Category Archives: General

All Hail!

Well, it’s raining cats and dogs here at the moment, but that’s an improvement over what was happening just a few minutes ago:

Golf Ball Sized Hail

Yes, the golf ball is the smallest item in the picture.

Road Rage and the Sunday Driver

Tonight was a certainly a first for me.   I was just setting of on my way to Pflugerville to play volleyball when I was cut off by a minivan driver turning right on red (legal in the US, but not when someone—i.e. me—is coming through the junction).  I honked my horn, muttered a few choice words, overtook them, and that was that.

A couple of turns later I was catching up with someone in a truck and thought I would be able to overtake before we came to a T-junction where I had to turn right.  So I started to overtake, but the guy (I assume it was a guy) in the truck began to speed up too.  One of those people, I guess, who doesn’t like to be overtaken.  I probably should have backed off at that point, since the turn was coming up, but I judged that I could still overtaken in time, which I did, but I did leave it a bit close and he honked his horn at me as I pulled in front of him.  Fair enough.  I was in the wrong, and maybe the adrenaline was still pumping a little from the previous incident.

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AZIndex User Guide Under Way

AZIndex LogoI have just added the beginnings of an AZIndex User Guide to the blog.  The first installment is mostly a “Getting Started” guide for those who are just starting to use the plugin, but I hope to add full documentation for the plugin and all its many settings by the time it’s complete.  Unfortunately, since there are a lot of things to talk about with AZIndex, that is going to take some time — probably a few months — but I will continue to add new sections as I write them.

Feel free to comment on the AZIndex User Guide if you spot a mistake or if you find it too confusing in places.

Car Insurance — Are You Paying Too Much?

Have you noticed how quickly your car insurance rates seem to go up?  Doesn’t it seem that, even as you maintain your spotless driving record, the amount you’re paying every six months is going up by leaps and bounds?

Well, it was certainly happening to me.  When I signed up with Progressive Insurance a few years ago, I managed to cut my rate in half, from over $500 to about $250 for six months.  But since then, despite having no accidents and no traffic tickets, the rate kept climbing and climbing until the last renewal slip of $600 dropped into my mail box (and that’s with an excellent credit rating!).

That was enough for me to finally get my act together and I started shopping around.  It took me all of five minutes before I found a much better deal online at Geico Insurance — only $330 for six months.  Problem solved.

So why the big difference?  Simply because most service-oriented companies bank on customer inertia to rake in the big bucks.  It happens all the time with phone companies, cable companies, ISPs and so on.  New customers always get the best deal because companies know that once they’ve signed up, most people don’t pay much attention to what they’re paying in the months and years ahead.  Insurance seems to be even more insidious since many people expect their rates to go up as a matter of course, and they do, big time.

So, do yourself a favor.  Next time your car insurance is due (or even before that, since you can usually get a refund if you cancel early), take half-an-hour and visit just two web sites (at the minimum): and/or and get a couple of online quotes (remembering to specify the equivalent coverage).  You may be surprised to find how low the offered rates are.   And remember to check every time a renewal notice arrives.  Over a couple of decades you could find yourself saving several thousand dollars in insurance premiums if you do.

Oh, and feel free to let me know if you manage to find a better rate.

(Note, I have absolutely no loyalty or ties to either Geico or Progressive. They are both well known companies with a decent track record, but I am sure with a bit of extra surfing you will be able to find other sites you can use for further rate comparison shopping.)

I Shall Return… Honest!

Well, after a pretty decent start to the blog, the posts dried up pretty quick. No doubt that is the way of about 99% of all blogs started since the blogging concept began, but it will not be happening here, at least, not just yet.

I will be getting back to daily posting this week, even if I’m not sure if anyone will be listening :).

The only excuse for my silence is a rather unfortunate run of health since I got back from the UK–a fever, bronchitis, the resulting lingering cough from said bronchitis, the resulting sleepless nights from said lingering cough, cold sores up my nostrils (I kid you not!) and, to cap it all, a scratched cornea after pursuing an errant golf ball into the undergrowth. (Note to self, better golf == less bodily harm.)

So now that I am finally in reasonably rude health, if I survive tomorrow’s marathon session of volleyball at our annual Sand Cow tournament you shall be hearing a good deal more from me on this blog, including movie reviews, progress reports on the book, and other sundry items of interest to me, and possibly one or two other people… maybe.

Blowing Through the Windy City

Monday, for me, was all about getting into, and then getting out of Chicago. I won’t bore you with all the details, but when the airline captain comes on the intercom to announce there is a line of storms between the plane and landing at Chicago O’Hare, you know you’re going to be in for a very long day.

Our cozy little plane didn’t have enough fuel to wait in a holding pattern for the storm clouds to clear, so we made an unscheduled stop in Indianapolis to refuel. After a couple of false alarms they finally let us on our way and we arrived in Chicago over three hours late–and too late , by 15 minutes, to catch my flight to London.

While I have been involved in the Chicago O’Hare evening rush hour before, I have never seen it after everyone’s been delayed for two hours or more. The sense of collective suffering was palpable, as people compared notes on how long their had been waiting for their flights and how much their connections and travel plans had been messed up.

United’s Customer Service desk had a line that must have been at least 250 people long. I was fortunate that I was sent directly to the gate of the next flight to London where I managed to get a seat (with no elbow room) otherwise I would have been stuck in line until all the transatlantic flights had gone for the night. I eventually landed in the UK five hours late and minus my checked bag, which turned up on the doorstep 22 hours later.

So in the end, I was one of the luckier ones. I was chatting to people who were traveling to Kiev, flying to China, meeting up with a cruise liner, and so on. I have no idea if they got to where they needed to go, but I am sure the airport hotels were full Monday night. Maybe connecting through Chicago is a risky business at the best of times, but when you have further connections or tight travel schedules in your itinerary, well, you’re just asking for trouble.