ancient razor blade
Thursday, November 20 2014
The global internet and the simple process of traveling occasionally reminds me that there are aspects to my personality that would be more comfortable living in other countries, though, given enough time, American society often eventually catches up and gives me what I want. In the late 1990s and early 2000's, for example, I was dismayed that the only options for laptop computers were huge devices, and this was particularly true in the United States, where (for some reason) large physical size was considered a selling point for something that is intended to be carried around. Eventually I found a tiny device called a Psion 5 MX with a usable fold-out keyboard, but, being a British device, they were virtually unknown in this country. Fortunately, though, it was possible to order them on Amazon.com, and I got a couple good years out of the one I bought (and it still works, though its connectivity options are primitive by today's standards). Years later, though, came the arrival of the "Netbooks," which are exactly the sort of device I was craving back when I bought the Psion. Similarly, American cars have always seemed excessively ponderous and wasteful of fuel. Why do they have to be so big and heavy? Americans (from the "home of the brave") are obsessed with safety and security, so American cars have to be heavier to accommodate all the required safety structures, but in so doing they make other cars less safe by being a heavier object that they might collide with. It becomes an arms race, culminating with security-obsessed soccer moms in SUVs. So much gasoline is being burnt so that large steel upholstered rooms can be moved about.
In other countries, people really are brave (as opposed to just claiming they're brave), and they're willing to drive around in much lighter cars. Expensive gasoline has a way bringing out the bravery. In Scotland, Gretchen and I were amazed to learn about a tiny four-door that supposedly gets 80 miles to the gallon. Such a car is impossible to get in the United States, but if it had been, we would have bought one by now.
So you can imagine our delight when we learned of the Elio project. An upstart automotive manufacturer wants to build three-wheeled cars with a single front seat and a single back seat with the goal of getting 84 miles per gallon and selling them for only $6,800 each. For now, Elio feels like a Kickstarter project. They're taking money up front and queuing delivery of cars (scheduled to begin in 2015) according to the size of the upfront payments. The other day, Gretchen decided to go "all in" for $250, but we're probably more than a year away from taking actual delivery of an Elio.
In the meantime, we've grown to hate our Honda Civic Hybrid. It works and does what it needs to, but after running into a deer and backing into at least one large boulder, it looks a little wrecked. Also, I've mentioned repeatedly how much I hate the way it was engineered (seemingly so as to thwart any do-it-yourself repairs). And then there are the boneheaded design issues: why does there have to be that huge blindspot between the left edge of the windshield and the passenger door? (You can hide a car in there only ten feet away!) And would it have killed them to have made it so the trunk can be reached from behind the rear seats, the way it can in a conventional Honda Civic sedan? I know things are different because it is a hybrid, but that thick overlay of technology doesn't seem to have made it much more fuel efficient than our old conventional 1998 Honda Civic.
So, after going "all in" (as they say) for an Elio, Gretchen had done some research and found a reasonably-priced 2010 Toyota Prius down in Goshen (about an hour to the south). Today we decided to go check it out, and if we liked it, put a deposit on it. The idea is to dump our Honda Civic Hybrid on someone else and go with the sort of hybrid technology that isn't simply phoning it in. We had a Prius for about a month nine years ago and had liked it, but it was a brand new $24,000 car, and the idea of keeping so much cash locked up in a car hadn't sat well with us. By contrast, this 2010 Prius was priced at a little under $12,000. Aside from that new Prius, that's more than we've ever paid for a car, but our economic situation is favorable now and it looks like a good deal.
We drove down to Goshen with the dogs, Ramona being annoying for most of the way by insisting on standing between the two front seats. This is a common thing for dogs to want to do; whoever happens to be our most recently-acquired dog is the dog that does this. First it was Sally, then it was Eleanor, and now it's Ramona. But the other dogs were smaller and it never was a problem. Ramona, by contrast, is big enough that she introduces blind spots when she gets into this position. Gretchen always hollers at her to get in the back, but when I'm the only human in the car I don't mind.
Our directions led us to a suburban part of Goshen that reminded us a bit too much of New Jersey. Also, there was a Catholic school there (John S Burke High School: 41.409599N, 74.342085W) featuring a prominent memorial of white crosses commemorating the brief lives of aborted foetuses. Apparently that's not just a southern thing. Our contact for the car was Frank, and he showed it to us. It was in good shape, though it wasn't exactly fancy. The stereo system, for example, was the base model (fortunately, though, I found it had an aux-in jack). Frank took us on a drive around the neighborhood, including through Goshen and up and down Route 17 to show the various readouts that the Prius provides. They were actually a bit simplified from how I remember them being on the 2006 model we'd bought.
I'd actually been somewhat ambivalent about buying this car and so was Gretchen, but in the end we decided to do it. So we paid Frank a $500 deposit, had him write us up a receipt, and now we'll have to find some way to raise the rest of that money. Since Frank wants to be paid in cash, when we next return to Goshen we'll be carrying over one hundred hunded-dollar bills.
Gretchen had done some research on Happy Cow and had found us a vegan-friendly Chinese place called Dragon House. When we arrived, the people eating there were all uniformly overweight middle-aged white people mostly dressed for business. One group of snappily-dressed men at a nearby table were having a very spirited (though incredibly dull) conversation about arcane legal matters. Gretchen started us out with the dumplings, which weren't very good (they were cold in the middle and Gretchen thought they had notes of "bad breath" about them). But then came our main courses: broccoli and fake chicken for Gretchen and mixed vegetable and fake chicken for me. It was very greasy, very fried, and absolutely delicious. Also, the portions were enormous (thus accounting for the girth of the decidedly non-vegan average customer). We would most certainly come back again and just be careful not to order the dumplings.
Before taking a bath tonight, I did something I very rarely do: I changed out the shaver head on my Gillette Fusion disposable razor. With all their blades, fusion shaver heads seem to degrade at an exceptionally slow rate, though of course I'd really pushed this particular head. I don't know if I've been using it for four years or six years, but it's been something like that long. At the rate I am using my Fusion shaver heads, I have enough to easily last me the rest of my life. Mind you, I would have continued using my old shaver head, but at Dragon House today, Gretchen noted how clearly terrible my last shave had been, and that had caused me to realize that the quality of its shaves had recently entered a steep rate of decline.
Close up of my old Fusion blade after five or six years of one-to-twice-weekly use.
Close up of a brand new Fusion blade.
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