Saturday, June 28, 2008

My new ride has Fahrvergnügen!

I don't care that that Fahrvergnügen is an old term... My new car has it!  After several protracted months of research and test drives, I walked into Gossett VW late this morning and walked out, several hours later, with a new 2009 Jetta SportWagen!

I honestly wasn't planning to buy a car this weekend, especially since I was supposed to be at work all day today, and after yesterday's test of the Mazda 3 I was leaning towards buying one in a month or two.  However, after an aborted production deployment this morning, I had the rest of the day at my disposal, so we decided to head over to our local VW dealer just to see if they had a SportWagen to look at, which they obviously did.

At first I was a little aprehensive about getting a hatchback with anything other than a turbocharged engine, so Greg took me out for my first test drive of the day in a 2008 Jetta with their 2.5L 5-cylinder engine.  It had more horsepower than my 2000 Jetta, and was a great ride.  After some more deliberation, they moved the only SportWagen they had outside so we could test that as well, this time with Esther and Gabriel.  It was another great ride, great steering and suspension, as I expected, and unless I looked in the rearview I wouldn't have known I was in a wagon.  And it's an automatic :)

So, after close to 5 hours (thankfully my father-in-law swung by to look after Gabriel for a while!) and lots of deliberation, we signed the paperwork and I drove home in the new wheels.  It was a bit more than we were planning to pay, but the 2009 includes all service and standard maintenance for 3 years, and my 2000 was starting to get long in the tooth.  I've never leased before, so I'll be watching my mileage carefully, but I'm super excited about my new VW.

Friday, June 27, 2008

To stick or not to stick...

I mentioned earlier this month how, in the quest for a new vehicle, how I've been looking at three cars - the Mini Cooper (which is fundamentally out of consideration now), the VW Passat Wagon and the Mazda 3.  Ever since my trip to Blankets Creek over Father's Day weekend I've been pretty excited about the Mazda 3.   There was a fellow rider with a great looking 3 (I thought it was an A3 at first!), and he gave it a glowing recommendation.

So, my wife and I took a trip to Mazda of Roswell this afternoon to check one out and try a test drive.  What impresses me about the 3 is how much car you can get for the money, especially when you compare it to the Passat.  The Grand Touring trim level has every bell and whistle I could possibly want, at a price several thousand less than the Passat, and the interior is styled just as nicely as the exterior.  We took the 3 for a test drive, and while I really enjoyed the tight steering and comfortable feel to the car, the 2.3L 156hp engine didn't give the car as much "zoom-zoom" as I'm used to with my 1.8L turbocharged Jetta. 

And then we looked at the Mazdaspeed 3... still 2.3L, still with 4 cylinders, but turbocharged with 263hp.   It's a sweet ride, with solid torque and a tighter suspension.  Oh, but it also only comes with a 6-speed manual transmission.  That's right, no automatic option on this sucker.

I haven't driven a stick since... Um... Maybe the late '90's?  It's been a while, so I was a bit nervous of making a complete ass of myself in front of Jeff, our salesman.  (I wasn't as nervous about my wife being in the car, only since I make a complete ass of myself in her presence almost weekly daily.)  Jeff started us off up Alpharetta Hwy. just so we could feel the difference between the 3 and Speed 3; he pushed the car through the first 5 gears and up to around 70 really quickly.  Then I took over and proceeded to stall out about 5 times in the next 10 minutes on the drive back to the dealership.  And - I'm not gonna lie to you - there's nothing like the smell of burnt rubber up front while your wife is trying to keep her lunch down in the back.  On the flip side, once I got used to the clutch I was able to enjoy the drive, and it certainly was more fun than the 3.  More zoom-zoom.

So assuming I decide to pull the trigger on a Mazda, to stick or not to stick?  I'm pretty confident it'll only take me a few days to get used to driving a manual transmission... But do I really want one with Atlanta traffic the way it is?  Meanwhile, my wife has *never* driven a stick before.  I'm confident she'll pick it up as well, but I know she'd also rather not have to worry about it in the first place.  But if I decide not to go with the Speed 3, will I be disappointed with the ride in the 3?  Ah... decisions, decisions... 

Any ideas? Leave 'em here or email me at

Friday, June 20, 2008

According to Gabriel, I Bring Home the Pizza

I slept in a bit this morning and left after Gabriel was up... The exchange goes something like,

- "Bye bye, buddy! Be good for Mommy!"
- "No, Daddy, don't go to work."
- "I've gotta go to work buddy... I need to bring home the bacon."

And then his reply...

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Maybe I'm not as bad at mountain biking as I thought?

It was an excellent weekend all around - One of our busiest, but also a lot of fun.

On Sunday I had the chance to go riding with my friend Mike and Maaike. We hadn't had a chance to meet up in several months, so when Mike mentioned they were going to come in from Birmingham this weekend for some biking, I told him to surprise me with either their road or mountain bikes. Really, though, I was hoping they'd bring their road bikes, since I haven't had much confidence in mountain biking since Sope Creek and the Greenway.

So when they pulled into our driveway Saturday night with their mountain bikes loaded on their Passat, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. No road riding? "Suck it up!" I thought, and just to stay injury-free. Mike initially brought up the idea of trying Sope Creek again, but I suggested going to Blankets Creek, a mountain biking park about 25 minutes from Alpharetta that several people at work have raved about. I had no idea what to expect but knew they had multiple trails for all levels of riding.

We arrived, mounted up and took off to Dwellings, their beginner-to-intermediate level trail, and it was *awesome*. Blankets was the best mountain biking I've ever done! The trails are very well designed for a nice combination of fun with a workout. Apparently none of them are too technical, but they all have good hills and fun switchbacks. We did one loop of the 3.7-mile trail, then decided to hit it again instead of going to brunch. I've never done 10 miles of pure mountain biking before. Here are a few shots...

See you out there!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Gabriel's Nightly Prayers

Every night before bed, we read stories, then do the Lord's Prayer... He has it down pretty well these days!

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The Joys of the Job Interview

I came across this article on CNN the other day and it prompted me to want to write a quick post about the joys of the job interview. Specifically, since the article itself talks about what *not* to do during an interview, I thought I'd lay out some of my personal suggestions on what to do (and not to do) if you want to land the job. For example...

  • When I ask you why you want to work at this company, don't say, "I visited your website and it looks interesting.” That’s the answer I get from 95% of the candidates; you want to be in the group of 5% that get invited back. Do some research on the industry! Read a white paper! Download our demo!
  • When you come in for an in-office interview, dress appropriately. Yes, we’re casual, but I like to see a candidate make the effort to wear a suit. If you can’t go the extra mile for the interview, would you really go the extra mile once if I hire you? Doubtful.
  • When I ask you why you're interested in the specific position, the following answers are the Kiss of Death: "It seems like it would be a stable paycheck." "I live close to your office, so it's a great location for me." "It's a full time position." "I'm not necessarily interested in one position vs. another, I just want a good role."
  • Finally, when I ask you for your questions, put some thought into it! Show me you've done your homework and seal the deal. Questions that make me cringe, however... "Do you have a work-from-home policy?" "How are your benefits?" "How did I do during this interview?"
Good luck on your job search!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Time for a new car?

I'm surprisingly in a good mood for how my morning started off!

After several weeks of talking about it, last night I played tennis with a friend from work at some courts near the office. It was a good time, although we only played for about an hour. I just didn't have the energy to keep going after 7. Anyway, in the middle of playing I took of my sunglasses and set them next to the court, telling myself, "Michael, *don't* forget your sunglasses when you leave!" Of course, I forgot my sunglasses, realizing it only when I got home an hour later.

Onto this morning... I left the house early to head back to the courts to see if, by some miracle, my Oakleys were there. No miracle. Who plays tennis after 7:00 at night in the rain? Apparently people in Vinings do. And those Vinings bastards took the sunglasses I've had since my wife bought them for me for Valentine's Day 4 years ago. Maybe the property management company has them... Doubtful, but I'll call.

Dejectedly I got back into my car to head to the office... Except the Jetta wouldn't start. Massive FAIL. It turns over once - chachunk! - and nothing else. I called a guy from work who usually comes in early and, thankfully, he was able to swing by and pick me up. As I was sitting in my car contemplating how expensive the fix would be, especially factoring in a tow truck, I started to think if the problem was electrical. So when my office mate arrived, we tried jumping the VW. Success! I drove the car to the VW deal up the street from the office, he followed, and we went to the office together.

My Jetta is 8 years old, has 110K miles on it, and this is now 3 trips to the dealer since October. The first two trips cost $1500 each, and this one will cost around $200 for a new battery. We've been talking about getting a new car for me later this year, but I may want to accelerate those plans a few months. I've been leaning towards a few cars - a Mini Cooper, the Passat Wagon, and the Mazda 3. Any ideas or suggestions? I want something that's fun to drive and with decent gas mileage. Oh, and I want to be able to afford it. Maybe a Scion? Yaris? We'll see.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gabriel Shows Off George and Pony

Gabriel really wanted to do a Word of the Day, but we turned it into a full video instead... :)

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Monday, June 9, 2008

I'm no Bob Villa.

Mark, thanks for the gentle prodding to post something after a long absence! I suppose you can call this a pre-Father’s Day post.

I’d like to think I picked up some pretty valuable characteristics from my father, like my strong work ethic and dedication to family. I certainly did not, however, pick up Dad’s Fix-It gene; I’ve never really been a super-handy kinda guy. My father, on the other hand, can do just about anything around the house, including plumbing, electrical and woodwork. He even built two beautiful, heirloom-quality cradles for Gabriel and Gracyn when they were born. Me? Not so much. I helped him out with the occasional project, like building my parents’ screened patio over a decade ago, but that’s about where my handyman skills ended. Oh, and I put in a dimmer switch in Gabriel’s bedroom two years ago and only shocked myself once! doing it.

So, I was pretty stoked last weekend when I felt some initial stirrings, rumblings, if you will, of handyman capabilities. Sunday afternoon I replaced the float, valve and handle on our downstairs toilet. Then I immediately followed it up by sanding off and re-gluing our kitchen/family room threshold. I also scraped up my hands in the process, which only adds to my handyman street cred. I went to bed thinking Bob Villa and I could be best buds.

And then tonight happened.

Over the weekend the knob to our guest tub/shower stopped working, and we decided to call on our home warranty company to fix it. (Quick diversion – If you ever buy a house, I highly recommend getting a home warranty. It pays for itself every year.) About 20 minutes ago, Jason and George from our local Rescue Rooter stopped by to take a look.

2 minutes, $55 and one screw-tightening later our shower was repaired.

The next time my father sees me he will dig through my purse, take away my Guy Card and then hit me over the head with a pair of pliers.