On the road again

May 31st, 2006, 5:09 am PST by Greg

I’m back on the road in two senses…

First, we finally have a car: a 1994 Corolla that we found on Craigslist. Is it pretty? No. Is it rusty? Yes. Will it run for two years, given some minimal maintainance? I certainly hope so. We’re meeting the sellers to sign the paperwork momenarily.

Second, I’m on my way back to Vancouver tomorrow. First priority is handling the move to our new place—the movers are booked for the 5th, and I’m packing stuff up myself. That will probably suck, but at least it’s a well-defined amount of suckage, unlike buying a car or finding an apartment, either of which could have gone on indefinitely.

The timing of it all means I’ll be able to go to the SFU Open House on Saturday. I thought I was going to have to miss it, but it looks like I can go. Bonus: since I didn’t think I was going to be there, I’m not committed to actually do anything.

Then, a week or two to unpack and get a little work done, some meetings on the 15th and 16th, and back to NC.

I hate squirrels

May 30th, 2006, 11:05 am PST by Kat

I’m beginning to hate squirrels. There are now 4 feeders up to attact HOFIs. There would have been 5, but the bottom of the only one that was up during the weekend “fell out” sometime between noon yesterday (when the tech saw it) and 9 am today.I’m not really sure how it came out as it was wedged in pretty good. Tried to find it in the pile of dead leaves and new growth (and possibly poison ivy, but only kicked around with my shoe) at the base of the tree. The bottom is gone. Probably carried away by one of the squirrels as a “take-out box” full of yummy seeds. Interestingly, there were no seeds on the ground (although the feeder was getting a little low anyways). So I now have to drink a liter of water in order to cut the bottom off of a water bottle to use as a base. All of the other bottoms are now zip-tied on. Damn squirrels.
Upon checking my potter traps today I came across a squirrel happily munching on seeds. Dammit! Those weren’t for you! Anyways, I’ve since taken the seed out of those traps (no need to waste seed feeding a fat squirrel). May put the seed back once I get more birds into the aviary that may attract more birds in. Not really sure yet.
Am now reading the most boring book ever – “Practical Liquid Chromatography”. I think I actually dozed off for a few seconds. Luckily I didn’t drool! I sure hope the technique is alot more exciting than reading about it is.

p.s. We have a lead on another car. It’s currently at the mechanic’s getting inspected. Trying not to get hopes up though – just in case. Greg said any mention of the car had to be in “p.s.” form so as to not jinx it.

Retail therapy

May 28th, 2006, 6:35 am PST by Kat

After the last two days of car shopping hell we’ve decided to enter into a whole new kind of hell. For some strange reason Greg suggested that we go to the Walmart Supercenter today. Greg! The guy who whenever I say “we have to go to Walmart” in Vancouver tries to run away and hide and then is a grump the entire time we’re in there.

I think he wants to get the true Walmart Supercenter experience. It is, after all, the Sunday of Memorial Day long weekend. I personally think he’s biting off a bit more than he can chew, but we’ll see. $5 says that by the middle of the store he’s curled into the fetal position.

Then I think we’re going to see X-men. Good day for me. We’ll see how Greg does…

I blogged too soon…

May 27th, 2006, 3:48 pm PST by Kat

I’m NOT the owner of a 1996 Corolla. I am the owner of nothing. The car didn’t pass the state inspection (I guess Greg’s dad was right). Although, I’m a little fuzzy on how it got a good inspection for the mechanic we took it to. We saw the list that the state inspection goes through and it didn’t seem all that complicated, and I thought it covered all of those. Anyways, in the end, we went to Raleigh again and didn’t come back with a car of our own.
Bah! Have $$! Why won’t somebody let us buy their decent yet somewhat cheap car?!?!?!

We ended up going to the local Toyota dealership to look at their used cars, but they were all over $10,000, which is too much for a “car I only want for when I’m in NC.” The sales guy also mentioned that for only $3000-4000 more we could get a new Corolla. But I don’t want a new car!!! I’m planning on transporting birds in this car. Not good for new upholstry. I think Greg’s sold on trying to get a newer used car for around $8000-10000, but I’m not totally convinced yet. We’ll see.
We did go to the state farmer’s market. It’s a permanent fixture with dedicated buildings open every day but Sunday. Took some pictures.

Tired now. I give up. This place is too difficult!

Sam Auto Sales, Raleigh, NC

May 27th, 2006, 3:43 pm PST by Greg

The car that Kat wrote about yesterday didn’t happen. (For the record, it was from Sam Auto Sales, 1634 Capital Blvd, Raleigh, NC.)

When we agreed to buy it yesterday, they needed to change the tires, and get a state inspection done on the car. The tires because they said they would; the inspection because they are legally required to.

We returned a few hours later to do the paperwork and pay. No problem. When we had signed everything and paid, we went out to the car. “Oh,” the guy says, “we couldn’t get the inspection done this afternoon. You could take it now and come back, but you might have problems with the expired inspection sticker.” I refused to take it, pointing out that it would be illegal for me to do so. (I think it was illegal for them to transfer the ownership without the inspection done, possibly even illegal for me to test-drive it.)

They phoned back this morning… The car didn’t pass the inspection.

At this point, they didn’t want to sell the car because “it might look bad on them.” My interpretation was “we did something bad and want to back out now, before you tell anybody.” To give you an idea of how badly screwed they seemed to be: they didn’t even try to sell me another car after refunding my money; they were just happy to give my money back and get me out the door. Just as well. I wouldn’t have bought gum out of their vending mahcine at that point.

I’m still fuzzy on why it didn’t pass—the guy’s English wasn’t great and he didn’t have any motivation to be really forthcoming just then. Our mechanic’s inspection was okay (not stellar, but not bad for a car of that age). Oh well, it probably got us out of a lemon.

Watch out NC, I’m on the road!

May 27th, 2006, 6:44 am PST by Kat

I have finally become an adult. I own my own car! I know Greg and I have a car back in Vancouver, but I’ve always thought of that car as Greg’s. Mostly because he bought it and he drives it. But this time, “we” bought the car for me! When I say “we” I mean Greg because I haven’t actually received a pay check yet (I get paid at the end of the month).

Car shopping was an experience. We drove to Raleigh where Greg had already checked out some used car dealers. We went to the one that had 3 Corollas on the lot. 1 was a stick-shift, which Greg didn’t notice the first time, the second one the sales guy said had been in a recent accident, and the third we test drove and took to an independent mechanic for a used car inspection. It’s a 1996 Corolla that is the same color as the Corolla in Vancouver. The inspection came back fairly good, so we went in search of somewhere with an internet connection to get a “carfax” report on the car. Finally found a Radioshack where Greg talked the salesguy into letting him use the computers there to get our carfax report.

The next thing we know, the report says: WARNING! or ALERT! or something equally as ominous. The car has been “rebuilt”. Crap! So we have no clue what this really means. So, we drive back to the mechanic and talk to the woman who said that the engine and all of that stuff was okay and looked like the original. So, they thought it may have just been the body work. Hmmm… what exactly does this mean!!!

So we did the only thing we could think of. We called Greg’s dad. He said he would touch it. But, we thought… the mechanics were amazed that it had been rebuilt and seemed quite sure that the car was fine with only a small amount of maintenance work. Crap!

Then we did the next thing we could think of. We called Oli. I think knowing that Oli changed his own brake pads made me feel a bit better if he said it was probably okay. Plus, we pretty much knew we wanted to just bite the bullet and get the car, so we were looking for someone to confirm what we felt. Since this car only has to last at most 3 years, we figured it would be fine.

Back the the dealer. We talked them down the price of the maintenance repairs. We probably could have gotten $100-200 more, but meh. At this point both of us were exhausted.

We have to go back to Raleigh and pick up the car today because by the time we bought it and the dealer changed the tires (it needed new tires), the state inspection places were closed. Dealers in this state can’t sell a car without it passing the state inspection, so it’s being brought to the inspection place this morning, and then we pick it up.

Next obstacle – me driving it back to Chapel Hill from Raleigh. Call everyone you know in the Chapel Hill-Raleigh area and tell them not to be on the street this afternoon! Too stressful!

Update (Greg, 05/27): Not! More to come.

Old Blinky here will find a way.

May 26th, 2006, 7:05 pm PST by Greg

As many of you know, Kat doesn’t drive much. It’s a positive feedback thing: she drives less, get less accustomed to driving, navigating, etc, and then wants to drive even less. She’s going to have to drive, at least occasionally in NC, so something had to be done.

One of the problems can be solved with technology: navigation. We just got a Garmin StreetPilot c340 GPS navigation thing. I have to say, it’s pretty cool. Basically, you suction-cup it to the lower-center windshield, plug it into the cligarette lighter, and off you go.

So, you’re driving around and it says things like “In point-two miles, turn left onto Main St.” Very handy. it has been named “Blinky” after a damn fine Simpson’s episode. “Old Blinky here will find a way.”

It also has a big list of built in destinations: stores, attractions, etc. We realized it had already become very integrated into our lives today (day one of ownership). We knew we were somewhere in Raleigh, and were about to get to a Starbucks. We had no idea where we were, and would have been hard-pressed to find our way out, but there was the Starbucks.

Advice: Don’t get a built-in GPS in a car. The one we bought is easily small enough to pack if we’re going somewhere and getting a rental car (say, Oli and Tina’s wedding). I also read a review site somewhere that the built-in ones tend to have less features for more money.

HOFIs everywhere, and finally a feeder

May 25th, 2006, 7:59 pm PST by Kat

Everywhere I look I now see House Finches (HOFIs). And today, I finally did it. I put up my first feeder in a wooded area. I’m a field biologist! Actually, I carried the feeder out and had the lab’s tech, Adam, put up the feeder. Ah, I love being a post-doc (being short doesn’t hurt as I couldn’t actually reach the branch that the feeder is on!).Hopefully it’s still there tomorrow morning.

I want to go home!!!

May 24th, 2006, 5:24 am PST by Kat

I’m extremely jealous of Greg getting to go home. I’m actually extremely jealous that Greg gets to pack up our place (you all should know about my love of putting things into boxes and containers by now!). I’m sure Greg isn’t thrilled about packing, though. Kinda funny how that works out. Too bad I can’t somehow catch birds here and still go home in June. For anyone that ends up helping Greg pack, make sure he doesn’t toss any of my stuff!!!! If the banister rails were still there, then yes, he could have tossed those, but luckily I got rid of those already! Now I’m down to the stuff I really want, so nothing goes!

I’m on the road to start catching birds. Tonight I’m going to try to find natural colored rope (as opposed to the fluorescent blue stuff we have now). Then tomorrow I’m going to come in early, set my traps, and cross my fingers! Anyone know if a squirrel can fit into a Potter trap? That’s my one fear now – squirrels getting into my trap and eating my birds. However, Dana said that the only squirrel that got in to one of their traps came in through the top. So, I have to make sure that’s totally secure. I think their heads are too big to fit into the funnel parts. I think!

We’re also attempting to buy a car. It’s just another process that is slowly driving Greg insane. All of the cars are either bought by the time we call (which is usually on the same day the ads were posted) or bought before we’ve had time to see the car. So, Greg is slowly developing an anurism while I’m worrying that I’ll be left here alone and stranded without a vehicle. I guess I still have my bike, but I’ve got a couple of late nights in the next couple of weeks (HPLC optimization) so I’d rather drive home than try to bike home if it’s starting to get dark. So, cross you fingers and do a little car dance for us!

Can nothing be easy?

May 23rd, 2006, 7:14 pm PST by Greg

Many thanks to Kelly and Paul for working out the final details of our new place. I was right: she didn’t really know that I wasn’t in Vancouver. After some explaining, they managed to convince her that I was alright and she took my deposit.

My old landlord had an in with movers and offered to get me a good quote. He emailed today: $2600 for moving and packing, $1300 for moving only.

Considering we paid $400 when we moved into that place, I don’t really think $1300 for the move only counts as a “good” quote. I’m pretty sure I could pay anybody I know $1000 to pack everything I own into boxes, and the same company $400 to move it four blocks. Look, I just cut the price in half.

Seriously, what would the packing be? Maybe two days work (alone) if you had all the boxes and stuff?

I have asked for a couple of other quotes online. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll end up packing everything myself. [shakes fist again]

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