New stuff

“Hey, Paul. What’s new?”

1.) Car

Natalie and I have been down to one car for the past 18 months. At first, that arrangement was fine. She’d get up early in the morning and take me to work, run her errands during the day and come pick me up afterwards.

Recently, however, with all the new changes in our lives, that has been more and more cumbersome. Her business has been taking off, which means she’s been more busy in the evenings. We both belong to a gym now, which means we both want to go, but with one car, it means we have to try to coordinate our schedules to get there at a convenient time. On top of that, we both belong to seperate business networking groups now that meet at 7am on different mornings. Overall, it means that one vehicle between the two of us has become, to say the least, tedius and inconvenient.

The reason I’ve waited so long to buy another car is because I’ve been so mad about how I lost the old one. I had a Saturn that we’d financed when we were first married. I had about 6 months left to pay on it and we had the cash on hand, so we decided to go ahead and pay it off, removing the extra monthly payment from our radar.

5 days after I sent the check in, the engine “threw a rod.” In Paul-land, that means very little, but to people who know cars, upon hearing that, they look at their feet, shake their heads and moan. Apparently, a part popped, penetrated the engine block and essentially, in terms I can understand, the car was broken.

They told me it would take $4500 to repair, and that was with a used engine that had over 100,000 miles on it. The car’s value was right around $2000, now having about 180,000 miles on it.

So I’d JUST paid it off and less than a week later, it dies.

You can understand why I’ve been upset and unwilling to put myself in another car right away.

As it turns out, we decided last week that we’d had enough of this goofy one-car business, so Thursday I went to the dealerships and found a Volkswagon Jetta. It had under 100,000 miles and was under $10,000… my requirements were met.

When I saw it, I knew I wanted it. I made the sales guy drive in it with me. I figured, if I was going to give this guy my money, I wanted to know him and know that he was going to take good care of me and give me a square deal.

He turned out to be a really great guy, but I think I scared him crapless by my driving. The car is a 5-speed manual. When you step on the gas, it GOES. It’ll spin the tires on any gearshift, if you want it to…. and I wasn’t prepared for that kind of power when I sat in it.

The first thing I did when I started it up was stall it out in the parking lot transitioning into first gear.

The roads were wet and I haven’t driven a stick in almost 10 years. He took me out to the exit ramp for the highway during the test drive. I saw a car coming, but it was a pretty safe distance, so I decided to go. Had I been in our Camry, there would have been no problem. I’m used to how that car handles. But the Jetta handles quite differently. It’s tight… and as my father says, when you step on the gas, the engine gets mad.

Those tires squealed and yelled and the car went nowhere as an oncoming car approached on wet roads. The tires weren’t the only thing squealing and yelling.

We cleared the traffic and made it to the onramp and the salesman turned to me with eyes, wide as dinner-plates.

He smiled a nervous smile and said, “you-you’re doing fine.”

Well, his professional manner and charm was well-spent. I bought the car.

It’s white, has tons of poewr under the hood and purs when you drive it. I like. It gets an alleged 33 mpg, but that still remains to be seen. Tinted windows, keyless entry, alarm, power everything… the only thing it doesn’t have is a sunroof. I even bought the additional 2-year bumper to bumper warranty. It was a little pricey, but they sold me on it by saying, “if you don’t use it in 2 years, you get a full refund.” Done.

Now I’m having buyer’s remorse. For another $2000, I could have gotten the 2006 Toyota Yaris that I’ve been drooling over for the past two months. It would be brand new, get 44 mpg and would have come with a 10 year warranty. Granted, they’re not in stock ANYWHERE and I’d probably have to wait a minimum of 6-8 weeks before it would be delivered. On top of that, the Yaris doesn’t even come with a sunroof option. Boo.

Ok, so maybe in a few years I’ll trade in the Jetta and get the Yaris I’ve been wanting… in the meantime, I’ll drive this little bad boy around.

2.) Laptop

You get what you pay for. Natalie and I have been developing a philosophy of, “pay the extra money up front and buy the right thing the first time.”

I bought a Toshiba laptop 4 years ago. It was on sale at Circuit City and I had just spilled milk all over my old laptop. The problem with the Toshiba was that it was had an Intel Celeron processor. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it means that somebody put a cubic zrcon where the diamond was supposed to go.

A Celeron processor is mostly fine for people who need a computer to surf the web and compose email… but for someone like me who does animation, graphics and video production, a Celeron processor just doesn’t cut it. I got what I paid for.

This time around, I decided to “buy the right thing” the second time. I ordered a Dell with a dual-processor, a Truebright wide-screen and cranked up the memory and hard drive on it. I even bought the little leather top for it so it would have a nice black leather top on a silver and white chassis.

When I walk through the room with this laptop, the other computers in the room bow in respect.

3.) VCR

Who buys VCR’s anymore? Apparently, I do. When it comes to electronics (computers excluded), the “pay the extra money and buy the right thing” policy has different rules and regulations. I buy “bang for the buck” electronics which means that I often buy off-brand. The reason for this is because electronics evolve so quickly. Why buy a state of the art Sony for twice the price of the cheap model? Some people will say, “because Sony will last longer.”

In most cases, that’s true. But for me, I don’t WANT it to last longer. I want it to break in 3-5 years so I can buy another one with more features.

How many 1.2 mega-pixel cameras do we still have out there because they haven’t broken yet?

You don’t buy electronics to last, you buy ’em to serve a temporary purpose. You want them to last for about 2-3 generations and then break so you can buy a new one.

Our VCR wigged out on us about 8 months ago. It still would play VHS tapes, but it played them back in black and white. I haven’t really had any urgency to buy a new VCR except that next week, Natalie is hosting a ladies’ Bible study and the course material is all on VHS.

So this weekend, I was out at the electronics stores looking for VCR’s. It’s actually pretty hard to find one. I decided that if I was going to buy a VCR, I was going to get one with an attached DVD recorder so I could roll off a bunch of those old tapes to DVD… that way, when this new DVD/VCR breaks, I’ll have all my media already moved over to DVD and won’t care.

Good thinking.

…until I hit a snag The first video I put in has what’s called Macrovision encoding on the tape. That means that it’s designed so that you can’t make illegal copies of it.

I imagine that many of the tapes I want to copy have this protection on them as well, but I’ve managed to roll off a couple so far that I really wanted to save.

The other cool thing about this new toy is that I’ll be able to capture off stuff that we’ve recorded from our DVR. I highly doubt I’ll ever do it, since we’ve had the DVR for 3 years and have never really wanted to watch anything twice but having the ability to do it does give me some archiving options. It might be nice to have a few DVD’s packed with 8 hours of Star Trek or Twighlight Zone episodes.

4.) Duplex

We’re moving! Our youth pastor and his family had a great place in Spring Lake. They’ve recently been called to move out to Colorado. We’re going to be moving into the place they’re vacating.

We live in a really great apartment right now, but with 4 people, it can get a little tight. Granted, it’s the largest apartment I’ve ever seen, but it’s still a little tight.

Our current place is a new construction 3 bedroom, 2 full bath flat with 1100 sq ft and raised 20 ft ceilings.

We love it. It’s less than a mile from the highway and about 3 blocks from the mall and all the good resturants in town.

The new place, if you can even believe it, is even better. It’s still relatively new construction, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 floors, attached garage, front and back patios with living room and family room, plus storage room. It’s about 2000+ sq ft and is right near the beach. I’ll finally have a place to bike and rollerblade and we’re about a mile from the highway. It’ll had about 5 miles to my commute to work, but I think that overall, it’ll be worth it.

So what’s it all mean? 8 hours of Twighlight Zone on my new laptop in the new car, sitting in our attached garage. The possibilities are endless.