Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2017 Auto Reviews

I recently changed positions and have an opportunity to rent a number of cars, and wanted to offer my thoughts on them.

Honda CRV 2018
     I love the car.  Spacious for both front and back seats.  Comfortable seating.  Enough space and comfort I fell asleep the first time in the back seat, and I have a 6'2" frame and, lets just say oversized proportions. 
     The air conditioning is excellent, the 2.4 liter engine has excellent horsepower, and coupled with a continuous velocity transmission (CVT), gets 34 mpg on the highway, 28 around town.  The car is very quiet.
      A very nice back up camera, which is also scanning for on coming traffic that is out of the range of the camera. 
      One annoying feature is the automatic Hi Beams.  They come on sometimes when there is on coming traffic.  We asked to have that disabled, but they came back. 

Nissan Altima, 2017
     I love the car.  Spacious for both front and back seats.  Comfortable seating.  Excellent trunk, and a glove compartment that you could hide a body in.  Or maybe it is the back door to the T.A.R.D.I.S.
     The air conditioning is excellent, the 2.5 liter engine has excellent horsepower, and coupled with a continuous velocity transmission (CVT), gets 42 mpg on the highway, 35 around town.  With an 18 gallon fuel tank the car has a range of well over 600 miles.  The car is very quiet.
      One down point is the sun-visor.  It is too small for the job.

Kia Soul 2017.
     Ugly.  The seats are a bit small.  The engine has little pep and takes its time getting to highway speeds.   The ride is noisy.  Mileage is rated at 26 city and 31 highway.  The gas tank is 14 gallons, which gives this car a range of  about 350 miles.  I could almost see the gas gauge move when doing 70mph.  The air conditioning is poor.  The backup camera is only presenting a straight line and doesn't curve when the wheels turn.
     Stupid marketing campaign, with 4 hamsters grooving to the tunes in one.  I guess the gerbils had a union.  But I think it actually worked, as everyone that saw the car, asked were the hamsters were.
     On the good side, the glove compartment is spacious, and the sun-visor is a good size. 

Chevy Impala (hybrid) 2017
     Nice looks,  good electronics, good acceleration.  13 gallon gas tank, with a continuous velocity transmission (CVT), it gets 49 mpg city, 43 on the highway.  Those numbers are the rated numbers.  I didn't do enough driving to do a personal millage run.  The engine does a noticeable shutter when idling as it turns off after about a minute. But the car is responds without hesitation when you step on the accelerator to go, and I never noticed when the engine turned back on.  The disadvantage here is the air conditioning also turns off when the engine turns off.

Chevy Tahoe 2017
     I was mortified being handed the keys for this.  My inner environmentalist wailed at the injustice.  
It has good pickup, which, with a 5.3 liter engine, it should.  And the mileage wasn't too bad at 16 city and 23 highway.  The ride was "swimmy" which could be because the car was designed for far more load then one driver.  I am still looking for the Starbucks in the back.  

Jeep Grand Cherokee
    This car has the best keyless entry system I have experienced.  Simple wrap you hand around the handle and the car unlocks.   The backup camera has the bend feature when you turn the wheel.  And the brakes are really good. 

One very annoying "feature", you cannot leave your radio OFF.  When you turn on the car, the radio WILL come on.  We have been informed by the salesmen at Jeep you can only mute it, but never turn it off.

     On the other side, the car has an astonishing lack of power, actually under performing the Kia Soul mentioned above.  Which makes the MPG of about 20 a mystery. Note, that is about the same mileage as the Chevy Tahoe.  The gas cap is on the passenger side, which I consider a minus.  The gas cap release button is very well hidden.  On the drivers side door, under the arm rest.  Not readily visible unless you are under 5 foot tall.  So if a midget car thief steals the car they have a shot of putting gas in it. 

Hyundai Elantra
      This car was ok.  The seats were a little narrow, the electronics primitive by today's standards.  The ride is noisy.  The engine was peppy, and the MPG was over 50 on the highway, and about 36 around town.  The sun visor was a good size. 

Notes on cars of years gone by.  My thoughts on the 10 best and the 10 worst cars of the last century:

The 10 best:

The 10 worst:


Saturday, August 26, 2017

E-Bay Misadventures

I have very limited experience with E-Bay.  That being buying a pin for my Wife that was only released in Euro-Disney about 10 years ago.  And running a successful virtual business in Lord of the Rings Online using their auction house, nicknamed, “Ring-Bay”.  Ring-Bay has a lot of similarities to E-Bay in functionality, so I was not a total fish out of water when I started to recycle my son’s college text books using E-Bay.

The first set of books had a set of teething problems, and frankly, were not worth the time and effort when it was all said and done.  

The second set was interesting.  The first was an email to me about one of the books.  In Ring-Bay, people don’t email you about side deals.  She asked me if I would close the auction early, she would pay be the princely sum of $20.  Which was exactly 2 cents over the minimum asking price.  I spent far too much mental angst if I should reply at all to this email.  The auction had only 36 hours left to run, and there were zero bids on it.  So her offer would at most get her the book 24 hours earlier.  I had set the “Buy it Now” at $35 dollars.  So for $15 more this conversation wouldn’t need to be even asked.  In the end, she got the book for $19.98 plus postage.

One tip when deciding if you are going to resell books, is not all books are the same size.  Another one I sold was in a 3” binder.  That one took an upgraded box to ship.  Once again, I am thinking this process is not worth it.

But I am also in this for the experience, so having some is worth it.  If I save someone who reads this a misstep, then it is worth it.

The next one was very interesting.  And to give you a spoiler alert, it was a scam.  They offered 4 times the “Buy it Now” price.  I had initial excitement, that maybe this resell books was worthwhile.  I had also just finished a 600 mile drive from Myrtle Beach, so all my critical thinking synapses were not online.  It read: 

I'm offering you $400.00 for the textbook Management Leading & Collaborating in a Competitive World 12th edition because i won't be able to wait until the auction end due to the nature of my work am always very busy to check my eBay inbox but you can text me#6265224317 saying offer accepted to ease up the transaction. Thanks

Just how many red flags are in this email.  They are highlighted in red.  He offers too much, my Buy it Now was set at $100.  He is generating a sense of urgency with “won’t be able to wait”.  Text me, takes the conversation off line and unmonitored by E-Bay and espouses convenience with “ease up the transaction”

Inexperience and fatigue affected my decision making, so I did text him.  About an hour later came a quick staccato of 7 replies.  Which on reflection must be copy/pastes, and not a finger typing messages.  The details are that his PayPal account has been hacked, and he has not time to open a new one and so he will send me a bank check.  Two more red flags, as we are now leaving the secure payment systems set up by E-Bay to one that is controlled by the scammer while emphasizing the urgency again.  

There were a couple more, but I won’t further boor you with the details.  I sent a follow up email stating I am not willing to deviate from the payment process established by E-Bay and haven’t heard from him since.  

This particular scam is outlined as Number 1 on the “Scams to Avoid” if you’re a seller at this link, http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-ebay-scams-to-be-aware-of/

The old adage, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is, still applies.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Steampunk Worlds Fair, 2017

Steampunk Worlds Fair, 2017

What is Steampunk? 
Google offers this definition:
  1. a genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.
    • a style of design and fashion that combines historical elements with anachronistic technological features inspired by science fiction.
      "the essence of steampunk is homage to vintage fashion with a modern, sassy twist"
Why do we go? 
         It's fun seeing the creativity of the costumes and devices.

We in our costumes.  In front of a Dr. Who Victorian Themed Police box.
And a Victorian themed Dalek. 

A Stilt Walker.
Costumes often have many accessories.  Common items are antique weapons, parasols, wings and science gear.
The man on the left has a wings that expand to about 7feet.  Two the right is a hat that is also a fully functioning weather station.  He is predicting rain, so his wife has an umbrella. 

Great costumes.  His vest is all gears, his pants keys.  The hat is a temperature gauge, barometer, and a solution that forms crystals when the weather is about to get nasty.  Her outfit is accessorized with a multitude of gears and keys.

No age limit here.

R2-D2 and friend.

An accessorized roadster.

Every car ad needs a beautiful girl.

Inspiration is found everywhere.  Ursula from "The Little Mermaid"?

Then a band walks through.

Most wings are deployed with hand pulls.  This one is totally automated.

Iron Man

A Vulcan

I am not sure who this is.  My first thought was Goldar from Power Ranges, but now I am not so sure.

A time-machine/tank.  With a comfy leather recliner inside. 


It didn't come out here, but this outfit is squid themed. 

A mechanical spider hat.

Before James Bond had an Aston Martin, there was this.
Can go from zero to 60 in 12.4 seconds!
One of the three judges for the costume contest.
 I'll be interspersing audience shots in the costume show.  As there was no seating, the audience would ebb and flow, with new people to my left and right all the time. 

Shots of the audience.
Shots of the audience.
Here are photos of the costume contest.  These have been heavily cropped.  There was no seating, so the pictures have to be taken by holding the camera overhead.  Between that and the bright sun, I couldn't see how well the camera was aimed.

First round was for people new to Steampunk.

On the right is "Dark Steampunk Princess Lea".  Not very visible is her tights, on which is pictured gears and pulleys.

I don't recall these participants.  The girl on the right's dress was her first ever made by her.
The adventuring professor on the left.  Dark Lea in a full signature pose.
Shots of the audience.
Family group themed "Alice in Wonderland.
Full stage of the "New", but not the "First Time", Steampunkers.
Shots of the audience.

Shots of the audience.
These characters were introduced as "Yossarian 2" and "Yossarian B".  We were asked not to ask about "Yossarian 1" and "Yossarian A".  But it is a good idea to have spares :)  As I recall, they won this segment of the contest.

This character was introduced as someone recognizable to the crowd, but not me. 
Great costuming,  I think they made everything but his paints.

Like Penn and Teller, the big guy speaks, the lady was silent, lest she have to kill us all.

Another Alice in Wonderland family.  The Mad Hatter was over the top in his presentation.
A mermaid and her knight.
Princess Anna and Sven, Red Riding hood and a stuffed wolf, A Naval Officer, and Captain America.
Shots of the audience.  Great hat!
Shots of the audience.

Shots of the audience.  I really liked the purple and black ensemble. 

Ghost Busters.

Whirly-Bird Man.  Who won the overall "Best Device" award.

Wonder Woman in her signature pose.

First effort costume as well, 100% silk, down to the panteloons.

Butterfly's abound on this outfit.
Views of the audience.

Dalek Queen.  If you complemented her, she would give you a sticker stating "You will not be exterminated."
A family theme.  Everyone dressed alike except the teen age daughter.
Rick of "Rick and Morty"  One robot is "Butter Robot"  I am guessing the other is Lawn-Mower Dog. 
Three of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Famine, Pestilence, and War.
Rick (blue hair) was over the top in his presentation.  Came in 2nd.
Views of the audience.
Top 6.  3 for best costume, 3 for best devices.
If memory servers, Awards for best devices when to Whirly-Bird man, Deaths Scythe, and Lawn Mower dog.  Best costume went to Dalek Queen, War, and pestilence. 

An impromptu game of ring around the rosey?