A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A forced sabbatical. . .

. . .has kept me away from the blog, and the internet in general, lately. It seems my motherboard finally gave up the ghost. It was a good one for the few years I had it, despite being a virtual antique when I got it. But there's only so much you can get out of a 650 MHz AMD, and I got plenty. It was time to move on. (I saved a picture of it [GRAPHIC AUTOPSY PHOTO!] -- after harvesting what useful organs I could salvage -- as a demonstration of its age and condition.)

Now, I'm the proud owner of a spanking-new Gigabyte Technology K8 Triton AGP8X/DDR 400 with a 64-bit AMD Athlon 2800, 512 MB of DDR PC 3200 RAM, and a 400-watt power supply in a White Steel case. It's not the best thing going by any stretch, but it more than fulfills my computing requirements, and I couldn't be happier with it. It took me a while, but I'm no longer up on blocks in the information super front yard. Getting up and running took a little work and a night's sleep, but I finally prevailed in getting the thing to recognize my hard drive, and was back on the internet after about an hour of rage and confusion -- which was finally soothed when I realized that I had disconnected my DSL modem from the wall in the cleaning fury I had unleashed upon my home in my computer's absence. Speaking of which. . .

After living in my home for nearly a year, I finally gave it the ceiling-to-floor cleaning it needed. This was precipitated in part by an unexpected guest who dropped by for a visit wherein I spent much of the time thinking to myself, "This person must suspect I have a deep freeze full of hapless victims." I resolved at that moment that I would begin scouring at my very next opportunity -- a resolution I had made countless times before, but nevertheless. . .

I suddenly found myself with ample time and no excuses. I didn't even have an antenna hooked to my TV to distract me. So, there I was, looking at my surroundings, mildly disgusted. I grabbed my car keys and headed out the door. Next stop: Dollar General Store. While there, I stocked up on every kind of cleaning supply you can imagine (except window cleaner, which I had to go back for the next day), and grabbed some snacks to munch on during intermissions to fend off the temptation to drive to Hardee's. Next morning at 7:00, I started my first load of laundry and exhumed the vacuum cleaner from its sarcophagus. But, first, I had to pick up all the stuff that was lying in the path of the vacuum cleaner.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't live in filth. It's just that, in my heart of hearts, I'm a slob. I don't wallow in filth so much as shuffle through clutter. And I'm not a packrat. I have very little difficulty in parting with things. It's discarding them that's so vexing. Don't ask me why, but it just never occurs to me that when I'm done with a magazine or newspaper, I should throw it away. There's something in me that says "set it aside for now." And then there's something else inside me that says, " 'for now' means 'God-knows-when.' " I basically amass things that have outlived their usefulness -- just like my computer. In fact, it's still sitting on the table that I set up for The Cheat to lounge around on and look out the window. He doesn't mind. He rather enjoys the box I brought home from the grocery store a week ago and haven't thrown away. But, I can't throw it away now. He's laid claim to it, and it keeps him out of my lap when I'm trying to write.

So, now I'm back online with a new computer. I have a clean house, and lots of cleaning supplies. I've even got both the Swiffer duster and wet mop, to make cleaning a breeze. Oh, and I'm the proud owner of a 1992 Honda Accord, with 201,500-odd miles on it. Yeah, it's an oldie, with a lot of miles on it. But there's a story.

For the previous six-to-eight weeks, my 1995 Chevy Blazer had been getting horrible -- I mean horrible gas mileage. It was costing me at least $40 a week to get back and forth to work and do the usual, basic runs that I have to do while I'm there. The drive to and from work is about 30 minutes, in moderate morning traffic. Then, one day, the fuel pump went out. So, I went and bought a new one, along with a basic tune-up kit -- plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotor button, etc. I also got a new thermostat (it was running too cool), and MAP sensor. I drove my niece's car to work for about a week, while I was working on the Blazer, with the help of my brother, who is a real-live, gen-yu-wine mechanic. Driving that little Dodge Colt felt like a boot being lifted from my neck every time I drove past a gas station.

Something kept telling me that I ought to start looking for another car, and that I ought to look for one with decent gas mileage. It was nagging at me. The Blazer, once I finally got it back on the road, was still running like Jed Clampett's truck -- only noisier. I knew I needed to get something soon, or I was going to find myself stranded. So, I started looking around. I found several cars that were interesting, but nothing really struck me as within my price range, economical, and dependable. Then, one day while I was going to pay the insurance on the Blazer, I passed a K-Mart where someone had parked a car for sale, and I noticed it was a Honda. It was in great shape, though with a few minor cosmetic defects -- nothing that stands out until closer inspection, though.

I stopped and looked at it, and noticed, while it had a lot of miles it was very clean. The person had taken great care of it, regardless of the dings and paint chips. And they were asking $1600. I wrote down the VIN and called the number on the sign to ask them about it. They gave me the history, and gushed over how good a car it had been, and how they really hated to part with it, but they had two other vehicles, and didn't want it to just sit and rot in the driveway. After going to the bank and taking out a loan the next day for the amount they were asking, and calling the insurance company to tell them to add it to my policy, I called them again the next night and asked them if they would take $1300 for it. "No," was the immediate and emphatic answer. I thought for an instant, and said, "Well, OK. Just meet me at the car with the keys and the title -- I've already got the title transfer paperwork and a notary standing by." (It's pretty handy to work at a law firm across the street from the courthouse.)

So, I made my way toward K-Mart, calling my sister and her boyfriend to meet me there so someone could drive the Blazer home. Without even having driven the car, I handed them the money for it, had them sign the notarized papers, got the title, and the keys. The young woman (who came with her husband and two children) actually choked up as she climbed into the car she had gotten which caused her to get rid of the Honda. It was a Ford Explorer, and I can't help thinking she's going to be kicking herself in the ass in about a year.

So, off I went -- now a two-car owner. I in my Honda, my sister in her car, and her boyfriend in my Blazer were all going to meet up at my place. My sister and I arrived first. We stood outside for a few minutes, waiting for her boyfriend to arrive before going in. We waited a few minutes longer. He didn't show up. She thought he had been right behind us when we headed out, and he hadn't said anything about stopping anywhere. She said, "I wonder where he went?" I said, "Hell, he's probably on the side of the road, somewhere." So, off she went. About three miles from my house, she saw flashing lights on the other side of the four-lane highway, and turned around. It was my Blazer.

Seems it gave up the ghost, just like my motherboard. The diagnosis -- well, I've been told it sounds like the crank is broken in half, and smells like it's pouring gasoline onto the floor when you try to run the engine. I was a two-car owner for about 30 minutes.

I'm pretty certain I can get at least another 200,000 miles out of the Honda. It runs almost as smoothly as you'd expect it to the day after it rolled off the line. There is a tiny vibration, but nowhere near what one would expect out of a car that old and with that many miles on it. And, they're legendary for their durability and dependability. I wouldn't hesitate to take it across the country after a check-up. Also, it has a working CD player -- something the Blazer sorely lacked.

Sometimes, you just have to go with your impulses.

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