Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Link laden and laughing

If you watch The Office, you'd probably agree that Michael [Steve Carrell] is so funny because he doesn't know that he's breaking the rules. It's a part of the show that hearkens back [or maybe for you, even presently] to the problems of sexual harassment, cultural ignorance, and self-centeredness [come to think of it, a time much like the 80's].

Switching gears, I always thought Birmingham, AL had a lot of problems - especially with the Municipal government. Everything there seemed a sham and the problems of the city seemed to be far from those who were in authority.

Switching gears again - Gene and La move to Philadelphia. Statistically, a safer city than Birmingham [to the senses, it's a much harder place however]. Gene begins to hear of the disdain of the current mayor and the hope of a new leader moving up through the ranks. Gene sees why folks are so upset with the way things are now.

You see, our mayor now [John Street] seems to be the personification of Michael Scott [in a slightly larger, darker, and lighter haired way]. When the new iPhone hit the streets, John Street was one of the first in line to get one...because he had been in line since 3:30am [at that point too, the Philly murder rate exceeded 200 - but taking into consideration that the city has 1.4mil people, your chances aren't that great of being one of those 200, especially if you're reading this now]. You can listen to NPR's story on Street's time in line here. Listen particularly closely for the talking points where he becomes defensive.

5 Days ago, our mayor decided to spend a day in a wheel chair. However, according to Street, this isn't the first time that he's done this. You can read an article here [as well as watch a video]. My favorite quote is, "I'm having today a sensitivity experience. I'm going to be in this wheelchair all day. This is not the first time I've done this..."

In times like this, it's hard to submit to the command of respecting the authority that has been placed over me - seriously.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Auto Autonomy

Rule number one: Oil and Water don't mix...especially when you're talking in terms of brake fluid and power steering fluid.

Laura's car seems to be leaking power steering fluid. When we leave her car for extended periods of time without driving [i.e. because she's traveling on business with me, or because she's not using her car], it becomes difficult to steer [well, at least for her - my arms are so strong I can barely feel a difference...]. Last Saturday, I decided to fill her power steering reservoir with what else but power steering fluid.

I'm going to pause here, because I want you to know how very competent I am with car repair [wow, humble post today].

My first vehicle was a 1985 Ford F-150 [affectionately called "The Brick" by some of my friends] - American Assembled Ford Tough. During the latter of my teenage years, my dad [I affectionately called him "daddy," - that's what you do growing up in the deep South, even if you are half Asian] put it on me to repair the family vehicles. He would usually watch and direct - sitting in a chair that looked too old and worn for normal use - while drinking sweet tea out of a mason jar and smoking cigarettes. Every now and again there was something that was too difficult for me to do, and he would make the monumental effort he needed to get on the ground beside me and show me how to do things the right way - always start with your hands, always clean the parts before you put them back on, don't stop until your finished, etc.

Over the course of time, I changed the brakes on my truck, my sister's car, and my mother's car. I replaced 2 clutches, replaced tie rods, changed out a rim, added a muffler, and replaced the master cylinder on The Brick. During those formative years I learned how to change a tire in less than ten minutes, how to change my own oil [and I did it for a good bit of the family], and how to
listen for what was wrong with my vehicle. Later in life, I also replaced an EGR valve on my '94 Cougar.

My crowning achievement? In one evening, I replaced a head gasket on The Brick [started before my dad came home from work so I could show him just
how competent I was].

Last Saturday I was tired to say the least

I walked outside, opened the Sentra's hood, and marveled at just how much power steering fluid was left in the power steering reservoir. Unfortunately, I wasn't looking at the power steering reservoir, but the master cylinder's [which is what basically helps your brakes to function correctly - ergo, only brake fluid
should go there].

Still, I proceeded to top her off.

And after my work was done, I realized the error of my deeds. I ran into the house and immediately consulted Google. The multitude of other words meant to advise other people proceeded to tell me just how wrong I was to pour power steering fluid into the brake fluid.

You see, power steering fluid has a water base and brake fluid has an oil base.
My hands haven't been clean for a week. Laura hasn't been able to drive in a week [and this is a week where a car would have helped her more than usual].

Today, however, she has auto autonomy.

I drained the fluid out of the master cylinder and bled the brake lines. Testing the car out proved that the job was done well [i.e. the car stops quickly].

My hands are clean.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Where I've been part deux

A followup on my last post about work travel: Where I've Been

While a great deal of my travels take me to different states in the NE United States, I also travel within the Keystone State.

Scranton, PA. Don't let The Office fool you, Scranton is not as "hip" as it looks on TV [for those of you who need it, this is a form of "Sarcastic Irony"]. I'm sure, if you looked, you could find a Chili's, but the entire place seems to be pretty Sub-urban [there's a movement in the city to become the urban center of NE Pennsylvania. If you know NE PA, this will not be a necessarily "great" feat]. To their credit, they do have the only Krispy Kreme that I've seen in the NE [this place is saturated with Dunkin Donuts].

Also, if you're ever in the town of Scran, you should definitely hit up La Trattoria, a small italian restaurant within walking distance of Scranton's Radisson hotel. There are a few things that made this place special - fresh baked bread served at your table, huge tastey portions [with free seconds if you can handle it - I couldn't] and a wonderful family atmosphere.

Altogether, I may not be giving this small city in Lackawanna county a fair shake; I was only there for two days [it was a split trip - half of it was spent in Farmington, CT, the other half in Scranton, PA]. If I go back, maybe I'll stick my hands in a bit deeper to let you know how it is.

Pittsburgh, PA. I am actually in Pittsburgh as I type this [this is my second time here]. I can definitely say that the trip is better with La than it is w/out her. I don't know what I've expected of the city, but I figure that I like it better than I thought I would [there's a lot of Pittsburgh bias vibes coming out of Philly]. There's a lot that I'm sure she'll want to post about it, so I won't put too much here except that the food's been great and that I wish I would have found $2 Yuengling before tonight.

One thing I didn't expect in Pittsburgh: Dinosaurs.

Check out some of our Pittsburgh pics at fotki.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Tonight is one of those rarities where I just can't sleep.

We had dinner with a great many new friends in our new city from the church we've been a part of since we've been here [today = 5 months...I think]. In part, this was a celebration of the fruitfulness of a couple, and the fruitfulness of God's people. This couple had basically invited everyone who had brought them dinner after their giving birth of a new son. Needless to say, there were quite a few people there [hospitality is not patently

Fruitfulness is a wonderful thing. It is also a wonderfully scary thing. I imagine, however, when our first child comes along there will be a mix of emotion much to what I'm feeling tonight.
I imagine that our child [our = me and La] will be a lot like I am; that literally scares me on more levels than you know [and I am not "just saying" this...] Part of what scares me is remembering how I reacted when taken to a grave site growing up.

That is, with

It was not with a flagrant disregard or in abject disrespect - it's just that I didn't know the person in the grave. I couldn't relate to who they were. I didn't have late night conversations with them, I never sat back and drank sweet tea on a hot Southern summer's afternoon with them, I never shot pool with them, nor did I play Scrabble on the living room floor with them.

But I did with my dad.

And so I think about taking my children to his grave in Huntsville, AL and how they'll react. What will they be thinking? I doubt that they'll have much of a thought of what life would have been with him - I never did [in regard to visiting the graves of people I never knew]. I don't ever think of life with my mom's parents, right [I had never met either of them before they passed]? Thinking about it the other way around - he'll never get to hold them in his lap and tell them about how goofy I was when I was their age. He'll never get cherish them, to see them grow, to see them change, or to be loved by them.

A lot of what I hoped for when he was still alive was that when
I had a family, that he would get to see a different kind of faith being lived out than what he was accustomed to [being generally skeptical of "Chrsitians" altogether]. I literally used to dream about what it would be like to pray with my children in his house - how something like that might grip his heart [as none of our conversations re: Christ ever seemed to].

And now, all of that is...impossible.

And now, I rarely even pray with my own wife except for meals.

That aside, when I am in Huntsville, I rarely visit his grave. Being at his grave once was enough. His bones are there, his casket, a concrete vault, a suit [he only wore it twice in public that I know of - my wedding and his own funeral - he said it was what he'd be buried in], and a headstone paid in part by the US Government [your tax dollars at work in memory of a Vietnam Vet] are all there.

are no memories there.

It is an unfamiliar place...a literally lifeless place. It was a place that he'd only been to once and was never able to leave. It was the last place I saw his body, but not the last place that I saw him. And if I were to ever take my children there, they might remark about the trees, the landscaped lawns, the pond down the hill, but not about how life was with him; they'll never know that life or his.

Tonight is one of those rarities where I can't sleep - even after being surrounded by new friends, after enjoying good food and drink... even in bed with my own wife... as the loneliness of death is weighing upon my own heart.