Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's been a while...

...so I'll hit the highlights.

We replaced the smart with a 2009 Volkswagen Rabbit, which we both love. We got a good trade-in value on the smart, and I think it's found a new home, as it's not on the dealer's Web site anymore.

My tenants moved out. We need new ones. I'm considering hiring a property manager. Last weekend we stripped the wallpaper from the downstairs bedroom, and I'm going to go paint it this coming weekend. It looks better already.

We delivered the art car to my niece a couple weekends ago. I spent about three hours teaching her to drive a stick, and it went pretty well with the exception of the clutch lasting a mere three days. They got it fixed, and she's doing pretty well with it. The only places we didn't finish were the roof and the edges of the front bumper where it wraps around on the sides, and she's been working on it some with her friends.

I've been skating more now that the rink at the state fairgrounds (where my club is based) is open for the season. Tonight I centered a bunch of spins (usually they're not that consistent), and this week my waltz jump improved as well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A smart decision

After much soul-searching, Steph and I decided to sell the smart car.

Why? Well, to put it bluntly, I don't love him.

I got in him a couple weeks ago and realized that I didn't want to drive him for the next 200,000 miles. I still don't like the transmission, despite a "lesson" from the dealership about how to drive it (they concluded that I was doing it right all along), and that's a deal-breaker for me. I don't need to have a car that's perfect; I don't even need a particularly luxurious car. I do, however, need to enjoy driving it. Buzz is cute, and he has some nice features, but the things I like about him (the CD changer in the dash, the auxiliary input jack, the outside temperature readout, the versatile cupholders) are readily available on other cars, cars that have non-annoying transmissions. (For the record, I think the smart car should have the option for a manual transmission. I understand that other people may not have a problem with its transmission; I just don't like it.)

It's a good time to sell Buzz: There's an 18-month wait for a smart car at the dealership. Also, yellow was discontinued for 2009, so it'll only be available if you order an extra set of panels.

You can see our eBay listing here. The reserve is significantly less than the Buy It Now price, although if you want to buy it for $22K, I won't say no.

I'm open to suggestions for alternate cars. We've test-driven several models, but we haven't made any decisions yet. For now, I still have the Honda, although I'll be giving it to my niece when she gets her license this fall. I also have Phoebe -- she's not going anywhere! -- and I can drive her in the meantime while we search for another car. I'm not restricting myself to new cars; a used car would be fine. I strongly prefer a manual transmission, and good gas mileage is also a major consideration. We'd like to stay in the same price range (or under -- I'd love to have extra money left over to add to the emergency fund).

Friday, July 18, 2008

NYR update

1. Read 45 books or more this year, 15 or more of which are on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

I've been reading a little more lately, mostly quality stuff.

2. Use up another three bottles of perfume.

Doing well on the second bottle.

3. Save money toward the Smart car and our wedding.

Now that we have a smart car and the wedding is over, the savings is going toward building the emergency fund back up.

4. Increase my daily pushups and situps to 50 each.

Currently 47 each of pushups and situps and 30 Supermans.

5. Go out for lunch only once per week at work.

We had a stressful week, so we went out three times this week.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Book meme

Meme from Steph.

The National Endowment for the Arts has an initiative you may have heard of called the Big Read. According to the website, its purpose is to "restore reading to the center of American culture." They estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

Here's what you do:
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE. (I'll bracket them because Blogger doesn't do underlines.)
4) Reprint this list on your own blog.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 [Harry Potter series - JK Rowling]
5 [To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee]
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 [Little Women - Louisa M Alcott]
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 [Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier]
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien -- started it
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 [The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald]
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 [The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood]
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 [On The Road - Jack Kerouac]
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 [Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding]
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker -- partway through right now
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - A. S. Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 [Charlotte's Web - EB White]
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 [Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl]
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

My score: 23/100

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Blogging from another country

We're in Canada!

I didn't have much time to blog much about the wedding planning, but it all paid off -- our wedding was amazing. I can't remember ever being happier than I was during the ceremony, except for possibly the day after our first second date, when I learned that Steph liked me back.

This is the second day of our honeymoon in Toronto. Yesterday we walked around a lot. We went to Barbara Ann Scott Park, where there's a round outdoor rink; I stood on the concrete where it would be in the winter. We shopped at Winners, which is like a TJ Maxx or Marshall's, and I got a cute flowered shirt. Steph got a hat at Le Chateau, and I liked a shirt there but didn't want to pay $50 for it. We bought a small stuffed moose because we completely failed to bring any monkeys with us (except Hector, but he's too big to carry around and photograph). Maybe they'll forgive us if we bring them a new friend. We bought a book at Indigo about how to be Canadian. We walked through several other stores and had a good time looking around, and we found a brick labyrinth and walked it. We both thought of putting one in on an empty lot in our neighborhood; I'll mention it to the board when I get back. We had dinner at Elephant & Castle, which was just okay -- I mean, what kind of place fries their pretzels?! -- and we saw the movie Baby Mama in the evening.

Today we took the subway to Union Station and then walked to CN Tower. The view there was really neat even though it was overcast. I especially liked looking down on clouds. After we had our fill of admiring the view, we took a tour at the nearby Steam Whistle Brewery. It's a microbrewery that brews one kind of beer and does so in a very green fashion. The bottles are made with 30% more glass so they can be used 30 to 40 times, whereas regular bottles can only be used 10 to 15 times. All the energy used there is provided by wind turbines and hydro power. In addition, they have one of the only women brewers in North America. After we rode the subway back to the hotel, we ate dinner at an excellent Vietnamese restaurant, and now we're hanging out in the coffee shop downstairs at our hotel.

Tomorrow we go to City Hall at 2 pm to get married!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Check engine light saga

The smart car started it all by throwing a check engine light on the way to work a couple Mondays ago. I called the dealer and made an appointment to have it looked at over lunch one day, and I decided to drive Phoebe the next day, both because I thought I'd give Buzz (Steph named him 'cause he looks like a bumblebee!) a rest and because I didn't want Phoebe to get jealous. Apparently I didn't reassure her enough that I still love her, or I mentioned too loudly in the parking lot that the Roswell show has been cancelled this year, or she just wanted to fit in, because she came up with a check engine light of her own on the way home.

I took the smart in and they diagnosed a bad part in the mechanism that blows warm air over the oxygen sensors in the exhaust pipe at startup -- it's the whirring noise that lasts fifteen seconds or so when you turn the car on. They had to order the part, so I dropped the car off last Friday and it was repaired under warranty. I made an appointment for Phoebe for this past Monday for the CEL, the window regulator from the Roswell trip, the battery fuse box that melted in California, the lid of the battery case that I cracked one cold winter day trying to get it to snap shut, and the brake light safety switch recall. Meanwhile, Steph called on her way to work today -- her truck has a CEL too, so I made it an appointment at Tune Tech for this Friday.

$806 later, I picked Phoebe up this evening (they wouldn't cover the $321 window regulator because I'd already had it done before) with an operational window, a clean throttle body, some new vacuum hoses, and a new battery fuse box and case. And yes, she was probably mad about me leaving her there for two days after she was done, so the CEL showed up on the way back home. Either that or the damn things are contagious. I'm kind of afraid to get in the Honda tomorrow.

Friday, April 18, 2008

NYR 2008 update

1. Read 45 books or more this year, 15 or more of which are on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

I'm not making much progress on this goal. I'm on my way to finishing book #5, so I would need to finish 40 books in the next 8 months. Yikes. To my credit, though, I've been busy planning a wedding.

2. Use up another three bottles of perfume.

I finished up the first bottle this morning, and I'm partway through another (I've been alternating perfumes for variety).

3. Save money toward the Smart car and our wedding.

We've managed to save some money, but this wedding thing is expensive!

4. Increase my daily pushups and situps to 50 each.

My coach added "Supermans" to my daily routine. In this exercise, you lie on your stomach on the floor and lift your arms/torso and legs off the floor at the same time. It's going to help me arch my back for sit spins. I'm up to 25 of those and 44 each of pushups and situps, so I've made good progress here.

5. Go out for lunch only once per week at work.

I'm averaging more like one and a half to two times per week (the salad bar at Marsh counts as half).

smart car arrives!

Our smart car arrived on Monday, and we picked it up on Tuesday afternoon. They had it sitting back in a bay by itself, and we spent quite a while poking around it and playing with its various features because our sales guy was running behind. It's so cute!

Our New Smart Car

I like it very much for the most part -- it's easy to drive and very cute. The interior is laid out pretty well, too, and the clear panel in the roof is a nice feature.

Everywhere we go, people stare and ask what kind of car it is. My co-workers were so excited that they called a 3:00 meeting in the parking lot so I could show it to them. We proved that it's roomy enough for tall people, that it has a loud horn, and that you can fit a medium-sized guy in the hatch if you need to.

It's been ten years since I got Phoebe, and I'd forgotten how fun it is to get a new car. Steph and I have been trading off driving it to work. She keeps apologizing when she gets to drive it -- she thinks she's keeping it from me somehow -- but I'm just glad she likes it. I hope to keep it for many years, so we'll both have plenty of opportunities to drive it.

The car only has a few flaws: its transmission, the quality of its parts, and the lack of rear speakers.

The "automated manual" transmission shifts quite slowly, and if you take off with any speed at all, the car nose-dives with each shift. It behaves better if you shift it yourself in manual mode, but the car can't decide what gear is appropriate at city street speeds. It constantly asks to be shifted up or down with an arrow that appears in the instrument panel, and there are some speeds at which no gear seems quite right.

When he was showing us how to open the hood, the hatch, and the engine cover, the sales guy emphasized how careful one must be with various parts of the car. It seems that many people have broken parts of the car already, as they're quite fragile. Also, the engine cover (which must be removed to check the oil) is nearly impossible to release. It requires you to press down on it with your full body weight while leaning over the hatch to be able to turn the screw. I successfully managed that only once, and I wasn't ever able to get it to screw back into place.

The sales guy had the attitude that I shouldn't worry my pretty little head about checking the oil, telling me that I should instead just bring it in once a year for an oil change. I'm pretty sure that if the car began to burn oil and the engine was harmed before that next yearly oil change, the smart company wouldn't be sympathetic to my story that the sales guy said I didn't have to check the oil. (I reminded him that the manual suggested that I check the oil each time I buy gas, and he said that that was just the manual and I didn't have to worry about that.)

I ordered the car with the $350 premium stereo package. The mp3-capable 6-CD changer and integrated auxiliary jack are great, but there are no rear speakers. The sound very obviously comes from in front of you, and the bass is distorted even at the +2 setting (out of 7) . My 15-year-old stock Honda radio that plays my iPod through a cassette adapter in a deck that needs cleaning sounds better (except for the one speaker that rattles).

Other than those things, it's quite fun to drive and it's completely adorable. I hope Phoebe isn't jealous when I get her out this weekend and introduce them.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The beginning of the art car

This weekend I began to attach the bottle caps to the Honda. I started on the door with the dent in case my adhesive didn't work, but it seems to be holding up well. Before I stuck the caps to the car, I sprayed them inside and out with a clear gloss Rustoleum paint that will hopefully keep them from rusting. The adhesive is 100% silicone caulk, and it needs 24 hours at a temperature of 40F or above to cure. I'd planned to adhere one cap as a test, but once I got started I didn't want to stop, so I did 15 on Saturday and 55 more on Sunday. 70 down, 12733 to go...

Thanks to Steph and Douglas for the photos.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

To clarify about organic fruits and veggies...

In my previous post, I intended the lists to serve as a reference for organic purchasing; I wanted to put my scrawled-on-a-paper-towel notes in one place so that I could access them when I make decisions about which produce to choose or substitute. I didn't at all mean to minimize the importance of organic food or the food we're getting.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Organic fruits and veggies

A few weeks ago, Steph and I signed up for Farm Fresh Delivery, and they bring us an assortment of organic fruits and vegetables every other Thursday, including some we wouldn't ordinarily buy. It's been fun to try new kinds of produce, and we can change the items if we find we can't face another head of broccoli or more apples one week. (If you should decide to sign up, please use my name as your referrer and we'll get a discount of some sort on our next order.)

I recently came across two articles online (unfortunately, I didn't save the links) that listed foods that derive the most benefit from being produced organically and those for which it doesn't matter as much. Here they are.

Foods that benefit the most from organic production:

Foods that don't contain a lot of pesticides anyway if they're not produced organically:
Brussels sprouts

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fortune cookie weirdness

Tonight my fortune cookie was enigmatic:

Treasure your good memories and you need not worry about ending a banquet.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bottle caps and more bottle caps

The art car project is moving along slowly. I currently have somewhere between 8000 and 9000 bottle caps, and I've sorted many of them. (Anyone who wants to come over for a bottle cap sorting party is welcome, by the way.) We're fashioning a bottle cap flattener to unbend the caps that didn't come off their bottles cleanly. I'm dying to attach a test cap to the car, but it needs to be dry and 40 degrees F outside for a 24-hour period afterwards, and that hasn't happened yet.

The distinctive smell of the bottle caps takes me back to when I was a kid. My family attended Labor Day pig roasts at the home of one of my dad's co-workers, and there were many kinds of soda and beer every year. I always got to keep the bottle caps. I especially like the stale beer smell for some reason, which is odd because I don't like beer.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I'm still here

This weekend I competed at the Deborah Burgoyne North American Invitational in Wyandotte, Michigan, and I tied for second. I was mostly pleased with how I skated. I two-footed my first salchow because I was concentrating on getting a deeper entrance edge -- we worked on that in my lesson on Thursday. The rest of the program went well, and I didn't shake at all afterward. I haven't watched the DVD yet.

I stayed with Dan and Melissa, and we had a lot of fun hanging out and catching up. Saturday night we made cookies and watched Kathy Griffin, and I left for home this morning after the freezing rain melted into rain.

In other news, Steph and I visited the Smart dealership this week. They had a black and yellow car inside, and we both really like the color in person. I test-drove a silver Passion Coupe (the trim level I'll be getting), and I liked it a lot except for its clunky shifting. The reason they won't offer a traditional 5-speed manual escapes me. My car should arrive in about two months. In the meantime, my Honda will probably turn over 200,000 miles in the next two and a half weeks or so, and I have the camera ready to document the big event. It is not allowed to break down at 199,999.9 miles like Marshall's Fiero did on How I Met Your Mother.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Monkey blogging

Apparently I am to write a post on behalf of Hector Monkey.

This is a picture of Hector Monkey.

He wanted to upload a picture of his butt, as he is inordinately proud of it, but I vetoed that idea.

Okay, okay. Here is a picture of Hector's butt.

He would like to express that he is against global warming and he is very worried about the polar bears. He saw a picture of a polar bear stuck on a piece of ice with no place to go. We brought home a plastic (resin?) polar bear for the front porch recently. You can help the polar bears at the World Wildlife Fund.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's resolutions 2008

Last year I made nine resolutions and did reasonably well in terms of achieving many of them. This year I'm going to have five resolutions.

1. Read 45 books or more this year, 15 or more of which are on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Last night I was less than 20 pages from the end of the book I was reading before we went to Dan and Douglas's New Year's Eve party, so I finished that this morning, and I've started three or four other books. Last year I read 41 books, so I think this is achievable.

2. Use up another three bottles of perfume. Last year I did this by mid-December, and I'm hopng to do so again this year.

3. Save money toward the Smart car and our wedding. I'm listing this even though the Smart car should arrive by March and our wedding is in May.

4. Increase my daily pushups and situps to 50 each. My coach suggested doing pushups and situps to increase my strength for skating, and I'm up to 32 of each per night.

5. Go out for lunch only once per week at work. I'll keep track of this one again and see if I can do better this year.

Weekend update from last weekend

Lots of fun things were going on in town last weekend. On Saturday afternoon, we went to the Indianapolis Auto Show at the Convention Center downtown. It seemed small to me in comparison to Chicago's, but I expected that.

VW had a nice area with two New Beetles (a triple-cream 'vert and a Sunflower Yellow hardtop), assorted Rabbits and Golfs, and a Jetta sporting VW statistics all over (VW owners are 29% more likely to recycle, 70% more likely to maintain their own Web site, and so on). I asked the guy how much they'd pay me to drive around with statistics all over Phoebe, but he said they'd probably just give me the stickers.

We sat in numerous cars, including a Toyota FJ Cruiser, a Honda Element, and a Dodge Magnum. The Smart Car was in the middle of the Mercedes section, and t were so many people crowded around it that it was difficult to take a picture. I talked to the two salesguys there, and they put me on some sort of VIP list to go to the dealership and take a test drive. They also told me that I'm in the first wave of cars to come in based on my reservation date. Yikes.

At the Mini display, we sat in the new Mini Cooper Clubman. It's like a Mini Cooper with extra room at the back, kind of like a station wagon; it's nine inches longer than the Cooper. Steph fell in love with it and wants one. I wonder if we could fit both of them in the garage at the same time.

Saturday night we finally got to see the Naptown Roller Girls roller derby team skate a bout against the Kalamazoo Kamikaze. It was fantastic -- not something I want to do, as I sustain enough injuries on my own, but I appreciate the skill involved. Their next home bout is Feb. 9.