Thursday, November 30, 2006

Fun With Stickshift

One of the criteria that I searched for on my new car was manual transmission. Problem: I'd never had a car with a manual transmission before. Sure, I'd learned how to drive stick a few years ago, on two separate occasions, with a friend and his rental cars when he came to visit. I was functional, albeit imperfect. But that was a long time ago, and each car is different.

You might ask, "Why did you get a manual shift ? Why not automatic ?" Truth be told, I could have easily bought an automatic. There are tons of them out there, and many were available a few months ago when I started searching. But I just couldn't buy a sporty convertible like this without a stickshift. It just seemed wrong.

Unlike some people who simply want to get from A to B, I want to actually feel the car. I want to experience the drive. I want to be connected to the car and to the road. You just can't do that in an automatic. And admittedly, the thought of dropping it down a gear and taking off like a bat out of hell on a freeway merge ramp invigorates me.

I want to feel the exhiliration of reaching freeway speeds in a few seconds flat. I want to experience the wind blowing through my hair as I cruise along the way. I want to feel the drive - not just reach the destination.

Automatic just would not do. I had no choice but to find a vehicle with manual shift.

So on Sunday, Danny took me out to the big tech-company parking lot near my house, and we practiced with my new car. For two hours, we drove back and forth, stopping and starting, driving and shifting, till I felt I had the hang of it.

And yesterday, in a moment of extreme bravery, I decided to drive it to work. I knew I wouldn't be perfect. I knew I'd have trouble. But the only way to improve is to get better, right ?

That morning, I drove the 11-mile, surface-street-only trip to work. At lunch, I picked up my friend, went to the Pho place, dropped him off, and went back to work. I also drove to softball (in traffic), and then home.

Stall count: 5
Honked at count: 1

Feeling of merging onto the freeway at high speeds with ease, as the seat warmer toasted my frozen butt: Priceless.

It can only get better with time.

I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dream Come True

For the last several months, I've been thinking of buying a car, to replace my Cavalier. There is nothing wrong with Roo at all. She has 113,000 miles on it, 100,000 of those traveled by me. But I've always driven compact cars, and lately I've been wanting to upgrade, for the simple reason that I've earned it; through hard work, saving and smart investing. It was time.

My first thoughts were of a two-seater roadster, like the new-style MX-5 Miatas. They are hot, hot, hot. I also was looking at BMW Z3s or Z4s. But the blocking issue was simple: these cars were not practical for my needs. I like to drive people around, and I need a trunk that can hold my softball bag, medical gear, CERT rescue gear and gym bag, and still have room for groceries. None of these cars could do that.

Then my thoughts turned to the one thing I've always wanted: a BMW convertible 4-seater sedan. And upon research, I found that the 2002s and 2003s were well within my budget. I started a search, first on eBay, then on And two weeks ago, I found the perfect match in Sacramento: a 2003 330ci convertible, in my favorite midnight blue color. Danny and I set off on Saturday to go take a look.

When we stepped into the dealership's showroom, we were greeted by a dark blue BMW, sitting right at the entrance. "Wow," I said to myself, "that's SO hot. I hope it's the one we came to look at."

It was. And it was perfect.

The color was gorgeous, exactly what I'd imagined my dream car to be. The inside was immaculately clean and well-kept. All the functions, except for two minor ones, worked. The car had everything: fully-automatic convertible top, seat warmers, and a trunk that could fit all of my gear. And it had power. Pure, raw power, something none of my previous cars have ever had.

It was a dream come true.

I hadn't planned on buying the car that day. I was half-expecting there to be something seriously wrong with it. No way could a mint, one-owner, lease-return car be so good for the low advertised price. But nothing was wrong. Everything was perfect.

I wrote the check, and we took it home that same day.

This is going to be awesome.

Friday, November 24, 2006


There has been considerable buzz about the newly-released movie Borat, a film depicting a supposed news reporter from Kazakhstan touring the US. The trailer looked mildly entertaining, and although I am not a fan of stupid-funny movies, I admit that I really wanted to see what the fuss was about. As such, we went to the matinee on this day after Thanksgiving.

Big mistake.

It was horrible. I was looking at my watch begging for it to end after a mere half hour. Even Danny, who typically loves the silly-funny comedy genre, was rolling his eyes throughout the entire agonizing show. It was easily the worst movie either of us had seen in years.

And no, I really didn't need to see two hairy, naked men, one well over 300 pounds, wrestling on a bed with their private parts mashed against each other's faces. Really.

Don't believe the hype. This movie was NOT worth it. Stay home. Hopefully it will go away very soon.

In related news, two of the frat boys depicted in the movie are suing the production company for mental, emotional and physical distress. They claim that they lost good standing and reputation in their community, because their drunk arses are all over every theater screen in America, making unscripted and unprompted derogatory comments about women and minorities.

Cry me a river.

If they can do that, then perhaps I can sue for mental and emotional anguish over seeing a naked 300-pound man's scrotum pressed into another man's nose. It's worth a shot, right ?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Mocha's Latest Trick

Unplugging and dismantling the carbon monoxide detector.

I swear this cat is just like a 2-year-old. :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Torture Therapy

Ever since I turned 30, and ramped up my activity levels, I have been perpetually in transition from one injury to another. First was the shin injury from a 2-hour karate class and running a 7.5 mile Bay to Breakers race in the space of 24 hours. Then it was my hamstring pull, that has taken several months to heal. And now, in the last few weeks, my left shoulder has been giving me trouble. I have no idea what caused this; perhaps it was all the joint locks that we have been doing in karate. Either way, I have yet another ache and pain to add to my arsenal.

To supplement my now-regular physical therapy and chiropractic treatment, I decided yesterday to go to a professional massage therapist. My chiropractor told me I needed to work on the muscles, and I figured this would help. Boy, was I in for a treat.

Most people think of massage therapy as low lights, beautiful music, and a nice, relaxing experience with a professional that knows exactly where every muscle and every knot is. It is perceived as a calming, soothing event that leaves one feeling totally at peace.

But for me ? Not a chance.

The therapist I chose is very well-versed in treating sports injuries, and as such, attacked every muscle in my aching shoulder with purpose and vigor. There was nothing relaxing about it. He kneaded, pushed and dug on every single teensy muscle I never knew I had, forcing each one to stretch out and mobilize. The soothing music in the background was constantly punctuated by my exclamations of "Ouch ! Aaaahh ! D*mnit !". It was the longest hour of my life.

But at least now I can lift my arm over my head without pain.

We'll see how it holds up after tonight's softball game.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Power to the People

I must be honest when I say that I am supremely relieved that this election is over. Every day for the last two months, I have been inundated with TV commercials purporting and denouncing various measures, and politicians staging sparring wars - on every channel, every single day, when all I wanted to do was watch the news. I suppose I am lucky that I never received any of the prerecorded political phone calls that others have - presumably because I am not yet eligible to vote. Either way, this day could not have come sooner.

In the months preceding this election, gas prices took a conspicuous tumble. SUV-lovers had previously been whining and complaining to anyone who would listen about the effect that the prices were having on their bottom line, and yet, conveniently, the price at the pump steadily declined before voting day.

And now, one day after the election, they have started to rise again.

Wow. Do the government conspirators, and their oil company bed-buddies, really believe we are that stupid ? You would think they would keep prices low for a little longer, just to quell any suspicions about a deliberate manipulation in prices. But, they didn't. The very second the last vote was in, up went the prices.

They really don't have much confidence in our intelligence, do they ?

And if you think I believe that the handing down of Saddam Hussein's death sentence two days before the election was a coincidence as well, you're smoking something. I'm not one of the millions who still believe that Elvis is alive, thank you very much. I smell a rat. A big, stinky one at that.

The only consolation from this whole fiasco is that the Democrats won control of both houses of Congress. The People have spoken. They're pissed off. They need a new strategy and a new direction. Hopefully, now, they will have it.

In two years, W's term will be up.

In two years, I'll likely have my citizenship, and will be able to cast my own vote.

That day could not come soon enough.
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