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July 15, 2003

I Want

Thanks to high winds and storms, my power is flickering on and off, and so is my attention span for work. So I'm going to take a few minutes to talk about the things I want, and not in that holistic, wishing-for-world-peace-and-harmony way. No, I'm talking about physical things I want. It's all about my materialism.

Because, why not admit it? I'm materialistic. I better be, since I've got a house full of crap, and if I pretended like it didn't matter to me in my extreme Dali Lama-ness, the rest of the world would be fully justified in slapping around my hypocritical ass. I don't think I like having stuff to such a degree that it runs my life -- I don't sit around with the nagging fear that someone somewhere has neater toys than I. Also, I shop at Wal-Mart and Meijer and Target (an artifact of living out in the middle of nowhere), and it's hard to get all precious about possessions that are spurted out into the universe in the mighty torrents required to satisfy a discount retailer's gaping maw.

So: I don't live and die by what I have. But by the same token, sometimes it's just neat to have stuff, and right at this moment there's some neat stuff I just want to have. What kind of neat stuff? This kind of neat stuff:

1. A Tablet PC. And specifically, a Toshiba Portege 3505 Tablet PC. Three reasons. One, my current laptop shows all the signs of a death rattle, including random, inexplicable overheating, and that's my cue to start looking for something a little less prone to heat death. Two, it has a lot of features I can use, including built-in WiFi, which will let me wander around the house and do work, which will be useful in the next couple of months when I have both a couple of books to top off and a wife who would prefer I don't spend 20 hours a day cooped up in the same room, away from her and normal family life. At least with a tablet PC I can interact with her while typing up stuff. Three, because tablet PCs are the bomb. They're like living in the future! And if I can't have a rocket car to the moon, this would be a nice stopgap.

2. A Palm Tungsten C. This is also the bomb, as it has nearly the same processing specifications as my computer two computers back, and that's just cool. It also critically has a tiny little keyboard, which is (pardon the pun here) key for me. My handwriting is awful, and if I had to use it to communicate I would probably starve to death.

I have little or no use for a Tungsten C -- hell, I already have a Palm Pilot that's been sitting in its cradle for so long that it's got dust on it, but let's note here that the title of this entry is not "I Need" but "I Want." Want, as many a moral philosopher and/or thief will tell you, often has very little to do with need. Although I'm sure if I got one, I would find something to do with it. I'm just creative that way. And at about $500, I'd feel the financial duty to do so.

3. A Honda Element. After 12 years, my piece of crap 1989 white Ford Escort (pony!) is so close to death that you can hear the motor grinding through the Kubler-Ross stages, and I'm pretty sure we've come to "acceptance," which means it's time to look at something new. I am inexplicably drawn to the Honda Element. I'm aware it looks like a Tonka Toy, but that just triggers the irony button in me, so that's not bad (especially if I could get this in Tonka Yellow. That would be sweet).

It also has some practical assets which appeal to me. First, the inside is rubberized, so you can hose it down, which is cool because I'm a slob and that would be an efficient way to deslobify the car; second, the thing is configurable to carry stuff or people, and that's useful since there's three of us and a large dog; third, it's pretty cheap (the model I want is about $20K) which is good for me since, as I clearly admitted with my note about shopping at Wal-Mart, I'm not one of those people who worries about status through possessions. It's also a Honda, which means I can drive it for at least the next twelve years and reasonably expect it to run. Yes, I'm the car industry's worst nightmare: I buy cheap and I drive it into the ground. Hey guys: At least I'm thinking of buying new.

Living as I do in the sticks you might think that I would be inclined to buy American, so as not to get egged by the patriots what live near me. But Honda has a big-ass factory in the nearby town of Troy (my brother-in-law works there, even), so Hondas get a pass. Also, we currently tool around in Suzuki Sidekick and no one gives us any crap, because that just wouldn't be neighborly.

So these are the things I want at the moment. The reason I'm thinking about things that I want is that I'm waiting to hear about a thing. If I get it, I'll be able to get one or more of these things. If I don't, then I probably won't. Since I'm still waiting to hear about the thing, the acquisition mode in my brain is having a full-out war against the economically prudent mode of my brain, which will only end when either this thing happens or it doesn't. It's really distracting; it's one of the reasons, aside from the flickering electricity, I'm having a hard time focusing. No, I can't give you any more details than that.

In the meantime: I want, I want, I want. Poor, poor, pitiful me.

Posted by john at July 15, 2003 01:03 PM

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Comments

Andrew Cory | July 15, 2003 03:24 PM

Mr. Scalzi, you have to buy a new car. It seems that I drive a nicer one than you do, and as I am a struggling college studnet working 25 hrs a week, that just ain't right...

John Scalzi | July 15, 2003 03:38 PM

Oh, sure. Pick the most expensive thing on the list.

_Jon | July 15, 2003 05:18 PM

Please don't get that fucking ugly vehicle. Oh, by the way, I work at Ford, as does my father, and his did too. I'm biased. But that thing is fucking *ugly*. I feel bad for the people who have to put that thing together every day. I'd rather move the carcai of beloved pets into an incinerator. Sorry, had to share that.

The other two are *really* cool tho.

John Parmater | July 16, 2003 07:32 AM

If you're open-minded enough to discover Macintosh, you'll think you've died and gone to heaven. I have both Mac and Windows and I find lots of things better about the Mac and nothing better about Windows. Using the Mac is like driving a Maserati while the Windows machine is like driving a ragged out pontiac.

John Scalzi | July 16, 2003 07:46 AM

However, Mac does not offer a tablet, which is specifcally what I want.

Alex Elliott | July 16, 2003 09:18 AM

Don't listen to the Ford guy - I completely emphasize with your inexplicable attraction to the Honda Element. Whenever I've seen one, I always think, "Wow! It's like a milk truck only cooler!" I'm not sure why "like a milk truck" is a positive feature, but somehow it is.

mark | July 16, 2003 09:53 AM

Hey, if you really want a good-quality car with the "not a chore to drive" setting switched firmly ON, go for Honda. Plus, you won't get thousands of Aussie Holden fans booing you every time you show up in a Ford (trust me on this one).

I occasionally drive my parents' CR-V, which if you squint really hard isn't actually an SUV. Really, *really* hard. It's a truly awesome car.

Tripp | July 16, 2003 10:31 AM

Driving a Toyota Rav-4 changed my opinion of SUVs a little - it really handled nicely.

So, if you want something that looks like a WW2 delivery van, and can be hosed out like some carnival ride, then go for it.

I'm sticking with my Mustang. It's not very practical, isn't rated highly by consumer reports, but I sure like it.

Roger | July 16, 2003 10:46 AM

I thought the defining feature of a tablet PC
was that they *didn't* have a keyboard. Thus
being, as it were, a tablet.

John Scalzi | July 16, 2003 12:22 PM

They do have keyboards -- and you can also write on and activate the screen.

Bill Peschel | July 16, 2003 12:42 PM

I'm going to have to look at that tablet pc. Having exclusively used a laptop for four years (Toshiba Satellite 4000CDT), I love the convenience of being able to sit on the Flordia room and work while the kids are in the yard. And, yes, my wife objects if I spend more than four hours a day in my home office (I work outside the home as well).

The cool stuff were looking for is, I'm sure, below what y'all already have. We just got a TV a few months back after the old one passed on about seven years ago (long story). Now, the dam's burst. We're considering joining Disney's movie club to get their flicks at a discount, and we're totting up DVDs we want to buy, including the Looney Tunes collection coming out Oct. 24. Remastered, recolored and uncut, with all the usual add-ons. Whoo-hoo!

Oh, and the Simpson's first year, too. We got us some cultural catching-up to do!

Julie | July 16, 2003 01:25 PM

Why does the comment "do not listen to the ford guy" sound awfully like "do not pay attention to the guy behind the curtain"??? LOL

_Jon | July 16, 2003 03:23 PM

LOL

Well, I can assure you that it is no bother to see that written. I've been building race cars for decades, and there has always been the "Ford Fails" vs "Chevy Sucks" or whatever. The only facet that I cared about was loyalty. If a person pulls up in a thumping Mustang and proceeds to rag about how much of a piece of crap the car/company is, then I have no interest in listening. And I'm rude enough to say so.

Regarding Honda and their vehilces. Clearly they understand engineering and manufacturing. But they really dropped the ball on design on this one. It just has *no* attractiveness. Compare that picture on John's site with the one below it (the Sci-Fi cover). It serves to emphasize my point.

I don't think it is as ugly as the Aztec, but that's a different puke-invocation-device. Even the chairman of GM was quoted as saying "I don't know how that design got through the committee."


I avoided all the palm-type devices because of a lack of usable keyboard. My handwriting was so bad in 5th grade that every commented I was gonna be a doctor. I'm not.

John Scalzi | July 16, 2003 04:10 PM

Actually, if you want to see ugly, check out the Scion xB. That's painful to look at.

Brennan | July 16, 2003 04:46 PM

There's a big difference between something that was designed without aesthetics as a consideration (the Element) and an attempt at unnecessary aesthetics that went horribly wrong (the Aztek). The former is ugly, but no uglier than it needs to be. The latter is far uglier than ANYTHING needs to be.

Sarcasmorator | July 16, 2003 05:12 PM

God, yes. The Aztek is THE UGLIEST VEHICLE ever made. That includes meat wagons. The new Hummer is awful, too.

lazybratsche | July 16, 2003 05:29 PM

Since this has almost become a "rant about your least favorite car" thread, I'll toss in my $.02. I have to say that the Hummer H2 almost personally offends me. Where else but America can you buy the cute, suburbanized version of a military scout/utility vehicle? The thing looks like it's a scaled up Hot Wheel. And if it wasn't hideous enough on its own, I saw a stretch limo version of the H2.

And as the aesthetics go, I think the Element is (for whatever reason) designed to look like a big, rubberized heavy duty thingie. It's rounded and "bouncy" looking enough that there was a fair amount of body work and sheet metal design to make it look like that. The aesthetic was probably secondary to the function of the vehicle, but it's definately there. I think the only cars that you can consider to be without any aesthetic in mind are maybe the old land rovers, and the (original) HMMWV. The H2, and a lot of other SUVs, are designed to look big and heavy and overengineered, without really being as heavy-duty as they look. For example, the Chevy Avalanche. The big plastic side panels look beefy, but really are no stronger than straight sheet metal. To me, that car just looks like a big toy. But I guess some people buy this faux heavy machinery kind of stuff...

Anyways, enough ranting for now.

_Jon | July 16, 2003 05:37 PM

I think the H2 is "brutish", but not ugly. And it does have the same grill as a Jeep - but how far can copyright go, ya know?

Scion - xA seems acceptable, sloped nose, angled roof, slanted back. At $12,500, it can't be very big tho - what size vehicle does it compare to? Oh, it says it's competitors ar the Neon and Rio. Tiny.

Scion - xB - ! CRIPES! WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?? Geeze I've seen people with "bad hair days" - is that the xA with a "bad sheet metal day"? That is the "B" model? It came after "A"? WTF? Hooly Mackrel! I've seen hundreds (if not thousands) of BAD paint-jobs and designs on custom cars, but NOTHING that HIDEOUS! My God - what could they have been ON? I know they weren't THINKING - they had to be on drugs! PHFA! A herse for mid-sized people. At least the PT Cruiser had curves (it's a herse for "little people").

Ugh. I can't look any more. I dread the day I see one of those in traffic. Heck - I'll *pay* them $13,680 to NOT build one for me.

Hmm, maybe I should take a trip over to the Ford Research & Engineering Center where they cut cars up and put them on sliding wall-boards. I'd like to see that thing cut into slices.

Maggi | July 16, 2003 05:38 PM

I really like the Element; a friend just got one, it drives nicely, and we proved how easy it is to remove seats, get the dogs in and out, clean it and replace the seats again after taking her two Leonbergers (think Swiss Mountain Dog crossed with Grizzly Bear) to play in a muddy creek.

The only thing that would bug me about having it as a daily driver is that it has no stereo at all, not even a wee little AM/FM dealie. Nada. Nothing.

mark | July 17, 2003 10:08 AM

No radio at all? That would drive me insane in three days flat!

For those who (like me), have never heard of the Pontiac Aztec or the Toyota Scion xB, here's some pictures I found...

Aztec:
http://www.uglycars.fws1.com/custom.html
http://www.pontiac.com/aztek/gallery.jsp?brand=aztek&pagename=models_prices
http://www.edmunds.com/reviews/roadtests/roadtest/43876/article.html

Scion xB:
http://auto.consumerguide.com/auto/editorial/photos/index.cfm/id/feature10/img/XB.htm
http://www.techtv.com/freshgear/products/story/0,23008,3467137,00.html
http://www.bazeley.net/mosaic/news/archives/business_and_technology/toyota_scion_xb_is_tough_to_miss.html
http://info.detnews.com/autosconsumer/autoreviews/index.cfm?id=10901

It's telling that the Aztec is featured at a website named "uglycars", no? Mind you, I don't think it's that bad. At least, not when compared to Toyota's offering: that one looks as if they said "we're gonna make it into a giant cube, such that it looks like we piled on so much armour plating that the laws of physics themselves prevented us from styling this car; this is a car that screams 'you hit someone, you won't feel a thing: mind you, they won't make it out alive'".

And because someone asked about the Scion xA:
http://auto.consumerguide.com/auto/editorial/photos/index.cfm/id/feature10/img/XA.htm

Crikey, it reminds me of the Batmobile from "Batman Returns" (or was it Forever? The one with Danny DeVito). Let's engage security...

Tripp | July 17, 2003 02:21 PM

The Car Talk website (http://cartalk.cars.com) has some fun polls about the worst car of the millenium, the best 'guy' car, 'chick' car, etc. in their 'Forgotten Features' section.

I'm sorry to say I've owned 2 of the 'worst cars of the millenium' - a Pinto and a Vega, but they were cheap, and I was young.

Bill Peschel | July 17, 2003 06:59 PM

Two comments about ugly cars:

1) I concluded Cadallic was in serious trouble when they ran the ad recently (featuring Zep's "Rock and Roll") that showed, first, the old cherry-red model and then the new Caddy. Even after all these years, that dinosaur still rocked.

2) Chrome still rules, especially now that the new cars don't have them anymore. A car company that can figure out how to include it into its new design will have the Next Big Thing. I'd bet the house on that one.

crystal_e | July 19, 2003 09:56 PM

Rather than the Tungsten, have you considered a Pocket PC? IMO, the Pocket PCs have better graphics, are more flexible, and can do more. And with more competing manufacturers out there than there used to be (Toshiba, HP, Dell, Asus, ViewSonic etc.), prices are starting to come down quite a bit. The Dell Pocket PCs, especially, are a good value.

I absolutely love my Pocket PC and use it for everything. Keeping track of my finances, listening to music, reading eBooks, listening to audibooks, watching Flash cartoons, playing games, keeping track of my car maintenance, keeping track of my schedule, and more. Out of all the toys you listed, I'd say go for the PDA first, whether Palm or Pocket PC. You'll get a ton of enjoyment out of it for a relatively low price.

Check out my Pocket PC blog if you'd like to learn more. www.gospacewaitress.com/pocketspace