Monday, September 26, 2011

To xB Or Not To xB ... That Is The Question.

I've had four cars the past 23 years.  First up was a baby blue Pontiac T-1000 purchased by my parents for me while I was heading to college (THANKS!).  I'll admit that my first inhale of the prior owner's lingering cigarette smoke didn't immediately endear me to the little hatchback but ... when you're under 20 and needing to get up and go, it's really the "go" part of a car that snares you in the end. 

She was a good wee car.  She just couldn't withstand a cow.  Yep, a bovine flew into my windshield, up over the car, hit her again on the way down and sent my car airborne across the road, through a barbed wire fence, and into a corn field.  The corn was higher than the car so I guess it was good that Bessie took a bit getting back up in the road because THAT's what caught the oncoming car's attention.

I was cut out of the car with the jaws of life (Remember those S.A.D.D. demonstrations in high school? Yeeeah) and was lucky to come out of the experience with a broken wrist and new nose. [Side lesson - be careful what you pray for 'cause God might just answer that prayer with a Bob Hope scoop nose.]  Baby blue was not so lucky. 

Next up was a Plymouth Sundance, purchased primarily because I liked the cup holder. Yep.  With all of her electrical problems, the Sundance was more Sybil than sunshine but she lasted about six years regardless - until my mechanic was rear-ended while test driving her.

And thus we enter the Cavalier years from 1999 to the present.  I'm on my second Chevy.  The first was a 1995 sand colored beauty with around 65,000 miles.  She stuck around through thick and thin until 2005 when, with 225,000 miles and the beginning of a head gasket leak, she entered the beginning of the end.

I traded her in (Ha - $200) on a 2001 red Chevy Cavalier with just over 92,000 miles.  I've put nearly 108,000 miles on her during the past 6 1/2 years with minimal cost.  Red's nearing that 200,000 number.  Her cruise control has been gone for a couple years and her odometer is blinking.  It's time.

Given the amount of time I generally keep my vehicles, purchasing a new one tends to be a bit overly emotional and dramatic.  I grow attached.  And, this time, for the first time, I'm actually trading in a vehicle that is in good working order - no leaks, no noises - she rocks!

I started looking.  I knew this wouldn't be as easy as "where's my next Cavalier" since Chevy stopped making them in 2005.  I was never a Cobalt or newer fan.  My criteria has been gas mileage coupled with a desire to move up (literally) in the vehicle world, i.e., sit higher, and have the ability to transport my Schwinn Beach Comber (and her big ass seat and basket) among various other and not yet discovered items of all shapes and sizes.  I started looking at small SUV's but beyond the fact that I was nearing 100,000 miles on potential used vehicles before I was nearing my price range, I knew that the vehicles would get substantially worse gas mileage than my 27-32 m/p/g Cav.

I started looking at crossover type vehicles or wagons.  Enter the Scion xB.  The xB, made by Toyota, was introduced in 2004 and kept much the same shape through 2006.  Call it the toaster, xbox, or milk truck, the xB was definitely different yet it is in the xB's differences that you find its appeal.  [Yes, yes, if you find any appeal at all.]  The box shape allows for maximum room within the interior.  Sure, you'll snicker when you see one but go a bit further and sit inside and you'll soon discover why someone would consider buying the box.  I have never sat in a vehicle that gave driver and passengers so much room, including the back seat passengers. [Yes, Dad, this includes your Tahoe.]  Open up the full height hatchback, put down the 60/40 back seat, and an xB owner finds over 43 cubic feet of cargo space.  Also, the xB sits the driver/passengers higher than a regular car.  An xB driver will find herself level with that Equinox or Rav4 sitting next door at the red light.  It doesn't hurt that the xB comes with a six speaker Pioneer stereo/CD/mp3 system. All this comes with a 26-30 m/p/g estimate with many consumers reporting better mileage ~ 32 city and up to 38 highway.  Finally, the xB earned Consumer Reports' "Good Bet/Recommended" mark for all these reasons coupled with its reliability.

The downside appears to be the smaller engine, thus less power, which is one of the reasons the gas mileage is so good. This is also a reason that the xB is not a vehicle for the aggressive (Hello, my sisters!) driver.  Also, the interior could stand some better sound proofing and side airbags.  The xB was redone in 2008.  The newer version comes with a larger engine, bigger gas tank, standard side airbags, longer frame, and, sadly, accompanying SUV like gas mileage.

So, to xB or not to xB?

If you haven't guessed already, a used, low mileage, 2006 Scion xB won me over.  Multiple test drives followed hours of research.  My mechanic looked it over and gave his approval ("THAT's a pretty nice vehicle!") earlier today.  Tonight, I walked into the dealership armed with real market values from, similar values from the NADA Blue Book and Kelly Blue Book, information from my mechanic on what he found, and a post-workout look on my face designed to frighten any salesman.  [Len from Grand Buick  took it all in stride.]

They had their price, I gave my low price, and we met in the middle (albeit nearer MY end than theirs - "neener, neener, neener").  Seriously, though, I recommend Grand Buick.  Len helped another coworker several years ago and still remembered it.  He focused on my biggest requests and showed me any possible vehicle they had that might fill them.  He encouraged me to take the xB on an extended test drive, didn't blink at my request that my mechanic look it over, and managed to do all of this with minimal sales pressure.  [I'll of course revisit this recommendation if anything goes wrong but *fingers crossed* I'm optimistic.]  My biggest regret is that I'll miss Red's big day, her 200,000 mile milestone. Someone else will get to see that.  I hope they appreciate her.

Meanwhile, meet my Wonka Tonka:

She has just under 48,000 miles on her; let's see what we can do about adding a 2 in front of that, shall we?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why I Buy Organic Eggs (Or Get Them Free).

What this post is not: any kind of scientific tirade on the musts of buying organic vs non organic eggs.  In fact, when I did a quick google search on the same, I discovered completely opposite points of view ranging from studies showing no difference in nutritional value between the two and rather gruesome descriptions of the lives of mass market chickens.  See Food, Inc.  Seriously. SEE FOOD, INC

What this post is: one of MY reasons for continuing to purchase organic eggs.

Living alone, I will, at times, buy more food than I can eat within the "safe" time.  I will eat eggs after the "best buy" date ... to a point, but I recently threw out a few that just seemed a bit light in the water. 

---Side Note---

You can check your eggs by putting them in cold water either in a big bowl or in the sink.  If they sink, you're in the pink.  If they float, you'd be a dope (to eat them).  Apparently, when the egg is going bad, more and more gas is created within the shell and they will begin to float in water. 

I do NOT recommend then cracking a floater to double check. 

Or, well, yeah ... do that.  It might be funny.

---End Side Note ---

It has been quite some time since I purchased non organic eggs in the store.  Yes, I'm one of those people who will fork over $1 or more to get the organic eggs over the standard ones.  Often, I don't have to because my Dad will pick some up for me from the local Amish down home.  Those are by far the best ones I get.  I'm betting the fat content is higher but it doesn't matter - they're just better.  If I'm out of those, I'll get the organic eggs at the grocery store.

This time, feeling guilty over the tossed eggs, I chose to get the smaller 8 pack Grade A large from Meijer.  Awe, just my size. 

They seemed fine until I cracked a couple.  And I did have to crack a couple because this was my first attempt:

Wow - officially the thinnest shells I have ever crumbled in my hand.  Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am as close to being a domestic goddess as Sarah Palin is to the presidency (thank God); however, it has been a while since I completely butchered an egg in the simple attempt to crack it.  And see how it just crackled all over?  I had no hope of getting that egg into the pan without crunchy additives.

Hence the TWO missing eggs from the 8 pack. 

In the end, I'm living dangerously and not throwing out the fresh but anorexic eggs, but I'll be back to my comfortable organic brown hearty eggs the next time I shop. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Procrastination Files

[Previously on Have I told You Lately ... Scary movie like return to blogging following short-term turned long-term, self-inflicted life sans cable involving renewed unrequited love of Joss Whedon.]

I pulled the plug on cable services in December 2010 with the expectation that by February 2011 or so [read - tax refund] I would replace my old computer and reconnect.  Instead, by February 2011, I had filed my brief in my first ever Michigan Supreme Court case, was playing catch up on regular cases and nervously preparing for oral argument with the Court.  Time flew. 

----- Side Note -----

My oral argument was on April 5, 2011, a date I will forever remember as the low point (God willing) of my professional career.  It was a murder case that we didn't expect to even reach the Supreme Court (I keep telling myself that). 

Oral argument began.  I introduced myself and did a short opening then waived much of my "free fire" opening statement time explaining that I wanted to address any questions the Court might ask.

They had none.

Okay. So, none?  No questions at all?  No questions about the second issue either?



That was even more unexpected than the Court accepting the application in the first place.

I had expected to make most of my argument while answering the Court's questions.  Without any, I had several points I needed to make before sitting down. Within about 2-3 sentences, a justice interrupted me ...

And the questions began.

So, wow, if I had any doubt before, the questions quickly evidenced the Court's dislike for our argument.  Golly, this is fun.

By the time I sat down, I felt a bit black and blue with shades of pretty green. 

My opponent got up and did a short introduction then asked for questions. They had none.

[HA! Feel my pain, comrade.]

He argued his points.  They still had none. [Hey!!] 

None until I got back up for rebuttal.  [Double Hey!!]

Honestly, your Honors, you might be drawing blood soon. 

The best part - as I headed into my final point - was a justice wondering aloud whether I was over time yet.


So, that was fun.  I left Lansing that day and promptly hit the road for a six hour trip to see my newborn nephew and gain some much needed perspective.  Defendant?  Oh, he ended up pleading guilty to the same charge (for less time). 

----- End Side Note -----

Once the summer started, I was volunteering at the zoo, enjoying the sun, and still catching up on other cases.  I thought about blogging but figured I would wait until I had the new computer.  I thought about another run but figured I would wait until I had the new computer.  I thought about finding a book or movie club to join but figured I would wait until I had the new computer.  Time continued to fly and when I needed to decompress, I turned to my DVD collection.

Meanwhile, my Droid Eris was taking a cyber dump requiring a factory reset, my DVD player was beginning to play dead with its mouth (disk door) open, and my blessed wee red car was nearing 200,000 miles.  It was officially a massive tech turnover time.

But but but .... what phone to get?  A Droid 4G giant? Ooh, an iPhone?? 

What about the DVD player?  Should I get a smart player with streaming Netflix?

And the computer!!  Do I go with a Mac?  A Sony laptop? A netbook? But I might want to do work (Bahahaha) at times so I should get a laptop, right? Wait. Netbooks can do that, too?  Decisions, decisions.

[Ooh, look, my firefly DVD collection beckons].

So, Chevy Equinox? But a small car would get better gas mileage. But Dad says the SUV is safer.  But I can afford a newer small car. But ... but ... 

[I could stand to watch Season 7 of Buffy again.]

Time continued to fly.  Helped nicely along by the wit of Whedon.

And then the procrastination dam broke: within a 48 hour period at the end of August, I spent hundreds of dollars and made several decisions.  I went a different route with my phone and got the HTC Trophy - a Windows 7 phone.  I. Love. It.  Love love and the upcoming Mango update will blow our minds.

I decided on a light netbook but with 3 GB of running memory, a 320 GB hard drive, and an HDMI output.  I love every bit of its 11.6

I ordered basic cable and performance internet.  The wireless is set and away I go.

Phone. Check.

Computer. Check!

Cable. Check!!

Book club. Check!!!

[Look at me go!]

DVD player. Eh ... it still basically works.

Car. Hey, my wee red beauty is still going fine. And, really, who needs cruise control or power windows?  Well, now, come on, you can't possibly expect me to date until those other things are settled, right?


I wonder what's on TV.

Wait, the new season starts next week?  Brilliant.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm Baaaaaaack!!

Admit it.  This is only slightly less terrifying than The Poltergeist moment. 

I know.  I've been gone a long time due to a 70 year old (aka 7 year old) Dell desktop whose screen had become bluer than my lovely eyes.  It sits here even now, over in the corner, mocking me with forgotten files of old resumes, old chats (oh yeah, I kept those), and old pictures (which are the only things keeping me from going all Office Space on its ass...embly).  But our time together is nearing an end.  YOU HEARD ME, YOU DECREPIT MACHINE. END!  I've got a flash drive and I'm not (too horribly) afraid to use it, and then, well, then ...

So, what DOES one do with the old unfaithful computer? I googled some information recommending some particularly brutal wiping programs but, honestly, consider me Josephine Schmo looking to simply rid herself of an eye-sore.  I want the minimum "not gonna open it but don't want my files eyed" solution.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Pay someone.  I likely will just because I don't want to deal with it. But this conflicts with my natural distrust of ... people.

I've been gone a long time ... almost a year.  When the hunka was driving me to tantrums, I finally pulled the plug on the Internet.  I wasn't using it anymore and thought, hey, I'll rid myself of a bill until I get my new laptop in a couple (three, NINE) months.  So I cancelled Comcast. Yes, people, I lived the dream and said "bah bye" to cable completely.  Now, of course, the dream part only lasts until you're off the phone.  The nightmare begins when you realize that your building has no outside antenna and that Best Buy piece of shit digital antenna brings you a grainy religious program in the living room OR a brilliant Fox 17 in your bedroom provided you don't move ... ever.  So, I've been becoming better acquainted with my DVD collection and, occasionally, the stop/go/freeze DVD collection at the local library (seriously ... it's called CLEANER people!). 

The highlight?  Discovering the Joss Whedon gem firefly.  HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS!!?? A Whedon series with one of my favorites - evil Caleb/Castle Nathan Fillian - set in space with cowboys, prostitutes, and, did I mention, NATHAN FILLIAN??  I have to assume that the network did a piss poor, nonexistent job of promoting this show because nothing else explains the 14 episode sole season.  It. Is. Brilliant.  And I missed it.  Of course, I was ending law school and my marriage but still.  MISSED IT.  Happily, due to my self-inflicted lack of ANY television, I now own it, watched it, rewatched it, re-rewatched it, and proudly display my firefly Shiny shirt whenever possible. --->

Go get it. Now. I'll wait here.

[More to follow on my return to the cyber world ... now don't hurt yourself clicking refresh every second.]