Why Not UTC?

This is a serious question for the World of Warcraft developers. Why does the calendar in the game stay on server time when the player sets their clock to follow local time? For that matter, why are the servers set to times in particular time zones?

ComputerphileThe Problem with Time & Timezones – Dec 30, 2013

Yes, yes, I know, that’s where the server is or that is time zone that Blizzard wants the player base to identify with or to play from in that region, but why should the players know or care what that time is? Why isn’t all server time set to UTC and if the players don’t want to fuck around with UTC they can set their clocks to local time and the calendar will just update to show those times?

Seems to me the platform can do the math faster and more reliably when it comes to fixing calendar times to UTC rather than having to make each player in a raid group do math each time they want to show up for a raid on time. Or have to remember that their server is in a different time zone than they are every time they look at the calendar to check raid times.

It just seems… stupid.

I’ve never understood why calendaring is treated almost like an afterthought in computers. This has been true in every OS I’ve worked with. The entire Y2K problem came about because of not thinking about the importance of time moving from the future to now to yesterday in a constant stream of increasing numbers.

It is always now on the internet, I guess. Can the calendars at least take what time it is on the player’s screen into account, please?

Apparently not.

Because a Wisconsinite telling a Virginian to meet for raid at 8 pm means two different things.

You do realize that your example completely misses the point, right? Completely, utterly exposes your abject cluelessness on the subject of calendaring and why it’s done, never mind that it skips over the fact that the two people on opposite sides of the country will see the exact same calendar with a time on an event that may or may not correspond with either players time zone and so thusly has no meaning for either of them except to cause them to show up at different times for an event that is probably at another time entirely since server times all changed when the servers were piled together.

UTC on the other hand is exactly what it says it is. Universal Time Code. That is the time everywhere that uses time as we humans have spelled it all out to be. Far from being meaningless it is the time that every clock on every server everywhere uses to extrapolate all the times for all the people who access it, even the sysadmins that dictate what the server times will be.

So again I ask, why are there server times at all in a game that is played worldwide continuously? Why isn’t there just UTC? It’s much simpler and the two players in your example will both know that the server time is incorrect for their local time (unless they live along the prime meridian) and will either change it, which the server software will then correct on the calendar times to match the set local time, or happily do the math every time they want to be on time for raid.

In either case it will be less trouble for everyone involved than the current setup which has the calendar lying about what time your events are if you change your displayed time off of server time. Again, that is almost as dumb as defending its dumbness with an example that is even dumber still. I hope I have rebutted your dumb reply. I await a blue post apologizing for the dumb and promising to fix it forthwith. Either that or the mods will consign this thread to oblivion just as they have done pretty much every other post I’ve ever written here.

Feedback on forums.blizzard.com – January 22, 2022

Step one: use UTC. Okay I’m not going to suddenly say all this advice we’ve been giving for years and years is wrong. UTC is a fine standard to base all your times off of. So use it. Don’t do something silly and change your servers’ timezones from UTC.

zachholman.com

Time Zones

In what is the most bourgeoisie example of the most bourgeoisie era, a bunch of rich, white railroad tycoons met at a fancy Chicago hotel to agree on a standard timezone so their trains would work better together. They used the new-fangled telegraph to synchronize time signals between cities.

zachholman.com

Why are there time zones? Because railroad barons told us there would be time zones and we agreed to their constraints; when what we really wanted was for work to start about two hours after we woke up, and none of us woke up before the sun back then unless someone who couldn’t sleep woke us up with their pacing back and forth.

This is a lot like asking why there is Daylight Saving Time. There is DST because there was this crazy idea about giving us more sunlight in the evenings in the Summer. We change the time back to Standard time in order to make it safer for children to get to school in the morning in the Winter, otherwise most of us have to get up before the sun and go to work and school in the dark.

Short Wave – To Be DST, Or Not To Be. That Is The Question – March 29, 2022

Resulting in a 6% rise in fatal car crashes after the time change in the Spring. Yes, you really are more groggy that first Monday morning. Go easy in traffic. It is entirely possible that the Senate got the time wrong because of dollars. Dollars given to them by lobbyists who wanted there to be more afternoon sunlight for shoppers to spend money in. This was also discussed in SGU #872. They immediately set to arguing about what time the sun comes up and why we can’t just have the sun come up at about whatever time we need to be getting up in the morning.

Now I’m even more convinced that most people really don’t understand time or how it works. I’m for just going UTC everywhere. If cities want to have city times they can do a UTC offset for their cities. That way Austin can have the sun come up bright and early at 10:00 am every morning and those crazy fucks on Wall Street can have it come up at 6:00 am as they are running to work. It’s really still just UTC and no one will care except the people who are deluded enough to think they can control what time it is. Besides, when it gets to be time not found time again (4:04) it means that I really should be asleep.

This rant is still not finished.

Real Piracy

Dear Google. There are no less than six pirates and/or fraudsters listed as having posted the latest episode of Last Week Tonight on YouTube in your dedicatedly helpful search result. One of them with a timestamp from before the episode even aired. This search was attached to a notification that you sent to my phone in relation to my interest in Last Week Tonight.

Your denials of responsibility for these blatant acts of piracy and/or scamming ring false when your own search algorithm delivers these results to people who are simply responding to notifications sent to their phones. Phones that run your software. I searched for nothing. I simply clicked on the notification and you helpfully delivered fraudsters and pirates directly to my device in response.

We’re begging out here. Stop the bullshit. Take down these frauds and the pirates who post these kinds of profitable videos. They make you look evil, and I thought Google’s goal was to not be evil.

Feedback to Google from the Pixel 5A that they gave me for signing up for Google Fi. It just happens to be cheapest for my usage patterns. Featured image: fossbytes.com

Can’t Spot the Cynacism

Or sarcasm, for that matter.

I woke up with this song in my head today:

spotify

…so I started a song radio with it on Spotify to start my morning. It wasn’t an intrusive brainworm of a song because I really wanted to hear it again, and it echoed the sentiment in some dream I was having at some point last night. Dark dreams for vertigo nights.

Song radio is Spotify’s way of creating a playlist that sounds like the song that the radio is based on. This is a technology that was started by Pandora back in the dark ages of the internet. I helped craft that algorithm to some extent because I was an early adopter of Pandora and I would still be using that software if they had the sense to grandfather their founders into the for-profit system that they are today. Instead they annoyed every single one of us with advertisements placed slap in the middle of a song unless we voluntarily started paying them money every month.

I started using other music software because of Pandora’s betrayal, and those systems whose advertising policy managed not to drive me away within the first few weeks of my testing their service out stayed in my rotation. It wasn’t until discovering Spotify and its song radio that I thought I had found a new home for my music listening soul (Still trying not to think about a million dollars going to Joe Rogan. Trying and failing) no other service could figure out how to offer me songs that fit in the vernacular of what it was I wanted to hear that day.

This was also a frequent problem with disc jockeys on radio stations, understanding why a particular song appeals to a certain section of an audience. It soon became clear that Spotify didn’t understand my attraction to this particular song this morning, either. There is a persistent cynicism across pretty much everything Donald Fagan and Steely Dan ever created. They use bright upbeat tones to masque the dark cynicism of most of their lyrics. It’s a tactic that got you airplay back in the days of human disc jockeys who only selected for audio quality and didn’t listen to the message of the song itself. Or maybe they did listen that closely and they were just cynical bastards themselves who appreciated those kinds of messages.

In either case, the song radio that was created from The Goodbye Look was populated with sickly sweet love songs, most of which have not the slightest hint of cynicism in the lyrics. It makes sense when you think about the nature of the beast that compiles these lists. Computers just know what you ask them for, they don’t understand sarcasm or cynicism. Spell checkers can’t even figure out that you mean cynicism if you misspell it. No, I didn’t mean to say Cynthia you ignorant machine.

This is why I detest voice activated assistants. They just don’t understand me at all. When I mumble my voice instructions and the AI dutifully asks me “who do you want to call?” it studiously looks for a number for Ghostbusters and offers me similar sounding alternatives to dial when I give the correct response to that question. Every human born in the last 40 years knows the answer to the question is Ghostbusters, but computers will never get that. Computers pedantically just do what you tell them every single time. They don’t understand implied meanings. Conflicting emotional undertones. They have no emotions. I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing?

In any case, after I weeded out the Joe Jackson and the Elvis Costello songs from the list I got down to the kinds of songs I was trying to listen to and I rediscovered Dr. John and his unusual take on popular music. Rediscovered him and added that particular song to the ever-growing list of songs I know I heard at the pool as a child. The twisted-assed nature of my emotional state has been revealed to me once again. Onward through the fog.

spotify

Pasteboard pies and paper flowers are being banished from the stage by the growth of that power of accurate observation which is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it…

George Bernard Shaw (h/t to amandaonwriting)

Cyrillic Searches

So today I check the website for traffic, just like I always do when I log on the desktop. Usually there isn’t much. In fact, sometimes there is no traffic at all. There are various tools you can install that will track all kinds of website metrics, most of them wasted on a guy who runs a public diary and really doesn’t have anything to sell. WordPress has their own native set of tools, and there are plugins that will duplicate what WordPress does and then some.

You can track articles being read, who goes to the homepage, even the search strings that had hits for your website. Like I said though, usually not much to see. Today was no exception. Pretty low traffic. An astronomical number of attempts to break into the website, like most sites suffer from, but not a lot of readers.

Then I look at search strings that sent people to the website. It is a pretty puzzle sometimes to figure out how a particular string gets you hits on your website. People looking for all kinds of obscure stuff show up as getting hits on the blog articles. Lately there have been a lot of hits for the Die Hard Christmas articles. Well, it is that time of year again. Our Lord John McClain will be gracing the television screens in our home very soon.

Then I notice this character string:

айзек азимов автобиография

Isaac Asimov autobiography? I’ve barely even mentioned Asimov on the blog. He was one of my favorite writers when I first discovered speculative fiction. After I had read all the Hardy Boys pulp that there was to be found back in 1974, I ran across Asimov’s mystery The Caves of Steel. I then went on to read some of his other works like I, Robot and his Foundation series. I’m currently watching the series on Apple TV. I think that the most impactful of his stories though is the short story Nightfall which was later adapted into a novel. I’ve never read his autobiography.

Having run across the search string I just had to look up his autobiographies. It is a three volume set. He wrote the first one at the age of 34. 34? I have some catching up to do. The second one was titled It’s Been a Good Life. The last volume was published near the end of his life and is titled simply I, Asimov. I think that title is fitting, a nice tongue in cheek reference to his most famous (if wholly misunderstood by filmmakers) book. I have some reading to do as well.

Facebook Polls Broken?

I’ve been trying to get polls to show up with blank options after the first few required options, and I can’t get the blank “add an option” box to show for me. I can’t get it to show for the Wife, either. This is what the polls look like for me and for her:

I’m not the only one confused by this problem. All over the internet there are questions and responses that go through the frankly obvious method to get a poll to show up in Facebook. It’s not rocket science. None of the answers that I’ve run across discuss this specific problem, or give me a way to get around it.

I’m not the only one that can’t see the additional option boxes. After a member of one of my groups offered up that she could see the additional option box, and sent me a screenshot to prove it:

Several other members piped up that they too could not see the add box. I haven’t yet found a solution to this problem, so I’m creating a blog article simply to illustrate the problem for feedback purposes. I will update this article when/if I find a solution.

Addendum

The polls appear to be fixed as of Feb 1, 2022. I can’t tell if it’s just me or if this is true for everyone. Fingers crossed?

Migrating To a New System

I ran across a request for technical support on Facebook today. It seems that there is still a shortage of technical nerds in the outlying provinces of the country. This is understandable to me. Why would you live away from decent healthcare and a wide variety of shopping opportunities? It’s cheaper to live out in the boonies for very good reasons. It pays one to understand what the tradeoffs are for that relaxed country living.

There are no computer outlets in Rotan, or pretty much anywhere USA that can be navigated by referencing the one stoplight in town. This means that if you want your computer upgraded you will have to DIY it or you will have to go somewhere USA that features more than one strip mall. I’m a cheapskate even if I do pay through the nose to be near places that can do stuff for me, so I tend to DIY most things before calling someone to fix the mess I’ve made.

In this particular instance, the person was inquiring about getting their programs and data onto a new system. I’ve done this countless times with my own data and with other people’s data. It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, find everything that came with your old system. This is the justification on my part for keeping every stray bit of garbage that ships with my computer systems and other technical doodads. There is an entire garage full of useless empty boxes that can attest to this tendency of mine.

Hopefully you’ve tossed all the installation media that came with the original system into the empty shipping box, along with every other program you installed over the years that you’ve used that system.

Without the original installation media, it will be hard to make the programs work if you transfer to a new hard drive or a new windows installation. My suggestion would be to track down the programs you know you will need to re-install, first. Then make a decent backup. There are several pay systems out there that will back up you data for you, but you can also DIY that yourself with a series of DVD’s, or just get a separate backup drive and make a backup on that drive (this is something everyone should be periodically doing, and virtually no one does. Until it is too late) make a backup before proceeding further.

Crack the case open on both systems and see if the drive cables are the same type. If they are, then try to move the old drive to the new system. There may be some fiddly BIOS settings you will need to do in order to boot to the other drive, so you will probably have to get into the BIOS at startup to make that work. There should be a visible prompt on the screen advising you of how to get into the BIOS. Nearly every computer does this.

If the old drive boots in the new system, you are golden. No worries. You can reformat the new hard drive that came with the system and use it for data storage. Like backing up, putting your personal data on a separate drive from the operating system is just good computer hygiene. If the OS craps out on a separate drive (the most frequent problem) you can just reformat that drive and reinstall the OS without disturbing your personal data. Be careful to reformat the right drive! Can’t tell you the number of times that error has been made. Even I have done it.

If the old drive doesn’t boot in the new system, or if it is a different type of hard drive, then you are going to have to re-install the programs yourself or pay someone to do it for you. At least you will have the media to install from because you found the media before starting this process. Then you do the opposite of what I described above, and remove the old OS folders from your data drive, placing your data where you can find it again somewhere else on that drive.

The process is not easy. I will not say that four letter word willingly on any subject. However, it is doable by anyone with the patience it takes to carefully go through the steps I’ve outlined above. I hate dealing with hardware myself. I’m always convinced I’ve just made another expensive paperweight every time I crack open a case. The number of times that has been true has been less than double digits, and I’ve cracked open somewhere near a hundred different computer cases over the years.

facebook

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

I was briefly infatuated with Richard Powers listening to this interview:

spotify.com – Ezra Klein – This Conversation With Richard Powers Is a Gift

I was so infatuated that I started looking for the transcript of the show and noting the parts of the interview that struck me as I was out on a walk listening to it. I mistakenly published my notes at some point during the walk, and then just left them published because it was too much work to figure out how to unpublish it from the mobile interface. It’s been sitting at the top of the blog for days now, still only partially finished. My apologies.

Capitalism

Commodity mediated, individualist, market driven human exceptionalism…

…I had this sense that to become a better person and to get ahead and to really make more of myself, I had to be as productive as possible. And that meant waking up every morning and getting 1,000 words that I was proud of. And it’s interesting that I would even settle on a quantitative target. That’s very typical for that kind of mindset that I’m talking about — 1,000 words and then you’re free, and then you can do what you want with the day.

Richard Powers

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard

I had heard of Suzanne Simard long before this episode of Ezra’s show. Way back when I first started listening to podcasts. During my binging of the back catalog of Radiolab, I ran across this episode:

Radiolab -From Tree to Shining Tree – July 30, 2016

To summarize the part of her work that is covered in that episode, trees feed each other through the network of fungi that fill the ground around them. The forest is more than just the trees. The forest exists for its own purpose. A purpose that has absolutely nothing to do with us.

If we see all of evolution as somehow leading up to us, all of human, cultural evolution leading up to neoliberalism and here we are just busily trying to accumulate and make meaning for ourselves, death becomes the enemy. When we enter into or recover this sense of kinship that was absolutely fundamental to so many indigenous cultures everywhere around the world at many, many different points in history, that there is no radical break between us and our kin, that even consciousness is shared, to some degree and to a large degree, with a lot of other creatures, then death stops seeming like the enemy and it starts seeming like one of the most ingenious kinds of design for keeping evolution circulating and keeping the experiment running and recombining.

And to go from terror into being and into that sense that the experiment is sacred, not this one outcome of the experiment, is to immediately transform the way that you think even about very fundamental social and economic and cultural things. If the experiment is sacred, how can we possibly justify our food systems, for instance? It’s only the belief that we share no significant kinds of meditation or emotional life with cows that allow us to run the kind of food system that we run.

Richard Powers

I am not nearly as impressed with Neil Postman as both Ezra and Richard Powers are. When I got to that section of the interview, my infatuation with Powers waned significantly. I have some pointed thoughts about Neil Postman, some of which may eventually appear here after I finish working through the two books of his that I’m on again, off again, listening to. In the meantime, here’s a link to the other true prophet that Ezra mentions:

The Essential McLuhan by Marshall McLuhan

Richard Powers’ books:

The Babylon Project Reborn?

Back in February I wrote this article:

In it I opine about the deluge of bad Trek spinoffs, so much bad Trek that it would be easy to drown in the volume of it all. As a closing observation I tossed out a few paragraphs about the complete lack of revisits to a popular science fiction television show that I felt got short shrift back in the nineties, Babylon 5, and then proceeded to lament this fact. I said, in effect:

You, Hollywood mogul. Why don’t you leave the corpse of Star Trek alone and go mess around with the dream given form? It could use a bit more attention.

I have lamented about the sorry state of affairs that was the five-year run of Babylon 5 since the days that we waited breathlessly for each episode to drop, for each season’s contract to be picked up, for the replacement of cast characters, etcetera. It was a pins and needles affair through the entire experience.

As a wannabe storyteller, I wept when Commander Sinclair was replaced with Captain Sheridan. I knew what a hampering of the overall story arc that this replacement would represent. The compromise that was worked out that allowed Michael O’Hare to retire marked the show and altered everything that happened after it. Michael O’Hare wasn’t the first actor to be replaced from the original pilot lineup of characters. This wasn’t unexpected, but the number of actors who came and went as the story progressed was a staggering number for any series, culminating in the loss of my favorite character, Susan Ivanova played by Claudia Christian at the beginning of season five.

The syndication contract that was arranged at the beginning of the show proved to be a constant sore, with each succeeding season being marked by negotiations that threatened the show’s continued existence, much like the fictional threats to the five mile long space station that the show was about. All alone in the night. The fifth season was such an open question that series creator, J. Michael Straczynski (Joe) felt compelled to complete the majority of the storylines at the end of the fourth season instead of gambling on getting a fifth. In the end the fifth season was picked up by another network, but the snafu of getting all the contracts carried over caused the loss of Claudia Christian from the cast, which in my personal estimation marred the last season irrevocably. The fire had gone out of the show for me, and I watched with only passing interest as the series wrapped up its promised fifth season and bid us all a fond farewell.

The problems with the show didn’t end there, though. The coveted DVD copies that made or broke shows after their airtimes were finished back in the day were glacially slow in making their appearance, and they weren’t of the quality that we hardcore fans expected. The Wife and I made the ill-advised move to invest in laserdisc copies of the show, but the run of discs was never completed and we ended up having to sell the ones that were released for a pittance. That loss left a sour taste in my mouth, and has turned me against Fox media in all its forms ever since.

My ire for Fox is well-earned. They went on from defrauding us of the promised full release of laserdiscs for Babylon 5, went on to cover up for the fact that they skimped on putting together the episodes for airing. Fox never finished the composite shots correctly for widescreen display, and they never transferred the animation sequences to high definition formats, making display of the show on high-definition television an irksome task of squinting from just the right distance to make the show look good. All of this making Joe’s work to produce a show that could be transferred to new technologies in the future a waste of effort.

Today I read in the news that far from having hard feelings about Fox’s betrayal of his interests, Joe has decided to go back into business with Fox:

twitter.com/straczynski

To be continued.

You cannot step in the same river twice, for the river has changed, and you have changed.

Heraclitus

NBC App Wants Feedback?

I’ve been catching The Rachel Maddow Show via her audio podcast for years now. I occasionally watch the partial video podcast too, but only on days when I want to see what she’s talking about. Wednesday was one of those days.

There was some bit or other that was visual later in the show on September first, and so consequently not in the video podcast which is generally the first thirty minutes of the show or the first story, whichever comes out to about half of her airtime, and I thought I would try to catch that bit on MSNBC’s website (they do eventually get a transcript up. Not really useful for a show conducted in a visual medium. -ed.) While looking around on MSNBC.com I noticed that there was an NBC app that they said I could watch the show on, so I downloaded and installed the app.

The Rachel Maddow Show is indeed on the app, but the ability to search for clips from that or any show is almost non-existent, the same problem that I run into on the website. The content is almost always more easily found on YouTube than it is on MSNBC.com or NBC.com, even when NBC puts the video on YouTube themselves.

I couldn’t find the current episode of Rachel’s show that day. So I gave up and finished listening to the audio podcast. The next day it was the same problem when I thought I would start with the NBC app instead of heading straight to the podcast. I could find yesterday’s show (now I had forgotten what it was I had wanted to see in that show) but not that day’s episode. Back to my podcast app then.

What good is yesterday’s news? It is of little use unless you are constructing a narrative that spans the subject in question, as Rachel did when digging up what the news was on the day that Roe versus Wade was decided by the supreme court. I don’t need to see yesterday’s news if I’ve already heard that news. I had heard it. I heard it elsewhere.

Today I opened the app to watch Rachel Maddow for September 3rd, 2021. It isn’t available on the app yet. The feed helpfully says “finish watching” on the episode I’ve already seen elsewhere and queued previously. When I scroll through to the end of the episode, the app queued all the ads from the episode for me to watch just to finish the show. If I wanted to check that I’ve seen the end of the days news from her, I have to watch five thirty second ads.

I’m not going to watch five ads, not even five ten second ads. I won’t remember what the first two ads were about by the time I get to the fifth one. No, I’m going to close the app and do something else. Everyone would close the app and do something else.

When I exit the video stream, the NBC programmers incautiously ask me for for feedback on my dissatisfaction. My feedback? You might want to change the way that scrolling feature works. You won’t retain too many watchers if you don’t. You might want to rethink not putting the latest news show on the feed. Everyone will have seen the episode elsewhere before they will see it in the app, making including all of your news programming in the app pointless, those viewers permanently lost.

Also? The feedback page errored out when I went to send this novel to you. You might want to fix that issue as well. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Postscript

The reality of the situation is even more ridiculous than I described. I have to have a cable subscription to be able to access MSNBC content on my phone. Never mind that the content comes with ads embedded, ads that they pretend pay for the content (clearly the ads do not pay for anything. So why must I watch them?) I have to pay the middleman, the cable company or some similarly set up other middleman, in order to watch content that is available on the web for free if I simply wait a few hours and then go to a pirate site to download it.

I don’t mind paying for entertainment, I do that all the time. I do mind being charged for access to information that is necessary for the proper functioning of a self-representational governmental system. Access to current news is essential unless we are all going to just bow to the man and let him make our decisions for us.

When Squirrels Attack

It was two days before Christmas. December 23, 2020. The Wife went out to run errands like she does pretty much every day. I can’t convince her to stay home, not even with contagion everywhere around us. Nope, she has to go out and do things or her day is wasted. I’m awake, which is unusual for me this early in the day. We had been out early the day before, which meant I slept early the night before, and it was going to be awhile before I could slouch my way back into sleeping well into the afternoon and pretending to be annoyed about it.

She called me from the road. “There is something wrong with the car. There are lights on all over the dash and the transmission isn’t shifting properly. I think I better bring it back home.”

I told her to be careful and then I poured myself a cup of hot tea and stood inside the front door waiting for the car to reappear over the hill in front of the house.

When it finally did reappear it was definitely limping and she barely managed to get the car up the driveway. I motioned for her to pop the hood and it only took a few minutes of inspection to reveal what the problem was. The wiring harness was visibly chewed right at the point where it plugged into the engine manifold.

We had experienced a version of this problem before. A few years previously the Daughter had left the Leaf out on the back driveway and something had gotten into the engine compartment and made a nest right behind the driver’s side headlight. She just thought the headlight was out and bought a replacement bulb, but when we opened the hood and looked at where the wires went into the back of the headlight, there were no wires. There was only a nest made of some kind of chewed fabric that we couldn’t identify but hoped wasn’t also from inside the vehicle, and the stubs of wires sticking up out of the the place where they merged with the rest of the wiring harness.

I had never heard of creatures nesting in cars before, but when we took the Leaf to be estimated and fixed, the mechanic said “Oh, yeah. We see that pretty regularly.” Little did we know that we were leaving the new Nissan Versa to be vandalized by the same rodent that had struck the Leaf the day before. We parked the other car in the same spot on the driveway, and while we were gone the saboteur came back, and, apparently mistaking one vehicle for another vehicle parked in the same place, proceeded to make an identical nest in the same place in the Versa.

We must have interrupted her, because the nest wasn’t finished when we checked why that car’s headlight was also out. The Versa was still under warranty at the time, so we played stupid and just took the car in complaining about the headlight, and we let them fix the wiring that the rodent had chewed in that car, without ever asking about who was paying for it. As it turned out, they paid for it. We made a point of never parking cars on that driveway again. We instead parked on the front driveway, since this lot has the rare attribute of two curb cuts and driveways onto the property. We parked on the front driveway because it was more open and less prone to rodent traffic.

Or so we thought.

As we stood there looking at the damaged wiring harness, I knew that we were facing the same enemy. The varmint had struck again, crippling our mobility and probably costing us thousands of dollars.

I called the insurance company. Two days before Christmas, in the time of COVID, meant that I didn’t get a live person for quite awhile. When I did they were less than helpful about the problem. I had already logged onto our insurer’s website to try and start the claims process, but neither avenue was giving me the options that I wanted. Finally I just called Nissan and had them come tow the vehicle to the dealer’s shop so that Nissan could get started estimating the damage while I took the necessary time to argue with my insurer.

The Wife hitched a ride to a car rental place and secured replacement transportation. We were going to be without a vehicle for quite some time. I don’t think we understood how long, but we knew we wouldn’t be getting the Versa back until well after New Years. We’d be lucky to even get the car inspected and an estimate on repairs before New Years Day.

As it turns out, I never saw that Nissan Versa again. When Nissan finally got us an estimate for the repair, the price stated was more than what the car was worth. My insurance company insisted they could get the repair done for less money, and then fumbled about for weeks trying to find a place that would give them a lower figure, only managing to find a shop in their network that was hamstrung by deals with Nissan that required them to duplicate estimates that Nissan shops offer.

The price to replace both damaged harnesses was about $14,000.00. This was only slightly less than the car cost when it rolled off the dealership lot, straight off the delivery truck with 24 miles on the odometer. Mind you, they would have had to pull the drive assembly to replace one of the harnesses, which required a full shop and several days work to complete, but that just tells me the car was worth a lot more than they charged me to drive it off the lot in the first place. If the two harnesses installed was $14,000.oo, how much were the seats worth? 50¢? The body must have only been worth $100. What an unmitigated crock of shit! Is what I thought.

It is entirely possible that every car on the market in the United States is rolling rodent buffet in waiting. The manufacturers have to roll out these new harnesses for years after the cars are delivered:

Some believe the culprit could be modern car wiring or, more specifically, the soy-based insulation used to wrap it. This insulation can be an irresistible treat for rats, mice, squirrels, and even rabbits. The issue has become so widespread that several class-action lawsuits have been levied at automakers, with some of the highest-profile cases involving Honda and Toyota.

caranddriver.com
I miss this car.

So here we are. Versa totaled. Totaled because of squirrels. Driving a rental car. Looking for another car to replace the car that we both thought would be the last gasoline vehicle we would purchase, just two years after we purchased it. This is not how we normally change vehicles. Normally, we buy a car and it stays with us like a member of the family. We grow old together, gain scars together, etcetera. Our cars stay with us for at least a decade, generally. The green Saturn wagon we special ordered has been the only other car we’ve owned that we didn’t hang onto until the bitter end, and we traded that one in for a bigger Saturn sedan that we hung onto until there wasn’t an automotive brand called Saturn anymore.

This hurt. It hurt financially, because the car had depreciated by over half its value since we had bought it, and that came out of our almost empty pockets. It hurt physically, a gaping hole in our lives in the form of a car we had just come to accept as a replacement for the Rav4 that had eaten it’s own transmission two years previously (another car that we drove for nearly a decade. It’s even in a movie) now taken from us by a squirrel. A SQUIRREL for fucks sake! Not a deer or a cow or some unavoidably tragic accident involving an 18 wheeler and a greased roadway. A fucking rodent the size of a football killed our car.

How do I know how big it was? Because The Wife found the bitch. Found it under the hood of the rental car we were driving while the Versa was being pronounced dead. It happened in a McDonald’s parking lot. The Wife was just driving along, getting her morning cup of iced tea, and the dash lights started flashing again just like in the Versa before it died. So she jumped out, popped the hood, and the squirrel and The Wife stared at each other in surprise.

The squirrel decided it was time to beat a hasty retreat. The Wife said “Oh no you don’t” and grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and flung it as far as she could make it fly. Which was about the distance between the McDonald’s and the neighboring auto repair shop. Which is where the squirrel landed. In the towing yard of an auto repair shop.

She had taken the wire-eating monster away from it’s morning snack, and flung it square into the middle of a smorgasbord of automotive harnesses. Which is probably where it still is to this day. Eating wiring harnesses to its heart’s content. Unless the mechanics found it. I personally hope they did. The pelt would make a nice hat, I bet.

The Wife nonchalantly whistled her way onto the rental company’s nearest yard and pretended to not know why the dash lights were all flashing red on her rental car’s dashboard. “Can I have another car, please?” and proceeded on her quest to find and buy a replacement vehicle. One that would now probably be safe from wire-eating varmints, unless there were two of them near the house. The other one was not coming back over the distance she had taken it.

We ended up at First Texas Honda where we bought a used Honda Fit in February, almost two months after having the Versa chewed to death on our own driveway. The insurer paid for the rental, at least. It’s too bad we didn’t have insurance that replaced the car. We fixed that this time. Having a car destroyed like that, costing us about $10k in the process, with no visible sign of harm, seems almost unreal. But that is what happens when squirrels attack.

Postscript

I scare the Honda Fit. It doesn’t like the way I drive. No one likes the way I drive. It talks back to me. Flashing me messages. Sounding alarms. pulling on the wheel or activating the brakes. Slow down! Not so close! Brake. Brake! BRAKE! It’s worse than a side seat driver. It keeps yelling at me when I straighten curves out too. Lane departure is now a thing I read pretty regularly on the dashboard. I’m beginning to realize how bad a driver I am.

Ever since The Wife went in for her open heart surgery, I have been forced back into my role as a driver. I don’t really mind driving her to and from her appointments (really honey, I don’t) It is just that driving drains all my attention and mental energy, leaving me with almost nothing to utilize for other things during the day. This is part of the reason why I haven’t written anything for several weeks. This article took months to complete. It wasn’t the wife’s fault. No really. I needed the separation time from the events described here. I’m finally not as pissed about loosing $10k. I think.