Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Idle Thoughts

I'm running the box office at the theater this evening ( http://www.lbshakespeare.org/ ), which gives me an hour or so before intermission to while away (we're sold out tonight, so no empty seats, and no standing in the aisle with all the entrances and exits in this show). Time enough for a random collection of idle wonderings.

Firstly, why is it that most battery chargers have no on/off switch? I have three different battery chargers in the hangar, and none of them has a power switch - the only way to turn any of them off is to pull the plug. I did a casual survey of the chargers in the Wallyworld automotive department, and none of theirs had power switches either. It seems to me that pulling the plug is likely to cause an arc or spark, which in the average garage or shop has got to be a bad thing with all the various possible vapor sources. To be fair, I did find a charger equipped with an on/off switch at the local NAPA store - for $459.

Next, what's with this extended warranty craze that seems to have overtaken retailers of almost anything and everything. I suppose it started as service contracts for things like televisions, which in the olden days of yore had about a hundred vacuum tubes and probably nearly as many adjustments. I can remember my grandmother maintaining a service contract on her big RCA console TV, which was nearly as big as my current car, and seemed to weigh as much. Extended warranties have been a big seller for new car dealers too, even in this day of three, four, and five-year manufacturer's warranties. The trend spread to electronics, and on laptop computers it's most likely a good investment - my iBook's logic board went out right after Christmas, just two weeks before the Applecare ran out on it. That $149 turned out to be a good call, as the part alone was about $500. (By the way, the editors of Consumer Reports, who are not at all fans of extended warranties, do say that the AppleCare plan is an exception to their usual recommendation.) But now it's stretched to the point of the cashier asking me if I want the extended warranty on a steam iron that sells for $25. The topper, though, was this last week when I went into Fry's Electronics looking for something that it turned out they didn't have. On the way out, I grabbed a Diet Coke out of the cooler. The kid at the register asked if I'd like the extended protection plan! He did have the good sense to be embarrassed about half a second after he asked. Apparently it's store policy that they ask each and every customer. And no wonder - it's a great deal for the retailer. I bet they end up paying out on less than ten percent of their extended warranties - the rest is pure profit. It's like life insurance: You're betting the product will break, and they're betting that it won't.

And now a quick personal update: I seem to be caught up in a perpetual game of 'Hurry up and wait." As I've previously mentioned, my current living arrangements are optimistically described as 'temporary.' The housing market right now is great if you're in position to be a buyer (and able to get a mortgage). However, I'm waiting to see if I'm going to get another chance to move. A couple of months ago, I bid on a couple of jobs in the Dallas area, and last I heard, I'm still in the running for one of them. If selected, I might be able to leave LAX as soon as early 2010 - less than two years from now. If so, it wouldn't really be worthwhile to buy a house that I'll just have to turn around and sell - I've already done that bit, and as I haven't finished paying for it yet, I'm not anxious to do it again. The question arises, though: How long do I wait? I've spent a good part of my FAA career trying to be somewhere else. At Monroe (MLU), my first facility, an old hand told me that it gets harder every time. I didn't believe him at the time, but it's true. The training process at each new facility is more draining than the previous one, even though the overall experience level is greater. At this point, I think I've got one more move left in me, and this one needs to be long-term. What that means, essentially, is Texas. And I don't mean El Paso, either. Nor someplace that's just closer than where I am now - I've done that bit too, with less than complete success.

Cool bumper sticker: "Frodo failed: Bush has the ring"

Uh-oh - the tech booth just missed a critical music cue; I guess they're gonna have to ad-lib some Euripides. This oughta be interesting. Thank goodness the reviewers came last week!

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