January 2006 Archives

The Buick Is Sick

Today I took the Buick in for some long-needed engine work. I've been looking for a garage to take it to for a while, but most places that I've seen haven't instilled much confidence in me. But while Googling around for auto mechanics in the Dallas area, I found this place called Advanced Mechanics close to where I work. I thought I would go check it out simply because they are one of a very few establishments with a web presence, and if they're going to bother to do that, I think they must care somewhat about their business in the new millennium.

I went there yesterday to get the oil changed in my Trans Am. They had an online coupon for a $13 oil change, which is really not much more expensive than what it would cost if I did it myself. The total cost ended up being closer to $17 when you included tax, disposal fee, oil something something fee, and service-with-a-smile fee (nah, that part was free), but it was still a bargain no matter how you look at it.

Several qualities of this place actually impressed me, which is a strange thing to say about an auto garage. The place was suitably large and surprisingly clean, and well decorated with vintage Rock 'n Roll memorabilia. They also had a small showroom of early Chevy Camaros which I gathered were restored by Camaro World, another local business. But most of all, I was impressed that this was the only shop I went to where the entire workforce didn't look like illegal immigrants they were paying under the table. So with all that, I decided to entrust them with the majestic Park Avenue for repairs.

Please keep Old Brown in your thoughts and prayers, in hopes that she may roll again one day under her own immediate power. She's been a good car. As anyone knows who has ridden in it, the Buick experience is like driving your favorite sofa down the road. The soft top makes it the perfect kayak transporting machine, and the big foamy back seats make it the perfect, um, family getaway vehicle.

Since I had to drop off the car at the garage, that means I'm now carless for the day in Richardson. I walked back to my office, because it was only about 1.5 miles away and it was a beautiful summer day, albeit a little windy.

Tonight I'm going to get to have my first experience with commuting through public transportation, train style. I have to admit, I'm a little apprehensive about the whole thing. Wish me luck.

Powdered Donut Pancake Surprise

I'm so excited whenever modern science finds new ways to relieve us from personal responsibility. For instance, a few months ago we learned that a physiological dependency, much like drug addiction or pathological gambling, is what leads to Internet Addiction, a condition I suffer from but I won't admit that I need help or that it stems from a simple lack of discipline. I just demand special work conditions and the patience of my friends and family as a result of my disorder.

Now just when it was falling behind government and religion in this area, science found yet another way to tell us that we're not really responsible for what we do. They found a virus that is responsible for obesity. Now when we chow down cheeseburgers at our favorite fast food joints, we can rest easy knowing that we're only at risk of catching Mad Cow disease and not Fat Cow disease.

Alright, before this blog entry bursts with sarcasm, I'll go ahead and repeat what I've been saying forever. There's a very simple rule, backed by the Law of Conservation of Energy, that says that if you burn more calories than you take in, you absolutely will lose weight. This much is true, but when simply stated it ignores the fact that you can't just reduce your calorie intake drastically and expect to have the nutrients you need to survive. That's one reason why doctors place a healthy limit on how much weight you should lose per week (liposuction excluded).

It comes right back to personal discipline. Hey, I suffer from being hungry sometimes. I know what it's like; it is uncomfortable. But for me, the root cause is because I'm incredibly negligent when it comes to grocery shopping. I can often go months without seeing the inside of a grocery store, instead living on takeout and things I can get from the convenience store. Sometimes I try to go to sleep hungry, and I can't do it. I have to get up and eat some cold cereal or bread so my tummy has something to work on while my brain is manufacturing dreams.

Then I'll be the first to admit that I don't eat as healthy as I should. I certainly don't go the gym as often as I should. And there are lots of people with far better eating and exercise habits than myself that carry around much more weight than I do. I can't explain why, I just have a fast metabolism I guess. But even if I didn't, I can't imagine my appearance being much different because I would adjust my priorities.

If I become ill because of my eating habits, I'll readily admit that my actions caused it. Kidney stones? Maybe too much Code Red Mountain Dew. Sleeplessness? Probably because I had 4 shots of espresso at 11pm. Head explodes? Ate Pop Rocks and Coke at the same time.

I'm just saying, there are some people who always think they are a victim, and there are some who accept personal responsibility. We get to choose which type we want to be.

Silly Circles

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While I'm on the subject of fine breakfast cuisine, how can I help but mention The Cheap-Ass Cereal Hall of Fame ?Silly Circles

Get ready for a trip to a strange and foreign land. To a place where big bags are common and boxes, rare. This is a place sad cartoon characters call home. Our destination is the cereal aisle. Down on the bottom shelf.
It's Froot Loops gone silly! So very silly. Just look how silly!

Purple and pink hair??? That's silly! And look at his eyes! They're CROSSED That's text-book silly! He's even riding a unicycle! SILLY! He has a blue dog who's chasing its tail. And even HIS eyes are crossed! That's like silly squared times silly!

My goodness Silly Circles, save some silly for the other cereals!

If there's a crazier cereal out there, I haven't seen it. When do you ever see a blatant product rip-off that's more fun than the original ? Usually you get plain, solid-colored packaging and generic names that scream value and probably not toxic and Hecho en Mexico. The bar has been raised, my friends.

Breakfast of Champions

I ran across a link to this old article on X-Entertainment today that was just hilarious a when I read it a couple years ago, and now although I've downgraded it to "very amusing" I still want to highlight it here. You have to click through at least to see the nutrition facts printed on the box.

Hungry yet?

I think it's safe to say that we're not getting any of the more choice cuts with these [sausages]. This company is even less wasteful than the fabled Native Americans of yesteryear. Even the Indians stopped before using the rim of flesh trimming the buffalo's exhaust pipe. Swanson had no misgivings.

Whatever you may be eating right now, it's not as unhealthy as Swanson's Hungry Man All-Day Breakfast. Unless that happens to be what you're eating.

Pink Eye


What kind of crap is this. I'm 28 years old and I get pink eye, a disease I thought was reserved for toddlers and people embalmed with Worcestershire sauce. I get over one ailment and another is waiting in line.

An actual human eye. Mine, in fact.

Since I'm an amateur physician/astronaut, I decided to take it upon myself to treat my ailment. The usual sources, WebMD and Wikipedia provided me with a wealth of simultaneously encouraging and discouraging information. The good news is I'm not going to die, and the bad news is that I actually will die eventually, but not from pink eye. The other bad news is that this could take weeks to clear up, there's no known cure, and it's highly contagious.

As if I hadn't had enough of this homeopathic crap yet, the only thing available at Walgreens to treat pink eye is another one of these drugs where all the active ingredients have been removed. On purpose. The eye drops don't seem to be doing anything to make the pink eye go away, but they are soothing to the stinging, sticky feeling I'm dealing with, and that's better than nothing.

I'm not sure why, but I'm admitting defeat and paying a visit to my PCP so he can tell me to stay at home and get plenty of rest, stop drinking so much, and eat my vegetables, because there's nothing he can do. I'm going to ignore all of this advice once again, especially the staying at home part. I'm currently at work rubbing my eyeballs on everything.

I'm in no particular hurry to get over this health problem, because I'm sure some other juvenile ailment like chicken pox is waiting patiently in line, too. At least they are nice enough to take turns.

Being Sick Is For The Birds


I mean, they're the ones you're always hearing about getting the flu. Fortunately, I'm not a bird so you're unlikely to find me gizzard-up in a ditch somewhere. You can replace the word "fortunately" with "unfortunately" if you don't like me.

I have had the sniffles lately, and I'm trying desperately not to get sick again. This means taking a cocktail of drugs without considering the possible interactions, because none of them actually have any "active" ingredients, according to the FDA. Deep down I don't really believe that alternative medicines will benefit me at all, unless I happen to own stock in the drug-making companies, and then only very slightly. But when you're feeling terrible you're often willing to go to extreme measures, even abandon your beliefs or take on new ones, in order to get back to normal. It's worth a shot, right ? I think if I can just let myself believe a little bit, the placebo effect will give my immune system the push it needs.

Being sick is one of the most uncomfortable and miserable states you can be in. A cure would be worth a fortune to me and most everyone else, with the possible exception of those people who enjoy being miserable. You know someone like that, admit it.

If someone came up to me and told me they would trade with me, say, my car in exchange for either a pill that would instantly make me well or what's behind door #1, I would seriously consider the mysterious door, and then I would even more seriously consider the pill.

As far as I know, no such miracle pill exists for curing the common cold, so I'm forced to resort to more primitive measures. Currently I've been taking Centrum multivitamins, high doses of Vitamin-C, Echinacea, and a new one: Zicam.

Zicam is labeled as a homeopathic medicine, not because it actually has anything to do with homeopathy, but because it's a trendy word and it will increase sales to nutty people. We should review the idea behind homeopathic medicine real quick.

The homeopathic doctrine extends from the same line of reasoning as vaccines: take a little bit of what causes the symptoms, and it will stimulate your immune system to combat the illness. That's where the similarities end. Whereas modern medicines are given in doses as large as possible without side-effects (such as death), homeopathy states that the less of the original ingredient there is in a remedy, the more powerful it becomes. The less you use, the better it works ! Which would lead one to conclude that it works best if you don't use any at all.

Zicam doesn't fit in here because it has very measurable amounts of its active ingredient, zinc, in the recommended dose. The jury is still out on whether zinc is actually effective at curing the common cold, but I've heard enough real-life testimonials (one) to give it a shot myself.

The good news is, at the time I'm publishing this, I'm actually feeling much better. Even still, you never know if the drug actually worked, or if you got better on your own. I guess in the end, it doesn't really matter.

Stop Me If You've Heard This One


A man is driving down a country road one evening when his car breaks down. He walks a couple of miles until he reaches a monastery. The monks there are friendly and helpful, and they give him a warm meal, a place to sleep, and a phone to call for repairs in the morning. During the night, the man hears the most unusual scratching noises coming from somewhere within the walls of the monastery, and so in the morning before the cab he calls arrives, he asks:

"Last night in bed, I heard the strangest scratching sounds. Do you know what they were?" The monks all fall silent, and one steps forward and says:

"Yes, we know, but we cannot tell you what they were, because you are not a monk." The man is disappointed by this, but he thanks the monks for their generosity and leaves.

Ten years later, the man is traveling down the same road, and his car breaks down again. He returns to the monastery, and the monks feed him and provide a room for him to sleep in. During the night, the man hears the same strange scratching noises that he heard all those years ago, and so in the morning, he asks yet again what the noises were. The monks tell him:

"We know what these noises are, but we cannot tell you, because you are not a monk." The man's curiosity is piqued and he insists that he has to know.

"What must I do to become a monk, then?" the man asks.

"To become a monk, you must travel the world and learn all there is to know. When you return and tell us how many grains of sand there are, and how many blades of grass there are, you can join our monastery. So, the man goes out into the world, and seventy years later, he returns to the monastery.

"Have you learned how many blades of grass and grains of sand there are on Earth?" they ask him. The man knows the answer, and the monks welcome him.

"Can I now know what was making those noises?" the man asks.

"It is right this way," one of the monks says, and leads him to a wooden door. The man tries to open the door, but it is locked.

"Can I have the key?" the man asks.

"Of course," replies the monk, and he hands him the wooden key. Behind the wooden door is an iron door. This door too is locked, and the man asks for the key. The monk hands him an iron key to open the iron door, which leads to a steel door. Behind the steel door is a copper door, and then a silver door, and a gold door. This leads to doors made of ruby, emerald, sapphire, and diamond. The man asks for the key for each one, and each door is unlocked. Finally, the man comes to a door made from a strange black material.

"This is the final door," says the monk, as he hands the man the final key. The man inserts the key, turns it, and pushes open the door to reveal a room, in which is sitting the source of that strange scratching sound he heard all those years ago.

But I can't tell you what it is, because you're not a monk.

My Pipes Are Clogged

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Yes we're talking about the bathroom here. But no, I'm not referring to the plumbing in myself that transports the food parts my body doesn't want to the toilet. I mean where it goes after that.

Fixing my own plumbing is usually pretty easy. When things get backed up in there, the best solution is to order a greasy pizza and pick up a tanker and wait for about 20 minutes. Problem solved.

But no amount of Italian-inspired cooking is going to get the water draining properly from my house again. Something probably needs to be dislodged from the sewer line, and I'm afraid it's going to be some evidence that was disposed of during the last party.

If I owned the house I live in, I would find this an excellent opportunity to purchase a new tool to take care of the job. Sometimes I think I welcome a thing breaking, because it gives me an excuse to replace it with something new and better; or in this case, to buy a nifty tool to fix what's broken.

Wait though... let's not forget why I'm renting instead of owning a home. When you own a house and something breaks, you have to deal with fixing it and the potentially high costs associated with that. When you rent, it becomes the landlord's problem.

I'm glad that today, dealing with where my poop goes is someone else's problem.

Goodbye Christmas, Hello 2006


My TreeI started taking down the Christmas tree this evening, so I guess now I have to admit the holiday is officially over. I say "started" because the tree removal has turned into a multiple-day job. Due to a combination of factors, including lack of water, lack of sunlight, and lack of underlying presents, my tree died an untimely death. It didn't turn brown or anything, but the needles were hanging on so loosely that we couldn't turn on the ceiling fan or Charlie Brown's tree would have looked full by comparison.

This became especially problematic at the end. Although Esmeralda (my Roomba) was doing an admirable job picking up the stray needles on my floor until now, there is far too much for this little robot to handle on its own. The shopvac is making a rare appearance indoors. You see, when I was removing the tree to the backyard, I had to pass through two doorways to get there. The tree is larger than the doorways by a considerable margin, so pushing it through caused a pine needle explosion in my house. I seriously don't think I could have more needles on my floor right now if I were operating a crack house in New York.

This experience won't discourage me from getting another real tree next year though. This was my first non-plastic, highly flammable Christmas tree. In years past, I've always had a fake tree (if I was lucky), and it just wasn't the same. On the positive side, they sure are more convenient.

By the way, this also marks the fortunate removal of the holiday decorations from my place of employment. The decorations they display throughout December look as though they have been put up every year for the last four decades, which shouldn't be possible given the company isn't half that old. They seriously creep me out, especially this one of the scary little girl guarding the front door.

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas.

I'm Still Alive

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Blog Protective Services had threatened to take svott.com away from me due to neglect and abuse. I guess I wasn't clear enough when I told little svott to keep his mouth shut.

"What do you say when your teachers ask you about these blue borders ?"

"I fell down some stairs."

"That's right. And it's your fault I drink so much."

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