Big daddy wants a new car.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 21st, 2008 by Michael

Yeah, I do. I don’t know why. Maybe it is that American obsession with consumption and newness. Maybe it is the barrage of advertisements finally overcoming common sense. Maybe it is phase IV of the midlife crisis (after getting fat, loosing hair, having those mysterious pains when doing seemingly normal things), I dunno.

Anyway, like all simple things, it is not simple and it is pissing me off. I can not find just the RIGHT one. Each has a flaw (outside of them costing a boat load of money). I have been debating (mostly with myself) on what I want, what I need, what I am willing to do with out. Yes, I get that on MOST levels, I am indeed blessed but sometimes it just doesn’t feel that way so I’ll be selfish, very selfish for a while (forgive me for being human).

I have targeted my search towards the near-luxury market as I fit their demographic perfectly. I think one site had “us” described as ‘buyers who have achieved a certain level of success in their lives and wants to make the sort of statement that successful, upwardly mobile Americans want to make. However, these people haven’t yet reached CEO status and aren’t ready for that 7-Series test drive.’ I’m actually not ready for that 5-series test drive either, but I digress.

You know, it is not just ego (though it plays a part). I think I DO sense a different view that people have pending if you drive up in a near-luxury car versus, a 10 year old Toyota. Its style, subtle sophistication, says something. Total crap? Yeah, maybe, but I think we are all so brainwashed, that I think there is something there (perception=reality and all). Plus, I really enjoy the quality of my car. I like the fact that when I push it hard, the VTEC kicks in and moves the beast quickly and swiftly with little or no road noise. It just does its thing – almost effortlessly. I like that. Now, I don’t care for the fact that dealer checkups are $400 or a few other things, but oh well. So, with all of this, why get a new car? Outside the ‘I want something new emotional tirade’ it needs a little semi cosmetic work and it doesn’t have LATCH (not required until 2003) so kid seats are a challenge to move easily. Of course, I’m milking intellectually that last point. I also think that spending $1000 on a car that is worth 9, doesn’t make a TON of sense. The car is also becoming worth less each and every month (though that has started to bottom out). Of course, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend nearly $30K on a car EVER, but that is a matter of international economics and not something that I can readily control.

Okay, so things I want in a new car: Bluetooth integration (safety issue), rear parking assist, decent gas mileage (27 hwy min), big enough for two of the kids, decent handling and performance. Oh, and a little panache. Shouldn’t be too hard… well, it is.

I narrowed it down but am getting more and more frustrated over the lack of the perfect car.

  • I looked at the INFINITY since I had one in the past. Freakin fast, and frankly as beautiful as a non-organic creature can be but that 300+ HP zippiness come at a gas pain point. Plus, I would have to go used to get to my strike price and I am not sure if I can dump a buttload of cash on something that doesn’t come with that new car smell. Uber-panache or not.
  • I looked that the Volvos as well since I always wanted one. I LOVE the BLIS safety feature. The V50 was an option (practical being a wagon) but it has all of the stud factor of a Ken doll. Plus, they are not easy to come buy since Volvo doesn’t sell many (the V70 is much more popular).
  • I thought about the BMW 3-series wagon and the X3. Both would have to be in the used space so I struggle with that but it would meet most of the criteria (surprisingly good gas mileage is 26-28 highway).
  • Thought about the AUDI as well. They are primo inside so luxury is not an issue. However, they are out of $ reach once a real engine is put in it. Their brand doppelganger, the VW Passat, is challenged with my ego. Can I drive a VW that is also a wagon? I’m not sure.
  • Finally, I looked at a Camry Hybrid. Not so much because it will save me gas money (the payoff is really in years) but more so because I like the idea of not using as much gas in general (see, tree huggers, I’m not all bad). Of course, pretty much every other person on the planet has a Camry but I could overcome that. However, the tepid at best engine holds me back.

<<<<<<<<<<<<ARGH>>>>>>>>>> I’ve burned a lot of electrons on this past week. It makes me crazy.

So, at this point, I think I will wait on a car (subject to change at any minute). Why? Because the perfect one is not there yet. I think we will see great improvements in Hybrids over the next two years. I also think some of the safety features only on luxury cars will start making it in the near-luxury space (e.g. space managed, cruise control – e.g. You set a distance and the car maintains speed based on the car ahead of you). Plus, I do have other things to spend money on. Of course, if I change my mind, the deals on 08s will get better in the next 45 days (assuming they have any left) so I have that going for me too.

So it looks like we will make some changes to the back of the house. I want to extend our drive and postage stamp patio as well as add a gate. This will allow the kids to ride the bike a little. That comes to a nice piece of change considering what you get (I’ve seen the labor pool used to install these things and they are not pulling in that much coin). It is not as sexy as a new car but possibly more practical. Now, we only have to find contractors and of course, get the fascist HOA to approve our plans. If we go whole hog, maybe we will plant a tree! New front flower beds are a future need.

What else is new? Oh, we finally got tired of Two of the kids fighting over this extremely ugly doll (Belle). So, we made a deal with them. They could each have a new doll from Toys R Us if Belle went ‘bye bye’. As you can see by the POTW, that was a success. Now, they fight over less (but still just as loudly). The new dolls are named Hanna and Katie (they picked the names after being coached the new dolls could not be named Belle).

Oh, the envisioned man room (e.g. serenity with attitude) has been somewhat completed and then morphed. There is a place to sit now. Of course, getting the couch was a piece of work. Got it from Costco and had them load it (easy). Got home and tried to get it out of the Pilot (not easy). Got it into the house (really not easy). It weighs 273 pounds. Yes, you read that right. Those were fat ass cows. Anyway, after some heavy breathing and a strained knee (both on me), it is in place. Because MA’s room is overflowing, we grudgingly decided to turn my media room into a multi-purpose room L. So, the treadmill is in there now too. I still need to hook up a couple of speakers and do some cable management but we first have to find a place for the rest of the piles of other crap we have. Someday I will watch a movie in there … maybe.

Speaking of which, we also have some excess CDs, DVDs and tapes to purge. To that point, we may have a goodwill or ebay run soon. We might send out a list of crap we have in the event there is anything people have a hankering for. It could be yours for the cost of shipping… For example, I KNOW we have 3 Wizard of Oz Monopoly games. All unopened. No, I don’t know how it happened. Of course, we first have to get all of it out of one set of boxes and into other boxes. It is just so much fun being us. At least, Maxwell’s room is done.

Speaking of which, he went in for his check up today. He got shots. He will be in a good mood tonight (yeah). As he has started in on the bottle, he is not sleeping quite as well. Kind of makes his mom and I want to start in on the bottle. Yes, we needed the excuse. Anyway, still a little light (14lbs) but tall. GO figure.

That is all. I guess I need to do some work or my patio and future car plans will be moot points.

Another Week…

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12th, 2008 by Michael

On the advice of a friend, I have quit reading USAToday in hopes of reducing my blood pressure. It has been a week without that faithfully sensationalistic rag breaching the confines of my speedy, upgraded and mostly secure Mozilla browser. It is tough to measure its effects as I KNOW there are still stupid people out there that do things that piss me off – I am just not sure who they are this week (outside the ubiquitous group that remains federally employed and thriving against all odds) and what specifically they have done.

That said, I really have not had a lot of time to surf anyway given the catch up on work and the freakin never ending amount of stuff one has to do around the [HOA controlled, cookie cutter] house when not providing normal care and feeding for the children.

On that topic. I am SICK of hanging ceiling fans. There are 9 in the house. I’ve personally touched 7 of them. And, as it is evident that builders not only play fast and loose with immigration laws but also building standards, each one has been a different experience. I’ve learned a lot about what I like with certain brands. I’ve also learned what I like about installation techniques. On a side note, I am not a fan of loose, blown in insulation in attics either.

The kids… Max moved quickly past his cooing phase and into this “don’t make me sit in this damn rocker chair” phase. We got him a nice play mat that he sprawls out on for about an hour a day. He is choosing to be fussy for longer periods of the day but also sleeps more soundly. Maybe a fair trade? Meghan is becoming two and has a strong desire to get into everything – I guess they call that inquisitive in those child raising books. She too is strong willed and not a fan of dirty diapers. It is a new habit and one that MA is not a fan of. She also is amenable to suggestions made by her sister. Also, not a good thing. Mackenzie on the other hand is between sweet and evil. She enjoys taking care of Max and will play nicely with Meghan on some occasions. However, she is steadfast in her goal of not taking a nap and repeating what she wants over and over again to the strong annoyance of me. Her causality meter seems to be broken when it comes to punishment. She also likes to get Meghan to do the things she knows she is not suppose to do. On the plus side, she is almost fully potty trained and now likes to get her picture taken (note how many recently actually have her LOOKING at the camera).

We have gone to the community pool a couple of times, have a new plastic playhouse in the backyard and of course an upstairs play room to keep them entertained. It works most of the time, though my study is a source of interest to them at times of my occupation. Again, to the strong annoyance of me as it precludes my working from home often. My commute is just short of ‘sucks’ and I think that is because I leave at the crack of dawn to avoid the mess. That is not to say there are not a billion cars on the road – there are – just that the odds of accidents are less at 6:30 than say, 8 am. At least it has played out that way thus far. It takes me about 42 minutes on average to transverse the evilness. Gives me a lot of time to think and scary for those on the road, veg out.

To that end, I am in a buying mood. I see shiny new things I could use everywhere. I am trying to contain these and squash the little demon in my brain that says I should get a new car. Its tough. Have you seen those Infinity G35s ? Sweet ride (I use to have an I-30 and Infinity does not get the love they desire). I would even be willing to get a used one (as long as it is 2007 or newer since that was the update to the model). Still, I really do not need one. I must resist…

That brings me to thinking and sharing (again) things that I like: specifically shopping.

IKEA. Love the place. Interesting, practical furniture. Accessories are very well priced. Showcase rooms are innovative and design inspiring (a two bedroom apartment in under 800 feet?). You can even get lunch (kids Mac & cheese with drink is 99 cents!). Not a big fan of their layout that makes it impossible to escape quickly but that is a nit. Yes, everything comes in a box that has to be put together but it is not complicated. Instructions were written by someone in Swedish, not Chinese. I dream of owning an apartment complex full IKEAized – I could call it Mikea’s Place. Yeah, it will grow on you. – okay this place has been around forever but frankly it lost its luster as competitors took it and made it better. Amazon is back with better distribution (e.g. faster delivery) and better prices on a lot of things. There PRIME shipping option is interesting (pay $79 a year for unlimited 2-day shipping). I signed up for a free month of it and it is addicting – I want to buy more since it is almost instantaneous gratification (without the sales tax!). – These guys are fast at getting you your stuff and the prices are generally, if not always, up there with the best. You still have to do some diligence in shopping but again, no sales tax and very reasonable 3 day delivery (if not free). I’ve bought computer stuff, camera stuff and even a tv from them. Technical reviews on site are also good. One caveat is their AIT delivery – those ‘large’ items that will not easily be handled by fedex. They suck. – if you need a cable, this is the place to go. They got all sorts of things you would never know you needed. “cables to go” is also a good option and you can get many of their products through Amazon or newegg.

Costco – said it many times. Love the high quality of their goods, especially their meat department and cheap prices on commodities we need (e.g. Milk, diapers, Chocolate covered almonds). Have most of my prints made there (8×10 = $1.49). Got my current Vizio 50 inch plasma tv from them. I have even bought their brand jeans ($12.99) for those fat days (which are more like normal days now). They double the manufactures warranty (up to a year) on things and have a GREAT return policy. You can have a cheap lunch ($1.50 for a large hotdog and coke) or take home a great pizza ($9.99). The only thing that I do not like is their occasional long checkout lines and the weird ‘receipt review’. It is not as obnoxious as Fry’s (nothing is) but still seems weird. I mean, you can not stuff a 36 pack of toilet paper under your coat or anything… – this is portal into the outlet store where depending on the day, you can get some smokingly good deals if you are one with the way of the mouse. You can sign up for specials and your mailbox will get hit everyday with 20% off today or $5 shipping. You want to hold out for the ADDITIOANL 40% ones. Those are good but you have to be quick as some sizes of clothes will sell out. It is not uncommon to get pajamas for $3.99. Halloween costumes are being showcased today. No DVDs are there but furniture, cookie jars, and lot of other things appear regularly.

Okay, by now you are probably out of money too. If not, you could blow it on something frivolous like the new iPhone. Waiting until today, it probably will work with spending three hours as a $300 [stylish, but useless brick!

More thoughts as I have them AND time permits me to put them down on paper.