Tuesday, December 30, 2008


For the first time ever, my wife and I have managed to roll a car's odometer over the 100,000-mile mark. Neither of us has ever had a new car. Most of the cars that I've owned have had over 100K on them when they have entered my possession. We've seen several cross that wondrous 200,000-mile mark, and we have had one intrepid little BMW 3-series that we managed to get well over the 300,000-mile marker. When we passed that one on, it had something in the neighborhood of 350,000 miles on it. We had to replace the differential twice, it had a salvaged 5-speed gearbox in it, but the original, un-molested engine would purr like a kitten, despite all of its fluid leaks.

At that point in time, we had two non-running Civics (which have since found new homes), a Prelude in a jillion pieces all over the garage (still there), and the BMW. Jenni had the BMW parked at work when a co-worker decided to slam her Jeep into it. The car was still very usable, but it was clear that we did not want to put the time, effort, or money into fixing the car to see how much beyond that 1/3 million miles we could push it. I worked at a Ford dealership at the time, and someone had just traded in their sub-one-year-old Nissan Sentra on a new 3/4-ton pickup (right before the initial massive gas price creep in 2005).

I saw that little 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R SpecV and decided to look a little more closely at it. The insurance company had made a repair estimate on the BMW, and we started looking into what options we had. The Sentra was new enough that it still had a factory warranty on it. I want to say that it has something like 25,000 miles on the clock. The dealership quoted me a price that was quite attractive. Yes, we could have gotten a new Sentra for that price, but it would not have been the high-compression 2.5-liter mated to a 6-speed mixer atop a stiff suspension with aluminum alloys wrapped around enormous Brembo brakes. It would have simply been a drowsy people mover.

Jenni and I took the car for a test drive one day after work. We had been looking for something light and nimble, with four doors and five seatbelts, newer than anything that we had previously driven, with a little more punch under the hood than your typical people-mover, and we still wanted it to get decent gas mileage. Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check. It looked like we had a winner! We inquired about a trade-in on the beat-up BMW. They told us that they might be able to give us $500.00 on it. I looked at the possibility of selling the Bimmer outright, and it looked like we would be lucky to get $1200.00 out of it in its well-used condition. As it turned out, we donated the old car to a single mother in need through AM Vets or some such organization so we could write it's book value off our taxes.

We were able to get a good loan through our credit union, and used our insurance settlement as a down payment. About a year ago, we were able to refinance the car for a far lower interest rate. The car is sitting just outside the office right now with 100,005-miles on the odometer. To date, we have done fluid and filter changes, replaced the radiator hoses, several sets of tires, replaced the front and rear brake pads on only one occasion, had it in the body shop twice, and it has had two repairs under factory recalls. There is an exhaust hanger that I need to replace, and now it needs spark plugs, an accessory belt, another oil change, an air filter, and another 100K-miles, apparently!

This has been a great car. I really miss my Hondas, but we have enjoyed this Nissan. Honestly, I miss the wagon format. I'm not crazy about owning a black car, and would not have purchased this one had it not nearly dropped into our laps. It's difficult to fault it for reliability or a nagging maintenance schedule. I would eventually like to do some performance work to it. A turbocharger would be nice, but I wouldn't even need to go that extreme to give it a little more oomph. If we did that, I would probably de-badge it and put those cheesy brake-dust shields under the wheels to hide the giant, Italian calipers and make it a real sleeper.

Perhaps in 2012, when we have run it over the 200,000-mile mark, we will trade it in on some high-strung micro-wagon in a non-neutral color. Until then, I look forward to many more years of this car serving the family.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama Christmas Song

Come they told me, Barack Obama
A brand new candidate, Barack Obama
Our hope and change we bring, Barack Obama
To elect him the king, Barack Obama
Barack Obama, Barack Obama

Some socialism Barack Obama
When he comes.

Little candidate, Barack Obama
I am middle-class, Barack Obama
I want government out of my way, Barack Obama
I cling to religion, Barack Obama
Barack Obama, Barack Obama

Shall I make you nervous, Barack Obama,
With my gun?

The NRA nodded, Barack Obama
I set my targets up, Barack Obama
I shot my gun for Him, Barack Obama
I shot my best for Him, Barack Obama,
Barack Obama, Barack Obama,

Then He sneered at me, Barack Obama,
Me and my gun.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Adventures of the Cats

As anyone who reads Jenni's blog knows, we have two Siamese cats. I have gathered that they have a recurring adventure while we are gone from the house on our daily routines. You see, being Siamese, they do have strange sounds that they make on various occasions for different things. At night, Emerson will sing about the food. We call it the "Food Is Good" song. Ferrule will stand outside our door early on Saturday mornings and tell us he is there. Each of them has their own call that they make when they are ready to poop - just so we know. Sometimes, when we get home from work, they frantically intercept us at the door, emphatically yelling and yowling at us. On these days, they have had an adventure of epic proportions that goes something like this...

Michael, Jenni, and Isaac had left the house that morning to go to wherever it is they go when it's lazy sleep time for ten hours everyday. The kitties, Emerson and Ferrule, had just settled into the lounge chair and gotten comfortable for their daily slumber when they were startled by a strange sound. It sounded as though someone was coming in the front door, but the family was not due home for hours. Heidi barked from within her crate. The two cats scurried into the entry hall, where before them stood a sparkling figure. She was like the humans, but only about 3-feet tall. She wore a shimmering dress, and had wings that looked like cicada wings. (mmmmmm, cicadas! *nom, nom, nom*) She carried a wand in her left hand. She spoke to the two cats in a lovely, crystal voice, "Where are your masters?"

"Yeouw?" the two responded.

"Let's try that again, shall we?" she said as she waved her wand at them. Magical sparkles fell from her wand and sprinkled all over the two cats.

"Ur wandz!" Ferrule giggled, "LOL! It makez me tikklez!"

"WTF?!?!?!!1!" Exclaimed Emerson in response, "U canz talk teh hooman talks!"

Ferrule said, "OMG! Ur rite!" realizing that Emerson was correct, "U kan 2!"

"That's right!" said the fairy in the hall, "I have granted you Lolspeak so that we can communicate. I'm the Fairy Queen, and I have some good news for your masters. Where are they?"

"Theys all gon 2 wurk rite now," Ferrule said.

"...2 git teh moneez 2 git teh fud!" Emerson added.

"Oh, I see," the Fairy Queen said thoughtfully. "Well, they have been chosen to receive The Magical Treasure of the Fairies. Unfortunately, I will have to go back to the Fairy Kingdom soon, and I will not be able to come back for a long time."

"OH NOEZ!" The cats exclaimed in unison.

"But," she continued, "maybe I could show you where the treasure is, and then you could tell your masters about it when they get home?"

The cats were very excited by this idea. The Fairy Queen waved her magic wand again, and both cats were able to fly. "Now, follow me and I'll show you where the treasure is!" Over the course of the day, Emerson and Ferrule saw wonders that cannot be described. They knew that they would haz cheezburgers 4 shur! After a long, and tiring journey, they found themselves back in their own home, saying good-bye to their new friend, the Fairy Queen.

"I have to go now," she said to them, "but you will tell your masters about the Magical Treasure, and where to find it, right?"

"O ya," Emerson said.

"We b gud kittehs an tell teh hoomans wher iz teh trezur," Ferrule said.

And then, the Fairy Queen departed. Even as excited as the two cats were, they quickly dozed back to sleep in their favorite chair, waiting for the return of the family. A little while later, they were awakened by the sound of the front door again. They were so excited, they ran to the door in anticipation. They could hear the key working the bolt. They could hear the voices of the humans as the door opened. As the family made their way in, the two cats were so excited that they couldn't contain themselves. They pushed into the doorway to meet the incoming people and started shouting the news.

"Meow! Wow! Mowowow!" Alas, it seemed as though their speech had gone away with the Fairy Queen, but that would not deter them. They only tried harder, and shouted louder, "MEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOW! NNNNNGGOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW! MMMMMMMMOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWOOOOOWWWWW!" They tried to climb the legs of their masters, as if to say "Why don't you understand? This is IMPORTANT! Listen to what we are saying!"

Of course, the cats bum-rushing us at the door is completely true. The rest of the story is inferred, of course. When we have this type of situation, we check their food and water, of course. We also make sure that their privies are not soiled. We make sure that none of their obvious needs are neglected, and they never are. They assault us with such wanton force that the rest of the above story is the only remotely reasonable explanation.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wedding Anniversary Plinking

Friday, December 5, 2008 marked the ten-year anniversary of the day that Jenni and I became legally married in the eyes of The State and our friends and family. Friday was not terribly note-worthy as we had things that we had to take care of during the day. Saturday, we had a brief and heartfelt restatement of vows. We promised to do even better for each other than we have in the previous decade. We confessed that the last ten have been largely blissful (but even the rough spots have only drawn us closer together), and we are each looking forward to whatever adventures we wander into together in the future.

The weather was idyllically gorgeous, and we held our restatement at the family property in Luther, OK, where we frequently camp. After our ~10-minute 'ceremony', we changed into our grubbies, and did some very romantic target shooting. We decided to try some 150-yard plinking with our M4 carbine, across its iron sights. This is the first rifle that either of us has spent any time shooting, and this was the first time that we had attempted any such reach with a firearm. This was also the first time that I've adjusted sights on a gun, so please bear with my left-pull. Here is the last 5-shot group that I put downrange:

That would be a 5-shot group that measures 3-inches across and 7-inches high. At 150-yards. Across iron sights. On a carbine. Oh, yeah. I'm looking forward to seeing if I can duplicate or improve upon these results on the next try.

Jenni also shot well, but did not embarrass me, much to my complete surprise. It seems like we usually trade off who will do better at the range from session to session, but she usually beats me to the punch-line on whatever new experience of its type. I fully expected her final group to be half of what mine was in this endeavor. It's not that she was not shooting well, it's that this was outstanding - that is to say that I far exceeded my expectations in this shooting attempt.

The pattern suggests that we always do our best shooting outdoors. I believe that the indoor gun-range is a head-game. I think that when the target is rolled all the way out to the maximum 30-yards, and there's that much paper to hit, something in my psyche won't completely take it seriously. When I'm aiming at a 6- to 18-inch target at some serious yardage, out in the open, that part of my brain gets nervous and I perform better. If I could figure out how to consciously alter that perception, I believe I could perform a lot better while burning far less ammo.

I'm happy with how things went on Saturday. Like I told my wife then, I'm more in love with her now than I was in the beginning, and I was crazy about her then. I did what I consider to be some damned fine shooting. The weather was great, and it was a feel-good weekend in general. Sometimes, it's just hard to complain.