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New Car Search Update

October 24th, 2014

My new car fever reached a critical state that is only going to be cured by my actually buying one. So, the search is already underway. Pretty certain my earlier choice of the new BMW M235i Coupe is the right choice for me. Used online tools at the BMW USA website to configure the options I want in the new car. That means that, in order to get what I really want, it will be necessary to special order one. So, the remaining step is to find a dealership with the best pricing and place that order.

I belong to AAA, Costco and USAA. All have or are affiliated with auto buying services. Did the online paperwork at all three in order to see which service has the best price. Also had the paperwork emailed to three different dealerships.

These dealerships don’t appear to like each other very much nor are at all circumspect in what they have to say – to me – and/or about other dealers or the buying services. One dealership stated they no longer advertise with AAA nor are affiliated with that buying service. They then went on to disparage the AAA program. Another dealership doesn’t use Costco and they too resorted to disparagement of the program they don’t use. That same dealership was really uncomplimentary in their comments about the dealership I ultimately chose to do business with. And two included in their email sales pitch the point I am choosing a new model that may be hard to find and its popularity means few discounts. I simply responded that time was not a critical factor and next year, when the hoopla dies down, would be fine with me.

I found the Costco buying service to be the one with the largest cash discount. In my case their discount amounted to about 6% of the vehicle’s full MSRP as configured by me. The USAA (True Car) service was only $300 less than Costco. It was the AAA program that really lagged in the good deal category. Their discount appeared to represent around 2%.

My choice, so far, is the BMW Riverside dealership, and the Costco buying program. I expect to see the paperwork completed and the order confirmed within a week. However, I’m beginning to learn nothing in the automobile sales business is based on honor, trust, reputation or moral correctness. It may well top the list of businesses where the bottom line price matters more than anything else. So, until I have a confirmed vehicle order number along with a price guarantee, free of potential additions, I’m not assuming a done deal yet exists.

On Friday, October 24th, I sent in paperwork and a deposit to the BMW dealership in Riverside. The car I’ve configured using BMW website tools will be ordered from the factory in Germany. It’s expected delivery date, at my doorstep, is 8 to 10 weeks away. Though not in time for Christmas, a new car in a New Year is now part of my future.

300

BMW M235i Coupe
Exterior Color: Glacier Silver Metallic
Interior Color: Coral Red/Black

Options: Glacier Silver Metallic, Coral Red/Black, Dakota Leather Upholstery, Driver Assistance Plus, Driver Assistance Package, Technology Package, Harman/Kardon Surround Sound System, Enhanced USB & Bluetooth Plus Smartphone Integration, Anti-Theft Alarm System, Premium Package

 

 

Falkner Winery Tour

October 17th, 2014

Last week joined a bus group of fellow Palm Springs Frontrunners & Walkers for a day in beautiful, not-far-from-downtown-Temecula in the heart of Temecula Valley Wine country. Our objective was to enjoy lunch and tour the related facilities of Falkner Winery. It was to be my first experience visiting any part of a winery other than the tasting room.

Our lunch was in The Pinnacle Restaurant at Falkner Winery, a newish establishment built in 2006. Its web-page states it “offers great panoramic views, outstanding Mediterranean style food, and high quality service.” 2006 must have been the year in which this was written. As for our meal that day, I’ll say no more about the lunch.

The winery qualifies as a boutique operation. It’s owned by Ray and Loretta Falkner who recently celebrated their 14th year in business. The facility is not large and it’s quite modern with lots of stainless steel. A 24 year-old young man served as our guide as we toured the wine-making and storage areas. He did a good job explaining everything and answering our questions. We learned that some of the grapes are grown in the nearby fields and owned by the winery while some are purchased from other growers. The process of converting grapes to wine was clearly explained (extraction, mixing varieties, storage in wood casks, etc.), though not demonstrated for we were between seasons.

Falkner Winery produces more than sixteen different wines. Their web-page listing of awards has over forty entries dating from 2007. The highlight of the day was the wine tasting option that followed our tour. Although our group had been promised four tastings, the winery staff didn’t stop “pouring” at four. All group members were provided the option to taste every wine on the menu. A past bout with cancer radiation cure left my own taste buds significantly diminished. So I lack the ability to differentiate between subtle flavor differences. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the wine tasting and the friendly manner in which the offerings were served. Some of my fellow tour members appeared to have palates that had been waiting for this day – their interest in tasting appeared to encompass the entire menu.

I had hoped to see wine-making occur, caverns or cellars with huge oak barrel containers and the damp smell of an old winery. That didn’t happen for the Falkner operation proved quite small, but modern and functional. It appears their success comes from blending grape flavors into new offerings that win awards and satisfy purchasers. They clearly know their business for the nods of tasting approvals from those in our group reinforced the news of the many awards the winery has accumulated.

Their website is at www.falknerwinery.com and if you plan to spend any time in the Temecula area, Falkner might be worth a visit.

Sort of Getting the New Car Fever.

October 15th, 2014

My Toyota Solara is 13 years old. It’s in great condition and has less than 35,000 miles on it. But it lacks all those bells ‘n whistles available on newer vehicles. GPS, rear camera, Harmon-Kardon sound system, iPhone-linked controls, and the delightful feeling that accompanies acquisition of a new car (should I say new “toy”?). Yes, I’m beginning to get the new car fever.

My vehicle preference has always been the two-door coupe – and there aren’t a lot from which to choose. Have checked out Lexus and Mercedes-Benz products. Recently read that Consumer Reports really likes the new BMW M235i and their review aroused my curiosity.

Yesterday I visited the local BMW dealer for a test drive of the M235i. Sort of fell in love with it. Came home and signed on to BMW USA where I customized a future vehicle order. Waded through lots of options. Decided on red exterior and red interior as my preferred color choices. Found most of the options clear-cut but a few questions remain. Haven’t decided on the M235i or the M235i X-drive. Also a bit confused by the ’18” double-spoke 436M wheels with mixed summer tires’ option (as opposed to other wheel options). And not turned-on by the Automatic High Beams, Cold Weather Package, Driver Assistance Plus, Concierge Services, Heated front seats, or Parking Assistant offerings. Instead would probably add some of the other features (Premium Package, Driver Assistance Package, Enhanced USB & Bluetooth plus Smartphone Integration, Harmon/Kardon premium sound, and anti-theft alarm system).

Now all that’s left is to decide one question. Do I really want a new toy? (Not going to bother with silly questions like do I deserve it, is it a necessary acquisition, can I justify its purchase and why am I doing this?). Besides, if Consumer Reports likes the car, that’s good enough for me! Question #2.

Should I buy now or wait a bit longer for the new model year to age a bit?

Another Miserable Time-Consuming Computer Problem.

October 14th, 2014

Last evening around 9:30 pm my computer systems lost their connection to the Internet. No obvious reason and no clue about the failure’s cause. Finally determined the problem was not software. It was hardware and the culprit was either my cable modem or wireless router. By the time that part of the problem had been deciphered, it was way late in the evening and time for bed.

Today I had to make time to continue investigating the computer failure to connect with the Internet. I found the cable modem seemed to be working properly. The wireless router also worked. The problem finally surfaced when I found these two pieces of hardware had stopped communicating with each other. Many hours later, and after testing with substitute non-wireless routers, I determined the fault was in the wireless router. It will have to be replaced.

Don’t have extra wireless routers so had to order one- probably from Amazon.com. It will take a week for it to get here. Until then my systems will be without Wi-Fi (that’s the big feature of the wireless router). It means my iPad will be useless unless I run down to Starbucks or another public Wi-Fi location. Also, my 3g iPhone won’t be able to use Wi-Fi when I’m home. And my wireless Wi-Fi printer will get an unplanned vacation. Other Wi-Fi hardware in my home also have wired connections so the loss of Wi-Fi is not really a catastrophe. Stress levels, on the other hand, peaked considerably.

These are the events which cause me to seriously question the wisdom, sanity and honesty of whoever coined the phrase “user friendly” with respect to computers. I’ve yet to encounter user friendliness when it comes to anything remotely connected with computer systems. And I’ve been playing with these toys since acquiring my first one, an Osborne “transportable”, in 1981. When it comes to keeping them working, it never seems to get easier.

Artificial intelligence, when it arrives, will definitely find a welcoming atmosphere in my home. The current crop of dumb computers require too much hand-holding and I sometimes question whether they justify their existence. 


– The End –

Solar Energy Panels Report

October 1st, 2014

In September 2009 I had Solar Energy Panels installed on the roof of my residence. The purpose was to capture sunlight energy and convert to electricity for use in my home. The $28,000 installation cost was more than 50% offset by energy rebates from the State of California and a Federal Income Tax credit. The installation consisted of 23 solar energy panels rated at 4kW intended to produce approximately 80% of my electricity energy needs.  The system’s panels have a 25 year warranty and other components for not less than 10 years.

Energy produced by the panels is routed into the Southern California Edison utility’s line servicing my residence. When the panels produce more energy than required for my use the excess goes into the Edison system and is automatically credited to my account.  In 2009 electric utilities were not required to pay for excess energy routed into their system. The installation of a system meeting only 80% of my needs was to eliminate the possibility of producing excess energy for which no benefit would accrue. California requirements have changed since 2009 and utilities are now required to pay for excess solar energy electricity entering their system.

My solar energy account with Southern California Edison is settled annually following the September installation anniversary. While local utility taxes are billed and paid monthly, the utility’s charges (or credits) for energy are recorded but not billed until the anniversary day. This year’s September 2014 annual bill totaled $350.28 – which I estimate to be approximately 18% of my total electricity (solar and Edison) needs and usage during the year.

I’ve found the solar panel installation an exceeding good financial investment.

  • The $1,922.31 total electricity bill I paid in the year ending September 2009 (before solar installation) dropped to $390.97 in the following year.
  • The 12,101 kWh hours of electricity usage in the pre-September 2009 year dropped to 2,943 kWh hours in the year following.
  • In the September 2014 year just ended my residence used 2,774 kWh hours of Edison electricity and the total cost billed to me for the year was $350.28.

The installation package for my residence includes a Sunny WebBox monitoring unit. It receives and stores current measured solar energy collection values and transmits data via my Internet Router to Sunny Portal, a company that stores, analyzes and reports the measured values. The monitoring unit keeps me updated on the status of the solar panel system around the clock. Data collection parameters can be changed and a variety of measured values can be depicted, analyzed and downloaded via a web browser. Sunny Portal provides a dedicated website for reports of my stored data statistics and tools to configure any reports. The website is quite informative and may be viewed by clicking here.

My estimate of the five-year savings from energy produced by the solar panels is $7,500, a figure representing approximately half my cost for the system. It appears the solar system will have paid for itself in less than ten years with another fifteen years remaining in the warranted life of the panels. The investment in solar energy panels is one I definitely recommend.

Bond Shands