Thursday, September 23, 2004

Just In The Nick Of Time.

While watching Prime Minister Iyad Allawi this morning, I couldn't help but feel proud. Less for his exact words, although his "thank you" was huge, but more for the hope he portrayed. I couldn't help but drift back in my mind to the buildup to the war. When human shields were flying to Iraq (many from the exceedingly liberal area I live). When pretty much no one I encountered thought it was a good idea. When the news media was clearly slanting against the war. I thought about the disagreement after disagreement I had with people. You see, I didn't care why we were going to war. People were incredulous with me. Time after time I told them, I didn't care if they found absolutely zero WMD. My stance was "those people" deserved the hope that we enjoy. They deserved a chance to make their own lives. They deserved to not be brutalized just for speaking out against their government. The very thing we so take for granted, that people can say anything about our leaders. Up to making a direct threat.

Every time I watched the old stock video out of Iraq, and saw not one smile. Only despair. I scoured everything I could about Iraq. Every voice I could find. Every once in a while I would read reports from people who had made it out of the Kurdish area. They were waiting for us. Please come.

You see, I don't think our government does everything right. But I figured even if we royally screwed it up, it would be at least 50% better than what they had. Anything was better than what they had.

In the beginning I read the Iraqi blogs, and was happy. You could almost hear the excitement in their words. Then as the violence started getting worse and things started seeming less hopeful. I had to search harder for good news. Anything what would make me think it was worth it. It wasn't coming as fast as I would have liked it to. Then as American after American was beheaded. I watched each and every beheading video. Except the last two. I might still, but after the group of men from Nepal were beheaded and slaughtered (who didn't even have troups in the region) my skin became much too thin. The joy they took making it a slow death was too much. Don't misunderstand me. Each one had enraged me, and affected me deeply. I couldn't logically wrap my mind around any of them. I'd seen more pictures of the bombings, and the assignations than probably was healthy. I had also seen tons footage of the brutality the Iraqi's had to endure. I wasn't obsessed, as it may sound. I just didn't want to hide from the horrible realities.

A month or two ago I turned fairly sour. My stance was becoming more and more "screw them". Things like the comments of the Iraqi soccer team at the Olympics were exceedingly unhelpful for my state of mind. I would still find tidbits of hope, but it was becoming too little too late for me. I was decidedly feeling like I was wrong. They were just a brutal people. That is just their culture.

Frankly, it sucked. I felt that the Iraqi people were a smart educated people, who of all of the countries we might have toppled, they had the best chance of being successful. I wanted them to succeed. After all, who wouldn't want to be the creator of their own destiny. I just didn't see it happening. Maybe they had been repressed for too long, and they would never figure out how to be a democratic people.

So this brings me back to Mr. Allawi. I don't all of sudden think things are great. I know they aren't. His speech made him seem like a leader. Baby step by baby step maybe they are figuring it out. I was proud of him.

Mr. Allowi gave me something akin to that burst of energy that you get when you are running a marathon, you've hit the wall and think you just can't take it anymore. It occurs to me that Iraq and America need hope from each other. Iraq needs hope from America that we will stay and help them just a while longer until they can completely stand on their own. America needs hope from Iraq that our efforts are worth it. That our sacrifice is really what they wanted and couldn't quite pull off on their own.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Vietnam Drones On

I was just being born when Vietnam was wrapping up. Being the usual curious child, I asked my Uncle dozens of times about his service in Vietnam. To this day, the only thing I know is that he was a medic. Each time I asked he declined. It occurs to me that these moments shaped my feelings about being a hero, contributing to charity, and performing good deeds. I could never really put my finger on why I long have had a special distrust about people who went out of their way to tell people how much they contribute to society. A special seething anger about people who over-exagerated their war service. After listening for weeks to the whole John Kerry " I am a Vietnam Hero " mantra, I have to begin to wonder how my Uncle got so wedged into my moral code. It isn't as if when I asked my Uncle got that far away tortured look, or got choked up. He simply changed the subject. Finally into my teens I stopped asking. My Aunt said he would never talk about it. Not even to her. I have to admit, I am still curious. I have always been that sort of person who didn't want to hide from the ugliness of the world. I won't bothering asking, because I know he will never tell.

As ugly as Vietnam was, and the type of duties he performed, it now occurs to me I have never heard my Uncle complain about the war. Never said how wrong and useless it was. The reason I mention it is because after watching John Kerry's Senate speech, the contrast between his words and my Uncles lack of words seem like such an immense contrast. I imagine my uncle was drafted and did a full tour of duty. My uncle was poor and was never wounded, so he wouldn't have been eligible for early release or deferments. Yet he has quietly moved on with his life.

John Kerry on the other hand has taken every opportunity use those four months in his youth to better his career. It is apparent the last thing my Uncle wants is to remember anything about Vietnam. Even to use it for his own benefit. In John Kerry's Senate speech he said " We wish a merciful God could wipe way our own memories". My Uncle acts like a man who wishes for that. John Kerry does not.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Update on Robomower

The mower is in the shop. It has been three days, and who knows how long it will be in. Maybe Monday I will call them and see if they have even figured out the problem, and have begun to order parts. I am already setting my expectations low, and saying it will be in the shop longer than we owned it. (3 weeks) If you have rock bottom expectations sometimes you come out pleasantly surprised. Kind of like going to see a movie you just know is going to be crap.

Amazon on the other hand gets credit for stepping up to the plate and at least attempting to make us happy. Where Friendly Robotics gave us the big screw you. Amazon at least offered to credit our account $120.00. We could have gotten all hissabitchy and made Amazon take it back, but frankly it wasn't Amazons fault. The fact they have to eat the money they are returning us makes me even less impressed with Friendly Robotics. I know it is "just business" and all, but I would think you would want to make early adopters like us happy. While not pissing off your vendors. Now we get to see how many weeks we need to pay a gardener.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

You Want To Do What? Part 1.

Last night I developed a tick. You know... one of those subconscious facial things people do when they are stressed. Right after my husband said "ya know.... what do you think about doing this.......". While I am long past being stressed about the bathroom remodel (we are in the home stretch after all) that same sentence has been said in our house over this one project zillions of times for the past six months. You think I am joking. Just wait. This hasn't been an easy project.

It all started out with these tiles.

We knew from the very beginning that we had some issues. For one thing, the tiles were a vastly different thickness.

But I loved the glow tiles. There wasn't any dispute between us. He liked them too, but dismissed the idea as crazy. All of a sudden I felt like Cartman on South Park. "But maaaaa, I want a traperkeeper 2000'. We spent the next two hours in the store. Although we both have a very short tolerance for shopping, we both know better to leave the store with something unless we have an plan. How were we going to incorporate these tiles that wont look to overdone, and still be on the funky side.

I was leaning towards a metal accent:

He was leaning towards having an accent that ties into the floor tile:

Or do we just want to put some subtle lines:

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Iran Embraces Queen.

In news of the ironically bizarre.
ROCK icons Queen, fronted by outlandish gay icon Freddie Mercury, have become the first rock band to be given the official seal of approval in Iran.

A record company source said an album of their greatest hits has been released in the country.

Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, was proud of his Iranian ancestry and supposed Zoroastrian origins.

It made Queen one of the most popular bands in Iran, but western music is largely frowned upon in the Islamic republic, where homosexuality is considered a crime.

Read more here.

Portal To The Future?

If you have a few minutes to blow, has some pretty rockin' photos.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Nothing To See Here. You're Just Paranoid.

Last week CTV reported an odd robbery. A Nuclear densometer. Story here. Not only do you need to be certified to use one of these machines, they are alleged to be very pricey. So imagine my surprise when I found another report of a truck with a Nuclear Densometer inside was stolen December 6th in Canada. The truck was recovered, but not the densometer. More oddly, a "mysterious laser device" was reported being found in March.

Friendly Robotics Not So Friendly

It seems to happen quite often these days. A product breaks down which you have only had for a much shorter time than you expect an item to last. This time, it was our lawn mower. I am out mowing the lawn, and it spins down. Only to never start again. I call my husband. "You aren't going to believe it". Him: "what"? Me: "the mower just died". Him: "but we just bought that thing". Me: " I know. I will hunt down the receipt and see what we can do about it". After rummaging through hundreds of receipts I find it. 14 months old. I am relieved to know the warranty is for 24 months, but now we are left without a mower in the middle of summer when the lawn grows at an insane rate. Then the annoyingly familiar cycle begins. Are they really going to honor the warranty? How much it going to cost us to ship it to wherever. Once we get it fixed how long till it breaks down again. Maybe we should think about buying something new while we are trying to get the old one fixed. After all, we have learned all to well that it never hurts to have a backup.

My husband had been sending me links from gadget websites for weeks about how cool the robomowers were. Very neat indeed. Though at the time we already had a working mower, and I couldn't get past lawn dismorphia. Granted, I am the one doing the lawn work, but somewhere in the back of my mind I think " if I go automated on this, it will just keep going until I am laying on the couch like jaba the hut with machines doing everything for me". In reality, I have a million other projects to do. Saving a few hours on lawn work a week would make those other projects actually move a little faster. So... I finally softened to the idea. We spent about a week marinating the idea. Looking at feedback. Combing the web for people who actually owned one, and were satisfied enough that we placed the purchase through Amazon.

A couple of days after placing the order we start to get positively giddy about the machine. Each day my husband was checking UPS to see when it is suppose to arrive. Finally it does on a Monday the July 26th. Yippee!

We spend the better part of a day laying the ground wire. We get our first mow in by the next weekend. At this point we think "hey... this is great". Did a much better job than we expected. It was very quiet. What a relief! All goes well for the next 2 weeks.

Then it happens. Soon after setting the mower to go on August 19th I notice when it goes in reverse it is making a squeaking sound. At first I didn't think much of it, and figured dew on the lawn was causing it to make a little noise. After a few cycles in reverse though, it starts to bother me. After sitting out and watching it for about 10 minutes I realize the thing is listing, and when I shut it off and look at it I notice a groove has been worn in the wheel. I email my husband who says " this may not be a problem - pull the battery and see if the wheels have slipped their height setting". I pull the battery, and put it into the higher setting, set the battery back in, and the chassis slumps to where it is sitting. Just slightly higher than where it was wearing a groove in the wheel on the lower setting.
Right side (good) Note the cleareance between the wheel and the wheelwell

Left side (bad):

Crap. It just figures. I look through email and alert my husband that we are three weeks into the 30 day period in which most companies let you return defective items for exchange. At this point I am super annoyed because while we thought we would have to repair it before the 24 month warranty, we didn't expect a failure at 3 weeks. I call the distributor in Texass, and gives me the local repair shops. Now, when I say local, I mean an hour in each direction local. I already know that it will cost around 50 bucks to ship it to a repair shop. It is a heavy oversized item. Now, If we had the mower for more than 3 weeks, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But now we faced with a huge hassle or another 50 bucks for an item we spent over 650 bucks for and have only had 3 weeks. And have treated extremely gently.

My husband calls the distributor back the next day to put some firm pressure on them to send us an RMA, and give us an exchange. No luck. He sends me email -"they don't do exchanges - ever, but they claim it will be fixed free of charge". At this point I am in disbelief. It doesn't state that on their website. Honestly, that might have swayed us into not buying the mower.

The more annoying thing is the distributor in Texas made absolutely zero effort to make us happy, apologize for our inconvience, and frankly wasn't even pleasant to either of us on the phone. Some might think the distributor was merely reflecting the attitude we were projecting. I assure you, neither my husband and I are the type to stomp up and down being loud and yelling at people. We are reasonable people. Firm, but reasonable.