apel: (grain)
So I got home with lots of loot from Gilroy. That place is definitely worth going to, even if it was about an hour's drive there. There are so many stores there with so many deals that if you don't find what you're looking for in one, there are four more stores worth looking at. I spent a solid 3 hours there and only went through about a quarter of the shops but still came home with the stuff I needed at deep discounts. Well worth the drive.

The "village" layout does nothing for me, though. It means you walk along a blustery outdoor path in front of the shops, being blasted with overly loud mall muzac, occasionally dodging cars and being inappropriately dressed when you go inside one of the shops. Anybody who thinks this has anything to do with old world villages has never been shopping in a real one.

When I got home, the maid had cleaned the room, sort of. I'd never thought I'd see this but she'd actually forgotten to take her tips. I'd placed them prominently on the TV, so how she could miss them is a mystery to me. She had changed the sheets so I know she'd been that far into the room.

Still thinking of getting a Roomba. If I'm still here when [livejournal.com profile] ciaran01 comes, I definitely need to invest in some cleaning supplies too.

Today I'm getting the bumper on my new car sprayed. It had some damage when I bought it and as part of the negotiations I got the dealer to promise to get it sprayed for me. Now that the weather is sunny again, that's going to happen. They called yesterday.

The process is going to take 2-3 hours, which I will have to while away somewhere. The car dealer suggested a mall but I'd rather be outside. I just need to come up with somewhere that's nice enough within reasonable driving distance from the dealership.

I don't really have a well-formed opinion about the election today. I think it's very cool that there's a choice between a white woman and a black man on the Democratic side. Both of those candidacies would have been impossible not so long ago. I can just see some people squirming at the prospect of having to choose what they consider "the lesser evil." It fills me with glee.

Having said that, I'm deeply uncomfortable with the subtle misogynistic undercurrents that I detect in some of the commentary. Well, some isn't very subtle. At Borders, of all places, they were selling a voodoo doll of Clinton with the slogan "Stick it to her before she sticks it to you." Sexism is still the more acceptable of the isms. What would happen if Borders tried to sell voodoo dolls of Obama?

I've heard people ask if it's Clinton that's divisive or if it's the kind of supporters she attracts. It may be a bit of both but there's definitely a third factor at play too -- some people are deeply uncomfortable with the prospect of a woman president. I mean, what are we? Iceland?
apel: (red signal)
I looked up my account online and found that no money had been withdrawn from it. When I called the fund they were very apologetic but had no explanation. They were going to put a rush on it but couldn't guarantee that I'd have my money before Tuesday afternoon.

The car dealer was not very happy. He was going to talk to management and call me back. Worst case I lose my $500, I guess. And then I'd have to find a new car. :-(

Plus I still need to return the Chevy to Alamo at SFO tonight. I'm thinking that I'll switch to Hertz. With the AAA discount it should be a better deal. It might even be a clean car that can be driven on twisty roads.
apel: (train)
Having read lots and lots on ConsumerReports, the following is my shortlist for cars:
  1. Honda Fit (Sport)

  2. Hyundai Accent (2006 or newer)

  3. Kia Rio (Rio5) (2006 or newer)
The Honda Fit is the best car but it will also cost the most. $13,950 - $15,270 according to CR. The Accent and Rio actually start in the four digits for cars manufactured in 2006 or 2007. They are still acceptable from a safety and comfort point of view.

I'd like to test drive these three cars. Depending on the outcome, the list may get shorter. In particular the Honda Fit may not be comfortable enough. I may also test drive a Scion xB from 2004 or newer, if I can find one that fulfils all requirements at a good price.

This is the list of must-haves:
  • Side airbags

  • ABS

  • AC

  • Automatic transmission

  • Remote keyless entry

MP3 player connection is a nice-to-have. Listening to KFOG is fine, really. :-) I would prefer a car that's not black or silver but I may not be able to choose the colour.

Actually, now that I'm looking at dealer pages, I think the Honda Fit is out. There don't seem to be any around and the prices quoted for them are ridiculous. I'm not paying almost $20K. The Kias seem a lot more reasonable but I may have to let go of the ABS requirement.
apel: (train)
My rental car will have to be returned on Tuesday. Before then I need to either have arranged for another, hopefully cheaper, rental or bought a car. To that end I've just signed up with AAA, the automobile association in the US. Apart from roadside recovery they have lots and lots of discounts and rebates in hotels, restaurants, Target etc. Signing up costs $54 annually and there's a $17 enrolment fee. The first year the recovery services are pretty limited but after that you can upgrade your membership and get much more extensive assistance if you need it.

I also went ahead and got a quote for car insurance. For a Honda Fit Sport with good coverage I'd be paying $1433 for 6 months. Ouch. I'm going to call some other companies too. Geico and Progressive, to begin with. But the reason for the cost is that I don't have much US driving experience, so I doubt that it will come out much cheaper with other companies. Still, worth a try.

This weekend I'm hoping to to some test driving and maybe make a deal.
apel: (triskele_Animated)
I just sold the car for £325. That's a potential £75 less than I would have gotten from a dealer but it saves me the uncertainty and hassle of going over to Gloucester. I'm happy.
apel: (fluffy_tongue)
  • Send gas and electricity bills to estate agent

  • Call BT about cancellation

  • Make flat nice before Kieron comes home

  • Call car insurance about address change

  • Get dry cleaning from Waitrose

  • Check other to-do list
apel: (snail)
This morning my GPS wouldn't start. So I got to experience what it's like to navigate to places I've never been before using only maps and roadside signage. Of course I got lost, had to turn around and got to the starting point of my walk much later than if I had been able to rely on my ever-patient, near-psychic car buddy.

Tomorrow I'm going to Swindon. I'm meeting [livejournal.com profile] puneets near the railway station. I was so not looking forward to trying to find it without the TomTom. I can imagine myself going round and round in the magic roundabout, starving to death or at least with a very urgent need to go to the bathroom. And that's a conservative scenario. I've had a lot of near misses in traffic when I've tried reading a map at the same time as driving. It's not to be recommended.

Anyway, after some googling and a long search for a paper-clip to unbend, I was able to reset the satnav and now it's mostly working again. Phew!
apel: (shoes)
I've just come back from Oxfam. I put all my donations in front of the backdoor and knocked to let them know that there was stuff there for them. A young, Indian-looking man opened. He looked at the bags and asked if I'd left lots of books a couple of weeks ago. I had. Kieron helped me bring them over in his big Volvo. The Oxfam guy said that they were really happy about the books, they'd made quite a lot of money off them. That made my day.

On the way home I topped up the tyres. They're now inflated to 36 and 35 psi. It makes for quite a stiff ride. Normally they're supposed to be 32/27 psi, when I'm alone in the car.


There! The cupboard is in smaller molecules. I've taped various bits together to make them easier to carry, too. Now I just need to load the car. I was hoping I'd be gone by 2 but I guess before 2.30 is also good. It's much nicer to drive during daylight hours, plus traffic out of London gets pretty hectic on Friday evenings.

Anyway, see you flipside.
apel: (cheltenham)
  • Take apart living room cabinet

  • Drive charity bags to Oxfam

  • Top up tyres

Load up car
  • living room cabinet

  • black filing cabinet

  • small shelf

  • green suitcase

  • camera bag

  • etc
apel: (California)
I called my insurance company because my renewal is due around now. They said that the easiest thing to do would simply be to cancel the policy when I've sold the car. That's certainly easy. :-)
apel: (train)
My car was first registered in 1996. I did my research before I bought it, so it's a quality car. Still, with an eleven-year-old car, there are obviously problems, simply because of its age. Last time I serviced it, the garage said that the front brakes would need replacing very soon. I didn't do it then because I was hoping I'd be gone before they really had to be fixed.

But with my move postponed to January, I'll have to deal with all the serious problems now, so the car is roadworthy until I leave. Driving 180 miles at highway or motorway speed more or less each weekend, I need a roadworthy car. Incidentally, if the move had been scuppered completely, I'd probably have spent tomorrow test driving a new car. But with the move very much on, I turned the old girl over to the capable hands of my garage.

They just called back. The fan belt is going. That would explain the twittering sound I've heard in the mornings when I start up the car. It costs £56. The rear wheel cylinder has a fissure in it. If it breaks completely, the contamination of the brakes would mean I'd have to completely replace them, as well as the wheel cylinder. It's better to pay the £44 to have just the cylinder replaced. One number plate bulb was out and the orange had peeled off the indicator bulbs, so they all needed replacing. But the worst are the front brakes, as expected. All in all it comes to £465.

That's roughly the going price on eBay for a car of this make, model and year. :-( Still, it's cheaper than buying another car with who-knows-what problems. It's also a lot better than the lack of serenity caused by knowing that the car could break down any moment, not to mention if I had an accident caused by poor maintenance. So I'll spend the money.

Maybe I'll have it washed afterwards too, to complete its "spa day".
apel: (mellow)
I'm sitting on Kieron's couch, LJ:ing on his PC. My laptop decided to sulk on Friday. Unfortunately that meant I couldn't work, so I'll have to leave at 2 to go home and put in the 3 hours I was supposed to do on Friday. I felt rather guilty about that, not the least because my PM called me on Friday and said that the client had been frantically trying to get in touch with me to arrange a meeting next week. But today when I was finally able to access my work email, there was no email from them there. Besides, I called the client right after getting off the phone with the PM and left a voicemail. The client didn't call back so maybe the house wasn't on fire after all.

In the afternoon I got glasses. Two pairs, one of which has Armani frames, for less than £250. The other pair are shades. I'm very happy with both. Kieron likes them too.

Yesterday morning I got the embarassing rattle from exhaust fixed at a garage here in Cheltenham. They didn't even charge me. A good start to the day.

Then Kieron and I had a picnic at a lookout point near Stroud to test my new glasses. Unfortunately the Met Office was right about the heavy rain, so we went for a drive in the countryside afterwards. Miserden was particularly cute. Nearby Sudgrove looked to have some very nice walks, and easy parking.

Today we've been domestic. I've used my steam cleaner to clean the windows. They were filthy. Now it looks as if somebody dialled up the wattage on the scarlet pelargonium on the balcony. Cleaning the windows is the "low-hanging fruit" of household chores. Kieron has been washing and dusting and stuff. He took some of the things I brought. He particularly liked the candle holders. Being a typical Pagan, I had rather a lot of those. Next week I'm bringing the candles.
apel: (hand)
This has been a rather productive and domestic day. My plan for this weekend was to garden but it's been raining way too much for that. The jungle in my bay window will have to stay there for another week and get even junglier.

I've vacuumed the hallway and bathroom. That may not sound like much of an accomplishment but unfortunately it is in this flat. Somebody shampooed the carpet and didn't rinse out the chemicals properly so the carpet is just sticky enough for anything small like a lose thread to get stuck to it. I have to sit on my bum and dry brush the carpet with the vacuum cleaner brush attachment to achieve anything.

The washing machine is on its fourth load for the day. It's almost done. I've also filled up the car and washed it. Now you can see out of the windscreen. Before it was full of bugs. The rear wiper blade is coming apart. I'd better get a new one, next time I pass Halfords.

The last hour or so, I've mostly been relaxing and painting my nails. Now it's time to go to bed.
apel: (train)
3 pm. Find car papers before.
Fill in payment form for Hugh too.
Make shopping list for pharmacy.
apel: (mellow)
This was a strange day, neither a typical workday nor a typical weekend day. I got up two hours later than on a workday and it took me a little more than an hour to drive in to work, including a stop at a Sainsbury's to buy lunch. I signed in at 12.15. Then I tested the application and created some images for it. By 3.45 I was done and ready to leave again. That's only 3.5 hours so I won't get rich from this even if I'm paid time and a half for it.

Actually I realised on Friday evening that I should have taken home stuff to work on for another project. That way I wouldn't have needed to spend more than 2 hours sweating in London traffic on a very hot day. Instead I could have used the time freed up for testing. I only wish I'd realised that in time. As it was I didn't have access to the assets I would have needed for the other project at home. I'll keep that in mind for next time, if there is a next time.

The drive home took longer because traffic was much heavier. I discovered that my moonroof is a sunroof on the way back. It seems that it depend which way you turn the crank. One way the back end just goes up a bit, the other way the whole panel slides into the ceiling. Nifty.

When I got home I was shattered from the drive in the heat and intense traffic so I took an hours nap. That's what I needed. The rest of the day I've mostly been doing chores. Preparations for the working week and stuff like that. Now it's toothbrush time.
apel: (train)
I just built a cute little Micra that I'm thinking of buying when my current Micra gives up. It's a 3-door, vanilla-coloured little wonder that does 34.4 mpg and has ultra sound collision avoidance that comes on automatically when you put in the reverse gear. It's so cute!

But there was no way of sharing it on LJ as far as I could see. So I wrote to Nissan and asked them to provide a way of doing that. Ideally I want a little window with code, just like you get from various quizzes and online memes. A link would be OK too if it doesn't expire but that's harder for them to do because they'd have to store something on their servers. A simple "Blog your new car" text link that goes to a pop-up with the code shouldn't take more than a manday or two to create, maybe another day or two for testing on various browsers and blogs. And it would be hip. It truly would.

If anybody here has an example of how this has been done by other car brands, I'm all ear.
apel: (train)
This morning I had problems with my little Micra. It felt as if the gears didn't really connect. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the second symptom of the demise of the gearbox. The first being the "noisy" gearbox that the car mechanic alerted me to last summer.

Tonight it was fine. But I'd better call the garage tomorrow and see if I can have them look at it. This could get expensive.
apel: (apel_blue)
Some German language pages for the rather well-known car manufacturer BMW have been removed from the Google search results because of search engine manipulation, reports Spiegel Online. When the Google bots came to these pages they were presented with text pages that contained the word "Neuwagen" (=new car) at a high frequency. Normal browsers, however, were redirected to a page showing the current BMW models, using JavaScript.

The reported behaviour occurred on e.g. the page http://www.bmw.de/bmw-neuwagen.html, according to a Google software engineer. This page now gives a 404, so apparently BMW have reacted quickly. Google will probably reinstate the pages, if given a promise from BMW to abstain from future attempts to manipulate search results, states the Spiegel Online article.

This is certainly a good time for a bit of schadenfreude and sarcastic comments about the unpleasant reputation of BMW drivers. However, it is also a good time for some reflection on just how powerful Google have become.

Update at 17.50: Spiegel Online have a more in-depth article about both this conflict and the principles behind it. As it turns out, BMW took down the pages in question on Thursday after criticism in some blogs.
apel: (California)
Ford must not be very advanced, they won't allow me to save the configurations I've made. So I guess I'll save them here. I configured a Ford Focus SE, a four-door sedan. The total price was USD 17'200. The base price is USD 15'015. The extras I chose were:
  • automatic transmission, USD 815
  • SE sport group (includes fog lamps) USD 475
  • safety package (includes side airbags) USD 350
The remaining USD 545 are a "destination charge".

A similarly equipped three-door hatchback costs USD 16'900. So for 300 less I get a lot less car. Doesn't really seem worth it, even if the hatchback is available in Screaming Yellow.

Golfs start at USD 16'030. A GL with automatic transmission (USD 875), and side airbags costs USD 17'535 including a USD 630 destination charge. That a much better car for roughly the same amount of money.

A comparable Mazda 3 would cost USD 18,145. That includes USD 900 for automatic transmission, USD 300 for fog lights and USD 395 for side airbags. That's a lot more expensive for a car that's not as well built as the Golf. So the Mazda is out.

The Honda Fit looks nice and well priced with a base price of about USD 13'000. I'd better take a closer look when it's launched this spring.

Now a Honda Civic Coupe DX wouldn't be a bad choice either. It comes with side airbags as standard but the CD player costs USD 400 extra and the fog light is USD 319. With a base price of USD 15'160 for an automatic and a destination charge of USD 550, it comes to USD 16'438. That's a grand less than the Golf and it's still a very nice car. It's also cheaper than the Ford Focus, which is a worse car so that one is definitely out.

All prices are based on the zip code CA 94546, Castro Valley in the Bay Area.
apel: (apel_orange)
I drove down to the High Street to get some more drugs. Scored some sodium bicarbonate that I'm going to use for my sinus rinse. Also found a brand of nasal decongestant that doesn't contain lactose.

Then I drove to the nursery. The primulas aren't flowering yet, so I got some new cyclamen for the square pot instead. When I got home, I stood them in the pot, on top of the soil. They look great that way. I may just bury the bottom centimetre or so in the soil to give them some stability. The Yule display at the nursery was very pretty but I've got enough Yule decorations so I didn't buy any. Still, I love looking at these things. So many shiny things and pretty colours.

When I got home, I cleaned out the car. In the boot I found a large bottle of slug killer. That was a bit of a surprise. The car fragrance I bought at Sainsbury's on Thursday (Ambi-Pur For Her) is surprisingly nice, particularly considering the silly name, and when I turn it off, it actually stops smelling. Now my car is all neat and tidy inside and smells good. The only thing that's missing is some music. I decided to go with [livejournal.com profile] wosny's idea and get a radio and then sell it before I leave. Ebay is my friend.
apel: (Default)
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