Friday, March 30, 2007

I just sent this letter to Honda corporate. It wont really accomplish anything, other than maybe take my blood pressure down a few points...

March 30, 2007

Dear Sir or Madam

I purchased a Honda lawnmower (HR215HXA model) almost 4 years ago. The reason I bought a high end lawnmower was based on the immaculate reputation that Honda has for its mowers and small engines. The reputation (and the sales pitch at the store) is that they are bullet proof. I really did not like the “no published price” policy – much like that of buying a new car – but it was worth it to get my hands on a mower that I could possibly be still using 20 years later. I was sold.

All my previous lawnmowers were either bought used for nearly nothing or were purchased from one of the big department stores. There was never anything notable about them – good or bad. They ran. They lasted about 7-8 years and then the chassis would wear out. But when amortized over their lifetime, they cost me $20 a year. Not bad, really.

Now back to the bullet proof Honda. I spent over $1000 for this mower. Wow. I have had cars (plural) that cost me less than that. But it is worth it for that bullet proof mower, right? Well, as mowing goes, you do come upon unexpected objects. It has happened with every mower I have ever owned. You get into tall grass and hit something lurking beneath it. In the case of the Honda, I hit a stump. It started right back up, but there was a noticeable vibration and upon inspection, it appears I bent the blade. This, too, has happened with every mower I have ever owned: you hit a stump or a large rock or some other immutable object and it costs you a mower blade. I didn't think about it...

...Until the next time I ran the mower. The engine ran fine at first. Then it started losing power and RPMs. I put it on the driveway to listen to it. Then I heard the distinctive crack of a rod breaking. I looked at the oil and it was filled to capacity, but smoking hot and burned to a crisp. My conclusion: the crankshaft was bent by hitting a stump, causing it to drag hard on the bearings and snap the connecting rod. That doesn't sound bullet proof to me. Amortizing this lawnmower over its lifetime gives me a $250 yearly cost. For that money, I could have someone mow my yard for me.

I took the mower to my local Honda dealership and they verified my suspicions. They rough guessed that this was about a $500 engine replacement. They also assured me that any lawnmower would do the same thing and they all would require an engine transplant. From my experience, that is just not so. I have always had the chassis fail well before the engine, irregardless of the number of immovable objects I hit with the mower. But, for the sake of argument, lets assume this is true. As a manufacturer of high end lawn equipment, would it not make sense to put a fusible link between the engine and a high carbon steel blade spinning at 2100 RPM? Think of how great a sales pitch that would be. Think of how many $38 fusible links you could sell – each with a $50 installation fee.

This whole story leaves me with a decision and a really bad taste in my mouth:

  1. Buy a Honda replacement engine for $500. Expected lifetime based on experience: 4 years.

  2. Buy 4 cheap lawnmowers for $500. Expected lifetime based on experience: 28 years.

  3. Buy 25 garage sale lawnmowers for $500. Expected lifetime based on experience: 25 years.

I assure you I will not choose option 1. Based on my experience with Honda, I will also not be purchasing any other small engines produced by Honda. Ever.

Your former customer


What really pisses me off here is that I fell for it: the idea that expensive is better. I rant and rant about people that fall for this... And I admit that SOMETIMES you can pay more for tools and get a better return out of them. But not in this case.
Congratulations, you lucky devil! Rants section added. (see left) Not because you wanted it, but because you needed it. You'll thank me later.

Monday, March 26, 2007

I didnt get the job I interviewed for. I think I am better off without it though. (Oh yeah, you can't fire me because I quit!). But seriously, they had what appeared on the surface to be the absolutely most complicated setup I have ever seen... and seemed proud of it. They are better off without me. I'd rather sit here and set myself on fire.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Go Green

I havent ranted in a long time.

What's that Ellie Mae? Oh, yeah, I guess I should clarify... I havent ranted here in a long time. Ellie is lucky enough to hear me rant each and every day. You should envy her.

A very respected famous man once said "It aint easy being green." Okay, it wasnt a famous man, it was a famous frog, but what Kermit says is very true. It aint easy being green. But there is a huge movement to make everything green. And while that is a fabulous sentiment, they are missing one small thing: facts. It just crawls up my ass for everyone to rant and rave about being green when in reality it is all mostly media hype. I suspect a whole lot of people are making fabulous money off of it. And I suspect a new kid will come along in about a year and the media will turn their head and bow to the new kid, leaving the poor green envionmentalists stuck in the mud. That is just the cycle of "How stuff works."

Now dont get me wrong: I love the planet. I think it is the most beautiful place on.... well earth, I guess. There is more gorgeous nature to be seen than a lifetime allows. And I do think saving it is good. I am all for it.

I am also, as you well know, a cheap ass bastard. And anything that conserves is by its definition a thing that saves me money. (Or at least, that is what they tell us. I am highly suspicious most of the time.) If I can recycle and make end products cheaper for me, I am in! If I can spend a little more money on insulation and save lots of dollars over the next thirty years of electric bills, then sign me up. That's a no brainer. But dont ask me to adopt first generation new products that are more expensive. I will let some other schmuck do that. I dont need to pay a 30% premium for a hybrid car to "save money." I am going to find it hard to swallow that you could save more money on gas to equate to the total operating cost of my $25 ugly pickup truck from 1981. I challenge you to prove its cheaper... especially if you are leasing it or financing it or selling it in under 10 years. And you know there isnt really any technology that is stable and "good" before about the 3rd generation. You are the guinea pig. Have fun.

And there really isnt anything that sticks in my bootie more than Al Gore. Why in the world does this guy think he is a scientist. I am not even debating his science. I have read a handful of "alternative viewpoints" (see note 1) on global warming and I pretty much know I dont have a big enough picture to have any definitive viewpoints. But this guy takes the cake. He can vote on a technology funding bill and suddenly think he invented the internet. I have been around the internet block a while and I am pretty familiar with a bunch of internet pioneer names. I have even met some of them. Never, in years of attending geeky conferences with inventors of protocols and fathers of innovation, never, NEVER has his name been mentioned. He is less important to the internet than the pointy haired boss is to the success of Dilbert.

Given that perspective, it is truly and terribly hard for me to believe this guy knows anything more than where the "next powerpoint slide" button is on his remote control. He is a windbag that loves the sound of his own voice more than life itself. And lets assume for a moment that everything he says is absolutely true. I am admitting here I dont know if it is or not, so lets just give him a benefit of a doubt. Now, explain to me how His Windiness gets a Nobel Peace Prize. Surely, if the science is true, he could qualify for some sort of prize in physics or some branch of science. But Peace? Solve the entire global warming, energy crises puzzle... is the world at peace now? I really dont think so. I think some idiot will still fight some other idiot and they will both bring their friends and there will be a grand old war. But, I am sure they will use biodegradable bombs, so everything will be okay.

And what right does Al Bore have to say he lives a zero carbon foot print? How in hell does he think, as he flies his private jet only to get out and get into his hybrid car,Note 2 that he isnt one of the worlds biggest consumers and thus one of the worlds biggest polluters? This guy lives in a house the size of a WalMart. Tell me, in truck-driver's english, how he really thinks he has a zero carbon footprint. How does his 10,000+ square foot house leave less of a footprint than my little 600 square foot shack?

Oh, I know, you are going to explain to me about carbon credits. Carbon credits may in fact be good for the planet. I like trees. Planting trees is good. But if you bulldoze a forest to have a good place to build your WalMart sized house, then bulldoze another forest to get the lumber to build it, then pump a few hundred thousand barrels of oil to heat and cool it... you are still a positive footprint. I am pretty sure carbon credits are little more than a good tax shelter for the very rich. But they dont just erase your stinky bits off the planet. And the fact that his "credits" are bought through Generation Investment Management is a very very strange thing indeed. Since this is a company he owns and is chairman for, the whole carbon credit thing is really a way he can buy stock in his own company and get a tax write off for it.

I never said he was stupid.... but god he is a waste of space.

And dont get me started about ethanol. Ethanol is one of the poorest energy sources there is.... but it is "green." How is it green? It provides 15% less energy than gasoline. So right off the bat you are at a loss. But, you say, it is made from natural and replinishable products. Bullshit, I say. First off, here in the USA it is made from corn. If you look at ethanol, which is a crappy fuel anyway, there are lots of things to make it from and corn is by far the worst possible choice. Other folks make it from sugar beets and a variety of other things with a little more success, but corn blows. If you planted the entire USA in corn, you would not have enough to power our cars. Why then? Why in the world would we use corn? Well because our fine government has a long history of giving corn subsidies, thats why. Thats why there is corn sweetener in every damn thing in the grocery isle (and probably a good reason why we Americans are so fat!). We make ethanol out of corn, not because scientists have found it works or because the market dictates it. We make it because our taxes pay people to make a crappy fuel out of a product that doesnt even make a good crappy fuel. And while I am ranting... I'd like to point out: the tractors that plow the fields run on diesel. The trucks that ship the corn: diesel, the plants that process it: fossil fuels. In fact, if you compute how much gasoline it takes to produce a crappy fuel from a crappy product that you are subsidizing you will find it takes more fossil fuels to produce this garbage than the damn stuff puts out. All the while, the stuff we used to use corn for.... like food (or food for food) now has to pay more for corn. So not only are we subsidizing this on the front side, but also on the back side every time we buy something from the grocery store... which we have already pointed out is approximately the same size as Al Gore's house. Al Gore should be standing up and screaming how bloody awful this is and how it is destroying our planet.... but he might actually run for office sometime, so that would be dangerous. Maybe he will just invest a little more money in his carbon credit tax shelter and it will cover it. Whew. Catastrophe avoided.

Not to change the subject, but I have heard at least a hundred times over the past year what could I do to save the environment. Without a doubt, the one most powerful thing I can do -- the one thing that will save the planet -- is change my damn light bulbs. In fact, I am told over and over and over that I will reduce the world's fuel consumption by 25% if I just buy new light bulbs. Are you freaking kidding me? You know, they could have probably bullshitted me through that by saying 3% and I would just have bought it hook, line and sinker. But 25%? Come on, pull the other one. Who the hell in the media bought stock in Sylvania?

Now first off, I have a forward thinking conspiracy theory that all these compact florescent bulbs, each with a miniscule drop of mercury in them, will be the enviro-nightmare in the year 2045. They will persecute any of us that still have them and a big truck will come to your house to gather them up. Men will get out in tyvek suits and complicated breathing aparatuses (aparati?) just to take these things and destroy them properly. But lets ignore that for now (and I will tell you I told you so in 2045.)

But enough conspiracy... Lets actually talk about lights. Lights just are not a huge bit of electric consumption. It really is all that other crap that spins the meter around. A 75w light bulb will cost you about $7 to run for an entire month. By that I mean 24x7x30. I could turn on every light in my house for the entire month and it would cost me about $140. Sure, it is cheaper to run a CF, but it isnt going to reduce your cost by 25%. An equivalent bulb to a 75w is a 25w, so it is 2/3 cheaper... but unless you live in one of those This Old House houses that had a "lighting designer" you probably don't have enough bulbs in the house and dont run them long enough to really matter.

What does matter is all those pesky things like heating and air conditioning and cooking and continuous running refrigerators and freezers and computers and tivos and water heaters.

Oh, and just by the way... My average electric bill is close to $200. We actually did switch out all our bulbs to CF bulbs over time. My average electric bill is still about $200. The only savings here is that the damn things last a long long time and you dont have to stand on a wiggly chair and try to change them. So maybe, just maybe, you will save on medical bills by not falling off the chair.

Note 1: For an interesting read on other possibilities of global warming, read Micheal Crichton's novel State of Fear. This uses the exact same data, complete with all sorts of charts and graphs, to say the whole global warming thing is somewhere between "bad science using inconclusive and incomplete data" to "a terrorist conspiracy". Somehow, I suspect it falls somewhere in the middle of those 2 choices.

Note 2: A correction here is in order. I used the "drive a hybrid to the airport to get aboard a private plane" as poetic license. The idea here is that don't tell me you are saving 2 gallons of gas then burn 40,000lbs of JetA. The real truth of the matter comes from a friend that actually does work piloting charter jets. The real truth here is that Mr. Gore does NOT drive a hybrid to the airport. He drives a caravan of big black SUVs. I never meant to imply he actually was doing something to conserve fuel. I promise.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is there a Herpetologist in the house?

I think my pet turtle is sick. He isn't nearly as playful as he used to be. I threw the ball for him to fetch back in January and he has not fetched it yet. (He normally takes a month or so to fetch it, so I just recently started worrying.)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I had my first job interview in ... well .. many years. I wasn't sure they liked me. I wasn't sure if I liked them. I am truly ambivalent about the whole job thing. I cannot decide if I want a "real job" for just long enough to retire early or if I want a crappy part time low paying job that pays the expenses. Bah. BAH. BAH. BAH.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A retrospective of great moments in plumbing history

It was in the late 1800's that Czechoslovakian Bohemian immigrant plumbers invented the "plumbing knot." The theory was that the water gets dizzy and is then unable to leak. The truth was that this was just a way to pad the bill for labor and materials, enabling them to purchase more sausage. Czech plumbers, we salute you...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

(entry 2)

In order to present this, I have purchased a flux capacitor (on advice of a friend) traveled back in time and entered a diary entry in the past (March 10 to be specific). Poison ivy update. Of course, this is nothing compared to my favorite pic on

(entry 1) - Circle of Life Continues

Ogg make fire. Ogg make big fire. Ogg fire is good.

Oh crap. Ogg fire burn hot. Fire burn Ogg.

Monday, March 12, 2007


I dont know how many times I have heard it: "We need to bring democracy to the middle east ... or the far east ... or South America ... or .

This mindset could not be further from the mark if they tried. There is NOTHING inheritly good (or evil for that matter) in democracy. Democracy is not an ideal or even a philosophical entity. Democracy is really almost mathematics applied to government. Count votes, make laws. It says nothing for quality of a government. It says nothing for if it is or is not friendly to the US. Why in the world would you fight and die for someone else to have democracy?

How well has democracy worked in Lebanon, where Hamas is now the legal ruling party? How well has democracy worked in Iraq? How well has democracy worked in Venezuela, electing Hugo Chavez? How well did democracy work when pre-war Germans elected Adolf Hitler (with the complete knowledge of what his plans were)?

What really is needed is individual rights, not democracy. The concept of individual rights is an ideal. It is a philosophical principle. Individual rights, properly implemented, would make the government slave to the individual. It would structure laws such that the rights of the individual would not be superseded by the rights of the majority.

The individual rights concept is exactly what the US government was based on, though assuredly flawed in its implementation. (How in the world could you make an individual supreme and then go and remove rights for a particular sex or for various racial classes? But that is another problem and another rant...) In short, if you can accept individual rights, we can make pretty much ANY controversial right wing or left wing argument go away. Completely. And then maybe Congress can get back to important things like having hearings on professional baseball players.

Sunday, March 11, 2007



Saturday, March 10, 2007

We have the prettiest little plant growing wild here. I just love it. I want to transplant it everywhere! Dang, my arm itches. Does anyone want some rooted plants? Dang, I mean it REALLY itches. If you want a sprig of it, let me know and I will have Ellie Mae root one. DOGNABBIT IT ITCHES.

Just as an FYI. Chicks really think it is sexy if you put socks on your arms to keep the goop off of your clothes. It TOTALLY turns them on. Guys: try it. I assure you she will think it is HOT.

Monday, March 5, 2007

I have long known printer ink was a scam, maybe some of my dear friends that work for HP could explain the ink usage above. In particular:

1) Why does pure black printing use magenta?
2) How can one page take yellow from 80% to 13%. (Note that the page in question was not a photo of big bird waving a Boa Vista flag while eating a banana just after being diagnosed with hepatitis.)
3) How does ink suddenly go up by 3%?
4) Why don't you document the MIB for ink? Why must I poke at the printer for a long time, then wait for the ink to drop off of 100% in order to determine what color it is?