what I did today

In 1998, half way through what should have been a nine hour drive to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving, the engine of my Pontiac LeMans siezed. After renting a car to get home, I ended up purchasing a 1994 Saturn Sedan.

A couple months ago, I got to thinking… This car is 13 years old. It’s still running great, but it has some cosmetic issues:

* the drivers side window doesn’t close all the way, unless you assist it
* some of the trim is coming unattached, which makes it rattle, which
drives me a bit crazy
* the odometer is frozen at 124,477
* it’s got some small body blemishes
* it’s got some interior blemishes
* the ceiling panel stuff is falling down

So I says to myself, I says: you know, you don’t HAVE to drive this car until it dies. You can afford a newer model. Think about it.

I did think about it. I went so far as to set up an RSS read for cars being sold nearby on Craigs List so that I could look for cars that might interest me. I’m not that picky. I was pretty sure I wanted another Saturn, used, and I just sort of watched what little passed by.

Well, while talking with Sue and Michael about their new car, Sue mentioned autotrader.com, and I figured I should check it out. Well! Different scene from Craigslist.

Let me say: I hadn’t realized that the world of used car dealerships was such a prominent item in the long list of things revolutionized by the Internet. But, wow, yeah, totally. When I was shopping for a car back in 1998, I remember visiting a couple of lots, saying the kind of thing I was interested in, seeing what they had, going for a test drive, wondering if I should put up with it even if I am not taken by it. You get the picture.

My point of view now is that the Internet shifts the balance of power hugely in favor of the shopper. Why? Well, the popularity of the Internet means that the dealerships feel compelled to list their cars on sites like autotrader.com. So they do. Then these sites allow one to do things like “show me all of the used, 4 door Saturns for sale within a 50 mile radius between $4000 and $10,000” (with all of those bold entries being up to the shopper). Turns out I had too many to choose from at that rate, so I added “with manual transmission”.

Do you see? Now instead of just asking a dealer what they happen to have, I’m specifying what I want and comparison shopping between essentially all of the dealers I’m likely to drive to. This would have been unthinkable pre-Internet. Obviously, this also puts pressure on them to list a low price, since they know I’m comparing them with other dealers.

As if that weren’t enough, the Internet also makes it easy to run checks like Carfax to see what the vehicle’s history has been like, and sites like Kelley Blue Book to see how the list price compares. Again, the intimidation typically associated with buying a car from a used car dealer is pretty-well squashed by the Information Age. I love it.

So, what do you know, I found a 2004 Four Door Saturn Ion with manual transmission and 38,000 miles listed at $8950, which was more than $3000 less than kbb.com’s suggested dealer price for that car (and still $1000 under the suggested private party price). Woah. Carfax.com told me that it was originally purchased from the Saturn dealership on the south side of Indianapolis, and had had only one owner. I furthermore visited the Saturn web site and priced what I’d likely pay if I were buying a similar Saturn brand new: just over $15,000. So, I reasoned, I’m getting a car three years older but $6000 cheaper. Going by my age-old per-year-price-of-owning-a-car perspective, the car “cost” over $2000 per year for those three years, without even knowing what maintenance it had. My goal is $1000/year, so I’d be lucky if I could do that well buying the car new.

So, I was pretty well convinced before I even left my couch (literally). Indeed, my brain started spinning on “there’s no reason not to buy that car is there? I mean, as long as it seems ok when you see it. You should see it. There’s no reason no to go look at it. You should call them tomorrow. Yes, call tomorrow.” so much that I had difficulty sleeping that night.

But, the next day did roll around and I called them up. “Hi, I’m interested in this particular Saturn. Is it still available?” “Yup” “Ok, I’ll see you later on this afternoon.” Again, the contrast in the experience of dealing with the used car dealer can barely be overstated. I drove up there and said “Yeah, I called about the 2004 Saturn” “ok, I’ll take you to it… there you are, let me know if you have any questions, of if you’d like to take it for a drive.” Sweet! I spent about 15 minutes alone with the car in the lot. Looked in the trunk, under the hood, sat in each of the seats, pressed all the buttons, etc. Everything checked out ok. Not that there weren’t minor issues, but nothing scary. The test drive was similarly reassuring.

So, ok. I actually felt a bit of awkwardness with the sales manager because it seemed to both of us like the process should be more difficult or something. He gave me a talk about the business, how long they’ve been around, how they want to encourage repeat customers and referrals and stuff. Mmhmm. That’s all nice. But eventually we just realized there wasn’t much else to discuss. So, I put a deposit on it, and said I’d be back later in the week to give the rest of the cash and to pick up the car. Done deal.

Did anything bad happen with the car? Were there problems at the bank? What else might have gone wrong? Or right? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Car: The Mini-series

y’know, one of those days where everything just seems to go wrong… Which I am inspired to write about because I hope there is some humor to be had in here, not because I’m looking for sympathy…

It actually started last night. After dinner and attending Bill’s recital with Priscilla, we went to The Union for a swing dance. I was in a weird mood, and quite spacy… as we were about to leave I said “I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I’m going through my lists in my head, and I think I have everything.” I’m going to take away a lesson from this, that next time I have this feel/think conflict, I’m not going to let the “think” side have its way quite so easily.

Somehow, long after we left, I remembered “oh, I took of my undershirts before I started dancing, didn’t I?” Yes, shirts. I’ve taken to wearing a cotton undershirt underneath a ThermaSilk undershirt underneath my normal visible clothing (it’s quite cold here these days). “Oh, and the long underwear, too”. But it wasn’t until this morning that I realized “SH**T! I left my new, wonderful, high-tech North Face GoreTex waterproof shoes that were a Xmas gift from Sue, Michael, Steven AND Kellie!” Now it was panic. Replacing the underwear, not that big a deal. Those shoes would be expensive to replace, and there was sentimental value attached to them.

So, I schemed to meet the Swing Dance club as they were setting up for their workshop today (the Friday dance was the beginning of The Big Red Swing Weekend). That part worked. I was really quite surprised (and panicked anew) when they said that they hadn’t picked up anything like I was describing (by this time I realized that I’d also left a fleece jacket… I mean, someone could have literally (and I do not use the word “literally” casually) left the Union wearing literally nothing but the things that I had left there, and in addition to passing all US decency laws, could have been almost comfortably dressed for a jog in the single-digit weather we’ve been having… in fact, except for the lack of socks, I don’t think this hypothetical person would have even turned any heads.

Well, no sense dragging out the drama, I’m trying to be brief. Turns out the clothes were still in the room where the dance had been, right under the chair where I left them. Thankfully, some group of IU students were setting up for some function in the same room. I thought I’d have to explain that I had been there the night before and left some things there, but instead, they didn’t even seem to notice me. *shrug*

So, this is not such a bad day, is it? No, I was (and still am) REALLY happy that I recovered all of my things. So, I felt (and feel) lucky. I came home, ate lunch, and sat down to do some things on the computer. I’d recently heard some advice to start with the thing that you want to do the least, so rather than play with the things I was excited about, I decided to do something that could count as work except that I don’t get paid for it. Uh, yeah, I’m not up for the description of what I was doing. But suffice to say that the thing I’d hoped to get done in an hour took…

…well, the rest of the day. I got very frustrated with the software I was using. I must also admit, though, that I made a terrible mistake and deleted 500 separate configurations. I was able to restore from a backup, but I undid much of what I had done today. Bother…

But, the real “bad day” feeling came from other things. Smallish things. My washing machine overflowed. Why? I don’t know. The spin cycle has been inching it off its perch and it’s not quite level. Maybe that’s it? Maybe it’s because I had my winter coat in there, and that blocked a drain in there? Or, heaven forbid, a frozen drain pipe? All I know is that I went to go to the bathroom (having to dodge the ironing board that fell from behind a door) and the floor around the washing machine was all wet. So, I set up a fan.

Eventually I ate dinner and gave myself permission to do whatever I felt like. I had to admit, though, I felt motivated to tame this computer problem. So I kept at it. Eventually it got done, but the day was gone. I had pictured myself calling some friends to see if anything fun was happening tonight, but it was after 8pm before I made any calls, and not surprisingly, no one was around. I folded my laundry and while hanging up a towel, I knocked over a glass candleholder in my bathroom and shattered it.

You get the picture. I was even starting to laugh about it at this point. “One of those days”.

Well, I made the best of it. Got away from the computer for a good long while and did some low-risk house cleaning while listening to some music. It’s funny, I don’t listen to music at home all that much, but sometimes it’s really powerful in influencing my mood. Tonight’s selection (Blossom Dearie followed by Queen) definitely lifted my spirits as I did some disgusting drudgery cleaning. I paused and thought about music being like a mood-altering drug, and wondered if most people who listen to so much more recorded music than I do are always getting that kind of reaction from it. I doubt it. But is that because they’re essentially addicts with high tolerances?

I don’t really believe that, but musing about this kind of thing was a good antidote to the trials of the afternoon… say what you want about scrubbing a refrigerator, but you can’t say it feels much like struggling with poorly written computer software. If you scrub, it gets cleaner, you don’t get intellectually “stuck” very often with this kind of work.

So, as I get ready for bed, I’m feeling pretty happy really. I’m lucky to be able to feel that way after one of my bad days. I’ll count my blessings…

A while back, my friends at the Indy Contra dance asked if I’d be interested in calling a dance before a performance of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. What?? Apparently the ISO was doing an outreach program and was in to having other arts organizations give performances before their concerts. Hey, ok.
I’m not sure it’s a good idea for them, but I certainly don’t mind calling, and it’d be fun to get a free admission to an ISO concert, I’ve never seen them live.

So, last night was the night! And, I gotta say, I think it was a good idea on their part. While we certainly aren’t polished for presentation (contradancing is for dancing, not for watching) people definitely seemed interested and we had quite a crowd gathered around us (including from the balcony that encircled the space we were dancing in). I didn’t have my camera :( but Beth did so I’m hoping to get some pictures from her. Tom and Fred played a great selection of music for this event, and Priscilla and John (who both drove up with me from Bloomington) and all the other dancers did great.

The concert was also very nice. This Boris Giltburg fellow is really good, and it had been a while since I wrapped myself up in the world of professional orchestra performers like that. This turned out to be highly intensified by having John along, because he’s studying to be one (a trumpeter, no less) and had plenty of opinions and gossip to share about this unusual professional culture. Anyway, good concert, I especially liked the Shostakovich.

And… it was fun to be in Indy right before their long-awaited first appearance in the Superbowl. The city is really excited. Actually, I didn’t see a lot of riotous behavior or anything, people in Indianapolis are pretty mild mannered. But what was so striking is that EVERYWHERE had some “Go Colts” type stuff up. Seriously, as we walked the two blocks from the car to the concert hall, I’m not sure there was a single store front that didn’t have something Colts related in the window. Certainly there was no view of anything downtown without several Colts logos in them. And it was topped off by the orchestra projecting a Colts logo on the wall behind them during the warmup periods and the intermission (they turned it off while they were performing). Classy!

And, well, I’m with them! I don’t think I’ve ever cared as much who won the SuperBowl as I do this year. The Colts are a great team… highly skilled, smart, and nice! And, of course, the regional allegiance plays high. So, looking forward to the game tonight! Go Horse!! :)

Earlier this week, I had to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t pure coincidence that I had such a huge number of deadlines yesterday and today. I knew I was leaving town, and so, when negotiating due dates with the people I work with, I was making sure they happened before I left. So, they all collected on Thursday and Friday.

So, after a flurry of work, I’m now on the road. I’m sitting in a cafe in Urbana Illinois, where in a little over an hour I will be the caller at their regular bi-weekly contra dance. I got here an hour and a half early, which was kind of on purpose. Somehow, I just couldn’t convince myself that if I left Bloomington at 6pm (EST) I’d still be in Urbana by 7:30 (CST) comfortably early for their dance. But, try it was, and now I’m kind of wishing that I had made that one last Xmas shopping trip before I left.

But really, it’s good. I feel under control, relaxed, and able to do something fun like write a blog entry instead of worrying about being on time. And, it really feels like I’m on tour/vacation, sitting in an unfamiliar cafe and wondering if they have free wifi Internet access here. I can’t see where they do, and even if they did, I would think twice about trying to get it working. I don’t have that much time, and those free wireless things aren’t always very friendly to Linux users. So, I’m doing the “type now, post later” thing. And yes, I won’t be able to post this until after the tour is over. Because, you see, after Urbana tonight, I’m off to E. Lansing, Michigan tomorrow night to call the dance there. And then, Sunday, I’ll head to Cleveland to stay with my parents. And, as soon as I get my Mom’s Xmas Internet access working, this will magically appear on my blog.

Oh, and don’t worry, Mom knows about this gift, so I’m not spilling any beans. :)

I’ve gotten a lot of jaw-dropping mileage out of telling people that my mom eats popcorn for dinner every Sunday. Yes, for dinner. Yes, every Sunday. I mean, ok, sometimes she’s on vacation, whatever. I’m not saying she never misses a week. But when she misses one, I think she really misses it.

Anyway, sitting around a table this holiday weekend with her four siblings, I come to find out that three of them also eat popcorn for dinner frequently. Yes, for dinner. Not quite as regularly as my mom, I don’t think, but they each said something more than once a month.

I’ll have to ask around, but at the moment these are the only four people in the world who I know eat popcorn as a meal with any regularity. And they are siblings. And, to the best of my knowledge, they didn’t do it when they were growing up or anything. I don’t think their parents did it. So… what’s going on here?

I don’t know. I also don’t know if that conversation contributed to why popcorn sounded so good to me this evening. After having a relatively light dinner before an evening meeting, I told myself it was ok if I wanted to eat a dessert or something once I was home. Ice cream? Or maybe just a beer? no… POPCORN!

It was good, too.

could have been a real messPeople complain a lot about their bad luck, I like to pause and appreciate good luck when I experience it.

I walked into the kitchen to finish cleaning up after lunch, and I bumped the compost container that was sitting on the ledge. This was basically because I decided to wrap my Afghan around me as I walked around the house. It got caught on the container and pulled it onto the floor as I walked past. So, it happened behind me. I had a guess as to what had happened, and I was afraid to look.

But, look! The container landed right-side-up, and what could have been a disgusting mess is instead just a slice of an apple and the end of a stalk of broccoli (not pictured) that presumably bounced out when the thing hit the floor.

Of course, I’ve now spent more time creating this blog entry about it than I would have spent cleaning it up if it HAD made a mess, but think of how much happier I am writing in my blog than cleaning up compost off of the kitchen floor…

Of course, I still have to go do the clean up I was trying to do in the first place…

Do you remember my dad’s theory about weight management that I cited in this post?

“I don’t care how much you weigh, but you should weigh that amount every year.”

I realized last night that I use the exact same philosophy to trying to manage my inbox. I was well aware that I had a conscious approach, but I didn’t realize that it’s just about exactly the same idea:

“I don’t care how big my inbox is, but it should be that size every day.”

Ok, I gotta work on the wording… but, yeah, for me the number is 38, because that’s how many I can see on the screen of my mail program at one time. After announcing HoosierNet‘s demise on July 20, my inbox got out of control. Sunday night, I whittled it down from about 800 to 38. It’s remarkable how much more “together” I feel having done that. I just took care of a few emails to get it back under 38, and along with it came a good send of getting things done promptly! I think that big fat inbox was weighing on my psyche… But, look! I’ve lost weight!! Can you tell?? :)

Well, after wondering how I would spend the day yesterday — with the extra hour! This snuck up on me!! I guess it’s not surprising, since this is the first year that Indiana has done it since I moved here in 1992 — I decided to go for an impromptu bike ride. It was sunny, and even broke 60 Degrees F! And the leaves have been beautiful.

Actually, not from the bike ride, but a similarly beautiful day last weekend...

It was well into the afternoon by the time I got things together, though, so I figured I’d just go for the standard Lake Griffy loop. It reminded me that I made this trip last January, on an unseasonably warm day. This is probably what started me thinking if this was my farewell bike ride for the year. It’s getting cold, and in fact I was surprised that it got as warm as it did today, and especially when it’s rainy, I’m not going to feel like biking…

So, who knows, we’ll see. One thing I can say for sure is that being out of town for so long left me out of shape on the bike. I got stomach cramps and moved slowly, even on this short and familiar trip. Still I’m glad I went, it was good to enjoy the nice weather.

Wow, another month rolls by without a blog posting! Yeah, what can I say? I think I’m best at posting regularly when things in my life feel quite regular. And, being in Portland, things did not feel regular. They were, in fact, very special, not at all regular. I am very glad to have spent the time there, and glad for the part that I played in bringing Verl Grey into the world. It was a very special time, but one that has its own documentation so I won’t bother working on rehashing it here. But, yes, a very good time. Played some great games of disc golf with Steven, ate some great food cooked by Kellie (and a bit by myself, if I do say so myself), and generally.. I’m glad it worked out so well.

But, I am also glad to be home! Home feels very good. It’s kind of funny after being away for so long, you notice some things in a different light. I reach for a kitchen utensil and it’s right where I expect it to be, even though I haven’t used it in so long. And I think “Hey, that’s a clever place to keep that!” mmhmm! Good thinking, David! Simple things like that. And I feel awash in them.

Anyway, I’m on a campaign to make life feel more regular, starting with some todo lists on my palm and radiating outwards. I’ve now looked at every piece of the eight pounds of mail that the US Postal Service was kind enough to hold for me while I was away, so I can cross that off the list. But, another item on the list, trying to find its way into the “recurring” category, is “blog”. So, although I’ve said it before and was wrong, I hope that this time it’s really true… more soon!

I’m quite sure this is the first time I’ve started writing a blog post
at 6:52AM. Or, any time before 7AM. Certainly the first time after
I’ve already been up for two hours.

I’m on my way to Portland, OR, to spend a month with Sue and Michael
and to help them with things related to the birth of their baby. I’ll
also see my brother Steven and his family and other friends that I
have in Portland.

Things got off to a smooth start. I get a very good price on the
ticket. I didn’t know how I’d get to the airport (not wanting to pay
for parking for a month). I thought I might take the shuttle, but
Renee convinced me to take a limousine. It was not that much more
expensive, and… I mean, they pick me up at my door! They monitor my
flights so that they’ll be ready for me when I land! Especially after
getting the cheap ticket, this seemed like the way to go.

And, it was nice. At 5am, it’s nice to have someone more awake that
you putting your bags into a car and driving. I shared the limo with
one other rider (this keeps the price way down). My driver was very
talkative, and after I mentioned that I’d be visiting friends who were
having a baby, he proceeded to tell stories about the births of his
three children, as well as various surgeries he and his wife had had.
That may sound weird, but it was a very nice conversation. The other
woman in the car was mostly sleeping, I hope it wasn’t too weird for
her to awake from a drowsy state to a conversation about a burst gall

I got to the airport plenty early, so I could take my time carting my
excessive luggage to the terminal. Good advice from the limo driver
about managing two rolling suitcases: “push one, pull one”. I’ll
remember that. But anyway, the only thing that made this really tough
was the banjo… such an odd shape. I’m glad to have it, though… a
month without any musical instrument seems like a Bad Idea.

Check in was smooth and I had lots of time. I was unexpectedly hungry
(??) so I ate a 6″ Subway, and now I still had time to type this
entry. Boarding will begin shortly, though… They just made the
announcement about the new and immediately infamous “no liquids” rule.
I should probably start packing up.

« Previous PageNext Page »