Funny about Money

Simple Living = Frugality = Peace of Mind: Personal Finance and Stress Control

December 2, 2016
by funny

You Doubt Me…?

…when I talk about my fellow homicidal drivers?

Check this one out! Great photos. At freeway speeds, the woman managed to wedge her SUV at a right angle (!) underneath an 18-wheeler.

Think of that! Really, it’s hard to imagine. How on earth did she do that?  And then…that semi rig is a TANKER TRUCK! It did not blow up, which says something about safety design in newer trucks. I guess. Or else God was on her or the truck driver’s side.

And that lady is why I want an armored tank to drive the fine streets of Phoenix.

December 1, 2016
by funny

A Small Car Coup

Is that a coupe de car?

This noon I picked up Phryne the Venza from Camelback Toyota. They did indeed change out the struts. Claimed the cost was $386+++, said they were charging it against the “Platinum” extended warranty coverage, and soaked me a $50 “deductible.”


Meanwhile, Pete — soon to become the new owner of Chuck’s (Astonishingly Wonderful) Automotive Repair, was dubious. He said that many Toyota warranties are actually farmed out to second parties, and that they were licensed to do warranty repairs for some of them. When I couldn’t find anything saying who might actually be backing these things and couldn’t get Brian down at Toyota to tell me the secret, I called back and got Chuck Himself on the phone. He said to bring the paperwork down and he would tell me a) what is covered and b) whether they can do the work under the warranty.

So after I retrieved the car from the Toyota joint (having photographed the rental — which is what loaners are, now: rental cars — from all angles before turning it in) (No…no, i surely do NOT trust them), I trotted down to Chuck’s, where both proprietors were holding forth.

Both men went through all the paper I’d been given. They couldn’t find any sign of a so-called “Platinum” extended warranty, nor could any of us find any evidence that the warranty I was sold is backed by anyone other than Toyota. It appears that if I bought one, I wasn’t given a contract. But they think I probably did not buy one. The only items that are covered on the Certified Used extended warranty — good for 7 years or 100,000 miles — are parts of the drive train.

Needless to say, hatchback gate struts are not part of the drive train. 😀

We contemplated this. I remarked that what must have happened was I uttered the magic words: “And it fell on my head.”

By then the Camelback Toyota crew must have figured out that I’d called the AG’s office on Bell Road Toyota. Brian probably figured the next words to come out of my mouth would be “…and I’m gonna sue your asses.”


Well, that’s our speculation.

Whatever happened, apparently Camelback Toyota gave me a break on the repair job.

Not as incandescent a break as they’d like to make it appear: you can buy those struts at an auto parts store for about $37, and the repair takes about 10 minutes per strut. If that long.

But I suppose $50 is about what their cost was, and it was one helluva lot better than $386.

We now know that Chuck’s can work on anything that’s not part of the drive train. Drive train repairs: to Camelback Toyota.

Postscript: Check out this exceptionally clever solution for failed hatchback and hood struts!

And my last word (i hope) (for awhile) on cars:

The rental/loaner/WTF they gifted me with was a late-model RAV-4 — only 9,000 miles on it, so presumably a 2015 or 2016. Dunno if you’ve been watching the reviews of Toyota vehicles (how many people, really, spend their spare time reading Edmunds?), but when the present version came out, car reviewers expressed their disappointment. I’m not going to try to track down those reviews…but can say that for some years La Maya drove an earlier version of the RAV-4. It was a very nice vehicle, classy on the inside and roomy enough for us to carry furniture from estate sales to her house and to M’hijito’s place.

That’s not altogether so today. The car is nice enough, but its interior trim has been plasticized and cheapied down. It really does NOT hold a candle to the Venza, which unfortunately Toyota took out of production last year.

The Venza’s interior, with its fake walnut trim (possibly real, under layers of shiny plastic??) and its mega-electronic approach to driving, is much classier and much easier and more intuitive to operate. Well. To the extent that the electronic stuff can be said to be “intuitive.”

The RAV-4 has mechanical dials for the heating/air-conditioning (for example), but the thing takes three controls to operate, at least one of which requires you to pull over, park, and search for it if you’re to figure out how to use the system.

The RAV-4 is cramped in front: with my friend Lee in the passenger seat last night, we had a time finding room on the floor on his side for my choir binder and hymnal. Believe me…these are not massive items!

The ride is OK but…tinny. The RAV-4’s four-banger, which performs well on city streets (didn’t take it on the freeway) sounds a little whiny in action. The Venza’s six-banger performs…well…as Pegasus to Old Stewball…

So I feel a little better about the choice of new cars…though I do still miss the Dog Chariot. Phryne reminds me of my beloved, classy Camry, the one I traded in the Mercedes for and that made me feel it actually was better than the Mercedes. That Camry. {sigh}

They don’t make Camry’s like that anymore, either.

Not your father’s Camry. That’s for damn sure. 😉

November 30, 2016
by funny

Playing off Costco against Amazon

Christmas treeSo there’s a specific Costco item my son said he wanted for Christmas. What rational person would not order this item, which is seasonal — NOT this season, though — from Costco Online?

Probably one more rational than moi… Naturally, I went over to the Costco website and found it. Very nice. While exploring, I found a competing device with a more interesting design and lots more space to do things with. So…I decided to order that instead of the one he specifically said he wanted.

But…I ordered too soon.

Shortly, in one of my many idle moments, I cruised over to Amazon. There I discovered…

a) The item I’d ordered is ROUNDLY panned by Amazon reviewers. It’s not just disliked. It is passionately hated. Takes four hours to assemble. Falls apart forthwith. Junk, trash, and debris!

b) The specific item M’hito craves — brand name, size, model number and all — is available at Amazon for FIFTEEN BUCKS less than Costco was asking. And it gets 4.5 out of 5 stars from reviewers.

Naturally, I now order the doodad that he wants from Amazon. Then I go over to Costco and try to cancel the thing I’ve ordered there.

Discover I can’t. I mean, I can, but it ain’t workin’. Takes a day and a half before a response comes from Costco, which is basically “sorreeeee.” Wait till it shows up and then drive it down to Costco to return it.

The Amazon item showed up, via the U.S. Postal Service, the next day after I ordered it. The Costco thing just showed this afternoon, a full week later.

So, in another half an hour or so, I’m going to schlep this damn thing down to Costco. Good riddance to it.

In the convenience department, then: Costco has got one HECKUVA lot to learn from Amazon.

And in the consumerist department: I’m brought back to the feeling that one of the best things about Amazon is those consumer reviews.

If I hadn’t gone over to Amazon and glanced at the consumer ratings, then read the reviews, I would never have tumbled to the fact that what looked like a better product than the one my son had asked for was really a piece of junk. There were one or two reviews for each product at Costco; at Amazon, both of them had a lot of reviews.

And when there are a lot of reviews, that’s when you start to get good information. Just a few really good reviews usually indicates the seller is putting friends or employees up to posting raves; a few really bad ones suggest the competition is trying to trash the seller. But a whole lot of reviews, with plenty in the 3- and 4-star categories, usually will tell you what you need to know about a product.

That makes Amazon a valuable resource, IMHO. With Consumer Reports not very useful anymore — many of their reviews appear to be driven by various agendas, and often their top-rated items are junk — Amazon’s customer reviews are probably about as close to real consumer experience as you’re gonna get.


November 29, 2016
by funny


So the wonderful new(ish) Venza is at Camelback Toyota getting the struts replaced on the back hatchback gate. It took them over two hours to decide whether they would cover this $500 job on the extended warranty.

They ended up soaking me $50 for the job, but I guess that was OK because at least the car is getting fixed. If they had refused to cover it on the warranty, I wouldn’t have had it fixed — just would have used, as JestJack wisely and frugally suggested, a pole to prop the damn thing open.

Here’s the entertainingly spooky thing:

Camelback Toyota resides at the corner of 16th Street and Camelback Road, once the home of the years-defunct Sanderson Ford. Wayyyy back in those years, my father proudly bought me, as a graduation present, a brand-new Ford Fairlane. He’d done a lot of studying on the subject and had decided this was the perfect car for his little girl.


He was proud to have made an American, and proud to buy American.

And it was…a perfect lemon. Whatever could go wrong with a car went wrong with that piece of junk, up to AND including its paint powdering off.

This absurd machine lived at Sanderson Ford. I would pick it up, drive it home, and within a day or two take it back for some new ailment.

By coincidence, my newlywed husband and I had rented an apartment in a complex about a quarter-mile to the north of Sanderson Ford. This was good, because it meant I was within walking distance of the place where my car lodged.

Literally, the car was in the repair shop more than it was parked in our apartment carport spot!

You think I exaggerate? Let me assure you: Not at all.

So as you can imagine, a number of unpleasant ghosts haunt a visit to that place, despite the spectacular remodeling job Toyota has done to the premises.

At any rate, as I’m on the phone to Chuck the Wonder-Mechanic asking if he can replace the struts, the Spectacular Cuteness Who Is Brian (eat your heart out, Young Dr. Kildare!!) comes striding up to inform me (at long last) that they can fix the thing and it’ll only cost me a bargain fifty bucks.


Just repair it. I’ll never use the effng power assist again. And I have a nice pole, just in case.


Oh well.

They “give” me a loaner in the form of a late-model RAV-4. I say “give” advisedly: it’s actually a rental, but the rent is said to be  covered by the warranty.

White of ’em, eh?

So I drive the RAV-4 to the grocery store, where I manage to dodge a PoB (Panhandler on Bike) and escape with a few bagsful of veggies and stuff. Then get home, at which point it occurs to me that I forgot to bring the garage door opener with me. Fortunately, I have a stand-by, and fortunately, it still works.

Oh well.

As I’m driving said RAV-4 around, I reflect that I was not wrong…yea verily, I was RIGHT when I test-drove one of the things a couple years ago and thought it couldn’t even begin to compare with the ancient Sienna. Or with the Honda CR-V. Or with the Subaru. Or with a pet donkey.

Well. A pet donkey has other things to recommend it…like a personality.

The now-defunct Venza (they took it out of production last year) is as the day unto the night, compared to the Rav-4. One is left wondering why on earth they canceled out that lovely vehicle, so far superior to the nearest comparable model. What  could Toyota’s management have been thinking?

Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with quality.

Much as I could do without the Venza’s computer-driven doodads, I will admit they improve on the Rav-4’s (possibly) mechanical controls. This thing requires three dials to get the air-conditioning to operate. The Venza? One: dial to the temperature you want.

Okay, okay: the Sienna? One: off or on.

Given a choice, I’d take “off or on.” But the Venza surely beats the Rav-4 in the “turn on the AC” department.

Here in the 21st Century: Ford. Ford is what I’d say.

Quality-wise, M’hijito’s Ford Escape is comparable to the (defunct) Venza, a modern version of the Sienna, and far, far, FAR superior to the Rav-4.

And I’m brought back to that wistful impulse: Shoulda bought a Ford truck.

Ever think you’re living in a Monty Python Show?

November 28, 2016
by funny

Speed Queen: It Just WORKS!

By golly, the thing DOES work. Yesterday I took it into my fevered brain to subject the ballyhooed Speed Queen washer to the acid test: tossed a vast  mound of dirty clothes into the thing. That would be as follows:

5 kitchen towels
2 linen napkins
4 pairs of jeans
1 pair of cutoffs
2 knit shirts
1 sweatshirt
2 pairs of stretchy pants
4 camis
5 pairs of underpants
2 pairs of socks

This pile of debris stuffed the machine’s tub right up to the top. Half-expecting the worst, I turned it on and ran away.

In 30 minutes flat, the cycle had run through.

A fair amount of soap suds resided in the utility sink, though. (In this house, the drain attachment, rather than plugging directly into the sewer drain, hooks over the side of the sink and water runs off down the sink’s drain.) No question: I’ve been using too much of that HE detergent, even though I took a Sharpie and traced a bright green line all the way around the Tide bottle’s cap at the “medium-load” mark.

So I ran it through the “rinse” cycle.

More suds.

Ran it through “rinse” again. Suds gone.

Understand: this means those jeans have gone through FOUR cycles of sloshing around. If they had gone through even ONE cycle in the accursed Samsung — by “they” in a Samsung I mean two pair, not four pair, not even one pair plus a few shirts and camis — they would come out looking like…oh yes, let us never forget it, THIS:

i. hate. the. samsung. goddamn. washer!

With profound trepidation, I reached into the washer. And what should come out but…clothes.

Unbraided, untangled, freaking CLEAN clothes. One item at a time. Nary a single piece was twisted or knotted onto another piece. They all came out pretty well unwrinkled, too. Nothing absolutely had to be run through the dryer to beat the wrinkles out. A quick shake or two, and even the knit tops and cotton T-shirts could go straight onto a hanger to dry.

Huh. Think of that.

doghairNext: ran ten days’ worth of microfiber rags through a “heavy” cycle. These, used once a day to swiffer up 1868 square feet of tilework, were clogged — CLOGGED, I tell you! — with dog hair and dust.

Now, from this experiment, I must admit, I expected nothing. The image doesn’t show all the fine, vacuum-cleaner-choking dog hair collected by the microfiber-swiffing strategy, but trust me: only the gods themselves could get that stuff out of a Costco microfiber rag.

To avoid introducing gritty sand into the washer (tracked into the house by me and by the dawgs), I did soak these rags in the scrub bucket while the first load of wash was running, and then sloshed each one briefly and wrung it out before tossing it into the Speed Queen. And also by way of shaking out dog hair, I did run them through the dryer.

The result? Defies belief! Not only were the rags dog-hair free — completely dog-hair free! — they were cleaner than they’ve been since they were new. A couple of the older specimens had turned permanently gray. No amount of washing would get out the fully absorbed grime. When I pulled them out of the dryer this morning, I found that every one of them is yellow! Even the rubbed-in, soaked-in, scoured-in permanent gray dirt washed out.

Hot damn.

So: I’m going to have to train myself to use HE detergent properly. You actually can buy old-fashioned Wisk through Amazon — Wisk used to be the best of the detergents available to ordinary consumers, followed closely by Tide. But Speed Queen urges consumers to go ahead and use the HE stuff. Just don’t…overdo it. Apparently I remain excessively enthusiastic about detergent. 😀

So the question is, just exactly how environmentally immoral is this machine?

True, it does fill the tub all the way up to the top when you set it to wash a large load. But…are we talking about something like the wondrous environmentally correct toilets that supposedly used 1/3 the amount of water of a real toilet but that had to be flushed three times to do the job?

I got almost two weeks’ worth of laundry into one load. To wash four pairs for bluejeans in the Samsung, I would have had to run them through two pair at a time — otherwise I’d be pulling out a braid of denim that would take ten or fifteen minutes to untangle. Nor could I put anything else into the Samsung with them. Anything that had a sleeve or a bra strap, when combined with a pair of pants, would end up in a braid. So that single load in the Speed Queen did three Samsung loads.

Additionally, in order to get the clothes even moderately clean with the Samsung, I had to prewash them by hand in a scrub bucket. That required pouring several gallons of hot water into the bucket and adding detergent. So we not only had to run three loads of water using the largest cycle the Samsung offered (the “bedding” cycle would almost get a small load of clothing wet), we had three bucketsful of water, plus the extra detergent needed for the hand-wash maneuver — to wash what can be done well in one Speed Queen load.

If I didn’t feel inclined to wash the clothes by hand before running them through the Samsung, I would still need to fill the scrub bucket and pour water into the damned washer, to trick the thing into releasing enough water into the tub to sort of get the clothes clean. Or even to get them wet all over.

So…to get the same amount of laundry done, I’m willing to estimate I was using at least as much water as one Speed Queen load — only having to do it in three or four loads, each of which consumed an hour and ten minutes’ worth of electricity to run.

I’ll bet that’s not a wash. Dollars to donuts, the Speed Queen wins.

The Washer Saga

If You’d Asked Me…
High Inefficiency: Washers & Rx Plans
A Thousand Curses on “Energy-Efficient” Appliances
How to Wash Clothes in a Samsung Washer
How to Get Sand Out of a Top-Loading HE Washer
Samsung Washers: Told You So…
Appliance Hell/Appliance Heaven
Rumination: Of Appliances and Politics

November 27, 2016
by funny

Tangerine Graffiti


What looks like off-white streaking in this image was really a faint off-orange.

So naturally I caused the sky to clabber up yesterday by deciding that THIS WOULD BE THE DAY to paint that wall along ’Hood Lane West. Forthwith it began to threaten rain.

Undeterred, I soldiered on.

Manly Neighbor opined that if the weather would hold for two to four hours after the paint was applied, it’ll prob’ly be OK…assuming a hard rain didn’t fall…

Of course, Manly Neighbor assumed I could paint the wall in two hours, he being a guy. It actually took four hours, I being a girl. An old girl, at that.

You’ll recall I speculated that the painter,  lo these many years ago, had watered down the last of the exterior wall paint, having forgotten that I’d asked him to paint that wall and so not having enough to cover another 600 square feet, and the result was some streaks where thinner paint and been sprayed on it.

Dunno what’s wrong with the camera or with the Mac’s photo software. It’s not gray (as appeared in the link above): it’s a kind of nut brown. In this adjusted image you can see the stripes. The gravel is NOT blue-green, BTW…it’s about the same color as the wall.

Well, anyway…yeah. The “graffiti,” as we call the stripes, was Bila’s antic, OK, but not quite as simple or as “innocent” as assumed.

On the fly, I grabbed a VERY old paint brush to touch up spots that I couldn’t get with the roller. So I’m standing there filling in strangely colored grout lines and thinking, gee…what IS it about this graffiti-like paint color that seems so…familiar??

{ping!} THAT’s when I notice that some of the old paint stains on the ancient paintbrush are the same color as the orange-ish streaks on the wall. Those streaks are the same hideous tangerine orange that my former friend Elaine talked me in to applying to the hall/dining room wall and the accent wall in my office!

All of which was painted over years ago…

Here’s what Bila the Bosnian Painter must have done:

When I said “aren’t you going to paint that wall like I asked you to?” he must have realized he didn’t have enough paint, because he’d forgotten about that request and so hadn’t calculated the extra 600 s.f. into his purchase.

He certainly didn’t want to have to cover the cost of an extra gallon or two of “Baked Potato” acrylic from Dunn Edwards. So he poured whatever brown paint remained into his sprayer (probably wasn’t much: Dunn Edwards’ guys can calculate how much you need at the level of ounces per square inch!) and then, to stretch it so it would lay down a coat on that wall, dumped in the leftover hideous orange paint. Gave it a shake or two, and off he went!

LOL! It probably didn’t mix well — he would have been very tired by then and anxious to end the job, so wouldn’t have spent much time mixing the stuff up. Hence: stripes!


If I noticed at all, I would have figured it was just the uneven way water-based paint dries… But as a practical matter, the only time I thought anything about it was when I would drive past it. My memory doesn’t last much longer than it takes to get around the corner of ’Hood Lane and into the garage.

Welp, the wall has no more stripes.

The predicted rain held off overnight, and this morning the sun is shining. They say it’s supposed to rain this evening…which means I should have time between now and then to wash the car. 😉

Tangerine-orange graffiti…it only took 12 years to figure it out.