Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Age Index

Disclaimer: Today I'd like to explain an idea I had. It involves math and used cars. If that combination doesn't intrigue you, then feel free to pass on this one. On the other hand, if you'd like to hear what I think is an easier way to evaluate used cars, then read on.

On to business.

First, a confession. I spend way too much time looking at Autotrader.com. I'm kind of like a space-aged version of Joe Dirt in that respect. (Fortunately minus the mullet.) I'm not aimless in my search, though. Sometime next year I'd like to buy a newer truck. When shopping for a new car it can be difficult to compare vehicles when you have so many factors that play into the price. Is it better to have an older car with lower miles or a newer car with higher miles? If you ask five different people that question you are likely to get six or seven different answers. So I wanted to find a way to "normalize" the age and mileage factors to make it easier to understand equivalency.

When you're looking for cars the main info that's displayed is the price, the mileage, and the year. Using the year and the mileage, you can calculate this Age Index and it gives you a score that you can use for comparison. This is kind of on the same level saying to yourself, "Here's a 2010 with 56,000 miles. That's 14,000 a year." The Age Index gives you a tighter score. So here it is:



Where the age is in years (single or double digits), and only the thousands are used for the mileage. For example, my Landcruiser is a 1994 with 220K miles:


So in that case the Age Index is 90.9. You will find out that that's pretty good. My CR-V only scored only 58.8 which in my opinion is just under what I would take to be the minimum (more on that later). So even though my CR-V is nicer and newer than the Landcruiser, it's got a much worse Age Index. Notice that this only works for used cars. If you apply it to a new car, the whole thing goes to zero because the age is zero.

So what's a good Age Index? Well, this idea is still in it's infancy and I've only compared about 50 vehicles, but I fee like a good Age Index minimum is 60. What about maximum? Well, in my limited search I came up with only one or two that were above 150. For a five year old car to have an Age Index above 150, it would have to have less than 33,000 miles. Very low and very rare. Realistically you should be able to find them under 100. So, seeking an Age Index between 60 and 100 will put you in a good situation.

Interesting patterns

So as I've been looking at this, I've looked a lots of different sets of trucks. I made up tables of Toytota Tundras, Ford F150s and Dodge Ram trucks. I also compared these numbers for the Puget Sound area and Salt Lake Valley. I did this because I wondered if trucks were cheaper in one place or the other. For now I'll only talk about the Toyota Tundra comparison. Here are the two most interesting patterns I've noticed.

1. Trucks are slightly cheaper in the Salt Lake Valley. They're not enough cheaper to justify a trip out there, especially considering...
2. The Age Indexes are MUCH lower down there. Puget Sound numbers were pretty consistently above 60 with a few below. But, in Salt Lake, only a couple were even above 50. (Salt Lake is also a much harsher environment for vehicles considering road salting and much greater temperature variations.)

So there you go. The Age Index. Like I said, this idea is in its infancy. Next time you are looking for a car, maybe you could use this and maybe it will even help. Please leave some feedback in the comments.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

First Camping Trip

This weekend we had the kiddo's first camping trip. It was short, kind of impulsive, and we all survived.


I say impulsive because we only decided Thursday night that we were going. At the last minute we were able to get reservations at Twanoh State Park. I've been here a few times before but only to hike on their little trail. This time we camped and even went to the little beach they have.

It was a great time, but it wasn't without it's pains. Fortunately, Little Man was unsuccessful in his numerous attempts at falling into the fire. He made up for it by falling off the bench a few times, though. When we finally started heading for bed I was surprised to find that it was almost 10pm. The kid seemed to have a limitless supply of energy. He was constantly egged on by Jake, who is always skiddish during the first night of a camping trip.

That supply of energy kicked in again at about 5:30am. This time, though, we couldn't get him to calm down. We were in a walk-in camp site so there was about six tents within a hundred feet. Not wanting to be on the receiving end of mob violence, we decided to head out on a drive until a more reasonable hour. From Twanoh we drove to Lake Cushman and explored a little. We tried to find the yurt we stayed in a couple of years ago on New Year's Eve but couldn't. Guess who fell asleep.



Around 8:00am we got back to camp, made breakfast, and packed up. Then it was down to the beach. Twanoh State Park is supposed to have the warmest saltwater beach in the state. Of course, that's not saying much here in Washington. The beach was packed with kayaks. It looked like there was some kind of kayak event or classes going on. Everyone in the campsite also had kayaks. We felt a little out of place. The water was nice, though. Last year at scout camp I learned that Hood Canal water was actually pretty nice.


This was also Little Man's first experience in more water than the tub. He seemed to like it. Now we just have to get him into some swimming lessons.



This time I forgot more stuff than I have in a long time. And not just foofy extra stuff that you don't really need. I forgot flashlights, pillows, and paper towels. Well, the pillows are foofy stuff you don't need (Chelsea disagrees), but flashlights are too basic. I didn't even realize it until it was starting to get dark. Duh. 

We were back at the house by 1:00pm Saturday. Since we had to leave after work yesterday, it was less than a 20 hour camping trip. Still worth it, though.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Stottlemeier 30

This was a great weekend. I've never entered a bike race before and this one was a great one to start out on. Unfortunately, it wasn't a great weekend to start my illustrious mountain bike racing career.

Another thing I've never done is ride a 30 mile stretch on a bike. Mountain or otherwise. Now, as I've trained for this race I've done some pretty good rides. A couple of months ago I did 17, then two weeks ago I did 18. Last Saturday I set a goal to do 20 in Banner Forest, which I did. The 18 mile ride was in the same trail system that the race was held in.

So last year I was finally able to get the full suspension mountain bike that I've wanted for years. I rode (and still ride) the crap out of it. Amid this new excitement of biking again I became aware of an annual race held in my area, the Stottlemeier 30/60. It's part of the NW Epic Race Series (nwepicseries.com). It's called "30/60" because you can either ride 30 miles or 60 miles (in case 30 miles on a mountain bike isn't enough for you).

Well, I did it. I was aiming for finishing in some other place than last, and I did. So all in all, it was a success. It took me about 5-1/2 hours to finish, about an hour longer than I thought it would. But man, it was a soup sandwich. The last few days have been pretty rainy, even for here. While it wasn't actually raining during the race, the trail was something that would leave someone with discerning taste for mud a little misty eyed.

There were many sections where I struggled for balance and continually felt my rear wheel slip with each pedal stroke. There was this one time where there was a log laying longwise in the trail. My front tire went on one side and my back tire went on the other. It only worked because my back tire kept slipping along it while finding a little traction in the mud. After about 5 miles I let some air out of my tires, and that helped a lot.

In terms of mileage, the muddy sections were probably only about 25%, but they easily took 60% of the time. And what time wasn't sucked up in the mud was sucked up in the 2500 feet of climbing. The really great thing, though, is that lots of the muddy sections were also stiff climbs. You got the best of both worlds. I think an accurate description would be "thankless toil". I have never done anything so physically demanding as this. The mud resisted your every effort.

But, at last I reached the finish line where Chelsea and the kiddo came to meet me. I kept them waiting, because as I said, it took me much longer to finish than I thought it would. Afterwards we headed out for some dinner. You would think that I would be famished after burning 1922 calories (as estimated by Strava). The truth is that I didn't really feel that good. I still don't. This week I've had an upset stomach and luckily I got to bring that with me to the race. Also, I've never had so much cramping on a single day. Good times.

So, I should really be in bed right now, so I think that's all for tonight.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Family History

At long last I finally logged in to Familysearch.org. I've been thinking about doing it for some time now. Of course, as you know, the road to perdition is paved with good intentions. You only get credit for action, not intention.

Until recently I was operating under the assumption that there is little work to do in my genealogy. Many years ago my Grandpa Cornwall (my mom's family) gave me a family tree chart that he had made. After his retirement he repurposed his drafting table for this work instead of the building plans that had covered it for decades. The chart he gave me was on a huge architectural sheet. It went back well into the 1700s and stretched across many current families. Of course, I never appreciated the amount of effort that went into that chart.

Like I said, that great chart gave me the impression that genealogical work in my ancestry was essentially complete. It is true that I am very much the beneficiary of generations of faithful people. But it's just like they say, if it looks simple you're probably not looking close enough.

Today I have been introduced to genealogical fan charts. Byron told me about them so I decided to look mine up. Here's what mine looks like:


Unless you click on it, you can't really read it. But, even when you're not zoomed in, you can see that there are no empty slots. Empty slots mean incomplete work.

See, it's all done. Nothing more to do. At all.

Now lets look closer. In this fan chart I'm at the center. What if I place my great grandfather at the center? I Remember the funeal of Julius Edmund Kruger (my dad's family). He died in March of 1985, which means I had just turned five. That is the first funeral to which I can attach actual memories. I remember discussing it with my brother at bedtime. We shared a basement bedroom at the time. I don't remember which brother it was. It's a vague memory.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. Here's his fan chart:

It looks more like a wheel of swiss cheese. Suddenly my complacent argument that all my family's work had been done is full of holes...so to speak. His wife, Lina Martha Otto, is even worse off.

The work is cut out for us. I'm happy I have started looking into familysearch.org.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Painting

So about two years ago I discovered I was bad a painting. Well, painting cabinets.I feel like I can do walls OK, but not cabinets. I suck at cabinets. See for yourself.


Well, I scraped that one off and tried it again. the saving grace is that the bathroom doesn't have any windows so the light's not that good. Anyway, we pressed on through adversity and got the job done.

Then, when some time had passed and allowed me to forget how bad I was at painting, I talked myself into thinking I could do it again. It's one of those things where you get better at it the farther back into history it is. 

I had an ace in the hole though. I was going to use Rustoleum's Cabinet Transformations. Just look at the box! The finish is perfect! Piece of cake! 

See how my mind works? Just like a sixth grader looking at the fantastic ads in the back of Boy's Life magazine. A hovercraft for $5 you say? How can I live without it?

Actually, I don't think that's fair. Cabinet Transformations is not on the same level as a cool hovercraft. It's pretty good system, but the finish isn't really what we had in mind. It's a four part system. Check it out.


1. Deglosser
2. Bond Coat
3. Decorative Glaze
4. Clear Topcoat

(Pro tip: Keep plenty of bath toys around for good luck.)

So that third step, the decorative glaze is kind of the rub. Your skill (or not) with that is a big determining factor about how the finished product turns out. The picture below shows one of the finished doors. So far I've finished 2 out of 19. I already finished it once, didn't like it, repainted it, and tried again. All I'm getting is a big....'meh'. It's not what I had in mind. In the pictures you can't really see the imperfections. I have to admit, the glaze gives it that weathered look that many people are looking for these days. Also, the glaze combines with the prevalent brushstrokes to give it a nice look. The bottom line, however, remains that it's not what I thought it was going to be. 


It's not often that I find myself at a complete loss as to what to do, but with this project I'm there. Chelsea and I discussed it this afternoon. I remembered that I had bought some paint for the closet door in the kiddo's room. Five months later, I have yet to crack open that paint. So we thought, we might as well try painting one of the other cabinets with it and see which we like best.


Well, I got two coats on with a foam roller. So far it looks OK. Of course, the real test is what the doors look like with the paint. I haven't tried those yet. It will probably take three coats all around.


Hopefully, if nothing else, this post will serve as a reminder to me. A reminder that I shall not paint cabinets. Let me say it one more time: "I SHALL NOT paint cabinets!" I'm have more experience doing carpentry. It will be less time and pain to simply replace the cabinets.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How to Win Points With Your Wife by Sneaking Around With Her Friends

This weekend I learned some things and I thought I would share it with the blogosphere. From the title you may be a little skeptical that this will actually end well. Never fear, what follows is sound advice. This is a step by step guide and I can assure you that following each step verbatim will help you win success. Now down to business.

Step 1: Ensure your wife has excellent friends


Step 2: Be contacted by those excellent friends about your wife's birthday which is still more than 2-1/2 months away.

(At this point, you may be saying to yourself, "Tom, I don't have any control over these two steps. How can this guide apply to me?" I don't really have an answer for you.)

Step 3: Set up the weekend with those friends.

Step 4: Tell your wife you've decided to take her to an undisclosed vacation house for her birthday. Remember, this is only a cover story.

Step 5: Plan some activities that you think everyone will enjoy. I went with snowshoeing, but that will have to depend on the people involved in your group.

Step 6: Decide that the vacation house idea is actually  a great idea and not just as a cover story.

Step 7: Book the vacation house via homeaway.com.

Step 8: Wait. (The weekend didn't get here yet.)

Step 9: Maintain the deception by saying "All you need to know is places and things" when asked by your wife about where you're going.

Step 10: Take advantage of your day off (just prior to the weekend) to get the house ready for guests. This must be done on your day off while the wife is at work so that she doesn't know it's happening and become suspicious.

Step 11: On that same day off, while your wife is at work, go get the friends from the airport. Stop at Costco etc. to get the stuff you need for the weekend.

Step 12: Wait quietly in the living room while your wife pulls into the garage.

Step 13: Sit nonchalantly in the living room while your wife comes home after a typical stressful day.

Step 14: Enjoy the surprise.

video

Step 15: Execute the weekend plan. Have a great time.




Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Good Old Days

A couple of times last year I heard someone say "I wish I had known that it [whenever they were talking about] was "The Good Old Days". It is human nature to fail to see the good in the current situation as well as look back on history with rose colored glasses. The current moment is filled with all kinds of anxiety and uncertainty, but when the dust settles, you normally don't remember all that. Earlier today a friend of mine posted this quote on Facebook:

"It's almost impossible to underestimate the unimportance of most things."

The quote didn't have an author cited. There are so many little details that seem so important at the moment that it can be difficult to weed through them all. But, looking back on your life you rarely remember all the circumstances that existed around a particular event or day in the past.

Several weeks ago I started thinking about this. What parts of my life do I call The Good Old Days?

There was a short period right before my mission. I had good friends and a good job. I didn't worry much about money and every Saturday night we went midnight bowling at Olympus Hills Lanes. It was a brief time because I knew that missionary service was right around the corner. That was a good period.

Sometimes I really miss school. Believe it or not, I actually miss those late-night cram sessions with my classmates prior to the Mechatronics test that we knew was going to be brutal. I distinctly remember the last such session on my last finals week. I left the Warnock Engineering Building at the university at about 10:30pm and as I walked to the car I could feel the disappointment. School was a good period.


But the time since school has been the longest sustained good period of my life. I'm in that first-job-out-of-college period of life. I have bought a house, I'm building my career, and now I've had the opportunity to become a parent. And through it all, I've had Chelsea to share it.


And Here's the fun outtake:



I think what I'm trying to say is without a doubt, I'm going to look back on THIS time in my life as one of "The Good Old Days".