Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have You Seen This Man?

Maurice Clemmons, a 37-year old Arkansas transplant, has been identified as a "person of interest" in this morning's shooting. Clemmons has a criminal record which includes aggravated robbery, rape, and assault, as well as a history of erratic behavior.
Clemmons, who had been in jail in Pierce County on a pending charge of second-degree rape of a child, was released from custody less than a week ago, even though he was wanted for eight felony charges out of Washington State.

Clemmons' criminal record dates back to age 18, when he was sentenced to 60 years in prison for burglary. While an Arkansas inmate, Clemmons' sentence was commuted by then-governer Mike Huckabee, over the protest of prosecutors.

We should stress that Clemmons is not yet a suspect. However, should he be shown to have played a part in this morning's killing, it will prove to be a serious black spot on Mike Huckabee's future political career, as this would not be the first time in which a prisoner released by Huckabee has gone on to do violence.

Although Clemmons was judged competent to stand trial in Washington after a mental evaluation, he has a long history of mentally suspect behavior. A sheriff's report uncovered by KOMO, Clemmons' sister told police,

Maurice is not in his right mind and did not know how he could react when contacted by Law Enforcement...She stated that he was saying that the secret service was coming to get him because he had written a letter to the President. She stated his behavior has become unpredictable and erratic. She suspects he is having a mental breakdown.

Clemmons is 5'8", 235 lbs, with black hair, brown eyes, and a mole on his left cheek. He is considered extremely dangerous. Again, if you have any information about his whereabouts, please call the Sheriff's Department Tip Line, 1-866-977-2362.

4 Police Officers Shot and Killed


LAKEWOOD, Wash. - Four uniformed police officers were shot and killed in a bloody Sunday morning attack at a Lakewood-area coffee shop, and investigators are seeking a person of interest in the killings, officials said.

Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer said the person they are seeking is Maurice Clemmons, who is a fugitive from Arkansas with a lengthy criminal record.

Investigators now believe the gunman also may have been shot during the cold-blooded assault, as one of the officers returned fire just before he died of his injuries.

Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman Ed Troyer called the assault "a targeted attack" on the four Lakewood police officers as they were preparing to start their shifts at about 8:15 a.m.
Officials determined to find the gunman posted a $100,000 reward leading to his capture and arrest.

Troyer said investigators have learned that the gunman stood in line the Forza Coffee Co. outlet at 11401 Steele St. South as if he were there to buy some coffee. When he reached the counter, the barista saw him pull a gun our of his coat. She fled, thinking the gunman was about to target her. Instead, he turned and fired point-blank at the four uniformed officers as they were working on their laptop computers, then fled the scene.

Two officers were hit before they had to react. One officer was shot as he attempted to struggle with the gunman. Another officer fired off some shots toward the gunman as he fled, and may have hit him, Troyer said.

"We believe there was a struggle, a commotion, a fight ... that he fought the guy all the way out the door," Troyer said. "We hope the suspect was shot, because that would tell us who it is. There aren't a whole lot of people running around with gunshot wounds." Two baristas and a handful of other customers were inside the coffee shop at the time of the attack, but none of them were shot or injured. The suspect fled without taking any money.

Troyer described the scene inside the coffee shop as "carnage and a scene out of a horror movie."

Three male officers and one female officer all died at the scene. "They were just flat executed," Troyer said. "Walk in with the specific mindset to shoot police officers."

State Attorney General Rob McKenna termed the shootings an "assassination." Officials said a handgun was used in the shooting, but they have not identified the make or caliber of the weapon.

Troyer said officers were looking for one male suspect who fled the scene and haven't ruled out an accomplice, possibly a getaway driver.

About 2 1/2 hours after the deadly ambush, officers identified a white Chevy pickup truck abandoned at 134th Street and Pacific Avenue South that is believed to be the one that the suspect fled in.

Soon after, there was a standoff reported between officers and one or more people inside a residence a few blocks away, but it turned out to have no connection with the case, police said.
A $100,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to the arrest of the suspect or any possible accomplices, Troyer said. An emergency tip line has been set up, at 866-977-2362, for callers to report any helpful information.

Troyer encouraged anyone who knows someone with an unexplained gunshot wound to call the tip line.

The suspect was described as a black male in his mid-20s to mid-30s, standing 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-10, medium build, with scruffy facial hair, wearing blue jeans and a black coat with a hood.
Troyer said the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department initially responded to a 911 call of shots fired at the Forza Coffee Co. outlet at 11401 Steele St. S. in Parkland.

When deputies arrived, they found the four Lakewood police officers shot and killed inside the coffee shop, he said.

"Two baristas and a few customers were inside the coffee shop at the time of the shooting. They were not injured but all are in shock and traumatized. It appears the officers were targeted and ambushed by the suspect," Troyer said in a statement.

Within minutes of the first 911 call, hundreds of investigators and police were rushing to the scene. Roads were blocked in the vicinity of the attack.

"I've never seen so many cops," said one witness as officers converged on the area.

The coffee shop where the shootings took place is owned by Brad Carpenter, a retired police officer, KOMO News has confirmed.

The incident is being investigated by the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance from the Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, the Pierce County Department of Emergency Management and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, Troyer said.

"There will be a large police presence in Pierce County throughout the day as large numbers of law enforcement follow up on leads and tips," he said. "The public in urged to stay away from any police activity."

McKenna said he is turning all the resources of his office toward finding and prosecuting the gunman.

"I have directed all of the criminal justice resources of this office ... be made available to those conducting the investigation into these assassinations," McKenna said. "Our prosecutors and investigators stand ready to help bring those who committed this murderous act to justice."
A prayer vigil for the four slain Lakewood police officers is being held at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Champions Centre, a nondenominational Christian church, at 1819 E. 72nd St., in Tacoma with seating for 3,000.

Pastor Sue Kahawaii says the congregation includes Lakewood officers and Pierce County sheriff's deputies. She says the vigil will include guided prayers and give people a place to express grief.

The deadly shootings come less than a month after Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton was shot to death in cold blood as he was sitting in a cruiser with trainee Britt Sweeney on Halloween night. Sweeney was grazed in the neck.

Christopher Monfort of Tukwila has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder in connection with Brenton's death.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

This Christmas...

In Christmas seasons past, I've engaged in the whole political "put the Christ back into Christmas" and "Merry Christmas - not Happy Holidays" thing, but this year it's going to be different.

This year, I'm going to just observe Christmas how I want to observe it. I'm not going to make any political statements, like exclaiming "Merry Christmas" loud enough for an atheist to hear me, nor will I vote on those stupid Facebook polls that ask questions like, "Should we say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?" It's pointless. All it will do is remind me that the world is divided and in the end, I won't really give a crap anyway. Come January 1, 2010, people will be back to their miserable selves and will find another agenda to push besides knocking over nativity scenes and stealing inflatable snowmen from festive lawns.

I'll tell you what I'm really celebrating here. Besides the birth of Jesus Christ, I'm celebrating because I have the liberty to do so in my own way. If that isn't political enough for you then move on, sonny! I want to set the right tone for my son. I want him to grow up celebrating Christmas and enjoying the Christmas season for what it is really meant to symbolize: peace on earth, good will toward your fellow man, happiness that comes with doing good for others out of the kindness of your own heart - not some self-serving agenda, and most importantly celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, for whom without there would be no salvation to be had. Those are the reasons I celebrate Christmas. And in the spirit of the Christmas Season, I choose to decorate my home with things to remind me of the season and to make my son happy. I do it because it gives me a chance to slow down and reflect on all the blessings I have and the people who are in my life. That's what Christmas is all about to me.

It's not about pushing my point of view on someone else. If someone doesn't like how I observe the holiday season, they don't have to come in my house, don't have to say "Merry Christmas" to me, nor do they have to look at the pretty lights on my house. Hey, I don't celebrate Hanukkah, but if someone says "Happy Hanukkah" to me, I will respond with "Happy Hanukkah" out of kindness and appreciation for their religious holiday. I'm not saying that you have to celebrate Christmas as I do, just because I say "Merry Christmas". I'm just saying that if you won't force your holiday onto me, I won't force mine onto you.

Anyway, so there it is. Merry Christmas, peace on Earth, and Seasons Greetings to all.


I was too lazy to go to the store

I really needed some bread today, but was too lazy to put on my clothes and shoes and go a block down the street to the store. Instead, I decided to break out the flour, yeast, sugar, milk, salt, butter, and water, and make my own.

Mmm, doesn't that look delicious? Here's a closer shot. The loaf on the right is plain white, and the loaf on the left is cinnamon/sugar swirl. My son is going to love me!

Okay, so it takes 3 hours to make two loaves start to finish. Well, I mean you gotta spend the whole 15 minutes preparing and mixing the dough on the Kitchen-Aid. Then you have to put it into a bowl and let it rise for an hour while you go and do something else. Then comes the arduous 5 minutes it takes to prepare the loaves by busting out the rolling pin and flattening them and adding some sweet goodness to make your kid's eyes wide with delight when he bites down on it. Oh, and then there's another hour to let the loaves rise in the bread pan while you, again, go do something else. And lastly, there is the part where you have to push a couple buttons on the oven to heat it up and then bake the bread. Let's see. That's another 30 minutes while you go do something else (like me finally getting into the shower and getting dressed).

So, I could have gotten dressed and gone to the store to buy some bread. Then again, I would have to deal with people there, picking out the bread that appears to be the least crushed, driving home, and then eating whatever partially hydrogenated corn syrup-laden crap the bread manufacturer puts in it. It would have saved me 3 hours. Or would it?

I wasn't just standing around watching bread rise. There were some other things to do around the house, emails to answer, blogs to compose, phone calls to make, and a gun or two to clean. Besides, I was able to do all that AND wear only a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in my bare feet. Can't go to the store in your underwear and without shoes, can you? Well, I suppose you could, but I know I wouldn't want to look at me like that.

Another benefit is this: I know exactly what I put into the bread I baked. Yeah, I baked it. I didn't buy some manufactured bread made in God knows where, which has sat for God knows how long in a pallet, on a truck, on a shelf, and finally in my cupboard. There is no partially hydrogenated anything in it! There is no corn syrup based crap in it! Read the label on your favorite bread the next time you go the store. Unless you are eating organic or low fat, you will know what I'm talking about.

You know what I put into my bread? Flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, yeast and (gasp) water. The sad thing is that 99% of people wouldn't know how to put these ingredients together in the proper proportions even if their lives depended on it. They'd look in their pantry and just give up. "Ahhhh!" they'd say. "I'm so hungry and there's nothing to eat!"

To that I say, "there is plenty to eat, bozo! You just gotta know how to take the raw ingredients and make something!"

It's all about getting back to the basics. What is that? Getting back to the basics, for me, means just that. It's my answer to the self-sufficiency dilemna and the partially hydrogenated lifestyle of today's world. For me, it means forsaking all the gizmos and gadgets, all the trendy things and fashions of the day, and getting back to those core values and things that make people who they are. It means dumping the partially hydrogenated soybean lifestyle and actually making your own foods from your own ingredients... from scratch. It means fixing things rather than replacing them. It means being mindful of debt and getting it under control. It means sustainable self-sufficency found only when you have what you need - not what society tells you. It means getting in touch with whatever belief system you have and magnifying it. It means knowing who your friends are and building a network of relationships that can augment your family.

Getting back to the basics means so many things to so many people. It would be hard to simply give it a one-word definition, but I think the best word is sustainability. That's really what it comes down to. Can you sustain your lifestyle when all goes to the crapper?

I gotta tell ya, as much as I hear about how crappy the economy is right now (and believe me, I've felt it too), I'll bet the white-collar guy who used to make $150K+ a year is crapping his pants. This is the guy who wouldn't be able to fix a broken toilet if his life depended on it. Suddenly he finds that his job was outsourced and he is making minimum wage as a delivery driver because his once useful skill is now in India or wherever. In other words, he has no marketable skill now and is suffering hard because he didn't take the time to learn how to do those jobs that were once below him. Now, instead of sitting all high and mighty, he is delivering my pizza and banking on me tipping him. It's quite ironic because a year ago, he would have been the one tipping me for doing contracted work at his house. Now I'm the boss.

I feel that America is in for a big turnaround. The blue collar lifestyle that ran America's economy was phased out in the last 20 years; replaced by information technology and service work. Now that all that information technology is shipping overseas or isn't paying nearly as well as it did before the .com bubble burst, those who are in blue collar jobs are making a comeback in a big way. Mechanics, technicians, construction, manufacturing, and so forth are the jobs that are here now. While manufacturing does go the way of Asia, I have a feeling that the bottom of that might fall out with impending economic disaster on both sides. Who really knows, right? That's why it's a good idea to get back to the basics and live a lifestyle you can sustain even if your governments fail you.

So, the question is: How do I get back to the basics?

Well, that's up to you and your situation, but a few universal rules apply:

1. Get your debt under control. This is tough even for me; especially since buying power is limited on my budget.

2. Store up food and supplies. I can't stress the importance of this enough. To survive you need to have food and in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle you need to have household supplies.

3. Buy a gun. Your savings and food storage don't do you a damn bit of good if you can't defend them. Oh, and don't treat your gun like a fire extinguisher. Don't hide it away hoping you'll never need it. Use it, learn it, and become proficient at it. Teach your children young and old. Teach your wife. Make sure they know what to do if they encounter it and make sure they know how to react to a situation.

4. Save your money. It's tough these days but it's not impossible. If you can find a dollar a day, then you are well on your way to savings. Sell off crap you don't need anymore and dump your packrat lifestyle. You'd be amazed at how much money you can bring in when you sell your junk to someone who needs it. Don't spend frivolously. I can't tell you how much crap I have in this house just on trinkets and junk I never really needed in the first place. I've either trashed, recycled, sold, or gave a lot of my junk away, and there's still a mountain more.

5. Invest in your future. When you buy, buy smart. Don't buy the cheapest just because it's the cheapest. It's cheapest for a reason. I follow the rule that you need to get the most bang for your buck. If it's something you know you will need often, upsize to the better model. You don't necessarily need the best model, but don't settle for the beginner set. In the end, you'll only spend more money trying to get the better model because the cheapest was... well cheap. Buy things you need, buy things you can use, and buy things that will mean as much to you 5 years from now as they do at present. Don't give into fad items or things that will go out of style when the wind changes direction. Buy stuff for the long term.

6. Keep it secret. Keep it safe. I will never divulge the amount of food storage I have, and I suggest you don't either. Otherwise, you might just find yourself needing that gun you bought. There was a conversation at my church where someone said "I'm just gonna go to James' house. He has everything." To that I said, "That's fine because I'll just pile you up in the front yard with the rest of the bodies." He immediately got quiet. The truth is, you probably wouldn't be so impressed if you actually saw it. Protect your supplies. They are your life.

7. Ally yourself with people YOU KNOW will not cheat you, screw you, or otherwise do wrong by you. If you go into Costco with a friend (to share the expense of buying at bulk rates), make sure it's someone who won't be coming to your house with a mob after their food runs out. You only have one or two of these people in your lives. Don't trust anyone who you may think could hurt you in the end.

8. Get your house into order. It means, simply, to do a lot of the above stuff (getting out of debt, living within your means, etc) and getting organized. What I mean by that is a clean house is essential to a house of order. I don't mean to imply that you should itemize everything you have and buy a label maker for things (though it could come in handy for food storage). What I mean is to have a place for everything and put everything in its place. In our house, we are working hard to do just that. We are finding things we no longer need and are selling them to finance things like bill paying or more food storage, or ammunition and those sorts of things.

Well, that's all out. Time to eat some nice warm, freshly baked homeade bread. Yeah, you are jealous. :)


Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Traditions

First, I'll post up the pictures of our Christmas Tree and a funky picture I took of our outside lights (need to break out my wife's SLR).

So, I threw a picture of my son looking stoned in there too. Okay, first, for the record: there are 1,335 lights on our tree. That's 13 strands of 100 lights, plus our "Eat At Joe's" star on top of the tree. We'd put more on, but we ran out of tree. Lindsay stuffs it to the gills with lights.

Our Thanksgiving tradition is as old as I can remember. Thanksgiving Day is spent with family over an enormous dinner with tons and tons of good food. This Thanksgiving was especially large because Jeff and his fiance (and her two children), my wife and son and me, my aunt (and her other half), my grandfather, and of course my parents were there. Well, okay, we've had more before, but this was a good size. It's great to reconnect with loved ones, stuff your face, and try to move afterward. Yeah, I just spend most of the evening soaking in the tryptophan absorb into my system. I get so lethargic after Thanksgiving dinner. I think it's because it is the only day that I really go hog wild on the food. After all, there is a ton of it, and I love Mom's cooking.

The next morning, instead of camping outside of Wal Mart or Best Buy at 3am for a deal on a t.v. or computer, I sleep in as long as I can. This usually is until 8am. Not bad for a guy who normally gets up at 5am or so. I think Lindsay started this tradition, but I'm not sure. We went to late breakfast after getting our game plan together for Friday afternoon. Nope, we weren't shopping for Christmas presents. We were going Christmas Tree shopping.

Lindsay and I will be the first to admit it. We are complete snobs when it comes to Christmas Trees. It has to be perfect in every way, and we only buy Noble Fir trees. Why Noble Fir? They are fuller, have much stronger bows (to withstand the onslaught of lighting and ornaments), the needles don't just fall off all the time, they are greener longer, and will stay green until January 1, which is the day we take it down. This year, our tree will be up in our house for 35 days. You can't get that kind of longevity out of a craptastic Douglas Fir or even a Grand Fir. If you want a good tree, you get a Noble or you get nothing! But I digress...

We are the anti-fake tree. I hate them with a passion. Sure, they are easy, and sure they don't shed needles all over the place, and sure every year they make them look more and more real. I just don't see the point of spending $150+ on a tree that you will use for 2-3 seasons and then toss out when it breaks and go buy the next "more realer" looking tree. Just spend the $75 and get the real deal! Besides, I don't have to store my tree in my house or garage. I torch it when I'm done with it!

There is just something about a real tree that screams Christmas Spirit. Okay, yeah, Christ was born and blah blah blah. Hey, I read the story of the birth of Christ every year. And trees may have their roots in paganism (no pun intended), but trees are a symbol of Christmas just as much as Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. I personally like that all my friends, who see the tree in real life, love it. My son really got a kick out of it too. It's just not Christmas without a real fir tree in the house, lambasted in over a thousand lights, and topped off with a cheesy lighted star. That is tradition!

I also break out the lights to decorate the outside of the house. I was lucky this year to have a sunny day and somewhat warm air to work in. Hanging lights on my house is dangerous enough without rain and water everywhere. That's another deeply rooted tradition. We get our house decorated up and ready to hit the Christmas season with both barrels blazing! Of course, I will put up more lights as we go, but I like to get the main work done on Black Friday. It beats waiting in lines, listening to screaming kids and women who are complaining about whether something is 50% or 60% off. Nope, I just go to my Zen place and climb that ladder to hang more lights.

Now, I get to enjoy Saturday and Sunday without worrying about putting up lights. Hey, I'm the first guy on the block to do it every year, and each year my lighting gets better. This is the first year I gave icicle lights a shot and they look nice. Next year, I will be ready to do more lights, but I first need to install more GFCI outlets in the porch area. Next year, I'm going to hang clear lights on the upper roof, but I'm going to do it in the summer when the roof is dry and safe to walk on. It will be a more-or-less permanent installation, but it will be hidden when the lights aren't on. That'll make it safer in the winter when I go to light it off. Connect lights to go down either side of the house and tie in the back roof, and we will have a ton more lightage. I kind of have to decorate all 4 sides: 1, I'm on a corner. 2, you can see the back of my house really easily. 3. I can't just leave three sides decorated. That's awkward. I'm also going to decorate my garage this year if I have leftover lights.

The last tradition, which will take place after Christmas is over, is going to Target and other stores and buying strands of lights for 60-70% off to add to my growing selection of lighting, and to replace broken strands that have just had it over the years.

Welcome to the Christmas season!


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I Want a New Truck!

Most anyone who knows me also knows that I like my Dodges. I have two of them: a 1994 Dodge Ram CTD and a 1990 Dodge Ramcharger. However, considering my family is growing, I've been looking at vehicle requirements. In my search for a suitable vehicle for my family and me, I've identified several requirements that we have. These are:
  1. Passenger space

  2. Towing capability

  3. Cargo area (hauling)

  4. 4x4 capability

  5. Cost (initial and long term)

  6. Ease of maintenance (overall simplicity/availability of parts)

  7. Safety (size)

My Ramcharger alone does not satisfy all these requirements. For instance, the cargo area isn't large. Taking the family camping would be challenging with even more gear for the kids than it is now when you consider we pack the cargo area to the rafters as is. Additionally, passenger space is a bit of an issue. Having only two doors, and the capability of carrying 5 people (max) is somewhat limiting in a vehicle this size. However, passenger space isn't so much of the concern; it's the access to the passenger area that is the problem. Lastly, towing isn't great due to the short wheelbase of the RC (limited at 5,000 lbs from the factory).

Enter the Cummins Diesel powered Dodge Ram. It can tow tow quite a bit (it towed the Ramcharger on a trailer at one point). It has the cargo space I need, and it is relatively easy to maintain. However, it fails in the passenger department (2 plus driver).

Both vehicles are safe, due to their large size, big engines, and strong frames, which should keep most vehicles from turning the sheet metal into a sardine can. So, what's the problem? I have two vehicles that satisfy all the requirements I have.

Here is the last requirement: Do it all with only 1 vehicle.

There's the rub. Neither the Ramcharger or the Ram satisfy all the requirements alone. With a growing family, I am finding that I need all these features to be in place on one platform. When it was just Lindsay and me, it was easy. You need to tow or haul something big? Take the pickup truck. You want to go camping and keep all your gear dry and secure? Take the Ramcharger. You want to make a trip to the dump? Take the pickup truck. You want to do a lot of shopping with multiple stops and want to keep your items safe and secure? Take the Ramcharger. The ability to pick and choose is there. Just pick a vehicle that will work for the application and go.

The problem is in just two months, we will have a second child to consider. We can't just leave the kids at home. We can't very easily use the pickup truck because it won't fit two adults and two car seats. So, unless I'm flying solo (which 99% of the time, I'm not) I can't even use the pickup. We use the Ramcharger a lot, but with the seat in place, the cargo area is only about 2 1/2 feet deep. You can't really stick a sheet of plywood or anything large in the cargo area when the seat is down. Even with the seat folded up, the cargo area is only about 5 3/4 feet deep - less even than a 6 foot bed on a small pickup truck! Additionally, with a tall lift, and only two doors (with a front seat that folds partially out of the way), it is kind of a pain to get kids in and strapped into the car seat or snug-rider.

This last point lends itself to another requirement than just sort of popped up after having Michael: Four doors. Gosh! That's evil to me! My Ramcharger is cool because it only has two doors! It's a total bachelor's vehicle - like a Jeep Wrangler but much larger and way cooler! However, I'm not a bachelor anymore. I'm not even one half of a married couple anymore. I'm a husband and father. Moreover, I will be the father of two children in just two months. For the sake of convenience and ease of travel (getting kids into and out of car seats and booster seats), four doors is not only necessary; it is a necessary evil.

This brings me to the situation at hand. What vehicle do I buy? I could buy a minivan, but minivans are gay and Lindsay vowed she would never own one, and neither will I. I could get a full size van, but 99% of them are only two-wheel drive and have poor traction in snow, ice, and even on wet leaves! I thought of sticking to the Dodge brand, but Dodge doesn't, and never did make a full size SUV with four doors. The Ramcharger was it, and it only has two doors. I considered a Dodge crew cab truck. With four doors and a full size bed (6 feet for the 4x4 models), it would work perfectly. The problem is that unless you want a total rust bucket, you will shell out massive bucks for a good runner. People want way too much money for them and when you consider off-the-shelf (OEM and aftermarket) parts availability for Dodges absolutely sucks, it's not worth it. No other Dodge works. The Durango has four doors, and even a third row seat, but it's only a seat in the academic sense. Have you ever sat in the third row? I have. Plus, there is only enough cargo space for a set of golf clubs inside. The trunk space in my wife's Saturn Ion is bigger than a Durango's cargo area.

There is a company that made a vehicle to suit my needs exactly. It still does, in fact. That company is Chevrolet. I can hear the jeers and boos now! All my Mopar friends are on the floor having a panic attack and reaching for the shock paddles because I must be having a heart attack. Did I actually point out Chevrolet as an option to my vehicular conundrum?

Indeed I have. Chevrolet did, and still does make the vehicle I need: a Suburban. Suburban fills my needs exactly. It has:

  1. Passenger space

  2. Towing capability

  3. Cargo area (hauling)

  4. 4x4 capability

  5. Cost (initial and long term)

  6. Ease of maintenance (overall simplicity/availability of parts)

  7. Safety (size)

1. Suburbans have the capability of carrying up to 9 passengers with an optional third row seat. That is 5 more passengers than I would normally need, but I do have friends, believe it or not.

2. Suburbans were made with a 3/4 ton option, which means towing. With a long wheelbase, a Suburban might as well be a crew cab truck with a permanently mounted canopy.

3. Cargo area is something Suburbans have. If you are only using the first two rows of seats, you have the equivalent of a fullsize bed (6 ft or so) behind you. That is good for 99% of my needs.

4. Suburbans came with two drivetrain options. Aside from engines, transmissions, and whatnot, the one that matters most to me is the option that includes a transfer case, and two solid live axles.

5. Suburbans are cheap. I see them for sale all the time and I see them everywhere. A solid runner can be had for just over $2,500 and with a few upgrades, I can modify one to suit my needs for less than $5,000. Since I am targeting vehicles between 87-91, the car payment will be non-existant. Fuel consumption will be high, but since I only drive my big vehicles on occasion, my carbon footprint with them is nill.

6. Suburbans of old are really simple in design. Much like my Ramcharger, they have similar design characteristics that allow the average guy, with basic tools, to do most of the work on the vehicle with nothing but a book and some mechanical prowess. I have both. Parts availability for Chevrolet trucks is nothing short of phenominal. There are many companies out there who have hard to find parts for a Chevy truck. The parts are available, relatively inexpensive, and it would be a breath of fresh air when compared to hunting down used parts at a junkyard for my Dodge Ramcharger.

7. Safety is a must and if you want to be really safe, you gotta go big. I've seen what full size trucks do to cars in a collision. Usually, the driver of the pickup truck walks away and the passengers in the car are wheeled away on a gurney - sometimes in a body bag.

All in all, I believe this vehicle will suit my needs. I'm getting to the point where I'm not concerned about brand loyalty so much as satisfying the needs of my growing family. Besides, Dodge hasn't made the Ramcharger since 1993 and I doubt they'd ever build a vehicle like it again. Chevrolet doesn't even make the new Suburban as rugged and capable as it used to. SUV's are like big station wagons anymore; they are status symbols for the rich and for those who want people to look at them. My needs are not as such. I want an old vehicle. I want something simple in design, easy to maintain, cheap to own, and overall, I want something that works when I need it to.

Of course, the Ramcharger won't be going anywhere. I've owned it too long and I have plans for when it no longer needs to pass emissions. However, the pickup truck hasn't even been on the road for over a year. It hasn't even left the garage! I just don't have a need for it anymore. As much as I love my truck, as much as I love that Cummins Turbo Diesel engine, and as much as I think it's cool, I just can't seem to justify it anymore. I need truck capability with SUV utility all wrapped in one. It seems that the Chevy Suburban fits.

I guess it's time for me to get a hat with a bow tie on it.


Good Joke - More Like a Fable

While working today, this guy I was chatting with told me a good joke, which is probably more like a fable than anything else. Anyhow, it kind of goes with the intolerant individual in my last posting. Here it goes:

A boy was sitting on a park bench, stuffing his face with a bunch of Halloween candy, when an old lady came by. She looked at the boy, and with a scowl on her face, she said "If you keep stuffing your pie-hole with all that candy, you are going to get a bunch of cavities, get fat, and die." The boy looked up at her and said, "My grandfather lived to be 103 years old." The old woman asked, "Did he stuff his pie-hole with a bunch of candy?" The boy replied, "No, but he knew how to mind his own business."

Let that be a lesson to all those who believe it is their right to get themselves involved in my personal affairs and tell me how I should or should not live. I reserve the right to continue living my life how I wish to live it. If I seem intolerant to you, then here's some advice (a James original): If being tolerant to you and your beliefs means becoming intolerant to my own, then I choose to remain intolerant of you and your beliefs. If you don't like it, then you are the one who is intolerant - not me.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Intolerant Faggot

Okay, this really happened today. It wasn't too shocking though. I've come to expect and anticipate intolerant people when it comes to my Dodge Ramcharger. It's big, it makes a lot of noise, and it gets bad gas mileage. Still, I don't drive it but maybe a couple times a month on short trips, so it really burns less fuel than a Toyota Prius annually.

I was walking out of Safeway, heading toward the Ramcharger. I'm normally very observant, and was looking at each car in the parking lot as I walked by them. I got to the Ramcharger and opened the rear lift gate. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man get out of a reddish Subaru Outback and walk over to me. I turned to face him and he said, "How can you justify destroying the environment with that thing?"

I looked at him, and without missing a beat, I replied, "How can you justify being an intolerant faggot?"

He looked at me and asked, "Why do you think I'm gay?"

I responded, "Because you wear skinny glasses, you drive a Subaru Outback, and you talk with a lisp."

As he was getting ready to respond, I just shook my head and patted my right hip. He got the drift and immediately went back to his Subaru and left me to my business.

It kind of amazes me that a panty-waist like him would actually come up to me and start an argument. I guess he's accustomed to people debating and keeping it all nice and "civilized". Well, I'm not civilized. I was running an errand and didn't have time to open a discussion forum with this person about the environmental impact of my SUV. He was obviously close-minded anyway because his accusation implied that I must use my vehicle to spew billions of tons of crap into the atmosphere. Little did he know that my Ramcharger sits around most of the month spewing nothing into the atmosphere.

Now, look, I don't care if anyone has a problem with me. I really don't. But if you think for a moment that I'm going to be open minded and have a quality debate with you, just because you think it's your right to innundate me with your hypocrisy and pre-programmed talking points, you can kiss my ass. If I wanted a debate with this moron, I would have asked for one. Instead, I was minding my own damn business and he came up and started an argument.

It just goes to show that the people who seem to be on the side of equality, fairness, and tolerance are the most intolerant people on the planet.

What do you know? He had an Obama sticker on his car.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To The Veterans

I just want to post a quick note here since it is Veteran's Day today.

To the men and women who serve, and who have served, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!

We would not enjoy the liberty and freedom we so take for granted if not for your sacrifice in the name of that liberty and freedom. I support you and thank you. Keep up the good work and know that the work you do doesn't go unrecognized at home.

Please, for anyone who sees a person in uniform, or if they know someone who has been in uniform, thank them for all they have done for you. Freedom is not free and these men and women were brave enough to accept and even make the ultimate sacrifice for all Americans - not just the ones they liked. Be proud of our military and always have their backs!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Drive By Trick-or-Treat

Last night, we were counting on only a few trick-or-treaters to come to our house, so we put out a few pumpkins and changed the normal porch light to something a little more festive. I grabbed the old boom box (yes, we still have one) and put it on the porch to play scary sound-effects. I figured we'd probably get 15-20 kids. Well, it turns out that we had a lot more than expected. Yes, our little display actually grabbed the attention of more children and parents than we originally anticipated. Fortunately, Lindsay and I planned ahead and had plenty of candy for the little ones.

I took a moment to look outside, and considering the volume of people we had, there weren't many people walking the street at all. In fact, most of the time, there was no one on the street. Where were all these people coming from? I got a clue when I sat next to the window and looked outside. People were coming in cars. The parents would park, and the kids would get out. They'd come to my house and then stop by my festive neighbor's house, and then get back in the car and drive off. Is this the new way of trick-or-treating? Drive-by?

Actually, it makes perfect sense. My neighbor and I were the only people who decorated our homes with Halloween stuff. Both of us had carved pumpkins, lights, and things to grab the attention of the lil children who wanted some candy. Every other house on the block was dark; no decorations adorning their porches, no lights, and no indication that trick-or-treaters were welcome. Why walk all over the neighborhood looking for that one house in a hundred that will actually answer when you can cover more ground in a car and actually get more candy? The idea is to get to the candy.

Things have changed since I stopped trick-or-treating. The last time I went out in costume, door to door, looking for the sweet goodness of candy was when I was 14 years old. At that time, I lived in a large apartment complex, and the pickins' were good. But most of the trick-or-treating I reminisce about, and love the most, is from Hoquiam. Hoqiuam is the town where my first memories are from. On Halloween, I remember going door to door for candy and treats. Everyone would open their doors. Everyone had some candy for you. Everyone had lots of decorations, and some people really went all out to scare you, excite you, and make you laugh. It was a good time, and Halloween soon became one of my all time favorite holidays.

Hoqiuam was laid out a lot like Tacoma. It was a boom town back in the days of the logging industry, and many of the houses are similar to the homes found in Tacoma. On Halloween, the streets were littered with children looking for the same thing as me. The costumes were in great abundance, and responsible parents followed their children wherever they would go; many times the parents would be in costume as well.

It seems, however, that door to door trick-or-treating has fallen away and has been supplanted by mall trick-or-treating, or the so-called "trunk-or-treat" that a lot of churches do. These places offer more security and protection than hitting the streets - or so they claim.

It's a violent world out there, and I'm sure there are hooligans who do all sorts of things, like bag snatching, vandalism, theft, and whatnot. People are all worked up over people who do things like put razor blades in apples, inject poison into candy bars, and cook up home made treats with arsenic and reefer.

The funny thing is that none of that crap ever happened. Aside from a few incidents of bag snatching and theft, they were mostly just horror stories parents told their kids to keep them safe. It was meant to keep the children's feet on the ground as they ran from house to house, knocking on doors of people they didn't know.

The hysteria grew though. Even with the lacking evidence to back up such paranoia, parents started taking their kids off the streets, homes started going dark because residence feared reprisals if their treats weren't good enough, and slowly the streets began to be far less lively until they fell silent on Halloween. How sad.

It seems that more and more these days, people celebrate holidays less and less. Participation in something that is supposed to be really fun has dropped. Back in the day, you could go from house to house on Christmas looking at pretty lights and awesome decorations. You could go around on Halloween and see scary spooky sights, and some haunted homes. It just seems that people have become lethargic, apathetic, or they are just "too busy" to actually live life to the fullest.

I have to admit. I've been a little guilty. Last year, we only had a porch light on. I'm sure that's one of the reasons people passed our house instead of stopping by. This year, we put up welcoming indicators to invite our neighbors to our porch. Looking out of our house, I realized that two homes in twenty were decorated. My neighbor's favorite holiday is Halloween. His home was decorated. We were the only homes in the neighborhood that were decorated.

I have made great strides in recent years to be really festive. Each year, our home gets more lights at Christmas time, next year, I will have more spooky stuff to make my house cool and attract more trick-or-treaters. We had 60 this year. Next year, I want 100. I will do my part to keep the holidays we celebrate alive and well. In spite of what is always popular, I will always strive to be better than the average bah hum bug out there. Long live holidays and long live Halloween!