Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dead Lexus

So we all piled in to my wife's Lexus this morning, running late as usual. Put key in ignition, turned to start, and nothing happened. The first stage of grief (as in "Oh Good Grief!") is denial, and while lingering in that stage I tried to start the car again. And again, and a few more times just because denial is such a blissful place to be. Of course my repeated attempts to coax electrons out of an empty battery were completely futile. We quickly grabbed all our stuff and piled in to my daughter's Jeep, then proceeded on our way, adding at least 3 minutes to our tardy time.

This evening I went out in to the garage to resuscitate the dead Lexus. Battery juxtaposition was such that the easiest course of action was to push the Lexus partway out of the garage. My wife got in the driver's seat, turned the ignition on to unlock the steering wheel, then went to put the car in Neutral. The shifter wouldn't budge. I asked "Is your foot on the brake"? "Yes" came the reply. Of course I didn't believe her. But of course she was right. Even with the brake pedal pressed as far as it would go the transmission would not come out of Park.

Like most modern automatics, this car has a safety interlock between park and the brake. You cannot shift the car out of park until you have the brake pedal depressed. Unfortunately it seems that this interlock actually needs power in order to unlock the transmission. No power, no unlock. Well, this kind of makes life a challenge when you need to push a car with a dead battery.

I finally pulled the Jeep in to the garage and got the Lexus jump-started. Then I drove the Lexus around for about 20 minutes to charge the battery. I found this entire event to be extremely stressful and therefore I required nourishment, and since I was driving around anyway it sure seemed like a stop at Cold Stone was appropriate.

We are still not sure why the battery discharged. We suspect that the headlight "auto" setting did not turn the lights off when it was supposed to. We have had problems with this before, but always caught it before the battery drained. So from now on we don't trust "auto".

Tomorrow we get to see if the battery can still hold a charge.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fay Targets Florida

My parents, who live in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, left their home about a week ago for an extended road trip. They travelled to Minneapolis for a high school reunion and are planning to go on from there to Denver for a wedding. They are stopping in to visit us Labor Day weekend on their way home. So they will be away from home for about 4 weeks. Before they left my dad put up his hurricane shutters. These consist of corrugated metal panels which are custom cut to fit over every window and exterior glass door. They are quite ugly but they are the best protection against the high winds of a hurricane. He tells me that his neighbors thought he was nuts for putting them up before the extended trip.

As of today Tropical Storm Fay is 350 miles southeast of Key West and forecast to take up a northerly heading that will take it across Punta Gorda and on up in to the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday. It is also forecast to reach hurricane strength before making landfall. A hurricane watch is now in effect from the Florida Keys to Anna Maria island at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Somehow I don't think the neighbors are laughing anymore.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Angel Flight Crashes

It has been a troubling summer for Angel Flight organizations across the country. Angel Flight, for those who don't know, is a collection of volunteer organizations which provide free transportation to medical patients in need. Volunteer pilots provide the transportation in their own airplanes or in planes that are rented. The pilots receive no reimbursement for their time, fuel, or operating costs. The patients and those travelling with them pay nothing. Most planes used in Angel Flight are small (4 or 6 seat) single engine propeller driven airplanes that operate as "General Aviation". Pilots tend to be those (like me) who obtained licenses for recreation rather than for an avocation.

Friday, August 8, 2008

We did WHAT?

We just bought a house. Or, rather, we bought the idea of a house. Or, rather, we bought the promise of the idea of a house. The house itself doesn't really exist yet. It's only there on paper. In fact, most of the neighborhood doesn't exist yet either. But we put a deposit down and signed a contract to have a house built just for us. Now some folks may wonder why in the world we would want another house when we have a perfectly fine house already. Well, I'm wondering that too. Is it a vacation home? No. Is it in a different metropolitan area? No. Is someone changing jobs? No. Does it put me or my wife closer to work? A little bit. Are the schools better? No, they're about the same. Is it smaller or less expensive? No, actually it's a bit bigger. Is it on lots of acreage? No, the lot size is about the same. Well, then why would we do this? Primarily because we want to. But also partly because we like "new" and we don't like what has become of the area around our current house.