Hello world!

January 15, 2010

Here are some of my projects that I can make!

Hello world!

November 12, 2014

PGM35's Blog

Here are some of my projects that I can make!

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Veteran’s Day

November 11, 2011

I posted the below on Veteran’s Day of 2008 to give everyone an idea of what it was like to be over there.  Mike’s a pretty good writer – and a good talker too if you get a chance to actually meet him.  😀   Even though some soldiers had email access, Mike only wrote letters and we recorded mini cassette tapes and sent those back and forth.  Mail took 2 weeks to get here or there from the time sent.  Can’t believe its been over 8 years since he got back in November 2003.  Thanks for reading!

I asked Mike if he minded my posting one of his letters that he wrote me from Iraq when he was there from April 5, 2003 to November 7, 2003 and he said he didn’t mind. So here is the first letter I got from him. Just shows a little of what went on over there from his perspective (he had been in for 9 years at this point in time) and what he saw and thought.

April 25, 2003

My Dearest Paulette,

I just got your letter late last night, about 10:30PM our time, the platoon was already asleep when the mail came in. I got a chance to read your letter during my guard shift. Sorry I haven’t written but finding the time hasn’t been all that easy.

The night we left we didn’t actually leave in the air until about 1 AM so the next 22 hrs were spent on the plane. We had to land in Milan to refuel and we were on the ground for about 2 hours there. Then off to Kuwait. By the time we got to Camp Wolf, it was nearly 4:30AM Monday morning. Serious case of jet lag, jumping 9 hours ahead and spending 22 hours on a plane sucks. We weren’t at Camp Wolf too long just a few hours, all the drivers and there TCs went to the port to find our vehicles and the rest of the platoon headed to Camp Penn. Once we got to the port, finding all of our equipment was quite a task, a whole division’s worth of vehicles just spread all over the damn place. It took the better part of Monday to track down all of our platoon’s vehicles. We had an accident while moving all the vehicles into the right rows for movement. One of the tracked vehicles caught on fire, due to sand bags catching on fire sparked by an arcing battery. A small fire quickly becomes a big fire. Myself and Sgt Perkins and C Co. 1st Sgt finally got the fire under control with about 10 fire extinguishers and quite a few water bottles. The whole inside of the vehicle was just about burned out, and stunk of burned sand bags for days. Not a real good way to start your first day in country.

We got the word to move to Camp Penn about midnight that night, all of the tracked vehicles were put on trucks and all the wheeled vehicles had to make the drive to Camp Penn. Almost 6 hours of straight driving. We got to our new home, about 6:30AM, we set up a make shift motor pool and find ourselves a tent to put our gear in. Surprisingly, the tents had AC, but nothing much else, just pick a piece of real estate on the ground and call it your own. We staged out of Camp Penn for about 7-10 days before hitting the road again. I never got the chance to use the phone due to the masses of people waiting to use them. Can’t say I was heartbroken to leave that damn camp; dusty, hot, lousy food, almost no clean port0pottys, not your resort type place. So we finally make it to roll out day to Baghdad, at the time we didn’t know it was going to take almost 28 hours of almost non-stop driving worth to our next assembly area. Again, all the tracked vehicles were put on trucks and all the wheels got to drive. It wasn’t much fun sitting behind the wheel that long. The first little town outside of Baghdad we rolled through was like going back in time. I’ve seen third world countries before; I don?t see how these people can live as they do. The road in was littered with destroyed Iraqi vehicle, tanks, trucks, transport vehicles, it was kind of eerie because there were quite a few destroyed US vehicles too; more than I think the news was reporting.

When we finally reached Baghdad, we stopped about 5 km outside the actual city and unloaded all the vehicles and drove the rest of the way in. Baghdad itself is hard to describe, with the blown up buildings, masses of people looting the stores, buildings on fire, thick black smoke from burning tires, to coin a phrase, it looked like a war zone. Tensions were quite high as we drove through the city, because parts of the city, 3rd ID hasn?t cleared or secured yet. So basically, we were driving through the Bad Lands for quite some time. You couldn’t tell who was who, soldier wise, they all look the same. We all came out with no shots fired, that was a good thing. We had a change of mission in route which called for us to keep moving north to the city of Tekrit, the town Saddam himself was from. Needless to say, that meant even more driving by yours truly. It was almost another 20 plus hours behind the wheel. The thing about Tekrit was all the enemy forces that fled Baghdad supposedly went there for refuge. Our job was to go there and draw them out. Once we get about 10 km from the city, we get frag o’ed and get new orders sending us to the most northern city in Iraq, Mosul. Because instead of going to Tekrit, like the Intel guys thought, all the enemy forces went to Mosul. The plan was still the same; go into the city and draw them out. The problem lied in how to enter an unsecured city. The plan that was briefed to us was we were to stop short of the city and link up with the 101 ABN who was also in the same situation. As always, things never go as planned.

We wind up driving into the middle of the city at about 10-15 mph, not a real good idea, I’m thinking. I’m trying to drive and keep my rifle at the ready just in case I may need it. We get into the heart of the city and that’s when the fireworks started. We were all following one another like ducks in a row one behind the other when all the flares started getting shot off, that wasn’t too bad, it was when the tracer rounds started zipping by things got a bit uncomfortable. The Lt and I were lucky when several tracer rounds passed between our vehicle and the one that was behind us. No one returned fire because no one saw where it came from. We slowly snaked our way through the city to an abandoned Iraqi airfield controlled by a small group of Marines, taking pot shot fire the whole time. I think the LT aged a few years in about 45 min or so. We re-link up with the rest of our platoon on the flight line of this air base. And secure ourselves for the night.

During the day things were somewhat calm until the sun when down. That’s when the light show starts. Tracer rounds zipping around, fires being set, explosions going off all around the city make for quite a unique situation to live in. The Marines time in country was nearing their 30 day mark and they were due to return to their ship, which would have us and the 101ABN to secure the airfield like always, things change and we spend roughly 3 days on the flight line of the airfield and we find out that we are moving again, where we don’t know,. When we finally move, we move about 2 km from where we were at to an abandoned Republic Guard Base. Home Sweet Home.

The first few days were uneventful until yesterday. The BN XO gives us the mission to patrol around the perimeter of the camp, simple enough you would think, but as always Murphy had to rear his ugly head. Because the base was abandoned, the looters were running all over the place taking whatever they could carry. The Army didn’t care about that, they just didn’t want them getting a hold of any weapons or explosives that were in some of the buildings, and there were plenty for the taking. While on patrol, if we were to see anyone with any weapons, we were to detain them and take the weapons, and stop any vehicles we thought might look out of the ordinary, but here everything is out of the ordinary. On our 1st mission out, we sent 2 gun tracks with 4 people per track, safety in numbers. About half way through our patrol we stop by a row of somewhat burned out buildings, we were sending a situation report back to our FDC track. As we are about to move out, we hear a number of loud bangs, an AK-47 round hit the first track in the rear hatch and passed between two of the guys standing in the back. Under our Rules of Engagement, we can’t fire unless fired upon. So, we all return fire into the building the shot came from, called it in and tried to break contact. About 10 min later a tank shows up to back us up. Once the tank showed up, they stopped shooting at us, they didn’t want to mess with the tank I suppose. The tank was going to fire its main gun into the building but due to the ordinance in the buildings, they decided against this and the tank was called off station.

Almost as soon as the tank left, they started shooting again, so we again returned fire into the building. We decide the situation was starting to get somewhat out of control so we withdrew back to our Platoon assembly area. We took a well deserved break and checked the damage to the first track. The back hatch took 3 hits from the AK-47 fire. Those guys were lucky no one got hit because when we engaged the building it was less than 50meters from where we stopped, so basically they were on top of us, very close range. So we refit on ammo and go back out on patrol, #2 for the day, different crews this time, except for me. I went both times out. During our last patrol, we avoided the area where we made contact before, why push your luck. Again we stopped to check out a building, all was quiet until the crew of the 1st track were getting back into the track and we heard 3 quick shots from a building across the road. This time I marked the target with a yellow smoke grenade from my 203 so the rest of the guys would know where to fire. Track 2, my track, laid down a hale of bullets while the 1st crew got into the track and tried to break contact. In all the confusion, it was hard to say how many rounds were sent into that building.

Once we regrouped and headed back in, the reality of what happened twice in one day was starting to take its toll on some of the guys. 95% of them were scared shitless. Once we got back to our little platoon AA, the news of our 2 firefights had quickly spread around the camp, due to the fact we were the only ones to return fire thus far. So, since I’ve been here, I’ve been shot at, at least 3 times, maybe more, it’s hard to say around here. I’m fine though. No injuries. Don’t worry about me too much.

**This part is personal 🙂 **

I’m not sure how long we’ll be here, but word has it once we are done here we’ll start moving south, a nasty rumor has been floating around that we may be here til December, nothing has been confirmed yet. I guess that just about hits all the high points since I’ve been here. I miss you very much sweetheart and I hope this thing ends soon so we can be together again. I’ll sign off for now, we have another day of patrolling to do tomorrow. Take care of yourself and be safe. Write soon, I’ll write when I can. Love you. Michael

Leif Johnson Ford – Horrid Customer Service

August 12, 2010

In today’s economy, customer service needs to be top notch.  Consumers have a choice on where to take their business and spend their hard earned money.  In Texas, it’s the law that drivers may choose where to take their cars after an accident.  In May 2010, our truck had been stolen.  It was recovered the next day but needed some body work as well as some other repairs to it.  USAA tried to recommend a body shop to us but because we had bought the truck from Leif Johnson Ford in July 2004, and had all service and maintenance to the truck handled there for years, we didn’t hesitate to take the truck there for the body work it needed.  We understood that our insurance company could not “recommend” this shop to us per their contracts with other shops but we had a choice so we decided they would be the best bet.  BOY were we ever wrong! 

First off, I’d like to say that the insurance company DID do a great job of accommodating our choice.  They allowed a direct billing of the rental car instead of making us pay and then get reimbursed for the 30 days of coverage which the insurance company pays.    They also set up an inspection fairly quickly. 

May 11, 2010

Our truck (a Ford F350, Super Duty, Crew Cab, Long Bed, which was purchased July 2004 from Leif Johnson Ford’s New Truck Show Room, was stolen on May 11th, 2010, and recovered by police on May 12th

May 12, 2010

We dropped off the truck at Leif Johnson Ford Collision Center on May 12th – late in the day.  It was inspected by our insurance adjustor from USAA and a quote drawn up.

May 14,  2010

Quote drawn up and approved by both insurance and shop for repairs to begin.  Our insurance had approved a rental car for 30 days.  The truck was missing a backseat, broken turn signals on the mirrors, missing a battery, missing the tow ball hitch, missing the front center steering column panel, broken locks, broken ignition switch, missing a light under the hood, numerous scratches, and had a burn hole in the front seat.

May 29, 2010

We had an appointment to look over the truck. At that point, we fully thought the truck would be completely finished with backseat included based on a phone call from Don Emig earlier that week.  It was Memorial Day weekend and we thought our truck would be ready.  If they knew the work was not finished, we should have been told that when we set up the appointment.    We got to the shop and were told it’s not ready.  Probably ready in a week.  When we asked Don about the seat and what was taking so long, he said the guy was working on reupholstering the seat and that it shouldn’t be much longer than a week.  Come to find out they were not able to get in touch with the guy because he had gone out of business!  If he knew then that he wasn’t getting responses from the guy, he shouldn’t have promised us just one more week and more should have been done at that point to locate another upholster and another seat.   

Side note:  at this point, we had no idea if the engine had sustained any damage.  We asked that a diagnostic be run so that if there was any damage, then the insurance and the body shop would be able to fix it. 

June 4, 2010

Diagnostic tests were run and we were told the turbo charger was not working right and had to be replaced.  The insurance would not approve a new one so a used one was obtained on June 10, 2010.  This was installed and still showed problems so a new one was ordered and installed on June  14, 2010. 

June 16, 2010

We picked up the truck from the shop because we were already 6 days over the rental car allotment and had to pay $30 per day out of pocket.  They had done the repairs to the inside steering column panel, and they had made the engine repairs.  They also fixed the lock and the door where it had been jimmied.   All it needed was the seat, battery latch, tow ball hitch, hood light and a burn hole repaired.  At that point he said it would be ready on June 19th.  Again, if he knew then that there was no way the seat would be ready, we should not have been told that.  

June 18, 2010 – He called to say it would be ready on June 22nd, and that he would call us when it was ready.  No call.

June 23, 2010

We were on the way to the shop to speak with Don when he called late in the day.  We were told they were looking for the clamps for the seat that it didn’t have with it.   Again, he said it would be ready later that week. 

June 25, 2010 – Don said they were still looking for parts and he’d call on Tuesday, June 29th

June 30, 2010

Don called Mike and admitted that this was the first time he had seen the seat.  When he saw it, he told Mike is was only half of a seat and missing a lot of parts to it.  Apparently, they were going to use both seats to piece a full seat together.  After all this time he was telling us it was almost ready, this was far from the case.

Also, on June 30, 2010, I received an email from Stella Colunga apologizing for the mixups and saying that now that she was involved, we would get a resolution. 

 July 5, 2010 – I was told by Stella that the seat would be ready on July 8th

July 7, 2010- Received a call that she saw the stitching and it was not to her satisfaction and she sent it back to be redone.

July 8, 2010

Stella called to say it would be ready by the next day and did I want to bring it in.  I was off the 9th because it was my birthday so I told her no, I could not do it that day.  She said there would not be a tech there on Saturday and not enough time to complete all the other repairs which at this point had STILL not been completed: buffing out scratches, touching up paint, installing the ball hitch, battery latch, hood light and fixing a burn hole in the front seat center console area.

July 13, 2010 (Tuesday)

I left the truck at the shop at 7:45AM and someone from the shop took me to work.  The shop considered this to be a convenience to me.  I think being without a car most of the day as a rather large inconvenience.  I got a call at 11AM that the seat was not dyed to her satisfaction and the head rest part needed to be redyed or touched up to match better.  All the other work was to be done and they dropped off the truck to me at 3PM.    They had touched up some scratches and it looked awful. The paint they used looked brownish compared to our bright metallic red/maroon truck.    If Stella had inspected the job they had done (the other repairs listed above), the truck should have never been delivered to us in that condition.   Also, the burn hole in the front was much worse than before.  Whatever was done to repair it made it look like a whole new problem.  These are just a few examples of the poor quality of work that Stella is willing to pass off.

She said the seat would be ready on Thursday, July 15th and delivered to the shop between 1PM and 4PM.  Stella wanted to set up an appointment on Friday to install it, but I insisted that we had already been inconvenienced enough.   She agreed to have someone come in on a Saturday.

July 17, 2010 (Saturday)

We arrived at 11:30AM on Saturday and waited 20 minutes for the seat to be delivered (which should have been at the shop already per our conversation); only to find out the seat was the wrong material – wrong colors and style of seat upholstery.  The guy (Paul at Leather Menders) said it was material for a SportTrac Explorer.  He saidhe knew it was wrong but when he asked the Stella and Don, they said it was right.  Now we have to wait to get the material ordered and redone and they are telling us another week.  If Stella saw the seat twice the week before, and had our truck there in the shop, she would have known that the seats didn’t match the interior of our truck and should have double checked the material order.   If the seat had been delivered on Thursday, she would have had yet another chance to review the seat and make sure all was correct.  

We also complained about the paint job/scratch touch up.  The paint guy came out and said who did this?  We were surprised and said you did or someone here.  The brown paint was a bond agent or sealer and should not have been left on the truck and returned to us that way.  He used some solvent to remove the bond agent and gave us some touch up paint (the right color) to use on our own.

July 22, 2010 (Thursday)

I received a call from their service manager or department head or someone supposedly in charge named Kevin Hopper.  I think he said Chief of Operations.  Kevin was in a position to make things right for us and asked us what it would take to make us happy.  This threw me a bit.  We weren’t in this to get anyone in trouble or to get anything out of it.  We wanted to be fairly treated and fairly compensated for the horrible experience we had up until this point.  Considering time away from work, time without our whole vehicle, frustration with the process, multiple, fruitless trips to the shop and back, condescending tones and attitudes from the service staff – well, what price can you put on all that?  I told him the least they could do was refund our insurance deductible of $500.  I would also have to talk to Mike about what he thought would “make us happy.”  Again, that is the phrase that Kevin used.  We assumed he was serious when asking us this.  Mike decided a sprayed-in bed liner would make him really happy, which is about $300-$400 but we are sure cheaper at a dealership.  Note, we have been loyal customers to Leif Johnson Ford since 2004.  Every oil change, maintenance, etc., you get the point, has been handled by this company for us.  Mike is really resistant to change so anything for us to NOT have to change companies is what we are looking for at this point.  Kevin said he’d take this to the “Monday Meeting” and discuss with the managers and owners.

July 29, 2010 (Thursday)

Finally called us that the seat ready to be installed.  Truck needed to be in the shop all day to repair the burn hole in the center console.  The Front Seats had to be taken out of the truck, the center piece removed, taken to the upholsterer, recovered, returned to the shop for install and the front seats reinstalled.   I dropped off the truck and got a rental car and was told it would be 24 hours.

July 30, 2010 (Friday)

Didn’t receive a call until after lunchtime that it was ready but they wanted to detail it.  I picked up the truck at 5:00pm.  The plastic parts of the seat were painted to match the interior and were already flaking off the parts.  I think it might have been done during the install or during the detailing of the truck but the paint is not adhering well to the plastic areas of the seat.  It is very noticeable that the original plastic hinge covers were gray and our truck interior is tan.  I called Stella as soon as I could on Friday after arriving home but she was gone for the day and Don Emig took my call.  He said he would let her know and be back in contact with us.

August 2, 2010

Received a call that we’d need to bring in the truck so they could see the flaking paint and contact the insurance to approve new parts to be ordered and installed on the seat. 

August 3, 2010 – Mike took the truck in for them to take pictures and make sure they could order the right parts.

 August 9, 2010

Kevin called to tell me that they decided that rental car reimbursements were more than enough to make us happy and that was all they were willing to do.  I reiterated to him that we were long time customers and did they really want to treat us this way.  He said that he was trying and that this was the best they could do.  I told him, I didn’t think he was trying hard enough.  I told him that I didn’t think the owners would appreciate losing our business in regards to a new vehicle next year in the amount of $45 to $50K.  He said that the rental car reimbursements ($230 approx) were a lot of money to them.  I told him that I think they would be losing a lot more income after I got my story out about how they treated their loyal customers.

August 10, 2010

Parts arrived to the shop on August 9, 2010 with no call to us.  I called and asked for an update.  She called me back to say that all but one of the pieces were available and the final piece would have to be painted. But that there was a special paint mix that her painter could get to paint the plastic piece where it wouldn’t flake.  Ugh.  Couldn’t they have done this in the first place???  Since the piece that would have to be painted is on the passenger side, I agreed that if that is all that can be done to have that done.

August 12, 2010

I plan to take the truck in for the “painting” and replacement of the pieces for the seat.  Might take 1 or 2 days and I’ll have a rental.  I sent him an email stating… “I understand that you think paying for a rental car for us YET AGAIN is an incentive or compensation for us; however, we wouldn’t need the rental car in the first place if the seat was done correctly 2 months ago.  Wasted time, inconvenience, frustration, not to mention condescension from your managers, seems to be standard operating procedure when working with your company and you seem to not care to have us as return customers.”

It has now been over 90 days now that the shop has promised to fix our truck to our satisfaction.  We are not sure what else we can do at this point other than be as patient as we have been waiting for the shop to do its job.  We are not asking for anything other than our truck to be returned to the condition it was in before it was stolen. However, we contemplated taking legal action to get some compensation for our time and inconvenience and for not having our truck repaired in a timely fashion, and altogether aggravation at the process when other shops would have taken far less time in completing.  We are not getting the customer support that this company is known for in the community and are appalled that this collision center can stay in business with this type of customer experience.

Some hats

February 8, 2010

here are some hats that I made this weekend.