March 20, 2006


We got rid of the Contour yesterday. In the morning while we were out to church, I got a message on my cell phone from a woman asking about the car. I called them back that afternoon, letting them know that we'd be home for the rest of the day; they showed up around 3:30, and after a 15-minute visual inspection and test drive, the car was sold!

The buyers were a family — husband, wife, and son, out to find a replacement for the son's car, which was totalled in a freeway accident (rear-ended on the 405). Mysteriously, they came from Thousand Oaks, which is quite a haul from Anaheim (about seventy miles) — I asked the father if they'd spent the day looking at different cars, and he answered that no, they'd only had one other car on their list, but they knew as soon as they saw it that that car wouldn't be the car for them. More mysteriously, the son couldn't really drive a stick; dad did most of the test-driving, and the kid ground the gears horribly during the few minutes that he got behind the wheel. But whatever; heavenly providence delivered these people across the LA Basin to take this car off of our hands!

The son had received $2,700 from his insurance settlement on the totalled car, so that's what I agreed to sell the Contour for. (Down from our shoot-the-moon price of $3,500, but up from the original planned $2,600 that Shelby talked me out of.) They paid in cash, so now I feel like a drug dealer, what with my stack of crisp hundreds stashed away in a desk drawer.

Selling off the car is a huge relief. And selling it to a consortium of people with a real adult in charge was an even greater relief. After spending a few weeks fielding phone calls from nothing but stoners and flakes (unsurprisingly, people seriously considering an eight-year-old Ford for their daily transportation aren't the most reliable folks in the world), I was afraid that I'd go through a month or two of that before finally dumping the car on some charity for a $300 tax deduction. Thankfully, the dad was a snap-decision businessman type who knew what he wanted, came prepared (witness the stack of hundreds), and wasn't a stickler for maintenance paperwork (not that I didn't have the maintenance done, just that keeping track of all of our oil-change receipts wasn't our highest priority during three moves and twice packing everything into storage to go to Germany).

They haven't called me back to complain about the car yet, so I guess that the sale actually took. Hallelujah!

Posted by Kevin at 12:11 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2006

All Hail The Conquering Heroine

You should go over and congratulate Shelby for winning her big Toastmasters competition this morning.

Posted by Kevin at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

Hybrid Rage

No, not us ... we're still madly in love with the Prius. But the San Jose Mercury News has an article about people who are fed up about being stuck behind hybrid owners who are poking along on the highway, cruising at slower-than-normal speeds in order to hyper-maximize their fuel economy.

Perhaps surprisingly, I've got to side (partially) with the impatient ones, rather than the propeller-beanied hybrid drivers that they managed to dig up for this article. I've found that with a little care — by keeping the accelerator in at just the right amount, or backing off ever-so-slightly a few minutes later — I can drive just as fast as I would in any other car and still get 50+ MPG. Driving along at 55 miles per hour on the freeway is just not necessary.

However, I'll agree with the other hybrid owners that some people seem more than a little um, overzealous to pass up me and my limp-wristed Commie-pinko environmeddler machine — speeding up until they're tailgating, abruptly swerving into the adjacent lane so they can pass me with a BURST OF POWER, and then slotting themselves into the narrow gap between me and the car in front of me, perfectly content to cruise behind that car for the next fifteen minutes, even though that car is the reason why we were all going so slow in the first place.

On top of that, there's Consumer Reports, which recently came out with a study stating buying a hybrid probably won't save you any money, dooming us to at least a good six months or so of "but Consumer Reports says . . . " in the party-conversation circuit. A few quick observations:

  • We win! The Prius and the Honda Civic hybrids are the only models that CR calculated would save their owners money over an equivalent gas model. However, the amounts saved are middling: $406 (Prius) and $317 (Civic) over five years.
  • I've gotta say wah for the hybrid SUV owners. Did you really think that buying an SUV anything would actually save you money?
  • I'm not so sure of CR's methodology:

    • They assume that a hybrid vehicle will depreciate more quickly than its gas equivalent, but whether or not this will be true remains an open question until the used-hybrid market matures (it certainly isn't the case now — current-generation used Priuses are selling for almost the same price as new ones);
    • They factor in increased financing costs for the more-expensive hybrid models, which isn't an issue for full-cash-down people like us (yes, I know there are opportunity costs, but let's assume I'd otherwise blow the cash on big-screen TVs, or by investing in the Web-2.0 equivalent to;
    • They compare the Prius to the cheaper Corolla, when it has the interior room and appointments of the next-step-up Camry.

. . . stick to reviewing blenders, CR!

Posted by Kevin at 03:59 PM | Comments (1)

March 08, 2006

Arts & Crafts: Stained Glass

Shelby is always ahead of me when it comes to household news — go to her blog to see pictures of the windows that we built last semester in our stained glass class at Fullerton College.

Posted by Kevin at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2006

From The Commercials-With-Funny-Accents Dept.

Last month it was the "we're sinking" Berlitz ad (search around if you haven't seen it already; the link I had died from overpopularity).

This month we have a white-coated German-mad-scientist-type and his statuesque blonde assistant who invite a few lucky contestants to unpimp their rides.

(Introduction to Anglofritz by way of German Joys.)

Posted by Kevin at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2006

Just Another Week In the Neighborhood

I come home late on Tuesday night to find Broadway (the sort-of neighborhood main drag that forms one end to our street) blocked off by flares and police cars with flashing lights. Fortunately, the road block begins immediately after our street, so I turn off onto our street like I normally would and park in front of our house. There's a mob of people on our street corner; our street is lined with the cars of people who'd ordinarily park inside the barricaded area. It's late (11 PM), so some people are sleeping in their cars. I rush into the house to say hello to Shelby and the dogs (Shelby was totally oblivious to what was going on outside; there was a lot of helicopter noise, and Digory was barking, but there's nothing new about that), and go back outside to try and figure out what's going on.

All of the action is centered around one house: police cars in the street have their spotlights focused on its front door; a helicopter overhead is circling round and round, shining its light down on the front yard. What appear to be members of the SWAT team are creeping into position around the house, crouching low behind parked cars. Our neighborhood fire station, trapped inside the road block, is veeeeeeery slooooowly wheeling its equipment out of the station and down the street. I can see flashlights lighting up the dark windows of the apartment building next to the besieged house. I ask some of the neighbors/spectators what's happened. "There's a guy inside the house!" "He shot at a cop and ran inside!" "He's got hostages!" "No, no, I saw a lot of people coming out of the house!" "I heard that he killed someone!"

A cop, kneeling behind the open door of his cruiser, lifts a bullhorn to shout at the house: "This is the Anaheim Police Department! We have the house surrounded! Anyone inside 5-- Broadway Street needs to come out of the house NOW with your hands up!" Having watched enough cop shows and action movies to know that this is usually the precursor to the fusillade of gunfire and teargas canisters, I figure that's enough time spent hanging around and decide to go home.

After a while, I don't hear any noise, and the police helicopter that had gone away for a while came back, so I popped outside to find that nothing had changed — depite the announcement, they hadn't rushed the house — although they'd moved the barricades back a little more; drivers now only had one lane left to squeeze onto our street. Bullhorn guy came out and made another tough-sounding pronouncement. I stood with the diehard neighbors for a little while longer, and then went home and went to bed, careful to check that all of the doors were locked.

We woke up Wednesday to find that police didn't rush the house until 6 AM — almost nine hours after the whole thing had started — and, not-so-surprisingly, found the house completely empty. And how did the whole thing start? Apparently an undercover deputy from the LA Sheriff's Department was conducting some kind of investigation in our neighborhood; he got into some kind of altercation with his investigatee, who shot at (but didn't hit) the officer and fled inside the house. The undercover sheriff then called the Anaheim PD for backup, which led to Monday night's drama (and the shooter, I'm sure, was over the back fence in the first five minutes and far, far away before our local PD was even on the scene).

What was an LA Sheriff's deputy doing playing secret-policeman in the middle of Orange County? Why didn't they call Anaheim for backup before going to see the shooter? Why didn't they ask Anaheim PD to investigate in the first place? Who knows.

To compound that what-in-the-hell-is-going-on feeling, while searching the Web for articles on that whole police thing, I find that someone committed suicide on Monday morning by jumping in front of an Amtrak train just a few hundred yards from our house. It sounds like it was quite the hullabaloo of activity — train stopped, emergency response, Broadway closed — but we didn't even notice! Clearly, we really need to get out of the house more often.

Posted by Kevin at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)