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Joyriding Mechanics

The owner of a 2003 Mustang Cobra Convertible was shocked to read about the joyride the technician took in her car when she brought it in for service, who had the chutzpah to post about it in great detail on a Mustang enthusiast forum, and even made fun of her vanity plate. Next, thicken the plot with a healthy measure of drama:

  • A general manager who promptly fired the technician, but wouldn't compensate the owner with so much as a free oil change.

  • A flood of support from message forums representing owners of every make of vehicle.

  • Countless phone calls and emails to the Ford dealership in question.

  • Inquiries from local media wanting to cover the story.

  • The car owner thanking everyone for their support before going silent, saying she can no longer discuss the matter on advice of her attorney.

It's like Days of Our Lives for webheads.

It's times like these I'm especially glad to own a Prius and not a muscle car. The hybrid offers several advantages to an owner wary of auto mechanics. With a six month / 7,500 mile service interval, generous warranties, and three years' free service, the Prius is amazingly reliable and well designed, so you won't see much of the service department. When you do bring it in for service, there will probably be one technician in the shop qualified to do the work - no one else will be allowed to touch it. The 70-hp engine, 44-hp electric motor, and top speed of 101 mph make the adrenaline rush a Prius offers a 20 year-old joyride-seeking technician steeping in testosterone pale vis-a-vis a Celica GT-S, Toyota's most powerful car. Come to think of it, Toyota isn't exactly what most people associate with "sports car," and that can be a good thing.

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/29/2002 @ 17:58 :: [link] ::

Mea Culpa

Coffee First!"Where the hell have you been?" asked my sole reader before abandoning. Dudes, let me tell you, between work and school all my time is spoken for, daily. Before taking the new job at work, I only had a vague notion of "Sales Digitization" and what it meant. Now, I dream about it at night because for a 10 day span I literally did nothing else except sleep, think, and work on my project. Other buzzwords such as "Aggressive Timeline" and "Sensitive Schedule" also haunt me, reverberating in my head every few minutes like the Hall of Echoes.

I've been so sapped I haven't wanted to write, which is to mention nothing of the completely barren Idea Farm, but that's okay. Not so long ago was a time when writing served a therapeutic purpose. Nowadays I find myself censoring many of the juicier stories because people I know have been known to read this weblog from time to time. How therapeutic can it be if I don't feel comfortable writing about what's really on my mind? I'm thinking of starting an anonymous weblog wherein I'll let life's commentary play out, an honest internal dialogue about life's daily events.

That would be grand. No, make that a grande.

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/28/2002 @ 15:24 :: [link] ::

Thank You, Mr. Bush

Dear WarLord:

You said you wanted to undo everything the Clinton Administration had done. Here's what you've done to show for it:

Not exactly what I had in mind, but congratulations, anyway. I never accused you of intelligence. But damn, dude - how do you keep that 70% approval rating? At some point people must conclude it's your lack of a fiscal policy, and not terrorism, that's been most damaging to the economy.

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/24/2002 @ 19:29 :: [link] ::

Pesky Perception Again

To adorn the earlier perception post with a farty-sounding dab of canned whipped cream, a jury found Gary Davis guilty after four hours of deliberation. Snitch reported on the trial in three issues: 1, 2, and 3.

My eyes needed to be checked because my vision isn't what it used to be. Yes, that's right - I used non-matching verb tenses in a sentence; I have my reasons - everything is like a metaphor, even similes.

Two weeks ago I went for my bi-annual eye exam and new glasses. Before my eyes were dilated, I picked out two pairs of frames - one for glasses, the other for sunglasses. Looking through my old pair of sunglasses, the clerk and I agreed the lenses had a red tint. I liked the tint, but asked for half a shade lighter because they were too dark. After picking up the frames two hours later, the problem of perception quickly sprang to mind. Comparing the lenses in the old and new sunglasses, I realized the old sunglasses had actually been tinted brown-grey; what's more, the new lenses were at least a shade and a half lighter than the old lenses. Well, they were lighter, but I'm not sure if it was a shade and a half, or not - as the clerk explained when I took the sunglasses back to the store to have the lenses darkened, tinting lenses depends on the technician's perception.

The lenses were tinted to an acceptable darkness in under 15 minutes, but nothing short of new lenses could remedy the color. If you ever want to see what the sky looks like on Mars, borrow my sunglasses - everything's coming up the color of roses.

When our own perception differs from someone else's, the natural inclination is to trust our personal experience. Obviously, we think, an error on the part of the other person explains the difference of opinion. But when our own perception fails us, as mine did when looking through my old sunglasses, we have nowhere to turn. It's shocking to realize everything I know from my senses, everything I avow, all that I believe, may be different from someone else's perception not because they are wrong, but because I am wrong.

Frightening... that makes two significant events this month in which I was forced to conclude my perception of the world around me and the people in it aren't always what I take them to be. It's enlightenment, to be sure, but the kind that's like winning a marathon only to discover the prize is a slice of stale cheese pizza. Frankly, it's painful - the personal cost of such mistakes is high.

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/20/2002 @ 19:45 :: [link] ::

Fundamentalists gone awry

I don't get fundamentalists - Christian, Hindi, Muslim, or otherwise. If the fundamentalists of various religions would stop hating one another, perhaps they'd realize how much they have in common, unite, and take over the world. Fortunately, fundamentalists are so consumed with self-hatred that they never see beyond themselves, so this isn't something we need to worry about.

Case in point: An Iranian man thought his daughter had been raped by an uncle. Angry parents would go after the uncle. Most loving parents would take her to the hospital, find a good counselor, and then go after the uncle. This guy, in true self-hating fundamentalist fashion, decapitated his daughter to defend his own "honor, fame, and dignity." Typical.

Townspeople are demanding he be hanged. I don't support the death penalty, but at least his actions haven't been condoned by others, which shows it's the person, and not the religion, that's backwards. The only problem? In Iran, the child's father must demand the sentence - I don't foresee it happening.

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/09/2002 @ 20:11 :: [link] ::


A friendly reminder Labor Day Weekend is over and work awaits your return...

In the spirit of the previous post because television is such an addictive mental opiate...

Yes, I still have a few magnets left that were never posted.

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/02/2002 @ 22:28 :: [link] ::

Everyone's Allowed To Change Their Mind

I've loved science ever since I was a kid. Science expanded my horizons by stimulating my curiosity; it gave me reason to think and dream. True science isn't limited to chemistry, biology, physics, and astronomy - science is a way of thinking, not a collection of subjects. Any field that uses the Scientific Method to propose and validate claims is science.

If you understand the Scientific Method, then you also understand scientific thought changes as the realm of human knowledge expands. Since I was a kid, one of my most notorious pet peeves has been trying to converse with people lack an appreciation of the effects of an evolving body of scientific knowledge.

For example, a constant source of frustration was the extended family coming together for dinner during the holidays. When you're seated around the table with a bounty of food everywhere you turn - on the table, on the plates and in the mouths of those around you, including yourself - topics of conversation revolve around (surprise!) food. We talked about farming, how the sweet potatoes were especially delicious, please pass the rolls, can you believe how much fresh fruits and vegetables cost this time of year, they're making red M&M's again, who made that scrumptious dessert, and so on.

The conversation eventually made its way to the latest dietary recommendations: "When we were growing up they told us to eat bacon and eggs every morning; now they say don't eat 'em more than once or twice a week because they're bad for you. I heard on the news that tap water is full of poisons and eating too many carrots causes spontaneous human combustion. Everything is bad for you anymore."

It would have been less irritating if they had grown out their fingernails from Halloween until Christmas, then raked them down a chalkboard all evening long. Almost, but it still drove me crazy. I knew they were wrong, but as a 10 year old, lacked the knowledge and articulation skills to successfully defend the cause of Science. Not that it would have mattered, mind you - adults rarely allow themselves to be humbled by pre-adolescent children. As a young adult at his mental peak who is only beginning to sense the beginning of the eternal downward spiral, today I can whole-heartedly sympathize with them.

What I lacked was an understanding of statistics and having limited personal experience with forming an hypothesis, testing it, disproving it, modifying it, retesting, disproving again, modifying, and so on. First, although eating a bushel of carrots daily may increase your risk of spontaneous combustion and drinking tap water may introduce toxins to your system, they are of dubious statistical significance, and the odds of either one instigating your demise are significantly lower than the statistically significant increased risks of cancer and heart disease from eating a diet high in saturated fat and low in fiber. Furthermore, it's nearly impossible, certainly most inconvenient, not to drink tap water, but those creme-horn pastries from the bakery are easily avoided. Thus, since tap water is necessary, petition the water company, local government, and EPA to address drinking water contamination issues instead of blaming the scientists for determining chemical XYZ is harmful in concentrations lower than previously thought.

For those who prefer thinking in concrete terms, here's an analogy: Suppose a 2nd grade science teacher sticks two pieces of zinc and copper into a lemon and uses the metal leads to light a small lightbulb. The teacher asks the class to explain what they've just seen, and they say lemons and metal make electricity. Next, the teacher sticks the zinc and copper into a grapefuit, and the bulb lights up. The class now says fruits and metal make electricity. Finally, the teacher sticks the metal strips into a glass of vinegar, and the bulb lights up again. Now the class says acids and metal make electricity.

Each time the class saw the lightbulb glow, they made an educated guess using available information. As their hypotheses were tested with each successive experiment, the class' educated guesses became more educated. Going forward, the class could test their hypothesis using various acids, neutral compounds, and bases. If the hypothesis was supported by a bevy of tests, they could call it a theory. This is the Scientific Method, no different from what paid scientists do.

Discounting the latest health news because it contradicts something said 20 years ago is ludicrous. Criticizing government for funding such research is idiocy. Knowledge in the field of biology doubles every 6 months; knowledge isn't fixed - it's always changing and modifying what we think we know. Imagine chastizing the 2nd graders and taking away the lightbulb after they announced fruits produce electricity. It would prevent them from discovering the fundamental concept of a battery.

So given all that, I'm going to chastise scientists for making contradictory statements about the boob tube, but it's not contradictory because new findings have replaced older research. I'm really not sure why... maybe television's just getting a bad rap.

Television has been called a vast wasteland since the 1950s. TV has been shown to send brain activity into a sub-hypnotic stupor. The NIH recommends watching television as a possible solution if you can't get to sleep. The May 28, 2001 edition of U.S. News and World Report warned of television's mind numbing effects in an article about Alzheimer's disease prevention. The September 9, 2002 edition of same magazine warns against too much television for kids because it exhibits the opposite effect; that is, it over-stimulates the brain.

Anyone care to tackle that?

:: Bryan Travis :: 09/02/2002 @ 22:16 :: [link] ::