Car update: I’m getting better at the manual seeing as I haven’t stalled yet today (a first!). I’ve had some compliments including about the exhaust note. I’m happy. I’m really started to get used to the upgraded audio. The bass response is pretty cool and there is a fairly slick steering column (not steering wheel) based audio controller. I will probably take a picture of it when I do a full photoshoot later. Basically, it is stalk sticking out from the lower left area of the steering column. It has a two-way switch for station seeking (while in radio mode) and track seeking (for CD mode), two buttons for volume control and a single button for mode which will switch between presets for radio mode and will switch CDs for CD mode. I’m getting used to using it.

Yesterday was my one year anniversary at Microsoft! Following standard procedure, I brought in a pound of M&Ms. Against standard procedure, I actually brought in a pound of M&Ms in three different flavors (plain, peanut and crispy (which is crispy in the sense of Nestle Crunch bars: crisped rice)). It feels fairly odd that I’ve already been here for a year. I’ve done so much, but it also seems like I could have accomplished more. I shouldn’t really complain, there are others that started around the same time I did that haven’t done much at all.

There are actually a few people that have started recently (one started two years ago and two others started a year ago) that are leaving the company. One is getting married, another is going to school and another is starting a company. It should be publicly known, but Microsoft is reducing their benefits. It just looks like there isn’t enough to keep people around anymore.

Oh man, this game is almost as addictive as penguin baseball. You try to toss paper into a waste basket, simple enough.

Jeff took a look at my comparison post and asked about the units for the slalom course. I knew it was MPH but Jeff reasoned that time through the course might be a better value to track. I figured that average speed was used because different cars will have different acceleration rates, times through the course, speeds and more. Just using time might be a better indication of cornering ability and power, not just cornering ability. Anyway, I found this in one of my Motor Trend articles:

Just drive around the cones as fast as your can, right? Yes-and no. Try cracking off six perfect, consecutive, emergency lane-changes at freeway speeds (some well above) with a margin of error at less than one inch. Sure, this sound challenging until one realizes each cone arrives at less than a one second interval-the whole thing takes less than six seconds in these vehicles. This is one test that best reveals a car’s evil side. A propensity to push, get loose, or even spin is ever more apparent while all four ties are howling at, in some cases, 80 MPH. That’s right, the speeds listed above are timed averages between the entry and exit markers along the 600-foot course-not how fast the car is actually traveling along its curvy line, which is, in fact, much faster.

As you can tell from my last post, I have a new car! Well, almost new. Let me tell the story.

About this time last year, I was car shopping. I had almost signed on an Evo when better judgment told me to go with something cheaper to start. Also, 271 HP is a bit much for someone that had never driven a manual before. I decided to use my grandfathers Ford discount and just pick up a Focus. It had decent looks and handling and the interior was fairly accomodating. I have yet to find nicer seats (not even in the SVT). While I was trying to pick out the Focus I wanted, the sales person I was working with kept mentioning the SVT. When we finally went out to the dealer lot to grab an automatic ZX3 for a test drive, we had to pass over at least five SVTs to find a single ZX3. Obviously the cars were not selling well.

I bought the Camaro about two months ago and I’ve only put about 200 miles on it. I wasn’t getting any better at the manual, so I just stopped trying. I’m always looking at car forums when the SVT was mentioned. I cannot remember the context but someone was praising it on a Subaru forum. A car has to be at least moderately respectable for someone entrenched in another manufacturer’s camp to praise it. Just on a whim, I decided to look up new/used SVTs in the area. The only one I could find was a 2004 model with about 940 miles on it. I figured that had to be a typo for 9,400 so I figured I’d email the dealer. Nope, not a typo. An older gentleman traded in a SVT Lightning for an SVT Focus and then decided it seemed too young for him. He returned it 3 weeks later.

They gave me an overnight test drive and I decided this is what my car should have been all along. Tighter (but not punishing) suspension, better brakes, better looks, better acceleration and an amazing transmission. Going to this car from the Camaro is very eye-opening. The Getrag trans is just a thing of beauty. I think the only better transmission out there for under $35k is in the S2000. The dealership first put the car on the market at $19,995 (or just about what the car cost new) and that didn’t fly. The salesperson also offered me only $7,500 for the ZX3 and an interest rate of 7.49%. Given those numbers, my monthly payment would have been $677.17! The price of the car was talked down to $17,500 then $16,900 and finally $16,500. The trade in on the ZX3 was brought up to $7,750 then $8,000 then $8,500. The APR was brought down to 6.49%. After the trade-in, loan payoff (of the ZX3), license, document fees (yeah WTF), taxes and $1,000 down, I had to finance $17,238.75. With an APR of 6.49%, my monthly payment will only be $528.27.

The more I drive this car, the more I love it. I am not quite used to the 6-speed but I’ve had multiple people tell me I’m much smoother in the SVT than in the Camaro. That is just a put-down in disguise but I’ll take it anyway!

As a kid, I absolutely hated a warm pillow. I would have difficulty falling asleep because by the time I had rested enough to almost fall asleep, the heat of my pillow would annoy me and wake me up. I would either flip the pillow or sleep on the other end. In other words, the average pillow had four sectors. By the time I was done with all four, the original sector had probably cooled down to normal and I could switch to it. I remember being awake for at least an extra hour some nights because of this.

I no longer have this problem, otherwise I would run out and buy the Chillow! A small, flat but otherwise pillow-shaped insert, the Chillow acts as a heatsink and radiator. It makes one side cold and one side a bit warm. The warmth is absorbed by the pillow proper and dissipated leaving the surface nice and chilly. Hell, I might buy one anyway!

Woohoo, three more GMail invites! I think I might want to try gmailswap soon as the invites seem to be increasing in number.

Nothing quite like slogging through an array of websites to find out the recommended fuel for your new crappy car. Considering that the car was produced in 1992, trying to find information about it online is interesting. Most of the sites that have info are either all-encompasing sites that cover a certain aspect of all cars (safety info, for example), or they are some enthusiast site just for that car or type of car (thus a third generation Camaro). I finally found that my base V6 engine only requires regular unleaded fuel. I know the Chevy used to have a 4-cyl Camaro and that would obviously take regular so I figured it was possible that the V6 was mapped for midgrade (89 octane). Nope, just 87 octane.