Chatter #21: July 11, 2001

12/14/2001 — I started the Chatter section on July 27, 2000 when I noticed that the rest of my site was sometimes getting cluttered with lots of text. I'm a talkative guy, after all! So now I talk about my life here, instead of all over the place. Originally this was one huge section, but in December of 2001 it simply became too large to remain as one page, and I broke it into dated sections, as you can see. —>PM


Screwed! The Car Chronicles Continue...

The story of my car (see previous entries) continues to take strange turns and twists. Against all expectations, Enterprise Rent-A-Car insists that no damaged van has been returned; this despite the fact that two witnesses saw the words "Enterprise Rent-A-Van" on the vehicle that destroyed my car. I can only imagine a few possibilities:

  1. The van is on long-term rental, and has not yet been returned, or

  2. The renter somehow managed to hide the damage, and by some colossal act of stupidity the Enterprise office actually failed to see the damage when it was returned, or

  3. Enterprise received the van, charged the driver some sort of damage fee, but decided not to report the accident to the police and their insurance company for some reason, or

  4. The driver of the van (according to witnesses, a white male approximately 18-19 years old, with short dark hair) is the son of the manager of one of the Enterprise offices, and never actually rented the van, but rather borrowed it with his father's permission. Now the father is covering up for the son...this sounds paranoid, I know, but stranger things have happened to me (I'll write about them here sometime), and frankly I am just at a loss to explain how Enterprise could possibly not notice that one of their vans had half of my car's paint job on it, plus there had to be some crushing damage...

In any case, the Woonsocket police are stymied and I'm screwed. The Geico adjuster says that the car has suffered $2,700 worth of damage, which is more than 80% of the car's value; the car is therefore totalled, a complete loss. They will send me a check for their estimated value of the car, minus a $500 deductible! If they ever catch the guy who did this to me and he turns out to have insurance I'll be reimbursed for the deductible, but in the meantime I can't possibly get even a crappy new used car for the amount Geico is sending me. And my commute is 120 miles a day; a crappy car will probably kill me, and certainly cost a ton in repairs. The Honda had a lot of new parts in it, all under warranty.

I know that the son of a bitch who hit-and-ran my car will never read this, but you bastard, wherever you are, I hope you die screaming, in flaming agony. Preferably impaled on the steering wheel of your van for a good, long, slow time.

Did I ever mention that I have a temper? It's ugly and frightening, I know. Maybe later I'll delete that last paragraph. If you're wondering, I've never hurt anyone in my life. I couldn't punch someone even if I wanted to: I have a broken bone in my right hand that was set wrong and healed crooked. If I ever try to punch anyone or anything, the bone will splinter immediately. I guess I use extra-harsh language because the reality is that I have no other recourse.


Now here's the strange part: The car still runs! In fact, not only does it run, but the mechanism of the power window on the smashed driver's side door actually still works—the window goes up and down, although I don't dare to try to lower it all the way. Even more amazing, the power adjustment of the utterly smashed driver's side-view mirror still works perfectly! The entire housing of the mirror itself was knocked flat against the car, but snapped back into position at a touch. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: the 1988 Honda Civic is a GREAT car.

The driver's door only opens about ten inches, which makes it very hard to get into the car, but otherwise the car is okay. Which present me with

A Dilemma

I can repair the car for about $1,200—that is, I can have the damage of the crash repaired (I have to do this, because otherwise the car won't pass inspection). The air conditioner went out about two weeks before the crash; that will cost about $800 more to repair, but of course is not vital. I can sweat for a while if I have to. The only other problem on the horizon is a softness in the brakes; my mechanic thinks the problem could be the master cylinder, which would cost about $100 to fix.

So do I spend $1,300 to get the car fixed up (plus $800 for comfort, if I want), or take that money and get a new used car? I'd be looking at either a Honda or a Toyota, probably five to eight years old, with (I hope) no more than 100,000 miles on it (my Honda has 120,000). That's going to cost at least $5,000, perhaps as much as $8,000. Counting the check from Geico I can put down about $2,000 without touching the new house fund that Teri and I established with our wedding money. That means I'll have to get either financing or a loan for the additional $3,000—$6,000. On a two-year payment plan I guess that the cost will be about $150 to $300 a month.

But we're trying to save for a house, AND of course we have the baby coming in October. $150 might not seem like much to you, but I'm not in a position to throw that much (or more) away every month for years. And to tell the truth, I bitterly begrudge spending money that we need just because some cowardly bastard doesn't know how to drive. Why should my family suffer for his mistake?

So I'm tempted to have the Honda repaired, but I know it's a bit of a gamble: will it last a few years? It has been a great car so far, but it is old, after all. Anyone out there have any advice?

Lord of the Rings

As I mentioned a while ago, I've been reading The Lord of the Rings aloud to Teri (and the baby). It has been very interesting so far (we're up to Chapter 7, "In the House of Tom Bombadil"); I use slightly different voices to indicate who is speaking, which is challenging. For Frodo I use my own voice, pitched slightly higher. For Sam, a touch of English countryside (I try hard not to overdo it—I realize that a badly-done accent is just plain painful, like the "Amurcan" accents used by some British actors—although some do it perfectly. As always, I salute Peter Sellers).

Pippin I voice as a quick young Roddy McDowall (again, always trying to err on the light side—I'm aiming only for the slightest differences in my "voices", just enough to let Teri know which particular character is speaking). Merry is a bit of a challenge; he's "merry", after all, but for some reason I think of Basil Rathbone when I read his lines. Elves in general bring a soft but strong voice to mind; weirdly enough, I think of Keanu Reeves. For Bilbo (in The Hobbit) I was inspired by the voice of Peppin the Healer in Diablo I. Gandalf...Gandalf has a definite voice which I sometimes lose. It's a hard one; a fraction of Sean Connery, but that's not really it. There's some actor whose voice is in the back of my head, but for the life of me I can't remember who! Say! Maybe John Houston? I think so!

We've yet to meet Aragorn, or Legolas, or Gimli, so I haven't yet had to figure out their voices. I should admit that I don't usually work out what voice to use for a new character until I'm actually reading that part; fortunately voices are pretty easy for me.

I have to say that although I've read The Lord of the Rings perhaps 50 times so far (and find new things every time), reading it aloud brings a whole new perspective. Different aspects come into focus; I see the landscapes much more strongly than ever before. The voices are not perfect, alas; I cannot yet make them come out exactly as I hear them in my head. And I won't even try to sing the songs. I recite them.

But it's a great experience, and one I highly recommend. After TLotR and The Silmarillion, I'll have to find something new to read to Teri; perhaps A Confederacy of Dunces, Zelazney's Lord of Light, or The Catcher In The Rye.

But by then, I'll also be reading many wonderful children's books to the baby! Did I ever mention that I have a decent collection of old children's books, including an uncensored edition of Dr. Dolittle? That's pretty rare, believe me!

The Site: What to do?

I've been thinking about The Chaos Project recently. Actually, I've been thinking about the whole site. I recently wrote to the Effie Rover site to ask if I needed to request a review; turned out I did, and when they wrote back they told me (among other things) that the site was a bit "loud" (where have I heard that before? ) and also was much larger than they had first thought. Now, there may not be much I can do about the loudness; I've throttled back the brightness on the background about as far as it can go (and by the way, if anyone really can't stand the background, all you need to do is turn off graphic display in your browser; the background will become plain white).

But I do wonder about the issue of the size of the site. Although it's only a few megabytes in total, it's pretty big; there are five years worth of material here, after all, and I plan to keep adding stuff. Would a newcomer to the site miss a lot of stuff? Does the site have too many layers? For example, much as I push the Chaos Project it's awfully complicated. After all, it consists of eight separate sections. Also, perhaps I should organize it differently? I've considered archiving stuff more quickly into numbered tables, and perhaps rather than have the archives be giant unending tables I should limit each archive to 100 items each. That way a GM could first roll to determine which table to roll on, and then roll 1d100 on that table only. Plus, I could rearrange the Found Items table and divide it up into "Outside" and "Indoors" sections...hold on, though. What on earth makes me think I'll ever have time to do any of this?

Sorry, folks. I think I went temporarily insane.

Gold Wyrm!

The site has won a Gold Wyrm award from Effie Rover. Unfortunately I had to write to them to get it; I was looking at their Die-Rollers Top 50 list (we recently got up to number 9, but suddenly shot down to #23; I suspect that the votes might be being crocked), and noticed that there was also a Gold Wyrm award for quality.

The old Interregnum site won a Blue Planet award back when I was running it, but this site has never won anything; and frankly, I'm a hell of a lot more proud of this site than the old IR one (because I've learned a lot since then, if you were wondering). So I wrote to Effie Rover and asked if I needed to submit the site for consideration. It turned out I did, and that they felt the site merited a Gold Wyrm. It was kind of a pain working out a way to include the rather huge logo on the front page, but I finally worked it out (what do you think?) and we're all set.

If anyone can suggest other RPG awards I might apply for, or places where RPG sites get reviewed, please let me know!

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[email protected] Copyright 2001 by Peter Maranci. Revised: December 14, 2001. version 1.0