Friday, November 18, 2005

My new (actually useful?) website!

Ed gave me a server and an IP address, so I'm finally able to put this domain that I registered YEARS ago to use...

It's still in its infancy, but it's my intent to make this into a good resource for finding outdoor activities in the area. Check it out: http://www.muddyboots.org

Any recommendations accepted whether about layout, content, whatever. All comments welcomed.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Being ripped apart

One of the worst forms of torture that I could imagine would involve being forced to sit, powerless, while watching your parents suffer physically and emotionally. But, that's pretty much what I'm going through right now...

My Mom called me this morning. She's hysterical and in tears again. She doesn't know what to do, she says -but when I ask her "about what?" she doesn't know. "Everything" is her only answer. I know this is hard on her and I try to offer the only help I can by trying to get her to go see a psychologist/psychiatrist, go to a support group, or at least call one of the people she's met who've been through the caregiver roll and have offered their help and support. But she won't do it. And this conversation has been had over and over again. It's a neverending cycle. She won't listen to my advice, and she won't seek the help of others. Instead she sits alone and allows her emotions to litterally drive her crazy.

Ironically (or not) her "I don't know what to do" quickly evolves into a conversation about her being abandoned by friends and family. This time not directly, but the pointed comment was: "are you planning to visit for 5 minutes and leave or what?".

So, what do I do? I know she's under stress and that what she really needs is someone to sympathize, but that's not something that fits my personality -especially when I'm continually being blamed for abandoning her even though I visit as often as possible (at least once every other week).

Bottom line: I think she needs to break this cycle of allowing her emotions to overwhelm her -figure out what problems your facing, which ones you have control over, and create a plan for dealing with those -leave the rest behind. She won't/can't do this, apparently, so I'm lost and left torn between feeling like I've let her down by not being the daughter that she needs right now and the conculsion that her emotional state isn't my problem (since she won't take my advice) so, she needs to grow up and figure this stuff out 'cause it won't magically disappear anytime soon.

In fact, she gives momentum to these mood swings... She keeps thinking that the next medication change will magically "fix him". She gets her hopes up, brings him home without asking for resources should he get violent again (that'd mean she doubted that "this time will be different"), then crashes when Dad gets angry and violent again. At this point, after at least 4 hospitalizations because of anger/violence, I think it's time to find a place where he can be cared for until there's reasonable proof that his mood is level and he won't get violent again. But my Mom sees this as "giving up" and she's actually said "what will people think about me if I do that?" -does it matter!?!

It all makes me sick, and the bottom line is I can't change anything. She'll keep calling me in times of crisis, hysterical, and blaming me for not being there or not wanting to be there -and in turn, I'll keep answering and keep going through this self-judgement of "am I doing enough for her?" on and on until Dad gets better or Mom and I finally decide to stop talking to each other.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Expectations hold you back

The following is good advice for anyone going through crisis...
We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. -Joseph Campbell
This is an important lesson. In life, there is no telling what will happen in the next 5 minutes much less tomorrow, or a week/month/year from now. We all know that, but we fall into routines that lead us to believe that the future is predictable. And when we think that way, we begin to plan our futures out years, sometimes decades in advance. Then one day we get blindsided by something unexpected and it threatens those plans that we've made.

It could be a spouse's illness that eclipses your lifelong dream of all that you'd do when you retired together. Or, it could come much earlier when your spouse hands you divorce papers unexpectedly and the dream of raising a family together has to be given up because one of you has changed their mind. And life changing events happen outside of relationships too, of course. It can even be a positive change like winning the lottery that leads to plan changes -good or bad. We've all heard stories of the demise of lottery winners.

How many times have you muttered the words "you never know what tomorrow might bring", but do you actually live that way? The majority of us go to work each day dreaming of the weekend, the next vacation, retirement. But, there's no guarantee that the weekend will come or that you'll be able to enjoy it. The frustrating part is that we often can't really "live each day as if it were our last" because the reality is that we must work for the money to provide both our basic needs, our comforts, recreation, etc.

So what do we do? Well, finding work that you love would be the ideal, but I'm still working on this. In the meantime the plan is not to plan too far ahead; make the best out your free time and when adversity comes along, accept it. In fact, plan on it. The alternative makes us blind to reality and causes us to miss things while we sort out where our plan went wrong -while we ponder "why me?"

An example -The other day on my way to work traffic was much worse than usual. We all crept along until we saw the flashing lights ahead and everyone in the left lane knew they had to merge right to get around the mess ahead. I put on my turn signal and looked in the rearview mirror in preparation to merge and saw the guy in the right lane (behind me) speed up to block my way. I was close to the end of my lane, so I had to continue slowly edging into the lane, forcing him to slow down or get hit. When I got into the right lane I looked behind me and saw the man punch his dashboard and shake his fist, screaming at me and (I assume) the traffic, the fact that he was going to be late for work, etc. -Then we passed the accident. I looked over at a gurney in the ambulance, a sheet drapped over the person inside. The firefighters, the ambulance crew, the police -no one was rushing. A car was bent all out of shape nearby. I looked back at the man, still glaring at me, still steaming because he was going to be late for work and I cost him one more car length. How could one miss how small a problem the traffic is in comparison to someone who just died 20 feet away from you?

Dwelling on the loss of your plan, and mourning the loss of the life you expected just wastes time. You have to deal with it. Figure out what your options are, make the best of what you got, and move on. It's the only answer. Ask someone who's been through real adversity (Christopher Reeve, Aron Ralston, Lance Armstrong) and they'll tell you the same thing. Whether it's a minor inconvenience like traffic, or a major life change like illness or divorce, you need to accept the reality that life can and will change on a dime, then you just have to move on.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Dream -canoe, sinking

Last night I had one of those dreams that I could vividly remember after waking up. In fact, I spent so much time thinking about what it meant that I couldn't get back to sleep. Anyway, here it is...

Ed and I were in a canoe. To be precise, it was my Dad's canoe, the "August Lee". As we started paddling, the canoe was sinking. Ed was in front, I was in back (my Dad's screaming "bow and stern" in my head). When the canoe was completely submerged, I told Ed to get out to see if that helped. Now, I didn't feel that it had anything to do with his weight. I feel I have to mention that 'cause he's back on a semi-diet and may be feeling sensitive about that... It was more of a surreal "you're bad luck" kinda thing (although that sounds bad too, doesn't it?).

So, Ed got out and was swimming beside the canoe, and that was working out much better. The canoe was only about half submerged, and may have been continuing to float more and more. I'm not sure though, because all of a sudden I was the one outside of the canoe, floating in the water, and at the top of a particularly rocky waterfall. The waterfall wasn't straight down, and I felt that I had seen it before -I knew it was in Starved Rock (although I can't say as I've ever seen this waterfall in real life). Anyway, it was sloped, but very rocky and dangerous to be going down. I felt panic about going over the edge, then found myself floating feet-first (like my Dad taught me, but I didn't do it on purpose or out of knowledge in the dream). I was unharmed at the bottom, and Ed was on shore to help me out of the water, but I woke up there at the bottom of the falls.

So... Meaning? Water, I'm told symbolizes the unconscious and/or emotion. I buy that and it seems to fit with the whole Ed thing as well. He's great at sometimes talking me into exploring the reasoning behind my thoughts/feelings/actions/beliefs. The big emotional thing in my life right now is my Mom and Dad (mostly my Mom dealing with my Dad) and Ed's been good at getting me to see the problem more objectively and making decisions logically rather than reacting to my Mom's drama.

When dreams involve being in a car, it's said that the occupants of the car all have a relationship. Well, Ed and I obviously have a relationship. Curious that I made him get out of the canoe, and that when I did I started floating out of the water more (became less emotional, more stable?).

It is also said about dreams about cars that whoever's driving is the leader of that relationship, the one who's perceived to be in control of it. Since I was in the stern, that's me. That's a good sign, although not suprising -I am a control freak after all.

The waterfall -the danger of loosing control of my emotions? Getting carried away by them? I am very afraid of loosing my temper with my Mom...

As for being at the bottom, seemingly unharmed, with Ed there (on shore -no longer emotional?) to help me out. I'm thinking that might be confirmation that I believe he'll always be there for me.

Any other observations or interpretations will have to wait. It's bedtime now.

Dad's stroke, a review.

This may be helpful to others going through something similar:

On June 8, 2005 my Dad had a stroke in the left side of his brain. It was not a hemorrhage (or a bleed in the brain), but an ischaemic stroke (blockage). The symptoms were slurred speech, confusion, and weakness on the right side. Prior to this he was brought to the hospital with similar symptoms, although more mild, and since they subsided before they got in to see a doctor, he was released. No one ever mentioned that these little episodes could have been transient ischemic attacks (or TIAs).

Lesson #1: If you have any stroke-like symptoms no matter how short-lived or mild, demand that they are looked into. Getting on medication early can prevent a stroke that will most likely cause brain damage!

The day of the stroke and the day after it my Dad was still having trouble with his speech. With some effort he could get a few words out and a short phrase here and there. His right side was weak, but he was able to feed himself and walk just fine (he'd stray to the right a little when he walked, though).

The day after the stroke my Dad was scheduled for an MRI and a swallow test, but both tests kept being delayed. The hospital had not allowed him any food or water in over 24 hours and my Dad started getting very angry. By noon he was shaking his fist at my Mom and saying "never again". As time went on he got more and more angry. Eventually they did the swallow test brought him some food, but it didn't help. He was still very angry and he began throwing things. Security had to be called. It was obvious that my Mom was getting the brunt of his anger, so she had to go wait down the hall while they tried to get him to take a tranquilizer.

The tranquilizer didn't help. He was pacing and my Mom was frantic. My Dad wanted to go home, and nothing we could do could convince him to stay. We begged the staff at the hospital to keep him, but since he was determined to be of sound mind, he was allowed to sign himself out. We asked the staff and his doctor what to do if he was to get violent, seeing how angry he was, but no one had any answers for us. So, we brought my Dad home.

Throughout this day (the day after the stroke) my Dad's speech grew more and more garbled. At the end of the day and for the next 3 months (so far) he hasn't been able to get any words out unless they're automatic responses like "Hi" when he sees me or 4 letter words when he drops something -stuff like that. The doctors say that after a stroke the brain swells, and it takes up to 6 months for the swelling to go down, so it can be awhile before you see the stroke victim regain speech, movement, etc. The movement on his right side grew worse in the days after the stroke as well. A couple days after it he was unable to eat using his right hand. Now, 3 months later he's able to again and he has good stregth in his arm and leg as well, but he's not 100% yet.

Lesson #2: Expect things to get worse before they get better.

Months later we're still having our ups and downs, but we're learning to ride out the bad times in anticipation of the good times to come. They always do. It's just a matter of time.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

History repeats itself.

Sometimes I feel like I lived two separate childhoods.

From my earliest memories I can remember the days at home while my Dad was at work -my Mom stayed home and would play games with me, sit and watch me play in the front or backyard. When my Dad got home from work he'd turn into the "Shampoo Monster" and we'd play a game that ended up with him giving us a bath. I was a lucky kid -I had a sandbox, a big wheel, and a slip and slide... As I grew older I was allowed to ride my bike from "Adam's to Aimee's" (the houses of two kids, each about 5 houses down the block from ours). My parents bought us a 4-foot pool, one of the few on the block, and every year we went on vacation. Our family went camping, fishing, canoeing... We'd go out to my Grandpa's farm and shoot cans with our BB gun. It felt like we had it all.

Then there was the other side. I can't really remember when it started -not long after my Dad started a business at home, I think. He'd drink all day while we were at school and when we got home he'd be angry at us for stupid little stuff. He'd yell and we'd escape to a friend's house or to our rooms to play quietly. But, as we got older we got more defiant and it progressed to the point where he'd throw things. Not at us (usually), but numerous things got broken -remote controls, our Nintendo... I remember a pizza being thrown at the wall. It got to where we'd fear for our safety sometimes and I retreated to my room even more often. I remember late nights where I'd sit in my room with the door cracked just enough to see out while my Mom and Dad fought (verbally). He'd threaten to leave, she'd run after him begging him not to. I shed so many tears over his drinking and over the possibility that he'd leave us and I'd never see him again.

The bad times were definitely bad, but the good times were very good and the household seemed to swing from one extreme to the other as if hanging by a string and swaying in the wind. During the bad times I'd often write my Dad letters asking him to please stop drinking -for his health, for me, for the family... He ended up going into AA for awhile, and for a brief period the mood was more stable, but then -without the alcohol to medicate him, he grew even angrier and then slipped back to drinking again. After that he no longer just threatened to leave, he would leave, sometimes for a day or two, sometimes for a week or longer. The first time he was found in Joliet. He was so drunk he didn't even know his own name. This was all taking it's toll on my Mom, so letters would no longer do, and I'd be the one following him as he packed his stuff to leave yet again. I'd follow him out to the driveway and beg him to stay while my Mom fell apart in the house. Just like my letters, my begging went ignored and I would watch him drive down the block through the tears in my eyes. Every time I felt like my heart was torn out and I worried that he might kill someone (or himself) while driving drunk.

When I finally left home, I worked very heard to leave those things behind me and slowly came to the realization that I wasn't responsible for his moods and I couldn't do anything then or now to help the situation. I sympathized with it, but I had learned to live my own life, separate from their drama. Then my Dad had his stroke...

Now, there exists all the old problems (my Dad's anger, his wanting to drink, my Mom's going to pieces and him wanting to leave), but there's also new problems (the added frustration of him not being able to communicate, my Mom's fear of his health getting worse and her wanting to do all she can to help him regain what was lost when he had the stroke). All of it together is simply too much for my Mom to handle. So, when it gets really bad, she calls me crying and in hysterics.

This last time, Monday, she called saying he wants to leave again and begging me to talk to him. -This is a common thing, she wants me to talk to him over the phone, but he can't talk back! -He tries, but its gibberish and it serves only to frustrate him and me both. So, he's agitated, and she wants me to talk him out of leaving. Gee, the situation sounds familiar. But instead of getting angry about it I think: my Dad's had this stroke, and my Mom's been a saint looking after him 24x7, so I start trying to come up with other solutions. I ask her the name of the Social Worker that worked with my Dad the last time he was in the hospital -she might have some ideas, or at least some contacts for support groups for my Mom so that when this thing blows over, she can get some help. My Mom says no one can help, she's tried everything -she can't go to a support group because she has to take care of him, the doctors are no help, friends and family refuse to help her, and on and on until she's so hysterical that I can barely make out what she's saying.

Mom: "Just talk to him"
Erica: "It's not going to do any good. We need to come up with a solution here."
Mom: "Talk to your father, calm him down for me."
Erica: "It's never worked in the past, it's only going to frustrate him more when I don't understand what he's saying. We need to call someone to find out what our options are, what was the name of the Social Worker at UIC?"

We do this over and over again until... Silence. She's hung up on me.

And I'm left knowing that my Dad is angry, probably violent (as he has been since the stroke), and I'm cut off -an hour and a half away, not knowing what's going on, unable to do anything to help them because my Mom can't think straight while she's stressed out like this. I let it blow over and try to continue what I was doing before (working on my car), but I'm angry, upset, and hurt by what transpired. I can't get anything done because my thoughts keep going back to the phone call. Was I wrong? Should I have talked to him? (She puts him on the phone everytime I call to see how they're doing. It's uncomfortable. He talks on and on and on and it's all babble -the same sounds over and over, but in his head they make sense. There's nothing I can say but "I'm sorry, Dad, I don't understand" and the phone goes back to my Mom.)

An hour later I can't stand it anymore. I feel guilty for not taking some sort of action, so I call my brother. He's been better at calming her down through these situations before. But, when he answers, I find out he's as frustrated with her as I am. He agrees, however, to call her and see if he can help at all.

As soon as I put the phone down it rings again. It's my Mom. Do I pick it up? My whole body trembles. I want this to be over, one way or another. Is it good news, or bad? Does she want to apologize? Does she realize how childish the hang-up was? -I pick it up.

Mom: "I just wanted to let you know that it's a little better."
Erica: "That's good to hear. -I just got off the phone with Jeff, he said he was going to call you."
Mom: "Call him back and tell him not to call me."
Erica: "He's probably already dialing your number, why don't you want to talk to him?"
Mom: "The least you can do is talk to your father when I ask"

Then, silence again -she hung up on me a second time! My heart beat speeds up, tears start forming in my eyes, my whole body begins to tremble... I was taken back to the days where I watched the two of them fighting through the crack in my door. It took awhile, but I calmed myself down, then took it out on my exercise bike and went to bed.

My next contact with my Mom came yesterday via email:

Mom: "guess what today is?"
Erica: "your anniversary"
Mom: "yes, Bad morning. I'm going to need some help from someone...."
Erica: "You need to ASK for help when you need it. What do you need?"
Mom: "Time away from Dad..the only time I have is here at work. Friends and family seem to disappear at times like this."

We've been through this before too, and over and over I've offered to sit with Dad to give her a break, I'd do anything she'd ask of me, but when I visit, she never asks for anything at all. And as for me "disappearing" -I was there a week ago Monday!

Before the stroke I visited once a month, now I'm there every week or every other week. She keeps bringing this up, that I don't visit enough, that I should have been there to help her mow Gram's grass last week. I'm sick of being made to feel like a bad daughter because I can't anticipate her needs and be there when she needs help (without her asking). Never once has a request of her's been denied by me or my brother, but we continually are made to feel like we're abandoning her. I'm having an increasingly hard time trying to balance being grateful that she's there and caring for my Dad 24x7 with the total and utter frustration of her endless accusations that I'm a bad daughter while shes totally unable to take my (or anyone's) advice. She claims she can't get away from my Dad to go to support group meetings, but she's called me in great triumph when she's left him alone while she went grocery shopping. She won't call anyone to find out what her options are when my Dad tries to leave, and despite him being "dried out" while he was in the hospital, I came to find out last week that she's been GIVING ALCOHOL TO HIM!!!

How do I come up with sympathy for her situation when she continuously creates it? All the problems that they are having, aside from the communication problem that undoubtedly amplifies everything else, were there before the stroke. -I feel like they should have either dealt with all these issues a long time ago, or divorced back when I was in Jr High or High School.

I don't know what to do or what to think anymore. This is all driving me crazy. I have my own sources of stress, my own life, and I believe that I'm entitled to an entire weekend here and there to recover from work and everything else that's going on. So, where's the line between being a caring member of a family, and being a bad daughter? Right now I feel like just packing up the dog, grabbing Ed, and disappearing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Normal people watch TV.

I climbed the stairs slowly, trying not to touch anything. I got to the bedroom and decided I wasn't really sure how I was going to get a towel out of the closet. Well, I figured I'd do it just like last time -I took off my t-shirt, turned it inside-out, and wrapped it around my hand before opening the closet door. I grabbed a towel through my t-shirt covered hands, and placed it in the bathroom, then grabbed the remote off of my bedstand. I turned on the TV, not caring what was on. -I just wanted some background noise so I didn't have to focus completely on anything in particular. I dropped the t-shirt in the dirty clothes bin, unzipped my boots and put them away, socks, belt, jeans...

I stood there in my underware, hands black with oil and grease from the car and turned to the TV. It was a program called "Spy" on WTTW (channel 11). -It was a reality show, but it looked kinda interesting. I thought about the millions of people across the country who were at home right now, sitting infront of the TV. Me? -I was exhausted and I was jealous. I turned the TV off and got into the shower.

In the shower, I scrubbed away the result of a night's work on my car -well, most of it. Then I headed to bed to get as much sleep as possible before getting up for work the next day.

The TV was on for all of 5-10 minutes. I think that was the first time it was on all week. Normal people watch TV. I work on my car.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Kite Surfing!

A couple years ago I really wanted to learn how to surf. I looked up places in Hawaii where you can stay at a resort and learn, etc -but eventually I realized that I live about 1500 miles from the nearest ocean and perhaps surfing wouldn't be the most practical sport to pick up. But now that's all changed. I found "kite surfing".

Here's a good slideshow to see what kite surfing is about: http://www.kitehigh.nl/kitesurfing-pictures/displayimage.php?album=lastup&cat=16&pos=3

It looks like even more fun than surfing, and "the windy city" is the PERFECT place for it. -Problem? It costs about $500 for lessons, it's a difficult sport to learn, and it's about $2000 for the starter equipment. -That being said, I'd sign up in a minute if I could find someone willing to go with me.

Hello?

Anyone?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Too much going on at once... Frustrated...

Tuesday:
  • I call and reschedule our dental appointments.
  • I call our travel agent to let her know that her postcard said "The Steeve-Mason Wedding Cruise" instead of 'Steeve-Marshall'. I also asked for our cabin numbers so I can fill out the paperwork for the wedding.
  • I confirm the directions to the Dunes, the cost to get in, etc. So Ed can write an email to his coworkers.
  • Ed says I should cancel one of the campsites, so I call and cancel it.
  • My Mom calls and asks me to call the travel agent and book a cabin for my brother. I do.
  • The travel agent calls back with the room numbers, but has our cabin wrong and everyone's meal times wrong.
  • I send out an email to everyone with their cabin numbers and a map of the floor we're all on.
  • I get home and Ed wants me to make chili to bring camping. He wants chipotle peppers in it. I make the chili, then he tells me that the people camping with us don't like spicy food. The chili is spicy. Are we bringing it anyway? No. Okay, we'll have it for dinner tomorrow.
  • After that I do laundry so we have stuff to pack for the camping trip and stuff to wear when we get back in case we don't have time to do laundry on Sunday night.
Wednesday:
  • Ed asked me yesterday to email Rudy about the available bed in Jeff's cabin. I email him about it.
  • When we get home Ed decides we'll bring the chili camping after all. Okay, so what's for dinner? Luckily we have frozen pizzas. I make frozen pizza for us instead.
  • We leave for the Dunes Friday after work, and there's a lot to get done before we go. I want to get the shopping over with. I ask Ed to come with, he says he doesn't feel like it. -Neither do I.
  • Ed invites Kris over.
  • I drag all the stuff out of the shed and start going through it so we can get it all packed on Friday night and figure out if we need to buy anything before we go shopping tomorrow. Ed helps a little, but since he has company, I do most of it. After an hour and a half of sorting stuff out I realize it's bedtime and go take a shower, etc.
Thursday:
  • Ed wakes up late as usual. 5 minutes before we leave, just as he's finished getting dressed, he realizes it's garbage day and I have to help him get the garbage together so we can leave ASAP.
  • And the day has just begun... I have to resume packing our camping equipment, pack our clothes, shop for equipment we need, and shop for groceries for the trip.
I know it'll be nice to get away and go camping, but I really need a break RIGHT NOW!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What Constitutional Rights?

To put this out there bluntly: OUR CONSITUTIONAL RIGHTS ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY! Each day, little by little, because no one's doing anything about it. How long does it take to write a letter to your representatives? To read the news? To vote?

My previous post was about the government seizing property for private use. That'd be your 4th Amendment right against illegal searches and SEIZURES!

A law prohibiting flag burning just passed the House. -That's your 1st Amendment right to free SPEECH!

Wake up! We are in real danger of loosing our ability to claim this as a "FREE" Country!

Gov't can seize your house to build a mall!

Unbelievable -A Supreme Court ruling says the government can seize residential or business property against the owner's will for private development. That means that if they think they could make more tax revenue off your property if there was a mall there, they can take your land (see "eminent domain") and sell it to a private builder who'll build the mall.

Read about it here: link and here.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Dad -Laughing!

My Mom called me today to tell me that she visited my Dad today after work and he's in a MUCH better mood. He finally went to therapy, and I guess that she had him laughing! She said that it might have something to do with her own attitude after posting on www.strokeboard.net and getting some support from the other caregivers there. She talked to him them needing to find new ways to communicate, and I guess he got across the fact that he's feeling that same "pins and needles" feeling that Jeff felt when feeling was coming back to his arm a few years ago. -That's gotta be frustrating for him (he's feeling it from his right toe, all the way up the right side of his body, down to the fingers on his right hand, and up to the top of his head). But, that means the nerves are coming back. And that's a good thing.

I guess she also talked to him about him getting out in the garden to help her revive it and he got the word "outside" out. -I'm sure he wants to get out of that hospital and we all know he likes to be outside.

Because he's doing so well walking, they're talking about releasing him from the hospital. My Mom's more at ease with this since his mood change. I guess the doctor(s) are going to meet with her on Tuesday about the discharge. I assume that he'll continue speech therapy as an outpatient. I know he'll be happier at home...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Not-So Happy Father's Day

I spent the weekend trying to figure out what to get for Dad for Father's Day. I had no ideas, as usual, but especially with his shifting moods. I really wanted to get him something that would entertain him while he's stuck in the hospital, but I guess anything of value keeps getting stolen from his room at St. James hospital in Chicago Heights.

I ended up getting frustrated, but we went for coffee at Barnes and Noble and a coffee-table book caught my eye (I usually flip through them while Ed's finding his magazines). As I went through it a picture caught my eye. A waterfall. It looked familiar... I flipped back. Wow!!! It was Calf Creek falls!

Anyone outside of our family wouldn't know the significance, but my Dad always tried to find little out-of-the-way places to go on our family vacations -places that weren't so overrun with tourists, etc. He found out about Calf Creek, but when we arrived it was pretty late. He talked to a ranger who told him that we'd have to hike in and out pretty fast to get back by nightfall. We had a "family meeting" and decided to go for it.

Now, I was sick as a dog and it was HOT out (it's in Utah). Not only that, but the hiking was up and down, part rocky, part deep sand -none of it easy to walk through. We had to keep up a good pace as it was a ways to the falls, and me being hot, sick, and tired didn't make it much fun. Finally, as we approached a curve in the trail ahead we felt a rush of cool air and the mist of the falls. It felt soooo good we all ran to the falls. It was a beautiful sight! The waterfall was outlined on the rock by bright green algae, and the whole place was just this little oasis in the woods. My Dad said "If I came across this while heading West back in the gold rush days, I woulda built a house and stayed here!"

We all sat down where we stood and ripped our shoes and socks off to head for the cool water after the long, hot hike. But the water was not just cool, it was COLD. My Mom describes it like this: "When you stepped into the water up to your ankles, your KNEES hurt it was so cold." -It didn't stop me or Jeff, however. We headed to a place where the rocks sloped at an easy angle from the water to see if we could climb up at all. I think Jeff got there first, and before he got very far, he slid down the rock face and into the water. (The rock was all covered with algae.) I tried next, but got no further.

We spend enough time there to soak in the sights and cool down in the water, but the sun was going down fast and we had to leave sooner than any of us wanted to. The hike back was just as hard, but more motivated as darkness nipped at our heals. -But, we made it back safe and sound (and with one more story to tell of adventure on a family vacation).

So, I had to get the book for my Dad. Because of the aphasia (inability to communicate/understand language), my Dad can't read, but luckily, next to all the pictures in the book is a globe with the location of where the picture was taken marked on it. -That's cool. I also got him 2 cards. One Father's Day card with a really neat "outdoor" picture on the front -kindof a multi-media thingy made of felt, tacks (as tent stakes), string, etc. and another "Get Well Soon" card. -I figured that if we could have a bunch of cards in his room, it might cheer him up and let him know that he's being thought of.

On Sunday I went down to see my Mom. Another adventure! On the way, she calls to tell me my brother "thinks he got his car towed". -She wanted to know if I knew of the website where you can look to see if your car's been towed. Several phone calls (and voicemails to my brother) later, she found it and the car had, in fact, been towed. So, my brother had to take a cab to the impound lot where they told him that he needed to buy a city sticker before they could release the car. He took another cab to a currency exchange, got a sticker, got the car...

We all, eventually, made it to my Mom's house and visited my Dad in the hospital. He was VERY tired and didn't want company (he kept waving us off, like "go away"). So, we went down the cafeteria for an hour or so, then checked back in to see if he was feeling better. Nope. Still grouchy and not in the mood for company. We didn't push him, and left for dinner instead.

My Mom's been a trooper in all of this. It's hard to be there for someone who's angry and depressed, but she's done all she could for him at every turn. Luckily, we were able to get her to laugh over dinner (especially Jeff and his stories), then we went back to her place and I showed her a great forum for stroke victims, survivors, and caretakers. It's here: www.strokeboard.net.

That's about it. That was my Father's Day. First one, probably, without seeing much of my Dad. :-(

Friday, June 17, 2005

Maybe Dad's not giving up after all?

I got a call from my Mom -she said that some psychologists were brought in to talk to Dad because he hasn't eaten in 4 days, refuses his meds, and won't go to therapy. When the psychologists were done, my Mom met with them briefly in the hall to tell them what's been going on. They asked her if she thought he had lost the will to live, and she said that yes, that was her fear. The psychologist then went back into my Dad's room to ask him. When he came back out he told my Mom that he had NOT lost the will to live. -VERY good news!

She went into the room to visit with him, and I guess he broke down. Hopefully he knows how much we all care about him and how scarred we are that he's been refusing foods and meds. She comforted him, and then I guess he ate like crazy and got a tummy ache.

We're all ecstatic. I think this is a big leap forward. Perhaps dealing with this is like mourning where you have to go through stages. Maybe he's through the anger stage, and now is into depression? That would be progress at least.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rant. Totally stressed out.

Okay, so we're leaving on vacation in 8 days. My Mom was going to take our dog while we're away, but with my Dad's recent stroke, she can't take him. So, we have no idea who we can get to take care of the dog. I asked everyone at work and no one can take him. All the kennels will most likely be booked because we're going during a popular time (July 4 weekend). -I have no idea what we're going to do.

My Dad is refusing food, meds, and therapy. I think he's giving up. The only hope is that his doctor can get some psychologists in there to see him and work on his anti-depression medication (they've recently switched kinds, so that may have something to do with this).

My Mom's going nuts over this. Especially because my Dad's taking his anger out on her. He pushes her out of his hospital room and slams the door. -Not good.

We have a big upgrade happening this weekend at work, which means extra hours for me (bad timing).

Our paperwork for our wedding ceremony (we've decided to just let RCCL do it) is over due.

My Plymouth Laser is still in pieces; we're waiting on the head and oem parts from Mitch.

We bought a new car on Saturday, it's in the shop today to remove 2 small dents and 2 paint chips, so I'm driving a loaner. I just remembered that Ed was going to drive into work tomorrow to pick up the head and parts, but I'm supposed to return the loaner and pick up our car at lunch tomorrow. -Doh!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

We bought a new car! (Subaru Impreza WRX wagon)

Ed and I had been talking about getting a new car for awhile, and the timing just seemed right since we were 3 weeks from leaving on a driving vacation with only 1 out of 3 of our cars working. And that car being the Jeep without air conditioning and getting a max of 12mpg!

So, we walked car lots on Sundays and talked about our wants and needs. Hauling capacity would be important considering that this car will be a replacement for the Jeep. But, the major problem with the Jeep is that it's so slow that Ed hates driving it. So, it has to have at least a little "pep". Ed wanted a Lightning (truck). I didn't want a truck. We looked at the Murano. That's not really what we were looking for either. When Subaru's WRX wagon was brought up, we knew that was a great fit for us. We spent some time looking for alternatives, and found that the WRX wagon was for us. (Although the words "we're buying a STATION WAGON" were uttered in disbelief several times.)

On Saturday, June 11? we went to Bill Jacob's Subaru of Joliet and took a test drive of a WRX wagon. I didn't drive, I just tested the visibility -I'm so short that I can't see over the steering wheel of some cars -luckily, the WRX has a hight-adjustable seat. I knew from the pedal pressure that it'd take some time for me to get used to the clutch (it's MUCH lighter than my 2600lb clutch on my DSM). So, Ed drove it. He didn't get on it at all -he was afraid he'd get in trouble with the sales guy who came along for the ride. At the end of the ride the sales guy didn't pressure us at all, we left knowing that this car would work well for us, and knowing the options that we wanted.

Then we were left with the buying process. We both hate negotiating. One of us has even paid sticker price for a car before! So, I got online and researched like crazy. With the options we wanted, this is what we were told invoice should be along with what we should shoot for for a price:
  • Edmunds.com:
    • Invoice = $23,373
    • TMV ("What others are paying") = $23,714
  • Consumer Reports:
    • Invoice = $23,373
    • Wholesale price = $22,637 ($736 subtracted for eliminating the dealer holdback)
  • Blue Book:
    • Invoice = $23,373
    • New Car Blue Book = $24,740
So, invoice price was clear, but there was almost $2000 difference in "target price". The first thing I did was research the dealer holdback. It turns out that this is a percentage of MSRP that the manufacturer gives the dealer upon sale of the vehicle. The thing is, that this holdback is like a rebate for the dealership, the salesperson you negotiate with will never see that money -it's just part of the cost of the vehicle as far as they're concerned.

Some of the better material I found for researching car purchases:
So, armed with all this information, I used the "Get Free Quotes" button on Edmunds' site I think to get some online quotes. This was a mistake. The car dealers they contacted emailed me asking for specifics about the vehicle I wanted. You can eliminate the confusion by logging onto the website for the car dealerships in your area and filling out a quote request from them directly -for the actual car that you want (as long as you want something they have on their lot).

24 hours or less after filling out the quote requests, I got some replies:
  • Northshore Subaru quote: $23,877+fees, minus a $1500 rebate or a low financing option. So, basically their quote was $22,377 assumin we'd take the rebate. -I was blown away. This beat the lowest "target" price that I had found!
  • Naperville Subaru quote: $22,601+fees (including the $1500 rebate).
  • Countryside Subaru quote: $21,975 and with all fees came to $23,895 OTD
At this point, I was questioning the "target prices" that I received. Perhaps Edwards and the rest padded their prices at the request of their "advertising partners" (dealerships)? So, I researched some more and ran across the "How to negotiate a great deal" threat on the forum at FatWallet.com -on that site, a guy who claimed to have worked for a car dealership before said that your target price should be Invoice - rebates, including all taxes and fees. He said you should never pay more than invoice "out the door". -I readjusted my target price to be $22,500 "out the door" and emailed the dealerships back to let them know that this was what I was willing to pay. The result was shocking!

They all said: "Good luck."

None of them even made a counter-offer. The difference in price was $1,395 (basically the cost of the taxes and fees). I figured maybe they were playing a waiting game, but 48 hours later I was still waiting. I tried taunting a few, but they wouldn't budge so we gave up and called Countryside since their quote was the lowest.

We drove down to Countryside in sweltering heat in a noisy, gas-hog of a Jeep with no air conditioning. Once inside, we met the guy I had been emailing about the quote, Dave Edwards (Sales Manager), and we sat down to fill out the paperwork. In the process, we learned that although the dealership is about 25 miles away from our house, Dave lives just a couple blocks from us!

After the basic paperwork, we looked at the car (as it was getting washed), then sat down to fill out the financing info. I was prepared here as well. I had filled out an application for an auto loan from E-Loan (online), and got a rate of 6.52%. That was a lot higher than I had expected since I ordered a credit report and score and found that I had "Very Good" credit. (Their advertised rate was 5.2%.) But, this gave us a benchmark for whatever interest rate the dealership came back with. -Worst case, we go with E-Loan.

When Dave Edwards came back with our rates, they were much better than E-Loan's. It turned out that our monthly payments were cheaper if we went with the lower interest rate rather than the $1500 rebate, so we did that (the difference was only $5 a month).

Next, we were handed off to a woman who tried to sell us on rust-proofing and scotch-guarding every square inch of the car for the low-low price of $5000 (not really, but...). We passed, signed some papers saying that we'll clean up our own spilled ice cream, etc. and we got outta there. She wasn't overly pushy, but it was very scripted and not particularly fun.

After that we sat and watched that really old Hercules vs Medusa movie with really bad (clay-mation) "special effects" from the 70's while waiting to see the financial guy to finalize the loan. It took awhile to get called into the guy's office, but he explained that the real finance guy was out sick, and he was just covering for him. So, we filled out the loan paperwork -all very easy stuff, and we were soon sent back to see Dave Edwards.

Dave was really busy (being the Sales Manager and all), so he had "Tray" show us our car, which they had put in a room just off the showroom for our viewing in the comfort of the A/C. In the room was a chalk board which said "Congratulations:" (they had forgotten to put our names on it, but Ed and I were both glad about this). Anyway, Tray showed us every single feature of our car from the climate controls to the radio, to the security system, and all the little cubby holes that Subaru provides for storage. After the walk-through he handed us the keys, and Ed got to drive the car "right off the showroom floor". -It was cheesy, but...

I followed Ed home -he in the air condition goodness of the *New* WRX wagon, and me in the stickyness of the old, loud, "naturally cooled" Jeep. When we got home, Ed got out of the car and headed inside while I headed for the WRX for my first shot at driving it.

I still couldn't believe the lightness of the clutch as I backed out of the driveway, but it was the heavy flywheel gave me problems while driving. I was rev'ing way too high, and it took forever for the rpm's to come down. I didn't stall it, however, and by the end of the trip around the block I was able to get a feel for the car. It's quick after 3000 rpm, and the suspension's pretty stiff. I think it'll be a great autocross car! -It actually came with a year's membership to SCCA; how cool is that!?!

So, at the end of my trip, I park the car and go inside assuming that Ed would be at the door ready to hear what I think about the car and to share his thoughts on it. But no... He's at his laptop.

"There" he says.

"'There' what?" I says.

"Just ordered parts."

"What! We've owned it for..." -I look at my watch. "53 minutes and you've already ordered parts for it!"

"A short-shifter and some bushings." he says.

"Oh. Okay. Yeah, that shifter is really loose and it could definitely use to be shortened."

Heh, so we're both hopeless. -We're trying hard not to void the warranty on it, and to keep our mods to things that won't put us any higher than STX class in autocross. -Wish us luck!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Last night I had a very vivid dream about having surgery on my head.

Okay, Wednesday my Dad had a stroke, and that night I had a dream that I was going to have surgery on my eye. The focus of the dream was really more about before the surgery -I snuck out of the hospital, etc. But I was worried about the surgery, yada yada.

Last night, after visiting my dad in the hospital, I had a dream that I needed surgery on my head. The scalp, really, I guess. The doctor was my dentist, and he was doing the usual "We're going to make you comfortable now, you shouldn't feel a thing." It seemed to be a second try at the proceedure, and after a shot that was supposed to both numb the area and put me to sleep, I was bent over the arm of a leather sofa in his office (head down on the cushion). He started shaving the area he would make the incision on (middle of the back of my head), and I was thinking that I was really groggy, but I could feel the electric razor he was using. So I moved a little to let him know that I could feel it, and he asked if I was awake and feeling the razor. I kindof got the word yes out, but I was drooly and groggy and it was hard to talk. He said "Okay, well it shoulda kicked in, but I'll give it more time." And in the meantime he kept shaving. I was getting more and more groggy, but I could still feel the electric razor, and was afraid I'd feel the knife. Finally he asked "Can you feel this? Are you sleeping?" And I couldn't get anything out. I could move my hand and feet alittle, that was it. So he continued talking. Okay, looks like you're pretty much out, so I'm going to get my scalpal over here. And we'll make an incision about here..." -I felt a light scratch and wondered if he had cut all the way in and that'd be all I felt, 'cause I could handle that... Then he makes the real cut, and I didn't feel any pain, but he says pretty calmly "Sorry, I gotta go get the trama team" and I feel warmth running down by neck and back. I reallized pretty quick that he cut two main arteries (juggulars?) and while he left the room, I reached up with my hands to put pressure on the squirting arteries, but it was like two water fountains, and I was quickly loosing consciousness.

Nice, huh?

So, my dad had a stroke on Wednesday...

I got a call at about 11am on Wednesday. It was my Mom: "He's okay, but I wanted you to know -Dad's in the hospital, he had a stroke." Not that it was a shock, really. In fact, I've always counted on getting this call. My dad's really never, you know, taken care of himself...

Luckily, it was mild. He has mild facial paralysis and his speach is impared, and, for awhile, so was his ability to understand I am told. His right side is slightly weaker than the left, but he's walking just fine -in fact, I'm not sure my Mom has noticed this yet.

I spent the day at work on Wednesday worrying about what was going on. I didn't get another call from my Mom until I was ready to leave work at 4pm, and at that time nothing had changed. The ride home from work was long; my thoughts were on all of the fun my dad and I have had together when I was little: doing woodworking projects, family vacations, etc. -And the present: he and my Mom just bought a new car, and have been taking road trips. Things seemed to be looking up for them after a long bout of depression... Now this.

Thursday, yesterday, I took off of work and went to go see my Mom and Dad. Dad looked better than I had feared. No facial expressions, but he was walking fine. His words were jumbled, but every once in awhile, with great effort, he'd get one or two out. It seemed he understood what we were saying -the doctor asked to shake hands, and my dad did, etc. But he was MAD! Most of the words we understood contained four letters, and he got more and more agitated as the day went on.

To be fair, he was admitted to St James in Olympia Fields at 8:30am or so. They did all kinds of tests including a swallow test and they all came out good. He wasn't able to get water down, but thick liquids he could swallow just fine. There was no bleeding in the brain, etc. He finally got into a room later in the day where he was waiting for an MRI to make sure there were no more clots that would cause any more strokes. As of 4pm he hadn't gotten the MRI yet, nor had he been given any food. In fact, when I got to the hospital the next day, at about 11am he still hadn't had the MRI or food. At about 1pm he was taken for a more complete swallow test, which was good, but lunch time had passed and he wasn't even given a snack. The nurse said he'd be in for the MRI by 2pm, but 2pm came and went. Seems the machine was down in the morning, and they had a back-log.

At about 3pm my Dad put his pants on and started to walk out of the hospital. At this point he was able to get short phrases out, and they weren't nice. My Mom was freaking out on two fronts. First, he was very agitated, and she was afraid to bring him home in this state. Second, he was still undergoing treatment and needed the MRI. She didn't want to see him have another stroke... But, he was deemed mentally competant, so the hospital was unable to force him to stay. They took out his stint (for the IV) and had him sign a paper that said he was leaving without medical consent. Then he was out the door.

We were given his new perscriptions, the name and phone number for his doctor, and some advice on his diet ("mechanically soft": pasta, mashed potatoes, bread, etc) and my mom took him home while Ed and I picked up his perscriptions and some food. By the time I got to my parent's house, my Dad had made popcorn, ate it and went to bed. My Mom was hysterical. I tried to explain that there was nothing we could do until tomorrow. Leaving her like that was difficult. I'm not really sure what anyone can do, though. She's going to call his VA doctor tomorrow. He trusts that guy, and maybe he can convince my dad to let himself be admitted to another hospital. He's just so angry! I hope he doesn't try to harm my mom -or himself!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Illinois HB2221 will make "performance" exhaust illegal.

"chicagotalontsi" posted to the ChiDSM mailing list yesterday saying:

" A bill (H.B. 2221) to ban vehicles equipped with a “muffler or exhaust
system that clearly has been modified to amplify or increase the noise of the vehicle” was introduced at the last minute and is moving through the Illinois Legislature at breakneck speed. Under the bill, vehicles determined to have been modified by virtue of a “visual observation” will fail emissions inspection.

Time is of the Essence! We Urge You to Call or Fax Members of the Senate
Environment and Energy Committee (List Attached) Immediately to Oppose H.B. 2221

* H.B. 2221 ignores the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions.

* H.B. 2221 does not supply emissions inspectors with a clear standard to
enforce (e.g. decibel limit under a sound test procedure), allowing them to make subjective judgments based on “visual observations” on whether or not a modified exhaust system is in violation.

* H.B. 2221 fails to recognize that aftermarket exhaust systems offer
increased performance, which can make a vehicle safer by improving its ability to merge, pass, travel uphill, etc.

* H.B. 2221 would make it impossible for hobbyists to replace factory
exhaust systems with more durable, better performing options."


I immediately wrote a letter and faxed both my state Senator and Representative, then I posted a link to a website that'll give you the names/numbers for your elected officials.

The response on the list was disappointing:

Jonathan Katz: "
Seriously, if you get a new exhaust at Midas and it happens to be a little louder than stock (like the police will have decible meters and a listingof stock db values) is it then illegal?"

Daniel (EvoRS): "
just swap the whole exhaust when we go for emmisions:)"


I swear. These people will be up in arms when they fail emissions because this bill is passed. How hard is it to write a letter and fax or mail it? This is how stupid laws get passed. Lazy citizens who talk about how much a bill sucks, but won't lift a finger to try to prevent it.

I'm not sure what I'll do if this law is passed. I'm certainly not swapping my exhaust every 2 years when I go for emissions. What bull$hit. Perhaps it'll convince Ed to move to Florida.

Before I go, let me just say, that I agree that excessively loud exhaust is a problem, but it's already dealt with via local noise ordinances!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Bush withholding information on Bolton, but still wants up or down vote...

Not sure if Bush withholding information is news, but this whole Bolton thing really cheeses me off. Here's the NYTimes link: Bush Hints He Will Withhold Other Papers on Bolton.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Vitamins and Minerals as Sleeping Pills?

I've always had problems getting to sleep and/or staying asleep and I've tried: routines, reading before bed, cutting out caffiene, not exercising before bed, etc. Those all helped me fall asleep faster, but they didn't help me stay asleep -I'd still wake up in the middle of the night, and not be able to go back to sleep.

Well, I read an article a few months ago about the effect of minerals on sleep. Calcium, it said, helps you get to sleep. This is why the old folk wisdom says to drink warm milk. But, too much Calcium can make you have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because the calcium settles in your bladder and makes you feel like you have to go. To fix this you need more Magnesium so that your body can absorb the Calcium.

Magnesium provides the brain with energy. Too much magnesium, and you wake up in the middle of the night and you can't get back to sleep. (My problem.) The answer, again, is to balance the Calcium/Magnesium ratio. Either cut down on the Magnesium, or increase the Calcium.

In researching "B vitamins" I found that Niacin is also a sleep inducer. It's supposed to be calming.

So, I put all this together, and I've been taking the following before bed for over a month now:
  • 250mg Magnesium (as Magnesium Oxide)
  • 315mg Calcium Citrate (+200IU Vitamin D to help absorbtion)
  • 500mg Flush Free Niacin (as inositol hexanicotinate + 42mg Calcium Carbonate)
It's been working out very well. The number of nights that I've woken up and not been able to go back to sleep have decreased dramatically. I'm not as tired during the day anymore (I was living on coffee before, but have only had the occassional cup since taking the supplements). I'm impressed and intend to keep it up!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Looking for a book to read?

A friend of ours reminded me of a really cool book that I read a long time ago. It's called "The Long Walk" by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman. If you're a fan of odd fiction and haven't read it, you should pick it up.

The Terrorists Have Won: 1 more personal freedom eroded in the name of "security":

Article about a new x-ray machine that's being tested in airports that allows a security guard to see through your clothing to determine whether or not you have weapons on you: http://news.com.com/Airport+screeners+could+see+X-rated+X-rays/2100-7348_3-5718163.html?tag=nefd.top

More info about the scanner: http://www.freedomisslavery.info/index.php?p=1138

First of all, how many problems have we had with attempted airplane hijackings since 9/11? -I can't find ANY attempts on flights originating from the US on this site here, so we must debate the issue of these scanners with the understanding that the attacks we are trying to prevent are extremely rare. Is the use of these scanners justified? I think not.

The scanner is designed to give it's operator a clear picture of what's under a person's clothes including nipples and genitals, but it is not designed to penetrate the skin. So hiding weapons in body orifaces are still an option. Similarly, if a man of girth were to hide weapons in his, uh... skin folds, they would not be seen. And, why not just put the weapons in your carry-on? I've seen the images they get from those scanners, and they instill about as much confidence as the half-asleep security guard who is looking at the screen.

Rather than invading people's privacy by implementing controvercial and expensive equipment like this, why not think about how 9/11 occurred for a moment. Simply locking the cabin where the pilots are (from the inside) would have been sufficiant! -Let's not use a bazooka to kill a fly.

One more reason the invasion of privacy is unjustified: Let's assume our airport security is totally unpenatrable. -Those who are motivated to attack us with airplanes could simply hijack a plane originating from Mexico or Canada -or even further if they didn't mind less fuel to feed the fire after the crash.

I'm sure there's more, but I'll leave you with this comment from Slashdot:

"The city of boston started with 1000 camera's for the convention, promising it was only for the convention, then deciding to keep them.

The city of chicago followed next, installing 3000 camera's. They can look inside cars. They can tell if you're smoking a joint. They can tell if you're talking to a prostitute.

The city of naperville is installing fingerprint machines in order for people to use the library.

The United States Congress is pushing for a national ID card, with biometrics.

Lets face it, people will soon be tracked, it will be impossible to just slip into a city. The police will know who you are and where you are at all times.

They will soon take your DNA, without your agreement. Anyone hear about DNA dragnets being used in towns? And it is easy for them to get it. They pull you over in your car, they take you down to the station with a bogus charge. They take your picture and fingerprints. They then tell you, we'll we made a mistake, sorry, you're free to go. And as you leave, they vacum up the hair that fell out off your head. Now they have all the information, and there is nothing you can do about it.

So what if they can see you naked? Big deal. That should be the least of your worries, that Officer Friendly can see your wee-wee. What would worry me more is he can keep a tab on what your reading at the library.

Databases are here to stay, and in the future your whole life will exist in a database, somewhere.

It sucks, but that is the preperation for the revolution. If you're not willing to work 50 hours a week just to cover your rent, you will be labled a terrorist. Cuba is waiting for all who complain."

(http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/05/27/0521232&from=rss)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Bush's next judicial nominee?

Unprompted, this judge decided that these parents' religion wasn't "mainstream" enough, and forbid them to involve their child in their religious practices!

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050526/NEWS01/505260481

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Breaking News: Sit-ups won't flatten your tummy!

Well, Spring's here and everyone's a-buzz about diet and exercise. Now's the time that we pay the price for all those cookies and treats we shoved into our mouths while our sweaters hid the growing bulge. The bulge has been revealed, and now's the time to start talking about doing something about it...

I've been in an enormous number of discussions with co-workers and other acquaintences about starting a diet and exercise routine. It seems a twice yearly event: first comes New Year's and our resolutions after making pigs of ourselves over the holidays. Then, the stores start putting out the swimsuits and we remember why we were going to start the diet in January. There's no time now! Ahhh!!! The only way to save face is to recognize the problem and start talking to people about the fact that you're going to take action... Tomorrow.

I know it's easier to talk then to do it... My real aggravation is the fact that I've heard, at least three times now, people say "I've got to start doing sit-ups. I have to loose this tummy/gut".

If you want to bulk up your biceps, what do you do? You do arm curls! -What's different about your stomach? Nothing. If you do 100 sit-ups a day, you'll only succeed in "bulking up" your stomach, it definitely won't help you get rid of the fat there. It just doesn't work that way!

Fat lives all over your body, and it's actually nomadic. The fat cells release themselves from your thighs, travel through your bloodstream (in case you need them for energy), and then re-deposit themselves in, say, your stomach ('cause you're just sitting there). So, exercising one part of the body will not reduce the fat in that one area alone. In fact, strength-training exercises like sit-ups and arm curls don't do much to reduce your body fat (at least not in the short-term). Your best bet for loosing fat is aerobic exercise (running, jogging, speed-walking, riding a bike, rollerblading, etc -and you don't get the full benefit of the exercise until you at LEAST 15 to 20 minutes into it). See, aerobic exercise allows you to use up those fat cells that are floating around in your bloodstream and they won't continuously get re-deposited. After 15 or 20 minutes, your body starts relealizing that you might actually keep going, so it starts releasing more fat cells into the bloodstream so you have the energy to continue. You burn more fat as a result.

Now, if you can't do aerobic exercise -there's still hope. Strength-training exercises (again, sit-ups and the like) do help you burn some fat while you do them (but not nearly as much), and they help you burn more fat when you're at rest (just to keep that extra muscle alive). But, if you stop exercising, that muscle will be re-absorbed by your body, and guess what'll replace it?

Anyway, that's your primer on exercise...
Go forth and talk about running instead of about doing sit-ups.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

DSMs tend to decide their own upgrade paths...

Another post that starts with Grr...

Grr.

I'm happily researching spring rates so that I can buy the shocks and coilover kit that I've been looking at for the last few weeks when I get an instant message from Ed...

(10:01:37) logic_: Got a minute to talk about your head?

And thus all my plans have changed.

See, my car's currently down for a long overdue timing belt change (91,100 miles). -I figured it was about that time since we have a driving vacation coming up in less than 2 months and I doubt Ed's car will be ready in time (we don't have his engine yet). So, we got it up in the air a few days ago, and started on it. We're currently waiting for a timing belt tensioner tool before we can proceed with the actual timing belt change, but in the mean time there are other things that can be started like my balance shaft elimination (to raise the oil pressure). The only problem we've run into so far is a massive oil leak on the driver's side, possibly from something in the vicinity of the front case (we're still tracking it down).

Now all the parts for the timing belt change were bought awhile ago, so barring any suprises we should be good there. I decided I have $1000 to fix my suspension (it's not only sloppy, but getting dangerous at this point). I also just sold an intercooler that I paid about $400 for, for $600. So I have $600 that I planned to use to replace my seat with a "race seat". (It's not as ricey as it sounds, see, I had to put spacers under my seat so I could see over the dash and because of the weird OEM seat bracket, it's a really hacky job. I'm not so sure it'd hold in an accident, so I'm wanting to replace it ASAP).

But, with Ed's IM the plans have changed. Seems he thinks the head gasket might be going (he never mentioned anything about this before today). He talked to Mitch (the guy who's building his engine) and he agrees, given Ed's description of the problem: white smoke coming from exhaust (I never noticed), coolant got low with no visible leaks (we just swapped the radiator, maybe there was air in it?), and it's been sputtering (every once in awhile -we attributed it to a vacuum leak a few days ago...). To even check it, we'd have to take the head off and apparently, when you do that you need to resurface it. Mitch says the exhaust dowels (?) are also probably in need of replacing. "And while he's got it" we may as well think about getting some other things done.

In the end, here's what I'm looking at:
Stage 1 Head Work:
* Bowl Work
* Check valves
* Bronze guides honed to size
* Multi Angle valve job
* Viton Stem Seals
* Resurface on Mill to MLS Gasket standard

Plus:
* Engine Springs (both with Ti retainers) -for the bigger cams in my future
* Titanium Retainers
* Revised Lifters -because the ones I have now tick. Alot.

The list price for the above work is somewhere between
$1057-$1118.

Now, we'll be getting together with Mitch and he may be able to come down on price somewhat. He also may tell me that some of the above is unnecessary, but he also might come up with more stuff to do (porting, polishing, etc).

So... My plans for suspension are on hold. I may have to just do the shocks, and do the springs later. I'm also thinking about skipping the seat for now.

Vacation's just around the corner and I'm not taking the Jeep to Canada....

Bleh, stay tuned for the next episode of "If my DSM worked I'd drive it off of a cliff." :-P

Monday, April 25, 2005

TSSCC autocross Event 2 "Just Drive"

My first REAL autocross event!

I was really excited to autocross again, and we had to skip a DSM meet on Saturday night to get up at 5:30am so we could get to Route 66 Raceway by 7-7:30am. We ended up getting there at 7am, and we were about the tenth car there. The course was set up, but registration, tech, etc weren't ready yet. So we stayed in the car with the heater on for awhile (it was about 30 degrees out and windy) then started unloading the car as more people arrived.

As soon as a line began to form for registration, we were in it. Then we got the car tech'd and received our work assignments. After that, we got the car to grid and began walking the course. The first time around I just make sure that I can read the course properly -sometimes all those cones just blend together and it's difficult to figure out which way you're supposed to go. This particular couse seemed pretty easy as far as direction went. There really wasn't anywhere I felt I might get lost. That's always a relief!

The second time around Ed and I talked about strategy. We basically agreed on everything, but I still wasn't sure about which way to take the slolum. When we got back we had breakfast (some beef jerky and a granola bar), then we heard that last year's club winner was going to give an instructional walk of the course. Ed and I ran out and met them on the course. Turns out our assessment of the course was pretty good, and when we got around to the slolum I felt better about it as well.

After that was the driver's meeting, then we were off to work on "Corner 2" which we found out was the furthest corner away. It was okay, though, walking kept us warmer. When we arrived I explained to Ed how corner working with TSSCC and SCCA differs from the club he ran with last year (JSCC). -Basically, there's an additional job of writing down each car that goes by for auditing purposes. The only other difference is that instead of calling in penalties in one shot, you say "Corner 2 to control" and wait for them to say "Go ahead Corner 2" before calling in the car # and the penalty. When our other corner workers showed up we divided the jobs (I did the writing, Ed was on the CB, and the others ran out and reset cones).

Writing is a good job 'cause you don't have to run. Running in driving shoes on hard pavement -especially in the cold sucks big time. The other problem with it is, there are 2 cars on course at all times and everyone was running the course between 42 and 64 seconds. That means, about 25 seconds between cars, and no time to see how others are driving the course. No learning from others' mistakes. Also, different from Joliet, the course at Route 66 is a lot longer (and bigger), so you can't use your work time to watch and learn the course better. You simply can't see it all!

We worked 2 heats, 3 runs each -it took maybe 2 hours? Out there in the cold it felt like forever, but when it was done we knew it was our turn to drive! Ed drove first, and like a lot of people he skidded around a lot out there. It was cold, so our tires lost a lot of grip. He ended up missing a turn as a result on his first run. For the second run, I chalked the tires, and Ed compensated with his driving for the reduced traction. It worked. He did better the second time, but the car was still all over the place. When he was done I checked the chalk marks and found that the tires -especially in the rear were over-inflated. I grabbed the tire gauge and let out about 15 pounds of air! I left the front alone.

Ed's third run was better, but after that it was my turn! My first run was over-agressive and I skidded a lot. I was understeering all over the place, and that's something I'm not used to in this car. Usually I get oversteer. I don't know if it was the cold, the turns, or just me braking in the turns rather than before them, but my second and third runs I held back some and went a little faster. "Go slower to go faster" really works!

When my runs were over, we walked back to Corner 2 to work again. (Usually you only work 1 heat, and rest the other, but there were only about 100 cars (only!?!), and they didn't have enough people to split up the work groups, so we all worked 2 heats. It was still cold, but when the wind died down alittle and the sun was out it wasn't too bad (we enjoyed all 2 seconds of that :-P).

When those runs were done we headed back to the car. I drove first this time since my numbers were already on the car and the seat and everything was set up for me. By the end of my last 3 runs, I shaved 3 seconds off of my first time and lowered the tire pressure on the front tires by 10 pounds to help with the understeer.

Next, Ed took the wheel and I again rode along. I must say that by the end of his runs I was angry at myself. My original goal was to be within 5 seconds of Ed's time. I ended up being about 3.5 seconds slower, so I reached my goal, but after seeing how much more agressive Ed was on the course, I saw a few places that I could have gained time. I think I could have gone at least 1.5 seconds faster if I was given one more run. It was (and still is) frustrating. But, Ed's got 2 seasons on me. I'll get better with practice.

I can't wait to go out again, but I don't think we'll make another autocross until June or so. Perhaps, in the meantime I can get my (very overdue) timing belt change done. No doubt I'll also be thinking about replacing my brakes (they're squeeking), and my shocks (12 years old, I'm hitting the bump-stops from time-to-time!). Blah. My car is my motivation for going to work everyday...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Dan Darrah's now with Hotel 45!

One of my favorite local musicians, Dan Darrah has paired up with a band! They are now collectively known as Hotel 45. There's snippets of their music from practice sessions on the site, and it's a little different than his old stuff, but it's not too much of a stretch. He sounds comforable with the slightly different style. I look forward to the album they're working on and I hope to get to see them live soon.

For those who don't know, Dan Darrah's music is kinda folk-y rock. Kinda like John Mayer. Check it out!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Special Intrests Groups Weigh In On The Next Pope

Ed and I were getting ready for bed, and I'm deathly afraid of silence, so I had the radio tuned into News Radio 780. They were talking about a woman's group who were down at the Vatican making pink smoke to signify the fact that they think that the Catholic church should let women into positions of power. They also interviewed some people about the possibility of the next Pope being black.

This got Ed and my heads churning. The conversation went something like this:

Ed: I think the next Pope should be a black woman.
Erica: Yeah. With a disability. And maybe AIDS?
Ed: And she should be gay.
Erica: Maybe trans-gender?
Ed: Or a child-molester? Think about it.
Erica: Yeah, at least they wouldn't have to cover it up anymore.
Ed: Ooh! I have it! The next Pope will be Michael Jackson! -Where else but in America can a promising young black boy grow up to be a beautiful white woman?

(He loves that quote.)

Anyway, I about fell off the bed when he said that, so I thought I'd share.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A review of the SCCA Learning Curve

I attended the Chicago SCCA Learning Curve on April 9 and 10 and after listening to a few friends who've said they were interested in going, I thought I'd share a review on the class as it was a little different than I expected...

First of all, for those who don't know: my previous autocross experience has been watching Ed, now my fiance (it's still weird to say that), autocrossing for the past 2 seasons. I also participated in the Mazda Rev It Up event last year.

The SCCA's Learning Curve, first of all, was worth the money to me. I started out very unsure of myself since I've only been driving stick for the past 6 months or so. This course was a nice way to get the feel of autocrossing with a knowledgable person at your side, then participate in an event that closely resembles an actual SCCA autocross. You also get to run the course that will also be used at the next (real) event, which is a plus! Saturday I was very nervous driving to the first class. Sunday I was just excited to get on the course. That was worth the money right there!

As I said, I think this course was worthwhile for me, but anyone who's been to an autocross event before and feels confident enough to try it themselves may not need this course. If you have a friend to show you how the event runs, and you don't mind asking people for pointers, you'd probably be fine just showing up. -Don't worry about your skills or your car. From the looks of things they see all kinds of people out there. Just go and have fun!

Anyway, on to the class. Saturday started in the classroom where we were given a booklet which followed a Power-point slide presentation page-for-page. Basically the instruction consisted of what autocross is, the basic rules, what to bring to an event, etc. There was NO TECHNICAL INSTRUCTION. After class (about an hour long or so) we were paired up with our instructors; there were about 2 students to each instructor, but some teachers may have had 3 students. The instructors varied from "seasoned" men who had been in national competitions, to one lady who won at nationals, and others were club members who consistantly pulled off good times. Basically, with the instructors, it was luck of the draw. Some may only be getting good times because they have a really well set up (and fast) car, or perhaps they know everything about driving their rear-wheel drive car, but nothing about driving your front-wheel drive car. I paid a lot of attention to the instructors talking to their students out on the course; some gave good advice and seemed very knowledgable. Others couldn't even answer their students (general) questions!

After introductions, the instructors tech'd our cars and we all headed to the two "mini" courses that were set up for us. We walked the courses as our teachers explained the best line to take, where you'd be accellerating, where you'd be braking, etc. After that was lunch, supplied by K&M Magnetics, and then we headed out to the courses. There were 85 students and we were all divided into 3 groups (orange, blue, and green) and given assignments (work, run course 1, or run course 2).

When it was our turn to drive the course(s), our instructor rode along with us. At first she'd call out the directions we'd be turning (ie "enter the slalom on the left"), then she'd let us find our own way around. Either way, at the end of the run she'd let you know where you could improve next time. We got 5 runs on each of the 2 courses, and only had to work once. After that, we made plans for meeting up the next day and went home to (hopefully) relax.

On Sunday, we were to show up at 7:30am which was difficult, but apparently normal for race day. Our teachers tech'd our cars again, then we headed out to walk the full course (they just combined the 2 mini courses from Saturday into one big course on Sunday). After walking it a couple times, we attended the driver's meeting and headed out to work heat 1.

There were 150 or so cars running that day (because instructors also ran their cars with students riding along), so it was decided that we'd all get 5 runs. Considering the number of cars, the heats went pretty quick, but it seemed like forever out there shagging cones on the course. After heat 1 was lunch, supplied by K&M Magnetics again. Then it was our turn to drive!

The instructors rode along again and gave us pointers on where we could improve. On Saturday they didn't time our runs at all, but I thought I was really fast because at the end of the day my instructor had no more advice for me. My first timed run on Sunday shot that ego down a bit. In the end, I knocked a little more than 5 seconds off my first run. Truthfully, I think I would have done just as well without the instructor, but I've had the experience of Rev It Up and watching 2 seasons of autocross before participating.

For heat 3, our instructors ran, so we took turns riding along with them in their own car. My instructor had a very nicely set up Dodge Neon (believe it or not), and being able to ride along with her gave me an even better idea of where I could improve (and how I could improve the car as well).

So, there you go. That's what the class was all about: experience more than anything. I got a confidence boost out of it. I CAN autocross, I just have to practice to get faster. If you're looking for an introduction to the sport, this is a great place to get it. If you've participated before and want someone to ride along with you to give you general pointers, it's not a bad deal (but it all depends on who you get as an instructor). If you've autocrossed before and are looking for more in-depth tips, this isn't the place for you.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terri Schiavo, the new reality show!

I'm sitting in a restaurant last night watching the Fox News and they're talking about Terri Schiavo. They give a brief history of her case (as if anyone doesn't know by now) and then start talking about her current condition. The screen shows Terri on video looking weak and sickly while in bold letters under her image the words "Day 11" make it even more obvious that this person has turned into a television event before our eyes. Next, a "specialist" explained what, exactly, is going on in Terri Schiavo's body right now: "She's not feeling any hunger, her own body's pain killers have kicked in. Her kidneys are shutting down because of dehydration. Toxins are building up in her system and will soon lead to a heart attack, which will kill her." It is then that I realize that Terri Schiavo is the new hit reality TV show. What will happen next? Who knows? Tune in at 7pm tonight to find out! -Tactless.

Somewhere, lost in the media exploitation, are a few issues that need to be taken care of. One is, when a person is incapacitated, who has the right to decide what happens to him or her? Ideally there's a living will, but how many people have actually bothered to write one up? It's not difficult. Any scrap of paper, a diary or blog entry may have been enough for Terri Schiavo's case to be decided once and for all in court. So, write down what you want to have happen to you if you are incapacitated! Or, if you are unsure (like me), leave it to your loved ones and hope there's not some 15 year fight that ends up with you getting starved to death. (Ew.)

Another thing that this case has pointed out is a need for our legal system to decide once and for all who can make the decision to "pull the plug" on someone? Does the spouse trump the parents? We need to make sure that this doesn't happen again. I don't often call for laws, but in this case it needs to be made clear.

Lastly, and I'm not sure if I'm alone in this, but I'd rather not be starved to death... If it's Terri Schiavo's lot to die, why does her death have to occur in such a long, drawn-out way? I can't imagine how her loved ones must feel watching her slowly dehydrate and starve. Even if they felt that she wouldn't want to live, how could anyone sit by and watch that? No, I'm strongly in favor of leathal injection in a case like this. Spare us the "Day 12" coverage and spare her parents another day of watching her waste away before their eyes. Doctor-prescribed lethal injection (involve a judge, I don't care!) should be made legal. Murderers and rapists sentenced to death are ensured that it will be relativly painfree and humane. So, why is lethal injection not good enough for Terri? Watching her death it's plain to see that it archaic and cruel. -And it certainly shouldn't be broadcast for the world to see.

Monday, March 28, 2005

"Put a flag on your car...it's literally the least you can do."

(The title of today's blog entry is from Bill Maher's 2002 book When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden.)

All the magnetic ribbons and bumper stickers that have been stuck on cars since 9/11 is astounding! At first they were an okay idea, but it's gotten out of hand. I mean, now they have ribbons for sports teams! -I've seen "Bears" ribbons, "Cubs" ribbons, "White Sox"...
Basically they've become so commercialized that they have lost their meaning.

For educational purposes, here's a list of ribbons (there are others besides yellow, red, and pink!): http://www.craftsnscraps.com/jewelry/ribbons.html

And a link to a great ribbon parody site:
http://www.supportourribbons.com/index.php

Which leads me to something I've thought about doing several times now. -Switching magnetic ribbons on people. How funny would it be to take the cammo "Support Our Troops" ribbon off of that big truck and switch it from the "Support a Cure for Breast Cancer" pink ribbon from the VW Beetle next to it? Or, switch the cammo ribbon with the rainbow one? How about the "Cubs" and the "Sox"?
-No, you could get killed over that one...

So go forth and swap ribbons!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Ending hunger. 2 ideas in 1.

Last night we had dinner at Lone Star (a steakhouse/bar). We were seated in a nearly empty dining room (it was very early). The one other table that had been sat was occupied by a mother and 2 children. One of the children was wining and crying non-stop. The mother did little to quiet him/her. Soon another party came in and they were sat behind us. Before they were even seated fights broke out among 3 of the children. "I don't wanna sit by him!" "Mom! Tommy has my toy and won't give it back!" I was ready to kill. If they kept it up, I was prepared to ask to be moved. I was in no mood to deal with this noise. I decided against having kids. Why do I have to deal with everyone else's? We were in a steakhouse/bar for Ghod sakes! As Ed and I were commenting on all the kids, the table infront of us was sat. Another mother and 2 small kids. Luckily, those children were very well behaved and we didn't hear a peep out of them all through our meal. I decided against killing anyone at that table if I went berserk. -It was a possibility at that point... Anyway, we got through the meal, and as we left we figured out why there were so many kids. We parked right infront of a banner that said "Kids eat FREE on Tuesdays!" Great. Cross off Lone Star as a dining choice on Tuesday nights... Still, parents should either teach their kids how to behave in a restaurant or not bring them until they can be quiet enough to not disturb the other patrons. Alternatively, restaurants could creat "family sections" to condense the noise into one central area so the rest of us have a hope of eating in peace.

But that's not what I was really going to write about today. See, a couple of years ago I came up with the answer to hunger in our area, if not in the whole country and I figured I better share! The idea came to me while driving in late spring. It was a familiar scene -a beautiful pond (okay, a retention pond) crammed with Canadian geese. They were wing-to-wing, filling an area roughly the size of a football field. And it isn't a temporary thing! If you live around here you know there's a definite "goose problem". You go out for a walk around our old apartment's grounds and there's goose poop everywhere! They make a mess of everything. Something needs to be done! A-ha! Geese are eatable. Why not allow hunting and/or trapping of geese until the population's under control? The meat could be used to feed the hungry... I think it's a good idea!

My other idea, if the goose thing doesn't work out. Is allowing the eating of noisy kids in restaurants. The world would be a much better (quieter) place. The meat could be used to feed the hungry as well ala "Soylent Green". Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "baby food"...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Stuff that did NOT get stolen from my car.

Okay, so now that some time has passed since my car got broken into, I've been able to find some humor in it...

What got stolen:
  • My $100 radio
  • My boost gauge
  • My Air/Fuel gauge
  • My gauge pod
  • My fire extinguisher
Yep. My fire extinguisher was taken. I had a rice-y white fire extinguisher strapped down to the back seat and it was stolen along with the electronics. I find that to be hilarious since...

What was NOT stolen:
  • My AFC
  • My palm pilot
The AFC is easily worth $150 to $200. It was the single most valuable piece of equipment in the car at the time. Fortunately, it was under the passenger seat along with my Palm Pilot. A cable ran right under the stereo (which was stolen), over the center console, and went under the seat. If the person would have just been curious enough to pull on it they would have found them. More proof that keeping stuff "out of sight" is, in itself, a good security measure.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Stupid Motivational Posters

I saw this in OfficeMax and almost died laughing...

Some people at "Successories" need a history lesson!

Friday, March 11, 2005

My car was broken into last night!

More bad luck...

Ed got the shifter in the Laser working properly (thanks to the magic of WD-40) so we took that to dinner last night. I was so happy that I'd be able to drive it to work the next day! Turns out that wasn't gunna happen...

I got up this morning and went out to start the Laser. I unlocked the door, opened it, and noticed a black plastic piece on the seat. Grr. The gauge pod must have finally fell off. I pick the piece up, no that's the piece that goes over the door... I look at the A-pillar where the gauge pod should be. No. Can't be. Where is it? Maybe Ed took it off... I went inside and asked Ed. Nope. He didn't touch it. We both go back out to the car. The stereo's gone too!

Whoever did it was neat as hell, and I have to admit I'm thankful they didn't rip everything apart. They made off with 2 fairly cheap gauges, a gauge pod that I was hoping to replace anyway, and a stereo worth $99 new. Still, I feel violated, and I'm not sure how we can better protect the cars from future break-ins.

Obviously the person who did this knew what they were doing. They probably saw the gauges from the street and marked it as a target. Our hours are regular as hell, so timing wouldn't be a problem. Due to the fact that all the screws were left neatly on the seat, the frame or whatever you call it for the stereo was neatly left on the floor, and the other plastic piece that goes over the door was neatly left on the driver's seat, I'd say the guy (or girl) responsible was just as organized and careful in selecting the target and following through. It also shows that they have a conscience.

In the end, I'm out a couple hundred dollars -but as Ed said this morning it's a cheap wake-up call before we have both our cars in the driveway full of expensive toys. What makes me the maddest is thinking about how to protect the cars in the future. Car alarms are cheesy and easily gotten around. Ed mentioned motion sensors and possibly a video camera, which would be easy to do and cheap with the cost of webcams these days. I don't know, but we won't sit around and do nothing! We have 2 "race cars" and only 1 will fit in the garage at a time...

The funny thing is I went through some police training and I know at least a little bit about how targets are picked. One of the things I liked about our house is that it's a really bad target for thieves. Our block curves around, and we're actually on the corner of a cul-de-sac, which places our house as the farthest forward on the block. That means that you can see our whole driveway clearly from a great distance away. Not the best place to be breaking into cars! The thing that helped this person not be seen, however, was my Jeep. It was parked next to the Laser providing a perfect sheild from view. Gosh darn it...

Oh yeah, the Laser was locked, the Jeep's always unlocked (no sense locking a Jeep w/ a soft top!), the Jeep had the same stereo in it, but the face plate was locked in the center console. The Jeep's stereo was untouched. I didn't have time to look around and see if anyone went through the Jeep looking for the face plate...

The moral of the story: Car locks mean nothing. Hide your stereo's face plate, and conseal anything (like gauges) that make your car stand out. I'll be mounting my gauges elsewhere next time....