Monday, July 21, 2014

Out With The Old, In With The Not So Old

With the selling of Castle Erickson, the resulting temporary change in my morning commute from "you've got to be kidding me" to "are you out of your ever loving mind?" while driving a 14 year old car with 356,000 miles on it seemed to be tempting fate. So, I figured, after driving the same car for 14 years, I was long overdue to get a new set of wheels. Well, a newer set of wheels at any rate since I'm generally opposed to paying new car prices just so I can enjoy the financial suck of depreciation.

Besides, after driving a 14 year old car with 356,000 miles on it, a 5 year old car with 50,000 something miles on it is in positively showroom mint condition.

So, the tale of the tape on the once proud but never named 14 year old Nissan Maxima is as follows:

Purchased Used in July 2000 with 16,000 miles on it
Started Keeping Records on it in April 2006
Lowest Price Paid for Regular Gas: $1.45/gallon (December 2008 in Duncanville, TX)
Highest Price Paid for Regular Gas: $3.94/gallon (June 2008 in Duncanville, TX)
Best Gas Mileage Recorded (full tank): 33.98 MPG
Worst Gas Mileage Recorded (full tank): 19.11 MPG
Average Recorded Gas Mileage (all records 2006 to 2014): 26.41 MPG

Sometime in 2005 or 2006 before I started keeping records, the starter was replaced. The serpentine belts were replaced once at 223,256  miles. The radiator was replaced at 245,708 miles. The CV axles were replaced at 263,373 miles. It ran out of gas one time in 14 years (with The Queen at the wheel after an impressive 453 miles on one tank of gas) at 304,873 miles. The power steering pump was replaced at 323,250 miles. The front struts were replaced at 335,352 miles. It's had at least three sets of plugs, two sets of ignition coils and three sets of tires that I can document dates and mileage for though there were others prior to that time for sure.

It's had it fair share of battle scars over the years.






That little beauty mark was there when I bought the car. To be fair, someone had made a game attempt at repainting it. 14 years of wind, rain, Texas, infrequent washings, etc. later and it's still the only rust spot on the car.



This little rash came around about mid 2003 when I was in a hurry to get to a job interview and didn't pay attention when backing out of my parking space in the parking garage. That concrete pillar next to the car was gentle in its reminder to get my head back in the game.



There are two little creases in the fender there roughly two feet apart thanks to my ladder. It was leaning up against the wall in my garage when a gust of wind blew in and toppled it over onto the car. Grrrr....






This is the most recent love tap from sometime in the last two or three years. It occurred late one evening as The Queen and I were arriving home at the same time. I was backing into the driveway to facilitate unloading the car. Unbeknownst to me, The Queen had double parked the Navigator more or less in the middle of the driveway. Since I had assumed her to be parked like a normal human being, I was focused on the driver's side mirror so I would not drive up into the flower bed that bordered the driveway. Suddenly....BAM!!! SONOFA....WHat the...Hey, why'd you park there? The Navigator suffered barely a smudge.

Oh well, they can't stay pretty forever.

Oh, and for those of you who doubt the mileage claim...





I put 350,000 miles of that on there, and it never let me down once when I really needed it. It flew under the radar more than once (it handled pretty well up to about 100...I can't vouch for handling beyond that) to get me home when The Queen needed me, and it even survived an early morning encounter with a (recently deceased) deer with no ill effects.

So, what earned the honor of replacing my trusty steed?

I'm glad you asked. Please allow me to introduce, the Blue Max.


No, not that one.

This one...









Blue Max is a 2009 Nissan Maxima SV with 56,000 or so miles on it. Leather seats, sunroof, premium sound system, CVT transmission, 3.5L V6, push button start, etc.

I looked at other cars. I looked at SUVs and trucks. My requirements (asides from wanting the car to be aesthetically pleasing to its new driver) were pretty simple: it had to be easy to get M&M in and out of her car seat (thus eliminating any 2 door vehicle from consideration), it had to be under $20,000 (bonus points for being under $15,000), and it could not get less than 20 MPG on the highway (thus eliminating most trucks from consideration).

Having rented a number of cars in the last few years that fell into this rather broad criteria, I at least had some experience upon which to base my decisions. That, and picking the brain of my cousin the mechanic. I hated the seats in the Ford Focus despite some of it's other redeeming qualities. The Queen had also decreed that it was too small (her exact words were: "It's a coffin on wheels."). The Ford Fusion was a contender; however, it suffered from the same fatal flaw as the Chevrolet Cruze. Everytime I got in both cars, the B pillar would hit me in the sacrum. No bueno.

I really, REALLY wanted another truck, but the reality of my commute and the prices of used trucks in Texas beat that idea into submission after brief forays through bargaining and denial.

So, that brought me back to the Maxima. It's not like I don't have a ton of experience with them. They met all of my simple criteria. Price wise, this one came in just under $16,000. The thing that sealed the deal was that it is my favorite color.

Now, I just hope it holds up half as well as its predecessor.

Welcome

Here ye, here ye...greetings and salutations one and all. Be it known that, on this day, The Redneck Engineer graced this humble blog with his patronage. Please make him feel welcome; and, if you are so inclined, go forth and visit his blog. TRE lives in my neck of the woods, likes to build guns and stuff and has recently filed the paperwork to become and FFL manufacturer. Give him some love. TRE thanks for stopping by. The first beer is on me. The second one is too if I can talk you into letting me play with your toys.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tilting at Liberals

The Queen has a habit of chatting up ministers at church and then dropping a seemingly innocuous but very serious spiritual question on them putting them on the spot and generally making them VERY uncomfortable. Especially when they know the Biblical answer to the question is contrary to what they've been teaching and allowing in their congregation...and they don't want to admit it. I call it "tilting at ministers" (it's a Don Quixote-esque game of mental torture if you've never witnessed a rabid Ginger sink her teeth into someone who should know better than to poke the red head). 

Anyway, I told you that to sort of explain the title for today's post. 

I was perusing Facebook during lunch yesterday and came across a status from a church aquaintance. The status was a comment on a shared image. The image was from the National Low Income Housing Association or some such and stated that "Nowhere in the US can you rent a two bedroom apartment on 40 hours a week earning minimum wage." The aquaintance's comment was something along the lines that business owners are big, greedy, godless creatures who need to care about people and pay their employees more. 

Well, since I tend to sit on the far right side of the spectrum on most issues...especially economic/financial ones...I just had to go tilting at the liberal. My comment in response is as follows:

"First off, minimum wage is not supposed to be a "living" wage. It is an government required, artificial wage rate for unskilled labor most typically earned by teenagers still living at home. 

Second, this idea that business owners are somehow evil just because they pay a politically mandated minimum wage for unskilled labor ignores the fact that the employer is taking a RISK in providing a job and training the person to perform a task (and giving that person job skills in the process) all while trying to make a profit so that the business owner can continue to stay in business and provide the jobs that everyone seems to believe don't pay enough. 

Thirdly, name me ONE job that requires trade skills or a college degree that pays minimum wage. Higher wages are earned by putting in the time and effort to better yourself to make yourself move valuable (and hence more productive) to an employer. 

My first job was as a warehouse/stocker/janitor earning the then minimum wage of $4.25 an hour. I lived at home and then in the dorm at college. The first time I had an apartment where I paid rent, I was single and sharing it with a friend. I kept busting my rear at work to gain skills and raises until I could afford a place of my own. 

I didn't buy a car until I could afford it. I didn't get a cell phone until I could afford it. I didn't go out and start a family when I couldn't afford it. I didn't buy a house until I could afford it. 

People seem to have developed this idea that they are entitled to money, benefits, cars, toys, a big house and a lot more without the putting in the effort to earn it. God sees it differently. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says "...any man who will not work, neither let him eat."

My comment will likely offend several people. If that causes you grief, I apologize for that. But, I stand by what I say and won't apologize for speaking the truth as I see it."

I then proceeded to post my little shot across the bow on my own Facebook page just in case my words of wisdom were not well received and subsequently deleted by said acquaintance. Such would be intolerable. It's gotten fairly favorable responses so far, and a couple of people of like mind have seen fit to share it on their walls as well. 

I figured, heck, if it's getting good feedback on Facebook, why not use it as blog material? Hence, here we are.

You're welcome.

FREEDOM!!!!

Well...not complete freedom, but freedom from a mortgage at least. As of last Friday, The Queen and I closed on the sale of Castle Erickson closing out 10 years of residency there (with an interlude in Houston thrown in there as well). We are now officially and blissfully homeless (temporarily and figuratively of course).

We've needed a change for sometime now. The Queen has had her hands full taking care of M&M and trying to recover from her ongoing health challenges. Working full time allowed me very little time to keep up with home improvements and maintenance much less attempt to clean out the shop and get any kind of use out of it. We had been working on tiling floors forever with very little progress. Other projects had been started and then put on the back burner after priorities changed.

Despite our intentions to the contrary, we were moving, cleaning, repairing and purging right up to the day of closing. Literally. I left the house with the last trailer load of stuff at about 11:00 PM Thursday night before closing, and did not finish unloading until 1:30 AM the day of closing. The Queen was cleaning until about 11:30 PM. She made it to the hotel where we planned to stay the night a little after midnight. I finally made it there and crawled into bed around 3:00 AM. The Queen's 7:30AM alarm to wake us up to get to closing sucked horribly.

Closing was not without its hiccups. The first came on Thursday when the title company called to say that the buyer's lender had screwed up on the rate lock and was looking to stick The Queen and I with an additional $608 in closing costs AND move the closing date back AND move the closing to another title company. I allowed as how that I was not in favor of any of those developments. I further explained that I had no intention of paying extra for their screw up nor could I move the closing date because of other commitments. After several phone calls, the buyer's agent and the buyer worked it out with the lender and closing proceeded according to schedule.

If only it had gone according to plan, all would have been golden. Well...nickel at least. The next snag was The Queen's driver's license. You have to bring your DL to closing to prove to the title company that you are who you say you are so that they can notarize the closing papers affirming that you really are who you say you are. Well, The Queen's DL had been left at the hotel because the reservation was under my name and not hers and the front desk held her DL for some reason that still escapes me.

We tried having the hotel fax a copy, but they only succeeded in sending a blank page. So, after signing a mercifully short stack of paper, we trudged back to the hotel, took a picture of The Queen's DL and emailed that to the title company. Apparently, a photo of your DL is perfectly acceptable as a form of ID to prove that you are who you say you are.

While we left behind a neighborhood full of nice people that we've gotten to know over the years, both The Queen and I feel no nostalgia for the old neighborhood. There are certainly no regrets in selling the house. For the first time since we have been married, we are truly free to take a step back and make a thoughtful, unpressured decision about what direction to take. Our initial plan is to look for a rental in late fall/early winter after my busy travel/work season is over. We will likely rent for at least a year perhaps more while we decide where/if we would want to buy/build. Our current thought is to save up cash and buy a piece of land not in town but not too far out in the sticks on the 100% down payment plan. From my little bit of research in the last few weeks, that is doable in 2-3 years depending on how aggressively we save money.

Once that is done, I want to design and build a house of our own suited to our needs and desires. Nothing too fancy. Nothing too big. 1500 square foot max (if I could get away with 1000, I'd probably do it...The Queen won't let me do a tiny house except maybe as a guest cottage). Open floor plan. Architecturally, The Queen and I lean towards "modern rustic" (I think that's the term). We'd be happy in anything from Craftsman Period style bungalos to a cabin though. No carpet. Wood floors and/or tile. Just enough room to host a few friends or family from time to time but not so much that we will have wasted space that we don't use 99% of the time and would just accumulate junk.

I'm still waiting for a chance to actually relax. The weekend was mostly spent running here, there and everywhere at warp speed taking care of one thing or another. I may actually get to go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. That'll be a shock.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

It's Been A While Since I Got Political

As many of you may have figured out already, I'm not a fan of what passes for politics these days. And, when it comes to choosing sides, both major parties can roll in a box of razor blades before a dip in the piranha tank for all I care. Having said that, today's offering (shamelessly stolen from another blog...which one I forget otherwise I would credit) strikes a chord with me.


Click to make bigger for easier reading.

Now, as much of a fan as I am of the concept of Ted Cruz tossing the apple cart over the hill and rubbing the elephant's trunk in it, there is a flaw to this plan. The fly in the ointment is the same one that has been plaguing the Republican party since Reagan left office: the establishment.

The big money establishment wing of the GOP would drop a 24 carat load on anyone with a pulse to run against Ted Cruz and his team. With the complicity and overt support of the liberal media reporting on scandals (real or imagined...see Herman Cain's failed campaign, what they did to Sarah Palin just as a VP nominee), a Cruz campaign would be fighting a three front war (do you think Hillary will stand by quietly and let Cruz get nominated?) by Super Tuesday.

Do I want to see this happen? You betcha. I want to see Cruz and company break the establishment like Moses broke the stone tablets while staring at the golden calf after coming down from 40 days on the mountain. I want to see a rollback of every failed social program and half baked, unconstitutional law, agency and Federal overreach going back to at least the Wilson administration (though credible arguments could be made to extend that back passed Lincoln). I want to see a dramatic rebirth/resurrection of the small government republic that good men and women have fought and died for. I want freedom and liberty to once again reign supreme including the freedom to fail (may there never again be a "too big to fail").

Do I realistically think this will happen? Sadly, no.

The odds are stacked against Cruz. Depending on whose figures you use, 49 to 51% of Americans depend on the government for their livelihood in one form or another. Add in the margin of fraud, the primary process that gives the more moderate/liberal parts of the country the opportunity to "thin the herd" and set the tone, and a conservative estimate of the loons and kooks that seems to crop up every election cycle trying to vote for Lyndon Larouche or some other equally viable candidate. What you are left with is a snowball's chance in Hell's outhouse of Cruz successfully running the gauntlet.

I'll be cheering him on regardless. I'm just setting my expectations low now so that reality doesn't hurt quite as bad.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

In An Effort to Make Up For The Last Post...

...let's try one of my all time favorite Calvin & Hobbes strips.


One day, M&M and I will be having this EXACT discussion. Just wait.

I already tell her that she's mine, I paid for her and have the receipt to prove it. Yes, I will have to stop doing that sometime soon before she starts to understand what that means.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I Will Get Even With Someone For This...

....I hate crying at work.

WARNING: DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK UNLESS YOU ARE PREPARED FOR THE CONSEQUENCES.

I was (and still am) a huge fan of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoons. It makes me a little sad that I do not have a Hobbes of my own to pass along to M&M (I don't recall having a Hobbes growing up); but, hopefully, The Queen and I can help her create her own.