Weird facts about my Soul

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A few years ago, I traded in my Chevy Sonic for a 2013 Kia Soul. My children rejoiced, saying, “Look! Dad finally has a soul. I mean, it’s black inside and full of garbage, but he finally has a soul.”

Then, “Can we borrow your soul Dad?”

And so forth.

My 2011 Chevy Sonic, for context, was a panic buy to replace my beloved Equinox, which had a gas tank issue. Once your wife is envisioning your vehicle going up in a ball of flame, you have no choice but to sell it.

The Sonic is like a sports-car made by east European communists. It’s is surprisingly fast (because it uses the same engine block as the larger cars in Chevy’s fleet car line) and handles decently, because it is small. And everything in the interior feels cramped, just like a sports-car. But it is a fleet car, engineered to fall apart after 80k miles or so.

While I could drive it like a maniac, putting four adults inside felt like a clown car stunt, and things were starting to fall off. So we went to the dealership and came home with the Hyundai Veracruz, and my Soul.

Early on in my ownership of it, someone asked me about it, and I told them that it was the best MP3 player I had ever driven. They do seem to have put more thought into the media system than any other part. The speakers have LED rims that change color with the music. I never saw that as a selling point when I purchased it, but they have come to amuse me.

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Its is boxy, mediocre in both acceleration and climbing, and the fuses jiggle loose from time to time. It has no roof rack. You will feel every bump in the road – every one. Those are my complaints. All of them.

Four adults can fit within with some dignity. I can actually fit a lot of things in it – for boxy=roomy. When I moved 1000 feet north, most of the things made the journey in my Soul. My lawn furniture and gas grill came home in my Soul. But it’s not a truck, so people don’t ask me to move stuff for them all the time.

It has a tight turning radius and a relatively high ground clearance. It gets around 20 mph even when I drive it the way I do. I made it 80K miles before it needed any major service.

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This might be its best feature!

Of course, I need it to go another 60K miles at least. I have three years left on the $15k note secured by my Soul that is generously valued at about $5k. How the hell do you get $10k upside down on a car loan?

You wreck a car without the means to make a cash down payment, or even cover the insurance deductible. So you find yourself at the mercy of whatever scheme the dealership puts together. The Soul (and the Veracruz) were the fourth generation of cars coming off the lot with this debt still buried in the financing somehow.

When we bought it, this Kia Soul had a big rebate, so magically, this is the car they buried that debt inside.

I owe a lot more on my Soul than my Soul is worth. My Soul has been used to hide previous sins.

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I do not own my Soul.

Somehow the only name on either the title or the loan paperwork is that of my (soon-to-be-ex) wife. She does not know how that happened either.  She has a completely different car now. The Soul remains my primary vehicle, even though, after the divorce, I will have no legal ownership of it.

Sometimes, when I project the payments out over time, I daydream about saving up a down payment, and just leaving this thing in the parking lot of the credit union that actually owns it. But that would be Wrong.

After all, I’m the one who wrecked that car I have yet to finish paying off.

In a year at RC Lurie I put 20k miles on that car. That’s a fact that will shut a car salesman up about leasing options. Those are hard miles, city traffic, construction sites, lost on back roads. My Soul has already taken a beating.

I have become fond of the Soul I am driving to death without any real hope of ever paying off. Good thing, because I just dropped $800 on brake repairs and a long list of maintenance items.  (My local mechanic is a master of never fixing just one thing, and since I cannot abide multiple trips to the garage, I am his lawful prey here).

So I choose, for now, to keep my Soul, even if it isn’t legally mine. It works for me. And there is speculation that Kia cars can go 200k if treated right. So maybe I can get mine to 140? We shall see.

And I can always add a roof rack later.

Consumer Reports on the 2013 Soul. They even make a little joke about the interior.

About damn time…

I promised some notes for the Thursday night folks, and they’re here, and you don’t have to skip down that far…

2nd edition AD&D came out when Excel was still almost strictly an accountants tool. By the time the RPG community discovred it, we had all collectively (and pretty much at the insistence of Wizards of the Coast) moved on to 3rd edition+. Consequently, there are no good Excel character sheets out there for ADD2. I spent longer researching this than any other item below (except the car keys).

The correct tire size for a 2006 Chevy Equinox 2WD LT with 16″ rims is: P23565R16 – which is the size of the tires in the front. It was not the size of the tires in the back which were both smaller and (consequently) balder than the front.  Or they were. $230 later and all the tires match – two of which are new. Related: 20 minutes on the internet saved me $30. Not a bad return.

The keys for that Equinox are either:

  • Within 100 feet of N33d 35.478   W 110d 36.618 (the campsite where I lost my keys) OR
  • Somewhere within the Equinox that can only be reached by tools.

Leaving an extra set of keys with your loving spouse will save you several hundred dolllars. The tank of gas and dinner for the in-laws involved in having them delivered was, then, pennies on the dollar.

2006 Chevy Equinox is the most frequent search term that leads to this site. But let’s talk about writing.

I have already written a little primer on how to seek and query literary agents: Quick & Dirty guide to finding agents

Writer’s Market and/or WritersMarket.com is the industry standard for finding an outlet for non-fiction articles and/pr short fiction (and basically anything else that’s not a book. The physical book is more complete, but tends to get out of date by the end of the year. The website (which requires subscription) has gotten mixed reviews for functionality. I’m about to subscribe myself – I’ll let you know.

[The book I linked to includes a free sub to the website.]

Meanwhile, freelancewriting.com has a less exhaustive but free listing of writer’s guidelines for various publications

Nerd-pron: Attack Vector Tactical

William Gibson’s Neuromancer

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl

Looking for Thai-American magazine markets leads you to Writer’s Market or site in Thai.

If you can re-map you keyboard from Windows – I dunno how. (And I looked). So there’s I failed to learn. Sigh.

I’ve been traveling, which is always full of lessons, but that will wait for next post – which will be sooner than 9 days.

Now You Know

It finally happened…

A moment to breath, and the will to blog coincide.

Holidays, the aftermath of holidays, work, other blogs, marketing initiatives and fiction have pushed ahead of this project for the past few weeks. So it goes.

My wife may have a marketng client, and we are cobbling together a business/marketing plan/site to help him (and presumably other self-published authors) get a little more exposure. There aren’tenough for-sure details yet to expound,but if you want to follow the thought process online, the dummy-test site is here: Writing Made Visible

For my Thursday night folk – I don’t have any good notes, but I do have this:

Writing: You're doing it wrong.

I discovered how far you can drive in a 2006 Equinox between the time the low-gas light comes on, and the time you actually run it out of gas – and that’s about 60 miles. Happily, I ran out of gas less than a block from my house, but that never makes for a good morning.

There’s really no good place in an Equinox, or any SUV, to put a gas can that has just been emptied.

Don’t even look at TV Tropes, or its kissing cousin Speculative Fiction Tropes unless you have several of hours of your life that you won’t need back. (A contributor to lack of production on this blog and many others).

Speaking of wastes of perfectly good space/time:

From Tor.com – and exchange of lunatic letters concerning our friends the octopi.

Werewolves are literary orphans

Have a few seconds? Need a comic-book or pup novel premise? They Fight Crime

Having failed to learn from previous attempts, I am thinking of putting together yet another RPG gaming group. Input welcome. In person (probably at my house in Phoenix) – I’m over gaming via e-mail.

Now You Know

Easing Back with a bunch of links

I dunno why – sometimes its just not in me to blog. Not a lack of material; Ive had several informative adventures over the past week.  But when the time came – I just did other things. Don’t take this personally, dear reader, I ignored other blogs as well.

What follows now is arguably the pinnacle of American civilization. Enjoy:

From the on-line strip, and recommended reading,  Dresden Codak 42 3rd Act Twists.

Corey Doctorow is trying to reinvent publishing as we know it. Good luck with that – seriously. We note here that he is greatly aided by wide name recognition achieved by mostly traditional publishing.

A New Scientist opinion piece suggests that as technology approaches perfect digital recall, we may soon discover that be able to forget is as important as being able to remember.

If you haven’t been following the e-book evolutions as closely as I have, this Time magazine profile might catch you up a bit.

Once off the pavement, the muffler is the most vulnerable portion of an Equinox.

Statistically, mountain lions aren’t a real threat, even in the deep wilderness, but the 13 species of rattlesnake that live in Arizona are – at least to the foolish.

If you don’t update your blog, the only traffic comes from random search terms.

Now you know.

Back from vacation wiped out and wise

Did something right – built a day in the schedule for just recovering from the vacation. Wasn’t enough – but it helped forestall disaster.

We travelled 2643 milesover eight days on our way to Yellowstone and back. Five nights in the tent, two in hotels. Final tab around $1400. Absolutely worth it.

Once in Yellowstone:

  • Your lowest altitude is still over 6000 feet.
  • Everything is a long drive from everything else.
  • The Old Faithful geyser basin has Disney-scale crowds.
  • Even on a Monday morning, if you don’t have a campsite by noon, you aren’t getting one.We ended up, though, with a fine site in Grand Teton, which would have been ideal except..
  • There is always road construction. The construction  season and the tourism season coincide, and only last 3 months. This includes the length of the John D Rockefeller Roadway, a narrow band that connects Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Dug down to dirt, one lane most of the travel, half-hour delays.
  • Get an Annual Pass. We didn’t hit enough national parks for the thing to pay for itself in money, but it more than paid for itself in accumulated avoided hassle.

Driving the Equinox:

  • It has the turning radius of a freight train.
  • The wind whistles through the luggage rack, and I kept checking to see if all the windows were up.
  • The ride’s a bit bumpy (of course, my last car was a Buick).
  • Loaded up with 4 passengers and gear, I could still climb hills with 80% of the cars on the freeway.
  • I used the luggage rack for the tent and camp-chairs, but I could have crammed them inside the vehicle. Of course, I couldn’t have seen out the rear window if I had.

Of course we have pictures. They will be posted somewhere – soon.

This is probably not the last I’ll post on this subject.

Now You Know.

Pix from Tule Mesa

Ben and I went camping/backpacking near Tule Mesa, which is near Dugas Arizona. Much of those adventures can be found in my other blog:

Are We Lost Yet?

But the photos are here:

The Equinox Filter on FR 68G:

Beyond which a 2WD 06  Chevy Equinox will not go!

Beyond which a 2WD 06 Chevy Equinox will not go!

Typical scenery on Tule Mesa

Tule Mesa

The big juniper at Cavalier Point:

Cavalier Point

Ben looking out from Tule Mesa:

Ben on Tule MesaBelow is the Verde Valley from roughly Camp Verde to the bend past the hot springs.

Our Camp at Salt Flats:

Camp at Salt Flat

Ben felt that there was too much wind to bring his hammock, which I suspect translates into he couldn’t find his hammock. When backpacking, if one guy brings the two-man tent, you might as well both use it.

Ben at the Salt Flat TH

Ben at the Salt Flat TH

That’s his brand-new Jansport Scout backpack which he got for his birthday. This is just across the drainage from the campground.

Nelson Place ruins:

Nelson Place ruinsYou find these less than a mile down the Nelson Trail. The springs they were built around are the only ones reliably flowing in the Pine Mountain Wilderness.

Bongo plus Verde valleyOur little buddy on top of Pine Mountain, the “high point” of the wilderness area. The views along the length of the Verde Rim trail are like this.

Finally, the area is starting to recover from some fire damage:

Though shade is many years away

Though shade is many years away

Bongo at Dugas:

Bongo at Dugas II

Now You Know

A hundred miles a day for eight days

Between driving a stakebed out to a distant golf course and back for a show, cross-valley errands, and a camping trip to the Rim, I drove about a hundred miles a day for the past eight days, gaining some wisdom in the process.

First, the Equinox photo I promised:

2006 Chevy Equinox

That photo is near General Springs on the Mogollon Rim. If you can see them, the decorations drawn in the dust on the side of the car are courtesy of the children.

Eight busy days later, and I have learned a lot of things:

Three layers of mark-up will seriously impair the viability of a competitive bid.

Burn Notice is the secret re-boot of the A-Team.

Everyone in Little League is a volunteer, except the guys in the national office – who are paid – and this is reflected in the league dues.

My informal and random poll indicates that  0 out of 19 education professionals believe that No Child Left Behind (as implemented) is actually helping to educate children.

One guy calls the truck pack – and all the other logistical geniuses on the call need to live with that guy’s decisions, or you add an hour to load out.

If you have a crew loading out a show on a golf course, and you lock the only restroom, this will not prevent the crew from relieving themselves. It will only prevent them from relieving themselves in the toilet.

One simply cannot underestimate the importance of worklight when loading out in an open field in the middle of the night. Moonlight is not an acceptable substitute.

When launching model rockets, bring extra batteries and fuses.

The RXC went camping at Bear Canyon Lake, on the Mogollon Rim. Some notes about that site can be found on my other blog:

Are We Lost Yet?

Hammock at Bear Lake

When taking middle-graders camping, they all need chairs, or none of them need chairs. Musical chairs around the campfire is a recipe for discontent.

The kids get their own campfire.

The kids get their own campfire.

American adults car-camping will never run out of food. They always bring too much. This was, however, the first trip in a long time where we did not run out of booze. Perhaps we’re growing wiser.

Pie irons still rock! Especially now that we know how to use them.

New vocabulary: Bailing wire = “ranch tape”

I have established that the Equinox can bounce through the Buick Filter. Though I damn near found the Equinox filter (its still a 2WD) on our way to General Cabin Springs. We were scouting a multi-day bacpacking trip taking the General Crook Trail east from Clear Creek to its intersection with the AZT (near General Springs), then taking the AZT north to Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Having scouted that, I have concluded it wuld be far easier to start at Blue Ridge and head down to Clear Creek. But it would be even easier just to stay n the AZT and go down the Rim to Pine. I’m still noodling on these things.

But there is a marked section of the GCT that follows AZ 260 from around Camp Verde to the Rim. We found a blaze by following a randomly selected dirt road off the highway. I love the Equinox.

Camp Verde State Park s closed on Tuesdays.

Some links:

World Food Program trying to bring disaster relief over the objections of the Myanmar government. “The people of Myanmar do not eat biscuits…”

The Onion reporting on President Obama’s visit to Denny’s.

Now You Know

Equinox Equilibrium

So the car dealer called on Friday afternoon, said our original finacing deal fell through – but he got us a “better” deal – at a higher interest rate. My wife has to field this nonsense – because I’m at Saguaro Lake “working”.

Saturday afternoon, then, we go in ready to swap keys backfor our Buick (which still sits on the lot in front of God and everybody). This has all the markings of a Spot Delivery Scam – and I’m fairly hostile at the dealership. Not shouting obscenities hostile – but in no mood to just relax while someone finds the manager.

After I chase the first few lackeys away (one was actually shocked that I would be angry) we get the sales manager, and go a few rounds on the new contract. He keeps playing games, but the numbers keep going down until finally the amount at a higher amount is sufficiently less than the original purchase price that we actually save a couple grand from the priginal deal.

(I should point out that what actually separates my experience from the classic scam is that he was pretty motivated to close the sale. In the scam, the dealer threatens the customer with the key swap. It may be when I opened the conversation saying, “Our sale is apparently void – I want my Buick back…” that disarmed whatever scam they may have been hatching. But I’m going to be generous and say they underestimated how paranoid we have become of dealer financing.)

I told the guy that I knew for a fact my credit union nixed the original deal on Tuesday – and had he called us then, we’d have gotten to the same place faster, and with a lot less acrimony. If you wait until Friday – just as the banks close – that’s going to smell like a scam. Any guy who’s been doing this for 28 years should know that. He didn’t argue.

Mostly, I suspect, because we signed the papers, and took the keys to the equnox back off the desk.

There’s a theft deterent called VIN Etching, where the etch your Vehicle ID number into every window. It actually costs less than $100 if you have an outside shop do this for you. The dealership originally priced it at $800 dollars. “No wait…” I said several times, “It’s not $800. It’s $800 dollars at 9% interest over 75 months…” He eventually lowered it to $599, but was more willing to lower the price of the car than lower the Etching charge – so I suspect there’s some real, if evil incentive for the lot people to push this ridiculous charge.

If you get pre-approved financing from a credit union – don’t forget to ask what they expect as a down payment. That’s a crucial little fact to know.

Anyway, we now own the pretty blue 06 Equinox for real and certain (actually some credit union we had never heard of owns it) – for as far as it takes us through this life. I’ll post a picture if a functional camera and daylight coincide.) And I’m actually paying less for it than I agreed to a week ago, which is why I’m not naming the dealership – even though an $800 VIN Etch is a brazen rip-off.

One last thing: The Science News Cycle. Enjoy.

Now You Know.

Land of the Lost Car Dealers

We traded in the Buick for a 2006 Chevy Equinox. Partly to have a vehicle we can haul kids/dogs/bikes in w/o multiple trips, and partly to solev my Buick Filter issues on forest roads.

Here’s what we learned:

* All the young, high-pressure sales guys that used to prowl the lots are gone. Only the old, undermotivated guys who have been doing this forever are left to slowly show you cars.

* If you can find something between the car you really want (we looked at a 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe  with less than 10K miles) and the car you could easily afford (a 2006 Jeep Patriot with power-nothing. Nothing!) for which you can make the beans work out, take it.

* Subaru seats are too close to the floor – even for folks like my wife and I who have no legs.

* I defy you to find a working clock or timepiece visible in a car showroom.

* If you just accept going in that a dealer is going to screw you on your trade-in (because that’s where they really make their money), it takes a whole lot of stress out of the process.

* Walking in with a pre-approved load also takes a whole lot of stress out of the process. Because now, they’re not trying to inflate their margin thru mystery financing. Thge best they can hope for is to beat your pre-approved offer (which happened).

* It’s a whole lot easier doing this with a trade-in that still runs well, and middle-aged finances.

On an obliquely related note, SF Channel ahs been running a Land of the Lost marathon. I used to worship that show as a child – though I remember giving up on it mid-way through the third and final season because the writing was getting lazy. L of L hads a lot of weird fun ideas going on all at the same time, and if you got past the 70’s kid TV show pacing and the horrific SFX, there was some good Science Fiction underneath, and decent character development by Saturday morning standards.

The biggest difference you’d find now – past the SFX – is that a competent adult parent was a central character in the show. This hardly ever happens on kids’ TV.

Another difference was that Mom was dead – and they talked about every once in a while. My kids watch iCarly all the time, and after seeing every episode for three seasons, could not tell you what happened to her mother.

For all of that, four episodes in a row is my limit.

Now You Know.