October 30, 2003

Baby you can drive my car

I was successful! I drove home with a brand new 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid last night! It had 5 miles on it when I got it (and then I put another 30 or so on it just to get home!!!)

I did most of the transaction by email ahead of time (including setting the price and the exact specifications of the car.) This was stressful, but it's a long story that I'll compile when I get more free time.

The transaction was much smoother than I had anticipated. No one tried to sell me anything, I paid with cash so I didn't have to worry about getting a loan, and the car was exactly the one I wanted. That's not to say the day wasn't stressful, though. On top of being very concerned about the deal (based on my email experience), I had a last minute money glitch. Gary needed to transfer money into my account, and the credit union had just closed when we arrived. We wound up driving around Stanford and wandering around a hospital for half an hour looking for another branch (we which did find eventually, in a basement *next* to the hospital, with a tiny faded sign marking it. It did not say "Beware of the Leopard" but it might as well have!) Luckily I was only 30 minutes late for the appointment, and they didn't sell my car to someone else!

My new car is really neat. It should get around 45 mpg, which is almost twice as good as I get with my '95 Subaru. When I come to a stop, the engine shuts off (much like my old Chevy Cavalier, except it starts up again when I need to go!) so I conserve a lot of gas that way, and I'm not polluting the air whilst waiting for my burger-and-fries. It has a special bladder system in the gas tank to prevent gas from evaporating when the tank isn't completely full. It has power locks and power windows. It's got a CD player. And two drink holders. Wow!

I picked the color Magnesium Metallic (silvery grey) because it looks sleek and because it's a new Hybrid color this year (so very few cars look like mine.)

There's a few things I need to do to it still. I need to figure out how to connect my mp3 player to the stereo system. My Subaru has a tape player which I can use to connect the mp3 player via a cassette adapter. Since it doesn't have a cd player, I could use the cassette adapter for cds, mp3s, and minidiscs. And of course I could always play tapes. Although it's cool that the Civic has a cd player, I now find that somewhat limiting, since all it plays is cds (surprise!) I have read about adaptors that work similarly to a cassette adaptor, and I have also read vague references to adaptors that connect to the 6-cd changer jack under the driver's seat. I haven't actually seen any of these adaptors, though, so I'll have to start doing harder research. The Accord has an mp3 option, but alas not the Civic Hybrid.

Other stuff: I need to figure out how to set the clock (soon! it's on daylight savings time!!) I need to buy a new front windshield screen (my old one is falling apart.) I need to get insurance. I need to find out if the Yosemite license plates are reasonable. I need to sell my old car.

Buying a new car is really a lot of work. I don't see how some people do it every year. Once or twice a decade is sufficient for me!

Posted by Jen at 07:08 AM | Comments (6)

October 29, 2003

almost there!

I've made an appointment to see the Honda car dealer this afternoon. I might be driving home in a new car tonight! I'm a little nervous (after all, it's a major purchase) but I'm excited, too. I'm hoping it all goes smoothly today, but just in case I'm bringing Gary along to help mediate.

Posted by Jen at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2003

Nigerian Scams and Buying a Car

I've decided to buy a car, and have been trying to negotiate with a dealer via email for the past week (not very successfully, but I'm still hopeful.) Although not really pertinent to this entry, I plan to buy a 2004 Honda Civic Hybrid.

Also this week I discovered a really neat website, called Scam-o-Rama. It is devoted to Nigerian scam emails, of which there are many variations. If you have an email account, you've probably gotten at least one of these. They go along the lines of some guy has a heap of money in his country, usually Nigeria, and needs your help to get it out. In return, he'll give you a cut of the cash. The catch? You have to send him a "small" sum of money to assist in the transfer (for fees, bribes, whatever.) You send him the money, usually in the tens of thousands, and never hear from him again. Or if you do, it's to request additional money, because the first amount wasn't enough. People have been bilked out of thousands of dollars this way, and almost never recover it. There are lots of variations, some involve oil or gold, or helping an orphan recover her inheritance. They're all scams, and they probably work well enough for them to continue. I read warnings about them nearly 10 years ago when I listened to shortwave radio (except then it was real letters, not email, so at least you might get some nice stamps) and I know they weren't new then.

So, back to the website. A number of people have decided that it would be more fun to play along with the scammers (or Lads, as they are called on Scamorama.) They have hundreds of email exchanges from people playing along as some character (e.g. Mr. T, Bart Simpson, some super rich tycoon, etc.), leading the Lad on for weeks, and then at the last minute explaining that no, he's not going to get millions of dollars because they don't exist, the gold mine doesn't exist, and the Lad is really too stupid to be a criminal, he should look for a regular job instead.

After reading a few dozen of these, I actually started to feel a little sorry for the scammers. Then I would remind myself that these are guys hoping to steal thousands of dollars from someone, they're criminals who don't deserve pity. Some of the authors (the scamees, not the Lads) are incredibly creative and come up with what must be very convincing stories. Are the Lads really so naive that they think a young rich girl is going to send them thousands of dollars, fly to Nigeria, and marry a guy sight unseens? Well, you wouldn't think so, but then I wouldn't have thought that anyone on the other side would buy the scammer's stories, either. But unfortunately there are several stories of people who have spent lots of money, either because of greed (of getting millions from doing pretty much nothing) or pity (helping a poor orphan kid recover her riches.)

What does this have to do with buying a car? Not much, except both involve negotiating with someone via email. After reading so many of the email exchanges, my own email exchanges with the car dealer started to seem weird and scam-like. The fact that I haven't heard from him since Monday (despite 2 emails to him) makes it worse...maybe he thinks I'm scamming him!

Stay tuned....

Posted by Jen at 08:54 AM | Comments (3)

Haunted House

Someone in our neighborhood set up a haunted house in their backyard. I saw signs for it last weekend when we were out running errands, but we didn't get a chance to go (it's only open Friday and Saturday evenings.)

Last night Gary decided he wanted to go out to get something to eat, and we drove past it again. I'd never been to a haunted house before, and the idea interested me a little bit. But only a little...from what I've heard they aren't *all* that fun. Gary convinced me to at least get out of the car to take a look, which we did. There were quite a few kids in costume milling around outside; I couldn't tell if they were part of the cast-and-crew, or kids waiting to get in. I think the former, since they weren't rushing to go inside. There was no admission fee, just a donation box, which they didn't push. You can't beat the price, so we decided to give it a go.

Never having been to one of these before, I can't really compare it to anything else. It was ok, not particularly scary, but somewhat creepy. They had a lot of people jumping out and yelling, and a guy on what looked like a mower ran towards us with his lights flashing and horn blowing. That surprised me. Gary made me walk in front of him, and at a few places I couldn't tell where to go, because of the flashing lights and weird colors of the room. That part creeped me out. So I think they acheived their goal. And I think it was more fun trying to be a little scared and screaming now and then, just to get into it.

The creators had certainly put a lot of work into it, so we gave them a donation. And I might go again next year.

Posted by Jen at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2003

star gazers with social problems

Apparently it's difficult for some scientists to find a companion. Yesterday's headline at New Scientist:

Astronomers date Universe's 'cosmic jerk'

Posted by Jen at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2003

More info than you can shake a stick at

This is the answer to the government's total information awareness program: Government Information Awareness. I haven't had time to explore it thoroughly, but so far I am very impressed. It gives a lot of information about all sorts of people and organizations and companies, and tries to show their inter-relatedness. I couldn't find any information about our new governor, but they don't seem to have information any governors, Californian or otherwise.

Posted by Jen at 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2003

My Sewing Room

I went to the Renaissance Faire again this weekend. Gary didn't go, he had to work. I went with some friends of his from Crystal, all of whom are on a different game team, so they didn't have to work. Meilin invited me when I saw her on Friday. We had met once before, at last year's Halloween party, but I didn't really remember her very well (but a Halloween party is not necessarily the best place to meet people!) We had been exchanging emails about renfaire costuming; she does a lot of sewing, and makes new renfaire outfits for her and her husband Sunspark all the time. She even had an extra shirt for Dave, another guy from Crystal who came along with us. I, in contrast, bought my outfit, and still haven't finished the shirt I am making for Gary.

She had stayed up late the night before finishing a dress to wear that day. It was simple, but very pretty. She wore it over a blouse and underneath a vest (both of which she made.) And under all that she wore ye olde ripstop nylon shorts, so she could carry her wallet around. Smart. I should start doing that, instead of stuffing everything into my little leather pouch.

So, anyway, on to the sewing room. I was at their house a little bit before we left, and was impressed that she had a sewing room. More of a nook, maybe, in the place where someone would probably put a dining room table. She had everything out, and it looked like it would be very easy to just come home after work and start working on something. My situation, until yesterday, was quite different. Everything was in my closet in my office, in various boxes. Whenever I wanted to sew, I had to drag my machine downstairs, find all my equipment, find the patterns, fabric, thread, etc. Set up the ironing board in our bedroom. Find a towel to place on the floor downstairs because we have wood floors and I don't want the foot pedal to scratch them. And then when I finished, I had to pack up everything. Before we got cats this summer, I could at least leave the machine set up for a weekend. But with cats I had to lock them in our bedroom while I sewed, and put everything away immediately.

Needless to say, I don't sew often.

I was so impressed with Meilin's sewing room and her costumes that I was inspired to convert part of my office into a sewing room! I bought a 5' office folding table at the office supply store (and it was surprisingly cheap, only $30.) I moved the futon so it's against the short wall of my office, by the window. I set up the table so it runs parallel to the futon; it sticks out from the wall, instead of being against the wall. The room is more crowded this way, but I think I get more flexibility by being able to work on both sides of the table.

The setup seems to work well. I still have enough room in my office to have the ironing board set up while I work (although it's too crowded to have it set up all the time, but that's ok.) I worked on a project yesterday (it's a gift, so I'll keep it secret for now) without fear of the cats jumping on my lap. And when I was finished, I put the cover back on my machine, cleaned up the stray threads, and I was pretty much finished!

Posted by Jen at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2003

kiss me, I voted!

I sent in my absentee ballot for the California special gubernatorial election this morning. Election day is next Tuesday, but Gary and I vote with absentee ballots, so we have time to peruse the ballot in the comfort of our own home.

A lot of people have dropped out of the race in the past few weeks. I wonder how many people who voted with absentee ballots voted for the now-dropped candidates. I suppose, although it's very unlikely, that someone could drop out of the race but still win.

Posted by Jen at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)