Archive for October, 2007

Review: Mazda MX-5 (3 months on)

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Photo: Tan leather interior.

So it’s been three months since I bought the MX-5, and I figured it was about time I wrote some kind of review of my experience thus far.

I might aswell come right out and admit that I love this vehicle. People say a lot of things about the MX-5, Miata, or whatever you want to call it (officially, it’s a Miata MX-5 in North America now, was originally the Miata NA, was an MX-5 in parts of Europe…and had lots of other combinations before Mazda standardized them on a global basis for the new 2006 model that I have…a complete redesign over all of the ones that came before. Largely identical to the 2007/2008 model), but my opinion is that there’s no better bang-for-buck sportscar on the market that even comes close. It drives like a dream, handles superbly well, is reasonably economical on gas…oh, and it has enough cup holders for even the most hardened of coffee drinkers.

Photo: Silly vanity plate.

I bought my MX-5 in July as a pining exercise. I was dealing with a breakup, and needed to cheer myself up with some kind of expensive, highly impulsive purchase. I’d already tried regular retail remedies (heck, I got my US license within a week of having said breakup as a means to get the heck out of Cambridge and drive completely randomly in remote desserts of California…I was perhaps, just a little bit upset), but they didn’t quite cut it, on any level whatsoever. So I went shopping one Saturday afternoon. I looked on a certain high profile automobile trading website, found a few local dealers, and got a rental car to drive up to Lynn in. Atlantic weren’t the first place that I went to, and I’m not sure they’re the best dealer (not too bad), however they did have a couple of under one year old MX-5s sitting in their lot.

Photo: Hats not included.

I took a regular Miata for a test drive (I’d driven automatic versions thereof, but not the manual), then the 6-speed GT model. Although the regular Miata was a very nice car, it’s nothing like the GT. That thing kicks some ass. The regular, 5 speed model just lacks power, whereas the 6-speed model weighs practically nothing, and packs enough power to make driving fun (zoom zoom!), without going nuts. Sure, if it’s different if there’s a second person in the car with me – you can feel the difference – but I tend to drive alone these days anyway ;-) I spent an hour test driving two MX-5s, having driven around remote regions of California in several rental Miatas just weeks earlier, then spent several more hours negotiating terms with the dealer, before I finally signed on the spot. I’ve never done anything quite like that…but I was in the right mood to waste a lot of money cheering myself up at the time!

Photo: Grandmother supplied separately.

Probably the most embarassing problem I’ve had with the car so far is not being able to start it. I’ve never owned a North American manual car before – and had never driven a left-hand-drive manual before I took the test drives (learning on the spot like that is kind of fun) – so I didn’t know that you need to depress the clutch in order to start it. It’s a hysterical safety thing, since they don’t bother to teach people how to drive properly here (always start it in neutral), but I didn’t know about that when I was sitting at the dealer in my new car, unable to start it, growing redder in the face every second. Kind of minor in comparison with the two times I’ve managed to have the battery drained (the Xenon headlights drain the battery extremely quickly when on). Yes, you may laugh, indeed.

The driving experience in this thing is awesome. It’s tiny, very nimble, and handles very well. It is, however, also a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, and so one does have to exercise a little restraint during inclement weather…and we get more than enough incemental weather in New England during the winter (this probably means that I won’t drive into the office if it’s snowing…at all). On the whole though, aside from learning about hydroplaning one afternoon during a torrential rain storm, I find it more than acceptable. This thing can actually turn – you know, when the wheels move, and you physically go around a corner – unlike many of the “American” cars on the market nobody wants to buy. Ever wander why US car makers are doing so badly? (oh, and, random example, the Mustang is a giant joke in comparison, and no cheaper…horrible use of plastic all over the place). Hint: the Japanese make better cars. It’s got far less to do with Union issues and trying to cut people’s wages/benefits than quality ones.

Photo: Morning constitutional distraction.

By far the biggest problem so far has been other drivers. Massachusetts drivers are some of the worst that I’ve seen – and I’ve been to India, and Italy (so I’ve seen extremely bad driving examples more than enough times). They don’t signal. They don’t have *any* patience. And they don’t like to think, in general, for longer than they possibly have to in case it hurts. Actually, scratch that comment about signalling – they don’t *want* to signal. It’s a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you might be thinking about other people and, just possibly, considering not having an accident. Clearly it’s all too much for drivers around here – who’ve only had to deal with a pathetic 9 minute driving test in some cases (like my test) – to handle. This is one of the many reasons why I don’t like to drive *in* Cambridge or Boston. It helps inspire me to walk more.

I’ll add more comments as I discover them, but in general, I would highly recommend this vehicle. I wholeheartedly agree with Mazda…

Zoom Zoom!


10 days with my Dad and Gran

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

So my gran has been keen to visit me for some time, and finally dragged my dad over with her for a 10 day visit. Over the past week, we’ve been to a ball game, swung by my office, Concord, New York, Liberty Island, and had dinner in Plymouth after visiting Plymouth Rock.

Wednesday – 2007/09/26

Photo: Dad and Gran, at the new State House

Photo: Dad and I at Fenway Park

I took my dad and Gran down to Boston Common, showed them the State House, and pointed out a few other places. In the evening, I took my dad to see the Boston Redsox play Oakland Athletics, at Fenway Park.

Thursday – 2007/09/27

Photo: My gran, checking out my MX-5

Photo: Dad and I, with Red Hats, in my MX-5

I had to get a little writing finished, and had a meeting with my publisher – took my dad along for a drive. In the evening, I took my gran down to Nantasket with me, for a little road trip.

Friday – 2007/09/28

Photo: Dad and gran, in Concord, at the Old Colonial Inn

I picked up a rental car (a Mercedes C280 – looks nice, doesn’t do it for me) and drove my dad and gran out to my office, introduced them to a couple of coworkers, and then left them in Concord while I took care of some business meetings.

Saturday – 2007/09/29

Photo: Dad and gran, in Times Square, in New York City, in New York

I drove my dad and gran down to New York City, took them to Times Square for lunch, then out to Liberty Island. We took the train in from Stamford, Connecticut, rather than have me figure out driving in downtown Manhattan with my grandmother in the car.

Sunday – 2007/09/30

Photo: Jon Masters, at Nantasket Beach

We took it easy on Sunday, but I did take my father for a stroll with me on Nantasket beach.

Monday – 2007/10/01

Photo: Dad and gran, at Plymouth Rock

I drove my dad and gran down to Plymouth, showed them Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower II (the girl on the Mayflower top deck had a perfect British accent, and knowledge of York Minster…either a top-notch enthusiast, historian, expat. or insanely good at her job), and had dinner on the pier.

Tuesday – 2007/10/02

I had various work to take care of in the office, so my dad and gran headed out to a local shopping mall for gift purchasing while I took care of various odds and ends that needed taking care of.

Wednesday – 2007/10/03

I had some more work to take care of, so my dad and gran headed out to Harvard Square, and bought various gifts to take back with them. My gran bought me a Harvard mug…I seem to be collecting mugs.

Thursday – 2007/10/04

Photo: Dad and gran, at my apartment

Photo: Bunker Hill

My dad and gran had a flight in the evening, so most of the day was spent packing up and getting ready for that, but I did also take my dad to Charlestown to see Bunker Hill, and USS Constitution.

I was glad to see my dad and gran, and pleased that they enjoyed my apartment. I don’t expect they’ll come over here that often, and so I really appreciated their visit all the more.


Waking from a dream…

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

So, I wanted to take a moment to apologize to all of my friends for being a little recluse over the summer. I had a lot on my mind, but things are changing now. I am trying to get my life back on track.

I realize now that I was severely upset for months, way more than I really let on. Not entirely over a girl – though she definitely discovered the final straw that broke the camel’s back. The best place to stab that knife in, if you prefer that metaphor instead. It’s just weird how much I let myself get throughly miserable inside, let my book schedule slip again, had to cancel various other activities, and was just generally a pain in the ass to be around for a while. That’s not actually me…I guess stress does that. And I had no idea just how much I had stressed out. So sorry everyone. I feel much better now! And it’s my favorite time of year again, too :-)

Moving country actually takes a lot more out of you than you realize…you’d only really know what I mean if you’d done it for yourself. It’s the little things that do it – I love my life here, but in some ways it’s taken a year to get to a point where I can actually sit down and breathe again. I’ll have a little gathering at some point in the next few weeks to celebrate a year in the US…when I get around to organizing it.


One year on…

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Photo: Jon Masters, At the Old North Bridge, in Concord, MA.

So today marks a year to the day since I boarded my modern day London Packet and set sail for the New World, hoping things would work out for the best.

It’s been a fascinating experience, one that has taught me more about myself than I ever fully knew before, and I would certainly wholeheartedly recommend it. This time last year, I was en route to Raleigh with only two suitcases (the remaining belongings having been transported by ship) for an orientation session, followed shortly thereafter by frantic househunting and other related activities.

Since moving, I have:

* Published my first full book, and written another book too
* Taken over a variety of Linux related software projects
* Worked on various bits of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5
* Made some new friends, kept in touch with others
* Fallen in love, and been heartbroken
* Passed a driving test
* Bought a car
* Joined a gym
* Learned to sail
* Taken up climbing again
* Lost nearly 50lbs
* taken up the violin again
and a lot, lot more.

Perhaps the most significant thing that happened this year was falling in love. She changed my life, and then upset me more than anything has ever before upset me in my life. Because of her I lost 40lbs in a couple of months, spent an afternoon alone in the middle of the Mojave desert, and much more. For months, I couldn’t bare to open the book I had dedicated to her without being upset. I was upset because I was never given a reason, and couldn’t understand what I had done but love her. It wasn’t great for a while.

But, I did finally get over her, got myself in shape, got a driver’s license, bought a car, and even rediscovered the violin. I have driven many many thousands of miles (first oil change occurred within a month of getting the car) and I have grown to love Massachusetts and the East Coast on the same kind of level that I love California and the West Coast. I’ve even taken to more than occasional morning constitutional strolls beside the Atlantic ocean (sometimes before sunrise), contemplating the meaning of life.

I’ve decided to stay here for the foreseeable future. There’s really nothing that interests me about living in the UK (and many things – such as the Monarchy and government – that don’t), although I could live in Europe or have a house in central(ish) London without really being too upset about it. The US has more than its fair share of problems, but it is a great country, and one that I am happy and privileged to call home.