Various Updates on Life

I’m headed up to Bellingham tomorrow afternoon, stopping by my parent’s house in Snohomish on the way to pick up some stuff. This’ll be the first long-distance drive with this car, so it should be an interesting experience. I will likely write about it. To date, I’ve put 59 miles on the car, not including the miles for today. I still have to go to class and come back, so I’m not quite done yet. The trip up will probably be about four hours. I’m going to have Amanda’s dad do some stuff with the tire pressure and have him show me some basic maintenance so that at least I know how to check some of it. Friday, I’ll be taking Amanda down to Seattle for her orthodontist appointment, then we’ll both hightail it back down here to good old Olympia. Depending on how long Amanda intends to stay down here, I’m debating a drive down to Mt. St. Helens sometime this weekend. I haven’t yet decided.

The class I’m taking, Computers and Human Reason, is going very well. The faculty is awesome, as are the people I’m taking it with. So far, much of it is review, but we’re beginning to cover the topics that I’m not as intricately familiar with, starting with database design. I’m probably going to leave the apartment a little early today so I can sit down with Microsoft Access and do part of the assignment that I haven’t been able to do here at home, since I don’t have Access here at home.

If I find out that Amanda has Access, I’m basically going to kick myself. I don’t think she does, but if she’s reading this and she does, my reaction is as follows: oh.

We also just re-signed the lease on our Olympia apartment. We now have it through June 30, 2006. Go us.

Comments on Gmail

As most people reading this probably know, I’ve been using Google’s Gmail service for my primary e-mail address for the last couple months. I’ve found that this is, overall, a very useful switch, but I thought I would provide some semi-objective comments on the service.

  1. E-Mail access via e-mail clients. I’ve found it really useful to still run Mozilla Thunderbird alongside Gmail’s interface, but there’s a lot of redundancy inherent in this. The only real reason I’m still running Thunderbird is because there’s some data in there that I don’t want to lose. So, thus, I’m keeping track of both my Evergreen e-mail and my Gmail e-mail via Thunderbird.
  2. No IMAP access. POP access, which is currently what Gmail offers, only allows one-way communication between e-mail servers and an e-mail client. In a typical situation, if you retrieve mail via POP, there is no way to recover messages. Gmail’s POP service is quite nice in that it leaves copies of every message sent or received on its servers to be accessed via their web interface.

    The problem is the data that’s still in Thunderbird. The one thing stopping me from completely using web access to read my e-mail are those precious messages that I don’t want to misplace. IMAP would allow me to write that data over to Gmail’s servers and essentially get rid of mail clients entirely. To me, that’s not a goal to cough at — all my bookmarks are available online for my immediate reference should I need it, so why can’t all my e-mail be the same way?

  3. Usability. Gmail’s service is very, very usable. The only things that I really don’t are (1) that signatures aren’t always inserted where I want them and (2) there is no option to have multiple signatures. This is another reason why I’m still using Thunderbird. Gmail, when opening a compose window, puts the e-mail signature all the way down at the bottom of the message. Since I don’t always want to use that particular signature, I have to go down to the bottom of the window and delete it. If I do want to use it, I have to go down to the bottom and cut/paste it into the proper space (at least when replying to messages).

    Bottom line: Google needs to tweak the signature functionality to be more intuitive.

My experience with Gmail has been astoundingly positive, with very few (if any) disruptions in service. I’d recommend this to anyone willing to try it, and I’ve got 50 Gmail invites to get rid of anyway. Anyone want one?

Prius Experiences for 6/25

I went out to Evergreen and took a whole bunch of pictures today while parked in a mostly empty parking lot. Those pictures (perhaps an overly extensive set) are located here. I appear to be falling victim to the Prius Owner Photo-Taking Syndrome, which has affected some other Prius owners as well. Of course, more photos will be forthcoming.

Last night, I went ahead and popped a CD into the audio system, knowing I would be taking photos this morning. The sound quality is really quite good, and since I had to turn the car on to pop the CD in last night, the music started right up when I turned her on this morning.

The drive over had one semi-long wait — the Evergreen Parkway is being repaved, and they picked this weekend to do a very large stretch of that work. So I ended up driving through a construction zone to get to the lot so I could take my pictures. After taking the pictures, I went out next to the Library Loop and noticed that that was closed too. I decided to avoid construction and go out towards Highway 101.

There’s a roundabout now where there used to be a couple of turn lanes — this was kind of a waste of money, since it also included taking a four-lane road down to a two-lane road. Anyway, going out towards the highway, there was a very large pipe ditch that apparently never got covered. I slowed way the hell down so that I wouldn’t accidentally set off the airbag system by hitting the forward edge, rolled forward, and got stuck. Thankfully, a good press on the gas pedal got me out of it, but it shocked me that there was even something there to get stuck in. Steel plates, anyone? Detours, maybe?

I did check the Prius when I got home to make sure that that little encounter with a road-width ditch didn’t damage the car. Thankfully, no damage visible.

As I keep driving this car, I’ve noticed that my nervousness surrounding driving is starting to slowly drain off. Chalk that up to both experience and having a car that’s really fun to drive. More later.

New Prius

[This post is backdated.]

As it turns out, the new Prius in the family is actually mine. They had a used 2004 Millenium Silver Prius at Titus-Will in Tacoma which we opted to get. The car was originally put into service on April 27, 2004, making it a little under a year and three months old. It’s a Toyota Certified Used car with an initial mileage of 16,972 miles. My parents initially test drove it and I didn’t have a chance to drive it until we were done with the paperwork and leaving the lot. I can make brief comments on some functionality here, but not a whole lot.

The drive is a very interesting one in this car, and is actually much more enjoyable for me than it would be in a normal car. Since I’m hearing impaired, the big thing for me is cabin noise, which the Prius handles excellently. At low speeds with only the battery running, nothing can be heard but whatever music is playing at the time — at highway speeds, it’s still possible for me to hear the sound with a much lower volume setting than I might otherwise have to use. Both great advantages.

Tons upon tons of information is available about this car, but the real kicker for me was that, at least in terms of overall operation, there is little difference from a standard car. There is still a gearshift and responsive steering — the only difference is that the Prius has an environmentally sound PZEV rating. Admittedly, this car is not going to solve all the environmental problems in the world, but it does reduce the footprint a single driver (and his or her passengers) have on the environment. I once mentioned the Leave No Trace hiking philosophy when discussing the Prius on this blog, and that definitely rings true.

Anyway, I made it home and pulled into my parking slot with 17,005 miles on the odometer. A very comfortable car, though I didn’t have much chance to test very much of it out. The consumption screen is very useful (and I managed to get at least one instance of 100+ MPG displaying on there). I turned on one of the area’s classical music stations on the way home and enjoyed being able to make the drive myself.

Further notes and impressions to follow.

Prius Stuff: Followup

I’ve done some e-mailing on the toyota-prius and Prius-2G Yahoo! Groups, and there appear to be a number of people who have first-generation Priuses with easily twice that offered mileage (one person cited 180,000 miles, a bit under twice the number of miles on the eBay car described below. Here’s the incredible part — he claims to still be on his original set of brakes!).

This doesn’t really settle the question, since with each new model year, we get slightly different reactions. I would anticipate that the second-generation Priuses (2004-5 model years) will fare just as well, if not far better.

Prius Stuff

Out of curiosity, I pulled up the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration’s web site to compare a 2001 Toyota Prius, a 2005 Toyota Prius, and a 2004 Subaru Forester side-by-side. The results are interesting — the 2005 Prius is only slightly less safe than the Forester and an obvious improvement over the 2001.

What brought this on? A 2001 Toyota Prius has been on eBay for the last couple weeks under a couple different item numbers, first listed at $11,980 (item #4555762203, Buy it Now price) and now listed at $11,480 (item #4557663223, Buy it Now price). The recommended MSRP is much higher — around $17,000 for that particular vehicle (the auction says $16,000, but I’m being a bit more generous and tagging on an extra thousand).

So here’s the question looking at those auctions inspires for me. The car has roughly 92,000 miles on it, but I’m curious whether that kind of mileage should be a negative when considering purchasing full hybrids like the Prius. On a normal ICE, I wouldn’t dare go anywhere near that car with a 25-foot pole. However, since Priuses are gasoline/electric, there isn’t as much wear and tear on the gas engine, so it seems like reliability would be just as good as if the car had roughly 50,000-60,000 miles on it. No proof to back up that wild guess, but it would be interesting to see data on this.

caeryn Updates

I’ve been working on restoring caeryn to operation (my home server), since she’s been down for the last few days. Turns out, the IP address on our DSL line changed, rendering her inaccessible. So that problem’s fixed.

I’ve also uninstalled my manual install of SquirrelMail on that machine and installed it via RPM for easier updating. She’s also now getting a much-needed update:

116 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 removed and 3 not upgraded.
Need to get 130MB of archives.
After unpacking 21.1MB disk space will be freed.

She should be back to normal soon. Gotta love Fedora Core 3-based servers.

Vacation Goodness

I go home this afternoon to visit my parents. This is basically the only summer break I’m really going to get, which I’m actually okay with — most other summer breaks, for me, have just been sitting around doing very little.

Admittedly, I will still have plenty of opportunities to do just that, since I’m technically only working 10 hours/week. Of course, that doesn’t include any of my web design clients outside of Evergreen, so I’ll probably end up doing more like 12-15, depending upon whether I try to land any new clients or not.

Of course, I probably will try to land new clients, though I’m probably not going to be looking for any huge projects. If anyone reading this needs work done, feel free to contact me.

On a Prius-related note, Toyota of Kirkland had not one, not two, but three used 2004s listed yesterday (which has since gone down to two). It’s a shame that they’re all $26,850 and up, or I’d so be all over it. Same with the one 2002 Prius sitting at Titus Will in Tacoma — $18,000, I think they told me. Still way outside my meager price range.

One can dream. Speaking of that, I should think about sleep, but will probably write something more.

Graduation Application and Evaluations

I went in and turned in my graduation application today. The woman at the Registration and Records desk knew why immediately, asking me whether I was applying for a BS. The answer is essentially yes, though it’s actually the BA and BS combined. The requirements for that are 225 credits with at least 90 of the final 135 earned at Evergreen, which include 72 credits of science, math and computer science, of which at least 48 are upper division. At the moment, I have 22 upper division credits, only 8 of them in computer science. No biggie — I stand to get an additional 48 upper division computer science credits through Student Originated Software.

Thus, my BS is obviously in Computer Science. I’m sticking with the idea of having my BA in Writing, since I’ve done enough of it within the last four years. That’s an easy argument to support.

I also went in and had the second part of my evaluation appointment. I should be getting 4 upper division writing credits out of the 8 credits total for that contract. Cool.

Only another year left…