Monthly Archives: May 2007

Update on the Bike…

Looks like a helicoil that size will cost about $40. So… no. I can get a set of square-taper Bulletproof or RPM cranks for $40, and a square taper BB for $10. I can probably sell the stupid Octalink v2 BB that I had to buy for $20-30, it’s brand fucking new, so no, it’s dead. The cranks are neat looking, but obviously beat up pretty bad before I got into their life, so I’m done trying to keep them around. Not gonna be doing this too soon, so back to the fixed full time. Hooray!

 

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of my IRO.

DSCN1965

Site Changes

If anything is broken, you can now contact me via the contact page. Instead of that just doing nothing but reloading the site and making my Google sitemap have errors! Terribly exciting. If it was broken before, but is fixed now, then keep your whore mouth shut. Or whatever.

I’m going to do a quick rundown of all the crazy shit I had to do that nobody really explained very well to get the sitemap (not the XML one, the nicer looking one on the toolbar there) and the contact page working.

First, I had to not use the WordPress-Comment: Akismet Edition plugin. Because it just didn’t fucking work at all. This was the most time consuming step for me, because I hadn’t figured out that the goal was to _not_ use it.

Second, I had to find the PXS Mail Form modified for Akismet plugin, which, besides having a really long name, seems to work pretty well, and uses curlybrace notation, which I love, because curlybraces always get the short end of the stick. Then just make a new static Page on your WordPress, name it Contact, give it the URL-slug ‘contact’, and insert the magic word (mailform with curlybraces around it).

Third, I had to install the Dagon Design Sitemap Generator plugin, activate it, create a static Page called Sitemap, with the slug ‘sitemap’, and insert the slightly different magic word (ddsitemapgen with angle brackets and dashes).

Fourth, I had to go in and turn on the visual editor for my username, because it was turned off for some reason, then go back in and put those magic words in again.

Fifth, I had to marvel at how much shit it takes to make a blog look pretty. I mean, fuck.

Other plugins I use are Akismet, Feedburner’s Feedsmith, Google Sitemaps Generator, Instant Upgrade (one of the best things to happen to WP), WordPress.com Stats (because I am incredibly vain), WordPress Database Backup (because I am also incredibly paranoid), wp-cache (because I wildly overestimate the amount of traffic I get), and Youtube Brackets (because I couldn’t get videos to embed right for some reason and I wanted everybody to see my Lasik).

Update on the G-Ride

Well, I somehow forgot to post about my bike for a while. I got it all together, got my albatross bars and my basket and set it all up, and it sat, waiting for a sunny day.

I picked it up and rode it into work.

Problem 1 – Seat was too high, and I didn’t know where my allen wrenches were.

Problem 2 – Rear basket rubs on my right heel (but not my left). Gotta figure that one out.

Problem 3 – Riding position needs wooooork. It’s not very upright, but it is very short in the cockpit, so it’s like riding with my hands on my knees. Got to get the bars up, probably six to eight inches to really make it townieish.

Problem 4 – Steering is squirrelly. Probably just an artifact of having 70% of my weight on my hands.

Got to work, noticed some funny feelings from the left pedal. Which led me to the big one.

Problem 5 – My fancy used Deore LX Octalink V2 Hollowtech cranks are fucked out. The non-drive side pedal threads just fell right out and the pedal came off. Awesome. I was hoping that I could find an insert or something, but it’s not looking good. I guess I could try a helicoil, but that seems like a huge pain in my dick.

Lame, but I got on the Rob Roy and pedalled in the next day, and it was a revelation of simplicity and comfort. Managed 3 days the first week, 4 days the next. I’m on-call this week, so riding in is out, but next week, I’m shooting for the entire week.

Whoa am I broke…

Man… I am broke as shit right now. Fees and funding and this and that and a couple dollars here for some bullshit and ant poison. It’s really been putting my ass through the wringer. I guess I’m going to have to be more proactive about my frugality. Sadly, this means that going out to eat just fell off my list of hobbies and onto my list of liabilities.

It’s OK, I’ve been working on my cooking at home anyways. The leftovers from dinner tonight, for example (some grilled, thin sliced beef and beans) will turn into one, possibly two lunches this week. Other meals I have planned (chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy) will likely stretch (at least the potatoes) into the weekend.

The other big problem is that all my savings is depleted. Kaput. Gone. Got to fix that shit aggressively. I have no emergency fund right now, outside of my credit card (and anybody should realize how dangerous a situation that is), and I have some medical expenses that are coming up in the short term (cavities, again. Sigh). These will be offset to a degree by my insurance, but it will still involve a significant cash outlay on my part.

In the meantime, here are my plans to have fun on a low budget.

1) Get rid of shit. I am constantly complaining about the clutter in my life, it’s going to be a zero cost thing to get rid of most of it. Craigslist’s free section has already rid me of a dryer I no longer had use for, some bunk bed stuff that I inherited. Now it’s time for it to do it’s magic on some more significantly bulky stuff, like the useless computer cases and comic books I’ll never re-read.

2) Work on the house. A lot of stuff I would like to do to the house is going to cost money, but a significant portion of the prep for that, and tons of other projects are a very low money prospect. Raking up lava rocks is free! Hooray!

3) Work on the motorcycle. I know this will require some money to get finished, but I have the gasket kit for the engine and the rebuild kit for the fuel petcock and whatnot already, so I may as well do what I can on it.

4) Work out. I already paid the $60 for the weight set, I may as well use it. My routine of doing exercises every morning has been great, but if I spent some time to actually build a workout plan, it would probably be even better.

5) Write. I haven’t been writing nearly as much as I used to. This one is entirely free, and extraordinarily satisfying.

The longest yard…

Well, the results of my first attempts at living healthier are mixed.

I have been working out every morning (resting Sunday). I have managed to get from struggling to complete crunch number 15 to doing 90 every morning (two sets of 45) with obliques (2 sets of 20) and leg raises (2 sets of 2 20 counts). I am trying to take it gently with the weights, because I hurt my elbow last time I was getting into weight training, and joint injury scares me. For my chest I am doing 2 working sets of 15 barbell presses (20 pound bells) after my warmup sets, and 2 working sets of 15 benchpresses (with 70 pounds on the bar, not sure what the bar weighs). I am not confident enough to start doing chest flys with large weight, so I’ve tried to limit it to 10-15 pound bells. For shoulders I’ve been doing barbell military press (with the 20 pound bells again, I find it easier to manage the bells than a full bar), both single and two-arm. For upper back I’ve been doing dumbell rows and reverse flys. I’d like to figure out some way to do roman chair exercises for my lower back, but that can wait until my abs are a little stronger. I’ve also managed to ride my bike in three days last week, only pussing out when the rain came back yesterday. Today it was dry and I rode, but I am going to get out my rain gear and just man up, it’s a 20 minute ride here, if I milk it. Time to step that up to 5 days a week.

However, I’ve been having a hard time controlling my diet. I haven’t ever exactly been Mister Control, but the exercise has put my body on calorie alert. My financial situation has managed to keep me from going out to eat, instead making things at home, but I’ve run into problems turning down that second helping. It doesn’t help that I never learned to cook for just two people either, so when I make a meal it’s almost always portioned for four, so we are constantly awash in leftovers. I need to get back into the swing of the apple and bran muffin breakfast and carrots as snacks thing, that was not only helping my colon (another worry I have is the family history of colon trouble), but it was keeping me from snacking at work.

But that’s tomorrow. Today, I’ve already managed to eat the peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches I brought for lunch, and I find myself idling around the vending machine. I might head out to the store at lunchtime and get some lower calorie snacks, because somehow I don’t believe those chocolate covered lardbits are going to make me feel much better.

Why I bought a new car…

I’ve been reading a lot of fancified productivity and frugality blogs lately, and almost all of them suggest the same thing when it comes to buying a car.

Buy used.

More specifically, but a used, unpopular vehicle that you know all the KBB values of in an unpopular color, so you have optimal leverage to negotiate down the price. Have no brand loyalty, and ideally purchase a domestic car instead of an import (this part I disagree with entirely, but whatever), because the maintenance costs will be lower. Don’t get the extended warranty, be ready to walk away at any point, buy before your current car is broken so you have the advantage.

I went out initially looking for a used car, intending to follow most of these guidelines, but I had a series of setbacks along the way, which led me to buying new instead. Here’s my math on it.

I went out with a budget of $10,000-12,000, and the constraints of a car that was newer than 7 years old, had less than 100,000 miles on the clock, got good gas mileage (no trucks with 8mpg, something in the 25+ range as EPA rated), and felt fun to drive (I like cars, and I like to drive briskly on occasion). I didn’t care what color it was as long as it wasn’t lavender, and had four doors (avoid sports car insurance premiums or anything crazy like that).

I did research constantly on the internet. I found models and brands I was interested in, found out that lot inventory for used cars on the internet is much more accurate than for new. I found cars I wanted to look at and went out to look at them. I went out ten times to used car lots, six separate trips, spending 4-6 hours per trip looking.

By the end, I was ready to stab somebody in the fucking face, until I went to Ron Tonkin Nissan and talked to Jeff Williamson, who treated me like a human being, and seemed to know something about what the fuck they had on the lot. He talked to me about cars he owned, he talked to me about the things he liked about them, the things he didn’t. The big problem was that they had no used cars I was even partially interested in.

They had a couple of ginormous Toyota Tundras and Nissan XTerras that would have gotten horrid gas mileage. They had a Nissan 350ZX, brightass red, which would have taken another $100 a month at least in insurance. They had a Nissan somethingorother from about 1994 with 200,000 miles on the till. The 350ZX looked fun to drive, but failed every other test. The Somethingorother had been depreciated fully, it was a zero-value car, and they wanted $5000 for it. The trucks were, well, trucks.

Faced with giving my money to this guy versus giving it to the guy who treated me like shit for trying to buy a car at KBB value, it was an easy choice. Here were my justifications in no particular order.

  • I felt good giving money to this guy.
  • I liked the car.
  • It fit all of my criteria.
  • The sticker price (not the purchase price, more on this below) was only $2500 more than my stated budget for a used car.
  • The cost of legal defense for attempted murder (through face stabbing) would far outweigh the $2500 premium.
  • The car would extend the range of my job-seeking possibilities, making it easier for me to negotiate pay increases.

Here is the bad end of this.

  • My purchase price ended up being significantly more than I wanted to pay. $17,000.
  • I made the mistake of not haggling. This could likely have saved me $2000. (A “dealership interest fee”, basically a tax for buying a popular car that I could have pretty easily negotiated away, by starting to walk away instead of being in the “I’m buying this car today” mentality) This would have saved me $42 a month, or $2500 over the course of the loan.
  • I got the extended warranty. This cost me $1500 (the only part I haggled on, down from $3500). It has saved me $400 (airbag replacement and wheel sensor replacement). This might end up on the positives list, but for now, it’s a negative.
  • I am suffering the full value-depreciate of new car ownership.
  • Because I am suffering the full value-depreciation of new car ownership, I had to pay for GAP insurance.
  • I have to pay for full coverage insurance at $500 deductibles per my loan terms. This is another mixed account, as I believe in the importance of having uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and more than pure liability, but I’d rather have the deductibles be at $1000 instead, and pump the $20-30 a month it would save me into my IRA.
  • Because of my impatience, I was unable to qualify for a loan at the bank I work for, which would have saved me 2-2.5% interest. By itself, I could have saved $25 a month on my payment ($1500 over the course of the loan). Combined with negotiating out the $2000, it would save me $62, (not $42+$25 because of the reduced principal), or $3700 over the course of the loan.

This is still a net benefit, because the car I was relying upon as secondary transportation (primary being my bicycle) broke down just two months into new car ownership, plus a workplace reorganization caused me to have to go to an office 16 miles away instead of 8, and my days stretched from a consistent 8 hours to a fluctuating 8-14, making biking to work difficult. The car really saved my ass in the first quarter of the year, and my ability to perform those long days without being utterly pooped got me a small raise (very small, about $2500 a year) and a moderately significant bonus ($4000, almost half going straight to the tax man). This allowed me two things,

  • It gave me enough money to get my eyes corrected with LASIK.
  • It gave me the inspiration and fiscal “cushion” to purchase a house. (Which, despite a lot of rumbling right now about how great renting is, is a benefit.)

So, buying the car was a very important change in my lifestyle. I had spent much of the past 10 years afraid of credit (having been burned early with a $300 credit card turning into a $1500 collection). Now, I am still wary, but I am coming to credit on my own terms. I carry no outstanding credit card debt, all collections on my credit report are closed and paid, and the only things I am using credit to purchase are, in the long run, a net benefit to me, the car (because of the mobility, and the leisure, business, and personal options that mobility offers) and the house (because of the likely-but-admittedly-not-guaranteed value appreciation, tax benefit, and leisure, business, and personal options that it offers). Now that I’ve done the math on the whole thing, I’d have definitely walked away from the dealership interest fee and bought a less popular car if need be. And I would probably have waited for my credit rating to get up to the standards that would have let me get the lower interest rate, though in actuality, that would have left me pretty fucked when the Honda broke down, it doesn’t make it any less of a good idea. Stay tuned for later when I go over the crazy finances of buying a house! Whoa, all the fun.

I love my car dearly, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to do a full analysis of it from time to time.

The Bloggers Code of Somethingorother

You know… I miss the time when normal people weren’t on the internet. When it was all weird porn thieves and twelve year olds with no facial hair who believe they have some kind of special martial arts prowess hidden beneath their zits and mumbling… it was better.

For one simple reason.

I could insult someone without ten people trying to fucking psychoanalyze it.

You see, at that time, I would say “Maybe you’re just a weenie”, and then the guy would go “IF I KNEW WHERE YOU WAS I WOULD STAB YOU WITH MY KATANA SWORD THEN WHO WOULD BE THE WEENIE” and then I’d say something about his mom and then somebody would call me Hitler, or worse than Hitler, or say I had sex with Hitler. Something. Then we’d go back to stealing things and masturbating until the next time somebody decided it would be fun to pick on someone else.

Now, it’s all different. I get some kind of schlocky counseling with people talking about how moderators might not understand what I meant by it and how perhaps there was some more civil tone that I might have meant it in. Which is all incorrect. I mean that the person, by and large, might possibly be a large, flaccid, anthropomorphic penis, meandering around all day piddling drips of urine here and there, and that perhaps, if his mother hadn’t breast fed him until he was ten, he could have curly hairs around his base now.

Before, if I said something unpopular, it would just be deleted if the other person had enough sway to get it done. Now, we all have to analyze why I said it, think about the system that allowed me to say it, see if we can create a sort of post-creation council that will approve or deny the concept of my message before allowing me to write it, then sign off on it when it’s done. I got a note from a moderator because I used the term “blowjob” in a post, because it was offensive. What the fuck? I don’t find blowjobs offensive. I don’t think anyone should find them offensive. Unless you were attacked by a penis at some point, where it tried to choke you to death, or steal your tonsils or something.

Seriously though, folks… Next time someone insults you, go ahead and insult them back. It’s what they want, and it gets shit out of the way a lot faster than this psychoanalysis bullshit.