Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Stop Complaining About Dell's Tech Support!

I got through Christmas, but here's a taste of what I have to put up with.

Cousin Jan: "Erica, you know computers. What kind should I get?"
Me: "Uh, don't know. What will you be doing with it?"
Cousin Jan: "Just writing resume's, going on the internet."
Me: "Okay. No high-end games or anything like that?"
Cousin Jan: "No. No, I just need something simple. Cheap."
Me: "Okay, well you can get just about anything then. Check out Dell, they're good. As long as you've heard of the brand you're usually okay."

Then everyone jumps in and starts talking about the bad experiences that they, their co-worker, or their dog had with Dell tech support.

Cousin Frank: "Yeah, every time I call them up I get some dot-head on the phone. I ask over and over for someone who speaks english, but I guess they can't understand me so I just hang up."

Cousin Debbie: "I've called them several times and when I hear that accent I ask for someone who speaks english. They're usually very suprised, but I don't give up until someone who speaks english comes to talk to me."

I agree, it can be frustrating, but I call Dell tech support all the time as part of my job, and although I have to ask them to repeat themselves once in awhile, I've gotten my issue resolved 95% of the time. There have been times, yes, when the issue wasn't resolved or took much more effort on my part than it should have. For instance, once, I called about a bad power supply, and the tech told me to "open it up and see if there are any loose wires". I about hit the floor. I assume he thought I was calling the computer itself a "power supply", but if I had "opened up" the REAL power supply I could have easily electrocuted myself! But, this is one problem in several hundred phone calls in my carreer.

See, the real problem (if there is one) lies with you -the consumer. Everyone wants as good a computer as they can get for as cheap as they can get it. No matter who you pick these days, you're tech support will be outsourced overseas because any computer company that doesn't do that can't compete anymore. So shut up! You've got that extra $100 in your pocket -here's where you pay for it (with time). If you want better support, but still want a cheap computer check your local (or smaller chain) computer stores. There's a chain by us (Microcenter) who had a computer, monitor, and printer combo on sale for $350 right before Christmas. Even Dell can't beat that! The only downside might be that you'll have to bring the computer in for repair, you may not get phone support (or it might not be 24 hour), and if they go out of business before your warranty is up you're out of luck.

Remember: Treat people the way you'd like to be treated. Why resort to hate? (Do you know a second language well enough to work tech support for another country?)

Friday, December 17, 2004


It's almost over. 8 days left. What's that -Lords-A-Leapin'? Blah...

December. A month of frantic shopping. Middle-aged woman elbowing eachother to get first grabs at the "Tickle-Me-Elmo" gift of the year while "Silent Night" plays softly in the background. What a shitty holiday. Everything about it pisses me off...

"CRIST-mas": It's supposed to be a Christian holiday, and the religious get all upset when someone calls it "X-Mas". "Don't take the CHRIST out of Christmas" they say. Well, what about Christmas is Christian? Okay, I'll give you the plastic manger scenes, but what else? Santa? Christmas trees? Animated reindeer displays in people's front yards? I think not.

But that's not my biggest complaint. In fact, if it went back to being a religious holiday I'd be happy to be off the hook. No, my biggest issue about X-Mas -it's all about greed.

Growing up my brother and I were always asked to make lists of what we wanted for X-Mas. I'm sure others did that as well (ala Santa asking you what you want for X-Mas). But it never stopped. Every year my parents, brother, and Grandma ask me what I want for X-Mas. I oblige and make a list -usually on Amazon these days. My boyfriend thinks this is really weird. He says that a list shouldn't be needed. You buy gifts for those close to you, and you should therefore know what they want. But, I see the list thing a little differently. ..

See, I don't get lists from my Parents, my Grandma, or my boyfriend (usually). -I'm left to figure it out for myself. That means countless hours thinking about what to get them, browsing stores online, or as a last act of despiration -walking the malls. All the while I feel stressed. Will they like this? What if they want to return it? The end result is a month's worth of frantic shopping and me totally hating "Christmas".

So, I make my loved ones a list. I consider it one of the bests gifts I can give them. The ability to quickly cross me off of their lists. Ed doesn't seem to understand that.

But, Ed has 2 people to shop for. His Mom, and me. I don't know what he got me, but I drove him to the mall, picked out his Mom's gift, AND PAID FOR IT. -He loves Christmas and can't see why I hate it so much...

Of course, every year I try to convince my Mom to try to celebrate X-Mas without gifts. It never works. "Grandma gets such joy out of seeing you open your presents." She says. Funny. For the last (what?) 10 years or so my Mom's been doing all of my Grandma's shopping as well as her own. So, my Grandma does nothing but actually pay for the gifts.

And that's another thing. I have enough money to buy whatever I want. My Grandma doesn't have enough money to cover the prescription medications that she needs each month. Why is she spending $200 or more on my brother and I at Christmast time? I'd rather she spent the money on her meds so she'd feel better and continue to be as active as possible for as long as possible, etc.

It's all just so stupid. I can see presents for kids, but we really need to cut out the presents for adults. Or maybe turn gift-giving into an annonomous thing -send gifts to whoever you want to without need for recognition -and no one would feel obligated to give a gift. It'd be more "Christian"! -I know, it'll never work. It all just sickens me.

Friday, November 12, 2004

About Religion...

I got a nicer response to my "Combat Boots" post than I may have expected:

That post (Your Mama Wears Combat Boots) was really more of a rant, so I figured I'd take time to explain my feelings toward religion...

First of all, I like what this person had to say. They have demonstrated that not all Christians are closed-minded and preachy. I also thank this person for pointing out that if my parents talk to me about church, they're doing so with good intentions. Keeping that in mind will no doubt temper my reaction if they do decide to talk to me.

But, (there had to be a "but") I clicked on the link "From The Morning"'s page that said we need a little more "Billy Graham", and on that page I found this:

Here's an excerpt:
During a conversation, you can simply ask someone, "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" Then follow with, "Do you think you've kept the Ten Commandments?" Then go through each one:

"Have you ever lied? Stolen anything? Taken God's name in vain? Looked with lust? If so, then by your own admission, you are a lying thief and a blasphemous adulterer at heart. So on the Day of Judgment, if God gives you justice, you won't go to heaven but to hell."
Now, here's one of my most major problems with organized religion. Why isn't it good enough to have faith yourself? Why the need to convert others? A friend of mine in High School was Baptist and kinda tricked me into going to a "church function" that ended up being a "Soul Saving Event" that had us in small groups discussing religion, then with the congregation being pressured to be baptized there on the spot, and finally -those who weren't baptized were pressured (one on one) into taking an oath swearing we believed in Jesus, etc. I don't remember the specifics of the oath, but I do remember that as I repeated it I knew I didn't believe what I was saying and that it was likely I'd break the promise to God. I still regret giving in to them -swearing to God (any God) is not something I take lightly...

I know that the reason so many try to convert others is to "save" them. -The idea being that those who don't follow the "right" religion will be punished after death (or at least won't reep the rewards of Heaven). But many different religions say the same thing, and all religions think that theirs is the "right one". The fact is that what religion a person is depends greatly on what their parents believed. And, like I said in the "Combat Boots" post, what about those who've never even heard of Jesus? I don't understand how a "just God" would punish (or not reward) someone because of something that the person could not control. -I mean, why is it not enough for people to obey the morality laws of Christianity without praying to Jesus or going to church? Why is it not enough to respect your fellow humans, regret the (minor) bad things you've done, and do good deeds whenever you can? Why must God hear us speak His name? Why is it so imparitive that we all go to church to praise Him every Sunday? Is it an ego thing or what?

Okay, I've "gone off" again. From The Morning is right -I am bitter about religion, and I'm sure it has a lot to do with my exposure to it. I try to take a lesson from Buddism and let others believe what works for them -in the end, most religions share the same morality and ideals anyway, so it doesn't really matter who you pray to. But, if you tell me that I'll be punished because I call God by the wrong name when I pray -prepare for me to go off!

Back to my parents... This change for them seems to be a positive one, so I'm trying to go along with it. I wish nothing but the best for them, and will do my best to support their religious decisions as long as they respect mine. Also, the more I've thought about this, the more I realized that this change shouldn't suprise me so much -they've always had faith, just not the "going-to-church" kind...

Firt of all, I was baptized when I was an infant. At that time my parents were going to church regularly. They stopped shortly after my baptisim, and I recall them citing the church's hunger for more and more money as the reason they stopped going. Nevertheless, when I was little my Mom taught me that there is a God up there and that he cares about the choices I make. Good choices, like helping those in need, are rewarded and bad choices, like stealing or lying, are punished. Before kindergarden my Mom would kneel at my bedside with me each night and lead me in prayer before I went to sleep. As I got older we didn't do that anymore, and I was left to figure out "the God thing" by myself. There were occasional refrences to God, and I remember a prayer my Dad wrote one time, but talking about "God" was rare in our house after I started school.

Outside of home I did have a few brushes with organized religion...

Sometimes I'd go to church with my Grandma on Christmas. It was an akward and complicated proceedure and I felt very much out of place. It was a Catholic church -a lot of standing up, sitting down, kneeling... And then there was communion. -I was told that I had to sit in the pew while everyone else went to the front of the church. Why? Because it was a right that I had not earned.

In high school I started trying to figure out what I believed in. People would ask me what religion I was, and I had a feeling of spirituality, but no label to go with it. I sought out many religions to try to find one that "fit". I went to Bible camp with a friend and found that some of the lessons didn't sit right with me. I went to a Methodist church with another friend a few times, and they were very nice -they didn't make me feel like I was wrong or an outcast, but ultimitly it was still Bible-based and I had found that "The Book" just didn't fit with who/what I believed God was. I tried New Age religions, but ultimately found that Native American spirituality was the one thing that came the closest. My Dad always taught me to respect the land and all the creatures of the earth. I have always felt a great connection with nature, and like the fact that they refer to God (the Lakota anyway) as "Mitakuye Oyasin" or "The Great Mystery". He/it has no name. We don't know who he is -we just feel his presence. I know that the basis for this feeling "right" is my Dad's teaching as I grew up, and I think my Dad got this same "respect for the land" from his father -a man I love and miss dearly. Eventually I decided that my religion is my own, and I don't need a name for it.

I guess my conclusion is this -do whatever feels right for you, and respect the fact that other people may believe differently then you. I think that it should be obvious whether you are living "right" or not, and it has nothing to do whatsoever with the name you've given "God" or what you do on Sunday. Religion, I think, should be a personal thing.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Customer Service: Dodge VS Mitsubishi

Part One: Dodge
On Sunday, October 31, 2004 Ed and I were driving my 1992 Plymouth Laser (known as a "DSM", the same thing as a Mitsubishi Eclipse or an Eagle Talon) on I-88 and we heard some grinding noises coming from the car. The noise came and went, but when we'd hear it the car would decelerate some. The second time we heard the noise we decided to get off at the next exit. Halfway up that exit ramp, the car came to a VIOLENT stop (luckily we were only going about 20mph, if it would have happened 5 minutes earlier when we were doing 80mph who knows what would have happened!) We thought the driveshaft had broken or the brakes had locked up. We got out of the car and took a look, but nothing looked broken or out of place. There were no fluids leaking, and the car was able to turn over and idle just fine. We tried driving forward, the car would rock about an inch or two, then it was like it was up against a wall. Reverse was the same. We turned the car off and tried to push it off the ramp. We could only push it an inch or two, then we'd hit that point where the car wouldn't go any further. Ed started thinking it might be the transfer case. As we pondered what broke we got in the car and dialed AAA for a tow.

Watching the drivers around us it was apparent that despite our 4-ways being on, and it being a white car under a street light, most people didn't see us or notice that the vehicle was disabled until they were about ready to hit it. We got out of the car, and waited in the cold where we'd be safer -watching and hoping that the car wouldn't be hit.

When the tow truck arrived, he used the winch to drag the car up onto the flatbed. There was no other way -the rear wheels were locked up solid. I cried. We just got new tires (and what else were we breaking?)... As we made our way home at $3.50 a mile, I wondered how we were going to get the car off the flatbed. Can't push with a winch...

At home, the driver backed into our driveway and tilted the bed as far back as he could. He started feeding cable from the winch, but the car wasnt moving. He hopped into the car, played with the gear shifter (didn't help), then went back to the hydralic controls for the flatbed. He kinda shook the bed with the hydralics -there was an audible "click" (not really a bad sound), and then the car began to roll back. We rolled the car off the flatbed and onto the driveway, and sent the man on his way with a pile of cash for the tow ($65). Ed started the car, and was able to drive it up and down the driveway just fine. No weird noises, no lockups, no fluid, etc... We went inside the house to search the internet for information on what the problem might be. As we searched we found a recall on the transfer case here: and more information here: including a story of a guy who's transfer case locked up while he was on the expressway -he lost control of the vehicle and his girlfriend was killed!

After work on Monday it was too dark and too cold to look at the car, and Tuesday was the same. By Wednesday we couldn't wait any longer -we wanted to know if the problem was the transfer case, so we both took the day off of work to take a look at it. We took the drain plug out of the transfer case and it was dry. This was, in fact, the problem descibed in the recall. Satisfied, we put the drain plug back in, and I called the nearest Dodge dealership to ask how to go about getting it fixed. The person on the phone told me I could bring it by anytime. "Uh... It's not driveable, can you guys send out a tow truck?" Nope, they don't tow vehicles for recall work. I briefly argued with them, stating that I can't believe that their part broke and I have to pay for the tow, but I hung up and decided to call AAA again to tow it to the dealership over the weekend.

Saturday we had the car towed to Dodge of Naperville (AKA Koeller Dodge of Naperville, Illinois). The service department was closed at the time, so we filled out their form and dropped off the key with the cashier.

Monday I got a call from the dealership notifying me that they were unable to look at my car because there was a fuel leak that made the car hazardous to drive. I asked if they actually needed to drive the car to determine that there's no oil in the transfer case. There was a pause, and then I was told that when the work was complete they'd need to be able to test drive the car -therefore, the fuel leak must be looked at. This time there was a pause on my end... The car was fine the last time I drove it. How could there be a fuel leak now? Surely the transfer case didn't cause it. We looked repeatedly for leaks, and were working on the car on Wednesday -how had we not noticed a "dangerous fuel leak"? So, I asked how they determined that there
was a fuel leak. I was put on hold, then told that the tech smelled gas. "That's it?" I asked. "They smelled gas? It's an old car! And the charcoal canister has been removed. Maybe that's it?" The guy on the phone then told me that the tech said there was some "moisture" as well. Okay, well, at this point my back's against a wall here, so I ask what they'd charge to take a look at the fuel leak, $60 or so? "Our minimum charge for diagnostic is $180." I choke. "Fuck that" I say (whoops!). "I'll come by tonight and take a look at it." -Can't work on the car in their lot I'm informed. "So, I have to get it towed next door, fix the fuel leak, then have it towed back for you to do the recall work -or pay you $180 to diagnose the fuel leak and then maybe fix it (or charge me another $180 to fix it)? I don't think so -roll it out to the parking lot. I'll give you a call back in a minute.

I get off the phone, and tell Ed what just happened. He can't believe it either. We both figure they're jerking us around. I call back, ask for the service manager, and tell him that I can't believe that they want $180 to diagnose a fuel leak that they discovered by "smell" and some "moisture". I repeat again that the charcoal canister has been removed, and that might be the only problem. He says he thinks it might be a fuel injector leak. I say "That's possible, we just replaced the fuel injectors." I ask why they can't just diagnose and fix the transfercase without driving it -"I'll sign off on it saying that I wouldn't allow you to do a test drive". Again he refuses, citing "corporate policy". "...And I can't work on it myself in your lot?". A pause, "You can work on it here if you want, you just can't use our bays or our tools." "No problem" I say, just push it out to a publicly accessable location and I'll be out tonight to take a look. You know, your tech told me I'd have to tow the vehicle off of your lot to work on it." What he came back with next didn't hit me until later... "We don't have to push it, it drove just fine into the from the parking lot into the bay. It's driveable." What!?! First, they're driving my car around with NO FLUID IN THE TRANSFER CASE!?! ...and second they're advocating that my car is
drivable with a fuel leak and a dry (previously locked-up) transfer case? (But not drivable enough for a test drive... ) Whatever.

So, after work, we stop by Napa to get new O-Rings for the fuel injectors figuring that they are to blame for the fuel leak (if it exists), then load the Jeep with tools and drive by the dealership to work on the car in the dark and in the cold. We pop the hood. We look around. Everything looks okay, so we fire it up. Fuel starts squirting out of the fuel rail inlet. They couldn't "diagnose" this on sight? (Guess they wanted their $180.) We remove the inlet, and it's obvious that the O-ring needs replacement. We head to Napa one more time, but they can't find the part in their computer or in their book. So, we head home and take the O-Ring off of Ed's car (which is down due to crank walk). His looks brand new, so back to Dodge we go. We replaced the O-Ring in minutes, then fired up the car once more. No more fuel leak. We leave. We eat. We shower. We sleep.

I call the dealership back at 8:10am the next day to let them know that I fixed the fuel leak, so they can now safely proceed with their work. At 3:45pm I've gotten no call back. According to the sales manager yesterday, the new transfer case was due to arrive today, so I call and ask where they're at with it before leaving work. "All done" they say (thanks for the call guys!). I tell them "Great! I'll pick it up tonight!".

After work, I pick up Ed and we head straight to the dealership. I sign the form that says they replaced the transfer case under recall, and wait as the porter brings the car around. I can't wait to drive it, but I let Ed drive it home as long as he lets me drive to dinner. I follow him out, and he says he'll be stopping for gas on the way. 1 or 2 miles down the road Ed pulls off in a strip mall parking lot. I pass him because I had intended to go straight home and let the dog out while he got gas, but there's no gas station where he pulled off... I turn at the next enterance to the mall to go see why he pulled off there. -I meet him in the parking lot of Century Tile and he tells me that the car started to lock up again. What!?! We both wonder out loud if they forgot to fill the transfer case with oil when they replaced it. We call the dealership and tell them what has just happened. They give a monotone "we're sorry to hear that", but refuse to tow the car back to take a look at it. This is a "Five Star" dealer? I give up and call AAA for a tow back Koeller Dodge of Naperville (our 3rd tow in less than 2 weeks -AAA rocks!). While Ed waited, I ran home to let the dog out and to pick up some tools. I made it back before the tow truck and Ed crawled under the car to see if there was fluid in the transfer case. There was, which disappointed me greatly -that would have been easy. What's the problem now? As I ran through the parts that would take abuse when the transfer case comes to a sudden stop, Ed told me to get in the car -he had something to show me. I did, and he let it roll back (in neutral) -the car made a crunchy sound as it rolled back. The same thing happened when he drove it forward, back into the parking spot. Not good. We discussed what may have broke as a result of the transfer case locking up as we waited for the tow truck. The same guy who towed us to the dealership before picked us up again. We dropped the car off at Naperville Dodge
again, and then went and got some food.

The next day, Wednesday, I wait nervously for a phone call from the dealership. At about 11:30am I get the news. The transfer case is fine, he says -they think the problem might be the transmission. "The transmission!" I say. "It was just rebuilt 6,000 miles ago!" He explains that their transmission guy took a look at it, and he says that the noise is coming from the tranny. I'm about to cry at this point. I just put over $2000 worth of work into the transmission, and it looks like the transfer case lockup may have destroyed the tranny? Probably the center diff. I try to be logical "Okay, this was obviously caused by the transfer case lockup, so you'll take care of it, right?" Nope. They verified that the problem was NOT the transfer case, and additional work would be my responsibility. "Fine, I'll be by later to pick it up".

I tell Ed the bad news, and begin freaking out about my transmission. I call AAMCO and ask how much it would cost for a diagnosis, I'm told $560 or so. Then Ed floods me with Do It Yourself tranny rebuild FAQ's (which I've listed here for future reference: ). Ed's convinced that it's not the tranny, but the rear differential. I have to admit that when he rolled the car back and forth and we heard the crunching sounds, it did sound like it was coming from the rear rather then from the front... So, we decide not to fight with Dodge anymore, we'll pick up the car, get it home, and this weekend we'll start by removing the rear diff cover and taking a look. Then we'll move onto the transmission if we have to.

So, after work we go home, grab a quick bite to eat, and head to the dealership. We pick up the key, and sign their paper, and walk to the back of the building to where the car is. Ed gets in, drives it around the lot, and talks me into letting him try to drive it home. I'm worried that we'll do more damage, but it's not making the crunching sounds anymore. If it's the center diff, Ed reminds me, it'll only have problems around corners -he'll take it out of gear around corners. I finally agree, and I follow him home.

Yep, we made it, and I was happy to have my car back in my hands. I really hate letting other people work on my car, and the frustrations in dealing with these clowns at the dealership just re-inforced that. Once the car was parked and turned off, Ed and I both took a look underneath. In the rear, the drive-shaft and diff cover looked good, no leaks or anything obvious. Ed went into the garage for a minute as I crawled under the front to take a look at the transfer case, transmission, drive shaft, etc. I noticed that there was a lot of fluid on the transfer case -in fact, the whole thing was wet, and it was dripping on the driveway! I called Ed over, and he stuck a finger in the liquid and then smelled it. Of course, he couldn't just say what it was -I had to smell it too. My least favorite smell -diff fluid. Yuck! Ed reached up and turned the fill plug with his fingers. The dealership hadn't tightened it...

We left it at that, and that's where it is right now. We need to finish putting up the drywall in the garage this weekend, then we can put the car in there to work on it where it's warm.

Part Two: Mitsubishi
A friend of ours, Kris, just got his car back from Max Madsen Mistubishi in Aurora, Illinois. His 1996 Mistubishi Eclipse was in for recall work as well, and I find the differences in our experiences very interesting given the fact that most people would assume you'd get better service from a "5-Star Dodge Dealership" than from a Mitsu dealer.

Kris was turning into the parking lot at work when his front passenger tire nudged the curb and the wheel fell off. Okay, the wheel didn't really fall off, but the ball joint seperated and the body was left lying on an akwardly angled wheel. There was body damage as a result, and Kris was an unhappy guy. He had the car towed to our driveway, and described what happened to Ed who mentioned that he thought there was a recall on the ball joint of some 2nd gen DSM's. Kris checked it out, and it was true! It looked like this might be covered under recall. Kris called Max Madsen, crossed his fingers, and told them what had happened. Max Madsen had his car towed from our driveway to their dealership at no cost to Kris. They looked at it, and determined that this
was due to the ball joint and that it would be covered under the recall. They fixed the ball joint, then sent Kris's car to a body shop to repair the body damage! The repairs took awhile, but I was there when he picked up the car. It was spotless! You couldn't tell that there was ever damage. Some of the plastic parts had to have been replaced because the last I saw them they were shoved up into the wheel-well behind the tire accordian-style... This was no cheap fix.

So, Koeller's Naperville Dodge and the transfer case recall = big freaking hassle. Chrysler gives them 5 stars, I give them none. Max Madsen Mitsubishi = a real 5-star experience, at least for our friend Kris.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Your mama wears combat boots.

I bought some. Combat boots, I mean. I feel like a soldier, or more like the world's falling down and I need to be prepared. Not to fight it, it's really not in my nature to be militant. No, just to survive I guess...

My parents have found religion. What? No commentary on the outcome of the election? No, I'm getting there... let me finish. They're going to a Baptist church. It bothers me. Alot. So, I've been thinking about it. Alot. I'm worried about confrontational conversations. I've always had a negative view of organized (mostly Christian) religion. I think the followers are often close-minded. They all congregate in the same place for their weekly brain-washing, and "spread the good word" the other 6 days. Well, I'm not buying it.

Okay, maybe I'm not being fair. I know. Under a microscope it's fine, or can be. Religion helps a lot of people through rough times. And with the right preacher it can be a good thing too. I've met a few who are really open to questions, debate, etc. They weren't ready to feed me their sale's pitch, and were open to letting me hold my own opinion -even if it was different from their own. But, in my experience, these people are the minority. Generally the Christian religion is nothing more than a mind-control machine that not only keeps people "good" and "honest" but also uses them to push for political and social ajendas.

See, I have these unresolved problems. Mind you, I know very little about Christianity, but living in a Christian-dominated country, I think I've picked up a few things...

Homosexuals are bad says the pope. They shouldn't get married or have relationships. Certainly not sex. Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, but science has pretty much proven that it's biological. So, "God made them that way. " What now? They're still bad? Apparently. You're view hasn't changed.

People who don't believe go to Hell. Or that place in-between. But certainly not Heaven. What about the people God put in the middle of the jungles of Africa with no contact with "civilization", and therefore no means of ever even hearing about "God", "Jesus", whoever? They go to Hell as well? Hardly the "fair" and "just" rules of a "loving God".

So, what would Jesus do? According to many passages in the Bible "smoting" was a favorite passtime. Yep, wiping out villages, cursing a man's children and grandchildren for his mistakes, etc. I don't know, dude. I don't think I can buy in...

That being said, there are some who take the Bible as fable, and disregard parts that don't make sense to them. They listen to the preacher, and interpret the sermon as they see fit. They use Christianity as a framework and bend it to their own reality. These are "thinking Christians" and I respect them.

No, the people I have a problem with are the ones who read everything as reality and never put any thought into what they're told by the guy in the robe. The nod with a far-off stare and go out in droves to "save souls".

My views are just background here, though. One point I guess is that I'm afraid of my parents trying to "convert me". The other, bigger concern is this: In a conversation at work a few weeks ago we were talking politics and someone said that he was watching the Presidential debate when his son came in and said "Dad, my Sunday school teacher said that Kerry's bad because he wants to let people kill babies." The world stopped. Blood rushed to my head, and anger threatened to pour out of my eyes as tears. It's fine for an individual to hold an opinion about abortion. I admit that my mind isn't completely made up one way or the other about it. I also know that it's the church's view that abortion means the killing of a human soul, and therefore they are against it. But bringing politics into a class of children who are there to learn about religion is wrong. I see it as evidence of brain-washing, and I was encouraged to look into this further.

Before I go further a disclaimer: when I say "brain-washing' I don't mean overtly. I don't think that's the goal of local churches, or the sunday school teacher, or whoever. I think everyone has "what's best" in mind. No, but religion has a lot of power over people. And when the majority of a nation calls themselves "Christians" all of a sudden the church has a lot of power over nations as well...

Back to my investigation... I wasn't going to go to church (although the thought of showing up in my combat boots is amusing), no I watched TV. Sunday morning. The preachers were more than enthused. It was actually quite fun to watch. I saw three different preachers in the course of my two or three-week investigation. One guy I'm throwing out because he didn't actually preach. No, he "healed" people, and sold little packets of healing water from some well in Ohio. Okay, so 2 preachers, and both of them mentioned how Kerry would be bad for the nation. They actually spent time talking about the election each time I watched them, and outright said that Kerry was evil because of his "immorality"-his stance on gay marriage (more like "civil unions"), stem cells, and abortion.

As I watched, my heart sank for I knew that Bush would win re-election. Vote for Bush or go to Hell. What a campaign slogan. And people fell for it. Religion has a strong hold on our country and I don't think it's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Is there crack in the flu shot?

I heard on the morning news that US Citizens are flocking to Canada to get flu shots. Am I missing something? I mean, I've never gotten one before. Maybe there's some high that you get off of it or something. I can't think of any other reason why you'd go so far out of your way to get a flu shot. I know they are a good precautionary measure for the young, the sick, and the elderly -but really... I've gotten the flu countless times -even when I was young!

My point -this is a big deal because A.) The flu shot has been so (over-)hyped in the past few years, and B.) Because there's an election and the candidates are using this as one more talking point in the war on error. -Who can be more wrong? Bush or Kerry? I'm getting tired of it all, and can't wait to cast my vote for the lesser of two evils. In fact, I suspect that if "The lesser of two evils" were put on a ballot rather than "Kerry" it would get at least the same number of votes (maybe more?).

Blah. Smarten up people! There's probably like 5% of the population who really should get flu shots. The rest of us just need to skip it this time around. I doubt you'll go through withdrawl. Just wash your hands more often, try not to touch your face, and stay away from sick people!

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Toyota "Put It In Play" Event

Yesterday we went to Toyota's "Put It In Play" event at US Cellular field in Chicago. We arrived at noon, uh, because that's when we were registered for. Parking was free, which was nice. But there was no one there! We walked up to registration, there was no line. We entered, and there were no lines at any of the events either. We walked around and got a feel for how the events worked, and then we picked one...

"Red Light Green Light": Yep, just liked the game you used to play when you were a kid. We each got into a Toyota Matrix (automatic) and waited on the starting line for the lights down the track to turn green. When they did, we mashed the gas and kept an eye on the lights as we accellerated. The lights turned red and we all hit the brakes as hard as we could. The last one to stop had to skip a turn, so we wanted to stop ASAP! Then, the lights would turn green again, and we'd all continue down the track as fast as possible. In total, we stopped about 4 times until someone crossed the finish line. From there we were all given our ranking and we headed back to the starting line to get our cards punched (for points). On the way back there was a few turns where we got to see why they put the Matrix on a straight-lined course. It took turns rather sloppy, and the seating felt more like a minivan then a sports car. I wasn't impressed. The accelleration wasn't great either, but it stopped quickly enough. Hint: Left foot brake, and when you're at a stop rev the engine a little so you can accelerate quicker when the light turns green. I beat Ed in this competition. Twice. ;-)

"Capture The Flag": This game required a team of two plus a "Pro driver" and involved a Toyota Corolla. First you or your partner take the wheel and you line up at your home base. The team you are racing against takes their place at their "Home Base" at the other end of the oval course. On "Go" you drive around a circle track that contains a short slolum on both straight-aways. In the your opponent's "Home Base" is a post with 3 flags on it. The driver stops at the post, and whoever's in the back seat hops out and grabs a flag. When they get back in the car (and get their seat belt back on) you take off again back to your "Home Base". There, you switch places as fast as you can. When everyone's back in (and has their seat belt on) you start back around again. For the third lap, the "Pro driver" takes the wheel while you hold on tight. The last flag is picked up, and whoever makes it back to their "Home Base" first wins more points. The problems I had with this event: The Corolla doesn't handle well at all. It was really sloppy around turns -I have no idea why they used this car in this event. Other problems: Auto locking doors made the process of jumping out of the car and grabbing the flag slow and frustrating. Hint: Anything you can do to unlock the doors and put your seatbelt on faster in this game helps.

"Relay Race": You need a team of 3 for this game, which is annoying because most people came to this event with one other person. Since there was no one there, one of the course workers took the place of the 3rd person in our group. Once again you're in a Corolla, and you are paired with a "Pro driver". One of the team members starts, on "Go" they drive an oval course much like the one for "Capture The Flag", but the pro is sitting next to you as you drive. Our "Pro" kept telling Ed to slow down (?). When you get back to the start, you hop out and tag a team member. All 3 team members drive the course with the "Pro" in the passenger seat. When the third person completes the course, they tag any team member and then all three of you pile into the car with the "Pro" at the wheel for one more trip around the course "the right way". Pro driver or not, this car feels sloppy. It's not impressive at all. I'm not sure they'll be selling any Corollas at this event...

"Vehicular Dodgeball": This time you are issued a Celica, and then you line up at the start. On "Go" you drive as fast as you can through a oval course with one short slolum. The first part of the course is fast, there are three huge "Dodge Balls" (beach balls) laying (stationary) on the course. It's kinda set up like a slolum, but you don't have to turn. Not too challenging, but you can go fast, so it's cool. Then there's a U-shaped turn, a short slolum, and then two air-filled red balls that are suspended from strings. These balls are supposed to move, I guess, but they weren't moving when I drove past. The result: They just stood there in the middle of the course, no way for me to avoid them. I hit one, but they didn't count it against me -I'm not sure if that was a mistake on their part or not. The last part of the course is a tight, irregular U-shape and you have to take it slow. There is a short straight-away (about 20 feet long) where people on the side-lines can throw water-soaked, baseball-sized "dodgeballs" at you. If you get hit by any of the balls on the course, of if someone on the sideline hits the target painted on the door of the car with a "dodgeball" you lose. If you get through cleanly and don't make a complete stop on the course, you get 20 points. I did this event twice. The Celicas handle MUCH better in turns than the Corollas. Once again, these were automatics, but the second time I used the "M mode" which is to the left of the "Drive" in the gear shifter. At first I thought this would be "Manual Mode" like Mazda's cars at "Rev-It-Up", but it's not. You don't actually get to shift the car in this mode, it's just faster. Much faster. It really took off! I was impressed! It was kinda jerky though, I wish I had more time to get used to it. Before we used this mod, Ed asked the course worker how this worked, but the guy had no idea. My beefs with this event were with staff and layout, not with the car. The whole point of this event is to sell cars, so wouldn't you think the workers should have a full working knowledge of the cars they're working with? Also, the layout was cheezy. Their website touts this "Vehicular Dodgeball" as THE event -there's a commercial where a girl's driving like she's taking her driving test for her license when all of a sudden dodgeballs start pelting the car. She looks scared, and after a little while she stops. The instructor sitting next to her just shakes his head and says "I don't think you're quite ready yet. There were no dodgeballs! There were non-moving car-sized beach balls, 2 big red balloons suspended on string, and water-soaked squishy balls being thrown at you for about 1/20th of the course... I don't know, man... Not what I was expecting. :-(

Other Events: Um, kareoke... Select your (least) favorite tune from the early 80's and sing your heart out. You get points for it, but damn! There was a Toyota Quiz thing. And Musical Chairs. Yeah, real lame. There was non-points activities too. Hoola-hoops, big beach balls, teather ball, skee-ball, and food. $1 for a can of pop. We bought two. It was hot.

If you're pre-registered they told us we could jump the line once for each event. There was no need. We never saw a line. Hideous 80's music was played the whole time we were there and made the event seem that much cheezier. All-in-all I'm glad we went. We both ended up with enough points for T-shirts, and I learned that Celicas aren't bad little cars. I also learned that I should never waste my time looking at a Corolla or Matrix. Would I go again next year? Probably not. Most of it was just corny. I think Toyota should take a look at Mazda's Rev-It-Up Event and bring out their more impressive cars next time. (Leave the Corolla and Matrix on the side-lines!) Also, make the course either more fun or more challenging. Lastly, play some more modern music. I paid $40 to go to Rev-It-Up this summer, and I'll gladly pay to go again next year. This free event will be skipped, however.

Friday, September 10, 2004

What was that?

So I'm driving down Ogden calculating how long it'll take me to get to the auto repair place when something barely in the field of my view interrupts my brain's processor. The shape reminded me of a house, but my mind said that it couldn't be a house, it was directly above me on the interstate overpass! I looked at it again -directly this time, so I could see more than just a shape. Sure enough -it was a house. My brain tried to explain it to my eyes -it was on a trailer, surely. Even though the trailer wasn't visable -the house was moving. It's not like I haven't seen these before, but I laughed anyway. It caught me by suprise.

It was quite funny at the time.

Movie Review- Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle

I see a lot of movies. This is my first review. We'll see if I stick with this or not.

Movie: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle.
Grade: B-
Summary: Harold is an overworked, shy Asian 20-something. Kumar is his best friend -he's under pressure from his father to become a doctor. The weekend comes, and both relax with the help of a little herb. A White Castle commercial comes on and they decide the only thing that will satisfy their muchies is White Castles. The quest begins!

There's a love interest, danger at every turn, potty jokes, and they make fun of every race imaginable along the way.

The Good:
It's... unique. There's some unexpected and original humor in there. There's no doubt that I laughed. It was definitely a funny movie! If you're in the mood for mindless humor, this will definitely work.

The Bad:
It was a little far fetched. I guess that was the point of the movie, I know... Maybe I just wasn't in the mood for this movie tonight. (I really wanted to go see "Garden State".) There's no doubt that this movie would be GREAT if you were high. I wasn't. I was tired mostly.

Closing Remarks:
It was better than your average "brain dead" comedy. It was original and unapologetic, definitely not a cookie-cutter movie. I liked that. Just make sure you're in the mood for this kind of comedy -you'll definitely get some laughs out of this one!.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

My Dad was a Marine and served our country proudly. His father was a Sea Bee in the Army, and my grandfather on my Mom's side served as well. In fact, he was pretty severly wounded in WWII. With all of this military history, I was brought up to take great pride in our flag. It's a symbol of the freedom that we all share (and most of us take for granted every day). I also grew up with the understanding that that freedom was won with blood and sacrifice, and is guarded by brave men and woman who risk their lives every day for this country. As a result, I often looked up at the flag as I entered school, a government building, or at a ball game with great pride and silently thanked those that gave their lives for my freedom.

Recently my feelings of pride have changed, however. It began as it became more and more clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We had gone to war under false pretences. Why? How? I had seen Col. Powell's slide show. I had seen the trucks that transported them, the mobile labs, the warehouses. Was our intellegence-gathering capability to blame? More and more I found myself unable to listen to the President's explanations and accept them without question. I started noticing contradictions, and how rare it was that he'd give a definitive answer about anything. Then along came the 911 panel and their investigation. He wanted to get to the bottom of the intelligence failure that lead to the successful terrorist attacks, but he resisted letting every single member of his staff testify. Finally allowing it, but only under severly restricted circumstances (time limits, private hearings, etc.). It started looking shady, and it all started sinking through my layers of Ameican pride, and unwavering support for our Commander in Chief. -He's holding prisoners in Cuba so he's free to disregard the protections that the Constitution provides to the accused. And we're all buying it because of our pride?

Sometimes pride can be a bad thing. Sometimes we need to re-evaluate our positions. We are free to do so... Election time seems as good as any!

See, I've always voted Republican. I voted for George W. Bush four years ago. I grew up in a Republican household. I've been a member of the NRA on and off (as I could afford it) since I was maybe 16? I've campaigned for Republicans, and I still hold onto many of their values. But what it comes down to is that flag...

I don't have the same sense of pride that I used to have when I look up at her. We've let down our long-standing allies. Whatever you think about the UN, we've spat in their face. We are the bully on the playground showing everyone that we can do whatever we want. I feel lied to. I never thought that government was not corrupt, but I guess I've never seen it so blatent. If it was truly a lapse in intelligence, why can't our President stand up and say so? -I want my trust (and admoration for) Colon Powell back. I want my pride in that flag and the country it represents back. That's why I'm voting for Kerry. I'm not a Kerry fan, he's simply the only (real) alternative to what has become, in my opinion, a big embarassment.

The End.

A note to John Kerry: Mr. Kerry, please don't take away my guns.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

DSM Shootout

Last weekend we went to the DSM Shootout in Norwalk, Ohio. It was awesome!!! Besides getting to see a few cars that I've heard about (The Green Machine, the twin engine Talon, etc) my car ran a 13.748 in the quarter-mile beating it's previous best time of 14.102 by 0.354 seconds (a lot in the automotive world). The hotels were crazy -the EconoLodge was one big party, the AmeriHost and Best Western had crowds too, but were much more subdued than the EconoLodge. The car show at Busher's was awesome too. I got to see the twin engine car everyone's been talking about, although it didn't give the performance everyone had hoped for. It looked like he babied it down the track (no launch or anything). I heard he's still having problems getting the transmissions sync'd up and stuff. In between all of that we went Go-Karting. That was a blast as well. All-in-all an awesome way to spend a long weekend. I can't wait to go again next year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The meaning of life.

I was driving along this morning and all of a sudden it hit me. I mean, I wasn't really thinking about it or anything, but boom! Enlightenment! The meaning of life -it was so simple... I understand now why it's so elusive.

It's right there, look... In the dictionary! The meaning of life! -I know, you probably don't believe me, it sounds so simple, but look! Wait, you're on the internet... It's even easier, pull up (great site) and look for yourself.

Not enough? Okay, I'll break it down for you. The simple answer is this -life is a biological process. That's it. For humans it's a beating heart, the process of breathing... That's all life is. Simple? Boring? It's supposed to be!

Life is the base. The rest is up to you!

Friday, August 06, 2004

Protecting the institution of marriage

Proponents of a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT (!?!) banning same-sex marriage say they are doing so in order to "protect the institution of marriage". My reaction to this statement shouldn't be unique. Anyone who gives this issue any thought at all should have the same basic question as I do. ..

Protect marriage against what?
  • It's estimated that 4 million woman are abused by their husbands or live-in boyfriends each year. -Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current or Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, U.S. Department of Justice, March, 1998
  • 1/3 of woman will be abused by their husbands or boyfirend at some point in their life. –Commonwealth Fund survey, 1998
  • Where there is domestic violence and children in the home, the children are also abused in 30% to 60% of the cases. – "The overlap between child maltreatment and woman battering." J.L. Edleson, Violence Against Women, February, 1999
  • <>In 1996, among all female murder victims in the U.S., 30% were slain by their husbands or boyfriends. – Uniform Crime Reports of the U.S. 1996, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996

    Is that what they're protecting? or do they just not like the thought of 2 men having sex? I mean, I really don't get it. I understand that a person's first reaction to the thought of homosexuality is "ew, gross", but how does it go from a general dislike of the idea to wanting to ban it? We're not talking about making everyone choose a same-sex wife/husband. We're talking about equal rights for people who's persuasions may be different from your own. In fact, this strikes me as very similar to the racism that sparked the seperate drinking fountains, etc that we're all pretty embarrased about (or should be) when we look back on it. My advice, save yourself the embarrasment, don't jump on this ban-gay-marriage bandwagon. Who knows, one of your children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews is probably gay. Would you really want to deprive them of the ability to make a life-long commitment to their life partner (in the eyes of the law)?

    Oh, and as an FYI: It's not the ring or ceremony that same-sex couples are after, they want the rights that come along with marriage: death benefits, visitation rights in hospitals, insurance benefits/breaks,etc. Why deny this 2 people who love each other? How would their marriage effect yours?

    If I'm missing something, let me know. I just don't get it.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Top 10 reasons to vote for Bush in the next election

1. You think the pictures of the naked, defenseless Iraqi prisoners being tortured are funny.
2. You're much more comfortable with stem cells leftover from in-vitro fertilization being thrown away rather than scientists using them to cure silly things like diabetes, MS, or parkinson's disease.
3. So what if the rest of the world no longer trusts or respects us? We're a super power, and we've proven we can do whatever we want!
4. Hey, you don't know any of the 595 men being held without charges for the last 2 and a half years in Guantanamo...
5. The fact that we're putting an end to terrorism by fighting for a free Iraq while signing away our own freedoms (the Patriot Act) doesn't bother you.
6. You believe as Bush does, he was put here at this time for this purpose by God (you know the Pope doesn't agree, but you're pretty sure he's just jealous).
7. Equal rights for gays? No way! The only rainbow you endorse is the one that tells you how alert you need to be for terrorist activity!
8. You envy Ashcroft's ability to interpret laws so they don't apply to him (or the President).
9. You're a republican dammit! (And you won't be caught dead voting for a Democrat).
10. To protect your gun rights (oh, wait, Bush supported the continuation of the largely ineffective 1994 "Assault Weapons Ban").

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Buying our house...

For a year or so, Ed an I had gone to new housing developments looking through models as entertainment. Slowly, though, the idea of getting a place of our own sunk in. In the summer of 2003 we decided it was time to seriously think about purchasing our first home. I started reading up on home buying, and in August we decided to contact a real estate agent to answer some questions we had.

Searching the internet for real estate agents is hard. Some advertise themselves so much that it's hard to weed through hundreds of results for the same agent before you get to a new one. In the end I found which allowed me to fill out a form, and be contacted privately (through the website) by real estate agents who wanted to represent us. I expected that once we contacted one of the agents who responded, it'd be a pain dealing with them. I didn't want a ton of phone calls, and I figured that we'd have to go to their office to discuss what we were looking for (hear their sales speech).

None of that happened. Several agents responded to my request on Home Gain. (I wasn't sure if anyone would want to work with us, I had made it clear that we were looking to purchase around April -6 months away!) Some sounded slimy, some obviously didn't read what I had written on the form, but several sounded very nice. In the end we decided we wanted someone who had middle of the road sales numbers. (One agent who responded had sold so many properties the year before that I imagined she'd have no time to answer our questions or we'd get lost in her pile of prospects before April!) So, we actually ended up with the first agent who responded to me! I chose Bonnie Craig because her response showed that she had read what I had written, she responded quickly (which is important to me), and she knew the area we were looking at (Bolingbrook, IL). The clincher was this line: "I am usually immediately available, call me and see!"

I didn't call, I emailed, but she responded immediately and answered all my questions (along with the questions I should have asked) step by step. The next day she started sending me listings of properties for sale through email, they matched the criteria we gave her in our first email, and we drove past them that night to get a feel for what they look like in person versus the pictures and descriptions. We also spent a lot of time touring around the neighborhood to find out what it was like, areas to avoid, etc.

A week later, I hadn't contacted her yet (we were really busy), and she emailed me back to check in. I had some financial questions for her, and she referred me to John Hoch at Countrywide. I didn't like him. He didn't listen to me at all and was very rushed. In September he went ahead and pre-approved us for up to like $300,000 or something ridiculous. We discussed what kind of a monthly payment we would want to carry, and found that $300,000 was definitely out. We are both into expensive hobbies (our cars) and like taking vacations every year, so we decided that our upper limit would be more like $200,000.

In October we told Bonnie that we only needed new property listings once a week or so -we didn't want her spending too much time looking for properties for us since we wouldn't be ready to buy until Spring anyway. She emailed us sporatically as the market allowed, then in January we started refining the results and sending her properties that we had seen for sale while driving by.

In February I started searching for properties on ( and sending Bonnie the ones I was interested in. Some of the properties I sent were unavailable, but we almost settled on going to look at a couple, and then Ed started giving a little more thought to the location we were looking at. Seems he didn't like Bolingbrook's proximity to the train. He wanted to start looking in Aurora instead. I dreaded telling Bonnie that we were turning this search upside down after all these months, but I let her know and she just rolled with the change.

I started asking more questions as we got closer to actually finding something we might want to buy, like how much less than asking price do houses in this area generally go for? And Bonnie was able to give me an idea of what to expect.

In late February we started driving around Aurora to get a feel for the neighborhood (like we had done in Bollingbrook) and found that we actually liked it better! The area we were looking at was all built in the 1980's -new enough to still be nice, but old enough to have mature trees, etc. We took note of houses with for sale signs in the yard, grabbed flyers if they were available, and emailed Bonnie with what we had found. Many were sold or otherwise unavailable, but one was available, and we arranged time to meet at the house on Saturday. It would be our first time meeting face to face, but while we waited for Saturday to roll along, Bonnie sent us some more "for sales" and we continued to send her more houses we saw for sale online. One that we found was available and although Bonnie warned that it had been on the market awhile, so there was probably something wrong with it, she scheduled a viewing of that property for us on Saturday as well.

On Saturday we met Bonnie as planned, and viewed the first house. It was empty, the sellers had already moved out, so it didn't feel like we were intruding on someone else's space at all. Bonnie was great, she lead us through the house commenting on how certain things would effect resale, and looking for red flags like a sagging roof or signs of basement leakage. The first house was fairly average, the second was horrible. It was really cute from the outside, but the inside was a mess! It looked like it had water damage on the ceiling, no maintenance had ever been done, the back yard had almost no grass due to the seller's dog. The second house was occupied as well. The owners were not at home, but it still felt kind of intrusive.

Bonnie continued to email us with new properties for sale, and in early March we heaped another requirement on her. DSL service. Ed had forgotten to check the area out for DSL service, and it seems that only part of the area is covered. The method we use to find out the quality of DSL service (distance to the CO) is long and complicated, but Bonnie wanted to know how, so I told her. In the end she agreed to leave that to us. She continued sending properties, and we'd test them for DSL service.

At this point we started to seriously look at getting financing lined up. I had gone to Lending Tree ( at the end of February to get some quotes on mortgages, but everything I had read about lenders made me scared to go with any of them. My Mom works at a bank, and she got me in contact with the lender that works out of her office. She ran a pre-approval for us on 100% financing and found that we were unable to qualify for it, our credit score was 9 points too low! We were shocked because we have had our credit scores pulled, and we both have high scores. She offered an 80-15-5 loan where you put 5% down, and we persued that for awhile, but it got way too confusing. The second loan (for 15%) has to be an adjustable rate or a "balloon", furthurmore it's a 30 year loan that has to be paid off in 10 years!?! I didn't like this option, and told her I had to think about it.

Bonnie sent us a property on Willow Ct, and we liked the look from the outside. We drove past and found 2 others for sale on the same street (almost right across the street from each other). We scheduled all 3 for a viewing, but one was sold before we could get a look! We met, and went through the first one -we really liked it. The family room was huge and had a vaulted ceiling, there was a bedroom at the front of the house that would be perfect for Ed's office, the kitchen was really nice, etc. The second house was fairly average. Bonnie pressed us to make a decision on whether or not to make an offer on the first house fairly quickly. We went to Baker's Square to talk it over, and decided that we both really liked it. When I got home I emailed Bonnie saying that we liked it, but asking if she could find out why there were 3 houses for sale so close to each other? Bonnie replied saying that the property had just been put under contract, it was unavailable. She felt horrible, but Ed and I knew that was a possibility and we kept looking.

The next day Bonnie reminded us that we had another property that we were supposed to drive past and let her know about, she told us that if we liked it we could call her and she may be able to meet us there the same day. We did so, and she was able to meet us at the house in less than an hour! Talk about service! We had lunch, and drove back to the place to take a look. (The house was empty, so it was available right away.) That house was too small, we passed on it.

At this point, we were getting closer to finding something, so we contacted one of the lenders I got off of Lending Tree -Prime Financial Group. She was really nice and informative; right after she sent her initial offer she called me to explain the program and why the rate may be higher than some of the others. The difference was that with hers there was no PMI. I looked into PMI, it's a $200/month insurance payment. It's not tax deductable, it's just lost money. Needless to say I was interested in if we'd qualify. I trusted my Mom's person more, but after we got more info on this offer I decided I was going with the simpler of the two (and no down payment!) We started the pre-approval process...

Bonnie kept sending us new properties, and we kept looking too. In response to a question I had about how long houses are usually on the market before they sell, she sent us a CMA -a Comparitive Market Analysis which showed the list price, selling price, and time on market for recently sold houses in the area we were looking at. Very good information to have!

We picked a couple of the properties that Bonnie sent to view the following weekend. One sold before we could view it, but she had another (a smidge out of our price range) to look at "so we could see what a little more money could buy us". We looked at the first one, and it was the same model as one that we had already seen. It was empty, the kitchen was obviously newly remodeled -pergo floors, oak cabinets, nice lighting. It was nicer than most we had seen. The backyard was beautiful -it didn't have a house behind it like the others did, and it was nicely landscaped. The problem -small bathroom and master bedroom. We saw the second house (the expensive one), and while we liked some of the features better, the floorplan made it seem kinda cramped. It had a nice deck out the back, but the yard was in a low spot and collected all of the rain from the surrounding yards that had fallen the previous night. Not good, especially with the dog. It was occupied, but the owners were out. Bonnie did a good job asking us leading questions to figure out whether either house was a good fit for us, and she also offered to leave us alone to discuss it. We opted to split up and Ed and I discussed it over some ice cream.

Ed seemed like he could go either way on the house, and I felt it was kinda up to me to decide which made the pressure that much worse. My main worry was the Master Bedroom. It was very long and narrow, and I wasn't sure how I'd work that space. I went over the MBR in our apartment with a tape measure to try to envision our bed and entables in that smaller space. The other worry was the small bathroom. A few houses we saw had jacuzzi-style tubs, and that wouldn't be a possibility with this house at all. I thought, I researched, then I'd sway one way. Then I'd research again, rethink it, and sway the other way. It took me a couple of hours to come up with a decision, and I'll admit that there were some heated words between Ed and I while I tried to sort it all out in my head.

I called her back later that day to tell her that we wanted to persue this property. She asked if we could meet her at a nearby McDonald's in about a half hour. We agreed and headed over. She was there waiting for us, and she explained the paperwork we had to sign, we came up with a closing date, and she helped us decide on an offer price. We low-balled them for the first round, then waited to hear back. The next day they came back with a firm counter-offer, and while I wanted to offer about $2000 less, Bonnie advised to go closer to what they had asked for. I went for $1000 under as she suggested and she called us back later to say that they had accepted. I think they may have gone lower if I had stuck to my guns with what I wanted to offer in the first place, but there's not much I could do about it at this point.

Bonnie asked us to meet her to sign the offer, and bring an earnest money check. We met her at an open house that she was doing for a $325,000 house. It was gorgeous! After a quick tour we left to try to grasp what we had just signed ourselves up for. -We hadn't even gotten financing worked out yet! We went home and I emailed our lender to tell her the news and speed up the pre-approval process.

We didn't get the pre-approval until Tuesday due to "problems pulling a credit score", but once we got it we had to go through the Good Faith Estimate (GFE) and figure out what fees were going where. Originally we had quoted closing costs on $925 and a rate of 6% or so. In the end, the GFE said we'd owe $2262.14. We had to go through all the paperwork very carefully. Mistakes were made on the application (she got Ed's SSN wrong, for example), and the Truth in Lending Disclosure had us down for a variable rate when we most definitely wanted a fixed rate. The changes were made as soon as I brought them to her attention however, and she was eager to explain the difference in the closing costs (the rest of the money went to the escrow account and/or to title charges). We checked what she said with my Mom's lender (she was happy to review the documents from Prime Financial Group for us), and we also looked at some websites such as . In the end we decided that it looked good (after the corrections), and we signed the paperwork and faxed it to her on Thursday.

Of course, that wasn't all we had to deal with, at the same time we had the sellers wanting to change the original contract, the attorney calling about deadlines that the lender had to meet, we had to schedule the home inspection... It was a stressful week.

On Saturday we had our Home Inspection with Tom Wagner of Premier Inspectors of America. This is optional, but everyone recommended doing it, and we thought that $260 was not much for the peace of mind. We met the Inspector at the house. My parent's also met us there to see the house for the first time. The parent thing was probably a mistake. I'm glad they were able to come see it, but I spent a lot of time with them, so I missed much of what the inspector found and pointed out to Ed as they walked around. After Tom was done with the inspection, he printed it out and put it in a binder for us. He walked us through the documentation, and showed us the nice little home maintenance book that was included. He was a really nice guy, did a great job, and the documenation we had at the end of it was awesome!

Back to the lender -Prime needed more documents. More recent paycheck stubs, 2 most recent statements for each of our accounts, a copy of the earnest money check, phone numbers and names to verify our employment, etc. We gathered all that up, and (except for the copy of the earnest money check which hadn't cleared yet, we got it all out to her on Monday). I also asked her (on Bonnie's advice) when the appraisal was scheduled. She replied back that it was to be done today. I let Bonnie know. Later on that night, both of them emailed me with the result of the appraisal (which was $500 higher than we paid).

I also had a message from our attorney, John Klunk waiting when I got home Monday night. Apparently, Bonnie sent him the Inspector's report, and pointed out some things she had issue with. The big one was the mold Tom found under the sink.

On Tuesday I got a call from Joann from the attorney's office. She wanted a list of the things we were concerned about (from the Inspection) faxed to her along with the relevant pages from the Inspector's report. This has to be done today or tomorrow so she can write it up for the sellers by Friday. Then, it would be up to the sellers to fix it or tell us "too bad"...

I gave her a list on Thursday, it contained 4 items: the mold under the sink, the missing screens on the sliding glass doors that open to the back yard, the missing/broken window screens, and the fact that the central air conditioner was not able to be inspected and verified to be in working condition.

In the meantime we arranged for homeowner's insurance to cover the entire purchase price of the property, and faxed proof that we pre-paid the policy for a year to Tania as this was required for the loan approval process.

A couple weeks later I got a call from Joann from the attorney's office. She finally heard back from the seller's attorney. They were willing to take care of the mold, the screens on the sliding doors, the window screens, and they were willing to get a guy out to certify that the central air worked. Then she asked if that was okay. I took a mental inventory... -That was everything we asked for! Uh yes! Yes, that's fine! Awesome!

The next call was from Bonnie. She had filled in our interest rate on the contract as being a quarter percentage point below what we ended up applying for, so we had to make another contract change. Ed and I made the change, initialled the contract, and sent it to the Seller's agent on April 1st.

Meanwhile, the loan commitment date creeped closer, and in the end Tania was not able to meet the 4/7 deadline. Joann said that the deadline is usually much closer to the closing date than that anyway, and they went ahead and moved it to the 19th.

After that, we just had to wait. We had some questions about what to expect at closing which we emailed Bonnie about, and she was quick to respond. Apparently it's about one to two hours of signing document after document, and we won't know time or place until the seller's attorney receives the title.

Four days later, on the 14th, I got an email from Bonnie saying that the closing hasn't been scheduled because the seller's attorney was not happy that Tania, our lender, ordered title which is not customary in Illinois. About five minutes later Tania responded saying that she's in the process of taking care of this with our attorney, and claimed she ordered the title because the seller's agent said it was okay. Either way she cancelled the order, and the sellers were going to proceed in ordering the title.

More excitement on Monday the 19th (three days before closing) Tania emailed me saying that the closing date may be pushed back to the 26th because the seller's attorney was slow in getting some documents to her, and she was still waiting on one document before she could get a "clear to close" from the underwriter. She said that Joann (from our attorney's office) was also trying to get the last document. I replied that pushing the date back was unacceptable. We had a moving truck reserved for the 24th and 25th, and Internet installation set for the 23rd. Also, we had all of our utilities moved over as of the 23rd, etc. Moving that date would cause lots of problems.

Later that day I got a call from Joann about the closing date getting pushed back. I told her what I told Tania, and she asked if I knew why the date was getting moved, I said that Tania had contacted me, and I gave her the explaination that I was given. Turns out Tania told Joann that she was waiting for wiring instructions from the seller. Joann said that she never heard of a closing date being moved just for that, and told me that I should call Tania and find out what was going on (but I was not to mention my conversation with Joann).

I called Tania twice, but got her voicemail. I left a message saying that I needed her to call me ASAP at work or at home (it was late in the day). When I arrived home from work, I had a message from Tania on our answering machine. She said that she got the last document and everything was into underwriting. We'd just have to wait for their final "clear to close".

In the morning, I had an email from Bonnie waiting, so I sent her the email conversation that Tania and I had and told her the story about what Joann said, etc. I said that I'd be bugging Tania all day to make sure we could close on time.

I emailed Tania twice asking if she knew what was happening, and all she could tell me was that they were working on it and that it was marked "priority". Shortly before I was to go home for the day I got word from Tania that we got our "clear to close" and that the closing should be able to proceed on schedule. On my way home Bonnie called my cell phone and left a voicemail message saying that closing was to happen at 4pm on the 22nd, and we could to a final walk-thru at 3pm.

I called Bonnie back when I got home to tell her that the times were fine for us. The closing is to be held in Wheaton at the office of the title company.

We met Bonnie at the house for the walk-thru and everything looked fine, afterwards we met at PLM title company and sat down to start signing paperwork. Our attorney explained each piece of paper, then she'd pass it down for me to sign/initial, and I'd pass it to Ed. Slowly the pile on the attorney's side got smaller as the one near Ed got taller, and it didn't take too long to get through it all. The sellers did the same thing with their attorney on the other side of the table. While things were being signed the title company's office was trying to get ahold of Tania or anyone at Prime Financial Group. (The closing was scheduled late in the day, and with the time difference it was past 5pm in Michigan where Tania was.) Eventually they got ahold of her, but she was unable to get ahold of anyone at the bank, so she was unable to get the money to the sellers.

Talk about embarrassing! The lawyers and title company people talked about what to do while Bonnie kept telling us "see I told you so" (she really wanted us to go with her guy, and she was also leary of working with a broker). It didn't take long before everyone declared it a "dry closing" or something like that (I guess this happens from time-to-time.) We were given the keys to the house, and the sellers were simply promised the money tomorrow.

Bonnie and I hounded Tania the next day, and it wasn't until mid-afternoon that the money was finally wired. That's when I really felt like the house was ours. Whew. What an ordeal. I swear, like it or not, this is the first and last house I'll every buy. (Okay, not really, I'll just have to wait long enough to forget what a hassle it was.)

Update -It's been over a month now, and I'm more than happy we bought the house. There's been a lot of unexpected purchases which makes me that much happier that we didn't have to put all of our savings into a down-payment. Lawn mowers, ladders, a weed whacker, weed-be-gone, garbage stickers, lawn waste bags, the list goes on and on. We certainly have more work to do now, but it's ours. OUR garage, OUR flower bed, OUR (broken) front door. We love it, ALL of it. It still makes me giddy. :-)