Legit


Well, it’s official: as of today, I’m a permitted motorcycle rider according to the wonderful state of California.

Permitted but not licensed. I will get that one I pass the skills exam, the behind-the-handlebars test that shows the DMV that I can skilfully navigate through a row of five cones and a “lollipop” course, both scenarios that drivers routinely encounter on a daily basis here in the Golden State.

I’m being facetious, of course.

But yeah, anyway. I had been reading the official handbook and studying for the written exam off and on until I got a good idea about what the test might include. Once I believed I had learned enough, I went online to schedule an appointment to take the written exam.

That was a week ago. I now had a week to make sure I knew my stuff, so I then started taking some online quizzes that are supposed to be very similar to what the DMV administers. I took them over and over this past week plus studied the handbook in PDF format. And while you get three attempts to pass the exam, I wanted to be done with it on the first try, hence my endless studying.

And people, I did that. I fell asleep countless times with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 on my lap, the screen still displaying the page where I left off. For that week, I did nothing online at night. I wanted to get this exam done and over with.

Well, today was the day I made it happen and like most Californians, I despise dealing with the DMV. Even with an appointment the place is always packed with not just people who need to be there, but also their entire families complete with screaming kids. And, at least to me, most people there seem to be shady or of criminal intent. Call me crazy but that’s just how I feel. It’s a perfect environment for taking tests for a legal document that shows you know how to drive.

Fortunately, freaky people and families aside, my process turned out to be painless, probably because a) I had an appointment and b) I filled out my forms properly. That said, I don’t think the appointment expedites things as much as correct paperwork does. It makes the otherwise miserable DMV employees a bit less stressed when they are dealing with someone who is competent.

The good thing about going to the DMV is that the average person doesn’t have to go there more than maybe a dozen times in their life and usually there are years between said visits. At 45, I’d wager to say that I’ve been there maybe a total of six times for exams and behind-the-wheel tests. I couldn’t tell you the last time I was there but I do know that when I took my exam, it was on paper.

It’s not like that anymore. The DMV now uses touchscreen monitors which I think is an attempt to not only cut down on paper use but to also discourage cheating. The exam questions are no longer numbered as they used to be on paper so there’s no real way to cheat. They could also be completely randomized as far as I know, and your incorrect answers are shown immediately after you touch the Submit button.

But I didn’t know this when I started taking my first exam which was the standard driving test that I was required to take for some reason. I answered the questions and didn’t know if I was getting them right or not until, finally, I got one wrong. I missed only one question on the driving exam.

Then I started the motorcycle exam. This was it and I was nervous.

I read the first question and chose my answer: it was wrong. Ugh. I was screwing this one up already. That sort of set the stage for the rest of the exam with me taking my time with each question, pressing the Submit button with my face wincing as if in pain.

The exam seemed to go on forever with me missing a few here and there. I think I was up to about five wrong answers when I started to feel the pressure. I didn’t know when it was going to end when finally, after what seemed like Question 5,742, I submitted my answer.

There was a message on the screen congratulating me on passing the motorcycle exam. I took a deep breath, pumped my fist, then finally smiled. It was over, and I can finally ride without fear of being pulled over. Because, you know, police are always looking for guys on scooters to bust for exceeding the speed limit.

I walked over to waited in another line to turn in my paperwork for approval. The clerk congratulated me, I had my picture taken (it’s 1,000x better than my Class C license, back when I was a 300-pound gastropod), and I was done. She then told me I had a year to schedule my skills test which gives me some time to get even more used to riding. I’ll wait a bit to schedule that one.

In the meantime, I’m just happy to have gotten this far and that my endless nights of studying paid off.

Composed on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 using the WordPress app, because the laptop was too cumbersome for me tonight.

Advertisements

Haunted


I Ain't Afraid Of No GhostFolks, I’m going to come right out and say it: our house is haunted.

There have been at least three things that have happened over the course of about a month that have convinced me that such is the case and no, they have not been ordinary. If they were, then obviously I wouldn’t be going out on a limb and writing this post.

And before you ask, no, I’m not going to call in Zak Bagans and his idiot Bro Crew from Ghost Adventures. That show is a joke and Bagans is about as bright as the guy who bagged your groceries today.

Wait, what? Anyway, here we go.

Incident 1: The Flyer
We’re those kind of people who get more junk mail than anything else. No honestly, we get more than you. It’s a fact and there will be no arguing over it, mister/ma’am.

One day, Ann had gone through the daily pile of junk mail and kept a flyer for some reason. It was made from a heavy card stock and was sitting on the kitchen table. I wandered into the kitchen to grab a snack of some sort. My back was leaning against the countertop near the sink and I was facing the kitchen table – and the flier went flying off the table and landed on the ground near the pantry. It wasn’t the fact that it flew off the table that caught my attention; it was the manner in which it did.

The flyer took off  like it was tied to a string that was yanked very hard and while in flight, it had absolutely no rotation. You know, like how an index card would spin if you flung it across the room? Yeah. This was nothing like that. It took off at a speed that couldn’t have been attributed to any breeze that may have been going through the house at the time. It was sheer force that made it take off like that and in a straight line to the floor. I have no explanation for how it happened but I saw it with my own eyes.

Incident 2: Early Morning Footsteps
When I’m not blogging or sitting at my drawing desk, I’ve made it a habit to relax in my huge lounge chair in the den, kick up the leg rest, pop in my earbuds, and listen to some white noise to lull myself to sleep. Even if I don’t feel like sleeping, the white noise also helps to mask my tinnitus which can he downright unbearable at times.

And sometimes I fall asleep in the chair and Ann will leave me there, knowing I’m perfectly comfortable, while she retires to the bedroom to go to bed. This is what happened the other night when I woke up around 4:30 am and took my earbuds out (they had been in my ears since around 10:30 pm the previous night). Shortly after I took them out and started rolling around in the chair, I heard the sound of footsteps going into the kitchen.

We have two cats and a dog that like to walk around the house as they see fit, but the sound was not like any they can produce. We know when Arliss (dog) is walking because we can hear his claws clacking on the hardwood floor and the cats, well, they are pretty light on their feet and don’t make much sound, except when they run. And even then, it sounds nothing like when any of the humanoids in the house walk.

And that’s what this sounded like: human footsteps going into the kitchen. I stayed in my chair and looked over in the direction of the kitchen and didn’t see anyone. I got up and checked on Anthony and he was sawing logs. I went into the bedroom and asked Ann if she had been up a few minutes ago. Nope, everyone was asleep except for me, but I know what I heard.

Incident 3: The Purse
This happened just yesterday. I was in the kitchen – I really need to stay out of there – to get a drink. Just as I was leaving to go into the living room, Ann’s purse (resting on the chair) fell onto the ground.

But like the flyer, it didn’t appear as if it was just gravity that made it move. The purse looked like it was pushed hard off of the chair and, get this, did a complete 360 in the air before landing right-side up. Seriously, it made one complete rotation before hitting the ground and nothing fell out of it.

So far these are the only things I’ve seen happen around here and haven’t actually seen any shapes or forms nor have I captured any in the background of pictures I’ve taken in the house. As for who we might think it could be, well, we do have an idea.

Ann’s grandfather was a neat freak. The house we live in was his, and it can be quite messy at times.

Needless to say, Ann and Anthony spent the day cleaning it up while I was at work.

I’ll keep you posted if anything else happens but until then…

A Mickey Mouse Job, Part Deux


As you might recall in a previous blog post, I had an interview with The Happiest Place on Earth and in the end was given a note telling me that I was pretty much short-listed should any positions become available.

Deep down inside I never thought they’d call, but I got an email a few days ago stating that they were still interested and to schedule a time for the Casting Agent to call me. I did just that.

My interview was scheduled for 10:30 am today, July 18, just one day after Disneyland’s 59th birthday.

They called 9:20 am. The Casual Part-Time position of Vacation Planner (read: Ticket Seller) was offered.

And I turned it down.

Mickey-Mouse-Surprised

I know there are tons of people in this world that would most likely kill at the chance to work for Disneyland and are yelling at their collective monitors right now because of my decision, shaking their fists in disgust.

But most people I know who do work there are a tad bit obsessed with The Mouse and all he represents. But I’m not one of those folks.

I applied at a time when I needed a job and was fully committed to working when they wanted me to. We also had two cars back then and the situation was a little different. Yes, I could ride my scooter but coming home at odd hours of the night could prove to be unsafe.

Things have changed since I applied and I wasn’t ready to commit myself to it so I did what I had to do, and I have even more reasons.

First, the hours. There was simply no guarantee of the hours I would be getting which would defeat the purpose. For a part-time job that requires 100% of your time, I think that’s kind of ridiculous. At least I have some flexibility at my current job, so much so that I was able to land a second job just this week. More on that later.

Second, things are happening at work. Our manager has his eyes on two people that he wants to promote as soon as Corporate allows him to, one of which is yours truly. It may take a few months but I am guaranteed it is going to happen. Besides, I’ve already paid my union dues and I’m never getting them back.

Third, I have a family. As a neophyte, The Mouse needs you to be there whenever he wants you to and that includes Friday nights, weekends, and holidays. That’s zip-a-dee-doo-dah fine and well for someone with absolutely no commitments (*cough*my brother*cough) but I have mine, and I enjoy the time we have together. I’m just not ready for that – at least at minimum wage.

Then, of course, is the adherence of their strict personal appearance policy or the “Disney Look.” I sort of don’t like someone having control over the way I look. That should be my choice.

I understand that there are magical perks when it comes to working there, such as free Park entry to ANY Disney Park in the world and, of course, the mystique that comes along with saying that you work for the original Disneyland, Walt’s dream-come-to-life.

I had to weigh the good with the bad here and in my case, there was more bad than good. During the interview I did tell them that I would honestly love to commit to it, I just can’t do it with my current impending promotion and second job. The Casting Agent even asked if it would interfere with my current job so that should tell you what they expect.

So I won’t be selling anyone Disneyland tickets any time soon, and I think I’m okay with that.

Now, onto the second job.

Seeing my hours getting cut at my current job, I felt I had to to something in order to make up for them. I was scouring Craigslist nightly since most job sites aren’t really offering anything I was interested in.

But Craigslist offered one that seemed intriguing, a simple retail position. I’ve worked retail. Should be easy. I applied, interviewed, and was hired on the spot for a part-time position at store that will be opening soon. If you’re a fan of the blog, I’m sure you’ve heard of it before.

So now I have two jobs, both of which are close enough for me to ride my scooter around safely. One is less than a mile from home; the other might be a little over a mile away. I could work both on the same day if I needed to without any goofy restrictions or need to be available all hours of the day or holidays (although I did work on the 4th of July). When compared to what The House of Mouse wanted, my work-life balance will be much more stable this way.

And that makes me happy…just not happy enough to link to the Pharrell Williams song of the same name…

Ten Years of Nonsense


3534263

Ten years. That’s how long I’ve been dumping my brain droppings onto the Interwebs with this here blog.

And through it all, The Blog Formerly Known As SickSenseOfHumor.net has seen its share of cosmetic changes yet one thing remains the same, at least for the most part: the content.

Yes, I started off rather brash with my opinion of local television coverage of wildfires. And for what it’s worth, my opinion of the coverage has not changed. I still find it unnecessary.

I’ve also let it loose on a certain church founder who believed that his church needed more money because attendance was down. Ahem.


Then for a long time, nothing of major significance happened – at least that I can recall off of the top of my head. Well, in 2013 tried to blog each and every day for a solid year and was pretty committed to it…
for 75 days at least.

I stopped there and took a little break. In fact, I even “retired” from blogging back in 2009.

It lasted two days.

tenThen, on a personal note, I decided that studying the way of the Buddha was probably the best thing for me since I won’t and still can’t commit myself to any one Christian belief. I did my best to keep that going and still dabble on occasion but figured that it’s just best to be good to people while you can. Buddhism can get complex if you’re not ready for it.

So as you can see, I’m like a bad penny: I always seem to come back, and I intend to keep it that way.

But enough about me. Let’s go over some blog stats.

  • Number of posts: 1,196 including this one. That’s an average of 119.6 every year or the equivalent of blogging around 1/3 of the year.
  • Total number of views: 105,583 as of this post. That’s pretty weak.
  • Best Day: 1,120 views. There is no link to the post as I deleted it once I felt that I had been duped on the information I was given, and by following links to the message board where my traffic was coming from that day. Let’s just say that it was on that day when I decided to trust my brother a little less on, well, everything he says.
  • Facebook followers: 20. Again, pretty lame.
  • Other followers and subscribers: 244 via WordPress and some more on Gravatar. I have no idea how to check.
  • Total comments: 1,429 and most of them are me replying to people.

So there you go. Ten years of blogging in the books. And yes, I intend to keep it going for however long I think I need to.

And now, if you don’t mind, it’s time to celebrate the only way us old(er) people know how.

Goodnight. I’m heading over to my Barcalounger and catching some zees.

Our Friday


Last Friday, Ann and I had a list of things to accomplish:

  1. Sell our old refrigerator. It was an extra taking up room in the garage and hadn’t been used on a regular basis since I was laid off in 2009, back in a time when I actually made decent money and we could afford to buy extra groceries and store them in the garage. It was money sitting around that we could use.
  2. Get rid of the Kia Optima. While it seemed like a wise decision at the time, what was our 20th anniversary gift to each other turned out to be a nightmare when I was let go from my last proofreading job. Unemployment just didn’t pay enough and I couldn’t find a job so despite our best plans to keep the thing, we just couldn’t do it.
  3. Look into a means of transportation for me. I had told Ann that while I can easily walk or ride my bike to work, there may be days when I need to go a little further than either foot or bicycle could take me – comfortably, at least. A scooter of some sort was the best solution we could come up with so we had a list of stores to check out.

So let’s cover each and every bullet in this list.

The Fridge
IMG_20140702_180325We had plugged it in a few days before so that potential buyers could see that it was working. Then Thursday morning, I placed an ad for the fridge on Craigslist and got a bite later that night via text message. We were initially asking $400 for it which we thought was reasonable considering it was over $1500 brand new.

The buyer thought otherwise. Stating that she was unemployed (and a host of other sob stories I won’t elaborate upon), she told me that renting the U-Haul truck cost more than she expected and asked if we would take $280 for it. Ann and I discussed it and agreed we would. We arranged the pick-up time of 9:30 am on Friday morning since we had planned to be at Carmax to sell the Kia at about 10 am.

They didn’t arrive until 11 am but the buyer was keeping in touch with me via text message (traffic on the freeway, etc.). Both of us were nearly livid despite her good nature. But when she and her helpers arrived to pick it up, she then said it wasn’t what she expected and that she thought the entire unit was stainless steel, not just the doors. You can guess where it went next.

That’s right. She wanted to pay only $200 for it. By now, Ann was fed up with all the bargaining and just agreed to take it to get this person out of our hair. I concurred. Take your fucking shit and leave. We already wasted our day waiting for you to arrive. Hell, I even threw in an old tube TV that someone down the street was getting rid of. I was going to use it for my NES but figured I’d never get around to it, so I let her have it.

The lesson learned here: don’t sell shit on Craigslist. Just don’t. You’ll get burned.

The Kia Optima
20140711_125642What you see here is the last picture I ever took of our 2013 Kia Optima as it sat waiting in line at Carmax. We had it appraised earlier in the week for X-dollars and came by to rid ourselves of it.

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as one might think, especially when the vehicle has negative equity. This means we had to pay the difference between what Carmax offered and what the buyout quote on the lease was. Yes, we had to take out a loan with Frankie and Knuckles to cover the cost of the negative equity but in the end, we left free and clear of the car we could no longer afford.

Now let me tell you about Kia. They are jackwipes. Total, complete jackwipes. Shortly after I was laid off, I called them to ask what we could do in order to keep the car: defer payments, return it, sell it, etc. Their only suggestion was to sell it to a private party which in essence we did. But when I inquired about deferring payments, they refused to help because it was a leased vehicle.

Hmm. That’s strange. When I had a 1991 Nissan Sentra, Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation was kind enough to defer two payments for California residents after the Northridge Earthquake and a bunch of wildfires – even if they were nowhere near either. When we leased a Ford Escape and I was laid off, a call to Ford was all it took to defer three months of payments so that we could get ourselves back on our feet. Toyota also lent a hand when when we needed some financial help.

Kia? No way. They wouldn’t budge. They are the cheapest and most unsympathetic group of bastards I’ve ever dealt with, and they even gave Carmax a hard time about selling the Optima to them. I will never, ever buy another Kia or for that matter, Hyundai. Same thing.

The lesson learned here: be like me and don’t even think of buying either. Kia will not help you when you need it.

The New Ride
It was a long day by now. We took $200 less than we wanted for the fridge, the selling process at Carmax took much longer than expected (three hours, mostly because of Kia being a bunch of jackwipes), and we were adjusting to the reality of having only one car. It sort of hit us hard and kind of left me deflated. But we had to press on and look at the possibility of getting me a way to get around.

I had been doing some research about scooters and had a few in mind and where I wanted to check them out. Earlier in the week I visited a local shop that had a few Lance scooters in their tiny showroom.

What, you’ve never heard of Lance Scooters? It’s okay. I bet most haven’t. Anyway, it all sounded okay and then I asked about financing.

They wanted half the cost of the scooter as a down payment and post-dated checks for the remainder of the term. They would deposit them as each month came around.

Yeah, no. I didn’t have the $1200 to put down.

After we sold the Kia, we went to another local store to see what they had. It was a small selection and they were only 50cc, meaning a small motor that wouldn’t go very fast or keep up with traffic. Besides, they salesman didn’t seem to interested in helping. By the way, the used ones they had were actually Honda Metropolitan models that were used by Rose Parade officials during the parade. Kind of cool, but only 50cc. Next.

It was getting late and I wanted to check one more place which was by the in-laws’ house. By now we were all cranky and in need of a break. We went to Del Amo Motorsports and spoke with a cool guy named Martin about what it was I was looking for.

He showed me everything that would do the job and then some. In the end, the overall best deal was the Yamaha Zuma 125, the number obviously implying the motor type (125cc). It had power, it didn’t look like a wannabe Vespa and unlike a Lance scooter, parts would be easy to come by should it ever have problems. It’s a Yamaha, you know.

Then the number-crunching game began. I always hate that part of making a big purchase and was hesitant about it. Then again, the cost was nowhere near that of a car nor were the payments. In fact, they are about 1/4 what we were paying on the Kia Optima. After some wheeling and dealing we came to an agreement, shook hands, picked out a helmet that was part of the deal and then like the rest of the day, waited – again.

But this was a good waiting period. Things were happening and everyone at this shop was a total pro and very thorough. I signed some paperwork, got approved, then was made a fool of as they announced over the paging system that they had sold a Yamaha Zuma 125.

Then I banged the gong to let everyone in the store know I was the lucky dude. The scooter was prepped, I was shown how to operate it and then nervously, hopped on it and took it for a spin.

Did I mention that it had been years since I last rode a scooter and damn near hit my own car with it? Yeah. Maybe not.

But it was different this time. Maybe all of the cycling I’ve done has made me more aware of things and not as crazy when riding because I handled riding this like a champ. It took a few runs up and down the street adjacent to Del Amo Motorsports to get a feel of it but once I did, I had it down.

The lesson learned here: buy your scooter from Del Amo Motorsports. You won’t regret it, and tell them Dave sent you. I get rewarded for referrals!

The End of a Long Day
The ride home was fun and I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way. It was literally fun. With Ann following me, I took the long way so as not to encounter much traffic. It was at an open stretch of road with no cars around that I decided to open it up a little and hit a speed of 45 MPH, which feels a lot like 90 MPH on a scooter. I took it easy the rest of the way home.

When I pulled into the driveway I had a smile on my face and told Ann, “You need to get one of these things!”

And for what it’s worth, here’s a collage of my new ride.

2014-07-12-10-33-19_deco

The mileage on this thing is estimated to be around 89 MPG but naturally, depending on a number of factors including driver’s weight, YMMV. The Optima never managed to deliver more than 19 MPG even while using cruise control. It had horrible mileage despite what Kia claims.

With the scooter’s 1.6 gallon tank and an estimated 89 MPG, we’re looking at around 142.4 miles per tank. It doesn’t seem like a lot but with me working so close to home and not going very far otherwise, that could last me a long time.

Besides, who couldn’t get used to this?

2014-07-13-16-21-40_deco

It didn’t have a full tank when I drove it home and with me riding it home and doing a little local riding plus going to work, the gas had gone down to a little over half a tank.

It may now cost me $5 to fill my tank versus the $25 for half a tank on the Optima. And in addition to cutting payments by 75% versus what we paid on the Optima, the cost to insure this is lower as well.

We’re saving money on insurance. We’re saving it on gas. We’re saving it on monthly payments.

For everything we put up with last Friday, I’d say we ended the day making the right choice.