Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Repair Brick Chimneys?

This article in the Santa Rosa Press- Democrat got me to thinking about something again. The article is about a kid in Napa that had a chimney fall on him during their earthquake of a few days ago. It nearly killed him. I had to wonder if his parents are going to rebuild that chimney?

Many people do. I've seen it here in Eureka many times. When an earthquake damaged our chimney back in the early '90s, I tore it down. The part sticking above the roof, anyway. But I can think of two very large chimneys almost within sight of my house that were damaged and repaired. Now they have the potential to be damaged again or even collapse.

Make that three or more chimneys if you count the Arkley's. Theirs were damaged back in the 2010(?) quake and they seemed to go to some effort and expense to rebuild them. I had to ask Cherie Arkley why they went through all that effort when they could have simply replaced the damaged sections above the roof with stovepipe. She just shook her head and almost glared at me. Some folks just like brick chimneys.

With that in mind, why are we still using traditional bricks for chimneys? I would think it wouldn't be too difficult to come up with a simulated brick made out of something akin to what they used for space shuttle tiles: super light, fireproof but durable. Make bricks out of something like that and I would think the hazards of earthquake vs. brick chimneys would pretty much be eliminated, yet you'd still have the brick appearance some insist upon.

I'm wouldn't expect people to rush out and replace their brick chimneys with the phony ones, but on new construction and repairing earthquake damaged ones, seems a lightweight alternative would make perfect sense.

All right, entrepreneurs, let's develop those artificial bricks.

Addendum: A fellow replying to my comment in the Press- Democrat advises me such artificial bricks are already being used, although I'm not sure they're exactly what I was proposing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Enterprise Rent- A- Car Adventure

We rented a car to go to UCSF this last weekend. The last time I rented one was in the early '80s and that didn't go well. Couldn't afford it but my truck has some issues. I decided to try Enterprise Rent-A-Car. They have an office here in Eureka down on 5th Street and a friend gave them rave reviews. They also had the smaller, economy  type cars of the type I'd prefer. If nothing else, maybe we could save some money on gas?

My first concern was that they weren't open on Sundays when we'd be leaving. We'd have to pick up the car on Saturday which probably meant an extra day's rental. I was hoping by talking with them they'd be able to cut me some kind of deal. I gave them a call.

The gal I spoke to was nice and gave me the basic info. At first I was left with the impression we'd have to rent the car for four days, even though we really only needed it for two or three, depending on how they tallied the days. Pick up on Saturday, then returning it Tuesday since they'd likely be closed by the time we got back Monday night.

She surprised me by saying it would only be three days rental so long as we picked it up around 2pm on Saturday and brought it back before 2pm Tuesday. That was still one more day than needed, but better than two extra days. Cool! They rent them on a 24 hour schedule rather than days.

I went ahead and told her we'd like a car, mentioning the Chevy Spark they showed on their web page. She didn't seem to pay much mind to the type of car and just took some info from me including my address and phone number.

Went down on Saturday just before 2pm to pick it up. When we got there I had a pretty strong feeling we wouldn't be getting the Chevy Spark. I couldn't see anything resembling a small car in their lot. In fact, very few cars at all. Most must have already been already rented.

Two guys were standing just inside the door of the office. I figured they must have been just walk- in customers who hadn't made reservations. Those with reservations go to the front of the line and the guy behind the counter immediately turned to us and asked if we had a reservation. I told him I'd guessed that was what we'd done on the phone a few days earlier.

I gave him my name. He checked the computer and verified the information I'd given them
earlier. Then he asked for a driver's license and credit card. As he filled in more info he said that we'd be getting a Chrysler 200. He didn't even mention the Chevy Spark. I didn't bother asking. We checked our receipt later and noticed they'd charged the same rate that we would have paid for the Chevy. Good enough.

After some back and forth with the girl working with him, the guy says they're changing plans and were going to give us a Toyota Corolla. That was the car that just drove in the lot, having just been returned. I just shrugged my shoulders. Whatever. We just need a car.

A minute or two later he says there's been another change and we're back with the Chrysler 200. Ok. I didn't like the black Toyota anyway.

Within 10 or 15 minutes he'd pretty much handled all the details and we went out to inspect the car with him. That's to record any damage already present on the car. With just a few barely noticeable scratches, it looked as if it was new. After a few more last minute instructions and signing the rental agreement, he gave me the key and I drove the car home.

As far as the car, a couple things I was disappointed in from the start. First, it was bigger than I'd wanted. It seemed almost as big as my truck. I was hoping for a small enough car to use the Compact Car parking at UCSF if necessary. Not with this one.

I was worried about gas mileage, too. Once I got home I went online and checked the supposed mileage of the Chrysler 200. They showed it as between 30 to 35mpg on the highway, depending on the exact model. That's better than my truck's even if I could get close to the lower range.

Despite looking almost new I was still bugged by the appearance. I guess it was just too ritzy and too high class a car for a bum like me. It made me feel out of my element. It did have an automatic transmission and that was like a breath of fresh air, especially for driving in the Bay Area.

I was also a bit leery of the controls. How do you turn the headlights on, run the air conditioner and all the other things you normally take for granted? Luckily, all the controls were pretty easy to figure out right away with a couple exceptions.

First thing in the morning I went to open the trunk and there was no keyhole, but I quickly found a marked button on the dashboard that opened the trunk.

One thing I didn't like is only the driver's door can be opened by the key. I guess you have to open that door first before you can open the others. What if you just want to take something out of the passenger side (and that became an issue)? I still don't like that.

Something I thought about briefly but forgot to ask about was whether it had an alarm system. I didn't think about that again until we stopped at the One Log House in Piercy. I locked all four doors using a button on the driver's door. When I came out and put the key in the driver's side door the car alarm went off.

Yikes! Hope I didn't screw something up. The alarm on my truck can disable the vehicle if you don't reset it right. I just opened the door and stuck the key in the ignition. The noise stopped with no further problems, but I didn't use that button that locks all four doors again.

A couple other issues of concern:

I thought I'd heard a strange noise earlier on when we started out and I put the car in reverse. I gave it no further thought until Monday morning. We started backing out of our parking spot at the Villa Inn and there was a loud scraping, grinding sound the whole time we backed out. Loud enough that the Inn's manager who was walking across the parking lot stopped and turned to see what it was.

Once I turned and pulled forward the noise stopped. I stopped next to the manager, explained it was a rental car and had no idea what the noise was. He said he thought I was dragging something. We both looked under and around the car and couldn't see anything that would have caused the noise. I drove off to UCSF hoping that wasn't going to happen again. It didn't. I'm guessing it was something in the transmission, but a non- issue in the end. Hey, we made it back.

Another weird thing was at least twice, maybe three times, I found the engine hood unlatched. I have no idea how that happened. I knew where the hood latch was and I hadn't touched it. Maybe just a loose latch that popped open easy but things like that make me wonder what else might happen if I pressed the wrong button in the car accidentally. 

At the end of two days we made it back with no problems. In fact, when we got home Monday night there was a message on our answering machine from one of the gals at the Enterprise office just calling to check if everything was ok with our rental. Nice touch.

After topping off the gas tank (they charge like $5.00 a gallon if they fill it up) I took the car back in Tuesday morning. The gal at the desk grabbed my file, took a quick look at the car including checking fuel level and mileage. Then we went inside, she printed out a receipt and told me they'd remove the $200 security deposit they charged to my credit card when we picked up the car. That was it. 

Simple enough and I was pleased. I might well rent a car from them again next time we head to the Bay Area, assuming we can afford to do so.

Here's my freshly typed out Yelp review on Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Scary Earthquakes: Large or Small?

I was up at one of my sweepstakes web sites this morning and stopped by its forum. One of the sweepers mentioned he or she lived within 10 miles of the center of that Napa earthquake. A small discussion ensued with another sweeper saying he found small earthquakes fun and the big ones scary. 

Am I the only one that sees it the other way around?

With the large quakes, they happen so fast you don't have much time to be scared. You just hang on for the ride. Sure, you may worry when it's done that there might be more to come, but that's countered by being relieved that it seems to be over.

With a small quake, you have the time and composure to worry... and get scared. Happens all the time to me. I'll be sitting here. The house will shake just a bit and I can't help but worry if this is the start of The Big One. My heart starts pumping and I sit there wondering if the worst is about to happen, even after the shaking stops, sometimes for quite some time.

Not saying I'd prefer a large quake over a small one. They all suck, but I've probably aged a lot more with my heart thumping over small ones than I have over the biggies.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jason Singleton Gets Yelp Reviews Removed?

I forget how long ago it was that somebody suggested giving Eureka's infamous bottom feeding lawyer, Jason Singleton, a bunch of crappy Yelp reviews. It was in the comments to a story somewhere about Singleton's latest shakedown of a local business- Porter Street BBQ. maybe?

I thought that was a great idea. Myself and a few others gave him one star put downs. I believe there were eleven at last glance. The one exception was what seemed to be some disabled guy saying how great Singleton was. Otherwise, I thought it a fun and successful exercise.

I received an e- mail from Yelp a few days ago telling me my comment was removed for not following Yelp's guidelines or some such. Took them long enough, although I still don't know how it violated their guidelines. As my Yelp account says, "I tell it like it is".

Checking Singleton's Yelp page now shows only one review left and it's a one star review saying he's a piece of ****. All the others are gone. Even his one good one. Wonder how they work that?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mike Newman's Campaign Kick Off

We'll let John Chiv describe Mike Newman's kick off of his campaign for re- election to Eureka City Council.

Live Health Online

Anyone out there have any experience with this?

I've gotten a couple letters from Anthem/ Blue Cross encouraging me to sign up for this Live Health Online deal. It's claimed to be a low cost way to consult with a physician. Once you're a member you can consult with a doctor quickly via computer or smartphone. It looks like the most you'd pay is $49.00. 

That's not bad. Problem for me is the list of common afflictions they deal with like colds, flu or allergies aren't things I'd go to a doctor for. Maybe some of you would?

Here's their Frequently Asked Questions page. If anyone decides to try it, let us know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

California's Most Conservative and Liberal Cities

The Sacramento Bee lists California's most conservative and liberal cities according to voter registration figures. Berkeley and Inglewood are the top two liberal cities. Yorba Linda and Newport Beach have the highest Republican ratio. I suppose it should be no surprise that no cities in Mendocino, Humboldt or Del Norte counties are included, although they do list Redding.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Eureka Family Practice Accepting Obamacare

This might be news since Eureka Family Practice's newsletter of March 2013 (pdf file) explains why they weren't accepting insurance from Covered California. That page has been updated to say as of May 1, 2014 they have contracted with Covered California. 

There's no mention of Covered California on the Redwood Family Practice web site site at all. They only state they take all insurance, including MediCal and CMSP (strange, as more and more providers don't take MediCal). I'm going to call Monday and suggest they update their web site to mention they don't accept Covered California. Might save them and potential patients some headaches.

Good to see I have somewhere to go, if needed, with Eureka Family Practice. I'll hold off for a while before switching, though. Maybe Redwood will eventually take Covered California, too.

As an aside, I noticed Quest Diagnostics was listed as one of Anthem/ Blue Cross' network providers. They do blood tests and such. I stopped by there the other day to make sure they accepted Covered California policies. The gal there said they did but I'd have to call A/BC to see if they covered the tests I wanted. Hmmm??? You think Quest would know that already.

She said the tests I wanted done would cost $320.00. That's what it cost last time I had it done at St. Joseph's. Too expensive for me. We got to talking and she did something on the computer, then told me if Anthem/ Blue Cross covered it, I'd pay $250.00. Still too expensive for me. Guess I'll have to go back to the low cost blood draw place just a couple blocks away.

Quest Diagnostics (corner of Buhne and Harrison in Eureka) was empty when I went in there around 10:30am Friday. Costs aside, if you want a blood draw done quick, it looks like that might not be a bad place to try.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Getting Away With Murder

This Sacramento Bee article has a map showing which California counties solve the most murders. Humboldt does pretty well, but that assumes we've found all the bodies.
After I first moved here I was told more than once there's any number of bodies buried out on the North Jetty. How they knew that is anybody's guess. I chalked it up to just talk.

I was in the National Guard a bit later and we were out at the North Jetty Coast Guard station doing some sort of training. I grabbed a shovel and started digging when I hit something. It seemed to be a plastic garbage bag with either animal or people remains in it. Didn't see or feel any bones so probably just someone burying the remains of a deer or some such. I wasn't sure though. I just covered it up and started digging elsewhere.

How many bodies are out there?