Sunday, January 28, 2007

Madam Fu's in South Park Meadows Shopping Center, Austin TX

I had seen a sign for this place "Madam Fu's Asian House" that just opened in the South Park Meadows shopping center here in South Austin. I figured I would give it a try. I rolled in and ordered a beef with garlic sauce bowl, a chicken garlic sauce bowl, lo mein for Josh and 2 hot and sour soups. I was amazed when the bill came out to be $40. I have eat Chinese food all over Austin. I have never paid more than $40 for lunch. There were no lunch specials at all. The meals were $8 and the soup was over $3. I was told by the lady at the register that the food was good with large portions. I paid and sat down.

I was brought the food about 7 minutes later. The hot and sour soup was spicy and was good. The veggies were fresh and and the garlic sauce was flavorful. I did not think the portions were large at all. I have had better food at Food Shui in NW Austin or The China Bowl in NW Austin. I will not be going back to this place. If I wanted to spend over $40 on lunch I should have gone to Johnny Carinos or some good steak place. The food was fresh and flavorful but not earth shattering.

If you are considering checking this place out, I'd skip it. You would be better off going someplace else.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I broke down and bought a new car.

I got bitten by the new car bug. I traded in my beloved 2004 Honda Accord EX. I loved that car. It got descent gas millage. It was in fairly good shape, other than the time that some young 17 year old kid decided he could take a left right in front of me as I was going through an intersection. He tells me, "Dude, I had a green arrow." I had then pointed to the light and asked, "What green arrow was that?" There was no damage to his truck but he took my front end off. The car was not drivable at all. It sat at the body shop for over 3 weeks because he apparently screwed up my air bags and the seat belt.

To start off, I have owned a 2000 Honda Insight Hybrid. I loved that car. It did not have a lot of power, but got you where you needed to go. I got anywhere between 50 MPG and 70 MPG. It was a 2 seater and did not have a lot of room and was also a 5 speed, which was a pain to drive. It was fun going to gas stations and people would ask, "Where do you plug that thing in?" or "Can I see the engine?" It was interesting meeting all kinds of people when I would pull into a gas station. The main problem was that it was not a 4 door, so taking more than 1 person was not possible. I traded my Insight in on a 2004 Honda Accord which was a Honda Certified car. It had barely 12K miles on it.

The first place I hit was The Town North Nissan store off 183 just past Burnet. They had a 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid with like 30K miles on it. It was white and was an automatic. They wanted $14.9K for it. I thought it was a great deal, especially since they went new for $24K. I was told to as for a guy named Boon. On my lunch hour, I ran over to take a peek at it. I walked around the car and it was in great shape. The interior looked brand new. I met with Boon who hopped in the car for a test drive, only to jump out as we were leaving the dealership because he had another customer. He tells me, "You take it for a drive. As long as you want!" I am thinking to myself, "Gee. They are being very brave letting me take this car by myself, without having any of my contact info." I drove it on 183 south for a little bit and drove it back. I checked the millage because this odometer will tell you how many miles per gallon you are getting. I noticed it was reading 29 mpg. I also noticed the check engine light on. I get back to the dealership and there is another guy waiting for me to get back because he always wants to look at it. I am curious about the check engine codes, so I grab my scan tool and go scan the trouble codes. There were 3 codes that came up and they were all manufacturer diagnostic codes. Honda is notorious for having funky check engine codes but many of them are minor. The other weird thing was that 2 of the LEDs on the battery indicator to tell me how charged the batteries were were out. Once you got past those two LEDs, the rest were lit so I knew the batteries were being charged. I asked Boon if there was a warranty and he tells me there was no factory warranty but they would give me a 1000 mile warranty. I think to myself, "Gee, I would do 1000 in a few weeks." I take his card, writing down the trouble codes and head back to my office. When I get back to my office, I check my own sources for these trouble codes because this will be the 5th Honda I have owned and I do all of my own mechanical work. I find out that the 3 codes are basically problems with the IMA charging motor. (This is the unit that basically makes this car a hybrid and helps it get such great gas millage.) In this case, there was a reason why it was only getting 29 mpg and not the over 40 mpg that it should get.

The second placed I looked was the Leif Johnson Ford dealership off Airport. They had a 2005 Honda Hybrid for 17.9K which was the special internet price. I had called and spoked to a guy who told me to ask for him and set up a time for me to come in. When I got to the dealership, I was referred to another salesperson named Amy who in turn turned me over to a 3rd sales person. We go to peek at the car and this car was a dark grey. It was also in great shape. I hope in and was immediately disappointed it was a 5 speed. The sales lady asked if I wanted to go for a test drive and I said sure. I asked if she wanted to drive it off the lot because that had been the practice where the sales person would drive it off the lot and then let you take the wheel. She looks at me and tells me she can not drive 5 speed. I hop in and we take off down 290 south. We got to talking and she was a very down to earth and sweet girl, telling me she had been selling insurance prior to selling cars. She also proceeds to tell me she has only been in the car business less than 90 days. I know that the car business is one of those businesses where people come and go and many folks tend to change dealerships like they change socks. It is always a red flag to me for a person young in the car dealership because negotiating a deal is always harder because they have very little experience. I come back to the dealership and was then assisted by Amy. She tells me they will basically give me book value for my Accord. I do have some negative equity with this car, even after paying more every month towards my car payment. At 6% APR my payments at 72 months would be close to $386, which is not too bad. The good thing is the windows are tinted already but the down side is that it is a 5 speed and I hate to drive a 5 speed in bumper to bumper traffic on Mopac during rush hour. I tell her that I am going to run numbers with my bank and I will get back to her. Ironically, Amy and the other sales person called me in addition to the Sales manager all weekend long to see if I had made a decision if I wanted the car or not. That weekend was Joshua's birthday party and I had family in town, as well as having to work sound. I called Amy on Monday and she proceeds to tell me they have raised the price of the car $1000 but will sell it to me at the $17993 price they quoted me. I tell her that I am going to go look at a gas version of the Civic because they get 30 city and 40 highway, which is close to what the Hybrid gets but also is like $16K for a 2006 Honda Civic Coupe.

The third place I looked was the Howdy Honda in South Austin. They had this 2006 Honda Civic coupe with the new body style. It was very sporty. I walked in and was immediately given to someone else because this car salesman had a delivery. The new salesman, Kasey, was very personable and down to earth. We took this 2006 Civic coupe on a test drive. I liked the way it handled. It drove great. I was impressed by how calm he was, even with Josh in the back seat asking when we could go home. I took Josh with me for the simple fact that if things took too long, Josh would not stand for it and raise a fuss. We get back to the dealership and they appraise my Accord. He comes back and says, "I have good new and bad news." He hands me a Car Fax report which shows my car had been in an accident. He asked me if my car had been in an accident. I told him it had and was repaired at a 5 star repair facility, using nothing by Honda parts and paint. He tells me because it had been in an accident, they were going to give me $7700 for it. He then tells me that I could come up with $3000 cash, that would help with part of the negative equity and might make the numbers look a little better. I had told him that I was not really looking to put anything down on it since I was not really looking to buy a car. We end up leaving the dealership and heading home.

The last place I decide to goto was Honda of San Marcos. Josh's mom had bought her 2003 Honda CRV from them, so I was familiar with the dealership. They were under new ownership so I figured since it was so close to the house, I could go it and see what they could do. I had figured if worst came to worst, I would just go back to Leif Johnson Ford and buy that 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid that had a 5 speed. I was met by a guy named Patrick. He was an older gentleman from Houston who was new the San Marcos area. He had told me he had been in the car business over 27 years. He was this down to earth, country boy kinda guy. I test drove the Honda Civic. Ironically, I knew most about this car that he did. We get back and he asks me if I want to buy it. I tell him that I am interested in seeing what the numbers look like. His manager, Mr. Macy, hops in my car and takes it for a test drive. Mr. Macy is from Florida where he had this huge house but is having problems selling it. His wife had gone back to get some furniture for their new house in Kyle where they just moved and was rear ended buy some foreign folks. He was not in the best of moods; but, with everything going on in his life, I can see why. Patrick comes back and hands me a Car Fax and tells me the car had been in an accident. He then tells me they are only going to be able to give me like $8500. I think to myself, "Wow, thats a bit more than Howdy Honda was going to give me but Leif Johnson is still going to give me full book price." I explain that to him and he goes back to Mr. Macy. They try to get me to put some money down to help work out the negative equity; but, I am interested in seeing how far they are willing to go to make the deal work. Mr. Macy then tells me he will give me close to almost book value for my trade. I tell him that I would like to see what the numbers would be and it comes out to $399 at 6.5% APR at 72 months. They take me into financing and the best rate they can give me is like 6.99%. I call USAA and they tell me 6.5% and basically tell me they are going to ship a check over to the dealer. I did wind up with a 2005 Honda Civic Hybrid. This car is white and is automatic. It is a clean car. It had like 29K miles on it. I was told the car was owned my an Engineer who had a mid-life crisis and wound up with a Honda S2000 Roadster. The windows were tinted on this car as well. I drove it home that night.

What is my overall opinion of the Civic Hybrid? It is smaller than the Accord. I did slam my right elbow into the head rests getting into the car the other day. The A/C controls are a little funky. It will take some getting used to. The radio will need to be updated but I have my sights set on a CD player that has a LCD display in it and will probably update the speakers as well when I upgrade it. I am getting 41 to 49 MPG. I drove for over a week on a little over 1/2 a tank of gas. Gas was a little expensive in San Marcos so I put $10 in and that put me just under 1/2 a tank and I am still driving on that tank. In my Accord, I would have had to put in $20 twice already. The Hybrid does take a little getting used to. You have to drive it differently than a regular car. You have to keep your eyes on the battery charging as you drive it. I tend to put the cruise control on and let it ride. I am overall impressed with this car. I decided to move away from the Accord since I drive over 100 miles a day 3 days a week and figured if I could just about double my mpg, it would benefit me in the long run. The 2004 Honda Accord average MPG was 28 MPG. In the Honda Civic Hybrid it is 47 MPG. You figure in a 10 gallon tank the Accord could go 280 miles. In the Civic Hybrid I could go 470 miles. I figured I would save probably $20 a week in gas alone and almost $1000 a year. Thats not too shabby.

So I walk into Crate and Barrel....

Its been a long long time since I have been in this place. They are having this 30% off sale on Elfa. I start to look around and start thinking to myself, "Oh my! I have seen most of this crap at Target for like a 1/3rd of their prices." There are people in there buying hundreds of dollars worth of shelving and organizing crap. I am totally amazed. I walked out without buying anything. I did get some organizing ideas. I still have to put up some shelves in my office that I bought over a week ago. If I need organizing stuff, I will hit the Home Depot or Lowes. I might end up at Target. I am sorry to the folks who love this place. Its not all that.

Monday, January 08, 2007

So I get this phone call from my brother

He leaves a message on my machine that says something like, "I just did something and you are going to laugh. I can not leave it on here for fear of it biting me in the ass." I called him back within 10 minutes. He proceeds to tell me that he met this girl off Quest Personals named Christi. I was like, "Ok." He proceeds to tell me it is my ex.

She and I dated years ago around 1997. She was a very sweet girl but there was an issue of her being very immature. I did not see us moving forward, so we broke up. Ironically, she tells me brother she broke up with me by throwing a promise ring in my car, which is a crock of crap. I never gave her a promise ring. What is even more ironic is that evertime I bump into her only, she tells me that she would take me back in a heartbeat, that she loves me still and will always love me.

My brother tells me that he almost needed Viagra just to have sex with her after he found out who she was. The funny thing is that it did not click to her that she and I are brothers. My brother tells her that he and I were roomates but thats it. I get an IM from her later that night asking what the names of my former roomates were. My brother tells me he is done with her; yet, Christi still text messages him that she wants him. What is even more funny is that she is dating some guy as well.

Christi send me an IM a day or so later. I told her that I can not believe she had sex with my roomate. (I did not tell her Daniel is my brother. I would have thought she would already know that.) She tells me it was a one time deal and that was it. Christi started going to my parents church and was big time involved with the church. When I asked her what God would think about her having sex with my former roomate and still having a boyfriend, she tell me "I repented and was a one time deal." Of course, I know better because she texts my brother all the time telling him she wants him.

I have suggested my to my brother that he needs to keep her on a short leash. He needs not to lead her on like they are going to see each other again because she will end up stalking him. All she has is his cell phone. She does not know where he lives or his last name. Once he moves in 3 weeks, he should be in the clear of her trying to hunt him down because he will have disappeared.

The good thing to come out of this is that I found out that she moved to the other side of town and does not goto my parents church any more. I am sure she will find some other crazy person that is just as screwed up as she is and Daniel will be a distant memory. It is kinda funny because when I see my brother, we just look at each other and kinda laugh.