Thursday, February 23, 2012

Still mourning the one that died

SIGH. I miss my Honda Civic. On top of that I feel bad about writing that because I have a white Chevy Malibu that gets me to where I need to go and keeps me warm during the cold winter and mostly cool during the summer, though I think there is a problem with the AC. The Honda never had that problem. The Malibu also just recently failed it's emissions test. Now I have to repair it and get it retested before June 6th. Again never happened with the Honda. The gas mileage on the Malibu is terrible. I can usually only go about 260 miles before I have to fill up again. Not the Honda. 300 and in some cases up to 330 as well. The Honda had a CD player that allowed me to repeat a song I loved on one of my CDs. Not the Malibu. I could also fast-forward or rewind inside a track on the Honda's CD player. Not with the Malibu. You get the idea. And I do feel bad about my feelings towards the Malibu because it actually helped us and still does help us when we needed it.

The Malibu belonged to my wife's Grandmother who only drove it to get her hair done and maybe to church once in awhile. Most of the time friends or family would take her other places. When we found out we were pregnant with Noah we needed to get a new car since Dawn could not really keep driving our 3 year old (at the time) and a newborn in her Jeep since Dawn is the one who takes them to Daycare. So we also knew we could not at the time, especially with a new baby, afford a car payment, nor did we have the time to look as we prepped for our new arrival. Grandma rides in on a White Malibu and offers to give us the car with no strings attached. It was paid off and only had 30,000 miles on it. Almost new. It was much bigger and was more easily able to fit two kids into it. So we took it. The Jeep went into hibernation (see my previous blog about the Jeep) and Dawn drove the Malibu. Since I could easily fit two kids into the Honda also.

Dawn drove the Malibu for 2 years, and whenever we all went on a trip we would take the Honda since I usually do the driving. The Honda was starting to get up in age and I needed to make some repairs to make it run better. But first let's take a step back.

I got the Honda in September 1999, Green 2000 Honda Civic, it was gorgeous, it was reliable, it was fast, it was gas efficient. It was my first car ever. At the ripe old age of 26 I got my first car. And two months later I had my first car accident. 3500 dollars worth of a damage to the front end. My bumper was tore off, my AC unit got dinged, and I needed new headlights and tires. It took a month to fix. The insurance company said it was my fault, and I guess I can see why. I was turning left (legally) across three lanes of traffic, two stopped and to my eyes the third was clear when a minivan plows into me. The insurance people were saying I should have been more mindful of the third lane. And the ironic thing was, the person who hit me was a teenager who was driving his parent's minivan because his car had been in an accident a few weeks before.  However I got it fixed and did not have a bad accident again until the end. 11 years later.

Before the end there was a rebirth. I finally was able to free up some money to take the Honda in to get a thorough check up and the mechanic had the car for about two days. 2800 dollars later in January 2011 my car was practically brand new. it had 120,000 miles on it and the mechanic said the repairs he made could make it last another 120,000 miles. So things were looking up.

Then came March 3, 2011. My wife's birthday. She had gone into work early as she usually did on a Thursday for a meeting. So I was taking my daughter to daycare and Noah was being watched by Grandma which was a normal thing for a year and a half. Anyway I get about 2 miles from the house, I am on a two lane road (one going either way) with sidestreets that feed into it. The road is packed as is usually the case at this time on a Thursday. So I am going about 10, 15 mph. The truck in front of me stops to let a car join the line on the road. I slow down to a stop then I feel it. WHAM!! I am pushed forward and I hit the truck in front of me.  I check on my daughter who is a little freaked out by what just happened and I see I have been hit by a woman in a minivan with her teenage daughter. We are able to pull off to one of the side roads and I check on Noelle again. I then tell her I have to go see the woman behind me and also assess the damage. My whole rear is tore off and a little bent. From the first look it looks repairable. The woman who hit me is freaking out and making sure I am ok and that Noelle is ok. The guy in the truck has pulled into someone's driveway. He walks over to us and sees how we are doing. I ask how he is and apologize. He tells me the only problem is his hitch is bent. He bent it back and it is fine. He also told me that he witnessed the woman behind me speed up and hit me and also that she was not paying attention, in case I needed a witness for a trial if it came to that. But it is not needed. The woman is absolutly in shock apologizing getting all of our information, calling the police. The police arrive and take our statements. I check on Noelle periodically. She is still in shock but is ok. I take her out of the car and hold her for a while. She is a big brave girl, scared but ok. I call Dawn tell her the news, call my work, call Noelle's daycare, and call my mom (Grandma who is watching Noah). The policeman gets all the infomation down and leaves. Everyone else leaves as well. The woman who hit me is saying she will call her insurance company as soon as she gets to work. I get back in the car with Noelle and we are able to drive back to my house. Noelle goes and hangs out with Noah and Grandma while I make some phonecalls. I need a body shop, I need to let my insurance know even though it is not my fault, I have got to figure out a rental car. Bear in mind also that what really irks me about this whole set up is I just spent 2800 dollars to fix my car, it was brand new again and now 2 months later it's all gone.

I get a call from the woman's insurance agency. They say they are covering everything and will pay for a rental car for as long as I need one. They give me the names of some Body Shops and car rental places near me and they inform them i am coming. I drive my beaten up car to the body shop. The guy who owns it is the one who comes out and looks at my car. He turns to me and tells me. I hate to tell you this your car is totalled. I tell him that it does not look too bad. He tells me the frame is bent and broken and cannot be repaired. I am still in shock. He asks if I want to take it to someone else for a second opinion, but I say no since I just want everything solved that day so things can go back to normal. I keep my car there so that the insurance agency can make their own call and they take me to get my rental car.

I get to the rental car place and they get some info from me. I give them my insurance so that if I get into an accident in the rental car I will be covered. The renter calls to verify the insurance and tells me that they are getting ready to cancel my insurance at midnight. WTF??? I get on the phone with them and they explain that we have not paid our insurance up yet. WTF?? It usually is taken direct out of our account, and even then my wife takes care of the bills. So I call her and I can't reach her. I call back one more time to the insurance company and tell them I will pay the bill now over the phone. So they get to our account and lo and behold we are paid up!!! A payment was made that very morning by my wife. So after being in an accident, being told it was totaled, I have to go through this??? Well everything gets worked out and I drive off in a 2011 Ford Focus VERY NICE!! I love the car. So I get home and let my mom go and wait for Dawn to come home. We talk about things and I have some stuff to follow up on, but we are ok for now. Then we get the phone call. Dawn's Grandmother has died. (Not the same one who gave us the Malibu). So probably one of the crappiest days of all time.

So the body shop and Insurance Company both say that the car is totaled, they have a nice settlement for me, but not enough for a new car. So Dawn and I are able to convince then to let me keep the rental car til St. Patrick's Day (March 17th 2 weeks after the accident and a Friday) We discuss our options and decide for the time being that the Jeep will come out of retirement and I will get the Malibu seeing as how I don't know how to drive stick. We then come up with a plan where we ask her parents for some help. They are willing to give us 10 grand. Which is awesome. So we take our time and check all the used cars, we figure we could pay off the used car with her folks money and my settlement so we would only have to pay insurance. Now we had decided we were going to get a Minivan for our growing family sometime in the fall of 2011, but we decided to push it up to now. So our used car search is looking for Minivan's and we finally find one that is affordable and has all the amenities we need. June 1st we buy our minivan and the jeep goes back to retirement. So now Dawn drives the Minivan since she takes the kids to Daycare and I have the Malibu. I drive the minivan when we go on family trips or to our folk's houses.

And in the end I think that is what makes me not be too enamoured of the Malibu. It was not my car, it became my car by default. And the minivan, though I paid a portion of the cost, Dawn's folks paid for the majority of it and again this is not my car. I went from having a car that was all mine to mostly belonging to my wife. And that is fine, we need two cars, they both run very well. But neither truly belong to me. And probably in the future no car will ever truly belong to me since if we get a new car it will be a joint payment because I sure as hell cannot pay for a car all by myself. Unless I win the lottery.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Weird Weather State

I have lived in Maryland my whole life. Born and bred here. And I have been used to the truly bizarre weather we have here. I always chalk it up to being in the exact center of the East Coast, where we get both cold and warm, where we are both North and South (though I think Marylanders call themselves southerners but I digress.). I've been used to it, but this past weekend was just to bizarre for words.

I live in Reisterstown, which is Northwest Baltimore County. We are the furthest west city in Baltimore county, so we get a lot of the Western weather. We are also slightly colder then Baltimore, so when they get rain we usually get snow. So Friday night the 10th of February it started to snow. The next morning it was still snowing, but the roads and sidewalks were all clear. It just looked very pretty. Snow on the trees and grass, but not the roads, and it was feeling warm, yet still snowing. Then a few hours later it shifted to rain and then it stopped. The sun came out and all the snow melted away. After only about 8 hours there was no more snow. Then it got cloudy again, the wind picked up and we got a snow squall, about an inch fell again, yet it did not stick it was a dryer snow. Then it stopped, it was cold and windy. My wife and I had a date night that night and it was brutally cold and windy weather. As we were driving back to Reisterstown from Baltimore around 1030pm we hit 795 and the snow started again, this time it was laying on the road. So in one 24 hour span we got heavy wet snow, rain, sun, wind, cold, and dry snow. Then this week it has been warmer. In the 50s. It's raining now, but now the weather service is calling for a possible winter event coming this weekend. Oh well, just another day in Maryland.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Million Dollar Idea # 1 Geek/Nerd Cruises

Our subconcious is a very interesting place. It comes up with some crazy things and it comes up with some awesome things, but the trick is to try and remember all this. That is why you sometimes remember dreams but they slowly fade soon afterward. For me it also helps me with ideas, and most times I am able to write some of it down before it leaves me, however (and here is the rub) I usually can't read my writing. However last night I had a thought, not really a dream but a thought. And it is the basis of this the first in a hopefully long series of Million Dollar Ideas I have.


I am a geek and proud of it. The difference between a geek and nerd is that in my opinion Nerds are smarter Geeks. We have similar interests and dislikes but Nerds just seem smarter to me. Anyhoo think of a comic convention or sci-fi convention but on a cruise ship. Except for dealers you just have your geeks and nerds and their heroes on board doing what they like. Here are some ideas for activities:

Costume contests and Dances, Banks of video games where you can play all day. Dungeons and Dragons competitions. LARPING, Podcasts, Auctions for charity, Trivia contests, workshops and discussions that cover everything from How to make a successful internet show, to making costumes, to beer making, to astronomy, science fiction discussions, whose better Star Wars or Star Trek? Comparing the captains of the various Star Trek shows, movie marathons, an MST3k style show where people make comments about bad movies, Anime marathons, a 24 hr Comic demonstration, signings by stars of Sci-Fi shows, movies, etc. Also have some comics creators onboard. A chance to look at the stars at night from atop the boat, a live version of the great Internet show The Guild, Nerd/Geek standup comedy, orchestral performances, Live filming of an episode of The Big Bang Theory or other Nerd/Geek tv show. Hell if  you even wanted to you go to an island and do a volunteer version of The Hunger Games or Battle Royale.

See MILLION DOLLAR IDEA! So the Felicia Day's, Wil Wheaton's, Nerdists, Nathan Fillion's, Joss Whedon's, JJ Abrams', Bad Astronomers of the world. Get on it! And your welcome for the idea.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Baltimore Ravens A look back

I have lived in Baltimore my whole life. When I was younger I never was really into football all that much. Like most young kids Baseball was my sport. That was interesting though because Baltimore is notoriously a football town. I think I went to one Baltimore Colts football game in my whole life before that terrible day in 1983 when like thieves in the night the Colts were moved to Indianapolis, which coincidentally is where this year's super bowl was held. For 13 long years from age 10-23 I was without Baltimore Football. But as mentioned above was satisfied with Baseball. I watched the Super Bowl like everyone and occassionally a football game, but I do not remember to much about that. I even couldn't get into it during college when that was all that was going on Sunday and Monday.

During those 13 long years, I would visit my grandparents who lived outside of DC. They were huge fans of the Redskins and when we visited they usually had the game on and I watched it since to be honest there was not a lot to do at my grandparents house. So I became a fan of the Skins, which according to actor Josh Charles is a sacrilige. (He responded to one of my tweets last year calling me out.) I can understand Baltimore fans hatred of the Redskins, but you need to see my side. After the Colts left, who was I supposed to cheer for? The Steelers? (Though a lot of Marylanders did) The Cowboys? (who were America's team at the time. No thank you!) My grandparents liked the Redskins and they were pretty good during that time, so I became a Redskins fan. Not an ardent fan but one who followed them, again not too closely but would always be happy when they won, or bad when they lost. Then 1996 hit and Baltimore was getting a new team.

Now I realize we did to Cleveland what Indianapolis did to us, but it was never as bad for Cleveland as it was for Baltimore, because that tool Paul Tagliabue came to their rescue when he ignored Baltimore...TWICE. The first time was during expansion in the early 90s. Two new teams were going to be introduced to the NFL. We had the best package of any of them. We had funding set for a new stadium, a rabid fanbase to guarantee sellouts, and we were screwed 10 years earlier. Logic dictated that one of the teams was going to Carolina (which it did) because there was no team between Washington and Atlanta, that's fine. They were the first team to be announced, then they said they were going to hold off for a while to reveal the 2nd one. WHY? Baltimore was the best city. We learned later he picked Jacksonville, having that time between announcements to help the Jacksonville investors get a better bid together. Plus he wanted another locale to play the Super Bowl. End of story we got screwed. That was when he used the infamous museum quote, saying we should use the stadium money to build a new museum since we were NEVER going to get a team while he was around. Meanwhile Art Modell in Cleveland was getting screwed himself. Cleveland had built a new stadium for the Indians, and built the Rock n Roll hall of fame. But when Art asked for some money to upgrade his stadium, they laughed at him. So he decided to go someplace where he could get a new stadium and have a government behind him. Baltimore was the place. He moved the team and the outrage it caused not only in Cleveland (which is understandable) but in the NFL. Sorry Tagliabue looks like we got a team and we have treated her well, whereas there is rumblings Jacksonville maybe moving to LA. HMM what city looks better now PAUL!  Sorry I am still bitter, but here is where it gets really frustrating. Tagliabue promises them a new team in 3 years. WTF???? What happened to getting a team in Baltimore after they moved? We had an NFL history as rich as Cleveland. Hell the Colts had gone to two Super Bowls. Cleveland none. Now Art Modell is being blacklisted from the Hall, but I think Bob Irsay made it in. Art belongs more then anybody because he was devoted to Cleveland and he was treated like garbage in the 90s. So I don't blame him for the move. I blame Irsay because if he wasn't a jerk, John Elway would have been a Colt and he very well could have had the career he had in Denver in Baltimore and this whole post would be moot. Oh well. Brighter days now. Baltimore has Football!

They spent their first two or three years in Memorial Stadium while the new stadium was being built, Coached by Ted Marchibroda with Quarterback Vinny Testeverde and two first round draft picks by the names of Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis. They won their first game ever, but stumbled to a 4-12 season including a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. I went to a Miami game with my dad, my first Ravens game ever which they lost. I did not make it back for a few years until they moved into their new digs and my dad and I have gone to 1 game a year which we still do to this day.

Then in 1998 I started working for WLIF 101.9 FM and 1300 AM who were at the time the flagship stations for the Ravens games. So as part of my job I had to work every home game of the Ravens at our courtesy tent, and sometimes I was given free tickets to the game.  I also got to work signings by the Ravens. I worked Jamal Lewis' first ever appearance at Towson Town Center. I got to meet and work with a lot of former Colts as well. I shook Johnny Unitas' hand, I got to wear Tom Matte's Super Bowl ring. And when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, I got to touch the Lombardi Trophy.

I've been to my fair share of great games. The first ever playoff game the Ravens were in also happened to be the first ever home playoff game they ever had on December 31, 2000. They played the Broncos and my dad was able to get tickets. However they were not together so we agreed to meet at halftime. It was also bitterly cold and I had a cold as well. They won and then had to go on the road to continue their march to the Super Bowl, which they ultimately won. I went to the exciting game where the Ravens first beat the Jacksonville Jaguars. They had a horrible record against them since 96, but they soon won a great game at home. My wife and I went to a night game where we saw a punt return for 107 yds. A bitter cold night game where the Ravens played the Redskins and my wife and sister who are skins fans went to the game with my dad and I. Ravens won and the ladies were good sports. I have seen utter drubbings, The Ravens destroying the Lions 41-7 on a rainy sunday in December.

I am a huge Ravens fan and have been very lucky that our team has been fairly good for their whole career here, especially the last 4 years with 4 straight playoff apperances. They just have not been able to take that next step. This past season was a heartbreaker for the Ravens faithful, where we got all the way to the Championship game and outplayed the Patriots only to lose on a dropped touchdown and a wide left field goal try. I have hope that this year we will be able to push through and get another super bowl appearance, I know my team can do it. I love the Ravens, and I love football. Just wait til next year...

I am a Dinosaur

I came to the realization this morning that I am a dinosaur. Not in the really cool Velociraptor way but in the old fogey way. My favorite things to get for presents for my birthday, or Christmas are usually DVDs, CDs, Books, and Comic Books. Now all of these things have been digitized. So before I know it DVD, CD, Book, and Comic stores may all be going the way of  the (ahem) dinosaur. But I prefer to physically hold things in my hand, or have them put on shelves so I can peruse what I want to look at, or listen to. Now everything is in IPOD's or Nook's, or IPAD's. So if I get all of these things to get what I like, what will opening presents be like? Gift cards? I like when I receive something from somebody that I can physically hold so I can remember it as a nice gift. Look now that I am older I do realize it is easier for me to just get what I want, and I don't mind gift cards or money, but sometimes having something physical in hand is nice. But I will just need to adjust to the new status quo or to things that are different then I am used to. It's the best I can do to continue to receive excellent gifts from family and friends.