Well, the new Scions are here…

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion at 1:42 am by Tomas

Scion (a marque of Toyota) ended production of two of their models, the xA and the xB (I have one of each) in December of 2006.

Today, 08FEB2007, they brought forth the two new models that will be “replacing” them, the xD and the, uh, “xB.”

My xB and xA are the 28th and 29th vehicles I’ve owned, and the xB is the first one in a long time that genuinely brings a smile to my face when I see it.

To just give the briefest of overviews, the Scion xB is a US version of the Toyota bB Urban Utility Vehicle (UUV) or Tokyo City Car that has been sold there for many years. It is an odd, boxy little vehicle that is ideal for the urban commando, going from place to place in their normal life.

Tiny on the outside, massive amounts of space on the inside, simple but sophisticated, reliable, economical – the ideal car to tuck into the cracks and crevices of city life, always ready to carry five friends, the luggage to the airport, one’s new large-screen TV set, or simply pick up the groceries. A friendly, unabashedly square little box on wheels.

Here’s mine, Vanilla:

Scion xB - Vanilla

The “replacement” for my 2005 Scion xB is, Ta-Da! the 2008 Scion xB, just introduced to the media today (I saw it in Miami in the middle of December)…

The new Scion xB is longer, wider, has a lower roofline, has a MUCH larger engine, and is no longer really a cute, economical “City Car.”

old and new xB comparison
(TOP: 2005 Scion xB, BOTTOM: 2008 Scion xB)

Here are a few responses I wrote at automotive enthusiast sites in response to ongoing discussions of “The Replacements.”

Another forum member posted:

“I think a lot people are missing the point.

The new vehicles are not being designed for current owners. You’ve already bought one, you’re in the family already. The new vehicles are being designed to appeal to people who have different tastes to you. Of course they’re going to look different!

The bottom line is that Scion was intended to bring new people into the Toyota family. By markedly changing the body styles every three years, you are maximising the market you are reaching out to.”

While I understand and at least partly agree with what you are saying, I have a basic problem with it, too…

The xB2 will be bought by a different group of people – those wanting a “longer, lower, wider, more power” vehicle with more mainstream styling. The Scion tC station wagon people.

Those who enjoyed the very strict “form follows function” cubical City Car (Scion xB Classic) don’t necessarily want a foot longer, 4-6 inches wider, 3 inches lower, bigger engined, curvey and stylish station wagon/van/mom-car.

BUT, while Scion is expanding it’s “Introduction to Toyota” market to a new segment, they have made an error, IMHO, in leaving those City Car/UUV people out in the cold: There is NO model in the Scion or Toyota lines in the United States that is at ALL a reasonable step to take when we retire our xB Classics. None.

The City Car or UUV was a bold idea to introduce into the US market, and for a number of reasons it took root and sold MUCH better than anyone at Toyota or Scion ever expected. It fired the imagination by being such an honest and unapologetically “square” car. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now that they have introduced that idea to the market, they have totally, absolutely and completely abandoned that niche. There is no vehicle in that segment, now that they have discontinued the xB Classic. This is a perfect opportunity for another manufacturer to import an established City Car into the US. (There are a number of them in other markets.)

If Scion felt the need to ‘expand’ their appeal to a new segment, Scion/Toyota needed to look at the new segment they created in this country, and plan for replacements for the xB Classics that WILL over the years need to be retired. Those folks will be looking for a replacement, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, left in that segment in this country.

I’ll be keeping my little urban box until it’s wheels fall off, I can only hope that when I need it, there will be a replacement. Right now, there is NOT. Nope!

One additional comment about Scion/Toyota abandoning the current xB Classic owners with no replacement vehicle – nothing else on the US market from ANY manufacturer to replace the “form follows function” City Car. The xB Classic was the only vehicle in that niche here (many others on a world-wide basis, but not here), and now there are none.

ANYONE anywhere near the cutting edge of any business KNOWS that retaining customers is much more productive and much less costly than beating the brush for new ones.

Scion was intended to be the “starter brand” for the Toyota family: Get people hooked on the quality and reliability of the Toyota family of cars and they would very likely look there first for their next vehicle.

The plans made public were to have a logical pathway, one car to the next, one brand to the next. Start with a Scion, move to the Toyota, graduate to the Lexus as one moved through life.

Scion’s first models were for the most part a very good starting point, and the model most identified with the Scion brand was that funny little box, the owners of which were nearly fanatical.

Not only was the box an unusual style to see in the US, where so many models look like half-melted bars of soap, it created a market for the Urban Utility Vehicle, the “Tokyo City Car.”

In many parts of the world, compact, space efficient, simple but sophisticated, reliable cars are recognized as the ideal urban vehicle. Not 8,000 pound SUVs or 3/4 ton pickups, or 20 foot long luxury cars, but tiny vehicles with massive interior space – the “tardis” of automobile design.

Anyway, Scion introduced America to the idea of the perfect city car: The Scion xB Classic.

The logical thing to do, now that there was a fanatical following in that niche market, was to expand the market, offer an updated version of that class vehicle in the Scion line – or even in the Toyota line – to give people a place to call ‘home’ when it was time for a new vehicle. If the ‘replacement’ vehicle in that niche was a Toyota, it would be a logical stepping stone for Scion customers to move up to the ‘next level’ of the plan.

Instead, what Scion/Toyota has done is to introduce America to the idea of the City Car, to create a quite viable market for that class of vehicle, to build a strong, vehicle aware body of involved owners, then discontinued not only the model, but the entire class of vehicle in the United States.

Scion/Toyota/Lexus should have established a path for their customers – a reasonable, logical, obvious, step-by-step path to follow for their replacement/upgrade vehicles.

Many of the Scion folk probably plan on keeping their cars for two or three years, then moving on to a new one. If Scion/Toyota/Lexus doesn’t have that next vehicle in their line-up, there is a good chance Toyota could lose that hard-won customer to another manufacturer who does.

Now would be an ideal time for Nissan to bring in their Cube, and for other manufacturers to look at the idea of a City Car for the US. Another space-efficient box on wheels.

It’s not that I’m disappointed with the xB2 – it’s a nice vehicle and I’m sure it will do well, even if it ISN’T a replacement for the xB Classic.

What I’m disappointed with is the planning folks at Scion and Toyota not offering ANY path to ANY vehicle when someone who needs/loves/enjoys/owns the Scion xB City Car needs a new one.

We’ve been abandoned. That is NOT a good feeling to leave one’s customers with…

The xB2 is a well designed answer to the vast majority of complaints people had about the xB Classic. It appears to me to be an easy winner, and I expect it to do quite well for Scion.

The “complaints” about the new xB2 are not coming from the large number of folks who complained about the xB Classic – they, and the new group of potential buyers who didn’t/wouldn’t buy an xB Classic, will be lined up at the dealerships to get one of these tC station wagons.

Yes, I seem to be a complainer, but what I’m complaining about is NOT the new vehicle – it’s a great answer to all the feedback Scion got about the xB Classic – but the fact that there is now nothing on the US market from Scion, Toyota, or anyone else, that offers a rational City Car. With the discontinuance of the xB Classic, that entire niche is now left vacant in the US.

Scion/Toyota should have done some planning for having a vehicle available, when they dropped the xB Classic, in that niche market they created here. They found an enthusiastic, nearly fanatical, bunch of customers in that niche, and it is a shame that they don’t seem to have followed up on retaining them.

That’s my first and largest complaint.

My other complaint is their retaining the xB name for what is not just an different vehicle, but a different vehicle in a totally different class. I will be forever explaining to people, when I say I have an “xB,” that I have the real xB, not the new impostor.

When Vanilla’s little wheels finally fall off, I will need a new vehicle. I’ll want another “City Car.” I hope that someone has one available in the US. It would be very nice if that someone were Toyota.

Tomas signature with Scion xB


The (sad) State of the Union…

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 1:53 am by Tomas

When I was a kid, going to school (Yes, there were schools back then, now pipe down!), I was taught that the President’s “State of the Union” address was essentially his yearly “stockholder’s report” to the people of the country.

I’ve gotten a number of stockholder’s reports over the years. It strikes me that most them reported on what has been accomplished over the previous year, the status of ongoing projects, positives and negatives facing the enterprise, and an accounting of how the financials are right now.

A small portion is usually dedicated to future plans, positives and negatives that may be in the path, and a best guess at where the enterprise expects be at the next report. Checkpoints and goals are enunciated so we can observe progress – or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, now, that we, the people, elect our president (and others) to run the company for us, er, I mean run the country for us. They work for us, despite what they seem to think at times.

Because of this, we have every right to expect a yearly accounting of what has been done, what is being done, how the economy is doing and if the expectations from last year’s report have been met.

Instead what we just got from this temporary leader of the country is “none of the above.”

This particular president seems to feel that he is above all that, and that he, and only he, has any right to that information. It would never occur to him that he actually owes us an accounting of his past year’s performance. We pay him to do a job for us, and have every right to expect performance. In his address, there were no past accomplishments, no current progress reports, no listing of objectives met, etc.

We got all sorts of nebulous words telling us what he thinks needs to be accomplished in the future, but all presented without a plan of how to accomplish any of it. No concrete objectives, no goals to be met, no time frames, and certainly no outline of how he, personally, plans to accomplish all those grand sounding phrases. Sound bites is what they are called, I believe.

Trying to wring an honest “State of the Union” address out of this president is a lost cause. He doesn’t feel that he needs to report to us what he has accomplished, what he has failed at, and the current status of works in progress. We are just a bunch of rubes that fund the whole works, while He is “The Decider” and “The Educator.”

No matter if you are a supporter or detractor of the current regime, if you honestly look at the State of the Union address given by it’s leader, you will find it almost totally lacking in ANY hard information on the current state of the union.

Please, please tell me, that with millions and millions of people to chose from, this it NOT the best we can do. If this is the “best,” may God save us all – we are doomed.

Might I make a humble suggestion?

Please vote every chance you get. When you vote, please try to look beyond pretty faces or grand sounding rhetoric, and vote for the person who has a chance to do the best job for us all. We have some very rough years directly ahead, and we need folks in office who are up to the task, and who can see beyond their own over inflated egos to real needs and real solutions. We need people in office, working for us, who can make some hard decisions based on what is best for the country and world as a whole, rather than what might be best for their political party, their friends, and their ego.

Please try to get the best leadership we can, the finest minds, the most intelligent, moral and dedicated to the job at hand that we can find. We don’t have that now and we desperately need to turn this all around.

Thanks for listening.


“READ CAREFULLY. By reading this article, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.”


Immigrants or criminals?

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 4:16 pm by Tomas

Most folks in the United States are historically recent immigrants.

Their families arrived from many places around the world over just the past few hundred years.

Looking at more recent times – let’s say, oh, the last 100 years, there have been rules to follow, conditions to be met, to enter most ANY country legally. The United States has such laws.

Today there are many recent immigrants demonstrating on the streets of the United States. Some of them are quite legitimate “legal” immigrants, who followed the rules, and some of them are “illegal” immigrants who’s very first action on entering the United States was to break federal laws.

“Illegal immigrants” are not even “immigrants” they are “illegal aliens.” I will use the correct term in the rest of this post. (As opposed to most of the national media covering the demonstrations today.)

When my ancestors came to this country, about a hundred years ago, they got permission, followed the rules, learned the language, became citizens, and did their best to blend in, to become an integral part of the society and culture they chose to migrate to.

(Sadly many of today’s immigrants refuse to even try to blend in, to become a part of this society and culture. They don’t even learn the language of their new country.)

The folks demonstrating today are doing so with the clearly declared goal of disrupting the functioning of the country and hurting the economics of as many businesses as they can to get their ‘rights’ recognized.

Even ignoring the fact that some are carrying flags of foreign nations where such demonstrations would not be allowed (and would be met with a military response), these are for the most part foreign nationals intent on injuring the United States with their actions today.

I have no objection to immigrants coming to this country and becoming a part of it – so long as they do so legally. I, myself, come from immigrant stock.

Do we have a “right” to keep people out of the United States? Yes we do. All countries do. The United States is a country that has always welcomed immigrants that followed our rules – and rejected those who intentionally subverted them.

Illegal aliens only “rights” are to be treated fairly as we eject them back to their own countries.

I guess my bottom line is that my objection is to illegal aliens – the foreign invaders currently marching on our streets in the millions – demanding a ‘path to citizenship’ and ‘health care’ and ‘free schooling’ and all sorts of “rights” that THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE AS PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY ILLEGALLY.

There is already a ‘path to citizenship’ for aliens, a path to all those marvelous rights: LEGAL IMMIGRATION.

Legal immigrants have by our laws the right to most everything any citizen does.

Illegal aliens do NOT deserve those “rights.”

Last year nearly 8,200 illegal aliens PER DAY poured across our southern border with Mexico and hid themselves in the cracks and crevices of our society. Think about that. Nearly ten thousand each and every day that came across the border illegally and stayed. That does not even count the number who went, or were sent, back where they came from.

Should millions of foreign nationals purposely disrupting the basic functioning of our country be viewed as “OK” or should that be viewed as an attack on our country?

Either way, what “rights” do you want to give to the millions of illegal aliens (just another term for criminal, since their first act, entering the country illegally, broke laws and made them criminals)?

Legal immigrants deserve, and receive, many rights. Illegal aliens should only have the right to be ejected.

Most legal immigrants work hard to become a part of this society. Illegal aliens want shortcuts.


PS: We also need a law declaring ENGLISH as the official language of the United States. When I walk into a business I want to be able to speak in English and be understood. (At least I don’t demand they speak Polish, my family’s language.)

So many immigrants today do not view the US as a ‘melting pot’ made stronger and more vibrant because we all bring our backgrounds and blend them with all the others, but as a place where they can keep to their ways and languages, even their own laws, and ignore the culture and society they chose to be in.

That is NOT what makes us strong. Not at all.


Getting Serviced…again {UPDATED 04-06-06}

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, World at 8:03 pm by Tomas

It seems there are fewer and fewer people with any personal integrity about just doing their jobs right. More and more often we seem to end up disappointed if we expect someone to just do something with honesty or craftsmanship. Repair work seems to be especially lacking in even a modicum of workmanship and pride in a job well done at many shops.

Having someone work on a vehicle is especially frustrating.

Without further comment (and redacting last names and e-mail addresses), here is a note I just wrote to the salesman who sold me my vehicle…


Hi, Lyle.

Why does one so often get upset with the utter lack of quality in service and repair jobs? Is it just that the people doing the jobs don’t feel responsible for doing the job they are being paid for?

(This isn’t YOUR problem, Lyle, but it IS Titus-Will’s problem. I’m not one who asks to get “something for nothing,” but I DO feel that I should get honest, quality workmanship for money spent. When I don’t, I make noise and if I’m bothered enough, I endeavor to make those who did a lousy job as publicly uncomfortable as possible.)

Sunday, on my way home from Canada in my xB, I had a rather large rock hit its windshield, kicked up by a truck in the construction zone on 405 in Kirkland. ๐Ÿ™

It was large enough, and hit hard enough, that it actually broke both layers of the windshield – right in front of me, the driver.

I pulled off at 124th in Kirkland to inspect the damage, and called my insurance company (Hartford). For glass damage, they have “SafeLite” field the calls for them.

I scheduled my vehicle for the first available repair time, which was today.

When the SafeLite technician removed the old windshield, we both saw that there was a fair amount of rust along the pinchweld at the top of the windshield. Closer inspection showed deep gouging of the paint and metal where the windshield had previously been removed for replacement. Those gouges had obviously not been primed or sealed when that job was done, which explained the rust on my vehicle at only 5004 miles.

The only work on the windshield was done a year ago when Titus-Will Collision Center replaced the hood and windshield because of vandalism.

While the SafeLite tech continued to remove adhesive from the frame, and clean the area, I called the Titus-Will Collision Center. I explained the problem, the young lady who answered said she would have “Pat” call me right back. That was at 1:07, and Pat called back at 2:37 (times per my cellular phone log).

I explained to Pat what the problem was – rust around the windshield caused by damage done to the vehicle while in the care of Titus-Will Collision. Pat remembered me, and my Scion xB, and even recalled having the windshield replaced twice while there, because the first replacement had totally unacceptable workmanship.

Pat asked if the new windshield was in yet (yes it was – the SafeLite tech is paid by the completed job, not the hour, and was on a schedule) and then asked if the rust was visible with the new windshield in place. I told him that no, the rust was not visible now that the windshield was installed, and that the SafeLite tech had put some sort of black ‘primer’ over the rust to try to protect against further damage. When Pat suggested I should have called before the new windshield was put in, I told him that I had – an hour and a half earlier.

Why am I writing this detailed narrative about finding hidden damage to my vehicle?

It is because, first of all, there is no excuse for it. None.

Secondly, putting primer over the rust by the SafeLite tech may or may not prevent further rust. If it does not, SafeLite specifically does NOT cover any problems because it was a pre-existing problem caused by someone else’s poor workmanship.

Since SafeLite has now replaced the windshield, my third reason is that Titus-Will can, and I expect will, simply look at any problems they caused as being moot because someone else has worked on that area and it is no longer their responsibility.

This leaves me, the owner of the vehicle, shouldering the responsibility for potential further deterioration and expense caused by the hidden damage to the vehicle while under Titus-Will’s care.

While Pat did promise to put some sort of note in my file about this, and told me to bring it directly to him should I have any further problem with the rust, I expect to have this vehicle for longer than I expect Pat to be at Titus-Will – and certainly for longer than he will remember anything about one insignificant vehicle out of thousands.

This narrative is my attempt to record details ‘for the record’ and a start at making folks as publicly uncomfortable as possible for shoddy workmanship and sloppy quality control.

What I expect when I pay for service is honest dealing and quality work. When I experience questionable honesty and/or poor quality workmanship, I become an unhappy customer, and a noisy one, in a very detailed manner.

Since this isn’t something directly under your control, Lyle, I don’t hold you responsible for this, BUT since you are a part of the organization, I would ask that you pass this on to folks there more directly concerned and responsible.

For now I need to write this up for further publication in the nation’s largest and busiest Scion site (ScionLife.com, where I am a moderator) and for publication in my personal Blog.

Take care,

I will let you know, right here, if there is any sort of response, or if my ‘complaint’ simply falls on deaf ears.

Tom's 2005 xB


I got a call from Lyle in response to my note. He did contact the manager of the Collision Center to discuss it, and the basic response was that Titus-Will Collision didn’t do the work (it was sub-contracted by them to another company) and they can’t afford to have someone watch everything the other company does.

While both statements are true, they in no way absolve Titus-Will of any blame.

Lyle also asked me where the “rust spot” was located and I explained it was NOT a “rust spot”, but a groove, gouged through the paint and into the metal, in the recessed area behind the windshield glass seal from about the top-center of the windshield to the top driver’s corner of the windshield, and that it was an interrupted line of rust 15-18 inches long and 1/8 inch wide. I also explained, again, that this was on a previously undamaged area of the vehicle, and that the damage was done when the vehicle was under the care of Titus-Will and hidden rather than corrected.

I was told by Lyle that the next time I need to have the windshield replaced, I should bring it in to their shop and they would look at it.

Sadly, we, as a family, have dealt with Titus-Will for decades, but as this is the ‘third strike’ in just over a year on this one vehicle, that likely will be changing. I like some of the people there, Lyle, Al, Elizabeth, for example, but as a customer I expect quality workmanship and honest dealing. If the ‘company as a whole’ fails in delivering, it doesn’t matter if I like the people there or not. I pay for results not friendship.

There are three other Scion dealerships reasonably close, I know some of the people working at two of them because of the dealership’s activity and strong support of the local Scion community. I will be considering one of those.



Merry Christmas, everyone.

Posted in Personal Topics at 12:05 am by Tomas

Well, it’s that time of year again, folks.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I’ve enlisted a little help from my good friend, Mr. Claus, to deliver to some of you a very special present this year.

I hope he gets the right places…

Santa dropping off a special present...
“Santa dropping off a special present…”



ATM Instructions…

Posted in Personal Topics at 2:27 am by Tomas

In another forum I enjoy (ScionLife), this bit of humor was recently posted:

A sign in the Bank Lobby reads: “Please note that this Bank is installing new Drive-through teller machines enabling customers to withdraw cash without leaving their vehicles. Customers using this new facility are requested to use the procedures outlined below when accessing their accounts.

“After months of careful research, MALE & FEMALE procedures have been developed. Please follow the appropriate steps for your gender.”


  1. Drive up to the cash machine.
  2. Put down your car window.
  3. Insert card into machine and enter PIN.
  4. Enter amount of cash required and withdraw.
  5. Retrieve card, cash and receipt.
  6. Put window up.
  7. Drive off.


  1. Drive up to cash machine.
  2. Reverse and back up the required amount to align car window with the machine.
  3. Set parking brake, put the window down.
  4. Find handbag, remove all contents on to passenger seat to locate card.
  5. Tell person on cell phone you will call them back and hang up
  6. Attempt to insert card into machine.
  7. Open car door to allow easier access to machine due to its excessive distance from the car.
  8. Insert card.
  9. Re-insert card the right way.
  10. Dig through handbag to find diary with your PIN written on the inside back page.
  11. Enter PIN.
  12. Press cancel and re-enter correct PIN.
  13. Enter amount of cash required.
  14. Check makeup in rear view mirror.
  15. Retrieve cash and receipt.
  16. Empty handbag again to locate wallet and place cash inside.
  17. Write debit amount in check register and place receipt in back of checkbook.
  18. Re-check makeup.
  19. Drive forward 2 feet.
  20. Reverse back to cash machine.
  21. Retrieve card.
  22. Re-empty hand bag, locate card holder, and place card into the slot provided.
  23. Give dirty look to irate male driver waiting behind you.
  24. Restart stalled engine and pull off.
  25. Redial person on cell phone.
  26. Drive for 2 to 3 miles.
  27. Release Parking Brake.

That called to mind a perfect example from back when I was still just an engineer…

The following is true, except for my changing the gal’s name … last I knew she was still an engineer with that company.

Brandi was a really nice gal, smart, good looking, good with people, good mom, etc. She was a fellow engineer, but she got the easier jobs, not because she couldn’t handle the more complex ones, but because our jobs had deadlines. We’d learned from experience.

The lack was not her technical knowledge, her lack was common logic. You could see this EVERY DAMNED DAY when she arrived at work.

Many of us parked in the parking garage under our building. All of the doors inside and outside that building were controled with card keys.

That included the garage entry and exit liftgates.

Brandi knew that when she arrived at the garage she would have to insert her card in the reader to get the gate to open for her car.

This is what would transpire as the line behind her, blocking commuter traffic on the busy street, watched, unbelieving.

Brandi would pull up to the garage entry, which left her car partly in the street. She would then grab her purse and start the extended search for her card key. When she finally found it, she would swipe it elegantly through the reader, and drop it in her purse. The gate, a small version of what one might find at a railroad crossing, would then rise majestically into the air and she would drive into the garage.

Once inside, she would park in her stall, walk to the door between the garage and the elevator lobby and again start the search for the same card key to open THAT door.

After finding her card, getting in an elevator, and arriving on the ninth floor, she would again search her purse for her card key to, you guessed it, open the door to our engineering offices.

Every morning saw this same activity. I kid you not!

I won’t begin to guess how many times others suggested she keep her card in one special place in her purse, to wear it on a chain around her neck, to clip it to her collar, do ANYTHING so she would have it ready for use.

I mean, she KNEW the first thing she needed when she got to the building was her card key, WHY couldn’t she have it ready to use? Why didn’t she find it before she even left her house? *sigh*

Brandi was also one to not start looking for her credit card, money, or even checkbook until the clerk, wait person, attendant, whatever, presented her with the final total for her bill.

I was with her ONCE when she was paying by check for something. It was an amazing performance. After the desk clerk had added up all the room charges for her hotel stay and presented her with the totaled bill she THEN began to look for her checkbook.

After she found that she then amazed the gathering crowd (all hoping, I’m sure, to check out and catch airplanes or whatever) by searching for her own pen to write the check.

Once she got it written, and dropped the pen back into her purse, she searched her purse for her card holder and searched the holder for her driver’s license.

After each step she would drop whatever it was she just used back into her purse. You should have guessed by now – when her license was handed back, she had to find the card holder and the empty space inside it before she could take her now paid bill and move out of the way.

Somehow the simple logic of keeping something in her hand when she knew it was to be used soon was beyond her.

Despite this amazing lack, she was an hard worker and excellent organizer.

I somehow feel that Brandi would understand the instructions for her gender in that joke…

Hope you all had a good Thanksgiving Day yesterday!


It’s time, again, for me to remember…

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 7:01 pm by Tomas

ALAN DENNIS CURTIS was born on July 13, 1948 and joined the Armed Forces while in WOONSOCKET, RI.

He served in the Air Force. In 1 year of service, he attained the rank of A1C/E3.

On December 6, 1969, at the age of 21, ALAN DENNIS CURTIS perished in the service of our country in South Vietnam, Binh Dinh province.

You can find ALAN DENNIS CURTIS honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 15W, Row 31.


He was one of the kids under me who did not see his mum again. He died from a single shot in the night.


Curtis, I remember you and salute you. You were so young. You were kind. You tried. You did your best. One cannot ask for more.


Last Assignment, USAF, AAVS 600PS Det16, RVN
(Click for larger image.)


A bit more on Cellular Phones

Posted in Personal Topics, SprintPCS, World at 2:27 am by Tomas

Lets talk about cellphones a little bit, OK?

My requirements for a cellphone are not super high-tech, or out of reach to today’s technology, they are really rather simple: I want my cellphone to be first of all a PHONE. I’m not after a low resolution digital camera, I’m not after an even worse video camera, I’m not after a micro web-browser, or e-mail device, or a postage-stamp sized TV, or a portable audio recorder, or an MP3 player, or a PDA, or a GameBoy, or a walkie-talkie, or a portable FM radio, or a flashlight, or a wireless modem, or a whatever else they are going to be putting into the latest “cellular phone.”

What I want is a high quality voice telephone with a high quality, full duplex speakerphone with adequate fidelity and volume to be useful in a vehicle. I expect this phone to have long battery life (which should be a snap with all the “extras” left out), reasonably compact (ditto) and reasonably rugged.

If it is a ‘candy bar’ phone (non-folder) I want to be able to lock the phone with one touch (not four levels down on some menu) so bumping a few keys won’t initiate a call, and I want to be able to unlock it quickly with a four digit PIN.

If it is a folder, I want to be locked when closed with no buttons active on the outside.

I want to be able to answer a call even when outgoing is locked.

I want the phone to be happy with being dumped in a pocket.

I’m willing to pay decent money for this phone.

Instead, what do I get offered by my carrier? Ever more elaborate feature sets on their “better” phones, or cheapo ‘entry level’ phones if I don’t want all the whizzbang features.

The closest I can come in my carrier’s most recent offerings (SprintPCS) is the Sanyo SCP200. It actually has a duplex speakerphone and is minus most of the extra features. Thing is, it is an ‘entry level’ phone, and the speakerphone volume and fidelity really shows it. *sigh*

Right now I’m using an old Sanyo 4900, which has a very solid speakerphone that works great from it’s clip on my car’s dashboard. It even has great battery life (seven hour talk time).

Sanyo 4900 phone on dash

It works well, and I even have a ‘spare’ should this one fail. The only bad features are in the locking of the phone (cannot lock directly – must search down several levels in the menus) and it’s size/weight. It is a fairly large and very heavy phone.

Actually, I would even be willing to accept some of the ‘extras’ I disdain above if the phones in the US were chosen from some of the better designs available in Japan. Sadly, the well designed yet inexpensive phones like the Talby by Sanyo (a designer model with speakerphone, 1.3M camera, web browsing, messaging, etc., that sells for $150) never make it into this country.

Sanyo 'Talby' cellphone

There are many other fine designs out there, by many manufacturers, but mostly the hideous silver-painted plastic blobular designs make it here.

Anyway, my biggest question is: Why don’t we have available a selection of high quality cellphones designed solely for making phone calls???


Is Tomas enough of a geek?

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 7:30 pm by Tomas

I have seen interesting stories on how various people arrived at the F/OSS (Free/open source software) supporter outlook they now have. A very typical end-user path is from Microsoft Windows to Linux; Microsoft Office to Open Office; and Microsoft Internet Exploiter, er, Explorer to Firefox.

I didn’t follow that path.

I’d guess I was lucky in that I never used Microsoft Windows either at work or at home.

That’s right, not once in over thirty years of using computers…

Work Computers

For years, both in the military and in my later civilian jobs, I was just a low-life end-user, neither knowing nor caring what operating system the computer was running, just worrying about remembering how to talk to the doggone thing.

Then, because I was an engineer familiar with the jobs our new massive “TIRKS” (Trunks Integrated Record Keeping System) application would have to handle, I was put into the beta testing and user-support team for TIRKS for my state (along with about 15 others).

TIRKS ran on IBM and Amdahl mainframes under AIX and UTS (the UNIX flavors those big pieces of iron ran) and kept track of millions of designed service circuits in our region and all the bits and pieces that made them up.

After about a year or so of sorting out user problems, Bell Telephone Labs came calling, wanting someone to write a series of manuals for use when installing and testing Analog Data Services in the Bell System. I was one of three people recommended in our four state area (because of some user manuals I wrote for TIRKS), and ended up being chosen by the evaluation team that came out from New Jersey from AT&T and BTL.

The time I spent at the Labs was my REAL introduction to computers, as all of the BSPs (Bell System Practices) were written using the ‘ed’ or ‘vi’ editors and the ‘nroff’ and ‘troff’ formatters in UNIX.

When I walked into my newly built office in New Jersey I was given a slip of paper with my user_ID and Password, handed the UNIX III manuals, and given a quick overview of my HP terminal with built-in thermal printer.

I learned what I needed to know about UNIX and it’s built-in utilities fairly quickly, and found ample information and experts scattered about to learn some other things, too. Actually, the usual mix of folks at the Labs, mostly uber-geeks, were always playing tricks on each other, so learning many of the ins and outs of UNIX was just self-preservation. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I finished researching and writing that series of manuals I went on to help develop and then write some of the documentation required for the breakup of the Bell System by the Federal Court under Judge Harold H. Greene.

When I returned to what was left of the telephone company, I went back to engineering, and ended up developing, engineering, and directing installation of high-speed digital services equipment at customer’s premises (we installed some of the very first T-1 lines to customers). My engineering district got it’s computer support from three mainframes running specialized applications under AIX, and our 219 Apple Macintosh desktops.

During the years that I was an engineer, project manager, and engineering manager in that group I ended up writing quite a few simple shell scripts I and others used throughout the day, and a couple of very minor “C” programs for our use.

When I left that company, I and a friend started a small consulting and design firm – he was the people person and I was the techie – and up until I had a stroke and could no longer do that we and our employees used Macs.

Home Computers

At home, when I returned from Bell Labs, I bought my first “home computer.” Since all I knew was UNIX I bought a UNIX based machine – a Radio Shack TRS 16B+ running Xenix 1.0…

That machine not only was my “home desktop computer” but also was a mail and USENET server for myself and a few friends I gave dial-up accounts to. It was a happy little machine with a few Hayes modems, and a full load of RAM – all 768K of it…

Over the years I added a TRS Model 100 laptop and assorted Macs. Until recently I still had that original UNIX engine, and the laptop, but I shipped the UNIX engine off to a small ‘puter museum in Illinois this year.

Here’s a pic of Boris in the back of my Scion xB getting ready for the ride to the shipping company.

Boris in Box...

These days I just run a small wireless LAN with four machines on it, three desktop Macs and a Mac laptop. All four machines access the world via a high-speed cable internet connection.

Sufficiently Geeky?

As you can see, I’m not really a computer geek, merely a computer user. I’ve never had formal computer training. I view my computers as tools that make it easier for me to do other things, not as ends in themselves. I certainly am not a programmer.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t mention Linux.

I remember when I was still a serious UNIX end-user hearing about some guys trying to put together a UNIX-like kernel while blindfolded and wearing earplugs (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much), but I didn’t really give them much chance for real success.

I really did appreciate the idea of “GNU” and “GPL” and, eventually, “Linux” but never got involved in any real way. I was a BTL UNIX and BSD UNIX and Mac OS type.

Over the years, I pretty much wandered away from UNIX as other end-user, GUI oriented operating systems became more and more useful. I’ll admit, though, I was quite pleased when Apple decided to base their latest OS versions on a flavor of good old freeBSD.

While using Mac OS X I’ve acquired quite a fair assortment of F/OSS applications – and most of them were excellently done. I was very pleased to be able to directly support the developers by buying their commercial products or optionally making ‘donations.’

So where am I?

I didn’t follow the most common route to get where I am with computer use – in fact I’ve NEVER used Microsoft Windows even though at one time WHG III and his company were clients. I started with UNIX, went to Macs, and eventually came full circle when Apple based it’s latest OS on UNIX.

So, am I, too, a F/OSS supporter? I don’t use Linux, I use a proprietary GUI (Aqua) on top of an open-source OS (Darwin) along with a mix of both proprietary and open source applications and utilities.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to be a F/OSS supporter or not.

Sometimes the more radical sorts of F/OSS uber-geeks seem to insist that using ANY proprietary software leaves me with the unwashed.

Others are not so critical.

At least I can say that in over 30 years of computer use I’ve never used Microsoft Windows (though I did use Xenix, which was the Microsoft port of UNIX III to desktops).

These days I run my little LAN as a “Microsoft Free Zone” and maybe that will at least give me a day-pass into F/OSS land… ๐Ÿ˜‰

What do you think?


I’m a Frapper…

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, World at 10:16 pm by Tomas

Google has another neat new beta project going – www.frappr.com

It is a “friends map” to show how you and your friends (people with some sort of common interest) relate geographically.

Right now the only Frappr Map I’m a part of is one started up by David (skybiker) at ScionLife.

It is an interesting project in showing the distribution of ScionLife members (at least, those members who sign up), and therefore Scions.

You can look at the ScionLife “Frap” here: www.frappr.com/scionlife


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