Wednesday, April 19, 2006

TV feature I won't be looking for!

I stumbled upon this link to a website talking about new patents.

Philips has submitted a patent that would allow digital cable boxes (of the type primarily used in Europe) to prevent you from skipping commercials by changing the channel during a live program, or fast forwarding it if it was recorded. Alternately, you could pay a fee to be able to skip the commercial (Pay per skip?).

It was interesting to note that they thought there might be significant consumer resentment. You think?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Getting a new car

Over the past few months Sara has been lamenting her '92 Buick's lack of good gas mileage and the fact that it has over 209,000 miles on it and in general is the source of a lot of worry for her (overheats, minor stuff doesn't work, etc).

Toyota was advertising a sale on their cars and a Corolla seemed like a good fit for Sara. The Honda Civic was also in the running. Her main criteria was gas mileage, but I wanted her to have ABS (not standard on the Corolla) and lots of airbags would be nice too. On her wish list was heated seats and a sunroof (the time she'd spent in the Focus, which has heated seats and a sunroof, had really made an impression on her).

The idea of Biodiesel had been thrown around by me, and I think a few of her friends as well, so I also wanted to look for a Golf since they used to come with diesel engines. The local dealer said that there were no more diesel Golfs (though I found some on the web inventory at another local dealer) but they had a bunch of diesel Jettas. I took a 5 speed (manual) out for a spin.

With only 100hp it's not fast, but with 177lb-ft of torque (it's max) at 1800prm, it will easily spin its wheels on our sandy roads as you leave the stop lights. For about $24k it had all the features that we said we wanted, though it was more than I was wanting to spend (but that's pretty much always the case, isn't it?).

I had been approved for a "blank check" loan for 5.95% from Capital One for $20k already, but a quick call to them the next day got them to up the limit to $27k. I figured that I didn't want to spend that much, but I had better be ready to, just in case the Jetta proved to be the car Sara really wanted.

On Saturday Sara and I went back to the Volkswagen dealer so she could check out the car. I took out the stick, and after getting it to a less populated area switched with Sara so she could drive it. It's been a while since she has driven a manual, and with the salesman in the back and a brand new car under her, she had a very rough time driving it. As much as I hate to think of it, it seems the 6-speed automatic would be the way to go.

Unsure if we really wanted to spend that kind of money, we tested a Corolla. While it was a little faster, it gets a little worse gas mileage, it doesn't handle as well, and it didn't have nearly as many features (safety or otherwise). It is about $6k less, however.

We never did test that Civic, figuring it wasn't going to be much different from the Corolla and even if it was, it wasn't going to be as great as the Jetta which competes favorably with sedans in the $30k price range. Plus, I think Hondas are a bit over rated at this point.

After haggling with the professional saleman, I had gotten him down to invoice price (which was after he gave me the song and dance about "How much profit do you think is fair for me?") but his manager wouldn't go for it. The diesel is in too high of a demand, now, for him to let it go at invoice (where they still make a fair amount of profit apparently), so we got it for $250 over invoice. Of course they "lied" when they said that they actually had the color that we wanted in stock.

Sara wasn't too happy about the experience of haggling with a professional. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde transformation really caught her off guard. At one point she wanted to leave, protesting "They've turned mean!" Eventually we got them being nice again, by me fumbling with my calculator, pointing out that I am willing to pay sticker price on a car when it's truly warranted (I paid sticker for my Lightning and I was happy to do so) and Sara commenting about how we hadn't really seen many other cars, so maybe we should go and compare other cars. We didn't actually have to get up and walk, but it was close.

Tomorrow we should be able to pick up our car, assuming that they can do the dealer transfer. Looks like insurance will be less than the Civic or Corolla too, so that's a bonus. Now to check into biodiesel...

Wedding Ceremony vs. Wedding Mass

This Saturday Sara and I went to a briefing at the Cathedral (along with ten other couples) to find out the ins and outs about having a wedding at the Cathedral.

We were given a brief lecture from a priest about the sacrament of marriage and how it is a reflection of God's love for Israel (so what you're really trying to tell me is that my getting hitched has something to do with world piece?) and how the gays and Mormons have perverted the whole thing. Yeah, whatever, bite tongue, please move along...

Then we got a brief lecture about the whole process and were informed, much to my pleasure, that we have the option of a "Wedding Ceremony" instead of a "Wedding Mass". This means that there will be much less religion in the ceremony and no Communion. That should make my side of the isle breathe a collective sigh of relief. Sara thought her side of the family might have a problem with this, but parents didn't have any objections at all. Whew.

Finally, we were given a FOCCUS test which is supposed to tell us all about ourselves, and I suppose let us know our likelihood of getting divorced (or actually, annulled since divorce isn't allowed). The test was off to a bad start in my book because it asks for you to put down your current relationship state, listing single, married, divorced, widowed, seeking validation, and a few others. None of them were "engaged", so I voiced the question that everyone else was too afraid to ask. "What do I put down for my status? Am I seeking validation?" "Seeking validation" seemed a whole lot like what I was doing here.

The blunt answer came back that "you're single". Funny, don't feel single. The lady to my right informed me that "seeking validation" is for people that were married outside of the church and were looking to have their marriage recognized. Ah.

The next interesting bit of the front page was the question of "how long have you been courting?" which I took to be about 6 months since that's how long we were dating before I asked Sara to marry me. Sara put down 10 since apparently she thinks being engaged is some form of courtship.

I asked, "Are you planning on leaving me?"

"No.", she replied.

"Then we're not courting."

Oh well. Not as bad as the lady to my right that needed to do math to figure out how long they had been courting. When her fiancee asked what she was scribbling, she said she needed to calculate the number, and that she needed another box (there were only two) since they had been "courting" for 106 months. He responded, with not much love in his voice, "I don't think that we needed to inform the entire room of that fact." Whoa there big guy, nothing to get riled up about. Another lady giggled and said that they needed three digits too. I suggested that "99 will be just fine."

So, the first meeting with the church went well. I didn't burst into flames when I walked through the door, and I managed not to insert my foot in my mouth, even if it was because I had to clench my teeth though a lot of it.