Monday, July 26, 2010

Three recommendations for auto services in Richardson

I've been meaning to mention these businesses, so here we go.

  • Discount Tire Co. on Midpark.   Discount Tire is superfantastic;  I would never, ever buy my tires anywhere else.  Seriously. Start a conversation around the watercooler with "hey, where should I buy my tires" and people will start gushing about Disco.
  • Bass Automotive on Floyd.  I've had a couple of repairs there. Good troubleshooting, repairs done quickly and at the quoted rate.  I don't remember who recommended these guys, but thanks!
  • If you have a Honda, your place is Hondew behind TI.

Mortgage [kittens] target veterans

When we got our mortgage from the much-loved Guardian Mort. in the Chase building, the rep told us to expect a truckload of mortgage-related knavery in the mail.  I've tried to mention the most obnoxious of the [kittens].

Here's a nifty one that should remind you read carefully and assume the worst.  Imagine your war vet great-grandfather reading this.  Are you ready?  Here we go.

The company does not list their name, only "Interest Rate Reduction Department."   The outside of the mail says "Official Notice" on a fake seal and "Veterans affairs Program Information," as you can see above.  Nice, yes?

On the inside the letter is topped by a bolded line that says Audit Review and the company name is still not revealed.  It helpfully lists a "VA Case #". 

Google shows us that the address in the letter matches this local business:

SMI Lending, Inc.
4230 LBJ Freeway Suite 225
Dallas, TX 75244

This same address appears on I am certain that the link to the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending for complaint lodging on their contact page was broken accidentally and not on purpose.

The email address associated with the company is

[update 2010/09/02: Mr. Harcrow wishes to clarify he was not the source of the mailer. I take him at his word. See below.]

Friday, July 23, 2010

One book: The Art of Racing in the Rain

I like the Richardson Reads One Book idea.  I read the tea book last year and got a copy of Rain from the RPL.  All of them were checked out but there were so many copies (30?) that my hold request came through in a couple of days. 

I'm about 50 pages in.  For the first couple of pages I thought it would be maudlin "marley and me" pap, but it's shaping up.  I assumed the "racing in the rain" reference was going to be about the dog running around in the rain but that misconception was cleared up in a (for me) more interesting direction.

I should point out that when I first cracked open the book in bed my own aging, graying hound was crashed out beside the bed on his own dog pillow. So I might approach the story with a bit more bias than I otherwise might. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I met Igor @ 7-11

I saw him on the tv show and have been meaning to stop in and meet him at his 7-11 on the SE corner of 75/Campbell.  I made an excuse to make trip up there and make a trivial purchase (see below).

If you haven't seen this segment, do so now.  If you are ever cynical about mankind or this country, this gentleman will restore your faith.  Consider this sample: 

"That's the story about America.  That's not story about me...  I am so thankful for this country which allow me to survive and be happy."

The moment I cracked the door Igor noticed and called out to me.  I waved and made my purchase.  Afterwards I went over to meet him. He had been cleaning up the soda machines and stopped immediately to say hello.    He was friendly and warm, and received my congratulations humbly and with gratitude.  I turned and left rather quickly because I was having some kind of allergic reaction that caused some tearing up and a runny nose all the way home.  

Welcome, Igor.  I am proud to share the Texas soil with you.  People like you make our nation great.  Іске сәт!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 12th council meeting - West Spring Valley Corridor Reinvestment Study

Part of the recent emailed annoucement:

"The consulting team is scheduled to make the final presentation related to this phase of the study at a meeting of the City Council on Monday, July 12, 2010, at 6:00 PM in the Council Chambers at the City Hall/Civic Center, 411 W. Arapaho Road (southwest corner, Central Expressway at Arapaho Road). The presentation will include the recommendations that have been developed with the community and market-tested by the consultants, along with an implementation strategy and a computer animation depicting the redeveloped corridor. You are welcome to join the Council for this briefing. No RSVP is necessary."
Monica Heid, AICP
Community Projects Manager
City of Richardson

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Preparedness display up in City Hall

Went to go pay the water bill today and noticed a KnowWhat2Do preparedness display out in the hallway.  DVDs, pamplets, and a small booklet for kids.

KnowWhat2Do is a north central Texas regional emergency response effort for citizens.  The DVD mentioned above is streamable online.

IMO the most important takeaway is the emergency kit planner (pdf).  You may also hear these referred to as 72-hr kits or, if easily portable, bug out bags (BOBs).   I have found that this kind of kit is conveniently storable in a a 5gal "homer" or "pickle" bucket.   One per person.  Stack'em up in the corner, tape the contents list (with expiration dates) to the outside, and remember to rotate food stocks in/out.  A $3 bucket opener will save your fingernails and cussing.

There's also an online emergency planner that you can populate with your specifics, but I am cognizant that not everyone feels comfortable submitting their personal data to quasi-governmental sites.  I got about 3 pages into it and went, "nahhh, I'll do that in OpenOffice instead."

If you need a little bit of motivation, consider these non-paranoid scenarios:

  • A run of 100F days cause massive increase in load on the electrical grid, causing rolling blackouts in DFW.    Your house is without power for 48hrs.  Can you get around?  Cook?  Feed your kids?
  • Trucker's strike causes infrastructure slowdown.  Grocery stores keep about 3 days of rolling inventory on hand.  Can you feed your family?
  • Gas line break disrupts natural gas to your home for 48hrs.  Do you have a way to cook or enough food that can be eaten without cooking?
  • Some kind of water main problem disrupts water to your home for 24hrs.  Do you have a bit for hydration, cooking, and hygiene?
  • Some kind of algal or other contaminant gets in our water supply from Lavon.  Water flows but is not safe to drink untreated.  Do you have water for hydration?   Have a way to boil or otherwise treat water?  What if there is a simultaneous electrical or gas outage?  
Just like we wear seatbelts but don't plan to get in a wreck, we plan for emergencies we hope never happen.  I humbly suggest that duty to one's family can require more than providing iPhones and Xbox games.  Our fantastically high and thoroughly enjoyable standard of living is a precarious balancing act.  A three legged stool is stable so long as all three legs are present...

Friday, July 2, 2010

If you think *I* get fired up about HOAs...

These folks burn with a white-hot hate for HOAs.  They make me look positively beatific by comparison.

Found them while doing some google-fu on the Community Associations Institute (CAI), who are putting on a trade show in Plano next month.

Essentials (ABCs) Class with Paul Grucza, CMCA, AMS PCAM of Classic Property Management, Inc., AAMC, provides board members with the basics of properly governing their community.
New pond technologies by Trent Lewis at Pond Medics.
Understanding High-Rise mechanical systems by 4-L Engineering.
Managing foreclosed communities by Marc Markel, Roberts Markel, PC and Norm Silversteen, PCAM
Closing keynote by Paul Grucza, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, of Classic Property Management, Inc, AAMC
And more!

In case you were wondering:

CMCA = $250-$300. "It can elevate your credibility and your community association's confidence in you."

AMS = $150-$250 application, $75-$175/yr. "The AMS designation demonstrates a higher level of commitment to your career and the community association industry."

PCAM = $195-$295 application, $150-$250/yr. "The pinnacle of community association management... earn your PCAM and join the elite — the select — the best."

AAMC = $300-400 application, $150-$325/yr.  "The AAMC accreditation demonstrates a company's commitment to providing the unique and diverse services community associations need."

Oh, and just in case you thought letters were free:
"CAI designations and accreditation programs are trademarks of CAI. Misuse of CAI trademarks, designations, or other copyrighted materials without proper authorization is a violation of CAI policy and federal law."

Can you tell CAI is in the credentialing business?  I've always mistrusted that market.  Admittedly reductionist, but to me it seems like "give us money, and we'll refer you business!"

If you're a big fan of policies like non-judicial foreclosure, unlimited increase in HOA fees without resident voting, more esthetic control, HOA liens, no requirement to adhere to minimum standards of decency put forth in the Fair Debt Collection Practices act, and reliance on CAI-credentialed service providers then you need to get on this bandwagon ASAP. Open your heart, open your wallet. You (and the new resident of that house you think you own free and clear) will be happier.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Theft is dangerous

When criminals start telling each other it's dangerous to steal AC units, copper tubing, etc., the behavior will decrease markedly.  Until then it's an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Somewhat related: G20 looter steals some stuff, bystander tackles him and tosses the loot back into the store.  Nicely handled.