Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our Rhine Cruise via New York City, 2007

I just posted some photos from a cruise I took with my bride of over 30 years this past month. We spent two days in New York City on the way. (On our last night there, we saw the Broadway play "Wicked" at the Gershwin Theatre.)
During the following week, we cruised the Rhine River, visiting Frankfurt, Bad Wimpfen, Heidelberg, Mainz, Bingen, Rüttesheim, and Koblenz. We had a good time!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why I Like Toyotas

I see that Saturn is now putting Toyotas and Hondas side-by-side next to their own cars in the showrooms. They then compare features offered by the three automobile makers to try to convince customers that Saturns are better.

Those tactics won't work for me. I bought my first Toyota Corolla in 1978--brand new. I finally abandoned it when I moved from Minnesota in 1992. It still ran, but I was embarrassed by the rust that had accumulated during the years in Minnesota. (I am told that Minnesota salts their roads with calcium chloride rather than sodium chloride, and that the former is four times as corrosive as the latter?) All I ever did to maintain the car was fill it up with gas, change the oil, buy new tires, and have the brake drums/pads changed periodically.

After the Toyota I bought a Ford Tempo, followed by a Dodge Maxivan. Both worked for awhile, but it wasn't long before I was faced with huge maintenance bills just to keep them running.

In 1995 I bought a Geo Prizm (made by Toyota--it looks like a Corolla); in 1998 I bought a Toyota pickup; in 2001 I bought a Chevy Prizm (also a Toyota Corolla underneath). Maintenance costs have been negligible.

Today--in preparation for a long trip later this month--I took the 2001 Prizm (with 80,000 miles on its odometer) into the mechanic to get new belts, a new fuel filter, new PCV valve and new plugs. Well, he said the belts (still the original) looked brand new; the fuel filter is no longer a separate part and isn't something that is replaced; it doesn't have a separate PCV valve, and the plugs last for 100,000 miles. I asked him about the timing belt, and he said it doesn't have one. (Probably a timing chain?)

In case you haven't guessed by now, here is why I love Toyotas: When other cars reach about 5 years of age, they start falling apart and require major expenditures to keep them going. Toyotas, on the other hand, just keep on running, with negligible out-of-pocket expenses. It is no wonder that they are among the most popular cars in the world!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

It's been two days since I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (I've waited two days to write this in order not to ruin it for others who might not have finished reading it yet.)

Several months ago I reserved a copy at Borders. I drove to the local Borders at 11:30 p.m. on Friday and lined up to buy my book for $22.35 (IIRC). At 12:45--realizing that the line was moving very slowly and imagining that I wouldn't be able to purchase my copy until 5:00 a.m. or so--I left Borders and drove to our neighborhood Wal-Mart, where I purchased a copy for $16.00--without standing in line. I was able to read three chapters before going to bed.

Although not a died-in-the-wool Harry Potter geek, I still enjoyed reading all the books. (I saw the first four HP movies within 2-3 days of their release. ... But having become somewhat disenchanted with the movies, I think I'll wait until it comes to the "dollar movie" theatre in town ... or maybe I'll just rent it from one of the $1.00 vending machines that are springing up at grocery stores. (Those machines don't bode well for the likes of Hollywood Video and Blockbusters, BTW.)

But back to the subject at hand: I thought J.K. Rowling's writing was very tight--I never got bored. There was just enough "chemistry" between HP and Ginny. As I read the book, I never worried about any of the major characters dying--I was ready to accept the worst.

As I read chapter 35, I really wasn't at all upset when it said that the death of Voldemort would require the death of HP. (Well, at least that is what I thought it said ...). Rowling could have easily ended the book after chapter 35, and I would have been perfectly happy.

I have to admit, though, that I was more satisfied after reading chapter 36 (the last chapter), where the opposite occurred--only one of Voldemort and HP died. I wonder of Rowling herself vascillated as she wrote the final chapters, allowing either chapter 35 or 36 to be the ending--and waiting until the last moment for her decision.

I guess I'm glad there was an epilog. It is good to know what happened to Ginny and the other major players after the Deathly Hallows.

Thank you, J.K., for a great series!