using his power to mitigate the problem.
• Gasoline at $4.00?!? Oops. [giggle] Darn! [tee hee] Should have done something. [guffaw]
• We now know the answer to the question, “How in the world can people spend hundreds of millions of dollars to win a job (the presidency) that only pays $400,000.00 per year?” Answer: $120.00 per barrel oil. Geez. Do the math. When Weenie-Boy took office, the price was under $35.
• We’re engaged in a piggy-bank-busting war in Afghanistan so that WE can bring “freedom” and “democracy” to these people. You shit head. This “country” has been the site of occupation, war, disputes and every other sort of human conflict since at least 2000 … BCE! Now YOU are going to swish in and “fix” things. Oh, that’s right, you were a business major, not a history major.
• We’re engaged in a war in Iraq (and, for all intents and purposes, Iran) which is also breaking the bank here at home. Sure, sure, their dictator was a very bad guy. But, given an opportunity for an open and honest expression of their inner feelings no Iraqi would vote for the USA to be their White Knight. We and our influences are NOT wanted there. We’re only the terrible tasting medicine that they’ve swallowed to get rid of a near-fatal disease. Now they're trying to figure out how to take what's left of that medicine and pour it down the drain. Get out. Now!
• Ask a European or a citizen of any different country what the buzz is on their country’s streets about “W”. In my travels, I’ve never once heard a complimentary remark about Mr. President. We’re either the laughingstock of the world or, at best, we have their pity.

Oh, I’m tired of writing about this topic. This is beyond being stupid. I’ve got myself worked up and my true feelings are that this is evil. It’s not funny. Not just richer people (wink wink, nudge nudge) plotting against the poor stupid sheep. This presidency has simply been the beginning of the end. Take a good hard look at the Brits. That’s you, USA, in another 20 years. It took the Brits two world wars and 60+ more years to get into their situation. You’re doing it in a single generation. Buh bye.

Old W-04 stickers make me want to get violent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pudding Heads

While my kids were growing up, I tried to not use language that was too overtly mean, towards other people. (Reading this, they'll all be laughing. They know that as I grew older, I got weaker and weaker in my resolve and some pretty colorful language issued forth from my yap.)

But back when I was a bit under control, in the kid's presence, I called people of questionable smarts "Pudding Heads."

After awhile, I thought that I needed to assign degrees of Pudding Headed-ness, so thus began the classification of "Stirs".

While making a stirring motion over my head, as if I were swishing my brains with a long wooden spoon, I'd say, "Now, there's a 3-stir Pudding Head." They'd laugh. I was then incited to expand on my "comedy" success.

Soon, it got to the point that they all responded to me simply, wordlessly, making the stirring motion. Or, without any motion at all, I'd say, "Two stir!" They'd all know what I meant.

As they grew into adults and we'd be together, I'd get a real laugh watching one of them evaluating a particularly bone-head move on the part of someone by saying, "Dad ... a 3-stir."

Pretty much, we used this code:

1 stir -- not the brightest bulb but amusing to watch.

2 stir -- a demonstrably dumb individual.

3 stir -- award winning stupid.

Then, you might as well take the leap. If you're beyond "award winning stupid," we jump directly to ...

7 stir -- ignorant, stupid, dumb? ... nah, they're beyond description. Why are they breathing my air?

Stay tuned. I'll soon be ranting about some of my favorite people (Houston drivers) and awarding Stir-Stars to their various performances.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Computer Guru

So I'm sitting there in my office, up to my derriere in dinosaurs, when Oso comes in and says, "Hey, can you look at my computer? The screen says that I have a virus and to 'click here'. "

"Don't click!" I snapped.

I went over to look at his laptop and sure enough, there was the nasty little popup that wants you to "click here for a free virus scan," whereupon you get infected beyond belief. But, since it was still up on the screen, I thought that it meant that Oso had not clicked it.

I shut the machine down and did my "twenty-count" to be sure the RAM was bled off, then booted up normally. Bang, there was the message back. Crap.

I ran the high end Trend Office Scan and it popped up with "troj_vundo.bwn" identified as the infection culprit. Moving over to my laptop, I went up on the Trend website, and there was a pile of information about the "vundo" family with detailed instructions about what to do to get rid of it. So I printed out the main instructions and went back to Oso's machine.

I was just getting started when Ricochet walks up behind me and says, "Hey, whatcha doin?"

"Getting rid of a virus on Oso's computer," I mumbled, trying not to let any conversation get started.

Just then the virus popup came up again trying to get somebody to "click here." Ricochet reaches over my shoulder and grabs the mouse, moving the cursor toward the "click here" button. I batted his hand away and said (maybe shouted), "NO! Don't click that ... it's part of the virus."

He let go and just stood there sulking.

I had to go back to my printer in the next room to pick up the rest of the sheets giving instructions on how to get rid of "vundo." The phone rang, I picked it up, and was tied up on a call for a couple of minutes. Too long.

Just as I stood up to go back into Oso's office, I heard Ricochet gleefully shout, "There! I got it!"

"What did you get?" I asked, walking up.

"I'm deleting all these files in System 32 that have fresh time stamps on them. Those are the virus files."

My heart nearly stopped. There sat Ric, clickity-clicking on critical Sys file after file and slapping the delete button as fast as he could.

I must tell you here -- those of you who are Windows XP savvy -- that the 2nd thing on the Trend list of How To Get Rid of Vundo is to disable Restore. Our only possible salvation from Ricochet's onslaught would be (if Windows could even still boot,) that we might have been able to do a Restore and everything would have been O.K.

But, such was not to be. Restore was disabled.

"How do you know that those time stamps are the virus actions?" I asked.

"Don't worry, they are," he said, madly clicking files into oblivion.

I gulped deeply, turned on my heel and walked out. Packed up my stuff (it was now after 5pm) and headed home. Why bother getting upset this late in the day?

Back in my office the next morning, Oso poked his head in the door and said, "Where's my computer?"

"Don't know," quoth I, "Last I saw it, Ricochet was working on it."

Oso's eyes grew as big as saucers. He knew from past experience that this probably meant that he wouldn't be seeing his precious laptop any time soon -- at least not working anyway.

The day wore on a bit and Ric shouted from his office, "Hey doctor (my nickname, created by Ric) come and look at this!"

I reluctantly went to his office and there was Ric with Oso's laptop, running Spy Doctor (an adware detector ... NOT a virus detector/repair package.) "Look, I've already found over 1,300 things! I'll have this fixed in no time."

A grunted "Uhn" was about all I could muster as I watched him detecting cookies and adware remnants all over the place. I left and went back to my cage.

Hours passed and then I heard Ric crying out, "Darn thing [clickity, clickity, click ... beep], darn it [click ... beep] ... oh, hey, doctor," he shouted down the hall at me, "I can't delete this darn dll file."

I gave him a clue, shouting back, "You'll probably have to do it in 'cmd'." No answer.

Five minutes later, "This won't even delete in 'command'." I was stunned that he knew how to get to the command prompt. I got up and went to his office because I needed a little amusement at this stage of my day.

There was Sir Ricochet, seated in front of Oso's laptop and, sure enough, he had the little DOS window showing.

Now I don't mean to brag or anything, but I've been kicking around PC's for so long that I experienced the day when everything you typed into a computer had to be preceded and succeeded by some type of DOS command. Therefore, I was pretty good at it. Watching Ric hammer away on the keyboard made me question the state of my memory. I'd sure never seen any command lines like that, and ...

[beep] "XXXX is not recognized as an internal or external command."

[beep] "XXXX is not recognized as an int" -- well, you get the picture. Ric was just making stuff up as he went. He obviously knew a few of the old DOS commands but he sure was flinging a lot of pooh along with them.

I went to lunch.

Came back. Ricochet was still messing with the laptop. [beep]

"Hey, doctor, I'm running that little (?) DOS program that they say will fix this. It'll either fix it or it'll reformat it."

Well, he at least had that right. I'd bet anything that Oso's laptop is going to the I.T. Department for reformatting and reloading of all his software.

Hope he had a recent file backup.

[beep] It's 1:30 in the afternoon and Ric is still wackin' the keys.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Do companies ever think to call themselves and listen to their automated attendant systems? Do they ever pretend that they are outsiders or first time customers? Do they have a clue how maddening and/or downright STUPID their systems are?

Today, I had one that droned on with:

"This is the xxxxx corporation automatic operator." Really? I couldn't tell. The crappy simu-voice really had me fooled.

"If you know your party's extension, you may dial it at any time." No kidding? Ya think that if I know somebody's extension that I've probably had quite a bit of contact with your company and probably had to listen to your stupid messages so many times that I either know that I can dial an extension right away or I've memorized the "press or say" numbers to every department? Now you've wasted your potential new customer's time with a stupid, meaningless admission that you're too cheap to hire a phone receptionist and that they can go ahead and dial extensions if they know them. They don't. Don't ask.

"For a list of employees' extensions, using their last names, press or say 2." I don't know anybody's name at your damn company, ya dolt. Why do I want to be put through all of this before I find out how to get a price or to place an order?

Today, one of these technological marvels plodded on through choices 1 - 7, telling me the single digit button to push to access every department in the business EXCEPT sales! Finally, the machine after a notable pause said, "For other assistance (?!?) press zero."


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Just Another Day

Sometimes, I just don't get it.

I was all packed up and standing in my office doorway, turning out the lights, when Stilt came bursting in from the shop.

"How are we supposed to unload these big crates from Riverside Coating?"

"Riv-Tech Coating?" I queried, only half intersted.

"There's a hot shot driver here with a trailer and there are four huge crates on it and he says they're for us from the coating company but we didn't take anything like that to the coater and I don't think we can lift them and what should we do?"

He actually said all of that with one breath.

"Well," I said, "we're not supposed to be getting any crates from Riv-Tech or anybody. We only have those hose reels and that hydraulic unit out for coating."

Stilt argued, "But our name is on his paperwork!"

With a deep sigh I let go of my briefcase handle and walked out the shop door and into the back.

There they were alright. Three pretty good sized wooden crates, about the size of the biggest entertainment center you've ever dreamed of, and a fourth one big enough and long enough to contain a pretty scary sized missle. Aw geez.

The hot shot driver was busy undoing all of the many cinching straps holding down the crates. He had every intention of dumping those babies in our parking lot.

A quick inspection of the paperwork showed that all he had was a work order from his own trucking company, with our name as the "Ship To" but no name in the "Shipper" section of the order.

"Those crates aren't ours," I said.

"Yes they are," said the driver.

"N-O ... T-H-E-Y'-R-E ... N-O-T," I declared in my best politically correct but firm voice, biting off each word. "Where did you get them?"

"Right where your guy told me to get them ... Riverside Coating."

"Riv-Tech Coating," I corrected.

By this time the entire remaining late crew was standing around, including the Shop Foreman, Oso. "I told him right where to go," said our Foreman.

"Yeah. He told me right where to go," repeated the driver. "And I went to Riverside Coating and they told me that these crates were the shipment and here they are."

"Riv-Tech Coa ... oh ... no." The light had flashed on in my thick skull.

Earlier that day, there had been a Requisition form on my desk, from our Manager, Tree-Tall, that said to issue a Purchase Order to "Riverside Coating". I didn't remember any such name as a vendor so I went into the database and searched. Nope. No Riverside. On a hunch, I searched just "Ri," and Riv-Tech's name popped up. I took the paper down the hall to Tree's office and asked him if maybe he meant "Riv-Tech".

"Yeah, Riv-Tech ... Riverside ... whatever," he brusqued.

I figured that there was no point making a big deal out of the names because "it was just paperwork" for heavens sake. So I entered the purchase order, phoned the Riv-Tech people to get the price (they knew all about the coating job) and forgot about the whole thing.

So, here I was, after hours, with a truck & trailer in my parking lot, carrying probably really valuable goods which the real owner was probably figuring were hijacked, by now.

I called Tree. "No. Yeah. Riverside. I mean Riv-Tech. Whatever. You know ... the place we send all of our stuff for coating," he stuttered. (We use several different coating sub-contractors -- but none of them have "Riverside" in their name.) "Oso called me a few minutes ago and told me what was going on, so I just talked to Walter, the owner of Riv-Tech, and he says that our stuff is still sitting over there in his yard. Tell the driver to take those crates back to wherever he got them from."

As I hung up, the driver also hung up and said that his dispatcher said that those crates belonged to us and to drop them off.

Oso piped up, "I know what happened! I told the dispatcher to have this driver go over to just north of Jennings Road on West Fork and the coater was the first big building that he'd come to, Riverside Coating. Tree told me Riverside Coating. I'm sure of it."

"Yeah," said the driver, "that's exactly what I was told ... just north of Jennings and get a load at Riverside Coating. I asked them for paperwork or a waybill or sumpin and they told me that they don't use no paperwork."

Oh cripes.

"Fine," I said, "you went to some place named Riverside Coating and picked up somebody's crates with no paperwork. Take these crates back to wherever that place is, give them back -- then go to Riv-Tech Coating and pick up our shipment." Snarlingly, the driver started banding the crates back down.

Satisfied that the Great Mystery had been solved, I left for home.

First thing the next morning, I passed Tree in the hallway, and he said, "Hey, I'm glad to see that we got our stuff from Riverside."

"Yeah," I said, "I'm glad too."