Friday, May 15, 2009

Buying a Nice, Old House?

Here's what you do:

1. Look at the roof. Are the tiles, or roofing on the roof, older than 30 years? If so, then you'll have issues. Go inside the attic and see if any water, whatsoever, gets in. If any moisture or staining is there, walk away.

2. If the house has a basement, closely check to see if ANY water or moisture gets in. If the basement is unfinished, walk away. Signs of water leakage is fine sand or particles by the walls, or corners, any mold staining, or any signs of wood swelling from water incursion.

3. Any mold anywhere, cracks in plaster, or stains, walk away.

4. Look at the outside doors, exposed to the weather. Do they open easily? Stuck, or hard to open doors, are a bad indication.

5. Have the main sewage line to the street inspected. Ask when the last time it was completely routed. The main sewage line should be routed every 3 - years. If the owner doesn't know, or won't let you route the main sewage line, walk away. You just saved yourself about 10K, at least.

6. Inspect all exterior drains, and see if they are diverting all rainwater away from any foundation. Calculate where rainwater will go. You could end up spending 3K - 10K re-leveling the yard, fixing runoff problems.

7. Any decks, or any exterior wooden built structures should be in perfect order.

8. Check the trees. Have they been trimmed recently? If no, that will cost you from about 8K - 15k to fix, depending on how many trees you have.

9. If you have a fireplace, does the fireplace have a cap, or spark arrest?

10. Check water pressure in all parts of the house. When you run the taps, hot or cold, do you see rust after a few seconds? If you see rust, or have low water pressure, walk away.

11. If the house does not have centralized AC, walk away. Also, run the heating, especially if it is hot water, and see if it works.

12. Remember, if the house is on a busy street, it will take off about 10K in value of the house.

13. New windows, good, old windows, bad, very bad.

14. How old is the water-heater? 15 years old older, you'll have to replace it.

15. If you have a sump-pump or sewage-ejection pump, how old are they? 15 years or older, you'll have to replace them. Same goes for any hot-tub pumps.

Basically, after buying any older house (mine was built in 1922), figure on having to put about 20 - 30K into it, after the sale. That is if you have a good inspector, and you are lucky.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Keep This in Mind

You can instruct someone in the concepts of firearm safety, and "best practices", but unfortunately, this is a skill that has as much intrinsic knowledge, as taught. If you don't know, it is certainly essential to take a basic course in the mechanics of the firearm you are using -- but after this, do not assume you are an expert.

1. The firearm is always loaded. Even if you know it is not loaded. It is guaranteed you will have an accidental discharge if you assume the firearm is unloaded.
2. Never point a firearm at anyone, ever. Unless you are going to shoot them. Always know where your firearm is pointed, at all times. The firearm's barrel reference point should NEVER travel in line with anything you are not going to shoot.
3. It isn't the cost of the gun, that sets you back monetarily. It is the cost of the ammunition.
4. If you like to go shooting, you'll spend more time loading clips, than shooting. Go figure.
5. If it is hard, and flat, and you shoot at it, the bullets will come back at you.
6. The interior of a car is designed to tumble bullets back at the shooter.
7. The M16 (and variations of it) is a piece of crap, the AK47 will never let you down.
8. Use non-corrosive ammunition. Clean your firearms when you are done shooting, every time.
9. If you do not protect your hearing, you will go deaf.
10. A spent bullet can travel several miles, so be careful where and how you send off rounds.

11. Always err on the side of caution.
12. If it might be dangerous to shoot at, don't.
13. Don't get cocky. A firearm is not a toy. It is very dangerous.

Friday, August 08, 2008

SWAT Team Runs Amok, AGAIN!

Here's one of my favorite news story that constantly bubbles up year after year: a local SWAT team goes completely bezerk and raids the wrong house, they don't knock, masked armed men kick the doors in, shoot and kill the household pets for sport, and then for hours afterwards they rip the residence to pieces while threatening the innocent inhabitants with death. After a few hours of this, the SWAT team realizes they've made a horrible mistake. No apologies are given, police department is promptly sued for millions of dollars.

In this case, at the end of July, it was the Prince George County Sheriff, headed by Micheal Jackson, that completely lost it -- raiding the home of the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, MD. These cops actually thought that Mayor Cheye Calvo would be part of a illicit marijuana delivery ring. Amazing what you'll convince yourself of when you have all the equipment, and you're just itching to bust some doors down and kick some ass in the so-called "War on Drugs". So in the PM, about 30 pounds of grass is delivered by undercover cops to the door of Cheye Calvo, addressed to his wife. The authorities have been tracking this package since it was mailed from Arizona. Mr. Calvo isn't there, so his mother tells the "delivery" person to put the package on the doorstep. When the mayor does get home, he takes the package in, because he thinks it is bathroom fixtures.

He goes upstairs to change for an event, his mother is in the kitchen making artichokes when she screams because there are masked armed men swarming through the yard. The door is kicked in and the black labrador retriever next to the Mayor's mom is gunned down. A second black lab is shot repeatedly in the back as it flees from the SWAT team. At gunpoint, Cheye is handcuffed in his underwear and socks -- his mother is handcuffed and forced to lay on the kitchen floor next to a bleeding dead animal with bits of dog tissue all over the place.

Way to go, guys! The FBI is opening an investigation, for violating the Mayor's civil rights. I hope they fire the whole SWAT team, prosecute they fools that shot the dogs, and Prince George County Sheriff, Micheal Jackson.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Telephone Land Line is Now Just a Way for Telemarketers to Drive Me Completely Raving Insane

Working out of the home, I now realize my home phone has evolved from a useful communications device, into a telemarketers automated messaging system locked in my own private space. Because I am around, I mentally log about 10 automated telemarketing pitches a day, often from the same robot, every day, going on months now. The robots are selling extended vehicle warranties, satellite cable plans, and strange insurance for things I have no need for. I also get about 5 live telemarketers calling me every day, trying to give me credit cards, book, insurance, newspapers, and other crap. Sometimes the telemarketer is from a credit card I already have. Now, I know I could be ignoring the phone when a name comes through I know is a telemarketing call, and I do exactly that when I can. But the fact that the phone rings every hour, or sometimes a few times per hour, and it is all junk calls, this begins to make me a little aggravated.

Here's a way to guarantee I will never do business with you: First, call me with an unsolicited prerecorded message. It will piss me off extra fine because, 1. You don't even bother to have a human call me, and, 2. I didn't ask for your services and they don't match, whatever they are. Now, call me every single day for 3 months with the same message, until I am so distracted-pissed-off by your pitch I take the time to look you up and call you, just to get you to stop calling me. Perfect -- I now will absolutely never do business with you, even if you were selling heart lung machines and I needed triple-bypass surgery.

Despite this, I still need my land line. I depend on it for work, and my own business. So I tell the human telemarketers to take me off their call list, and they say they will. But then new automated ones and human telemarketers take their place. I signed up for the national "do not call list". But the larger question for me is -- what the fuck happened to my phone being useful for me, rather than a tool for someone else?


Monday, April 07, 2008

My American Airlines Horror Story no. 1

Air travel is not what it used to be, you hear that all the time from people who have to travel frequently. Here is my airline travel horror story.

It started with an American Airline ticket for travel on Sunday, January 6, from Orange County to Chicago O'Hare, with a stopover in San Francisco. The flight was due to depart at 2.40 PM, so I called at about 10 AM to verify the flight would be on time. Mysteriously, American Airlines thought my daughter and infant son would still be traveling with me, even though I had changed the ticket & their flights for a different time a few days ago. I recorrected the information for the flight, it would just be me.

When I got to the airport at a bit before 1 PM, I saw that the line for American Airlines stretched the entire length of Terminal 1. There must have been about 300+ people waiting to check in at the American Airlines counter. Every other airline there at John Wayne Airport had a few people checking in, but American Airlines was the only carrier with a stupendously long line. I reached a ticketing agent by 2.20 PM. I explained to the agent that I could have made my flight, if not for starting at the far end of the terminal. She said that I could go on a non-stop flight to Chicago at 4.00 PM.

Ticket in hand, and luggage checked, I processed myself through security -- the line there was negligible. At the gate, when the plane arrived, we were told there was a mechanical problem with the plane. The American Airlines employee at the gate said that a part had to be sent from Los Angeles. Then, the attendant said they were not sure when the plane would be ready. Then, we were told to stand by for more information. At about 4.00 PM, we were informed our flight was completely canceled. Hotel vouchers would be provided for people who did not live in Orange County.

Another long line formed at the gate counter. Only one American Airlines employees was there to process us, so the progress was slow. Soon, three Orange County sheriffs showed up, and stood there staring at the crowd. One was on a Seqway, and as we stood there barely moving, he'd twirl around on it, showing us, I guess, how skilled & important he was. For a short time, there was another American Airline employee helping, but then after about 20 minutes she left. We'd have traded three cops and an idiotic Seqway demonstration for one extra American Airlines employee, but it was not to be.

While we stood there, because the line was moving so slowly, several people (including me) asked the woman at the gate politely if more American Airline employees could help hand out vouchers. We were all told that there were no other employees available. Absolutely no help would be coming. After about two and a half hours of standing in line, I got a hotel voucher, and a "dinner voucher" for 10 dollars. We were told that everyone on the canceled flight had been booked for a non-stop 7 AM flight the next day at the same gate, and we should keep our boarding passes. American Airlines said in the morning, there would be a special place for us to drop our luggage off, and to keep the tags on the luggage. When I checked into the hotel, I discovered the meal voucher was not redeemable at the hotel, only at the airport.

So I woke up at 4.20 AM the next day, got to the airport a bit before 5 AM and there was no one there who knew where we should be handing our luggage to. People from the canceled flight stood in the international departures line, and so American Airlines processed us there. When I got to the ticket counter, I was told that there was no 7 AM flight to Chicago. I was scheduled to depart at a 9 AM flight. The agent switched me to the earliest flight, which was a 6.45 AM. My luggage was retagged.

At the gate, waiting, at 6.20 the agent said that the plane waiting at the gate was the wrong plane, and needed to be switched with another plane. It seems that American Airlines forgot to move the broken plane from yesterday & it sat there all night. We were able to board the new plane by about 6.50 AM. Once aboard, we were informed that we would have to sit on the tarmac at John Wayne Airport for about an hour, due to President Bush landing at Chicago O'Hare. After about 30 minutes, we did take off.

Basically, the take from all of this is my time (or any other traveler's time) is not important, or valuable, in any way to American Airlines. American Airlines demonstrated quite clearly customers are trivial, treated with no more concern or feeling you'd expend on bags of luggage. Having the longest line for checking in, forcing people to stand in lines for hours for vouchers with the police in the background, denying us extra personnel to speed things up, it shows the airline doesn't give a damn how much time they waste. American Airlines could care less if you make it home on time -- and when things go wrong at the airport, there is no customer service when the public interfaces with actual airline employees.

I know there are worse travel related airline stories out shows how off the mark and arrogant, or just indifferent carriers are today, post 9/11. Once they get a traveler into that controlled airport environment, they can do anything they want with you.


A special thanks goes out to Chicago O'Hare....when I asked, there were no door-to-door shuttles to take me home. I ended up renting a Lincoln town car for $67 bucks to get me to my front door.


Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Linksys Just Ain't Happening

Here's something that doesn't work, my Wireless-G Broadband Range Expander (model number WRE54G) and the Wireless-G Broadband Router (model number WRTP54G) -- both by Linksys. They are incompatible. Sweet! I spent about 90 bucks on the range expander (and about 40 minutes trying to get it to work) and it is useless. And I discovered a Linksys Wireless-G Print Server (WPS54G) I have is incompatible with a HP Deskjet 5940 printer I bought to try and get the wireless printing up and running. I got the HP Deskjet to replace an all-in-one HP PSC 2110xi which was incompatible with the Linksys Wireless-G Print Server. This after spending at least an hour and a half with Linksys, trying to get the wirelss print router to work with the all-in-one. Linksys customer support ended up blaming HP, they said it was an HP driver problem. I discovered online, Linksys wireless print servers just don't like all-in-one printers -- period. Another 90 bucks down the tubes. Linksys, you got me. I am a dope. I buy your products (I bought all of these at the same time!) and assume they will work with each other.