Things I Know

If you plan on going trick or treating this Thursday and taking your dog with you, please do me two favors. Don’t feed your dog chocolate. Believe it or not, chocolate is poisonous to dogs. If they get enough, it can make them very sick or even kill them. And also, please don’t dress your dog up in a costume. I can’t imagine they like that.

I used to live about 30 miles from where I live now and when I moved, I didn’t change dentists. If I drive from here to the dentist, I pass a lot of things named after dead people. On that particular route, I knew (or at least met) all the dead people stuff is named after. I view this as encouraging because I’m still here even though they’re not.

Attention Amazon.com: If I buy a bottle of oil specially designed to lubricate paper shredders, the most likely reason for that purchase is that I have a paper shredder, not that I think I might buy a shredder. Therefore, it isn’t really necessary for you to recommend about 50 different shredders to me. Please stop it.

I seem to be harping on Amazon searches and recommendations. I think I’ll restrain myself on those topics at least for a while.

Jet Blue has a new TV commercial. At least it’s new to me. It touts the fact that they give you a full can of soda, instead of pouring a half can into a plastic cup as so many other airlines do. Okay, but I’ve never been denied a full can on another airline if I ask for it. The last time I flew from San Francisco to New York I flew Delta and got two cans of soda. I don’t think any airline lets you keep the cans and turn them in for a deposit though.

I am so old I remember when headlight lenses were made of glass and you didn’t have to polish them from time to time so they’d be clean and/or transparent enough to let the light shine through. In fact, I’m so old I remember when replacing a headlight cost less than my local car wash charges to polish one for you.

I used to think and I’ve said on this blog previously that the monorail that takes you around San Francisco International Airport is free to users. It’s not. Last time I was there, I rented a car. Various taxes and fees on the car added an astounding 46% to my bill. Twenty dollars of that went to pay for the monorail.

While I was on vacation, I splurged and bought a GPS. I certainly don’t need one where I live because I know the area as well as anyone, but on the West Coast, it was a Godsend. When I fly into SFO if I head north, I’ll come to the Golden Gate Bridge eventually. With the GPS, I arrived at the Golden Gate directly. Big difference! It’s not perfect, but it is surprisingly accurate. One thing I noticed though is there must be some margin of error for the altitude readings. Government flood maps say my house is 15 feet above sea level. The GPS says 28. Out west they occasionally have an altitude sign along the highway. The GPS didn’t agree with any of them, but was never off by more than one or two-hundred feet. And, of course the biggest advantage of a GPS over a map is you never have to re-fold the GPS.

Things I Know

We vacationed recently in California. We flew into San Francisco, rented a car and headed for South Lake Tahoe and the surrounding area. Yes, we hit Donner Pass and yes we crossed the border and visited Carson City NV.

In the area we traveled through, a majority of the people observe the speed limit pretty closely. This is unsettling to someone who’s used to driving in New York and New Jersey.

If I lived in a tourist area of California I wouldn’t trust the pedestrian in crosswalk laws as much as they do, because I’d assume there are too many out of state drivers for that.

Pretzels are more available in South Lake Tahoe than they are in Sacramento.

I couldn’t find rye Triscuits, Social Tea cookies or Good and Plenty candy in South Lake Tahoe. They have other kinds of Triscuits and the other things may be there, but I couldn’t find them.

Raley’s supermarket had some gorgeous looking fresh peaches, so I took a chance and tried them. But, it was late September, so they were mealy.

Every supermarket I’ve ever shopped at in California is nicer than any supermarket I’ve ever shopped at where I live.

The view of Emerald Bay from the overlook on Rte 89 is about as pretty as anything I’ve ever seen.

I told my daughter I had an idea to open a fast-food, Mexican restaurant in the area and call it Tahoe Bell. Someone thought of that joke before I did. A little way out of the town, headed toward Placerville, there is a place called the Tahoe Bell Grill.

Considering my destination, I thought it would be funny if the rental car company gave me a Chevy Tahoe, but they gave me a Ford Explorer. I liked it except for the MyFord Touch which is too complicated to use while driving if you’re not familiar with the car.

I’m not the only person who does this because at Taylor Creek Recreation Area near Lake Tahoe, I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt that said, “I put ketchup on my ketchup.” But it did make me realize that, in addition to putting ketchup on my ketchup, I also put ketchup on my t-shirts.

Back on the East Coast, it would cost me $169 plus tax to have Verizon visit my home to repair a telephone wiring problem inside my house. This was a powerful incentive for me to learn three things: Home Depot has the best price in my area for surface-mounted modular phone jacks; my house is old enough that the red and green wires are still line #1; and yes, I do remember how to do that myself after all.

On CBS Sunday Morning, they recently did a piece about the comic Billy Crystal. In it he said that if there is a heaven, when he dies, he and his wife will be the age when they first met, she will walk by in a bikini and they can start all over again. I like that. But I don’t know Billy Crystal’s wife, so I’ll be very happy to settle for mine.

Having someone come in to refinish the hardwood floors in your house is more work than moving. Why do I say that? In each case, you have to all the furniture out of the area. But when you move from one home to another, you have a moving van to put the furniture in. And when you’re done moving from one place to another, you don’t have to vacuum everything in the house, including the ceilings and the windows. But the floors do look nice.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

It’s been far too long since I posed a bunch of questions that need asking here, so:

Is there such a thing as a closet claustrophobic?

I went for a physical and wound up wondering how I can tell whether the doctor is caring for my health or just running up the bill. They rolled in an EKG machine. Okay, but I had that done in June and asked the other doctor to report the results to this one. They wanted blood. Okay, but I had that done last month, so I brought in the lab results. They read the three pages and wanted more tests. They also urged me to get a whole lot of other tests. I do have diabetes, but I see a specialist for that, so I tend to think some of the tests this doctor wants are really overkill, but I have no way of knowing.

The BBC announced during the summer that actor Peter Capaldi is the twelfth Doctor in the long-running series “Doctor Who.” But there have been 17 other actors who played the Doctor on television, three of the additional five served mostly as fill-ins for the prime doctors, but two of them (John Hurt and Toby Jones) appear to be future doctors. One, Peter Cushing, is famous for appearing in horror movies, played the Doctor in a couple of bad 1960’s movies. How come none of them count?

Don’t you just hate it when you call to make an appointment, get a recording, the recording tells you to call back during regular office hours and it is regular office hours?

“In” is a prefix that reverses the meaning of the word it precedes, right? So, famy must be a word, mustn’t it? I’ve heard of infamy, but I’ve never heard of the word famy. Have you?

Since an abductor is a muscle in your leg, why is kidnapping someone called an abduction?

Now that the guy who founded Amazon.com bought the Washington Post, how soon before the newspaper will be delivered via UPS and frequently in too large a box? Also, will same-day delivery cost extra?

In my continuing quest to improve the English language, shouldn’t the word “Swedish” have two e’s in it?

Reach Out and Touch

Rent-a-car

Are new cars too complicated to give to car rental customers? The question lept to my mind when I rented a car in San Francisco last week. Travelocity had a really good deal going on the Ford Edge, so I rented one for our trip through Travelocity, but from Avis. Of course, when I got to SFO, Avis didn’t have any Ford Edge’s, but Nancy at the rental counter came through for Avis with flying colors. She gave me a Ford Explorer. Not having the car you thought you reserved is an industry-wide problem, not one unique to Avis. The Explorer was, as you can see from the picture I snapped, black. It had a grey leather interior. It didn’t have every option Ford offers, but it had plenty. It had a proximity key. That’s a thing that looks like the power door lock key fob on your old car. The difference is when you get into the car with the proximity key in your pocket or purse, you just step on the brake and push the start button. I didn’t know that. I needed a guy from Avis to show me how to start the car.

It had MyFord Touch. That’s Ford’s touch-screen operating system. It’s complicated. When we started out, I couldn’t figure out how to turn on the radio. After driving from San Francisco to Sacramento with a side trip to Sausalito, I stopped to work it out. Don’t you dare work it out while you’re driving. That’s got to be even more dangerous than texting behind the wheel. I’ve read that the system crashes more than it should. It only crashed once for me. But it’s so distracting that you might crash if you’re not careful. Time was when you turned the radio on and adjusted the volume with a knob. You could change stations with a knob too, or push a button to scan for stations. Those functions are now on a touch screen and they’re not on the top level menu either. Same thing with the heat and A/C. All the controls are on the touch screen device and none of the settings I wanted are on the top level.

A lesser version of the entertainment system has a mini stereo plug so you can plug any kind of MP3 player into the radio and use the car’s speakers. The upgraded system this car had comes with USB inputs, RCA inputs (including video) and an SD card reader. But if you get that, you lose the mini stereo plug. The inputs are in a cubby hole at the junction of the dash and the console and the cubby has a door on it. The inputs are sufficiently inaccessible that you really shouldn’t try to use them while driving either. I didn’t ask Ford, but they may think that’s a safety feature. It’s not. Most people who rent cars are unfamiliar with the controls of the cars they rent and people will try to use those inputs while driving. It’s human nature. Plus, when you do stop to figure them out, that cubby isn’t illuminated, so a flashlight will come in handy. I have a little one in my camera bag. You can ask to borrow it if you want. I won’t lend you mine, but you can ask. You can’t even slip that SD card into the slot by feel, or get it out either, at least not easily.

While we stayed in Sacramento, I managed to get the radio presets to display four stations I like there. When in the Lake Tahoe area, I relied on an SD card for music. On the way back to San Francisco in the pre-dawn hours to catch an early flight, I wanted to listen to KCBS for traffic reports. I had, by that time, learned how to tune the radio directly to a station I hadn’t pre-set, but doing it while driving felt dangerous to me, so I had my wife do it. I lost count of how many times you had to touch the screen to get to that station. It was at least five and maybe as many as eight. For me to do it would have required stopping or having an accident.

I think the self-cancelling turn signals were computer-controlled too. Although they worked by the traditional lever rather than by the touch screen, in nine days I never did get the feel for the difference between signaling a turn and signaling a lane change. I was also unable to get the windshield washer to work. I’m not sure if that was because I couldn’t figure it out or because the car was out of fluid.

I believe Ford has had this system for three years now. I’m sure they’re working on making it more driver-friendly. It’s pretty logical. I was able to figure out most of what I needed to know without consulting the Explorer’s 586 page owner’s manual. But there are many functions I’d like to perform while driving that struck me as dangerous to do at 65 mph when you had to look and not work by feel.

I shudder to think how much more complicated the car would be if it had built in GPS. I brought my own and Ford isn’t the only company with computer problems. When I mounted my GPS, plugged it in and turned it on at SFO, the GPS thought it was still in the New York metropolitan area. Therefore, its directions to the Golden Gate Bridge were shall we say unnecessarily complicated.

I’ve just spent six paragraphs complaining about an electronic systems in a car so complicated that the car has a 586 page owner’s manual. And I really liked the car. It was quiet, roomy and comfortable. I loved the back-up camera. It has a warning system to tell you when you get too close to whatever you’re backing toward. Even though it’s pretty damned big, it carved the corners quite well in the winding road between Placerville and S Lake Tahoe. It wasn’t over-powered. Even though it was big, it averaged 21.6 mpg over roughly a thousand miles of driving. I left it at SFO thinking Avis had done me a favor giving me what must be a nicer car than the one I reserved. The difficulty I had with it was Ford’s fault, not Avis’. If I owned one, I’d probably love it in a week or two once I had the MyFord Touch set up to my liking, but trying to pick one up at an airport after lunch, hop in it and do 200 miles in it before dinner, that I didnt like so much.

I wasn’t about to sit in a garage and read a 586 page book before I started the car. In fact, I was on vacation, so I wasn’t about to read any 586 page book once I got off the coast-to-coast flight. While you could download the book to read on the plane, that isn’t really practical, because while you know what kind of car you hope you’ll get at the rental counter, I have never gotten what I asked for when I made a reservation.

Maybe what we need is a car designed only for the rental market. It could and should be simpler than what’s available to people who buy cars or lease them for an extended period of time. If you have followed my blog for any period of time, you know I want to call it an “Or Similar.”