Know Anyone?

The MISS Foundation 2021 Annual Report (cover)

Do you know someone who’s experienced the loss of a child, grandchild, parent or sibling? Allow me to point you/them to the MISS Foundation, a wonderful group, brilliantly led by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore. This group is like a down comforter for people caught in a cold, dark room of grief. Here is how I met Dr. Jo  — what her friends call her.

Ten years ago I was standing in line at the Starbucks on the corner of 7th Street and Thunderbird. Cacciatore was in line ahead of me.  I couldn’t stop staring at the tattoo lettering across her back. It was a script, a poem, or maybe a song lyric, I couldn’t tell.  But I knew there was a story there. After we’d ordered and she waited for her drink, I got enough courage and approached her, saying, “Wow! That is some interesting artwork on your back.” I watched her size me up, making an assessment and then a decision on how to respond. She looked directly into my eyes and said. “It is a poem from St. John called The Dark Night of the Soul. It was applied with ink mixed with the ashes of my dead daughter.”  I paused, stunned, and as we stared at each other, I teared up and mumbled, “Oh. I know something about what you feel. I lost my son.” Neither of us said anymore. I tried to talk, but couldn’t.  I was so choked up.  She got her coffee and left the shop.

tattoo on Dr. Jo's back

Later she would write of this connection on Facebook. Someone saw it, thought it sounded like me, and pointed me to it.  We ended up corresponding and soon became friends.  Cacciatore went on to complete her doctoral thesis on the heartbreak experienced by parents who’ve lost a child and the best methods for dealing with this level of grief.  She started a non-profit foundation called The MISS Foundation. Last year she published a book on grief which has become a best seller on Amazon.com titled “Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief.”

I’m now on the board of the MISS Foundation.  Here is their 2021 Annual Report, a year in which the organization made extraordinary progress, including coverage by Oprah and Prince Harry’s television series. Others do so much more than I do to help, but I love these people and what they do.  If there are angels on earth, they are here, in this organization.

Pricing collector cars

My good friend and motorcycle riding buddy, Philip Richter, fritters away some of his free time by putting his thoughts about cars and the car market into a newsletter. In fact, Philip’s “Turtle Garage” inspired my newsletter. My readers who like cars are going to find Philip’s April 1 newsletter fascinating. It ranges from old Porches to today’s Tesla vs. everyone else battle. Enjoy it – I sure did.

So SLAP me

Because I subscribe to a variety of websites and have a good-sized group of Facebook friends linked more by shared love of family, motorcycles and cars than political affiliation, I run across my fair share of questionable news reports.  Whether they are conspiracy theories or just scary threats to which one should pay attention, a pattern always seems to be lurking in the mist, something that should alert me to the possibility of “fake news.”  I could just never spot it.

Then this week I read a terrific article by Jeannie Banks Thomas, a folklorist of all things, and a professor at Utah State University.  She nails it perfectly and provides four simple questions to tip you off that you need to get your fact checker fired up.  I just loved it.  Here is a link to her complete article, but I describe the high points below.

She uses the acronym S.L.A.P, as in slap your forehead, something those of us from the Midwest often refer to as the Norwegian salute.  You can do it, right?  You hold an open palm out in front of you, then briskly move it toward your forehead.  When your hand hits your forehead with a slap, you’ve done it correctly.  True natives also mumble “Uff da” under their breath, which adds an air of authenticity.

Professor Thomas’s S.L.A.P. acronym is as follows:

S: Scare or Shock – Does the account attempt to scare or shock?
L: Logistics Test – Does this account rely on or involve complicated, far-fetched logistics?
A: A-List – Does this story involve celebrities or famous people? Does it have Donald Trump, George Soros, Hilary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, or Joe Biden in it?
P: Prejudice Test – Does the account demonize or portray a person or group negatively?

“YES” answers should trigger our BS detectors like a fire alarm. When that happens, do some quick research.  Remember, research is not what someone posts on a message board. Research is vetted information supported with credible evidence.  Professor Thomas reviewed over 50 years of legend, rumor and conspiracy theory and analyzed over 100 legends.  It was during this work that these four patterns emerged. Don’t get me wrong, not everything you see which results in “yeses” to the SLAP questions is guaranteed to be bogus – just know the probability is much higher it will be, and you need to check before forwarding it along like a clueless doofus.

I love this easy tool which can help anyone quickly assess a story’s veracity.  And given the amount of Norwegian blood in my veins, it’s easy for me to remember – I just salute.

Keep it, trade it or sell it?

Our amazing 2014 Audi Q5 the morning of March 8, 2022

When our 2014 Audi Q5 passed 75,000 miles, (it has now surpassed 100,000), I began to get nervous.  On the one hand, the warranty was gone, so repair costs would fall on us. On the other hand, this had been one of the best cars we ever owned.  We purchased it in 2014, buying into the whole “clean, efficient, diesel” theme being hyped by Audi and Volkswagen.  Later our Q5 would get caught up in VW’s “diesel-gate” scandal; it minimally affected us or the car’s performance, other than about a year when letters with checks and apologies from Volkswagen, who owns Audi, filled our mailbox.

The Q5 happily pulled my other vehicles around. Here it is on a trip to a Lotus meet in Colorado.

The car performed admirably, to say the least. Its relatively low horsepower (240 HP) was offset by over 425-foot lbs. of torque. As Jay Leno once said, “Horsepower sells cars, but torque wins races.” Besides being spunky off the line, pulling a trailer loaded with my 4-passenger Polaris RZR, spares, tools, four adults and gear up Highway 17 from Phoenix into the higher elevations was a walk in the park for the Audi.  I used to laugh as we easily passed large, roaring and belching pickup trucks, gasping due to the long, steady climb.  On top of that, it was exceptionally efficient.   Filling the tank, we loved seeing the “miles remaining” indicator show 585 or more miles.  Sure, the Audi had an extra-large tank, but the number would not change for the first hour or so after we left the gas station, and only then would it gradually begin coming down. Audi claimed 32 MPG and our experience was it may have been better than that.  The 8-speed automatic transmission was tuned for efficiency and it delivered.  Nevertheless, no matter how much we love a car; there is a time to let it go.  How do we recognize that time? Should we keep it, trade it in or sell it?  When we got close to 90,000 miles I knew we were living on borrowed time and a year later I was proven right.

Fears about costly repairs on higher mileage German cars were pooh-poohed by several car expert buddies. They would nod sagely and say something like; “Diesel cars easily go 275,000 miles or more. Hell, at 100,000 it’s just getting broke in.” Still, I worried. We’ve had experience with several new cars over the years.  In most cases, we viewed their passing the 50,000 mile warranty period as the time to begin thinking about letting them go.  Many people take an opposite approach, thinking something like:  “Now that the $313.40 monthly car payment is gone, we’ll set that money aside in a special account for car repairs.  In the long run, we’ll be better off.”  I think that only works in theory.

Here is how it playing out for the Audi.  Our first, out-of-warranty service was for $849, at 53,350 miles.  Up until then, all warranty work was either included or part of the “pre-paid” warranty option. In 2018 our costs were $720 for brake pads and an oil/filter change.  In 2019 we spent $1,540.13 for its 75K mileage service and new tires.  In 2020 the car cost just $698 for its 95K service.

In 2021, things started to go south.  First, it was brake pads at $567.28, then a water pump leak for $1,209.18.  This was followed by a need to replace the front bushings (upper and lower) a cost of over $4,000 if done by Audi.  However, a local alignment and suspension specialist shop (Network Alignment) had done good work on my other cars.  Cheaper than Audi, it still cost us $2,969.59 using original Audi parts.

And then, just as we’re getting the car ready to transfer to my nephew, Audi decides it needs $8,881.91 in additional work.  $2,639.01 to replace the engine mounts, $3,723.11 to fix a newly developed coolant leak, $384.64 for a rear wiper blade (are you kidding me?), and 4 new tires for $1,739.

Kelly Blue Book indicated the trade-in value at about $13,500.  With the $3K already spent on the front bushings and another $2K for motor mounts I’ve got $5K into it and I’ve yet to address the coolant issue (potentially $3K but not urgent – it’s easy to add coolant and the leak is slow).  Plus it will need tires, another $1500 unless I buy some cheapies.  So, it could run over $8,000 and possibly more.

Bottom line, I’ll never again recommend the “keep and repair it” approach, especially once you’ve exceeded the warranty by 15-20,000 miles.  Perhaps, if you’re mechanically inclined and can do your own repairs, it might make sense.  However, given the complexities of newer cars, I suspect that direction is fraught with pitfalls as well. I’m curious as to what others think about this and your experience. Let me know in the comments section below.