Yeah, it’s a car

So I’ve got the new car. <lj-cut>People around me seem to expect me to feel excited. I’ve <a href=”https://argothald.wordpress.com/103796/”>blogged</a&gt; and posted on Facebook complaints about the purchase process. I was nervous about buying a new car, and now that I have it I’m nervous about owning it. Why don’t I feel excited? At this point in my life, it’s the most expensive purchase I’ve ever made. The new car has many features my old car doesn’t have. I kept my old car for 18 years, and I’ll try to keep this one at least that long, so it’s not as if I buy a new car every day. What’s not to be excited about? To understand why I’m not excited, we have to set the <a href=”http://mr-peabody-sherman.wikia.com/wiki/The_WABAC”>WABAC machine</a> to 1998. I’d just gotten a new car, the one that I’ve just set aside. I was excited about that new car, in part because the car prior to that was associated in my mind with an unpleasant memory (Winterstar 1994, for those who knew me back then). Here I was, with a brand-new mini-SUV, with more power and better styling than I had before. Then Pepper got sick. Only my friends who’ve known me for more than 20 years will remember Pepper. She was my first cat. She bonded to me the first day we met. She loved me. She trusted me. She was more physically affectionate towards me than any other cat in my life. I would take her to the vet by wrapping her in a towel and holding her in my arms. She wasn’t happy about it, but she loved and trusted me that much. On the last day of her life, I drove her to the vet to be put to sleep. I didn’t want the new car anymore. I wanted Pepper, and she was dying, paralyzed and in pain, and that new car didn’t and couldn’t help. That car was a good, long-lasting, reliable vehicle that kept me safe for 18 years. At any point during that time, I’d’ve given it away if it would have brought Pepper back to me. The day before <a href=”https://argothald.wordpress.com/101055/”>Mist passed away</a>, my father called me. He knew I was having problems with my car, and he offered to help me with the purchase. I burst into tears. I told him I couldn’t talk about it, not then. I didn’t say this to him, but I didn’t give a damn about a new car. I wanted Mist to be well again. So here I am with a new car. Pepper and Mist are still gone. The new car is nice. It’s just that it’s not important to me compared to those I’ve loved and lost. </lj-cut>

Droning on, part 2

In a <a href=”https://argothald.wordpress.com/103135/”>previous post</a> about drones, I described my baby steps into the hobby. I started flying my “real” quadcopter, the <a href=”http://www.dromida.com/drones/dide04xx-vista-fpv/index.php”>Dromida Vista</a>, about a month ago. I did this where I work, <a href=”http://www.nevis.columbia.edu/”>Nevis Labs</a>, during my lunch hour. This made sense to me, since my goal was to take video of the Nevis mansion house and other areas of the estate for historical records. <lj-cut>The Dromida Vista is easier to fly than my previous quadcopter, but it still takes skill. I gradually learned to keep all movements small, and I didn’t try anything ambitious. My flight plan was almost always: go up, stay stable, compensate for air movements, perhaps move back-and-forth or side-to-side a few feet, land softly. My success rate at doing this steadily increased with practice. With the battery that comes with the drone, I can fly for perhaps 5-7 minutes before it runs out of power. Then it takes about 45 minutes to recharge the battery. So my flights were instructive, but short. I took some test video during a couple of flights, mainly to make sure the camera-smartphone connection worked. To my surprise, I discovered that the quadcopter camera had a microphone. I wasn’t sure why, since the only sound it could pick up while it was in the air was the whirring of the motors and propellers. Things were going smoothly. Then Columbia University sent out an announcement about its new drone policy. You can read it <a href=”http://www.essential-policies.columbia.edu/use-unmanned-aircraft-systems-university-campus-and-property”>here</a&gt;. Essentially it grounded me indefinitely. I understand the reason for the policy: They don’t want to deal with liability issues if some idiot crashes a drone in the middle of a crowd, say at a sporting event. The problem with the policy, from my perspective, is they don’t define what an “Unmanned Aircraft System” is. Clearly they’re worried about heavy drones with sophisticated cameras, which might pose a physical or privacy risk. Does their definition include my tiny, five-ounce, ten-inch flyer, that’s too small to require registration by the FAA? I’ve made a discreet inquiry to check with the Facilities person in charge of Nevis. It will probably be a while before I get a response. I feel certain that most administrators, not wanting to deal with such a minor issue, would simply say “a drone is a drone” and that would end my flying permanently. Sure, maybe could I could find a flying club somewhere, but the purpose of this exercise was to film Nevis. If I can’t do that, there’s not much point in flying anywhere else. So… we’ll see. Maybe the Facilities guy will take one look at my toy and say “Don’t worry about that tiny thing. Just fly it.” I’ll keep my fingers crossed. </lj-cut>

Car buying… ugh!

This is a venting post. <lj-cut>It’s definite: I need to get a new car. I hoped to get another 25,000 miles out of my 18-year-old Subaru, but that’s not going to happen. I hate, hate, hate the car-buying process. I’m a lousy negotiator. The dealers are experienced and aggressive. The financial issues are complicated. If this were a computer I’d be in good shape, but the business practices surrounding car purchases are byzantine and designed to take advantage of inexperienced consumers like me. Just thinking about it makes me wonder if spending $5000 per year to keep my old car running would be better than dealing with the purchase of a new car. My bank is a good one, and they offer a car-buying service that’s supposed to reduce the hassle of car shopping. I pick the car, they have a list of dealers, they get prices from the dealers, I get a “certificate” that says if I buy from that dealer I get a discounted auto loan rate. All of this works up to the point where the certificates are supposed to have the price; all of them say “Dealer will provide price.” This means the dealers want to sink their salesmanship claws into me, instead of giving me a price to look at. Hidden within all of this are the additional fees (dealer, state, federal) and taxes. When I look at a number, I can’t tell what the real price is, so I can figure out if I can afford the loan payments. I’m shown a dummy price, probably because I’m a dummy. Eighteen years ago, when I purchased the car I currently own, there was none of this. Internet car pricing was comparatively new, and dealers didn’t pull the kinds of tricks they do now. I shopped for a car via a web site (autobytel), the dealer emailed me the price, and that was it. Now dealers have transferred their sales tactics to the internet and I’m not sure what I’m looking at. I’m feeling irritated and put-upon. That’s not a good emotional state for someone involved in this kind of transaction. There’s no solution, I suppose, except to calm down, do my research, and hope I don’t have any more medical emergencies for the next five years. </lj-cut>

Anyone need an old microwave?

In 2007 I bought a Sharp R820BS microwave convection oven. It’s been a handy tool for me. As a bachelor, I eat mostly prepared foods. In the morning I might microwave a Hot Pocket; in the evening I’d bake some fish cutlets or a meat pie. <lj-cut>About three weeks ago I smelled burnt food, turned around, and saw smoke coming out of the oven. I’d set it to bake some food for 24 minutes, but as I was frantically unplugging everything I saw that the display said it was in microwave mode. It took the better part of two weeks for me to get the burnt-smoke smell out of my apartment (lots of vinegar on every available and some unavailable surfaces). OK, maybe I’m fumble-fingered. Maybe I hit the wrong button. I tried baking another meal, then another, and everything was fine. I treated it as a one-time incident. A few days ago the oven started smoking while baking. This time I caught it before it stank up the place. Once again, the display indicated that it had been in microwave mode. It’s clear that the oven has a problem: If you set it to convection, it might spontaneously switch to microwave. (Or I was fumble-fingered twice… maybe.) I’ve got a new microwave convection oven now. I might as well offer the old one to anyone who wants it for just microwaving, or is willing to keep an eagle eye on it while using it for grilling or as a convection oven. It’s old, still smells slightly of burnt food, and is not clean on the inside. It’s acceptable for “we need a microwave for our clubhouse” or “I need something for my first apartment.” Any takers? Note: If you mention Freecycle, I’ll know you haven’t read this entire post! First I want to see if any of my acquaintances can use it. </lj-cut>