Quick Update

I live. I was at SANSFIRE Baltimore 2010 getting my brain pulled through my nose with a hook. It mostly was hard. I tried to stuff a term’s worth of information into my head in 6 days and I’m not sure how much will stick. I am still super tired/burned out from it.

Meanwhile, I had a birthday, and during this birthday I received an iPad named Chopin. I am still trying to work it into my workflow and it hasn’t found a happy balance quiet yet.

Yes! This is the blog equivalent of an alive ping.

Art Weekend 2010

I have returned victorious from the fourth in a grand series of many of Art Weekends. This year it was at the Shandaken Inn in the Catskills, NY. We were a little iffy because the place looked a bit dubious in the pictures and the owner was on the premises, but it turned out fine.

The building was, up until recently, a small bed and breakfast. It had that homey feeling of a place well lived in and well loved over the decades. The downstairs area is mostly a restaurant with a lounge area which may, at first glance, seem odd. On the one hand, the kitchen was cut off from the seating. On the other hand, it had an industrial kitchen that had more plates and glasses then we could dirty easily. Many tables meant easy and plentiful work spaces. Big windows by the seating areas meant lots of natural light.

I had a super relaxing time and spent the entire time knitting. Sure, making an ugly brown sock (of two! two ugly brown socks!) and working on the Critter Mitts kit from Knit Picks (I made the T-Rex! RAR!) isn’t exactly art, there was… plenty of art beer. And lots of silence/peace times to sort of clear the mental decks.

I also had my phone off and only used my netbook for youtube instructional knitting videos, of which I needed several. The Internet existed without my being there!

It was very comfy. It was like living in a warm blanket for several days. A great big warm, comfy blanket.

We’re definitely going back next year, although sadly since the Inn is up for sale to yet another place.

Oh! I finished my t-rex at midnight last night. He’s terrifying! In a goofy way. Terrifyingly goofy. I need my Very Special Model to pose with it and get some pictures online.

Blergh

Katie brought some DEATH BUG into the house several weeks ago from school and it got to Eric. Then it took Eric down — and he doesn’t get bugs. Eric is normally impervious to every yuck and nasty that comes through the house. Then it went to me, and I’m full of misery and have been on-and-off work for days.

I will say: Tylenol Cold Head Congestion Severe only takes the white frosting off the misery and exchanges it for feeling tired. Seriously, I give it a B at best as a cold medicine. It’s pretty weak stuff but I know how I feel without it so it is better than nothing. I would gnaw my arm off for some Actifed. Sure I could go flash my driver’s license and say I AM NOT A METH ADDICT PLZ GIMME DRUGS but that means I have to move which I don’t want to do while this sick.

I am on day five and by watching the arc I have several more days to go. But at least I won’t be sick for PAX.

Beware the State of Maryland

It’s an enormous pain to get rid of a dead car in the State of Maryland. If your car is dead, you’re pretty much screwed unless you get aggressive with the phone and go on some sort of quest to find someone to take it.

– You cannot remove insurance from a vehicle you still own.
– Insurance cash paid on the old vehicle is gone. They’ll eventually refund the money but meanwhile will ding you for another insurance payment on the new vehicle. No insurance rollover or transfer. Having a vehicle in the same class makes it easy to say, “Yeah, you know my policy? Duplicate that.” But otherwise, screwed-time.
– You cannot return tags on a vehicle you still own.
– If your vehicle does not run, or does not run well, no one will take it.
– Places that advertise they will take your vehicle in “any condition” totally lie — they will not take it.
– These places will say, sure, that’s what it says on the webpage, but no, they won’t take the vehicle, go away.
– Be prepared for multiple trips to the MVA, and not the MVA Express, the evil MVA with the multi-hour long waits.

I finally found a place that will take the dead Escape off my hands and give me a little cash for it. They’re supposed to take it tomorrow around 1pm after the tow truck no doubt gets lost getting to my house.

(Conversation today on the phone went like this:

“How much work did they say it was to fix the head gasket?”
“$6300.”
“HOW MUCH? I thought it would be around 3…”
“No, $6300.”
“We’ll come take it off your hands.”)

But Christ Almighty, it is nearly impossible to get rid of a vehicle that’s not on trade in in Maryland. And no tag transfer! New tags and old tags! Man.

The Tank

My truck died and we had two days to make a decision and $5000 that we could scrape together as cash for a down payment. And here is what happened:

1. We went to Ford Dealership A to look at their used cars and this was a terrible experience. Their vehicles were in such phenomenally poor condition we couldn’t believe they were selling them. The salesman was not interested in selling us a vehicle. He kept wandering off to do other things. We left after an hour but this was after we sat in a 2005 Ford Freestyle and we talked about how much we wanted a Subaru Outback but couldn’t find one used (they are impossible to find used in any condition) but we started seriously thinking about an SUV wagon.

2. We went to Lincoln-Mercury dealer in Annapolis where they were having a liquidation sale. Turns out the car dealerships are backed up with leased vehicles with leases that came up and now they cannot move. This is the dealership my super picky parents use for local service so we figured they might not be too sleazy. We drove a 2009 Mercury Mariner and a 2007 Ford Freestyle, but the Mariner was sadly out of our price range. The Freestyle drove pretty well and we went home to research it.

3. I found out that Ford doesn’t make the Freestyle any more but it won Truck of the Year 2007, had positive reviews, a decent review from Edmunds, a “Recommended” review from Consumer Guide Auto, and some other positive reviews. The 2005 model clearly had mechanical/design issues but I found far fewer issues with the 2007. Does it mean that simply no one owns one? I have no idea.

Of course for crossover vehicle of the same year there was the Saturn we cannot buy from Saturn being discontinued, the Chrysler we cannot buy from Chrysler going tit’s up, Pontiac and Buick are GM vehicles and who KNOWS about GM, the Toyota we cannot buy because Toyotas are deathtraps, the Subarus that are not for sale anywhere…. We sat in a 2007 Nissan Murano and hated it. We cannot afford Lexus or Mercedes. We could have looked at a Honda Pilot had we had more time and could find one used (you can’t). And as a Detroiter I would have to go through some convincing to buy a Honda despite the stellar reviews. Thus pickings are a little slim.

4. We went to Carmax this morning and Carmax is a miserable experience for anyone who has any knowledge or care or interest in their vehicles. At first they would only talk to Eric. Then they talked to me like I was Katie except with a very small brain. Then they were… it’s like the stupid Walmart of used cars. I drove a 2007 Escape and, to be honest, it was identical to my dead truck in every conceivable way. But I hated Carmax with a flinching vengeance. If the vehicle has flaws, they would be sure to mask them. Or not care. Look, just don’t go to Carmax.

5. We went back to the Lincoln-Mercury dealership and bought the Freestyle. It had a super high carfax score so someone took exquisite care of it. It didn’t seem to have any issues except a busted fob. We got ridiculous financing with a below the national rate.

In the end, we ended up with a 2007 Ford Freestyle, a vehicle no one has ever heard about and has been folded into the new Ford Edge line. It’s a Volvo XC90 chassis and engine with the Ford name slapped on it. It’s not really an SUV but it’s not a station wagon. It’s a crossover vehicle. Research shows complaints about some issues with the vehicle’s design so we’ll see what comes of it. We might have made a terrible decision but, hey, we also got an extra $4K knocked off the price so if we made a terrible decision we did it as cheaply as conceivably possible. It also feels like driving a tank.

If I had more time I would have saved money for the Mariner. Or had enough to put down on a Subaru. But a new Outback was out of my range so we did the best we could.

No Post Thursday

I didn’t post today. But I have an excuse: the highlight of the day was a neighbor’s house being lit, quite literally, on fire. Honestly. On top of everything else, the neighbor’s house caught on fire.

My poor truck is dead. It blew the head gasket which, for anyone who lives by the SE Michigan “it must die on 275” rules, is the death knell of a vehicle. That’s vehicle terminal cancer. The guys at Starting Gate really wanted to rebuild the engine for $6000 which meant $6000 on a credit card at credit card rates instead of a quasi-new, sanely financed vehicle at 4%. They weren’t happy with my decision to not rebuild the engine but I can get a vehicle hardly used with a chunk down and financed at a manageable monthly rate. It’s not their work I worried about — it’s the credit card. I haven’t put that much on a credit card since my wedding. No way. I was not going to have Chase Card Services own my soul.

It pisses me off royally that I tossed $2300 down the drain on my truck thinking I could fix the damn thing but I’m not throwing another $6000 on it. I have a little kid. I cannot place my bets on a rebuilt engine. That’s madness.

So I will call Carmax and have them drive down my new truck from Ellicott City tomorrow morning and I will buy it on Saturday morning. I already have a sales person and I know who I want to use for financing. And on the recommendations of many people I will be forgoing their crappy extended warranty. I will get like $200 for my truck.

This all blows not just because it caps off a terrible week but because I wasn’t ready to absorb a new car payment. But these things happen and we’ll put down a huge chunk of cash for the down payment and get off with something low and I will consider myself lucky.

Blech. This week needs to die in fire.

Plowed

We are now plowed and dug out. The enormous piles of snow are a little disturbing. In theory, we could get out. And that would be nice because I really must get to CVS some time in the rather near future.

Getting free of this storm was much less arduous than getting free of the last one. Thank God.

Pictures of the Third Storm

Snow Drift
Dead Tree
The Amigo



I managed to snap a few pictures out the door at the new storm. It is coming down very hard right now so going out in it was a non-starter. I have three interesting pictures —

1. The trees next to the door in the front yard are all dead. All of them. Luckily I think we can pull them out and buy new ones from Lowes.

2. Eric’s Amigo is covered with about a foot of snow right now. It’s not a good measurement gauge but by eyeball it looks to be ~10-12 inches.

3. My picture of the drift is not very good because it doesn’t convey the spookiness very well. That originally was a 5′ tall (one thousand milli-ems) drift but now it has a fresh foot of snow on it so it looks all sculpted. And enormous. And menacing.

More Snowmageddon and Facebook

It is 10am just south of Baltimore, MD and the snow is coming down horizontal. Snow typically does not fall horizontally. I cannot see the neighbor’s house out the window. The news says we are going to get about 6-8 more hours of this. The trees around my house seem okay but I can see a few trees down across the street. The winds have picked up — I have heard reports of 40mph to 60mph in the region. I don’t know how many more inches we’ve received but the huge snow piles look all eerie and soft.

This storm is worse than the last storm. The last storm the snow came down in huge mounds. This storm comes with ice and sleet and winds. The snow has swallowed up the world.

Since I am a winter storm shut in I have spent some quality time with Facebook. I got the new UI update and, as far as I can tell, it breaks the service. What I want from a social networking feed is:

– People’s status and pithy comments
– Links
– Pictures

I also want it in the order it was posted with no cares for “most popular” or “most linked.” Very simple. This seems impossible for the Facebook UI team to deliver unless one is willing to go through convoluted steps to configure the thing and even then the configurations don’t take. I spent time combing through the help files last night but I could not find a satisfying way to set up what I want and thus it is a complete UI FAIL. Facebook Lite seems to deliver that up “sort of.” It is better than the main screen. I don’t understand the algorithms and the interface with the three columns is ridiculously cluttered. It just is not very good for what I want, need or desire.

I basically want a LiveJournal friends page. I want to see:

– People’s posts
– In the order they were posted
– With the ability to filter into groups

That’s all! Anything else is noise. There’s a reason why things like RSS feeds and Twitter work: filtered, updated, in the order they were posted. Simple!

I’m objecting to the Facebook Dictatorship. I do not like my information presented to me in the way Facebook decrees regardless of my desires. I prefer my information in a more democratic style where I can pick and choose and order the way I wish and see what I would like without the need for overwhelming reams of javascript. I prefer my Internet a genteel anarchy full of LOL Cats, not walled off communities with a psychotic HOA who keeps moving the trees around and telling me we can only park in most popular first order.

Maybe I’m too old for Facebook. Or maybe I am fleeing the Orwellian universe of Facebook for a simpler world. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

(You can Facebook me if you’re desperate but I do not link back to people I don’t know. You’re better off with my twitter, a service I rather do like. Yes, well, shameless plugs.)