Archive for October, 2011

Since Rachel worked behind the scenes of the show she was invited to the after show Auction which is held to benefit some charitable cause.  This year the money was to be donated to the United States Association Of Reptile Keepers or USARK, the industry trade group for people who keep exotic reptiles which snakes and frogs are a part of.  in 2010 the California Department Of Fish and Game proposed to make changes to the laws which would make it illegal to Buy, sell, keep or give away turtles and frogs.  Thankfully through the tireless work of this organization these changes were not implemented.  The money from the auction tonight was for this group.

At first the idea for this ban on animals sounds amazingly right on the mark because the climate in California lends itself to helping invading species grab a foothold.  There are quite a few invasive species that were brought here during the gold rush by the settlers including red ear slider turtles and American Bullfrogs.  Of course they got out and multiplied in this fertile environment.  In the 70’s when there was an open season declared on the bull frogs and their extinction in California was eminent the legislature ironically acted to protect them.  Or so the speaker at the auction said.  Although it wouldn’t surprise me.

Since the kids got restless early and I had to go and pick up Rachel anyway, I decided if there was easy parking that I we would stay and go to the auction since it was being catered and we were invited.  When I got to downtown Sacramento, the first spaces I found had 15 minute limits and then I found one that I thought had a longer limit until I put money in the meter and the number didn’t go beyond 30.  I read and it was a 30 minute meter, right next to it was another spot that had a longer limit, except it used one of these new digital meters that takes credit cards and controls 6 other parking spaces as well.  So, since I was in for a penny, I went inside and met up with Rachel.

We traversed our way to the far side of the complex and up to the second floor to where the auction was being held.  It was being catered with little sandwiches held together with a tooth pick topped by an olive.  The sandwich consisted of a half a quarter slice of cheese, an equivalent slice of meat, a piece of lettuce the same size and a slice of tomato.  I am not complaining, it was after all, free food.  I just wonder in the back of my head how much the catering company was gouging for this food.  There was a bar and I soon learned that one beer and one cocktail amounted to $15.  You do the math.  That is gouging at it’s finest for a captive audience and Americans will buy alcohol no matter how over priced and this became more obvious as the auction progressed.

I must say that I was proud of my kids because for the most part there really was not much for them to do and they remained calm and watched the goings on with rapt attention once the auction began.  Kethry enthralled the gentleman sitting next to her and he took the tooth picks she was holding from the sandwiches we devoured and wove them together in to an amazingly cool looking pattern, held together by the pressure they exerted on one another.  Haplo had to have one too and the guy made him one.  They then had joyful fun taking them apart and trying their hardest to put them back together.  I couldn’t have bought a better toy and these were free.

As the auction began, the first item I was interested in was a complete vivarium with all the works.  This included heating, cooling, misting, water feature, everything but the creature to put in it.  About $650 in retail priced product.  Someone got it for $350, a but out of my price range.  The next thing was a similar setup by a company that specializes in this reptile enclosures complete with misting system and all the trimmings to setup a vivarium sans real plants.  This one went for $175, just outside of how much I was willing to spend on it since all I really wanted was the misting system.

There were lots of amazingly exotic snakes that were auctioned off as well as a giant bottle of absolute vodka.  Once that item went, the auction began to really ramp up.  I am not sure they were drinking it, but the people in back began to bid on things and ramp the prices up.  Rachel got a pair of corn snakes with some unique genetic traits and I got another red eye tree frog.  Then came the tiny little red ear slider turtle, which had the proposed legislation of passed along with my tree frog would have been illegal.  Needless to say he is swimming in his own little tank in the dining room.  Pictures of these amazing creatures will follow.

The hardest part of the night was making sure Haplo and Kethry didn’t just bid on something to participate.  They tried and we were quickly able to stop them before they were sold something we couldn’t afford.  Their behavior was still amazing and they were quiet and respectful through the entire ‘boring’ thing.  Although Haplo took great delight in seeing all the different snakes and animals.

How does one end the perfect night?  How about dinner at IHOP where the kids got to eat for free.  We got there at 9:15pm and they had Rooty Tootie Fruity things while Rachel had breakfast with ‘Cinabun’ coating and I had Country Fried Steak.  Our waiter was attentive and on the ball which made it a delight to eat there.  The food was about what one would expect but the fun with my family was really where it all paid off.  Seeing Haplo and Kethry enjoy the treat of fruit covered pancakes was just cool.  It was even cooler when Kethry said ‘Daddy, please cut this for me” indicating her pancake which she had tried but failed to do.  As I took her plate “You’re the best cutter dad!”

The 2011 Sacramento Reptile Show is being held once again at the Sacramento Convention Center and is officially sponsored this year by PET’SMART.  The really cool part about this show is that if you visit Upscale Reptiles website, they have a coupon for $1 off a ticket for admission.  PET’SMART has a special coupon for $3 off the price of admission and is good for up to four tickets per coupon.  The show runs Saturday, October 29, 2011 10am until 5pm through Sunday October 30, 2011  10am until 4pm.  Besides vendors selling animals, there are private collections on display of amazingly healthy captive exotics from alligators to Sulcata tortoises.  Admission is $12 for 13 and older, 6 to 12 year cost $8 and children 5 and under are free.  The box office only accepts cash!


I am really baffled by the reality that in this modern age that a city owned venue like the Sacramento Convention Center would only accept cash at their box office.  Especially considering that the ATM in the lobby of the venue charges $5 per transaction to get cash.  There is a bank located at the end of the block diagonally opposite the Box Office that has an ATM that only charges $3 and there is a Credit Union located across the street from the Box Office.


Today was just not my day for being financially savvy as I seemed to make several mistakes that will cost me between $10 and $15 in regards to this show.  The first was not noticing the credit union across the street and using the bank ATM that charged me $3 in fees.  Patelco, the credit union I use instead of a bank will also charge me a small feel as well has reciprocal agreements with most other Credit Unions to share their ATMs fee free.  Add to that Kethry is 5 and I paid for a child ticket for her.  Rachel got me a PET’SMART Discount coupon so the total cost of the entry was $19, I paid an additonal $5 for Kethry.  Actually, I do not mind this really as in this case the ticket price goes to help Upscale Reptiles pay for the use of the Venue.  Since I love the show, I don’t mind paying for it really, I just hate the mindless bank fees.


So Rachel, got in for free since she is actually working the PET’SMART booth at the show.  The three of us, Haplo, Kethry and I all won small Kritter Keepers on the Prize Wheel!  We walked around looking and the show is dominated by Snakes and Tarantulas with a healthy assortment of lizards and turtles thrown in.  There were some frogs, but not nearly enough for this Frog Lover.  I did manage to score 3 tiny, baby Red Eye Tree Frogs.


So here is one of the Red Eye Tree Frogs I purchased, the penny was inserted to give you an idea of just how small they are.  They had albino ones but the price difference was just too much to justify purchasing them considering that I have had husbandry issues in the past and lost all the frogs in a colony.


This species of frog is nocturnal and they really do only wake at night, when most of the lights are out.  They live in the canopy of the rain forest where they hunt insects.  Their Agalychnis callidryas translates to Beautiful Tree Nymph which really is befitting I think.


I like this picture the best because you can see how they tuck themselves up in to a little ‘wad’ and sleep on the underside of leaves.  In this way most people would walk right past them without realizing they were there since they blend in with the underside of the leaf.


Finally, Haplo wanted an Emperor Scorpion and we have always made him wait because these creatures have a stinger and they can and will use it.  Haplo will turn 9 this year and he has come a long way in the last two years when it comes to taking care of his pets.   This will be the first real pet other then fish and roaches that we have allowed him to have on his own.  This isn’t the greatest picture and I will try and get a better one to replace this one with.

All in all it was a good show although I can tell that Chantix has a serious effect on my patience and on my anger threshold.  It really put me in a foul mood that the ATM’s wanted to charge such fees and I almost opted to just come home.  I realized that was a bit over the top reaction and how it would place all of it on Haplo and Kethry who really wanted to go to the show.  When I started to think about it, I really couldn’t understand why I was so upset to begin with and at the same time the craving for a cigarette hit like the munchies when going to an all you can eat buffet at 4:30pm.

Later, when Haplo wandered away and I was unable to locate him, I again noticed myself getting extremely angry over nothing and had to think about why I was getting so angry and how I was going to deal with it.  I think the next time we go I am going to make sure he has a Walky Talky or something like that so that we can communicate when he walks away.  I can’t really get upset with him for it because I did it when I was a kid and I usually left it up to my parents to find me.  The fruit really doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Sadly, it is times like these, when I have these realizations that I so wish that I could call my Dad on the phone or sit down and drink a beer with him and talk about it.  So that I could thank him for helping me to become the man I am and for not giving up on me when things got difficult like he could have.  I know I will probably never get to talk to him again or see him again but it doesn’t make me desire it any less.

Working in the IT field has taught me that the price you pay to purchase something is not necessarily the total cost to own and use that item.  Most of the time we take for granted the additional costs to maintain and run a device like a Personal Computer, Notebook, Television, and Car.  Two years ago I was faced with purchasing a car with about $1500 in cash and not having a payment when I was done.  After searching for a month on Craig’s List, I realized that anything in the $1500 price range was going to be a piece of junk that might run for a few months or it might crap out almost immediately.  During my search, I kept adding money to the pot until I hit the $3000 mark and I found a 2002 Kia Sportage with 115,000 miles and a salvage title at an local auto dismantler called Auto Gator.It didn’t have any telltale body damage although it was not drivable and the engine made a horrendous noise.
I called my best friend who is an excellent mechanic and sent him the Craig’s List Ad and we discussed the options and decided that replacing the engine was a possible alternative.  So I called another dismantler and found a used engine that the dismantler would waranty / guarantee for 90 days included in the price.  My best friend went and looked at Kia Sportage and then came over and told me that if it were him and he had the money he would do it.  So we made the arrangements and had the Kia towed to a mutual friends Garage and then we went and got the Engine and everything he would need to do the transfer including a cherry picker. 
Two days later, on Monday, the 15th of March 2010, I get the call that the car is done and that my best friend is going to come over and get me so I can take it for a test drive and then drive it home.  Luckily the mutual friend lives right along the direct back road route to between our houses and the auto dismantler.  It drove like a dream and seemed to have more power then my old Honda Element although it lacked the space of the Honda Element.  If the Honda Element was a Extra-Large size, then the Kia Sportage would be a Medium.  The car was on Empty when I picked it up and I put it through its paces as best as I could as I rushed to the Raley’s to get gas.
I don’t usually shop at Raley’s but in this case, I had a coupon to get 25 cents off per gallon and considering that they are usually one of the cheaper options for gasoline, an additional 25 cents makes then significantly cheaper.  My wife’s parents shop there and her Stepfather gives them to me from time to time otherwise I go to Safeway which takes 3 cents off just for punching in my club card number or 10 cents if I have spent $100 for groceries in one visit in the past 30 days.
When I got home I went to E-bay and found some much needed accessories for the car.  The first being a bug deflector for the front hood and window vent visors for all four windows.  I am not sure the bug deflector does anything but it sure looks cool on my white Marshmallow. The window Vent Visors allow you to crack the windows even when it is raining and the air rushing by creates a vacuum that sucks the air out of the car.  I also added a sun visor organizer and a sun visor CD Holders.  My Kia was now beginning to look the way I wanted and needed it to considering the amount of driving I was likely to be doing.
Registering a salvaged vehicle in California requires that vehicle must have a Brake, Lamp and Smog tests performed on it after it is sold by the Salvage yard before the vehicle is registered.  So I had to go to the DMV with all my paper work and pay the registration and the associated state sales taxes which can be a significant amount since it is based upon the sale price of the Vehicle that is written on the back of the title as part of the information required for transfer of ownership and the vehicle title.  In return they gave me the paperwork
that gave me 90 days to have  all of the tests performed and then a trip to the DMV makes everything legal.  I found a place not too far from my house when I was going to Sprint to have my phone replaced.  The costs for the three tests was not too unreasonable considering the list of things that had to be visibly inspected along with the normal cost of a Smog Examination. It took them roughly three hours to perform the tests and when they were through, the only work the car needed was to have the drums replaced and I had them do it.  The car passed the smog test with flying colors, actually emitting zeroes in places where it was allowed 10 and 20’s.
I then got a Fix it ticket for my registration because it took me so long to find a place and get the proper tests done.  Since my registration was in process, the DMV said my car had not been registered since it was put up for auction.  Needless to say, this forced me to complete the registration as soon as possible.  I got a Lincoln Police Officer to sign off on the ticket as well as the brake and lamp inspection tests as required by the DMV by being coy.  I approached the officer, who was on a Motorcycle and asked how he was doing.  I then asked how he felt about the ballot measure to introduce a city tax to keep from cutting police officers.  I then sprang the request on him and at first he was going to deny my request and refer me to the Police Department HQ which handles those requests once a week with an appointment, and probably some sort of charge.  I think he thought about my mentioning the referendum and my support of it and decided this would be good PR.  He did the signoff and I went to the new Placer County Court building to take care of the ticket.  I always have a tinge of fear and anxiety when I enter a court house because they are places where Truth, Justice and Due Process all live in the service of the Judge and his powers over them.  But that’s another blog entry.
Finally this car was now legally ready for me to drive it until it died.  While I don’t hate the car but, I also do not love it.  It has a few issues that I will forever be unable to resolve because finding replacement parts has been an expensive and exhausting proposition.  But it is a fairly economical vehicle and actually looks pretty good and it proved itself reliable. After driving about 8000 miles something funky happened, while I was driving.  I was on the highway and I heard a funny noise while accelerating and then the Speedometer dropped to zero while I was still moving at about 65 miles per hour.
The check engine light then came on and in a panic I called my best friend and took the car over for him to look at.  He checked all of the wiring between the dash and the engine and at first was unable to figure out what was going on.  Somewhere, somehow during his testing he unhooked the knee airbags with the battery connected which caused a fault to be registered by the onboard computer.  Eventually he was able to trace it down to the gear that sticks in to the transmission that registered the RPMS, etc.  This is a plastic / nylon gear that slips in to the transmission and we obtained another one from Pick ‘n Pull and I was good to go for another 1500 miles when the same thing seemed to happen again.  This time, I opted to get a new part with a warranty from the dealer, except this time it wasn’t the external part that stripped, it was the internal one that this one interfaced with.  So, I returned the $40 part and got the correct $75 part and once installed everything was back to normal.  In all reality one belt and two gears on a 8 year old car really is not that much in the way of repairs for a years worth of driving and probably 25,000 miles put on the vehicle since I let my Best Friend and another friend drive it when they needed a car for work.
Then one morning about 6 months ago, I went out to find my tire almost flat.  I drove slowly to the local 76 Station and used the air there to fill the tire up.  I found that there was a screw in the tire, but touching it let the air out rapidly so I decided it was best to leave it since I had a very early morning job this morning.  After the job, on the way home I happened to go by my best friends house and our mutual friend was there.  I asked her if she would be willing to do me a favor and that I would pay her.  I needed new tires and I needed them today because any delay could be serious.  All four tires were showing threads on the inside and now I had screws in one of them.  So she agreed and basically I went home and she followed me to the Firestone Dealer and I dropped my car off and paid for it.  She then took me back to my house where my best friend was watching my kids and she took him back to wait for my car.  Three hours later he came back with my car and I drove him back home.
4 NEW Primwell Tires PS380, mounting, balancing and installing them back on the car along with a much needed front end alignment cost about $600 from Firestone.  The tires have around 4,000 to 8,000 miles on them and came with a 65,000 mile warranty from the manufacturer handled through Firestone and their network of repair shops and I can either find the documentation or get a copy from Firestone for the purchaser.  They may even transfer the lifetime warranty on the Front End Alignment that I paid for at the time I purchased the tires.
Without counting incidentals such as oil changes, fuses, lights, wiper blades, washer fluid and other incidentals, I now have invested about $4225 in to this vehicle, but it has really proven to be very dependable and has gotten me from point A to point B without an issue.  I have probably put 30,000 miles on this vehicle in the time I have owned it.  March of 2012 will be the two year mark.
Even with the mileage being off because of me driving it without it registering it due to the gears that had to be replaced, I have put about 15 to 20 thousand miles on the car this year.  The gasoline was killing me because a lot of the contract jobs I have been getting through OnForce and WorkMarket have been 50 or more miles away one way and quite a few have been in Chico.  So this takes about $20 – 30 off the price I am earning to pay for the gas, mileage and insurance.  The car is also small which restricts how much gear and what kind of gear I can haul in it.  So I have been watching Craig’s List for a Ford Escape which has close to the same mileage but has a larger interior.  But it seems that the Cash For Clunkers program has kept the used car prices artificially high.  10 year old models are still selling for $5,000.
Two weeks ago a private party posted an ad on Craig’s List selling a used 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid with 74,000 miles and a salvage title for $7500.  So I called the guy and arranged to come and see the car.  I called my best friend and he came over and we headed out but the guy didn’t answer his phone before we got out of town so we turned around and I figured it was a scam or he was a flake.  I had texted him a few questions which went unanswered as well.  So I kept watching Craig’s List and the vehicle was posted again for $7000.  So this time I texted him and told him I had $6500 cash, he said he couldn’t go any lower then $6900.  I told him I was interested and that we could meet tomorrow near my bank in Roseville and swap the money and title there.  He agreed and I purchased the Car Fax report to know exactly what had happened to this vehicle.  After reading the Carfax Report and talking to my wife and my best friend, I decided to purchase this new vehicle unless it has noticeable issues.  It didn’t and exceeded my expectations really and I got a amazing bargain considering what else is out there on Craig’s list in my price range.  So I wrote this blog as an introduction for this car.  I have included the pictures of the tires, as the new Ford Escape I bought needs new tires, but I knew this when I bought it.  This car has never had an issue with smog, or anything else major and the only current problem is that the Airbag light flashes and KIA wants $160 to diagnose the problem. 
As you can see from these pictures,
all of the tires have good tread left on them
and they are all in very good condition.
The tires were just cleaned and treated with armor all.  And I just had the vehicle detailed inside to make it as clean and nice inside as possible.  Included with the car is a windshield sunscreen (the suction cups are on the window and removing them will make them unusable in another car) and I will throw in a brand new, unused Spare Tire Mount Bicycle rack that original cost around $150.
A view of the front from the Driver’s side door.  It still has the protective plastic wrap and floor guard from the car wash where I had it detailed.
The center console.  It is missing a piece of the plastic below the cup holder and I was unable to locate another face plate via Pick ‘n Pull and other dismantler’s wanted more money then it was worth to fix it.  The radio has good sound and it has a single CD player.
The rear view of the car from the driver’s side passenger door.  Notice how clean and nice the seats are.  This is incredibly unusual for a 10 year old car at this price.
I ferried around my two kids in this car and this is the cleanest it has ever been.  When I got the car, I cleaned the seats myself and thought they were stained permanently and was truly amazed at how good a job the detailer did.
This is the view of the front interior of the car from the passenger side door.  Notice how nice and clean the seats, carpet and dash are.  For a 10 year old vehicle this car is in excellent shape.
Here is a view of the rear interior from the passenger side rear door.  Once again notice how clean and nice this vehicle is.
Finally here is the view of the back of the car.  In this picture are the Rear Mounted BiCycle rack, the Windshield sunscreen and the Front Hood Bug Visor which came off while I was washing the car, it was mounted with double sided sticky tape previously.  If I were to mount it again, I would wash the shield with glass cleaner and alcohol and wash where the mount touches the underside of the hood with glass cleaner and alcohol and then use 3M Automotive Grade Adhesive Molding tape along the entire surface area of the hood.  This should secure it for a much longer period of time since the tape that was shipped with it was of a much lower quality.  The tape costs less then $10 at Autozone.
I you are still interested in this car then make me an offer.  So this is my Marshmallow and she’s for sale.  If you are interested email or call me through the Craig’s List Advertisement.  Thanks for looking!

Since it seems not many people can read directions, if you want to call to discuss this fine vehicle, the number is in the first comment.  Unfortunately posting that in the Ad and this blog did not help.  My Cell number is (415) 370-5631.

So, I decided I wanted to move all my old blog posts about Haplo and stuff to one location and consolidate it with my old Windows Live Blog evicted to WordPress.  I am not sure I will post regularly or that I will have interesting things to post about.  So to celebrate, here’s a music video from a Southern Rock band called Rehab.