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And in another new-house first, this evening was my first packing of the car for a camping tournament entirely within the confines of my very own garage. There are still some bugs to work out. I think when I unpack it'll be easier to offload items into the best configuration for the next packing job. (This time their placement on the storage shelves was rather willy nilly, so objects traveled in longer paths than they needed to.) But still, all in all, the process took less than half an hour (not counting packing up clothing) compared with the usual hour at the old house (which involved significant amounts of carrying things up and down from the second story, as well as the hazard of leaving a packed car sitting in the driveway if I packed ahead of time). And then there was the time spent hunting down my iPhone booster battery which was stored in a different location than my brain thought it ought to be. I really do need to finish getting things put away where they belong (plus a second pass to make sure they're really in their proper places) so I can go back to assuming I know where everything is.

Car Update

Nov. 18th, 2010 01:19 pm
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Picked up the car from the tow yard right when it opened this morning. Flabberghastingly enough, it appears to be in perfect condition. The only thing I've found to be missing at this point is my gym bag (with stinky gym clothes), although the iPhone sport arm band that was in the bag is still in the car, so clearly the rummaged around in the bag ... and still decided to keep it. Based on mileage records, it appears that in addition to driving the car from my place to Hayward, they only put about 50 miles on it. Several things were moved around -- the connection cords for the GPS and audio were moved from their usual location to a different location, but they were all still present. (I don't store the GPS in the car for good reason.) Oh, and the seat was adjusted by someone with longer legs than me. (Not difficult.)

I have to complete the paperwork for the insurance company to get my reimbursements. I have an appointment with Honda tomorrow to get it thoroughly inspected -- just because. And having weighed various increased security measures, I'm going to get a "club". Based on the complete lack of damage to the doors, windows, and ignition, it does seem likely that the thieves were the same guys as my burglary back in June and that the Honda folks were completely off the mark when they said changing the eletronic part of the lock would prevent them from being able to use their stolen key-set.

For those confused by some of my cryptic comments about moving (which have been scattered randomly between here and facebook), I'll be posting a locked explanation of my Path Forward.
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Got a call just before the end of work today from the Hayward Police Department. It seems they have my car. And they say it doesn't look damaged. (Well, ok, evidently their standard of "not damaged" is a statement along the lines of "not damaged, stripped, or burnt", so I don't know what that translates to in real person terms.) I drove down there after work to deal with the police paperwork, but the towing company shuts down at 5pm so I have to go again tomorrow to actually retrieve the car. Since the towing company hours are functionally identical to my normal working hours there's no way this will be convenient. I'm crossing my fingers and taking BART down there to pick it up (so that I don't have an extra vehicle to deal with). If it turns out not to be in driving condition I'll have to have them take it to the shop, which will drag things out further, but since there's no way I can deal with this in off-hours I'll just have to cope. No matter what, I'll be taking it in to the dealer for a check-up since I don't want any nasty surprises turning up later. And who knows what the interior and contents are like.

Oh, and this doesn't change anything -- I'm still moving out of Oakland.
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As regular readers are already aware, I tend to be compulsive about "front-loading" trip preparation. I'd rather be all ready to go two days in advance than be still working on stuff five minutes before leaving. And thus it should be no surprise that I had the car all packed for tomorrow's trip by about 6pm and have a relaxed, leisurely evening in which to take up some last-minute project that really doesn't need to get done.

Actually, the last-minute project has been taken up by the discovery that after I had asked Honda to install a 2" trailer hitch receiver -- I specifically emphasized that it had to be the 2" size and not the 1.25" size because that was the only available size for the bike rack that I was about to buy as soon as I'd confirmed that I could get the hitch installed in time for the trip -- and after I had asked, twice, for the service guy to verify that they had me down for a 2" hitch and not a 1.25" hitch when he was checking me in ... well, you know what's coming next. I went to check the attachment procedure for the bike rack this afternoon and discovered that they'd installed a 1.25" hitch. I called Honda and was a few minutes too late to catch the same fellow who'd processed me Thursday morning, but the one I talked to understood my slightly-more-than-miffed attitude (and was properly apologetic when I somewhat frostily asked him not to address me as "dear") and assured me that if I came in when they opened at 7:30 tomorrow morning they could take care of me, although the installation process might take an hour or two.

So I figure Plan A is drop by Honda first thing and get the right-sized hitch installed and get on the road not much later than if I'd slept in. (Except the likelihood of my sleeping in when I have a road trip is very very small.) Plan B is that some problem prevents Plan A and I simply keep the bike inside the car like I have on previous trips (with the mild added annoyance of hauling around a bike rack that I can't use for the entire trip -- although I suppose I could backtrack to drop it off at home, ok, so scratch that annoyance). But then I start nosing around online and Plan C starts to develop.

Plan C started out because I was trying to look up the part number that appeared on my statement to figure out if they'd written it down wrong in the first place or installed the wrong part despite the instructions. And I start noticing that in every web site that talks about Honda dealer-installed trailer hitch mounts for Elements, the only thing they ever talk about is the "Class I/II" mount, which is the 1.25" one. (Since the bike rack companies all talk about actual measurements, this was the first I encountered the "Class" categorization.) Could it be possible, I wondered, that three -- count 'em, three -- separate Honda service personnel could hear me talk contrastively about "the 2" receiver, not the 1.25" receiver" and have it fail to occur to them to correct me about the availability of a 2" receiver for the Element (should this, indeed, be the case)? If so, this is rather a bad sign about the knowledge and expertise of Honda service personnel.

But in the course of my online searches regarding Element trailer mounts, I discovered that any number of vendors offer "trailer hitch receiver converter pieces" for the purpose of converting a 1.25" receiver to a 2" receiver and vice versa, should one happen to want to use attachments of a different size than one's standard equipment. So Plan C is to stop by some automotive parts store at some point before I want to externalize the bicycle and pick up a hitch receiver converter. If my hypothesis is true about the Element standard equipment limitation, I wonder how long it will take for the Honda folks to figure it out and whether it will occur to them to recommend the converter to me. The prospect now amuses me, which helps make up for my annoyance at being forced to know more than the experts.
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One of the most striking things about camping out in the redwoods is how utterly quiet it can be, especially just after dawn or just before dusk, when the wind is still. Mind you, that wasn't the case yesterday at dinner time ... but I get ahead of myself.

Sure enough, I went in to work at 4am Friday to observe a Certain Process in the purification department, only to have that process not occur until 7:30am. Well, nobody's fault -- these things are a bit hard to predict, and I got a nice lot of work done at my desk with nobody else around in the mean time, and it did mean that I got out of there conveniently early. But the theory that leaving town by 2pm (on a non-pre-holiday Friday) would mean avoiding rush hour traffic was, shall we say, mistaken. Still and all, since I got into my campsite (Hidden Springs Campground, Humboldt Redwoods State Park) while still light, despite having stopped for dinner along the way, we'll count it a success. Since the rest of this is going to be image-heavy, I'll put it behind a cut )
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So the proximal excuse for last weekend's road trip was that [ profile] klwilliams wanted to see the Star Trek Experience one more time before the close of its 10-year run and I was amenable to seeing it for a first time and ... hey, who needs too much of an excuse for a road trip? So we figured we'd do the classic Vegas thing and got tickets to a show as well. Took off right from work on Friday, drove straight through, and arrived in the wee hours, at which time the hotel had run out of standard 2xqueen rooms and had to stick us in a rather nice, rather large semi-corner room with a king. (We decided we could cope.)

Since the STE doesn't (didn't?) open until 11:30, we set the alarm for "decadently late" and had brunch at Quark's Bar first thing after buying our tour tickets. There was Drama and Tragedy going on in the kitchen resulting in very slow service (and one change of order), but we began a string of perfect timing events, catching the Klingon Attack show just in time to make our reserveations for the behind-the-scenes tour immediately afterwards. (And, as [ profile] klwilliams had assured me in advance, I really didn't want to see behind the scenes before getting the full, naive Klingon Attack experience.) Really great use of special effects technology for an amusement park ride. Our tour guide for the behind-the-scenes was absolutely stupendous -- great at getting everyone engaged, remembered everyone's names, and truly enjoyed his subject. After that we hit the gifts store and the staged photo sessions (which were part of the package) then finished up with the Borg Attack show (which was nowhere near as good as the Klingons).

It was really a bit odd looking around at our fellow tourists and realizing just how instantly recognizable fans are, even outside the usual convention circuit. (I don't know what proportion of their overall clientele are fannish -- things may have been skewed when we were there by the whole "one last time before it closes" phenomenon.)

We'd planned to have dinner at a buffet at the Paris Las Vegas that [ profile] klwilliams had been to before, but the line was so long that we decided the better part of valor was to go across the street (street? mall-hallway? aisle? hard to know what the right word is) to a French bakery and dine on crossant sandwiches and an assortment of desserts. After that was Phantom of the Opera which I'd never seen live (and [ profile] klwilliams had never seen before at all). Very enjoyable and great staging, although it reminds one that -- as for operas -- musicals are best enjoyed if you know the plot and major lyrics in advance, since you aren't going to follow them just from the performance.

Another decadently late morning, lazy breakfast, and on the road again to get home at a decent (if evening) hour. Lots of excellent chattage in the car. Driving places with fellow writers means you can enjoy the "live books-on-tape" experience. Car mileage geeking )

Overall gambling losses: $2.00 (for the two of us, an overall gain of $0.86 I think)
Overall drunken debauchery: none. Who needs drunken debauchery when you have congenial company?
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The nice thing about watching the Olympics opening ceremonies via Tivo is that it can be done at everyone's convenience. So I ended up having Saturday as my "free day" and did the Olympics viewing at [ profile] scotica's on Sunday. I now have a foam mattress for the platform in the back of the Element. I covered it with fabric that used to be a set of sheets (the sheets that convinced me that thread count actually is important ... and that a thread count of 150/inch should never be allowed to touch my body). I checked out all the logistics of platform function. (Pictures will follow at some point.) Both the expanded and contracted positions operate as desired. I've measured and marked off the corner of the plywood that needs to be trimmed so that it can swing over into the expanded position while in place. I've confirmed that my bike fits in next to the platform in the contracted position. I've confirmed that the gear storage totes fit and are accessible under the platform in the contracted position. And I've drawn up the "standard equipment" checklist for the gear totes. The goal of all this hyper-organization, as usual, is to make it as easy as possible to take off for a weekend without forgetting anything. Now I've got a week and a half to decide where I want to go. It's kind of funny how I wasn't really thinking about doing non-medieval camping when I picked out the Element, but now I've gotten rather excited about it.

Olympics: nice. Great opening ceremony. Obvious heart-string jerking. Excellent use of host-country history and imagery. We followed the opening with Tivoed selections from equestrian, men's gymnastics, synchronized diving, and snippets of assorted other sports. For the rest of it, I'm going to be stuck with whatever NBC decides to put on the main channel. Beach volleyball? Is this really the best use of prime time?
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One of the weekend's projects has been to pull the several Boxes of Holding from the car and sort through and update what I really need to be carrying around these days. (E.g., the new car no longer requires that I carry a jug of radiator fluid at all times. And it's been a couple of vehicles since I really needed to carry extra oil as a general rule. And I really need to find a safe and eco-friendly way to dispose of a semi-used aerosol can of "super start spray" -- I believe it's basically pure ether -- which I picked up on some trip or other to snowy mountains when I was having trouble with starting. But today is about refurbishing the first aid kit and sorting through maps. The GPS now makes most of my map-hoarding proclivities unnecessary, so here's an inventory of what I'm discarding. (It will become obvious that I almost never throw maps out.) I added a few more items, but since this is really a for-fun meaningless post, there's no point in doing more than adding them. )
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So what do I do with an "unscheduled" weekend? Let's see. Saturday: slept in until 10am or so, then cooked a nice complex breakfast. (Reason #37 I want a girlfriend: so I can have someone else enjoy my weekend breakfast cooking, too.) Mid-afternoon, off to go furniture window-shopping in consignment stores with [ profile] scotica, culminating in her buying a nice oak "lawyer's bookcase" that she'd had her eye on for some weeks. (Since I had the Element there, she actually had a way of getting it home.) Then off to a new (to us) sushi place in Palo Alto: Fuki Sushi. Really excellent food. We sat at the bar and stuck to nigiri, asking the chef to give us whatever he thought was good. (We had to persuade him that we really did mean "whatever".)

Sunday, it was up at workday hours to take the bike on BART to Orinda where I met up with [ profile] thread_walker and a couple other friends of hers to take Bear Creek Road up around Briones Park, ending up in Concord. Gorgeous ride! Two significant hills and several milder ones. Great scenery. Road-kill count included a couple of long-dead deer and a much fresher turkey vulture, plus many assorted squirrels and a large lizard. I ended up very tired but not even close to exhausted. Sometime around when we were coming into Concord my cell phone rang so after I peeled off to do some shopping at Fry's (printer ink and looking for a bicycle mount for the GPS with no success) I returned the call and it turned out to be [ profile] cryptocosm following up on my idea of commissioning him to build the camping-gear/sleeping platform for the back of the Element. Since he was calling from Sacramento, I figured I'd be home by the time he got there, but what with Fry's, taking the time to have breakfast (ok, I guess it was lunch by then), then getting off BART at Rockridge to do the grocery shopping on my way home, he actually got to my place before me.

So we have a design for my platform and the various lumber and hardware acquired. My job is to try to locate a neighbor with a table saw to make cutting the plywood topper a bit easier, then he'll come over some day in the near future to do the construction. I'll post pictures when it's finished -- that'll be easier than trying to describe the thing. The basic idea is to have a removeable framework that supports a sleeping platform, with space for gear storage underneath. The innovation is that the platform will compress sideways when not being slept on to allow a little less than half the rear of the vehicle to be open when desired. (For, e.g., convenience when dressing, and for the ability to transport, e.g., my bicycle inside the vehicle.)

And now I get to collapse and vegetate for the rest of the evening.
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June Crown this weekend was the last in a very long series of fixed weekend commitments. Now I can crash and relax for a while. Somehow even when you're scheduling individual events on the basis of "would I enjoy doing this?" they all end up ganging up on you in a lump. It was hot. It was fun. I mostly hung out and schmoozed, with a session working the heraldic consultation table, plus being in the procession for a laurel ceremony. But mostly hopping from shade to shade, sticking feet in cold water whenever possible (primarily [ profile] callistotoni's Goddess Party) and chatting. My good deed for the weekend was introducing a couple of musicians who needed to know each other. [ profile] thread_walker invited me to join her household's potluck dinner Saturday which was a nice change from my usual routine. But by the time dinner was over and the temperature had finally fallen to around comfortable (at maybe 10 pm) I had barely enough oomph left to get to [ profile] ldyanna's vigil then melted into bed.

I have another data-point on Viridium's (the new car) mileage to add to the ca. 20 mpg city-driving from my first fill-up. I gave [ profile] layla_lilah a ride to Crown to split costs so it made sense to fill up on returning in order to have number. So I have a couple hundred mile trip, essentially all highway driving, kept at 55 mph for experimental purposes (except for the bit going through Davis where a series of other-vehicle mishaps resulted in a crawl), with an overall average mpg of 28 -- a little better than the official rating of 25mpg highway. Purely in the interests of scientific experiment I figure I should do a similar trip at the posted speed limit (i.e., 65 mph) and see how it compares.
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It's bright and sunny, and the air out at the Berkeley marina smells of warm pine needles and salt water. And I'm sitting beside the bay taking in the view and thinking, "If I had met the woman of my dreams by now, we could get married today. We could do all those silly sentimental things that straight people take utterly for granted and the State of California would treat us exactly the same as everyone else. And wouldn't it be wonderful to get married on a glorious summer day like today?" Ok, so I haven't yet met the reciprocally-considered woman of my dreams yet, but back when I first came to the conclusion I was gay, there were a number of things I figured I just had to give up in order to be true to myself. But today, and for some as-yet-unknown number of days (potentially stretching into indefiniteness), there is one fewer thing.

Oh, and other stuff, too. )
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I'm feeling pretty much prepared for A&S this weekend (or, more particularly, for [ profile] cryptocosm's pelican). Relevant information and objects are in hand. Sewing project is complete (as of lunch break today). I haven't put my class kits together yet, but it's trivial enough I can do it on site. I haven't packed, but since I'm taking Friday off, this is not an issue. What with one thing and another, I don't have to worry about any meals at the event except for Saturday lunch. The new car is off getting its options installed, including the roof rack, which will mean I don't have to figure out what to do with the tent ridgepole. This means I actually had to "commute" this morning, getting up early enough to drop the car in El Cerrito when the service department opened at 7am, then walking across the street to BART and picking up the company shuttle van at the Ashby station. Yeah, cue the tiny violins. Mind you, it's a good thing I'm this ahead of the game since tonight is the first performance in the Cal Shakespeare series (for which I've again joined [ profile] thread_walker and assorted cohorts in getting season tickets). And I can see the light at the end of the long series of over-scheduled weekends.
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1. Funniest thing said by the Honda Finance Guy: "We had to run your credit score even though you're writing a check. Nice credit score. Would you like to buy a helicopter? With credit like that, I could get you a helicopter."

2. This season's colors evidently do not include any nice, pure, heraldic greens. My plans to do a current sewing project in wool have faltered on the rock of a complete absence of good greens. I shall have to fall back on the silk, instead.

3. I have tv reception again, courtesy of a cheap Radio Shack set-top antenna. I may need something a smidge stronger to pick up the San Jose PBS station that runs all the good imported sf and mysteries, but I may just have to play with placement.

4. This week's mystery produce is ramps, a type of wild onion. (When I picked it up, I thought it was equivalent to the rampion of Rapunzel fame, but I find I am badly mistaken. At any rate, it will be fun to experiment with. Anybody have any favorite recipes? I'll probably be cooking it tomorrow evening.

5. The raspberries are ripe! I picked the first of the season this afternoon. Also all six cherries with which my tree has graced me this year. The cherries wanted to be a pie, so there's a tart baking upstairs at the moment. The berries are sitting here drowning in light cream.
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This evening I spent a rather delightful couple of hours with an assortment of Car Sales Guys, reading over all sorts of documents and making marks of various sorts on them. Tomorrow evening I take delivery on a "Kiwi Metallic" (i.e., green) Honda Element. (Yes, the sales contract includes a rider saying it's contingent on my inspection and acceptance of the vehicle.) I got it for a couple thousand less than what I'd set mentally as my limit (which in turn was about a thou and a half less than what I would have spent on a Prius). The salesman did make a half-hearted attempt to start me off with a vastly inflated asking price, but when i whipped out my printouts of online price research he grinned and said he'd had to go through the motions. They even gave me a couple hundred trade-in for the Ford. So technically when I go to the Mists Games Tourney tomorrow I'm driving a "loaner" from the dealer that just happens to be the car I traded in to them. This is assuming that I don't wake up feeling awful tomorrow. I've managed to accumulate a fair amount of sleep deprivation this week and am currently fighting a tickle in my throat that could go either way.

Being an Element, I'm thinking the car will need a name that follows the proper nomenclature format. Being green, I"m thinking tentatively about "Viridium".
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So I tested out three models: the Fit, the CR-V, and the Element -- those seeming to have the best likelihood of fulfilling my space requirements without getting into serious monster vehicle territory. And this time, I actually did bring the harp along for test-packing. (In addition to needing a vehicle that can manage it, it served as a useful measuring stick for the camping gear. The harp stands about 5 ft at longest dimension and the longest camping gear that I pack runs about 6 ft, so I could estimate the rest.)

Not everyone will be interested in the car reviews. )I have an appointment to go back tomorrow after work and -- short of anything drastic happening to change my mind (which would include their failure to track down either of the colors I'm interested in) -- plan to come home with a new Element.
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Tuesday at lunch, [ profile] thread_walker suggested a turn around Acquatic Park rather than simply sitting and eating. Somewhat to my surprise, you can do the entire loop in a lunch hour (which, including the to-and-from my building, probably comes out to 2.5 miles) providing you maintain a brisk pace. I remembered this Wednesday when I still hadn't fixed the flat bike tire (which turned up Tuesday morning) and did the same loop. Today -- still not having found time to fix the flat -- I tried going straight down 4th St to the gourmet ghetto the other side of University Ave. Not quite as long a route, but just right for throwing in a smidge of shopping in the middle (but not -- alas, or fortunately -- an actual cafe lunch). This suggests to me a solution for getting out and about at lunch during the winter when it's too dark to bike to work.

I had a chat on the phone today with the Toyota internet sales guy, but I'm not hopeful. He's basically offering me the same scenario as the other sales guy did: I give him a deposit, then I wait around hoping that the next boat from Japan includes a car with the specifications I want and that nobody else snaps it up first. He couldn't even give me a time-frame when the next shipment of cars might arrive. He said he'd get back to me later this afternoon with more information, but I dunno. At this point, I'd really just like to buy my birthday present and get on with my life. That Honda Element is really starting to grow on me. And it comes in three (3) non-boring colors. (I'm not at all sure that I'd like having an orange car, but both the red and green are attractive). It's probably a good thing that I don't have much free time to just pop off to Auto Row at the moment or I might do something impulsive.

ETA: So the Toyota internet sales guy gets back to me at the end of the day, and the answer is basically "could be six weeks, could be six months, and we really can't guarantee the specific features you want." *sigh* I think maybe this evening I'll go off and test drive/pack some Hondas.
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So, just out of curiosity, if I decided not to go through all the stupid hassle** that is evidently necessary to obtain the Prius of my dreams, what would people recommend that I buy? It has to have the following characteristics:

* Good fuel efficiency (duh!) - I may not commute, but I do like my occasional road trip.
* Cargo space sufficient to transport my SCA camping gear or (on separate occasions) a large folk harp. This means no sedans and preferably something in the wagon family. (I squeezed things into a Camry hatchback when I had to, but it was way too tight.)
* Reliable; good maintenance and service from the dealer.
* Must come in at least one non-boring color (and models in that color must actually be available for purchase).
* Ideally, should have navigation system and hands-free phone set-up.

** I put in my official request at the web site to have a Prius built to my specs. They forward this to your designated local dealership. The dealership sent e-mail #1 saying they'd follow up shortly with a quote. They sent e-mail #2 with no quote, but a suggestion that if I specified a second and third choice of color it would speed things up. I responded noting that if I were willing to accept a second or third choice of color I would already own a new Prius, and would they please give me a quote for the car I actually want to buy, please.


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