Archive for June, 2009

Environmentally Cringeworthy

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

What’s long, white and ugly, and costs 80 grand?

Toyota, I hate you so hard right now.

The link above is only useful if you read Japanese. I can only guess the review begins something like, “The makers of the Prius hybrid hearse have created the world’s newest abomination of modern funeral coaches and should commit seppuku in order to fully realize the failure of their own design.”

Okay, that was a little harsh. I’m sure it runs and all, but damn what an eyesore.

Door Handles, Rear Panels, and Stereo Scandals

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

My friend Justin picked me up this morning to go look at the car. I know Frank would have sent Pablo if I asked him to, but Justin wanted to see the car and I had to run a few other errands as well.

When we arrived, I saw Pablo washing my car. That made me very happy because it was filthy from sitting outside. I’ve probably already mentioned my paranoid fears of the dust and dirt being baked into the vinyl top, which is WHITE, by the way. Pablo said they wash the cars they keep long-term about once a week. The grime is unavoidable because of the smog and nearby railroad with trains releasing soot and other crap into the air.

Frank was busy so I did my usual trip around the inside of his two garages to see what’s new and who all was there. The pink armrests for both the front and rear doors are done. When I got the car, there was nothing on the rear doors at all. Frank went to a junkyard and found two matching ones, but what I love best of all is that he found two matching door handles, which also match the front door handles. This may not look like much in the picture, but it takes a lot of work to install one of these where there wasn’t one before.

We also took a look in the back, where the panels were being fitted. As you can see, they’ve been built, and those lines represent where the pink stripes are going to be. The rest of the panels will be white. And if Admir doesn’t return my parts, the ceiling will be all white to match.

Speaking of Admir, the next stop on our itinerary was to visit Art’s shop and hand-deliver the same letter I sent certified yesterday. I just want to make sure I do everything I can to make sure he gets it. I was expecting to say a quick hello to Art and give him the note, but we ended up talking for awhile.

He initially began by saying he didn’t want to get involved, which is funny because he totally does. He went on to tell me that he talked to Admir over the weekend and he thinks he convinced him that he needs to settle this, because I’m not going away. And that’s true, I’m not. He also said that Admir is making him look bad. And that’s true, he is.

He also mentioned that Admir had broken his nose by diving into a shallow pool. Justin and I listened to the story while stifling uncontrollable, boisterous laughter. Now I agree it’s sad for anyone to be in pain, whether they owe me a shitload of money or not. But this was pretty indicative of the kind of idiot I’m dealing with here.

Now I play the waiting game…

Pre-Suiting Up

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I managed to find a brief sublet, which made it easier to write my nice letter to Admir, which made it easier to feel a sense of accomplishment this morning when I sent it via certified mail over to Art’s shop. I was going to post the letter here, but it details my expenditures and I’m not sure if I want the whole world (or all three people reading this) to know their magnitude. Suffice it to say the amount is worth pursuing.

I ran the letter by a few people last night. I made my requests specific with no room for confusion, but I also provided the service of explaining why settling out of court is in his best interest. I’ll take the parts he has purchased if we handle this now, but if I have to go to court, I’ll sue for a dollar amount, which will hit him much harder. As for me, I’ll stick around and sue him if I have to, but I’d rather not be tied to the Los Angeles area this summer. There are a few places in the Northwest I want to hit while the weather is nice, but I’m already accepting the fact that I’ll be planning my visits around a court date.

Admir has until July 2nd to respond, and then I file my case at the municipal court in North Glendale. For me, the most stressful thing about going to court has nothing to do with the case. The problem is how I’ll be getting there because I don’t have a car. I happened to walk by a scuzzy-looking car rental place that will rent me something with four wheels and a motor for $28 a day, which is better than any rate the standard companies give online. It will be a small price to pay when I win this thing.

According to my research and everyone I talked to who might know something about the subject says the court is likely to side with me. I’m really tempted to bring this one to Judge Judy. Contrary to the images of New York City played after commercial breaks, the show is actually filmed here in Los Angeles. Judge Judy is my hero and if my ass does somehow end up being handed to me, I’d take it from her.

I appreciate everyone’s well wishes and good thoughts. Surprisingly, the longer this goes on, the less stressful it becomes. I feel like I’m doing something about my problem, and I can live with whatever ends up happening. It’s not the first time a guy promised me the universe and couldn’t deliver. I’ll be okay.

Shit Happens, Suffering Is Optional

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Now that I’m back in SoCal, I figured I’d mention that I am still doing this project and have not yet died trying. I needed a little break from everything, so I took one. Of course, all the junk I was dealing with before is still here and more urgent than ever.

On my to-do list:
-Find a sublet for the summer, or at least a month
-Write a letter to Admir like my lawyer suggested
-Check the progress on the upholstery
-Find a reputable sound installer
-Sue Admir when he doesn’t answer my letter

I was thinking about buying a beater car to use for a little while, but I’d rather avoid it. Cars, especially old ones, are more of a liability than an asset. I think once I find a place with a room with a bed and a door, I’ll be in better shape to handle the other stuff, and I’ll probably find I don’t need a car. Most of the people who have called me back so far have apartments within walking distance of stores and stuff.

Did I mention this is stressful as all hell? On top of everything, I got a UTI on Thursday and spent the day writhing in pain at the doctor’s office. I don’t have health insurance, which is no one’s fault but mine, but the fact still remains I needed to spend a few hundred dollars to take care of this. I had the uncanny feeling that something like this would happen at some point, and I guess I can just be glad it happened while I was in good company. I’m hoping I’m at the tail end of it now.

Okay, I realize that had absolutely nothing to do with the car. I suppose now I’m just killing time before writing this damn letter. My lawyer told me all kinds of official-sounding language to use, but I don’t think that’s going to produce the desired result. The main purpose of the letter is to show that I tried to settle this out of court when I actually do sue him. But if there’s even a chance in hell that we can deal with this outside of court, I want to seize the opportunity.

When I talked to Art today, he said he’d try to talk to Admir. He offered, I didn’t ask. Every time I call him, I reiterate my position that this isn’t his fault, but I still need to resolve this matter. He’s the only one I know who knows Admir, so he’s the person I have to call. Anyway… it’s letter-time.

Update

Friday, June 12th, 2009

I didn’t postpone my trip to Austin, but I’ve been calling Admir every day in attempt to settle our matters. Of course, he isn’t answering or returning my calls. I talked to Art today, who said Admir is “done with me” and plans to keep the parts because I never paid him for labor for the A/C and wiring. (Those are still going to require some more components and a skilled set of hands for the projects to be considered complete). I replied that I’d be happy to pay for labor where something was actually accomplished, but that doesn’t equal the cost of parts as far as I’m concerned. He never billed me for labor, so I’m not sure how I was supposed to pay for it.

I know Art is sick of hearing from me, and this isn’t his problem, so this is the last time I’m going to call him. I let him know that I’ll be filing a complaint and taking Admir to small claims court. I’m also sorry for the mess, reminding him that my original request was just a stereo system anyway, and Admir appeared experienced and quite capable of installing that.

The fact remains that I need a ceiling, and I need to find out what I have to work with. If I can recoup the ceiling-related cash I spent, then I will probably just have Francisco’s team put in a regular black fabric ceiling. That would be ideal at this point. If I can recoup the parts but no money, then I will try to make the ceiling myself. If I can’t get anything, then I’ll still put in a regular ceiling… and curse a lot.

I called the online store that sells the light engine that Admir and his dealer in Simi Valley overcharged me for, and I asked their representative to send me an installation guide. Once we nailed down the product I’m talking about, he sent me a one-page PDF. This doesn’t even begin to answer the questions I have about this product. So I responded with this:

“Okay, it’s not really clear to me how the average person is supposed to make use of that guide (not your fault; just saying). I have a sound-and-lighting person who foolishly bought one of these light engines (and paid too much) without knowing exactly how it works and now I’m probably stuck doing this project myself. If this is the only information that is widely available, I would really like to contact the vendor directly for more information.

I want to buy a few light engines and daisy-chain them together so I can have them working from one power source. I’d like the engineering specifications for the system so I can see how it works at the bare-bones level, and to see if there’s a way I or one of my programmer friends can alter the toggle functionality so the lights can go on and off, instead of fade (for example). I’m going to have to look at the circuitry to see if this is even possible though. They must have at least a CAD drawing or some prototype to give the manufacturer. I’d like to see it all!

By the way, I’m a technical writer, and you can tell your vendor that, if they happen to be in need of one. :-)”

As much as I feel compelled to explain the absurd incompleteness of this document line by line, I’m too wrapped up in my car issues to edit technical documents for free. It was very nice of them to extend the invitation to “use my own creativity to explore its versatility,” but I’m going to need a little more direction than that. Admir clearly did.

When I read this installation guide page, it became clear to me why Admir thought drilling holes in glass was a good idea. This dumb thing said to! So I was trusting my ceiling parts to a few paragraphs of text, likely written by a developer or mechanical engineer who was assigned the task due to lack of seniority and ease of pushoverability. This is a common practice among small tech outfits, and I wouldn’t care if I weren’t one of the handful of people who could actually use the instructions. It’s also quite possible that the real-world applications were not fully explored when creating this item. Some marketing strategist said, “make something” and they did. I suppose they think they’re done.

So yeah, no parts indicator, no arrangement drawing, no circuitry diagram, not even a part number to keep track of the damn thing! But like I said, I need to see if I can even get the parts and/pr money back. If I can, I’ll see if anyone can help me pull this off. If not, I guess I learned a valuable lesson, haven’t I?

In other news, I took some pictures of the upholstery earlier this week. Frank and I also had a nice talk before I left town, and he’s going to try to get in touch with some car audio people he’s worked with before. Doug also happened to be there, dropping off a late-model hearse for some touch-ups, and it was nice to see him again. He had positive things to say about the progress, but I know I’m going to be somewhat restless until the car is at least drivable.

Sample Stars

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

I spent last night writing an epic email to Stereo Masters, the place I visited while in search of a head unit. I talked on the phone with the same guy I saw a month and a half ago, and he actually remembered me, my car, and my head unit questions. He asked me to put everything that’s happened so far in writing. While it took some time to organize the information for him, it was all there thanks to my diligent blogging. (Who said these things were worthless?)

His response was quick and direct, which I appreciate. Unfortunately, he could only be as helpful as possible without actually helping me. Whoever works on this is going to want to start over. Since he knew I’m at a late enough stage not to want to cut my losses yet, he suggested I get a third party (i.e., a lawyer) to create a contract. So I spent some time thinking about how I want to approach that one.

Most lawyers give free consultations, and I want to be able to do it in person. This means I have to put my trip to Austin on hold and probably also spend some time figuring out a place to stay for at least a little longer while I straighten this out. Come hell or high water, I don’t not want to let this project make me ugly to the people who were just trying to help me.

I was surprised to find a message from Admir today, not too long after my morning run. He had samples ready for me to view. That was fast, considering how long I’ve been waiting for every other little thing he’s had to show me. I knew that this visit would be accompanied by an uncomfortable conversation, but I’m glad to have it out of the way.

He had changed his mind again and decided not to drill holes in the tinted glass. Instead, he put a layer of black, porous, heat-resistant hard foam between the light and the tinted glass and another layer of hard foam behind the cables. Each layer of foam is about three-fourths of an inch thick and surely cheaper than the piece of clear plexiglass that was supposed to go over the tinted piece, but that issue is minuscule compared to the other issues I have with him.

The sample headliner piece is two square feet. The left side as shown below had about 30 stars in blue and white scattered about an inch or two apart (cool). The right side had eight stars with a “shooting star” effect, which comprised of thin, wispy lines trailing the sparsely scattered points of light (shitty).

The picture I took has some glare from the window. But I think it’s quite obvious which side I expected to resemble the end result. He kind of tried to sell me on the shooting star idea, but I think it looks weak. And at this point, I don’t trust this guy to baby-sit my pet cockroach.

When he was done with his spiel, I told him why. I said I would consider buying another engine… online at one-fourth the price. He sat there dumbfounded. I told him that the product I found online was identical to the one he had purchased, and while I’m here, how about we count the cables coming out of this “custom built” engine he bought with my money?

Yep, there were five bundles of 30 cables, just like the one I found online. The person who sold Admir this part told him that he custom-made this thing with 250 cables. Again, as with everything else so far, why am I the one who has to point this stuff out?

I’m really annoyed that he even attempted for a second to make me take some of the responsibility for his mistake. He said something along the lines of “Well, I told you what it was going to be and you said you didn’t want spend a lot of time learning about this stuff.” First of all, I’m taking a much more active role in the customization of this car than almost any customer with my background has ever taken. Second, I shouldn’t have to learn anything. I should be able to rely on his expertise and trust that he’s going to make good decisions. Third, it’s now readily apparent that he is still learning about this stuff… ineffectively and at my expense.

This totally sucks, and I need to lawyer up. I explained that I would not give him any more money until I had a third party create a contract that will protect all of our interests (but given recent events, mostly mine). He made a flat-out poor decision that anyone with experience would have known not to make, and I can’t trust him with any more cash.

He had some more prices on the remaining items I need for my sound system. I wrote everything down so I can research the parts online myself. He had this semi-indignant attitude of “Well if you think you can do better, be my guest.” I had to briefly explain that I don’t want this kind of stuff to be up to me. I’m paying him to be able to get the parts he needs and put them in my car. He has shown me that he is not resourceful enough to do this on his own, so I have no choice.

He also told me about how much labor was going to be, which I am finding an almost laughable topic to broach at this point because I feel like I’ve been holding his hand the entire time. I have the money and don’t mind paying… if the work is done as expected. So yeah, the time to involve a lawyer is long overdue.

I would never say this to someone’s face, but he’s lucky I don’t sue his ass. This is negligence. But there’s not much I can do about it at this very moment, since it’s Saturday evening and most of the lawyers I know are getting ready to booze it up like professionals.

The Official Low Point

Friday, June 5th, 2009

I know I’ve been talking a big streak about how long this is taking and how hard it can be to deal with everyone and make sure all my bases were covered. I thought I knew what it meant to be trapped. I thought I knew what it meant to be stressed. But oh no, no I didn’t. Now that today has happened, I understand both of those feelings on an entirely new level.

It all began with a phone call I received today. It was Admir, calling about the galaxy ceiling headliner. He informed me that this galaxy would have a whopping eight stars per foot. What the fuck? Apparently he chose to withhold certain details about the results of cutting notches in the fiber optic cables. There will be light emitting from these notches, “but that’s just to give a shooting star effect,” he said. He’s not drilling a hole to emit light from each notch. He could have mentioned that earlier.

He welcomed me to purchase another Very Expensive Part I depicted in a post from one month ago entitled Lights… Camera… Now Let’s Have Some Action. This was not the right kind of action. I don’t want to drop a wad of cash on another engine because this guy didn’t plan correctly.

We talked in circles for about an hour, he tried to convince me that he had been honest and straightforward throughout the whole project, and I thwarted his excuses, telling him what I had written in my notes, and fighting to hold myself together with every word. We planned to meet on Sunday, at which time he will show me a 2-foot example of eight lights per square foot and another example of 32 lights per square foot. Obviously, if he knew it was going to come out like this, he wouldn’t have called me today telling me there were eight stars per square foot like it’s news.

This guy is full of shit. But wait, there’s more.

I called the California Bureau of Auto Repairs just to see if there was a chance I had any recourse at all. I pretty much knew the answer was a shaky “maybe” with a large order of “no” when I called. The person I talked to was quite helpful by explaining what would count against me if I try to pursue this further. I can still file a complaint and have Admir investigated, which is a nasty thing to have to do, but I’m running out of options.

But wait, there’s MORE.

I was doing some more online research on fiber optic lighting, this time to see if anyone in California was advertising their installation services, and I just so happened to come across the exact Very Expensive Part I mentioned earlier. It’s great that I found it so I can order it myself… hold on a minute… it’s not a Very Expensive Part at all. It is a Reasonably-Priced-For-What-It-Is Part. So now it turns out I’m dealing with a blatant fraud. If only I could say it’s the first time.

I’m not sure exactly what to do at this point, but you know I’ve been on the phone all afternoon trying to figure it out. What a great way to spend a Friday…

First Round of BDH Logos

Friday, June 5th, 2009

A friend of a friend created this logo for the back of my car, but it’s going to take some altering for it to look right on the sides.

The font I wanted and a silhoutte with devil horns. How cool is that?

Check out a couple other good designs here.

Even the Hearses Are Better Here

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Admir was supposed to call me back yesterday and didn’t. But I guess I didn’t really want to talk to him anyway. To take my mind off things (kind of), I found an episode of “Classic Cars” on TV that did a segment on hearses. The show is based in England, so all the hearses were smaller and had mostly glass where the vinyl tops should be.

Worse still, most of the filming was done at this boring-looking car show. They were all in a field in the middle of nowhere, which is normal, but the attendee’s hadn’t done anything particularly exciting to their cars. Some of the casket boards looked nice. Some were… clean. But there were no interior modifications to speak of and nary a new paint job on any one of them. I’m sure there were mechanical variations from year to year, but they all looked pretty much the same to me. Oh, wait! There’s a skull replica hanging from a rearview mirror! How clever and unexpected!

The host drove one of the hearse clones and remarked that it was “quite an undertaking.” Har. Driving a hearse is just like driving an SUV… except unlike most SUV drivers, I know the weight and limitations of my car, so I’m not going to pull asinine moves in traffic that risk the safety of myself and other people.

As chance would have it, a friend sent me a video about drifting hearses that was also filmed in England. I cringed at the idea of trying to drift in my car. And now I know someone out there is thinking, I need to find a way to befriend PlatKat and gain her complete trust so I can borrow her stuff and go drift in her car.

My Headliner Is Broken

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

I didn’t mention it in my last post, but when I talked to Admir about the headliner for my galaxy ceiling last week, he said that he’d been working on it and things were going well. It was supposed to be ready today or tomorrow, so I called him this morning to make arrangements to look at it.

He broke it.

He put a blanket underneath the tinted glass, which is somewhat flexible, but then he leaned on it while he was drilling the holes and made a noticeable crack. Bloody Hell. Having seen him bend this piece of glass when he showed it to me, I don’t even understand how this can happen. He assured me that he ordered another sheet, it’ll be here tomorrow, he’ll start working on it again, etc., but gawd this is obnoxious.

I booked a flight to Austin last night because I absolutely cannot be here anymore. I leave on Tuesday and I know he’s not going to be done with it by then.

Unfortunate still is the fact that he’s going to want more money for the remaining stereo equipment (amp, subwoofer, more speakers) and I really don’t feel comfortable giving it to him until I see proof of finished product from the first round of cash.

I called Art to see if there was any way I could get more accomplished without throwing another grand into this seemingly bottomless pit. I know I’m good for it, but he said credit wasn’t an option here. I made clear once again that I am not calling to mediate my relationship with Admir, I just wanted to find out if there was some other way to handle the situation. He advised me to have Admir show me the broken class because it’s possible he is trying to buy more time. I’m not sure if I want to do that because things are going to work out the same either way. The headliner is going to take longer. I’m going to wait until I see it in person and sign off on it before giving him more money. That means I’m probably going to wait until I return to LA in two weeks for Admir to even order the parts and then another week or so to start working on the last of the A/V stuff.

So everything is going to take a million years longer. I called Francisco after I talked to Art. He was in Mexico, and even though he took the call, we couldn’t talk very long. He just assured me that his guys were still building the seats and Admir’s delay doesn’t affect their job. I don’t buy that 100 percent, but for the time being, that will have to be okay.

As an aside, the weather in LA is overcast today. Normally that’s okay with me, but there’s no food here and I know the minute I walk to Trader Joe’s, there’s going to be a torrential downpour. This is seriously not my week.