Thoughts on Car Buying

2000My sometimes hated (but mostly beloved) minivan is no longer in my possession. After a few days of car shopping, I traded it in for a used Toyota. The van, a Honda Odyssey, was sixteen years old, so I suppose it was time. Still, it ran beautifully on the way to the dealership, so that drive was bittersweet. On the way, I passed by a yard sale, offering bikes and other things I might have purchased, because having things to do at Grandma’s house is where I am in life, but I didn’t stop, knowing that those items would probably not fit in the trunk of the sedan I was planning to purchase.

Buying a car has changed since I bought my first vehicle, that’s for sure. Now, the first contact is often online. Whether one picks the “chat” function or sends an email, there will soon be a contact. The phone starts ringing. Go in for a test drive, and (in Athens, Georgia) there is a mandatory meeting with the “sales manager.” Then, a couple of times, I got an email to see if the salesman met my expectations.

After I finally said I might be interested in a used Honda, I got an offer of $500 for my old van. As it has been more truck than family vehicle for a while, with the typical bumps and scrapes associated with that duty, I wasn’t expecting much. But, that deal had me paying more than the maximum KBB value on the seller’s car, with half the typical auction estimate on mine. Really, that wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

Eventually, I ended up at a more rural dealership which didn’t use the “meet the manager” approach. I got $900 for my old van, which was still a very low number, and a newer car for less money. Oh, and I got to keep the new to me car overnight and take it for an inspection prior to purchase. The dealer even gassed it up for us before the extended test drive.

After I’ve had this vehicle for a while, I guess I will know if it was a good purchase. But, I can say that the pressure to buy was less out in the country. In the mean time, I guess I’ll be looking for some accessories for the “new to me” ride.

Backup Camera and more!

AutoVoxx2If you have a newer car, it has a back up camera, courtesy of federal regulations. But, if you drive an older one, as I do, you might want to add that functionality. Sadly, I decided that I needed both forward and rear recording capabilities also. That’s sad, because no longer will the testimony of a sound witness hold up in court. In the age of security cameras, body cams, and cell phone videos, people (such as cops and juries) demand video and audio confirmation of actions and words. So, rather reluctantly, I opted to purchase a mirror/backup camera which also records my driving front and rear. Here’s a link to the current unit that I had installed in my ride: AUTO-VOX X2 Mirror Dash Cam and Backup Camera

Like any other purchase, there are pros and cons, but overall, I am quite pleased. The unit fits over the original rear view mirror, which is good—but it is considerably darker than my original mirror, which is not so good. When he drives the car, hubby just activates the rear camera, which is easy to see in the screen, which is actually slightly larger than my original mirror. As the screen is reflective, but dark, I mostly use the side mirrors for a rear view, however, the mirror does display very accurate speed via gps, so it is handy even when not being used as a screen for the rear camera. When I do back up, the unit provides a good view behind my car, making parking lot maneuvers much easier.

The dash cam has very good video resolution of the road in front of the car, and while the rear resolution is less than the front, it is acceptable. Until I reviewed some of the rear footage, I didn’t realize how much one misses while just driving. Sometimes that rear footage is funny, such as seeing the driver behind my car picking his nose when we were both stopped at a red light. I have also gotten video of deer crossing right in front of the car, which seemed a lot more dramatic when it happened than it did when I watched the recording. Fortunately, I haven’t had any accidents, but the camera is always on, just in case. Left alone, it will eventually record over previous footage, but it is easy to keep old recordings by transferring them to a computer.

A few months ago, I was stopped by the local gendarmes when driving home from church, and my rear camera captured the incident, both audio and video. Reviewing the recording convinced my husband that I deserved legal representation. I preserved the footage by simply popping out the mini SD card, and that way hubby could look at the video and hear what I said, as well as what the deputy said. Without that footage, I might have had to pay that ticket, so this camera has already helped me quite a bit. If you have an older car, check it out.

DeputyJ

Still shot taken from the video recorded by the rear camera of my AutoVox unit.

Romantic movies revisited

LoveValentine’s Day is coming soon, a fact brought home to me by a visit to the local Target, which is festooned with candy in heart shaped boxes and more versions of artificial roses than I knew existed. Instead of truffles, which just like to linger on my hips, or roses, that usually end up in the compost heap all too quickly, I like to celebrate with romantic movies. And, old ones are fine, actually! Here’s my top five favorites in that category:

#5 Beauty and the Beast (voiced by Robby Benson and Paige O’Hara) is the best “cartoon” I’ve ever seen. When my daughter was small, I think we wore out a VHS version, and I remember pausing to watch the ballroom dancing scene, regardless of what household task I was doing, while my dear little one was engaged by the film. Of course, this story has seen many iterations, and I really liked the television series with Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, but as this post is about films, I will just link to a previous post on that topic.

#4 Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Yes, it is retelling of the Cinderella story, and it is fairly dated now. Still, there are some seriously cool scenes, such as Roberts doing a sing-a-long with Prince, while teasing the audience in that foam covered bathtub. Or the end, with Gere doing a modern-day knight on horseback in standing in the sunroof of a large limousine, is a wonderful scene as well.

#3 Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. Honestly, I had not watched this iconic film until a church friend mentioned that she wanted very badly to see a live version of this musical at our local playhouse. So, merely as research, I watched it. Although it is also quite dated, the music and the choreography is fabulous, and the romance is certainly sufficient for it to make my short list.

#2 The American President with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. If the script had been a little less political, this would be my #1 pick, as the romance between the widower President of the United States and the up and coming lobbyist is both touching and quite funny at times. This film has a really great supporting cast, too, with Michael J. Fox at his very best, along with Martin Sheen (who later took on the big guy role in The West Wing on television) and Anna Deavere Smith is amazing in her role as the press secretary.

My #1 is Shakespeare In Love, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes. This production has it all— an amazingly detailed setting, glorious costumes, a witty script, and memorable performances, both in the framework, and in the “good parts” version of Romeo and Juliet, which plot suggests was inspired by Shakespeare’s fling with a noble maiden with whom he should not have been socializing. Along with great performances by Paltrow and Fiennes, Judi Dench does a great job bringing an aging Queen Elizabeth to life, and Ben Affleck is such a hunk when he does “Mercutio.”

Obviously, there are many other really wonderful romantic films. These are merely personal favorites, which I am happy to share. If you have others that you like, you are certainly welcome to comment.

Flag draped caskets

Recently, hubby and I attended the funeral of a contractor who worked for us several times over a couple of decades, a craftsman who was also so personable that we viewed him as a family friend. In addition to being a darned good carpenter, he always visited a bit with us. Mike collected license plates from cars, and he asked for an old plate off my car. (I drive a Honda Odyssey, so my personalized plate says “HOMERS”, thus I drive around in Homer’s Odyssey. A lot of people don’t understand the tag, but Mike was one those who got the joke and thought it funny.) So, after he finished doing a re-roof and soffit repair, I gave him one my old plate, which he put into “a place of honor” in his shop. Since I love to read, he would bring me his old Time magazines. When he gave me a stack, he usually apologized for taking so long, and recommended the articles he had enjoyed the most. I am going to miss those visits.

The first person who eulogized him was his daughter. Although we knew him well, she was able to relay some interesting tidbits of his life, so we were able to know him even better in death than we had in his life. The minister who delivered the message also knew him well, and told some stories of Mike’s service to the church as well as the community.

I didn’t know that Mike had served in the National Guard until the funeral, but his casket was draped with a flag, honoring his service.


When I listened to the funeral of President George H.W. Bush, I was very much reminded of the accomplishments of the forty-first president. His presidency only lasted four years, but he was a hero during our nation’s greatest war, a congressman, an ambassador, and he was commander in chief during the first Gulf War, a crucial time in our country’s history. The remarks by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney were particularly enlightening, as they blended the public accomplishments with the private persona of the former president. The remarks by his son, former President George W. Bush, a eulogy that was primarily about Bush as a father, also helped the nation know this man a bit better.

Most Americans know that Bush (41) was a warrior, and the military aspect of his funeral was a affirmation that some of the greatest Americans served the country well, and that flag draped coffin is a sign of honor which signals that another of our nation’s heroes has gone on to a greater reward.

Our friend Mike left his fingerprints all over the community, as he worked for many people in our area. President Bush left his fingerprints on the nation, because he was involved in government service at the highest levels. Regardless of the scope, to serve well is to live well.

America by Charles Kuralt

Okay, this book is seriously vintage as it was published in 1995, but my hubby is recently retired, so he wants to do some traveling. But, when and where should we travel? A friend mentioned that a CBS news feature reporter who spent much of his career “on the road” discussed his favorite places to be in Charles Kuralt’s America, and the narrative relates his first year of retirement, where he spent time visiting them, at the best time of year to be in those spots. Despite the passage of time, the weather and scenery is no doubt much as it was in Kuralt’s retirement year, so the book is still relevant.

What’s special about this book is the magical prose that Kuralt employs to describe his series of destinations. In January, he spent time in New Orleans. As he is riding from the airport to his hotel in the French Quarter, he says, “I could have closed my eyes in the backseat of the taxi and known where I was purely by the pungent accent washing over me from up front.” I once worked with a lady from Louisiana, and the accent is unique, for sure. Kuralt further states that there are ” three main themes of the city: family, music, and food.” All three are the subject of his discourse, and apart from not actually tasting the jambalaya and crawfish étouffée, the reader feels as if he, too, had visited New Orleans. In February, Kuralt visited Key West, and again, he makes the reader feel like a participant in the trip. March’s destination was Charleston, a city that I’ve visited, but Kuralt stayed longer, met more natives, and has some interesting stories to share. In April, Kuralt ended up enjoying the emerging sign of spring, daffodils, which sounds incredibly boring, but it is not when Kuralt describes them.

In May, he is traveling again, and his destination is again in the south—Grandfather Mountain. His discussion of this scenic area of North Carolina includes everything from what makes the best barbecue to why one should make the drum of a banjo from squirrel skin. Kuralt packs more information into each chapter than I’ve read in several guide books for the area. June he spends in Ketchikan, Alaska; July in Ely, Minnesota; and August in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Kuralt’s love of boating and fishing is apparent in all of these destinations, as it is in his September destination of Twin Bridges, Montana. For local color in October, Kuralt visits Woodstock, Vermont. As the weather in the north chills, he goes to Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, soaking up history along with the sunshine. For December, he returns to the place where he made his home for many years, New York City. However, as Kuralt explains, people don’t live in New York; rather, they live in a neighborhood within the city. Again, he gives the reader several examples of people and places in the city, which is decorated for the holidays in his prose.

Charles Kuralt’s “On the Road” feature stories for CBS news on television were a part of my youth. His voice rings true in this rambling, but never unfocused, narrative. For those who remember him, this is a nostalgic read. For those who don’t know his work, the book could serve as an introduction to a time when people didn’t spend time on their smart phones and computers, but spent leisure time in scenic places, learning from the people who inhabit those places. I’m glad that my friend recommended this book so highly, because I certainly enjoyed savoring it.

Anxious for Nothing— brief review and commentary

A friend told me how much she is enjoying her study of Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing, so I bought the Kindle version. Quite frankly, her comments were so positive that I did not want to wait to pick up the physical book. I’ve read several of Lucado’s Christian living texts, and they have all been easy to read and helpful, and this book fits that mold.

The title says quite a lot. Modern people have too much information coming at them, much of it negative, so being anxious is almost a modern plague. This plays out in all sorts of ways: addiction, suicide, failed relationships, etc. Lucado discusses the whys, and then gives some very good solutions to our problem thinking. One of my favorite passages says this: “There is a reason the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror. Your future matters more than your past.”From my own experience, over thinking the past— the coulda, woulda, shoulda— is very damaging. When I counsel students, who almost always want me to allow them to “make up work” or “try again” I tell them to do better going forward. I even use the windshield analogy. But I like Lucado’s take on it.

Okay, his writing lacks sophistication; but not substance. Anxious for Nothing can be a quick read, but there is sufficient food for thought for study, too.

Solo— a Star Wars Story

Solo posterOur son is a big time Star Wars fan, and he initially said he planned to skip this movie. Based on the box office stats, apparently a lot of folks felt the same way. However, a friend apparently convinced him to go see it, and he came back raving about how much better it is than Star Wars Episode VIII. Last evening, hubby and I went with him to our very small local theatre to see Solo- A Star Wars Story before it closes up and leaves for cable and the Red Box.

I did like it rather a lot. The cast is really great, from a decent likeness of the main character by Alden Ehrenreich to a fabulous supporting cast with veteran actors including Woody Harrelson and Paul Bettany, as well as modern favorites such as West World star Thandie Newton and Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. The look and feel of the film, although a bit dark, is up to Disney and Star Wars standards, too. While I thought there was too much action (if such a thing is possible in a summertime blockbuster film) all of it was top notch.

For real fans of the series, there are some pluses and minuses of course. The film does a good job of filling in the small and big pieces of the original trilogy, especially those that occurred in the original film, Star Wars: A New Hope. Example: Han Solo proudly tells Obi Wan Kenobi that the Millennium Falcon made the Kessell run in 12 parsecs. How? When? And why was that important? Solo fills in all those blanks. How did Han and Chewy meet? Again, this film supplies some answers. Overall, the script writers (father and son Kasdan and Kasdan) performed a minor miracle in getting so much into two action packed hours.

Although I’ve read that it was a marketing problem, or a saturation problem—no one knows for sure why Star Wars fans have not embraced Solo. That’s too bad, because it is in many ways very similar to the much better received Rogue One: A Star Wars Story— it fills in blanks in the original film, gives us new characters to love and hate, and is a visual spectacle with a very good musical score.

Beat the summer heat and go see Solo—A Star Wars Story soon. Very soon, because it will be moving to video in a few short weeks.

A party in the car?

Hubby likes to watch YouTube videos of all sorts. One of his favorite YouTubers is a mechanic named Scotty. More than once, we have purchased items based on Scotty’s recommendation. However, I was really kinda surprised when we watched a video about this product and it ended up in our Amazon shopping cart. Ours arrived recently, and the reviewers are right. This is a very inexpensive way to have a party in your car!

Seriously, for readers who want a cool led light system which reacts with music, and with a remote control, check this out!

 

Lincoln— the film


I’m not sure why we didn’t watch it when it was new, but hubby and I were perusing a list of the best films available for streaming on Netflix, and we chose to view Steven Spielberg’s ode to the controversial president. Gosh, there’s been so much written about this man. Historians can easily demonstrate how controversial and even unpopular Abraham Lincoln was during his lifetime, but since then his stature has ridden the waves of popularity, sometimes to heroic heights and then again to be mostly forgotten.

I’ve read some of the books and articles on Lincoln, but there’s many, many more that I haven’t. Still, the film version has much to offer viewers, regardless of their prior knowledge of the civil war era leader. For the two hours plus of runtime, the film focuses on the struggle to pass the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one which prohibits slavery, except as punishment for criminal behavior. Daniel Day-Lewis does a remarkable job of portraying the title character. Sally Field is also very good as the mercurial Mary Lincoln, and the supporting cast is peppered with famous and talented actors. When we paused the streaming version for a pantry raid, hubby and I commented that it was as if the script had been tailored to showcase some aging but remarkable players, including Tommy Lee Jones and David Spader.

Mostly, this is a really good film, but the beginning, although dramatically effective, leads a well-read viewer to question its authenticity. The soldiers who quote from Lincoln’s now famous address at Gettysburg seem so sincere, but it is quite unlikely that war weary soldiers would know by memory that speech, as it was not considered to be much good when it was delivered. History has given those words their significance.

Although I don’t remember the source of the recommendation to watch this film, I, too, endorse it. While the outcomes are not really suspenseful, the film holds the viewer’s interest. No biopic is entirely historically accurate, of course, but the spirit of truth is certainly present. Watch (or re-watch) and enjoy!

Kind of Amazing

I just bought a rechargeable Bluetooth speaker so I could more easily play music by the pool or on the porch. I have one, that is wired, in my “playroom” but it is rather large in size. This thing is small, but has lots more functionality than the older big guy that plugs into a wall outlet, such as being useful as a hands free calling device. I can see this being useful at a campsite, too. If you have an interest in portable sound, take a look: