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Used Car Buying, or Madness Has its Place

(Apologies to Larry Niven.)

TLO and I just bought a car. Through a torturous process*, we concluded that the Nissan Versa hatchback was the least worst car that will meet all of our needs and our most fervently expressed wants. Because we're on a budget and can't afford new-car smell, we're looking at used Versas.

(What were those wants and needs? Four doors, so we can carry three adults in comfort. Automatic transmission for TLO. Reliable. Very small, so it wasn't harder to park than our New Beetle, but at least as much cargo space as the Beetle. Air conditioning. And within those parameters, I wanted to get a quiet, somewhat luxurious car, and said I'd like keyless entry and maybe cruise control).

Predictions for cameras, or what should you buy?

Update: This post has attracted a lot of interest, and I'd like to just link to a few resources that are very interesting for "what-should-I-buy?" issues: Snapsort's comparison page is breezy and brilliant for quick camera rundowns. (example: Pentax K-x vs. Sony NEX-3). DP Review is one of the best all-around camera review sites, and while I once teased them about their skewed rating system, they've revised it, making their work even more useful.

A Year in Review Review: 2010? edition

Maktaaq reminded me that I usually do something at the end of each year to describe that year, which is useful, because I forget things.

So, here's a review of last year's year in review, which included some over-optimistic resolutions along with its recap of 2009.

In 2009, our dog died. In 2010, two of our fish died. That's an improvement.

In 2009, I was a finalist in a win-a-car contest, with a 1:10 chance of driving home a winner. I didn't win. In 2010 I was a finalist in a win-a-car contest, with a 1:10 chance of driving home a winner. I didn't win. I could not plausibly make this up.

Not all Costume Dramas are good

TLO and I saw The King's Speech Monday night, as a sort of last hurrah to our holiday times. I said to TLO (and meant it) that it was a good movie. It features a stunt-role for Firth, and an acceptable job by Geoffrey Rush (his Magical Speech Therapist is given a slightly scheming, maybe even creepy-controlling edge, and that's good).

But think about the plot carefully: Edward VIII is not up to the royal duties of document-handling, and not marrying divorcees. George VI stammers and is thus hopeless at public speaking. But with the support of a speech therapist, lovable Bertie makes it through. Meanwhile, actual vital decision-makers of England (Chamberlain, Churchill...) were relegated to applauding his great effort.

The Hierarchy of Christmas-Related Movies

So the standard question is "What's your favorite Christmas movie?" My standard answer was Die Hard until it became In Bruges which I like much more.

These responses are funny because they're not really Christmas movies in the sense most people mean. And yet both qualify by actually taking place at Christmas.

This confusion is amusing, but I can fix it. As my gift to you this season, I present the Christmas Hierarchical Ring Index System Tracking Movies And Stories (CHRISTMAS; since this is still indevelopment, I call the current version eXperimental Movie Arrangement System, or XMAS).

When bad things happen to complicated systems

This is a story about complex systems failing obscurely.

"The first thing, of course, was the noise that alerted us to something had gone wrong."

On November 4, 2010, an Airbus A380 (that's their new double-decker superjumbo) blew an engine while in mid-air. That is something that happens, but this one was an impressive and quite rare uncontained turbine failure, which is a euphemism for "blew up bigtime." Bits of the turbine disc cut into the wing, damaging several systems and making a huge headache for the aircrew, who performed admirably and landed the plane without serious incident or any injuries.

Maybe I will not become an NDP member this year

As many of you know, I am a right-wing kook. I do not tend to favor left-leaning policies, though I have a greater tolerance for mushy-headed distributivist tendencies than I usually let on.

That said, both the provincial NDP and Liberal parties here in BC have gone through sudden leadership turnovers this Fall. A bit of dirty laundry was aired during the Liberal's veangance for Glencoe, but the NDP disclosed a lot more of their internal workings in the process of disposing of Carol James.

A ride in an electric car

My friend Dave works at BC Hydro, and offered to take me for a ride in one of the odder company cars around: a Mitsubishi i MiEV. This isn't the first electric vehicle (EV) on the market, by a long shot, and technically the i MiEV isn't even on the market. But it's a little taste of a highly probable future.
BC Hydro i MiEV

Driving It

A scrapbook of Video Game news reports

So my Video Game exhibit at the Surrey Museum has been a pretty good success. Here's a summary of some of the news reports that mentioned it. I'll include a summary in case of link-rot.

News 1130, Nov. 21: 'Best and worst video games of all time on display in Surrey
Including the infamous "ET for Atari"', by Jesse Johnston. Based on a phone interview with me, mentions the "early days" playday on November 27, 2010, with a special emphasis on E.T.: the Extra-terrestrial for the Atari 2600.

We did indeed play it, and it was indeed amazingly frustrating.

Idiosyncratic thoughts on cars

I've been thinking about cars a lot lately.

I'm going to put down my thoughts on what matters and what does not when it comes to a car, in terms of how much most people will like owning it, and what it will cost.

What doesn't matter

Fuel costs often don't matter. A Prius is (surprise) the most efficient vehicle sold in Canada. According to that metric, it would cost about $760 to drive 20,000 km, using a locally optimistic $1/l gas price. By comparison, the best full-size car would cost $1600 (Hyundai Sonata with a manual transmission).

One of the worst cars, economy-wise, is a Chrysler 300 SRT-8. It's a shade under $3000/year. Money well spent, I say, considering that car can carry five in comfort plus a good load of luggage and has more horsepower than every car I've ever owned, COMBINED. And I've owned four cars.

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