g r o t t o 1 1

Peeve Farm
Breeding peeves for show, not just to keep as pets
Brian Tiemann
Silicon ValleyNew York-based purveyor of a confusing mixture of Apple punditry, political bile, and sports car rentals.

btman at grotto11 dot com

Read These Too:

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James Lileks
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As the Apple Turns
Entropicana
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Capitalist Lion
Red Letter Day
Eric S. Raymond
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Aziz Poonawalla
Corsair the Rational Pirate
.clue
Ravishing Light
Rosenblog
Cartago Delenda Est



Cars without compromise.





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Sunday, July 3, 2005
10:53 - Hello from the 21st century, wish you were here
http://www.ucomics.com/doonesbury/2005/07/03/

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Wow.

Thanks a lot, Garry. I would have thought this was beneath you, but... I guess you've been digging for material so long, there's nothing left down there.

Y'know, I think maybe he's just jealous of people who can do journalism and hold down day jobs at the same time. Lord knows he doesn't meet many in the MSM.

Via Tom G.

UPDATE: Egad. I'm almost starting to pity these people for the untenability of their arguments.

Via Erich S.

Saturday, July 2, 2005
01:48 - Up the voltage
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=16480_How_Can_the_Future_Be_So_Primati

(top)
I've just got one thing to say to this guy:

"Why don't you go eat a decroded piece of crap?"

Friday, July 1, 2005
18:23 - Endgame... Part II

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The Jetta sitchy-ation may be at last coming to a close.

For those of you just tuning in, here's the history so far:
  • At the Mercy of the High Priests (the 80,000 mile service back in March, for background)
  • Service sucks (Monday, June 13—following the clutch repair and Midas' breaking of my stereo)
  • Out of my way! I'm a motorist! (Thursday, after Bob Lewis responded to the dead stereo and illuminated engine light by replacing the MAF sensor, replacing the ignition coil pack, and breaking my alternator so the battery died that evening)
  • Car Update (Monday—cogitations on an allegedly bad battery that Bob Lewis wanted to replace, not realizing that the alternator was what was broken)
  • Get my car out of my dreams (interlude)
  • Endgame (Tuesday—confirmation that Midas was to blame for my stereo being destroyed, but dishearteningly that Bob Lewis had also failed to fix anything by replacing the battery for $250)
  • Car Wars: The Phantom Idle Problem (Thursday—me doing experiments to determine that the idle problem, which eventually turned out to be the engine trying to tell me the alternator was crapped-out, was electronically governed and not mechanical in nature)
  • Some large men to see you, sir (Tuesday—my drama-queenish reactions to finding out Bob Lewis now understands that the alternator is at fault and wants to charge me $1000 to fix it)

Now that we're all up to speed here...

On Wednesday I called up Mr. Director Man at Bob Lewis, as planned, and gave him both barrels of my rant. I explained to him my rationale for asking Bob Lewis for $500 in refund: I broke it down to the $250 for the battery (unnecessary parts and worthless labor), plus $150 for their labor that missed or caused the bad alternator, and $100 for my labor helping Bob Lewis figure out that the alternator was what underlay the idle problem and the battery drain. My trump card (actually the first trump card I had, of several) was that I felt I could quite easily convince a small claims court judge that Bob Lewis had caused what they themselves had quoted as $1000 of damage to my car, in the form of the busted alternator which exhibited its first symptoms (high idle) the moment I drove it off Bob Lewis' lot. Hell, I could probably have pushed it further and got an additional $250 tacked onto the award for the superfluous battery replacement surgery. Compared to $1250, the $500 I was asking for surely seemed like an attractive alternative for Mr. Director Man. Especially since I would still have to turn around and take most of that money, buy a new alternator and battery cables from AutoZone, and install them myself, something I've never done.

(If things had come to it, I was prepared to issue further threats, by the way. For one, I could have threatened to go to VW's Zone Representative, which would have been able to turn the screws down on Bob Lewis' service department and get me my satisfaction, to say nothing of knocking down Bob Lewis' rating with the corporate mothership a few precious notches. Failing that, I could have brought up such things as other Bob Lewis customers' horror stories of bad service; the guy in the linked story seems to have given up after being batted around from rep to rep without any refund, but you know, the marvelous thing about the Internet is that all these people are contactable. How much money does Bob Lewis think a class-action lawsuit might cost? Surely more than $1250, and a lot more than $500.)

It never came to that, though. Things have gone a lot better than I more or less expected they would.

After listening to my tirade for fifteen minutes or so, Mr. Director Man withdrew to the protective cloak of my case files so he could review them and prepare his counterstrike. I gave him twenty-four hours to call back. But by the end of Thursday, he still hadn't done so, and Friday (today) I had off from work. So I called him this morning from home.

And he was immediately conciliatory. He said that in the intervening time, he'd reviewed all my service records, and—wonder of wonders—found that indeed yes, that $250 battery repair seemed quite unfair. Not only that, he found that the initial repair (where my MAF sensor and ignition coil were addressed) did in fact turn up readings indicating that the alternator was faulty, but the tech hadn't followed up on it, which was squarely on his shoulders. He said that he, Matt (the service advisor), and especially the tech had sat down and had some long talks—the tech wouldn't be losing his job over this, he said, but he'd received a pretty thorough dressing-down.

So what of my compensation, you ask?

Mr. Director Man said that instead of giving me $500 in cash and having me tinkering in my driveway over the holiday weekend, he was prepared to have Bob Lewis replace the alternator and battery cables for free. The way he broke that down was by saying that the $250 battery repair shouldn't have been charged me, and he'd consider that as paid toward the alternator repair; and the rest ($750 of what they had quoted as a $1000 repair) would be absorbed by the shop. By their estimation, then, this is a more valuable deal to me than what I'd been asking for—especially since it would mean I wouldn't have to go buying any $250 alternators and $50 cables and trusting the Alaska road trip to my thus-far-untested skills with a wrench.

Now, of course, by some estimations they're still not going to be eating as much cost as Mr. Director Man said they will; he said the alternator would cost the shop like $450, and I told him right away that I knew that wasn't much of a deal, considering I could get a brand-new 120-amp Bosch alternator (higher grade than the factory one) from AutoZone for less than $300, and get the $90 core charge back when I gave them my old unit. I hoped, I said, that the part they're going to put into my car is worth three times as much as one I could get third-party, particularly as Bob Lewis has never offered any rebates on the core charges for parts they've replaced and not given me the old parts back—they get to charge me the full price of the new part, get reimbursed by the distributor for the old part for remanufacturing, and pocket the core charge (which is often a lot). Mr. Director Man mumbled a bit about how the genuine VW part comes with Bob Lewis' service warranty, which I wouldn't have had if I'd done it myself, so if anything went wrong on the Alaska Highway I could get reimbursed for the repair when I got home—blah blah blah. I gave that one to him. It's not like I would have gained anything by proposing that I buy a third-party alternator and have them install that and refund me the difference—this is all free to me, so it'll be fine the way they're planning to handle it. But I think he understood that I understood that by not mentioning core charges to customers and charging them well more than what the free market bears, they're sorta shafting people on a lot of part replacements. So he knows I'm not dazzled by his offer—I know they're still getting away with giving me less value than they're promising me, in the long run. But ah well. Maybe at least his shop will be a little less blithe about assuming their customers don't know about core charges in the future. If so, I've done my good deed for the week. (Wait, no, I already did that on Wednesday when I noticed three $20 bills and a receipt being repeatedly ejected and sucked back in by the ATM next to me at the bank, and I took them inside and handed them over to a startled teller. And no, not because people were watching.)

So, this being a long holiday weekend, I'll take the car in on Tuesday morning and have them make everything all good. I'll find out in advance whether the same tech will be working on the car as worked on it before—just out of curiosity, of course, just so I know whether any problems that arise from this repair can be chalked up to incompetence or malicious retaliation. But I don't think there'll be a problem. The whole point of this exercise is goodwill—reestablishing goodwill between myself and the dealership—and Mr. Director Man knows that if Bob Lewis gives me any reason to be dissatisfied after this service is over with, whether it's incompetence or malice won't matter—it's their reputation on the line. He seemed to place great stock in my not spreading the word of Bob Lewis' intransigence. And the only way that will happen is if they do an impeccable job this time.

I'll still be thinking twice before taking the car back to Bob Lewis for future services. I'll still be attempting to do basic repairs on my own from now on, particularly where I know they're in the habit of shafting customers on part prices (just check the core charge and see if it's significant—remember that they're keeping that money as clear profit, because it's not figured into the price of the part they get from the distributor). But at the very least they seem sincere about making it right with me on this incident. Mr. Director Man gets high marks for me for not fighting me at all—he came up with a truly equitable counteroffer, one that will be better for me anyway, and he didn't try to explain away or defend his employees, and instead said simply that I had them dead to rights: they'd dropped the ball and it was theirs to make it up to me. That's exactly the right answer.

Which is good, because I can't help but like Bob Lewis—they're conveniently close to my house, their showroom is gorgeous, and indeed it doesn't feel like a car dealership at all. My recent peregrinations around Ford dealerships reminded me what the traditional experience feels like: tall greasy gray-haired men stalking around the place rubbing their hands at people and making lurid comments about the conquests of mind and body you'll surely make driving a Mustang, and by amazing coincidence they always seem to have a son working at Apple and a daughter who lives in Alaska and personal experience with everything else I mention of my life. None of that at Bob Lewis: just young guys who leave you alone to find out for yourself what's cool about the cars on the floor. Volkswagens do have that going for them: their interior features really do speak for themselves, and so a car dealership that feels like an Apple Store—which is what Bob Lewis resembles in many ways—is a welcome change and a genuinely enjoyable experience.

I'll reserve final judgment for Tuesday evening (or, more likely, Wednesday midday, depending on how long it takes to do the final service). But I have a strong feeling that we're about to shut the book on this one, and in a way that's amicable and fair all around. And that's the way it should be.

I'd say my first genuine experience with plumage-showing and chest-puffing (while keeping the real talons sheathed until and unless absolutely necessary) has paid off quite well.

Thursday, June 30, 2005
17:12 - One "I did" is worth a hundred "I'm gonnas"
http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1833126,00.asp

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In this eWeek article, IBM is claiming that Apple's move to Intel was a bad move—or at least an unnecessary one, because IBM could cover the entire Mac product line if it wanted to.

I guess we're to conclude that they just didn't want to, huh?

Via evariste, who says, "Either they're too proud to admit they couldn't, or Cringely was right and this is more of a strategic move against Microsoft than a forced move due to poor prospects with IBM."

I hope it's not because IBM planned to sell Apple Cells or Xenons, because Ars Technica (via Steven Den Beste) has some worrisome quotes from AnandTech (since retracted, or at least hidden) about the potential of those game console chips. There's some evidence that no matter how far ahead of the game IBM is now, any company taking the long view might be entirely justified in sticking with Intel—which Apple has apparently done. From the sound of things, the game consoles might be floundering while the Mac thrives, three years from now.


16:50 - Don't bother me with facts

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This may be part of the problem in today's intractable political divide: people simply decide in advance what they're going to believe about a given thing, and then even facts that directly contradict that belief don't make a dent in it—they just become transparent.

Case in point is today's SomethingAwful entry by Frolixo. I realize that SA is hardly what anyone considers a great profound think-tank, but if we're trying to get an accurate picture of how people interpret the world who aren't complete obsessive news-hounds and politics junkies, it's as good an example as any.

Did anybody watch that speech about the plans for Iraq that Bush outlined on Tuesday? I guess our plan of action to stem the tide of insurgent attacks and have democracy flourish in the region is to "defeat terror", "spread freedom", and "sacrifice". Wow, I'm sure all those buzz words that we've been hearing for the last 4 years will be just the solution to this clusterfuck we willingly walked into. I've never mentioned any politics in any of my updates because I tend to be fairly moderate in my views, and Zack Parsons does a good job of it anyway, but I just lost it after the speech on Tuesday. Anybody that knows their history or even has a shred of common sense knew that invading Iraq was a really bad idea unless you had a solid plan for the post-war.

This is looking more and more like a Vietnam situation, where hostilities are increasing and instead of pulling out we are digging deeper, sending more men and material over. The more we commit over there, the less of a chance we have of getting out. I just find it really tragic that thousands of young men who think they are fighting for a good reason will lose their lives over the next few years, just because this country is being led by a group of greedy, ignorant, and self serving men. The people who voted for Bush are finally wavering, but its far too late. We're fucked.

I didn't watch the speech, no, but I read it. And if there is any core unifying message in it, it's this:

The new Iraqi security forces are proving their courage every day. More than 2,000 members of the Iraqi security forces have given their lives in the line of duty. Thousands more have stepped forward and are now in training to serve their nation. With each engagement, Iraqi soldiers grow more battle-hardened and their officers grow more experienced. We have learned that Iraqis are courageous and that they need additional skills. That is why a major part of our mission is to train them so they can do the fighting and our troops can come home.

I recognize that Americans want our troops to come home as quickly as possible. So do I. Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake. Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out. We will stay in Iraq as long as we are needed and not a day longer.

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are in fact working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.

Mmmyep. Sure sounds like Vietnam to me. Sending more soldiers every day. A draft is imminent. "Instead of pulling out we are digging deeper, sending more men and material over. The more we commit over there, the less of a chance we have of getting out." That's exactly what Bush was saying.

But, see, the people who believe this stuff have their justification when these contradictions are brought up, too, and it's simple: Bush was lying through his teeth.

If it's bad news, it's confirmation. If it's good news, he's lying. That's how this works, right? This is one of those "My brother is lying"/"My brother is telling the truth" things, huh?

But hey, it's good enough to sound funny, so it's good enough for modern America.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005
11:10 - There's gotta be a Murphy's Law corollary about this

(top)

Literally no sooner did this, the infamous Three-Week Book, leave the printing presses and get loaded onto the distribution trucks, than this—iTunes 4.9—got released.

Bah. I guess I should have expected it. And I did get a note snuck into it late in editing regarding the podcasting features of then-upcoming iTunes 4.9; but the editors have already contacted me regarding me writing some supplementary material to cover podcasting, so it can be posted on the Web and incorporated into the second printing.

And it's worth it, too, because this podcasting stuff is damn cool.

I've already been listening to the Governor Schwarzenegger podcast, where Ah-nuld rambles about energy conservation in Collyvohnia, and how he is always telling his kids to turn off the lights when they leave the room—and when they persist in leaving lights on, he stomps around the house unscrewing light bulbs. And that right there is a visual that keeps a guy giggling into the wee hours.

iTunes can subscribe to any of the featured podcasts that are navigable via the new Music Store section dedicated to them (it contains big-name stuff like the Bush weekly radio address and Air America as well as many small podunky audioblogs); not only that, but you can subscribe to additional podcasts directly by URL, if they're not in the Music Store directory. I wonder what the criteria are for being listed there. (Frank? James?) Podcasts can have internal chapter marks (each with their own album art, with links to purchasing pages or random websites) that you can skip to, and iTunes remembers where you stop listening to any podcast episode like with audiobooks. And, of course, the iPod is now fully podcast-aware, bringing the slang and the official terminology into sync at last.

It's a pretty slick implementation, and iTunes has just potentially scored big once again—this time squarely among the blogfan community, which will now find it all the harder to not use iTunes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
16:28 - Our unbiased media

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In just a five-minute trip to the bank and back, I've had confirmation that KCBS's bizarre slant these days is not an after-midnight-only thing, but something they do all the time.

"In just under an hour," they intoned, "President Bush will make a speech in defense of the war in Iraq. The president will make the case that all the sacrifice of blood and treasure, all the images of horrific violence, are all worth it." With detailed foresight, they rattled off all the points that Bush's speech is expected to cover, complete with all the exaggerations, coverups, and outright lies that KCBS evidently expects to hear. The only thing they stopped short of saying was, DON'T YOU BELIEVE IT!

Then they trotted out polls showing flagging support for the war, one-liners from people on the street (the pro-Bush guy as dull and moronic as possible and making incoherent noises about "that 9/11 thing", the anti-Bush guy sharp and snarky), notes about how everyone mistrusts Bush now because no weapons of mass destruction have been found, and some expert or other who issued a peevish critique of the administration for not having gone on record with a guarantee that we wouldn't be building long-term bases in Iraq.

Missing, naturally, is any opinion piece that would make a case in favor of the war, or that would point out that hey, maybe it would be a good thing to have bases in Iraq—better than in Saudi Arabia, yes? Missing is any invocation, however matter-of-fact, of the stated mission in Iraq and its stakes, or an articulation of why it was important to take out Saddam with or without WMDs in his hands, or of positive facts on the ground that might just support what the president has to say on the subject in half an hour. Missing, naturally, are any polls or interviews from soldiers in Iraq, or, heaven forfend, Iraqis. See, by doing any of those things, KCBS would be "touting the Administration line".

Which amounts to publishing enemy propaganda, don'tcha know. Because the Administration is The Enemy.

And just this morning, as I drove in, the anchor was expressing shock and hurt pride over the revelation that the American people don't trust the news media as far as they could throw it, or that it could possibly be construed as having a slant that's too critical of the Bush administration. Perish the thought.

If it sounds like I'm registering my disgust every time I hear a snippet of KCBS that doesn't involve the weather or traffic report, well, I pretty much am. It's because that's what the radio is tuned to in the car I'm borrowing, and this just gives me all the more incentive to get the Jetta fixed as soon as possible.

UPDATE: Oh yeah. Just after the item described above, they did a story like, "Facing a potentially embarrassing political situation, House Republicans backed off today on a bill regarding veterans' welfare benefits... House Democrat So-and-So had the following righteous speech on the subject..." —and I honestly can't remember the last time I've heard them do a story like that with the roles reversed. If I heard one, it would stick out like a sore thumb. It's not like such stories don't exist, you know.

And the day before, there was a story about California implementing bio-screening technology (at taxpayer expense) to test everybody for bodily toxins caused by pollution and so on. They played a bunch of sound bites from doctors and politicians saying how great it would be; and then, at the very end, said, "The bill is opposed by some chemical companies." Seriously! That's the extent to which they described the "con" position. And then they cut away to something else. Boo! Hiss! Bad chemical companies! Must be because they're evil. But that's all we hear of their side, so that's the impression we're left with.

It's as though they've started taking for granted that they're only playing to a certain audience now, so they simply no longer care about alienating people who don't agree with their slant.


11:52 - Some large men to see you, sir

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Oh, did I hear someone ask for an update on the car?

No? Well, tough.

Yesterday morning I was scheduled to drive the car in to Bob Lewis so they could investigate the idle problem that is still evident even after replacing the battery which they reported was bad, when the car wouldn't start two Thursdays ago. Vacuum leak? Solenoid valves going haywire? Battery haunted? All in my mind? Everything's working fine now for the first time in six years, and up till right now the car was supposed to idle at 1000 after running for a few minutes? We'd find out yesterday morning, when I was to drive around one of the technicians so he could see the behavior for himself.

Well, that was the plan, anyway. I went out to the car, put in the key, and—guess what?

Okay, that was an easy one. You get no points. Yeah, that's right, battery dead.

This did not make me happy. Woke up roommate, got bleary jump, drove to Bob Lewis, parked in the breezeway, stomped in waving my arms and making screeching pterodactyl-like sounds. Matt, the long-suffering evil scheming innocent little lamb of a serial wallet rapist, shielded himself from me with a large hulking technician with "Sean" embroidered on his namebadge and a big linebacker grin on his shaved-bald-with-goatee countenance. He told me that, daaahh, when the alternator's starting to go bad and not providing enough power, the engine computer kicks up the idle a couple of minutes after startup to about 1000 so it can charge the battery faster, boo-awss.

Of course. Why had nobody at the dealership advanced this theory before? Various friends had made grumbling noises that sounded like "alternator" over the course of this debacle, but for one thing, my alternator is less than three years old, and for another, I hadn't yet been able to get a clear yea or nay from Matt or any of his oilstained minions as to whether the idle problem even existed or wasn't just normal behavior. I'd explained the problem to him like nine times over the phone, and at last contact he'd still been telling me things like, "Well, if the air conditioner comes on, you should expect to see the revs drop briefly. Are you sure you're not just seeing that?"

So I caught the shuttle to work, after authorizing a big fat zero (again) on the approved diagnostic and repair work and putting a big red dot on the work order indicating that I was a repeat-return customer whose problems have still not been resolved (and thus a top priority), and awaited the inevitable phone call. Which came at arount 2:00.

"So, I've got some news for you," Matt said, "And it's not exactly good."

I love when conversations begin this way.

He proceeded to tell me that yes, they'd confirmed that the alternator was indeed going bad and was only providing about 10 volts after the engine warms up, although it's got a normal output level at startup. Also there's a drop of about a volt over the lengths of both the positive and negative battery cables, both of which also need to be replaced. Total repair costs estimated at about $1000. "I can get that discounted to about $875," he said, helpfully.

"I'll call you back," I said as evenly as I could. I felt like the things I was about to say didn't need to have been transmitted over the phone lines.

You'll recall that a large part of why I allowed Bob Lewis to go ahead with the $220 battery replacement last week ($100 parts, $120 labor) was that the labor cost included complete testing of the charging system, which presumably would have found any and all problems with the alternator, not to mention the battery cables. Otherwise, if I didn't think they'd actually do said testing of the charging system, I'd have had my friend meet me in the parking lot and we'd have replaced the battery ourselves. But instead it looked like that $120 was pretty much tossed into the air as confetti, for all the good it did my car. And now my new battery was probably damaged, too.

I called up Lance; he drove to get me at work, with another friend who was over at the time. I spent the car ride sitting darkly in the backseat, rehearsing price breakdowns and argumentative techniques. You see, let me make clear before we go any further that this was going to be my very first face-to-face confrontation with a service person with whom I had a serious beef. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was going to say, and had comebacks for potential curveballs. By the time we parked, I had a pretty good script worked out.

First stop was the cashier. "If you'd be so kind, please bring my car around," I told her. "I believe some money will be changing hands."

Which direction, I didn't specify.

Then the three of us parked ourselves in front of Matt's desk. I'm sure I looked like the world's nerdiest mob boss, with my own brace of hired goons watching my shoulders. It took about ten full minutes for Matt to finish filing midday papers, calling customers, and entering information into the computer. Finally he was ready for me.

"I think I'll do the repair myself," I told him. I've got the repair manual. I have AutoZone. I think I can handle this. "So let's just close out the paperwork and bring this unhappy little chapter to an end."

As he complied, I went on: "Also I think I'm going to have to ask for some money back, as I'm sure you'll agree is fair."

Of course he didn't. So I asked for a pen and a sheet of paper. On it, I wrote out the following:

What I have given Bob Lewis:

$900 (in parts and labor for miscellaneous replacements involving the engine electricals—MAF sensor, ignition coil)
$250 (parts and labor, for the battery)
1 slightly used car, otherwise in fine mechanical shape
----------------------------------------------
$1150 plus a working car.

The car that's currently being brought out of the garage, I pointed out with a gesture over my shoulder (as though the timing had been preplanned, my car was just being driven out into the breezeway behind me as I said this), is worth significantly less to me than the above.

In fact, considering that I'd been quoted $1000 damage for a busted alternator, which had been perfectly fine when I gave the car to them and showed its first signs of malfunction the moment I drove it off the parking lot after the MAF/ignition-coil service, one might indeed consider that the car out in the breezeway now comes with a built-in $1000 liability, even after factoring in my existing cash outlay and any correct work that's been done in exchange for it. And, I pointed out, I could probably make that stick in small claims court.

So, I went on, drawing another line:

What I'm going to ask for is $500, which I believe is more than fair. And that breaks down as follows:

$250 for the battery, parts and labor, which didn't need to be replaced after all, because the damage to the battery seems to have been caused by the bad alternator and the labor was completely worthless from all I can see
$150 for the labor on the initial $900 service, which a) should have caught any potential problems with the alternator, and/or b) caused the alternator to die in the first place, which I don't feel like paying for
$100 for my time (e.g. my labor), driving back and forth to the dealership, getting jumpstarts, mooching rides off friends, and generally wondering (often in long rambling diatribes on the blog) whether I'm getting reamed by this whole process.
------------------------------
$500 even.

Compared to challenging them for the full $1000, I said, this seems like a nice equitable solution.

So at that point I stood back and awaited his reaction. Naturally, throughout the diatribe Matt had started looking more and more sullen—or was it insulted?—and seemed to be filling out a piece of paper rather than looking at what I was doing. And when it was his turn to talk, he said—of course—that he sympathized with my frustration, said that he himself had been getting really annoyed at this car. But, he said—of course—that from the shop's perspective, the failures I've seen have all been just that much bad luck—part after part failing on top of each other, all cascading together while they're working on solving other problems, and the most Bob Lewis can be held liable for is for not finding certain things wrong with the charging system that, for whatever reason, were legitimately not evident while the car was in the garage.

And, he went on after I persisted, the entire department full of service directors—the only ones with the authority to cut refund checks—was out of the office today, and won't be back until Wednesday. Out at a service directors' playday at Raging Waters, I would imagine.

So in the end I had to leave Bob Lewis empty-handed—toting only a piece of closed-out paperwork with the politely worded "Customer has declined repair at this time", my car key, and the business card of the director who'd be returning with his suntan on Wednesday. Naturally the car wouldn't start, so I jumped it off Lance's car (just like in Dukes of Hazzard—wait, actually not at all like that), swapped keys with him, and drove back to work while the other two drove my car home.

So that would seem to be the end of my attempts to get good service from Bob Lewis—but the overall verdict as to their dedication to the customer will come after I speak with Mr. Director Man and find out how he intends to deal with a customer who bought his Jetta here at Bob Lewis six years ago and has been bringing it back for every service, major and minor, since that date; and whose roommate bought his car from Bob Lewis a year later, and has been bringing it back for every service, major and minor, since that date; and who, judging by the condition of this $100-bill-eating car, is going to shortly be in the market for a new car of some sort, and will be viewing the outcome of this dispute as a make-or-break opportunity for whether Bob Lewis will be selling me or anyone I know any cars in the future. (To say nothing, I suppose, of someone who happens to have been documenting every sordid little detail of this fun-filled extravaganza back to and including the 80,000-mile service on a blog with a fairly wide readership, many members of which have indicated a keen interest in seeing how the story turns out. There is one entry yet to write, Mr. Director Man, one that just might show up on Google searches for "Bob Lewis VW". Would you like this story to have a happy ending... or a sad ending?)

And in the meantime, I get to dive headlong into the engine bay of my car and figure out how to replace the alternator and battery cables myself. Buying the parts seems a slam-dunk; Kragen doesn't have any in stock at any of its stores throughout the USA, and Napa closes at 6:00, but AutoZone has all kinds of everything I need—I have only to decide which amperage of alternator is right for my car (the Bentley manual, stupidly enough, doesn't specify). And I've bought a multimeter, as well as this thing from someone on Ebay, which is used for pulling the spark plug wires off the connectors way down deep in the engine block, which has to be done before the big plastic carapace can be removed. (Don't let this picture fool you; it's of a 2001 Jetta, where the plug wires have little plastic collars on them that you can grab and pull the wires out without any special tools. Mine, a 1999, has no such accommodation. Of course.)

Wish me luck. The alternator will cost me about $250 (minus the $90 core charge, which I reportedly can be reimbursed for if I turn it in at AutoZone so it can be sent back for remanufacturing), and the battery cables will be about $50 each, but that's a far cry from the $1000 I'd be out if I let Bob Lewis do it. And even if I don't see a penny of refund, which I sort of expect is what will happen, at least I'll be off and running on the road to doing this crap myself from now on.


11:36 - The DMV: the New Ellis Island

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Evidently the same people in the California Assembly who have twice failed to pass legislation allowing driver's licenses for illegal immigrants are going to try a third time, thinking they have the Governator's support (though they don't, really, judging by his reactions reported on the radio this morning). This time, reportedly, they plan to distinguish illegals' licenses (a contradiction in terms, it seems to me) with a unique color and special security features, but the California Homeland Security department still isn't pleased. Which seems about right to me, but I can't help but think it's absurd that the question has even gotten this far.

Let's leave aside the philosophical question at the heart of whether it's right to give the legitimacy of documentation to people who are in this country illegally, who cheated the system to sneak in where others spent years in line waiting.

My question is a more basic one. It's about logistics. See, what people seem to be forgetting, perhaps because of the monotonic overuse of the term, is that these are illegal immigrants we're talking about. IL-LEG-GAL. As in, criminals. As in, they should not be here. As in, if the authorities find out they exist, they deport them. (Or should.) The life of an illegal immigrant is a life of hiding from all forms of authority, of lying low, of staying the hell away from any mode of detection by those with the power to discover that they have no right to be in the country. It's a life of skulking from under-the-counter job to under-the-counter job, seeking a living from sympathetic or (more frequently) exploitative employers willing to be party to the crime. It's all underground, and documentation is the very antithesis of the enterprise.

With that in mind, then: why on earth would an illegal immigrant go to the DMV to pick up a license, or even provide a mailing address to have one sent him?

Wouldn't this be like a Venus flytrap or something—just set up a special line at the DMV with a door in the back wall saying "Illegal Immigrant Licenses", and as each person steps through he falls onto a chute that carries him into a paddy-wagon idling in the sub-basement? If so, it'd be rather ingenious.

Or—as seems more likely—does this proposal merely amount to the decriminalization of undocumented immigration? If, as a self-demonstrated international criminal, you can walk with impunity into a government office and get official state documentation with your name and your address imprinted and reflected in a government database, instead of being arrested on the spot, then in what sense is illegal immigration "illegal" anymore?

It's like, say, if a notorious bank robber were to walk into a police station, and under a bulletin board with his name and portrait staring down at him from a WANTED poster, he told the cops about a neighbor whose music was turned up too loud. And the cops took down a police report and knocked down the neighbor's door. And the bank robber walked out happily into the sunshine.

It's hard for me to understand how the proponents of driver's licenses for illegals can have any other ultimate goal than the destruction of the concept of "citizenship".

Monday, June 27, 2005
13:43 - Dashboard upgrades
http://www.thinksecret.com/news/0506build8C40.html

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Looks like the latest builds of Tiger updates include a much more sophisticated Dashboard widget manager, rather than the seamless but risky and opaque mechanism it shipped with for adding new widgets.

In the newest builds, the "More Widgets" button located on the right side of the screen -- directly above the widget bar -- is replaced by a new "Manage Widgets" option. This button launches the new widget manager within Dashboard.

The new widget manager reportedly has the appearance of a widget itself -- but unlike most widgets, it cannot be flipped around to reveal special options or preferences. The widget manager's design is faintly similar to that of the iChat buddy list; it is laid out as an oversized window that lists all of a user's installed Dashboard widgets. Running down the left side of the list are checkboxes which allow the user to quickly enable and disable widgets. Along the right side of third-party widgets are red stop sign-like icons that allow the user to delete widgets -- upon clicking the icon, an overlaying dialog asks for confirmation.

At the upper-right of the widget manager is the Dashboard icon, at the upper-left is a close box, and at the upper-middle is a selector allowing users to sort the widget list by name, date, and whether it is enabled or not. Users can jump through the widget list with a scroll bar similar to the one seen in the Dictionary/Thesaurus widget. And at the bottom of the widget manager is the displaced "More Widgets" button, which still links to Apple's Dashboard widget download Web site.

The latest builds also demonstrate changes to widget installation. After users download a new widget in Safari, a dialog box asks whether or not they want to install the widget -- a security precaution intended to prevent the installation of malicious code. When users click "Install," the widget is displayed within a pseudo-Dashboard container that presents them with two options, "Delete" and "Keep." This feature allows users to see a widget in action and try it out before deciding to include it in their collection.

Excellent.

Hey, Ford? If Apple can upgrade their Dashboard, why can't you?

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© Brian Tiemann