I started this blog twelve years ago. I always meant to update it regularly, but… life intervenes. After recently coming back to it, I decided it was due for a good cleaning. There were lots of old articles about things I no longer care about but that people on the Internet keep visiting and linking to. I kept them. But there were also a lot of opinion pieces that I no longer agree with. Their disposition was a harder decision. The possibility of deleting them felt dishonest, like I was denying ever holding those beliefs. Conversely, this blog isn’t a diary (I have a separate one of those) or a public record (I just write stuff every now and then).

Continue reading “Rebooting”

To Sell A Car

In the process of moving to another state, we decided to sell my car to some friends. This turned out to be much harder than anticipated.

I admit that this is entirely my fault and I deserve to be made fun of for it, but we couldn’t find the title. It could be that the bank which financed the loan never sent it to us. It could be that it’s in our safe deposit box in our last city and that I’ll find it next month when I go back for the rest of our stuff. Or maybe I’m just a bad document caretaker and I lost it along the way. I don’t know. But the end result is that we don’t have the title and needed to have a duplicate issued before we can sell the car.

Late May

I called the county clerk’s office to ask how to apply for a duplicate title. The clerk was very helpful and friendly, and offered to look up the necessary information while I was on the phone. I gave her my car’s VIN and my personal information, and she came back with the unwelcome news that the bank still had a collateral lien on the car. I pointed out that I bought it used in 2000 and didn’t have a 12-year loan on a used Oldsmobile, and that I hadn’t been arrested for chronic non-payment of the loan. She laughingly agreed that I’d clearly paid it off, but needed a notarized lien release from the financing bank before she could issue a new title.

When I tried to find contact information for that bank, I discovered they had been acquired by another bank in 2004 and no longer existed.

OK. So.

Early June

I called the new bank, Regions, and explained the situation. They were more pleasant and easier to work with than I’d feared, but couldn’t find any information about my paid-off-9-years-ago loan from their subsidiary. They took all my information, though, and agreed to send a lien release if they couldn’t find proof that I still owed them money. That seemed perfectly fair and reasonable – from a bank! – and I sat back to wait for the letter to arrive.

It didn’t arrive.

Late June

I called Regions again. They were missing some information from the lien release application form (but weren’t sure exactly which information) and needed to re-file it. Given how nice they were and that I wasn’t even their customer any more, I didn’t protest or complain too much.


A couple of week later, the official, notarized lien release came in the mail. The VIN wasn’t quite identical to the one I gave them, but I hoped the county clerk would call it “good enough” and accept the note.

Now we were ready to apply for the replacement title. The state’s form required that Jen and I both have our signatures notarized, so on a sunny Saturday, we drove to a nearby UPS Store and paid up. We stuffed the lien release letter, the application, and a check for $14 in an envelope and mailed it to the county clerk’s office.


Not a peep from the county clerk. I didn’t rush things because, well, government office… But after a few weeks of silence, I called to check on the application.

The county clerk never received it.

The notarized application? The check? The necessary, certified original copy of the lien release? Lost forever to the mail system.

I asked the clerk if I could just take the car out back and burn it, as that might be the easiest way to dispose of it. She asked me to please not to.

I sheepishly called Regions again to explain the situation, apologize profusely, and to ask them to please send me yet another copy of the lien release. They cheerfully agreed to and collected all my information to fill out the request form.

I called US Bank to cancel my lost check and they told me there was a $30 change to stop payment on a $14 note. I told them not to bother and that I’d take my chances.


And that’s where it stands. All I wanted to do is sell my car, and it’s involved the county clerk, three banks (one of them out of business), a UPS Store, and the post office. As of today, I’m no closer to the goal than I was two months ago.

As a side note: yeah, it was my fault for losing the original title (if I ever even had it). But I wouldn’t have been able to transfer the title to the new owners without the lien release anyway, so this was destined to be a pain in the butt in any case.

Becoming Unrooted

So, I forgot my root password. For non-technical types, that’s pretty much the key to the kingdom when you need to get full access to a computer, or install new software, or to make backups, or to fix something in an emergency. I use this little program called “sudo” all the time that lets you do most of the same things except with your own password. I guess it’d been so long since I’d actually needed that root password that it just slipped my mind. Still, I felt pretty dumb and resigned myself to coming up with a new one and resetting it on all the computers I use.

So, this morning something came up where I really needed that password, and without thinking I picked up a keyboard and mashed it out. It worked. “Oh joy,” I though. “I’ll just do it again and pay attention to what I’m typing.” Except that try as I might, I just can’t type that password if I’m consciously thinking about it.

This has not improved my outlook on an upcoming birthday in the slightest.

You Are A Loser

I do not care whether you drive a Pinto or a Mercedes; a Geo or a Porsche. When you unload your shopping cart and then leave it sitting next to your car rather than pushing it back to the cart corral, you show your contemptible cretinism. There are no excuses. If you have the time and strength to push it through the store and out to the parking lot, you have the time and strength to push it another 50 feet to where it belongs.

Really. Without exception. If you make a million dollars a year but are too lazy and self-absorbed to care whether your own shopping cart rolls into someone else’s car, then you are a loser.

Negotiations With Western Digital

We bought a Western Digital external hard drive for Jen’s computer while we were in Omaha. I hooked it up when we got home and it was dead on arrival. I called for an RMA (“return material authorization” – basically permission to return it to the manufacturer) and got the replacement a few days later. Unfortunately, they didn’t include a pre-paid shipping label to return the defective part, and the customer service guy wasn’t too keen on giving me one. I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable or that they just justifiably deny, and here’s how I got one anyway:

CS guy: It’s not our policy to give out shipping labels. It’s the customer’s responsibility to pay for shipping.
Me: It’s not this customer’s policy to pay for shipping products that were dead on arrival.
CS guy: I see your point, but that’s not something we normally do.
Me: OK, but I’d sure appreciate it. I mean, I did you a favor by calling you instead of returning this to the store. I didn’t know I’d have to pay for it.
CS guy: Well, we don’t do a very good job of telling you that on our website. I can ask my supervisor, but I don’t think he’ll do it.
Me: I’ll hold.
[5 minutes go by]
CS guy: Sir, this isn’t something we do, but since these are special circumstances, we’ll do it just this one time. You’ll get it within a week.
Me: Thanks! Oh, and can you extend my deadline for returning the broken one by a few days since I don’t have the shipping label yet?
CS guy: (sighs) Yeah, OK. You can have an extra 10 days.

Note two important things: first, I was polite; second, I was assertive. Failure on either of those would have wrecked the whole deal.

Mowing With Max

I have a nice Craftsman lawn mower. I like my lawn mower. I have no desire to get another lawn mower. And yet, I got another lawn mower. Jen bought a cordless string trimmer from someone she knows and they offered to throw in their mower for free, so why not?, we took it home.

I began mowing the lawn this weekend, and at one point I stopped to adjust the deck height on one side. When I tried to restart the engine, the pull cord snapped. Well, I couldn’t very well leave the lawn half-mowed, so I figured I’d try the “new” one. It started, which gave it an immediate advantage over the other.

After about two laps around the yard and listening to every single moving part squeak, rattle, or tick, and given the number of knobs and levers on the thing, I named it Max, as in “Mad Max”. If the bad guy from “The Road Warrior” had a wife, and she made him mow the lawn, he would have built something like this.

I guessed that it had to be either the cheapest, junkiest mower I’d ever seen, or the nicest I’d ever been around, for two reasons:

  1. It was monstrously heavy. It was self-propelled for the same reason as a Cadillac Escalade: if it wasn’t, it would be pretty useless.
  2. It had no safety equipment whatsoever. I don’t know how many times I got nailed by flying debris that shot out from the back of it.

And yet, it ran and did a pretty nice job. With any luck I’ll be able to fix the regular mower and use it next weekend, but if not, it’s nice knowing that the other hunk of snarling, deadly iron is available.

Long Weekends

Summer’s upon us again. The kids just got out of school on Wednesday, which reminded me that my last post was to say that the kids were just starting back and I haven’t said a word since then. Anyway, we have them signed up for pretty much every summer sport offered and Gabby’s getting ready to start piano lessons, so they’ll be keeping pretty busy.

Jen and I have been mulching the flower gardens, to the tune of about one pickup load of mulch per weekend. We’ve put down about 4 tons now, and I think we’re finally getting to the end of it. Which is good. Because at this point, if I never move another handful of the stuff, that’ll be fine by me.