Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Karaoke with The Flipflopper

The Flipflopper and I go way back to when I ran with the Poisonous crowd. We fought almost instantly the first time we met. The Flipflopper likes to put on a persona of being an arrogant asshole, and i have to wonder if he does so in order to cover up his insecurities. For whatever reason, I saw The Flipflopper as a challenge, and my competitive spirit drew me to him.

The problem with The Flipflopper is that he picks fights with me. We could be having a perfectly enjoyable date, and end it with insults and swearing each other off. But the Flipflopper always comes back, usually in the form of a pathetic (and very intoxicated) love sick puppy dog at 3 in the morning.

The Flipflopper is so bad, he actually chose to argue about who should get the condom rather than just reach over and get it so he could get laid. He also claims that I'm the love of his life. When I entered into my most recent relationship, The Flipflopper, who has been known to lecture me about loyalty, stopped talking to me because I refused to cheat on my new boyfriend with him.

So upon my return to singledom, I'm sure you can imagine my hesitation in informing him I am once again available. But some bored, lonely night, I clued him in and awaited his invitation.

It came on a very hectic day for me. I was helping with a small conference in Phoenix, after which I was to lead the inaugural brewery tour for my startup. I should mention, too, that the tour guide I employ is my most recent ex-, so I guess one could say I was desiring some sort of rebound action. The Flipflopper invited me to karaoke, a favorite past time of ours and the Poisonous group way back when, and one that often led to crazy drunken shenanigans once the bars closed. I was delighted, I figured that would certainly be a fantastic way to get some affection and blow off some steam at the end of a very busy day and week. I knew I'd be tired, but affection can be a good motivator.

So after a successful first brewery tour, I was mentally high on my success and physically drained of all energy, and in that state I drove myself to the karaoke bar I once frequented. This was the most recent bar at which I was known by my karaoke name L-Dub.

The Flipflopper wasn't there just yet, but I was early. I went to use the restroom and fix myself up a little, and when i came out, he was sitting at the bar by himself. I brushed his arm as I approached and took the seat next to him, interlacing my legs between his. He ordered us drinks and we talked, my hands never leaving his leg. I was going to make it clear I wanted kisses.

I didn't put any songs in to sing, I let him serenade me with his usual death metal. Two of his friends showed up shortly after, an apparent couple I had never met before. The four of us played darts, and I think The Flipflopper and I won. More importantly, after every turn, he'd wrap his hands around my waist and kiss me just right. We kissed a lot, and we didn't actually fight!

A few days later, he called me on my way to work asking me to come over and cuddle with him. I told him it was really important to go to work today, but that I would come over as soon as he was off work around 9. He agreed to call me, I went through my whole day looking forward to snuggling up with the teddy bear that is The Flipfloppper.

I am a flipflopper emotionally sometimes - I go back and forth between wanting to be pursued, thus waiting for the phone call, and feeling empowered as a confident woman, thus making the call myself. As I'm thinking about it, it seems I revert to the latter when I really want something, otherwise its just not that important so I don't waste my time. Anyways, when he hadnt called by 9:30, I had this debate with myself again, and the empowered woman won.

When he picked up, his voice immediately revealed he was groggy, and he admitted he was sick and so had left work early and had been sleeping. We agreed to reschedule.

The Flipflopper called me today to tell me he's moving to Mexico tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The NASA Invite

I'll be the first to admit I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to Twitter, even though I've had an account for years. I finally started following people and companies that post interesting enough stuff to draw me back to my Twitter feed day after day, so maybe that's what it takes to get started. From there, I've been little more than guessing as to how to react to Tweets, links and pics I like. Some get posted on my pinterest boards, some I share to facebook, and some I reTweet (known as RT) or quote in a semi-original tweet. Still, I wasn't entirely sure what the value of Twitter was until last week.  The reality is, I would not normally check websites of the companies and organizations I admire all that often, but a quick little tweet from NASA sent me packing - literally!  

NASA posted a link inviting us to apply for a social media pass to visit Kennedy Space Center and watch the March 1st launch of SpaceX's Dragon.  The application was pretty straightforward: name, email address, social media links.  Mind you, this happened prior to me even starting this blog, so I used my startup's blog and many of my personal accounts, like LinkedIn, facebook and Twitter.  So either I did something right, or they accepted almost everyone, because last Friday I saw the email accepting my application and telling me how to proceed.  

Then it dawned on me that the launch was a mere week away, and I would have to leave right in the middle of some important stuff for work.  How could I possibly make it?  And then there was the expense; the hotel and rental car were not bad, but the flight was much more than what I usually pay when I book in advance.  I suddenly felt overwhelmed, with everything I had going on (afterall, I was helping with an APICS Southwest District Meeting and then I had my inaugural brewery tour for my startup coming up), and I just didn't think I could swing it.  I told a few people about the opportunity, and their responses were all along the same lines: "Why are you even thinking twice?  You have to go!"  

Okay, yes, I admit this is pretty freakin' cool and it is something on my life list, so of course I'm going to go.  But even as I booked my travel plans and asked for the time off from my manager, I still had an aching doubt that I wasn't really al that special and that I was somehow being suckered in to paying an exhorbant amount of money to see a pretty "normal" event for NASA.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, that's just how I felt.  I am totally stoked to see a SpaceX launch, since I'm a big fan of Elon Musk, from Tesla to his audacious challenge to commercialize space travel and offer to help Boeing with their battery problems.  Additionally, it has been on my life list for years to see a space shuttle launch, and when the space shuttle program was retired, I knew I'd have to suffice that requirement with something like this.  On the other hand, I've also always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to bring my one or more of my nephews and niece to such a launch.  So I guess part of me was disappointed that I couldn't bring guests, and bothered that here I was spending all this money to go alone, and that I would have to spend it all again when I bring them.  

In IMing with a colleague today, I got some clarification as to why, at least for my own personal reasons, it is important that I go.  What I realized is that there is so much mystery around NASA launches; sure they post information on their website, but they also tell you that dates are subject to change and it's hard to plan a trip around a slushy date.  And there are so many more questions around the launches; where can the public view them, what can you expect from launch day, how does it all work, what can the kids do, is there a way to meet people prior, are there public lectures in the days prior to launch?  NASA's website attempts to answer some of these, but there's so much uncertainty that I guess I've allowed that to hold me back from planning a trip with the kids.  My colleague mentioned something to the same effect, and I realized, that is what I am to do.  I am going because of my social media presence, as piddly as it may be, and I should honor my hosts with a strong drive for information gathering and to then write about it and make it easier for future visitors to plan their trips around launches.  This will, of course, also help me in future planning when I do decide its time to take the kids, and I will feel much more knowledgeable having gone to a launch and been informed by NASA and SpaceX themselves.  

So, I leave tomorrow afternoon for Florida, and I am every bit as nervous as I am excited, but at least now I have my own mission.  Wish me luck, and I'll see you on the flip side!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Classy Date with Mr. Suave

I think Mr. Suave knows that I'm not overly crazy about him.  My attitude towards him is that if he wants to take me out, I'll let him.  It had been a little while since the shoulder-flicking Afghan-music-listening date.  I had since become less numb to the whole break-up thing, and had been really having an emotional roller coaster.  I thought I liked one guy (we'll call him Excuses for future reference), and then he wasn't really that into me, and I just really wasn't sure what I wanted.  I realized that I might do better if I took a more affectionate approach with Mr. Suave; instead of fighting his affections, maybe I'd let down my guard and relax with him.  

We made plans to go swing dancing together, and he offered to take me to dinner beforehand.  I thought that was a nice gesture.  He suggested we go somewhere classy.  Then he took me to Pei Wei.  I'm just going to state the obvious, Pei Wei is not what I call a classy restaurant.  Phew, got that off my chest.  I actually had never been to a Pei Wei before, and I wasn't adamantly opposed to it, so I let it happen.  When we got to the door, though, there was a line like I've never seen at a fast-food-ish type restaurant before.  And it was cold, and I was ill prepared for being cold.  Mr. Suave put his arms around me to keep me warm (and I think he was also selfishly using me for my warmth), and I practiced letting my guard down, and it was actually quite comfortable.  We stood in line for what could have been 90 minutes before placing our orders, and finally were seated and got our food shortly after.  All in all, not a bad dinner, it was just, not, yeah, not classy.  

Now, I do need to go back in history a bit and tell you about, what I like to call, Shit Suave Says.  Mr. Suave is pretty smart, but clearly not as smart as me, which I can understand, as most people are not at my same intellectual level.  I think maybe I intimidate him, though.  So he comes up with these wildly absurd assertions, and asks me to validate them.  He's done this for years and it used to drive me up the wall.  Most of these conversations would end in me saying, "No," and then awkward silence.  Sometimes, to lighten the mood, I'd change it up to, "Nope," but it was still quiet and awkward for a moment.  I'll give you some examples, because they're just too good to keep to myself.  

Shit Suave Says

S: "Are you going to church on Sunday?"
Me: "No, I'm going hiking."
S: "Oh, so you've sworn off going to church ever again?"
Me: "No..."
S: "You like going to bars a lot?"
Me: "Yeah, I like to dance."
S: "Country dancing?"
Me: "Nope."
S: "Do you take the I-17 to Tucson?"
Me: "The I-17 doesn't go to Tucson."
S: "Are you sure?"
Me: "Yes, I drive there all the time."
S: "How do you get there?"
Me: "The I-10."
S: "But the I-17 goes south and the I-10 goes east."
Me: "The I-10 goes south east.  The I-17 doesn't go further south."
S: "So you don't take the I-17 to Tucson?"
Me: "No."
S: "Your ears looks like they were pierced."
Me: "Yep, I had two holes in each."
S: "What did you have in them?"
Me: "Earrings."
S: "They look like they were more than earrings.  You have five or six holes."
Me: "No, just two in each ear."
S: "Are they closed up?"
Me: "Yep, they were always getting infected and I didn't like the way earrings looked on me."
S: "So what do you do now when you want to wear earrings?"
Me: "I don't."
S: "Can't you stick earrings in part way?"
Me: "They'd probably fall out."
S: "But all women like to wear ornaments.  Why don't you wear earrings?"
Me: "No!"
Me: "Hmm, that car says (enter Indian name) on the license plate, that's my friend's last name.  I wonder if that's her ex-husband."
S: "You have a friend that divorced an Indian guy?"
Me: "Yes."
S: "Was her name Karen?"
Me: "No..."
S: "Oh, because I have a friend who divorced an Indian guy.  Her name is Karen."
(Comment: Mr. Suave is Indian, so I would think he of all people would be aware that there are a lot of Indian people in the world. Even here in Arizona.)
(I look at a recent text message).
S: "What?   Did you call someone and they responded with a text message?"
Me: "Nope."

So back to my classy date story.  As we were driving to swing dance, Mr. Suave threw another one of his curveballs at me.  I can appreciate that he was trying to take an interest in something I am passionate about, electric cars, but I just don't know what to make of this conversation.  
S: "I saw a Nissan Leaf the other day. It was so loud."
Me: "Really, they shouldn't make any noise. Are you sure it was a Leaf?"
S: "Yeah it said Nissan Leaf."
Me: "What kind of noise did it make?"
S: "Just the engine noise as it took off."
Me: "Leafs don't have engines."
S: "Oh really? I thought it was a hybrid."
Me: "Nope."
Now, what really made the date classy was when we got to swing dance.  He asked if I would be paying for myself.  Oi vey.  Yes, fine, I'll pay the whopping $7 to get in to Kat's Korner (which by the way is a fantastic venue for Saturday night fun).  We danced quite a bit, but he also danced with several other girls, as is expected, and I danced with several other guys.  At the end of the night, he drove me home, and didn't even attempt to kiss me.  




Friday, February 22, 2013

The First Post-Breakup Date

Part of my goal with this blog is to narrate parts of my dating life, especially the more hilarious ones, because I seem to find myself in the strangest of circumstances.  People tell me all the time that I should have a film crew following me around, or that I should document my life and turn it into a movie.  While I am strongly tempted to go back and start from the beginning, I fear that would take too long, so I will start in the present and reference the past where it is relevant.  In my commentaries about my dating life, I've decided to use codenames for the guys I date, so that they can't easily search for what I'm writing about them, and I will still try to keep my comments unoffensive in case they do find themselves reading about our dates

Mr. Suave is the first guy I'd like you to meet.  I met him at a swing dancing venue years ago, and he impressed me immediately with his strong leadership in swing and lindy, as well as his breadth of knowledge about books, some which I had recently read at the time.  Mr. Suave is funny because he tends to stick on one subject and continues going back to that subject even when the conversation has veered away from it.  Early on, Mr. Suave would tell me about luminoscity.com, a website where you can train your brain.  He told me he became very good at directions because of this website, and then he got us lost on a hike at Squaw Peak.  As a result, I wasn't so sure luminoscity was as powerful as he thought it to be.  We went on a few dates, I suppose you could call them, including Arizona Ballet's The Nutcracker around Christmas time, and going to his company parties.  When I decided to make my best friend my boyfriend, I stopped seeing Mr. Suave as often, and made it clear that we were to be just friends when we did hang out.  

The day after my boyfriend and I broke up, I was numb.  I didn't know what to think, the depression and the loneliness had yet to hit me, and I just felt nothing.  That day, Mr. Suave asked if I would go to an Afghan music listening party.  I wasn't really sure what to expect, but hey, I was single again, and single people are supposed to go out, right?  So I agreed, and he told me when to expect him to pick me up.  He was punctual, as usual, and well dressed with his cute BMW as you'd expect someone named Mr. Suave to be.  He opened and closed doors for me, and before we even arrived at the party, he had determined I was once again single (although I dared not divulge how fresh it was) and he looped his arm around my waist.  I didn't mind the affection; it was nice having come from a less than touchy relationship.  There was wine, which I drank, and there was music.  We weren't really sure what to do, until someone announced they were going to start playing their instrument, so we gathered around, and within minutes I seated myself cross-legged on the floor to get comfortable.  Mr. Suave sat behind me and rubbed my back, which was really nice, too.  

The music was interesting, to say the least.  Obviously not something I listen to on a regular basis, but I can appreciate that which is from a culture different than mine from time to time.  There was a guitar-like instrument (and I say that in the loosest of similes), played by the main person.  Then there was another guy banging and flicking a drum with his bare hands, and he sang sometimes, which was a little more like wailing in parts.  The two of them played a few songs, and then a third man, younger, joined them with an impressive didgeridoo, which I realize is not Afghan, but there it was nonetheless.  I can't make this stuff up, really.  The didgeridoo player was really good; I mean, I haven't seen that many in my life, but I assume he was good because I have one of my own (the instrument, not the player) and I can't get anywhere close to producing the kinds of noises he was making.  He also never seemed to breath, so I assumed and later affirmed that he was using a technique called circular breathing, which is pretty cool in its own right.  


When the concert was over, if it was a concert, the party kind of broke up, and Mr. Suave took me back to the car.  Scratch that, we first went to a fast food place so he could use the restroom, then we went back to the car.  As we drove away, he asked what I wanted to do.  I suggested we go to a winebar, and he shook his head.  He asked if I would come back to his place to watch a movie, and I said, "Nah."  He didn't seem to hear or understand my negation, and proceeded to take me to a wine store to buy a bottle (he let me pick it out and then he paid for it), and then took me back to his place to watch a movie.  I just went with it, I was in no mood to fight.  As I settled onto the couch with my wine, he kept asking what food I wanted, and I really wasn't particularly hungry, so finally I settled on accepting grapes to make him happy.  

He put on some black and white film, I think it was the Last Frontier or something to that effect.  We picked at the grapes and drank wine, and he sat at arm's length from me, which was strange because I thought for sure he'd use this opportunity to snuggle up next to me and put the moves on me.  Instead, he held his arm straight out from his shoulder and flicked my shoulder with his finger tips.  Seriously.  Flick, flick, flick.  Through pretty much the whole movie.  He dropped his arm down my chest, so the back of his hand was nearly touching more sensitive parts, and I picked his hand up and held it.  Then he'd remove his hand and go back to flicking my shoulder.  So strange.  Seriously, I really truly cannot make this stuff up.  

When the movie was over, he took me home, kissed me good night, and that was that.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Recipes (Sorta) For the Non-cook

As most of my friends know, I full-out cook maybe once a year, and otherwise, I prefer to eat out or do very easy meals like a salad, cheese toast or quesadilla. Thus, my pinterest board on my favorite recipes is pretty naked. What's worse, my best recipe isn't published on the web to my knowledge. So I thought I'd spend some time posting my recipes, which are really more like work instructions or tricks to make good food easily. 



Grilled quesadilla
The microwave used to be my favorite appliance in the kitchen, but after my first quesadilla made on the George Foreman Grill, I was converted. I use the George Foreman for meats usually, but quesadillas made on the grill are fantastic! I like to add diced jalapenos or chicken, but you can really throw in a large variety of things like onions or even ground beef.



Cheese toast
Another nifty appliance is the toaster oven. I use it to make what my ex- called cheese toast hot. I never understood why the hot wasn't implied, but I usually just call it cheese toast. I use fresh sour dough, and mix it up with the cheeses, from Habenero cheese to aged cheddar.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My TechShop Experience

Last May I took a fabulous trip to the San Fran area, in part to explore a new business called TechShop.  It is kind of like a gym membership, except inside there are dozens of high end machines, such as lathes, CNC machines, laser cutters, injection molding machines, even quilting and sewing machines, etc.  Basically, anything you need to work on cars (including lifts), woodworking, metalworking, plastics, fabrics or electronics.  I took three classes, learning a lot about the different machines, casting and molding techniques, etc.  I am excited to say that they are coming to Chandler, Arizona mid-summer 2013, and to help get the word out, I wanted to share my experience.  

The minute a wantrepreneur, tinkerer, hobbyist or otherwise nerdy individual walks through the door, they are immediately greeted by exposed technology, hipster-style branding and a nerdy cool factor that makes you feel, well, maybe not at home, but that you were always meant to come here.  At one location, we were provided a parking pass.  After getting the membership paperwork and photos done, we asked for a tour and were guided through the various rooms storing treasure troves of machining equipment, open work spaces, computer labs, etc.  There is free popcorn all the time, and a kitchen area where you can do your own thing on breaks.  The monitors on the computers are huge, enabling the work being done here to be that much more awesome.  

As we walked around, the energy wasn't flying high, but you could tell that amazing work was being done here.  People at the computers were collaborating quietly or clicking away on their own.  People on machines were artfully handling the equipment to produce something that must be spectacular.  At one location, we saw some impressive flowery drawings carved into wooden doors by a CNC machine; our tour guide informed us that this man had made these beautiful front doors for his wife for their anniversary, and she was so impressed that she insisted he make all the other doors of their house match.  So he had been coming for months, working on a couple doors at a time and designing ever more beautiful patterns to carve into the wood.  We also walked past the garage area, where cars were up on lifts to make it easier to work on.  We were shown an application for the 3D scanning and 3D printing system in which someone had brought in a broken car part, scanned it, modified it using the software, and then printed out a plastic version that could be used in creating a mold.  

The first class we took was on the laser cutter.  The class was focused mostly around safety, which I'm sure is an important aspect in the insurance policy of a place like this.  By the end of the class, we had learned a bit about the various software packages that could be used and we entered our names or whatever cute little phrases we wanted, and then watched as the laser cutter carved out our messages onto colored dog tags.  During our class, all the other laser cutters were being used individually by various patrons; these were high-demand machines.  

At another location, we took the RTV moldmaking class.  This class had no specific equipment involved, just a small measuring cup and materials.  So the class was held out in the general workstation area, with big tables and electric hookups for laptops and gadgets.  We stirred up the ingredients and casted our gear (which happens to be an integral part of the TechShop logo - clever branding!) and watched as the color changed, indicating it was hardening.  Then we mixed some other ingredients together and made a mold in our measuring cups.  It felt a little like arts and crafts day at Vacation Bible School, but I didn't mind how easy it was, because it was truly remarkable that a flimsy mold could produce a real casted plastic item.  While we were working, my eyes couldn't help but wander over to the sewing area, where a woman was using a huge machine I learned to be a long-arm quilting machine or something like that.  She worked diligently and without any help or interaction, and seemed to be in the "zone" creating a masterpiece.  

My last class was an injection molding class, the one I was most looking forward to.  The machine was in a small room pretty much by itself, and cost over $10,000 new.  As with the laser cutter class, there was a lot of safety instruction involved.  Then we each loaded the plastic pellets into the machine, and took our turn pressing the mold and creating gears again.  

What impressed me most about the classes was the vast experience and knowledge of the instructors.  These were the stereotypically "if you can't do it, teach it" kind of guys, these were men who had spent most of their careers in their respective fields, and were now teaching, maybe as a form of retirement, maybe in resistance to retiring.  Either way, they were brilliant, and I wanted to spend hours with them coaching me one-on-one.  

TechShop has Dream Consultants, and really, any company that has positions alluding to dreams is just cool to begin with.  The Dream Consultants are there to be personal mentors, and as the name implies, help you fulfill your dreams, of whatever you're trying to make or do.  I'm also excited for the potential  In some ways, it's a place for prototyping and proving new design concepts.  In other ways, it's a place for tinkerers and hobbyists to build and repair their toys.  In other ways still it's a place to have meetings, to host parties, to see the next big thing.  In all ways, it's a place of creation, invention, innovation, and coolness.  And I can't wait to have one practically in my own backyard!  


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Updated Chevy Volt Review - 2 Years and 36k Miles

The car has torque.  At least that's what they told me.  What it means to me is that when I put the pedal down, it reacts.  It doesn't whine or complain or ramp up, it just does it.  For the longest time, I wanted to floor it, but I was scared to.  Even pushing it a little bit, the Volt is so responsive I have to back off almost immediately.  I finally put the pedal to the metal tonight entering the 101 freeway.  It wasn't as scary as I thought, but man is it fast.  After driving it pretty aggressively on the freeway, the only word I could think of was "zippy".  It's incredible.  It feels like driving a high-end performance car, never mind that it's electric.



The body is fun and sporty - I'm a total hatchback girl!  I'll admit it's a little plain for my taste; I was a big fan of the Pontiac Aztec (and settled for the Pontiac Vibe when the Aztec was vetoed by the parental units), and I've always been a fan of those boxy cars like the Scion xB and the Honda Element.  Of course, I would have loved the original concept Volt body Chevy showed us, but we all know that was impractical and not aerodynamic.  I'm told the Volt is now more aerodynamic than a Corvette, which sounds pretty darn sweet. 

My favorite physical feature is the hatchback.  As I said, I'm a total hatchback girl; my Vibe was very good to me and I really loved it.  I was afraid I'd miss it, but the Volt definitely stepped it up.  The hatchback door is so futuristic, sci-fi-like (at least I think so, does anyone else feel this way?), it tickles me every time I open it.  It's a little reminiscent of the old Honda Insight, in my opinion, and I love it! 

The technology in the car is amazing.  I've never driven something with so many buttons to push, and not one, but two screens.  I'm not even sure where to begin, it's so overwhelming. 

The Bluetooth connects with my phone so I can make and receive calls through the speaker system.  I love how the volume of the music goes down when I'm receiving a call, so I won't miss a call if I accidentally leave my phone on silent.  Not to mention it also means I don't have to hold the darn phone to my ear the whole time; I never knew how great that would be!  Through my five-year OnStar plan that came free with the car (unheard of), my car even has its own phone number that can be used if my phone is not getting reception. 

The Volt also has that feature where you can rip CDs (mp3's, etc) and store them so you don't have to keep your CDs in the car.  I keep my musical soundtracks on there, because when I want to listen to Rent, I want to listen to Rent.  I also update it with my latest favorite pop songs from time to time; I just stick them on a USB and rip them off the USB, no need to burn a CD or anything like that.  The Volt came with a short XM subscription, which I have since extended, although I miss the data plan that came with it (weather and traffic updates).  I mean, I could get those things on my SmartPhone now, which is why I can't justify paying for it, but it was cool to show that my car knew the weather.  The idea of forecasting weather on the route in your nav was phenomenal, but living in Arizona, so not necessary.  The radio presets are really nice, and the volume controls on the steering wheel are sweet.  It also has cruise control on the steering wheel.  Love it!  One of the coolest things (that I didn't even know existed) is that I can rewind live radio, just like with a DVR.  Just when my new favorite song is finished playing, then they start talking, I rewind it to the beginning of the song and listen to it again.  Then I fast forward back over the talking to get to the next song.  I had no idea you could do that with FM or XM radio! There is also a USB and auxiliary port, the latter of which I have literally waited YEARS for!  With my SmartPhone, I can download audio books and play them over the speaker system while I'm on road trips.  

Let's talk about fuel economy.  After 2 full years, including scorching 115+ degree summer days and near freezing temperatures from time to time in the winter, I can proudly say the car does exactly what it is supposed to do - get me to and from work on all electric, while giving me the option to go further on gas.  That was my main goal in buying this car, I wanted to commute on all electric, but be able to go to Tucson in one straight trip.  I've gone roughly 24k miles on electric and 12k on gas, giving me a lifetime average of 102 MPG (the "G" of course assuming electricity is free, which I know it is not).  My favorite part is when I am running only on electric, it can't divide by 0 so it says my fuel economy is 250+ mpg. 

I've been known to miss things from time to time.  Rick and I flew all the way to New York and stood outside in the cold for eight hours to watch the ball drop for New Year's, and in all the excitement, I neglected to actually - get this - watch the ball drop.  I also managed to miss the complete frontal nudity scene in the musical Hair, even though I was anticipating it (ironically, also with Rick).  This is the first time "missing" something has been an incredibly beautiful thing.  Dozens of times, I've watched in anticipation as the gauges of my car switched from electric to gas.  I've even turned my music off and gone driving on a surface road so there was minimal road noise.  Yet, I miss it everytime.  It doesn't feel different, it doesn't sound different.  Had I not watched the gauges, I would have had no idea that it had switched from electric to gas.  It is so anticlimactic, I was initially disappointed.  That was it?  You almost want a hum or a vibration under your foot, or something!  Wait, no, I guess you don't.  That is a beautiful thing to miss!

Some guy in the parking lot at work made my day, and I will never forget it.  As I was driving quietly through the parking lot, he saw me coming and must have recognized what the car was.  He cupped his hand to his ear as if he was listening for the engine, and, upon hearing virtually nothing, gave me a big smile and a thumb's up.  I have no idea who he was, but I burst out laughing.  Other people have seemed to take notice, especially in parking lots, where I can virtually sneak up on somebody without them knowing there's a car behind them.  When the car gets recognized, I feel a little bit like a celebrity, and that of course, makes me happy. 

My main complaints about the car are minimal.  The blinker is the first thing I didn't like - it is very quiet and the little arrow on the screen is so small, it could easily be missed while driving.  In my daily commute, I have exactly two turns that are so wide my blinker doesn't turn off on its own.  In my Vibe, the blinker was obvious and noisy, which I liked because it would remind me to turn it off right away.  It's nice on the one hand: sitting in a turn lane with it on, it is less annoying, so there is a positive side to this complaint.  My concern about forgetting to turn it off has also been mitigated; I discovered that if the blinker stays on for an excessive distance, the car alarms you and provides a pretty clear message on the screen.  Nice.  

There is a white light in the back of the car, just below the center of the bumper.  Somebody asked me what it was for, and I didn't know, and I couldn't even figure out how to turn it on.  So that's a little strange.  I would guess it is to aid in backing up, especially because one of the few options for the car was a back up camera.  It seems to stay on for a bit, right after I turn the car off, but again, not really sure why.  Now, I just tell people it's the car's way of saying hi.  

The nav stinks.  I know I have the OnStar option, but with my anxiety of calling people, I don't think I'll be utilizing that unless I'm desperate.  I really liked my Garmin, and although it's getting old and the sound doesn't work anymore, it is still superior to most navigation systems I've seen, whether they are on smart phones, in the car or OnStar.  There are some cool features, like being able to send a location to your car's nav from the SmartPhone app or from Mapquest on a computer, so that makes it a little less irritating.

As far as size, I have mixed feelings about it.  Early on, I bumped my head getting into the car on numerous occasions, so it's obviously a little smaller in that respect than what I was used to, but it hasn't been a problem lately.  Some of my friends get in the front seat and say its roomy, and some get in and say it's small.  The back seat is a little tight if the front seats are all the way back, but there is room for compromise and I think it can comfortably seat four adults, so long as they aren't overly large.  I will admit, too, that I was a little concerned about the lack of visibility out the back and side of the car.  Coming from the Vibe, which my parents selected for its maximum visibility, the Volt is limited.  The good news is in less than a week, I got used to where to look and haven't had any problems or near-misses scares.  I feel good driving it now, so I think it might just be that it was a big change for me.

At the end of the day (literally), I love pulling into my garage, hitting the power button to turn the car off, and plugging in my car.  I'm sorry, that is just bad ass!  It even gives me an estimate of what time it will be fully charged.  Cell phones don't even do that!  I started out with the standard 110V charger, but felt the need to install at the 240V charger pretty quickly, since I'm rarely home long enough to charge for 10 hours.  I love driving the Volt, I love idling and not wasting gas, and I love making my commute on all electric! 

Signed,
Volt #492

Adding Sound to EVs - Pedestrian Safety or Naivety?

For several years now, the government has been idly threatening to force car manufacturers to include a sound effect on all electric vehicles and hybrids.  The reasoning focuses around pedestrian safety, especially those that are blind or visually impaired.  Certainly, if that is a true concern, I would totally support the addition of artificial noise to EVs and hybrids.  But I would argue that the problem isn't centered around blind and visually impaired pedestrians; it's stupid pedestrians.  It's the people listening to their iPods or talking on their smart phones, totally disengaged and unaware of their surroundings.  Indeed, these people are the best candidates for being jumped and mugged, and I would be willing to bet, these people are the most likely "victims" of car accidents involving pedestrians. 

The claim that hybrids cause more pedestrian injuries and deaths than ICE vehicles doesn't go without merit; there is one study that, with the limited data set and questionable data collection aside, does accurately show a statistically significant difference in pedestrian accidents between hybrids and internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.  After several searches, I found the original study and checked over the numbers to convince myself that, besides the aforementioned flaws, the results are correct, assuming the data wasn't purposefully skewed.  (Find the study here: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811204.PDF)

Please note there is a statistically significant difference, but the scale we're talking about is miniscule.  Less than 1% of all cars, whether they are ICE vehicles, hybrids or EVs, are actually involved in a pedestrian accident.  That means less than 1% of hybrids, and less than 1% of ICE vehicles.  So even though there is a statistically significant difference, this difference is very slight.  This will be an important point that I will come back to later.

The problem with the study is that it doesn't consider any of the factors that are most obvious to me: (1) Which accidents involved pedestrians that were blind or hearing impaired? (2) Which accidents were found to be the drivers' faults, which were found to be the pedestrians' faults, and which were found to be shared or undetermined faults? (3) Were the pedestrians wearing headphones or talking on the phone?

Here's an interesting statistic I found on another site (http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/pedestrians.html): 50% of pedestrian accidents were judged to be the fault of the pedestrians, versus 39% judged to be the fault of the drivers, with the balance being shared or unknown.  Additionally, 37% of fatally injured pedestrians had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above .08 percent, while only 15% of pedestrian deaths involved drivers with BACs at or above .08 percent.  These two facts lead me to believe that it is not the cars we need to fix, it is the pedestrian habits. 

Let's look deeper at the primary study.  One factor the study did cover (and rightly so) is the light condition.  Interestingly, the proportions of accidents from hybrids and ICE vehicles are the same proportions in the daylight.  In all other lighting conditions, however, the hybrids had much higher proportions of pedestrian accidents.

I think this begs the question, are pedestrians expected to watch out for cars (or listen for, in the case of our blind and visually impaired)?  Or are drivers expected to watch out for pedestrians?  This discussion centers around low speed accidents, so we're talking about neighborhoods, intersections with walkways, etc.  These are places where it is the responsibility of the drivers to watch for pedestrians.  So frankly, adding artificial sound shouldn't be an issue at all, because the sound is to alert pedestrians.  An artificial sound doesn't help drivers avoid pedestrians. 

Now, I don't want to come off insensitive, but I just want to stop here and state that the blind don't discriminate against daylight and darkness.  If this was about the blind pedestrians not hearing hybrids, I would think the proportions of daylight accidents vs. accidents in the dark would be about the same.  So again, these statistics lead me to believe that drivers need to watch for pedestrians, not the other way around. 

But wait, if it's the drivers responsibility to watch for pedestrians, does this imply that hybrid drivers are more reckless than ICE vehicle drivers?  No, because more of these accidents are the fault of the pedestrians than of the drivers. 

I think I've confused the situation even more, so let's break it down. 

  • A pedestrian crossing at an intersection when they have the walk signal absolutely has the right of way, and the driver should be watching for them.  In this case, the artificial sound wouldn't really help, because the knowledge of a car's presence doesn't change the fact that pedestrians have the right of way and that they should be able to cross.  If a driver is going to blow through the light and plow over the pedestrian, I don't think a blind person (or for that matter, a seeing person) could necessarily jump out of the way to avoid it. 
  • A pedestrian J-walking or otherwise crossing illegally is purposefully putting him/herself in danger.  Hopefully blind and visually impaired people are not doing this, and everyone else should be watching, not just listening, for cars coming.   Obviously, this is a stupid thing to do, and could result in an unnecessary tragedy.  People with earbuds make the proposed artificial sound even more useless. 

Either way, I do not see the need to add noise pollution to a technology that otherwise eliminates it.  Instead, and I may be going a little survival-of-the-fittest here, our society must adapt to quieter cars and become more aware of their surroundings. 

Turning Confrontation Avoidance into Proactive Diplomacy

I took a Negotiations course during my MBA a couple years ago, and I found it to be one of the most valuable classes in the program.  I thought I knew myself pretty well, and it turned out, I was only half-right.  I knew going into the class that I am an avoider.  I avoid confrontation like its the Grimm Reaper.  I hate confrontation; it makes me nervous and it often (sadly) makes me cry.  I don't really know why it makes me cry so much, honestly, it is something I've always struggled with.  Somehow, the crying gets worse when the confrontation seems to be resolved and when, by all practical stances, I should be feeling better about whatever the issue was.  Anyways, cry-baby issues aside, I hate confrontations.  But what I didn't realize about myself until I got into the Negotiations class was that, when confronted with a negotiation, I am very aggressive.  It's like if you force a dog into a corner, she might suddenly try to bite you.  

This revelation about myself, that I am an aggressive negotiator, has had two effects.  First, it has made me more cognizant of the words I use during negotiating times; I am more careful not to exaggerate or be offensive when I know I'm going to be negotiating.  Second, it has given me more confidence to go after confrontations and not to avoid them.  However, this second effect has gotten me into trouble, because it seems to throw me back into aggressive mode, without respect to my first effect of being more cognizant of my behavior.  

Having recently gotten myself into trouble from time to time, I am finding myself slinking away from confrontation once again.  Instead of taking a conflict head on with the source of the conflict, I've been resorting to escalating and trying to get someone else to deal with it.  This has also come back to bite me in the butt: I would forward the email with some crude comments about how stupid the idea is, and then that gets forwarded back to the original offender.  So then the offender gets even more angry and causes an even bigger stink.  

I need to try something new.  I've decided to stop avoiding the confrontation, and use words that nobody can take offense to.  I tried this once so far, and I can't say it's been a success just yet, but I feel better about it.  Instead of stressing about what the result of the escalation might be, I have stated my case, taken all of the personal feelings out of it, and invited the manager to put in his two cents.  

I think one of the biggest changes in mindset is to ask questions rather than making assertions or implying the other person is wrong.  I try to get the offender to take a step back, so they can understand and communicate the real problem.  It gives him or her the chance to change the demands, and potentially to ask for help coming up with a different, better solution.  Not that that is what actually happens; usually when I question the validity of a demand, the person comes back even more demanding, or giving me less information and becoming even more short with me.