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.