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Last weekend we received another recall notice from Ford Motor Company. The third of its kind for our old Windstar van. This time it was for corrosion issues with the front axle that could cause the wheels to just break off the car.

On a vehicle that was built in 2000 I would expect anything to fail at any time for any reason. If that happened to me, I would just consider it bad luck and decide whether I want to pay for the repairs, or ditch the old junker. Not so in the USA, where companies can loose millions of dollars in a lawsuit because one of their products failed and somebody got hurt. Which is why manufacturers recall thousands of cars as soon as they learn about a potential problem.

On the previous two occasions our van passed the inspection, but this time it didn't. The repair shop doesn't even have the parts in yet, so while we are waiting, we get a free rental car. I'd hate to be Ford right now! Can you imagine thousands of customers, all of them getting free loaners with full coverage insurance for weeks or months, and free major repairs on their own cars that are over ten years old?

Anyways, meet our (temporary) new ride: 2011 Toyota RAV4


(real) Fire Alarm!

When I came into Zollner in the morning I noticed some kind of electrical fire smell. I didn't think much of it, because we have several labs in the basement were students do all kinds of experiments and we've had some peculiar smells coming from down there before.
I assumed there was a chemistry class going on. 

Then I saw colleagues from the buildings and grounds department standing in the hallway, discussing something, and just assumed they had been notified about the smell and were going to fix it. When the fire alarm went off half an hour later, I assumed that my colleagues had resolved the issue and were now testing the alarm to make sure everything worked.

Boy, was I wrong!
This was a real fire alarm, triggered by the batteries in our UPS exploding in the basement, pouring acid all over the cabinet. The fire department came to our rescue and we resumed work half an hour later.

020911_ZollnerFire-3.jpgNever assume!


Is Health a Luxury?

Today I went and had a new piece of gold put into one of my teeth, replacing the old inlay that had been showing signs of decay growing under it for almost a year now. I had to wait for such a long time because I needed to save money to pay for this dental service.

Comparing today's price to what it cost for that same tooth to be filled with gold twenty years ago - about $50 out of my pocket plus $150 from my insurance - explains why I see so many people with lousy teeth in this country.

Goldzahn.jpgHere's what you can buy for $468, if you have insurance and a coupon (?!) from your dentist. Otherwise prepare to lay out $1,136 for 5 grams of gold.


Fall Storms


Northern Indiana was hit by severe weather, heavy rainfall, and nine tornados today around 11:00 a.m. The storm system brought high winds that toppled trees and power lines and damaged many buildings. We didn't see much damage in Fort Wayne, but towards the West people's houses were torn apart.

The storm lasted for only about half an hour, so I could still go for my lunch-time walk around the cemetery. A huge limb had broken off one of the big trees there and lay sprawling across a dozen graves and part of my path.


Phishing goes Mobile :(

Ever since email became mainstream crooks and thieves used it to try and phish personal details and passwords off unsuspecting honest people. These fraudulent emails are easy to recognize: they tell you some very exiting story about lottery winnings, or a huge amount of money somewhere, or it looks like a job offer - and then they ask for sensitive information, like your full name, birth date, address, home phone number, account number, SSN, ........ if you actually fall for that, and give up your data, you're toast!

Over the years people got wise, though. I don't think anybody in their right mind replies to scam emails anymore. So the criminals had to come up with different ideas. Lately they've been doing it with mobile phones.  

So, just in case you are young/innocent enough to still believe anything somebody will tell you, beware! Here's what happenend to me twice in the past few days:

You receive a call on your cell phone, the caller id shows just a number (sometimes it doesn't even look like a phone number). When you answer, a female computerized voice comes on saying something like 'Hello, this is ........... (insert the name of your bank here). Your account (or credit card, or debit card) has been temporarily suspended. To reactivate, please press 1 now to be transferred directly to our security department.' 

If you are curious enough to proceed to press 1, you will really be transferred. Just not to any bank's security department! The person will ask for many very personal details, and then abuse that information immediately to drain your bank account, or even overdraw it, if you were naive enough to opt-in for the 'overdraft protection' that your bank has been trying hard to push onto you recently (so they can charge you $25 per incident).