hankrules2011

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Archive for April, 2014

Evgeni Malkin’s hat trick clinches series for Penguins

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 29, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets – Recap – April 28, 2014 – ESPN.

It was a tough series, but we prevailed in six games. Malkin was on fire last night and even though Columbus mounted a furious third period comeback, we held on to win. Next up will be the winner of the Flyers/Rangers series. Go Pens!

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A Review of Eye in the Sky

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 26, 2014

Eye in the SkyEye in the Sky by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eye in the Sky was great fun to read! I think it’s Dick’s funniest book ever. He had so much humor in his earlier books. The novel centers around Jack Hamilton, a scientist who’s fired from his defense contractor job because his wife is a suspected Communist. The book was published in 1957, but the plot takes place in 1959, which is odd because Dick usually places his plots much further out than that. Anyway, Hamilton and his wife go on a tour of a scientific facility that has something called a Bevotron, a proton slicer or something. There are eight people in the tour group, including the guide. Something goes wrong with the device, and it slices through the group and the area they’re standing on, leading them to fall a great distance and get knocked unconscious. For some reason, no one was killed. Hamilton wakes up in the hospital, is released, and goes home with his wife. Something is said, and locusts appear out of thin air and attack Jack. Odd. The next day, he travels to San Francisco to apply for a job. However, the place he goes to makes things for a bizarre, twisted, Old Testament-like religion with a god who’s spiteful and petty. Hamilton leaves and everything he encounters points to this god, and everyone he meets plays a role in this religion. At some point, Jack and another character end up being taken up to Heaven via umbrella, where a great “eye in the sky” looks at them before hurling them Earthward. Hamilton gradually comes to the realization that this bizarre world is the internal construct of an old war vet who was in the tour group, as he was the only one who remained conscious. Everyone in the group is still at the Bevotron. How do they escape this messed up world? Well, they visit the old man in the hospital and knock him unconscious. Poof! New world. Turns out they’re in someone else’s world now, a prim and proper Victorian-type world where things disapproved of are wiped out of existence. This makes for a hilarious scene where Jack and the others in the group suggest things to obliterate and things just randomly disappear. Including air. There are several such worlds in this book and each is worse than the last. I think the book fails a little though in assuming that only half of the group is maladjusted enough to have a warped inner world. I think the book would have been better if everyone in the group got to have an alternate world with everyone trying to escape. But that might have made the book too long. The book ends on an up note with Jack and Bill Laws, the “Negro” tour guide, developing a recording company that’s going to change the industry. I do want to point out one thing, in fairness to Dick. In past reviews, I’ve been critical of how black characters are treated, often wondering is the author was racist. In this book, however, the black character is a grad student in physics and is portrayed in a very good light, with criticism leveled at a racist character who shuns him. So that’s good. That said, the female characters in this book don’t come off very well — Dick’s not always been kind to his female characters. Still, this book was like a hilarious Twilight Zone and I enjoyed it immensely. It’s not necessarily his best work, but it’s heartily recommended.

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My 400th Blog Post

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 24, 2014

This is my 400th blog post. That’s pretty big. I started here on WordPress back in June 2011 after leaving Xanga. I don’t write every day like I did for years on Xanga, but I try to put something out there on a fairly regular basis. Of course, over the past year or so, many of my posts have been book reviews, but people seem to like them, so I’ll continue that. I often feel like I don’t have anything interesting to say, so I don’t say anything.

During this time, I’ve had nearly 18,000 page views, have received nearly 500 comments, and have collected a little over 300 followers. I want to thank all of you who have or do stop by and read what I write. I really appreciate that. I often wonder why I don’t get more comments, considering all of the followers, but I guess that’s a mystery I’ll never solve.

So far, 2014 has been big for Gretchen and me. In January, we got the new house. In February, our beloved cat Toby died due to kidney failure at the young age of six. That week, we moved into the new house. I’ve been busy all year preparing to move, packing, unpacking, and helping my mother search for a place of her own in Knoxville, where she used to live. Last month, she found a condo up there less than a mile where we used to live and she’s moving away from us next week to go to her new life. I feel a little weird about that, but she’s been very time consuming, so it’ll be nice to have a break. Still, it’ll be weird not going over to her nice house just five minutes from us. She’s sold that and it closes next month. As for me personally, I’m soon going to resume looking for a permanent job, knowing the market stinks, and I’m also in a four month jury pool, so I may be sitting on quite a few federal juries between now and August 20th. Gretchen and I went to Maryland to celebrate her birthday, but we have no further travel plans for the year. It’d be nice to go to the beach though. I got my new Toyota last week and hopefully our car repair bills will be minimized. Drastically. We’re attending a tiny Episcopalian church and I’m on the vestry while Gretchen is involved in several activities. We like the people there, although we do wish it was a little larger and there were more people our own age there.

I guess that’s it for now, so I’ll wrap things up. If you read my 400th blog post, thanks. If not, you probably didn’t miss much. More book reviews will follow. Cheers!

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A Review of Judgment on Janus

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 24, 2014

Judgment on Janus (Janus, #1)Judgment on Janus by Andre Norton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As I read this book, I kept waiting for it to get better. It never did. Now, it was intriguing enough for me to read and finish it, but I felt the ending was incomplete and anticlimactic and I was disappointed.

Naill Renfro’s mother is dying, so he sells himself into indentured servitude to buy her drugs to ease her suffering. Next thing you know, he’s on a world called Janus, owned and working for a “Garthman” who is like a cross between an Amish person and an expert from the Inquisition. I mean, these people are all about sinners and they’re pretty mean. Rumors abound of people finding “treasures” in the forests and fields where they work, and as it turns out, they’re often cast out because they develop a “Green” sickness. Naill wonders what this is about. And then he finds some treasure. He’s taken by its beauty and hides some of it while the rest is destroyed by the Garthmen. One night, he steals out to go see his bounty. Next thing you know, he’s been caught and has contracted this Green sickness. Hot and fevered, he runs into the forest where, kneeling before a pool of water, he catches a reflection of himself and is shocked to see a bald, large pointy eared green man staring back at him. Yes, he has turned into “Ayyar of Iftcan.” And he remembers things from the Iftcan past. In spots. The Iftcan were an ancient race that lived in the forest and is seemingly long gone. He finds a huge tree with clothing and a sword and sets out to see if he can find others like him. He soon encounters a young woman who undergoes what he did, becomes green, and accompanies him on his adventures. Blinded by light, they move under the cover of darkness, but soon get captured by a being in an old space suit (Naill recognizes it because even though he’s now an alien being, he still thinks human thoughts and has his own memories. Quite convenient.) They’re herded into a white forest where everything’s light and there they find three others like them, all of whom underwent the same thing. They escape their white prison, find a space ship, find goggles in it that will protect them from the sunlight — but just one pair — and they continue to try to escape some unknown, unseen evil entity out to get them. They escape to a pool of water called The Mirror, where a huge storm blows up and apparently beats the evil entity and that’s the end of the book. I know I just gave away the plot and I’m sorry, but I had to relate just how insipid it is.

This book read more like a fantasy book than sci fi, and apparently Norton wrote fantasy, so you can see how she merged the two. It’s okay. I think it would be best for teens. It’s not “serious” sci fi. I reminded me of the Narnia series, for some reason. I’ve read two of Norton’s books now and I’ll probably read more, but with caution. I’m not convinced she’s a sci fi writer who will be high on my list. I’ll stick with Philip K Dick, thank you very much. Recommended for adolescents.

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Penguins score 3 goals in span of 2:13, stun Blue Jackets

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 22, 2014

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets – Recap – April 21, 2014 – ESPN.

Great come from behind win last night. We’re up 2-1 in the series now. We came from down 3-1 in the third to win 4-3. In each of their wins, each team has come from down 3-1 to win 4-3. Isn’t that weird? Go Pens!

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New Car

Posted by Scott Holstad on April 19, 2014

I bought a used BMW 530i four and a half years ago and it’s been a lemon from Day One. During my first week with it, I had to spend $1900 on repairs. I should have learned my lesson then and dumped it. Don’t get me wrong — it looked great, drove smoothly and powerfully, and it felt good being a BMW owner. The downside, however, was in repair expenses. It’s EXPENSIVE to repair a BMW and through their engineering, they don’t make it easy. For instance, in order to get at some basic hoses that anyone with any other car could easily reach, a mechanic has to take the whole engine out. It’s ridiculous. Over and over I’ve had to take my car in for repairs. $1800 for an air conditioning repair. $700 for a new seat belt. $600 for a new window motor. $300 for a new windshield wiper fluid jug. It’s plastic. It probably costs $3 to make. BMW is making a killing from repairs. I have sunk more money into repairs over the past four years than I did in buying it, and that’s damn stupid!

My family has been wanting me to get another car for awhile now, and after two recent repairs and after wanting to charge me $1700 for a new oil pan gasket, it was time. I had a budget, but I wanted to go back to Japanese cars. I had a great Nissan for 14 years before buying the BMW. However, Gretchen and Mom are both Toyota owners and I got a lot of pressure, mostly from Mom, to get a Toyota. So, I got online and started looking. I wanted a fairly new Camry with a V6 engine and, ideally, not that much mileage, all for a reasonable, if not low, price. And with AutoTrader, I found it! I found a 2011 Camry LE V6 with only 29,000 miles on it for a shocking low price in Kennesaw GA, about 90 miles south of me near Atlanta. It was priced about $5000 less than other similar cars. So I wondered what was wrong with it. I got the CarFax and it looked good — one owner, no wrecks, good service record. I called Cobb County Toyota and asked if the owner had been a smoker and that’s why it hadn’t sold yet and was priced so low. They went out and ran the AC and heat for 15 minutes and reported that it smelled great, that the owner had not been a smoker. This was this past Wednesday. Well, I wanted to test drive it and maybe buy it cause it sounded too good to be true. I told them I’d be down Friday, yesterday. However, as Wednesday wore on, I got the feeling that I should go down the next day, Thursday. So Thursday morning, I called them to let them know I was coming and to ideally hold the car.

I got the title for my BMW and hit the road. About 20 minutes away from the dealership they called to find out where I was and I told them. I found out why when I got there. Apparently someone else from out of state — Alabama — was driving there for the same reason I was — to get this great deal and drive away with a Toyota. The first person to arrive would get it. And I beat her by 20 minutes. Boy, was she ticked when she arrived and was told it had already been purchased (which wasn’t true, although I was in the process of filling out paperwork). Heh.

I went out to look at it. It was silver with a gray interior. It looked like it was in good condition. The tires looked good. The trunk was huge — I’ve never seen a bigger trunk. I looked under the hood and was able to identify everything, just as one should on an average car. I got in and the seat felt great. And there were a lot of options for adjusting it, ones that were much easier than my BMW. It was an automatic, which I prefer. The steering wheel felt good. It had a roomy back seat area. It had lots of openings for cup holders and the like and two places to plug in a charger for my phone. It had what looked like a great stereo system. It had a moonroof. The only thing it didn’t have was one of those fancy new built in GPS’s, complete with Internet access so you can Google and check your email while you’re driving. I honestly wanted one of those, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a newer car like that, so I was content with it the way it was.

We took it out on a test drive. It felt smooth and powerful. It drove quietly and kept external sound out. I didn’t get a chance to go on the freeway, which kind of bothered me, but I did get some isolated back roads that were long and straight so I could open it up a little. I was satisfied with the test drive.

Afterwards, we went to the service garage. There, they got on their computer and told me what all they’d done to it. They’d done a 160 point inspection. They’d given it all four brand new tires. They replaced the front brakes. The balanced and aligned the tires. They’d done a few other things. They also had given it its 30,000 mile tuneup, which was great cause I wasn’t looking forward to having to take it in in a month for that and spending the money for it. All told, they claimed they did $1600 worth of service work on it. Sounded good. I decided to get the car.

I was going to trade in my BMW and had checked its trade in value on Kelly and Edmunds, and the value wasn’t that great. I was hoping for only a little and when they discovered my oil leak, even less. Well, they drove it around and offered me twice what I expected for it. I jumped at that deal! It brought the purchase price down to a ridiculously small amount. However, they charged a ton of money for Tennessee sales tax (even though I was in Georgia) and that bumped it up pretty far. Still, less than list price.

I filled out paperwork and while doing so, I was surprised to find out I had to apply for credit even though I was buying it outright and paying cash for it. That didn’t make me happy. My ex destroyed my credit a few years ago by maxing out my credit cards and burning through a huge amount of money in a matter of months. Also by not paying bills that still had our joint names on them. However, when the guy returned to the office, he told me I had excellent credit. I was stunned. Indeed, apparently I’m in the top 3% of Americans in terms of credit. I was stunned even more. When I run my own credit reports, that’s not what I get, so I don’t know where he was getting his information, but I was happy to hear it.

I was then ushered into the business manager’s office, where I had to sign tons of papers and surrender my BMW title (gladly). He then talked to me about warranties. The Camry came with a 12 month, 12,000 mile warranty, which actually didn’t impress me too much. However, he told me about warranty upgrades, the best of which was the premium upgrade and that would cover just about everything and do so for 7 years and 100,000 miles. For $995. I immediately felt like it was a smart option, so I got it and even adding that extra grand, my purchase price was still less than the list price. I felt like I was stealing from them.

Finally, everything was worked out and I was given two master keys to the car. They showed me a few more things about it and then sent me on my way. I felt great! I got on 75 North and traffic was kind of heavy, so I couldn’t open it up like I wanted to. The speedometer went up to 160 mph, while the BMW’s only went to 150. I routinely went 150-160 in my old Nissan when I was younger and more stupid. The fastest I ever got the BMW to go was 130. I wanted to see how fast the Camry would go. Unfortunately, because of traffic, I never got it over 90. That’s okay though because I don’t normally drive that fast anymore anyway, and I don’t anticipate needing to drive that fast very often. I kept it at about 80 for the drive back to Chattanooga. The car handled pretty well. The wheel was a lot more sensitive than the BMW, which worries me a touch. The BMW wheel was heavy and very steady. The Camry’s is susceptible to a light touch, so I’ve got to be careful when driving at high speeds. It drives most comfortably at about 65-70. I cranked the stereo and it sounded good. It was too loud to turn all the way up and see how loud it could get. I tried out the CD player when I got home and it works well too.

The car comes with a comprehensive manual of about 400 pages, which I’ve already read. It’s much better than BMW’s manual and it seems to cover everything. I’m elated to find out I no longer have to put in only premium gas. In fact, they don’t recommend it — just regular unleaded. That’s saving money right there! I got in the back seat and there was lots of leg room. It’s great for extra passengers. The back seats fold down, meaning I’ll be able to haul lots of things I couldn’t haul in the BMW. Oh, one of the things the manual said was don’t drive over 85 mph unless you have a certain type of performance tire, which I’m betting I don’t. Maybe that’s why it didn’t feel that great when I exceeded 85…. Still, good to know.

So I have a new (used) car and I’m elated. My wife also has a silver Toyota, so we’re a Toyota family now. I’m so glad to be rid of that money pit, and I feel pretty confident with this warranty that it’ll be far less expensive to maintain and repair and it’ll probably last for a good long time. I’m counting on that. So I’m going to post some pictures. Here they are:

 

2011 Toyota Camry LE V6

2011 Toyota Camry LE V6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the front

View from the front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back of the car

The back of the car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The car from an angle

The car from an angle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The gearshift

The gearshift

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stereo

The stereo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The back seat

The back seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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