Saturday, January 28, 2006

Privacy, Cars (Bought one), training

Privacy: Dd sends this--frightening only because it's not far from the truth already...

Cars: Thanks to everyone who sent suggestions and comments on cars and car shopping, some funny stuff for sure. In the end we went with the Matrix. Better fuel economy than the Subaru, cheaper to buy, own and operate in the short and long run. If this link works it’s pretty cool to check out ownership costs, basically my spreadsheet but smarter.

Suddenly I'm seeing these cars everywhere--met a friend while getting lunch today, she had one, another couple of friends emailed to say they have 'em, it's an epidemic of Matrix/Vibe owners. I also liked the people at Charlesglen Toyota--the Subaru salesman might have been able to get me fired up on a Subaru, but I disliked the feel of the dealership and Subaru's pricing tactics. I was half expecting to get worked at the closing of the Matrix deal ("Oh, we under-coated the car and did out standard 602-point inspection, that's an additional $1100, " I've had that happen in the past), but it was again straight up and friendly. The car actually ended up costing a hundred bucks less 'cause I forgot about the GST credit on the Saab. So, all in all a good experience, I'd recommend Charlesglen to anyone looking for a Toyota.

Quick Review: just drove the Matrix up to Shark Mountain (about 45 minutes of iced-up dirt each way) to go skate skiing, it did very well, much more solid on the snow and dirt than I expected despite the “all season” stock tires. The big thing with the Matrix is that each gear is about one gear "higher" than I'm used to with a truck. Fifth gear on the Matrix is basically only useful for driving along a flat highway. If you encounter a steep hill in 5th it's often better to shift straight to third to keep the RPMs up--if the RPMs aren't over about 3,300 the car has no torque. But keep the revs over about 3,600 and there's lots there. We've put 250K onto the car in the last 24 hours, and the gas gauge is still well above half, and that's with the engine still breaking in. I haven't really driven the engine yet as you're not supposed to hammer on it during the first 1000K, but it sure does feel solid and smooth so far. I haven’t driven a high-revving four-cylinder in a few years so it’s going to take some time to get used to, but I like working with the engine, it’s a much more “connected” feeling than just relying on a V6 to pull.

The braking is very good and balanced—one problem I’ve had lately with cars is that the front wheels seem to loose traction well before the rear wheels, that’s disconcerting on snowy roads. The Matrix braking feels well-balanced.

Buying a smaller, more fuel-efficient car makes a lot of sense, especially with gas prices over $3/gallon (85 cents per liter). Ninety nine percent of the time I'm just driving to Calgary or to go climbing on the Parkway or somewhere, there's no point in spending twice the money on gas (and polluting the planet) by driving my truck. That's probably not a popular view here in oil-mad Alberta, but I've spent enough time in Europe where people just make smaller cars work. We had enough $ to basically buy whatever car or truck we wanted to without it breaking the bank, buying a smaller car is a choice. Yeah, we could have gone hybrid, but hybrids cost a lot more at this point and I live in Alberta where not using some gas is a provincial crime punishable by exile to Toronto... Diesel was another option, but diesel can be nasty on the environment. When bio-diesel becomes more plentiful that will be a good choice, I expect my next vehicle will be a diesel (the town of Canmore runs all their trucks on a bio diesel mix already), especially if it's a truck. Europeans can never get their heads around the fact that our trucks and SUVs run on gas, it just makes no sense. We had a diesel motorhome last year in Europe, it got better fuel economy than my smaller gas trucks ever did. There's probably a conspiracy theory about US manufacturers and diesel engines in there somewhere.


Friday: Good skate ski session at Shark (well, only 50 minutes, but slow going with the new snow and Sara Renner I’m not), nothing beats skate skiing for aerobic death, all four limbs going at once up a hill, boom, one aerobic death unit served up. Then quick yoga and a good session at the Vsion. Really hard mixed climbing is likely over for me this season, I want to develop some better cardio and focus more on a longer new routes. I still want to be able to climb hard mixed, just not bleeding edge. Fell off while doing my usual drytool circuit and landed flat on my back on the padded carpet, like a pancake, splat. It hurt and my ice tool ripped up my elbow a bit. Finished the lap once I could breathe again. Almost didn’t go and train because I didn’t want to push it after the Ouray crud, but I think I’m back up to speed, feel great this morning finally.

Thursday: yoga and an easy 30-minute run. I don't want to push too hard with the remnants of the Ouray crud in my system.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

New Route in Italy, Canadians in Mex, Oil in Iran

Canadians in Mexico

Are kicking ass en masse at the paragliding comp down in Valley, very cool. Nicole Mclearn is providing updates here.

Big New Mixed New Route in Italy

Albert Leichtfriend just emailed me a description of a wicked new 5-pitch mixed route he did in Italy's Dolomites, crazy ice and mixed from M8-M11+ ("real" grades, not trickery grades, he did it bareback as usual). He's having a great year, I'll see if he's OK with posting

Hard New Route in Austria
Marcus Bindler is really, really strong... I bet this is hard.

Iran and Oil

Here's an interesting perspective (thanks to Stoltz for sending it) on Iran, or rather why the US is really all wound up about Iran (it's not nukes..). Yep, it's all about oil. I've read this theory a lot over the last five years, the summary is that oil is traded in dollars, and this provides a huge free line of credit to the US. If oil were traded in something other thna $, like the Euro, that line of credit would come due in a nasty way.


Decided to go with the Toyota Matrix, it's time to get a good little Japanese econo box and stop spending so much money driving around in circles... Thanks to everyone who sent notes and such, fun readin.g


FINALLY back in the game after a full week of death-by-cold suffering. Went for a good walk up the hill behind the house, then got it on at the climbing gym late in the evening. Bouldered for a while with actual shoes and chalk, it's clear that mixed climbing does nothing for finger power... Then did laps in the drytool cave (well, only three, but that's a start) followed by a brief power session. I don't want to get sick again so I didn't push hard, but for the first time in a week I did not get weaker yesterday. From what I can figure training is kind of like alcoholism--one day at a time, get back on the horse if you can't stay there for some reason. OK, shite analogy, grin.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm back! Plus Euro News etc.

OK, the fish bowl is off my head and the fish out of my lungs. Amazing how hard a disease can take you down, I've been totally worthless of late due to some heinous "ice lung" disease contracted on the Ouray trip.


Albert Leichtfried sends an article in German on the spur thing. I don't read German well enough, but in case anyone does the article is here.

The Val D'Aone Ice World Cup is done, check their site out for results, video, good writing, photos etc. The site the best sports event web site I've seen in long time, something to emulate in the future. I really enjoy looking at stuff like this when it's done well. Too many sites are high-tech Flash disasters that load slowly and have lousy navigation. The D'Aone site isn't perfect, but they didn't spend the bank yet produced something cool.


We currently have three vehicles in the driveway: An aging and near-dead Saab, a 4Runner I got on a great deal, and an old Aerostar van. None of them gets very good gas mileage, and with the exception of the 4Runner require more repair bills than I want. Yesterday I was full of snot, surly and running an attention span that makes George Bush look quick. I figured I was in perfect condition to go car shopping...

After spending dozens of hours on the web I'd narrowed possible replacements down to three cars: Toyota Matrix, Subaru Impreza and Volkswagen Golf. Here's a spreadsheet I did with all the variables, I'm a geek sometimes, but it helps me think. Kim and I headed into Calgary and got at it. We started with Charlesglen Toyota, which was hopping, but we got some good service right away from Ellery. No bullshit, just information and a test drive. No, "What do you want to pay a month" and other junk lines, just "Here's what it costs, here's what it does, how can I help?" The Matrix seems like a good car, 48MPG (all MPG Canadian--I hate this L/100K junk, it's totally counter-intuitive to me). It's got a surprising amount of room in the back and just seems like a well-designed car. We want good gas economy in one of our cars, even if it only got 40MPG it would be a lot better than any other car in the fleet, like twice as good (I drive fast, no way am I going to get the "stated" gas mileage." Ellery got us a fast, fair evaluation on the Saab, no BS again, no issues.

We walked out of the Toyota dealership pleased with our time, although I about fell asleep on the drive over to the Subaru dealership...

At the Subaru of Calgary dealership we got some "help" from a guy named "Joe." Now Joe is a "nice" guy, but he was a classic car salesman with all kinds of little bullshit tricks. "Are you in a positin to buy today? Because I can work my manager if you are." Yeah, right, Joe, tell me the damn price please. Or I'll cough in your face... None of the stickers were on the cars, so you can't get a real idea of MSRP, just what the guy says. Subaru's website sucks compares to Toyota's--Toyota gives you the total cost with all charges, GST, etc. factored in. Subaru's doesn't. I think they deliberately want to keep that information away from the consumer. The show room mirrored the web site--I wanted a number, Joe wanted a monthly payment number, eventually we got into a test drive.

The Impreza wagon kicks ass on the Toyota Matrix as far as being fun to drive, and it has 4WD. It also costs about $4,000 more, and gets about 30 percent worse gas economy. You can just tell that the Subaru was built to really drive, the Matrix is OK but it's basically a Corollla wagon. Matrix=super reliable, super solid, vanilla. Impreza=fun driving. The Impreza has about 40 more horses and is just locked down on the road, it felt like a fresh version of my all-time fav car, an Audi 4000Q I had way back in the day. Unfortunately Kim didn't like the seats, and we are looking for something to go to the airport in Calgary and over to Golden in, the Matrix is good on that. Same basic cargo space. I wanted Subaru to also evaluate my trade, Joe wanted us to "select a color" before he would even do that, eventually got it done... Then the "worksheet" came out. I hate worksheets, it's a ploy by the dealer to work payments and such, when all that really matters to me is, "How much does the car cost, how much will you give me for my POS Saab?" I finally got that clear to Joe, and the "worksheet" did reveal how hard the dealership was stacking MSRP with additional charges, thanks Joe... Car dealers often want to overwhelm you with bullshit until you feel like you're getting what you want, but I know what I want so stop with the BS already. I got trained for negotiation in Morocco, that trip has saved me many thousands of dollars since I took it 15 years ago--car dealers are flat-out amateurs compared to the Moroccans. Seriously--emotional blackmail just will not work on me anymore, nor will financial junk shows ("I'm doing everything I can here to make this work for you, help me out a bit." Bullshit, your average Moroccan has way more advanced tactics...).

Next door to the Subaru of Calgary dealership was Fifth Avenue VW, in we went. We promptly took the Golf apart (cargo cover off, headrests off, etc) in the showroom, and a guy named Byron came over and asked if we needed help. Yep, in a minute, thanks. He retreated but pointed out his office. Perfect. Eventually we needed help and Byron did a good job, no sales BS, just info, here's the sticker price, here's what we have. That is good service. He just gave us the Golf to test drive instead of riding with us, again a nice difference compared to the Subaru lot, and Bryon was pleasant and informative upon our return. I've rented Golfs a lot in Europe, they are good basic cars but feel softer in Canada, and I'm suspect of VW's reliability and re-sale. But the dealership experience was very good.

Kim wanted to test drive the Matrix again, so back to Ellery and Toyota. This time I drove the Matrix hard, but Ellery had no issues--he races bikes, so sliding the Matrix a bit on gravel didn't faze him too much, although Kim got car sick on the second test drive. The Matrix is a pretty fun little car--it's a well thought-out, simple and economical rig. Not as much fun as the Subaru, but cheaper to buy and cheaper to own for sure. Then my cold really fired up and the day was done, I almost fell asleep on the way home...

All three of these cars are good cars, and with the exception of the VW depreciate very slowly, making buying used ones a bad deal until they have 100+K on them. I also want to get rid of this Saab and can't sell it to an individual with a straight face unless they're a Saab freak or something, so new is the way to go for now. So what are we going to buy? Kim is all for the Matrix, I guess I am too, but the Subaru is a lot more fun and much better in the winter than the Matrix. Overall I'd say the odds are good for the Matrix, I can always buy an old Audi and trick it out again or something, we need a "commuter" style rig and the Matrix is definitely good for that. And it's time to reduce the fleet in the driveway, the 4runner is for sale (and likely already sold), we'll keep the van as it's great for "cargo," and be back to a two-car driveway.

Back to "real" work.


Coming soon! One week with nothing, biggest break from training years, but I just did not feel up to it.