Aventures In Oil Changes

Tuesday night, I took my car in to a place I’ll call “Spiffy Lube” for a long-overdue oil change.  $66 with an air filter.  Lesson learned.  When going to Spiffy Lube, you will need lube.

The next day, Nita called during her lunch hour and said Spiffy Lube was backed up and, oh, they wanted $77 for their “special SUV blend.”

“Um…  No,” I said.  “You drive a V6.  Let me make some calls.”

There were a number of tire places I’ve gone to that usually give me reasonable rates on oil changes.  All of them were booked.  Granted, we should have changed Nita’s oil well before the holidays, but that didn’t work out.  So here I was, calling around.

I finally got a 5:30 appointment with a place I will call “Pup Boyz.”  So off I went to Kenwood to pick up the Nitamobile.  I got to the Boyz promptly at 5:30.  “We’re backed up,” the manager informed.  No problem.  I understood this was a holiday weekend, and they were getting a lot of last minute business.  The manager took my keys and placed them on the work order with the words, “WITH APPOINTMENT.”


So at 5:45, I was still waiting.  Understandable.

At 6 PM, I was still waiting.  Understandable.

At 6:30, I was still waiting.  Um…

At 6:45, I’m still waiting.  Nita calls.  “So where are you?”

“Waiting for them to change your oil.”

“Are they almost finished?”

“The car is still out front.”


“They haven’t moved it.”

“Have you said something?”

“I’m standing in line behind the other pissed off customers.”

Meanwhile, a mechanic called this fourteenth phone number trying to locate the owner of a van in one of the bays.  Apparently, they forgot to ask the owner’s phone number.

Nita hangs up.  She calls back.  I’m still waiting for my turn to say, “It’s 6:45.  Do you know what an ‘appointment’ means?”

“Leave now.  I called Tire Cheapsellers.  Tell them you’re the guy whose wife just called.”

I am firing up the Nitamobile before she even hangs up.  At 6:50, I’m in Tire Cheapsellers’ parking lot, across the street from the Boyz.  The Nitamobile is in the bay and up on a rack by the time I finish the paperwork.  I run next door to Burger King to get a drink.  The ice isn’t even melted when the mechanic pulls the Nitamobile around front.  Time?

7 PM.  Fifteen minutes from the moment Nita said, “Grab the keys.”

Yes, we lucked out and got the one last-minute (literally) oil change slot in all of Cincinnati on the day before Thanksgiving, but still, it’s fifteen minutes from the moment I snatched the keys off the Boyz’ counter.

7:05, I’m halfway home.  Nita calls.  The Boyz’ manager is frantically trying to call me about my long wait, and, oh, by the way, could I please not call corporate?

Bwahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!  Nita Googled the Boyz’ corporate number after she hung up with the manager.

Tire Cheapsellers’ manager gets a nice hunk of cheese Friday as thanks.  (She loves cheese.)


Tips for Thanksgiving:

  • When deep-frying a turkey, try not to fry it on something flammable.  Like a wooden deck.
  • My late father pointed out that the reason you buy turkeys in the store (or shoot them in the wild) has a lot to do with the bird’s temperament.  While stupid and scared of their own shadows, turkeys are also slightly less vicious than a pit bull, assuming the pit bull was kicked in the balls.
  • Fans of the Detroit Lions today may want their wild turkey from a bottle instead of  Kroger.
  • Tomorrow is Black Friday.  I buy all my stuff ahead of time or between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.
  • I get at least one turkey leg.  Deal with it.
  • I am thankful that the last eight years will soon be over.  That’s assuming we’re not invaded by Gelnarg from Remulac, who might conquer the world for the sole purpose of impregnating Paris Hilton.  (That would be so not hot.)

Jefferson’s Contradictions


{Originally posted to Goodreads.com]

Joseph Ellis wrote an unflinching look at the Father of Our Country, George Washington, but before that, he wrote his own personal hero, Thomas Jefferson.

While this is an excellent look at the author of the Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States, what keeps me from giving this book five stars is Ellis’s very reason for writing this book.  In his introduction and conclusion, he is almost apologetic, making like Rush Limbaugh to “put it all in perspective for you.”  In short, Ellis is a Jefferson fan boy.

Ellis gives us enough facts about Jefferson to form an honest picture of him.  We see his struggle with slavery, an institution he could not live without yet found morally repugnant (much like Washington).  He is a fiscally responsible public servant whose own finances were a mess, a problem exacerbated by his love of antiques, furniture, lavish building projects, and, of course, fine wine.  We also see the prototypical modern Republican – that is the party of small government, localized authority, and little federal spending – become an even more energetic president than either of his predecessors.  In short, Jefferson was a walking contradiction.

Where Ellis falls down in this effort is his need to explain Jefferson’s thinking, as though without such commentary, a reader might rush to judgment and see the man as something less than iconic.  None of it is necessary.  If all Jefferson ever accomplished in his life was write the Declaration of Independence or acted as one third of the greatest diplomatic team in history – the rest of it being Benjamin Franklin and John Adams – his place in history would be assured.

As it is, Thomas Jefferson the revolutionary I am most certainly an admirer.  Thomas Jefferson the elder statesman, whose correspondence with Adams in both men’s twilight years remains the greatest bipartisan dialogue in US history, is undoubtedly someone to whom we should stop and listen.  But Jefferson the politician and president?

Jefferson may have been the original libertarian and proponent of small government.  However, like too many of that philosophy, he was an ardent hardliner, at least until relaxing his stance suited him.  Granted, it gave us the Louisiana Purchase and removed France and Spain from the North American continent.  But as a politician?

Not a fan.

But that’s quite all right.  It would do most Americans good to see that their Founding Fathers were not this monolithic group of men who thought and acted as a unit.  They were a disagreeable and contentious lot full of idealists (Jefferson), pragmatists (Adams and Washington), and even a few schemers (Alexander Hamilton).  To say the Founding Fathers intended anything as a means to win an argument shows a lack of understanding of this crucial phase of history. The Founding Fathers intended vastly different things, and that the Constitution even exists is a miracle.

That a man who opposed much of its content would become our third president is no mean feat, either.

Queen City Mondays: Ich bein ein Zinzinnatian

Back in 1989, I met a girl who convinced me to abandon the rustic surroundings my family had chosen for themselves in exchange for living in the bright lights of the Queen City, Cincinnati.  Since, by the time we were engaged, I was driving 50 miles one-way from Holmes County, Ohio to suburban Cleveland everyday, it was kind of a no-brainer.  Better jobs?  Cable TV?  An actual night life?  These things existed in Cleveland as well, but somehow, I could never get myself closer to the city, only farther.  Add to that a fiancee in the mix, and bam!  I loaded up the aging Postal Jeep and headed south.

I, er, sorta looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with all my possessions packed into and strapped onto an old mail Jeep.  But I made it.

Fast forward to 2007.  Our marriage was, um, headed for a successful conclusion not involving death.  As I contemplated life as a single man, I also contemplated life somewhere else.  Cleveland was no longer an option as Ford dropped an atomic bomb on the city by closing the Brook Park engine plant.  Columbus?  Maybe.  BigHugeCo is one of several insurance companies in Cincinnati, and there is no shortage of those in Columbus.  Chicago, despite frigid winters, looked inviting.  I even contemplated how to make a move to San Francisco work.

And then I met Nita shortly after Diane and I told the world we had, um, concluded the marital portion of our relationship. It started out as nothing more than getting together for drinks.  Nita wasn’t looking.  I wasn’t looking.  And yet…

Guess what.  Not leaving Cincinnati after all.

In fact, I’ve been here almost two decades.  When I came here, Boomer and Anthony Munoz and David Fulcher still played for the Bengals, ESPN meant New Orleans when they said “Xavier,” no one had heard of Bill Clinton, Jerry Springer was still “that anchorman who used to be mayor,” and the Reds’ last World Series win was months before.

I came here on the heels of Mapplethorpe, endured the WKRP jokes, walked into my first (and to date, only) gay bar just off Fountain Square, watched the Bengals threaten the Detroit Lions for worst sports franchise crowd, watched baseball games in two stadiums on the Ohio River, took comedy lessons from one of the hosts of Family Feud, hunkered down for the riots of 2001, and even lived through a hurricane.

Yeah.  A hurricane.

I eat Skyline chili and have eaten goetta.  I am proud to say I never drank Burger Beer, though I once had a Hudy Delight.  (Burger is like Stroh’s, only nasty.  Hudy was like…  water.)  I’ve been to a taping of Jerry Springer before it became the freak show that it is now.  I’ve even dated a former Q102 DJ.  (Guess which one.  No, it’s not Brian Douglas.)

In other words, I’ve become a Cincinnatian.

Yes, it’s still culture shock after 17 years here.  The town is a bit more conservative than I like, but sometimes that’s not a bad thing.  Sometimes.  Besides, I’d never have met Nita had I not even ventured south of Columbus.  What other city has done that for me?

So here every Monday, I’ll be talking about what’s slowly become my hometown over the past two decades.  I grew up a proud Clevelander.

I became a proud Cincinnatian.

Who never had to drink Burger. (Blech!)

Where Do The Bailouts End? I Have A Few Ideas.

People fear Congress will reward Detroit’s piss poor business acumen will trigger an avalanche of other industries looking for a handout. Rightly so. I don’t support any bailouts lightly. As I said yesterday, I’d love it if the nation could afford to tell General Motors to shut up and take its medicine, but it can’t.

However, the question remains: Where will it end?

I think Detroit is a good place to end it. The centerpiece of our industrial base is in trouble, and $25 billion is a small price to pay now that they’vefinally (if several years too late) figured out how to make a profit.  But…

As I said the other day, there should be some strings attached.  We as a nation have an agenda, and if you’re going to take the market mentality to its logical conclusion, floating the auto industry a taxpayer-funded loan should entitle the nation to demand a few things from the Big Three.

And then…

  • Break up GM.  Sure, I’ll consider a Chevy in the future.  But who says it has to have “General Motors” stamped on the frame or has to come from the same factory as a Buick.  What the hell’s a Buick anyway?  Spin off Cadillac and let it become the Mercedes Benz of American cars once again.  (Just don’t let those buffoons at Daimler actually make them into Mercedes, not until the remember how to build a car again.)
  • The airlines already have their hands out.  Unlike Ford, GM, and Chrysler, the big airlines have to look over their shoulders at Southwest, Air Tran, and Jet Blue.  So when the airline industry comes crying to Congress and President Obama, I believe the response should be, “Go to hell.”  The airlines had it all and lost it through even worse mismanagement and customer abuse than the Big 3 might accomplish a shadow of on a good day.  If we lose the big airlines, there are a lot of smaller ones who’d love to charge you less to take up the slack.
  • It’s time to demand payback from American International Group.  AIG keeps coming back for more and more and more money.  Time for the government to seize this tottering giant and dismember it once and for all.  Take control and sell off all the assets and put some money back into the treasury.
  • If the Treasury Department is taking a stake in American banks to bail them out, then it’s time to force them to stop hoarding all the cash.  In fact, the new Treasury Secretary needs to figure out what the $700 billion bailout is for, then stay on message.  Currently, Henry Paulson shows the attention span of a gnat drowning in a mug of Starbucks espresso blend.  One day, it’s to buy out bad mortgages.  The next day, credit card debt.  Then the auto industry.  Hank, what is it?  You pitch this as an FDR move and then get all Herbert Hoover on us.  Bad move, especially for a Republican.  Herb gave us a top tax rate of 73%.  (Yanno, the rate that made Ronald Reagan say, “Um…  Let’s borrow money from Japan and find something a little more sane to charge people.”)
  • No bank, manufacturer, or retailer should ever be allowed a position in the market that could threaten the economy if it collapses.  Ever.  Socialism?  Kids, Teddy Roosevelt saw this, and Teddy was a man who loved capitalism.  He just knew the game had to have rules.  And like Teddy, we seem to be going back to JP Morgan for help.  And as grateful as I am to JP Morgan for being as smart as their namesake/founder, I’m not sure I want them acting as a second Federal Reserve.  Clean up the banking industry, by all means.  But then make sure no one gets too big.

Because I don’t think my grandchildren will be able to afford JP Morgan coming to Congress with their hat in hand.

And while we’re on the subject, since the taxpayer is on the hook for all these stupid business practices, shouldn’t a lot of these executives be facing the prospect of a few years at Club Fed, maybe a federal pound-me-in-the-ass facility?  Or even losing their assets?

Just say no to golden parachutes.


This week, the weatherman on Fox 19, WLW, and even The Weather Channel have been referring to Cincinnati’s weather as being “refreshingly brisk.”

Call it what you want.  It’s still cold.

And until mid-February, dark.

Next Up, George Bush Saves His Legacy By Cranking Up The Microwave During Cheney’s Final Briefing As Veep

Well, that’s not really happening, but this is.  Our esteemed Veep, Mr. Cheney, and former Attorney General Alberto “Gonzo the Great” Gonzales have been indicted for mistreatment of prisoners at private federal prisons.


Yeah, I know. Nothing likely will come of it, but it must be said…

Ahem OK, now I’m going to go have some schadenfreude pie. Mmm…

[Thanks to Bill Crider for the heads up.]

Why Save GM? We Can’t Afford Not To.

I confess.  I am, somewhat indirectly, a product of the Big Three culture that’s now on the ropes.  My paternal grandfather worked for GM for several years starting in World War II and on up through the mid-1950’s.  GM paid him handsomely for his service.  My maternal grandfather, when I knew him, sold Chevies for a living before disappearing on us.

But let’s be honest.  The Big Three and the United Auto Workers have been living in the 1950’s long after their foreign counterparts have embraced the New Millennium.  If you drive a BMW, a Toyota, or a Honda, chances are, it’s really an American car.

The Big Three and the UAW had their heads in the sand for so long that, by the time it occured to them to scrap the old post-WWII model they’d been using, it was too late.  Any other business that did this, I’d say let them rot.  They did it to themselves.

Too bad letting General Motors die would send our unemployment rate to 16% and crash a huge amount of the economy.  I keep hearing “Well, that’s what the market’s supposed to do.”  Excuse me?  How is this a good thing?

“Well, it means the market works.”

Um…  no.  It doesn’t work.  If it work, companies like AIG and Exxon and General Motors would not be single points of failure for the entire economy.  And before you scream “Socialism!” (which shows a monumental ignorance of the term’s meaning) or whine “What about market forces?”, remember the market is supposed to serve the citizenry, not the other way around.  Letting the economy spiral into an irreversible freefall in the name of preserving the market is, at best, immoral.  It would border on an atrocity to allow GM’s suppliers, dealerships, and domestic competitors crash with them.  It’s not Ford’s nor AutoNation’s nor Fram’s fault General Motors’ management has suffered from institutional stupidity for the last 40 years.

Yes, Ford, Chrysler, GM, and the UAW sat on their hands for too long, foisted gas-sucking oversized SUV’s on the consumer for about a decade, and only when gas prices skyrocketed did they agree they needed to streamline and give up the fat paychecks.  A competitive American car market is on the horizon, but only if they can survive until 2010.

However, fiscal conservatives, you’re not entirely wrong on this one.  The Big Three are just close enough to get back to being competitive, possibly being more competitive than their diesel-obsessed European counterparts that floating them a loan should be a no-brainer.  But…

There should be some pain involved.  Republicans and a lot of Democrats rightly believe we shouldn’t reward bad management.  Chrysler should get a free pass for their messy divorce from Daimler.  (How could the maker of Mercedes be so incompetent?)  It’s early in the new era for Chrysler.  Ford – meh.  They’re financed through next year.  Credit them and Chrysler for bringing in outside management.

I know what’s at stake.  I live in an area reeling from Ford’s implosion.  I wouldn’t mind seeing that transmission plant in Batavia open again.  And GM?

Give them a loan, but demand 1.) progress on new technology and 2.) a higher interest rate.  Time the taxpayer got a little ROI from these bailouts.

But GM?

GM brought us to this point.  GM is the one putting us all at risk.  GM is the one who would force us to pony up money we really don’t have.

If we’re going to do this thing – and clearly we should, since no one ever confused cutting off one’s nose to spite their face with wisdom – we need to make demands.

  • First, pay for it out of that $700 billion we’re throwing at the banks.  You can’t sell houses when 16+% of people are out of work.  Ain’t happening.  So if the bailout was to stabilize the economy, the Fed can spare $25 billion of that.
  • GM’s entire senior management should resign without compensation.  Including Richard Wagoner.  Demand outside managers, say maybe from BMW or Nissan, be brought in.  (But for God’s sake, don’t ever let Daimler touch another car company again!)
  • Instead of allowing GM and Chrysler to merge, break up GM.  It’s been discussed.  They already want to jettison Hummer.  One of the reasons GM in particular puts the economy at risk is it’s too damn big.  It was probably not a bad idea to split up AT&T.  Now that they’re back together, they’re no longer the only gay in the telcom village.  The American auto industry needs to do the same.
  • Subsidize startups, or cut venture capitalists a tax break for funding startups.  A French company with a curiously Henry Ford-type spin on capitalism wants to build compressed air cars in the US.  The catch?  The cars have to be built within 450 miles of where they’re sold.  Hmm…  That would create, like, yanno, jobs?  Another company, Tesla, has built an electric sports car.  Is it ready for prime time?  I think if someone ponies up for building them a decent transmission (Tesla’s biggest setback of late), they could go places.  Part of the problem with the American auto industry is you only have Ford, GM, and Chrysler, and no more Studebakers, Nashes, or Packards.  We need more of those smaller companies back into the mix.
  • This one is leveled at Chrysler.  Or maybe for it.  Daimler, which badly handled Chrysler when they owned it, should kick back some funds to their former sister company.  When they merged, Chrysler was building some decent cars (Yeah!  And American cars at that!)  and Mercedes Benz was the premier German brand.  Now?  Chrysler is now so behind on electrifying its cars that it has to have China’s Chery Motors build the next line of cars until Toyota can help them catch up.  And Benzes since the merger, even after the messy divorce, are…  um…  Did I mention some BMW’s are built in the US?  They build a damn fine automobile.
  • Benchmarks – Energy is a national security priority.  If Joe the Plumber’s cash is going to go into keeping the Big Three afloat, when, in turn, is Detroit going to allow us to tell Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, et al. to go to hell?  Personally, I’m not overly fond of depending on countries that don’t like us in the best of times to fuel my car.  Neither’s Joe.  The technology’s already here.  Time to put it on the street and let me and Joe and even Ralph Nader (unsafe in any election) take it for a spin.
  • An auto czar.  I have just the guy to do it.  His name is Lee Iacocca.  Can you imagine the guy Henry Ford II stupidly fired, GM let get away, and Chrysler hired as their savior cracking the whip on this mess of an industry?

I’d almost buy another Chevy to see that.


If Chevy ever builds a decent car again.

Or any car.

Tech Ignorance: Gadgets That Haven’t Quite Outlived Their Usefulness

I read an article last night on gadgets that should no longer be kept or purchased.  I wished I kept the link.  Not because I agreed with it, but because the writer seemed so enamored with the idea that your phone will do everything for you from now on, including your taxes and laundry.

But I do remember his list.  And while some of these products are in their waning days of usefulness, I seriously doubt they’re finished.

PRINTER – This made the list on the premise that everything is done electronically now, and only people of a certain age (ie – older than me) print things out “to be read later.”  Not so fast, whippersnapper.  Contracts have to be printed out.  If you own rental property, it’s quite likely your rental app will need to be printed out (though electronic apps are fairly common).  Your lease definitely will need to be printed out.  Medical claim forms, warranty registrations…  Yes, we are still killing trees and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  We will never be a paperless society, though we are becoming rather paper-light.  (Consider that I have not even used all my checks up on my bank account yet this year.  I used to order 2-3 times a year.)

SCANNER – But we have digital cameras!!!  In our phones!!! This is when I realized the writer likely owned an iPhone or a G-Phone.  Those of us doing graphics 1.) aren’t too fond of the unreliable printer-scanner-fax units, 2.) still get stuff in hard copy that has to be digitized, and 3.) don’t feel like spending $800 for the steroid-chomping commercial scanners like those featured in yesterday’s rant about the F*****u Corporation. That said, it is getting harder and harder to find a flatbed scanner, and I may have to bite the bullet and buy an all-in-one unit soon.  I’d hate that because the all-in-ones have the one item I agree with…

FAX – I hate faxes.  I hate when I’m required to send faxes.  I’m not exactly sure why lawyers loves them the fax, but faxes suck.  I’m pretty much opposed to anything other than voice that goes over dial-up.  And my landline is a VOIP line.  Speaking of which…

LANDLINES – I’ll give the writer this one, but I miss the days when I didn’t have to answer the phone because “I was away.”  Land lines could survive if they didn’t charge $50 a month for something I get for $25 from Vonage.

CD/DVD DRIVES – This one is just stupid.  Just freaking stupid.  They’re called movies, and until the entertainment industry gets over it’s fear and loathing of downloadable content, DVD’s are going nowhere.

MP3 PLAYERS – Honestly?  I play most of my music on my computer.  And really, I’d prefer the MP3 player to be separate and unequal from my phone.  Why?  If I’m listening to Tom Waits while out hiking the Little Miami Trail, I sure as hell don’t want to answer the phone.

LAPTOP – The writer believes – and probably rightly – that the laptop will go the way of the MP3 player and the land line, that iPhones and G-Phones and Blackberries will replace your portable laptop, maybe even your PC and Mac.  Maybe.  But your going to need a dock to plug in a keyboard, mouse, and a monitor you can, yanno, read stuff on.  Actually, the idea of going through the airport and tossing your phone into the bin as your only gadget is kind of appealing.  I’d still need that big keyboard.  Speech recognition, you say?  Is that how we’ll type in the future?  Hey, kids, try working on a cramped airliner speaking your 50-page report on how you’re going to downsize your company and move all the jobs to Albania while sitting next to Gertrude, who got a window seat and a bad case of diarhea and loves to talk to you.  It ain’t happening.  Whip out the keyboard, plug in the headphones, and go to work silently.

And see if Gertrude will switch seats.  She’s gonna need that emergency aisle more than you.