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 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:

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:
    • 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 -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.