Month: May 2014

Vroom, Vroom, Vroom, Vroom?

I would like to start off by saying that there is nothing wrong with my car except that it is going on a decade old. Mechanically, it’s fine and even gets about the same mileage as it did the day I drove it off the lot of the now defunct Saturn dealership in Fayetteville, NC. There is some cosmetic wear and tear, not to mention that the windshield does have a crack in it that I need to get fixed, but for a ten year old car, it’s still going strong. However, I have been, just for shits-n-giggles, car shopping online, mostly at the Fiat 500L.

I don’t really need a new car; I’m not even sure that a want a new car. Perhaps more accurately, I’m not sure I want a new car payment; my Saturn Ion has been paid off for a good five years or more. Still, I know that as my Ion ages things could start to crop up and sometimes getting a new car is more cost effective than paying for repairs. As I mentioned above, I do have a cracked windshield and the seals around the other windows are warped and need to be replaced. A few days ago my driver side window got stuck all the way down for some odd reason (thankfully I was able to get it to roll back up before it started raining). Little things like that are why I’ve thought about getting a new car. The Fiat is intriguing but it’s not necessarily my only option/choice. A small pickup truck would be nice just because we do occasionally go to IKEA and have had loads of fun taking things out boxes so we could fit the individual parts into the car, but something like a Fiat would be better on gas (not that I fill up that often since I’m lucky enough to have a very short commute to work).

I can’t believe how comparatively inexpensive the Fiat is at a starting base price of only $19,195 (that’s less than I paid for my Saturn Ion 10 years ago) especially with the features that come standard on it. In brief, things like heated mirrors and seats would’ve cost extra (if they were even available in 2004) on my Ion but are apparently standard these days. Naturally, that’s the basic package of the “Pop” model of the 500L; I can drive up the price by adding things, like an automatic transmission instead of the 6-speed manual transmission (not a bad idea), or cup holders and armrests for the backseat (why the hell would I need that?).

But why Fiat? Ok, I’ll admit it; they’re kind of sexy. Just check out this TV spot:

Plus, I like the body style and, as much as I hate to say it, I’ve lost faith in American car companies.

Then there is the question of lease versus buy. Buying a car means that it’s mine after a period of time (typically five years). Leasing means that at the end of making payments for three years, I still don’t actually own the car, but have the option to buy out the remaining cost of the car. Buying would mean a smaller down payment, but higher per monthly payments while a lease would cost me less per month, but I would have to put down quite a bit more before driving off the lot. The only real advantage I see to a lease is that leasing means not (necessarily) being the one to eat the depreciation, but I can see that becoming a vicious cycle of staying on some finance company’s leash for rest of my life instead of working toward not having monthly payment anymore, like I have now.

As I said, I don’t really need a new car and there is really nothing wrong with the one I have. Still, career-wise I’m doing pretty well and I could conceivably squeeze a (reasonable) car payment into my budget. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to run out and get a new car anytime soon though.

~ JC

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My Back Has Some Nerve

A few months ago I was diagnosed as having a herniated disc in my lower back. The pain actually started back in December, but I was stubborn and didn’t go see a doctor about it until February. I guess I finally got to the point where taking two Aleve every day just wasn’t cutting it anymore. So, a MRI revealed that I had a herniated disc, which was pressing on the nerve and causing me to have sciatica in my left leg (even now, my foot is feeling a little numb because of it). I was given an epidural shot of steroids which relieved the pain for a while, several weeks actually, but now the pain is flaring up again.

In case you’re wondering what the difference is between a bulging disc and a herniated disc, a bulging disc simply pops out of place but will go back in place; a herniated disc, on the other hand, is actually torn or damaged in some way so it’s essentially always pushing on the nerve. Anyone who is familiar with, or has experienced this, will tell you that the pain isn’t always actually in the back. Most of the time my back feels fine; it’s my leg that hurts or, pardon me for the TMI, my left ass cheek hurts. Most days I can cope as sometimes just moving around a bit helps loosen everything up (it’s usually the worst in the morning when I first get up). Other days I’m taking Aleve, or Lyrica, or Amrix just to be able to tolerate sitting in my cubicle at work (yes, even sitting in an office chair can hurt like hell sometimes, especially if one gets stuck there for a couple of hours without being able to move). It is a bit ironic to me that I worked for years (the better part of two decades) in jobs that required quite a bit of physical labor, but it wasn’t until after I had been working an office job for over two years that I started having major back problems. When the doctor asked me, on the first visit, what I had done to my back the best I could answer with was, “I wish I knew.”

The debate I’m having with myself is not whether or not to make another appointment with my doctor (that’s a given); what I’m wondering is if I should request another epidural or jump straight to inquiring about surgery. I’ve had people tell me that they’ve had the shots and they really don’t help much since they wear off. I’ve had people tell me that the surgery gave them their life back, while others (like my father-in-law-to-be) have had surgery for a herniated disc and to this day still have occasional nerve pain and numbness in their foot.

So, drugs, shots, or surgery – that’s the choice I have to make. It also goes almost without saying that I need to do more exercise to strengthen my core (yoga and yoga-like exercises seem to be the way to go) and I could certainly stand to drop some weight and inches off my waist as the old “spare tire” really isn’t helping my back at all. For now I just need to make the time to talk to my doctor and see what he recommends.

~ JC

LOOKING FOR GROUP


I’ve been playing role playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons) for 30 years or so. I don’t get to play much anymore; I’d say it’s been at least a couple of years since I’ve had the pleasure of attending a gaming session for D&D or any other RPG for that matter. When I first moved to the Metro-Atlanta area in 2010, I joined a pretty awesome RPG group the very first night I was here. For various and sundry reasons, that group sort of split up (or at least, I somehow managed to no longer be a member of it – still not sure exactly how that happened). I missed gaming which lead to my starting to play World of Warcraft again after a hiatus of a couple of years; but even that, at times, requires a group.

While I do play Diablo III and World of Warcraft online it’s not quite the same as sitting around a table with real people acting out an adventure together. Put that together with the fact that WoW seems more and more geared towards forming Raid groups1 and is getting less and less solo gamer friendly, it becomes less of a replacement for tabletop gaming, at least for the person who’s playing the online game because they don’t have a tabletop group. Online games are fun and they do fulfill a certain need/desire, but they still lack a certain amount of social interaction unless you’re lucky enough to join a good guild that utilizes programs such as Ventrilo or TeamSpeak to talk to each other; and, sure, I’ve made friends from all over the country by playing WoW. Diablo and WoW may nominally be known as role playing games, but there’s little to no role playing involved and as I mentioned, in WoW you do need a group as too much of the end game content (I’m looking at you Timeless Isle) requires that you be in a group, unless you want your character to die every five minutes.

So, I’m looking for a group. Technically, in WoW, I am a member of a guild, but I haven’t logged on to the game in weeks, and even when I do it seems none of my guild mates are online (could have something to do with the fact that it’s a very small guild (basically I’m the only non-family member) and there’s a two hour time difference between them and myself). What I’d really love to find is a good tabletop role playing group again. I miss the social structure and truth be told, I miss rolling dice as compared to clicking a mouse to determine the outcome of my character’s actions. I’ve dabbled a bit with Warhammer 40,000, but that’s not a role playing game and I kind of got tired of the “table leaches” and “rules lawyers” that seem to come along with playing a miniatures game not to mention that a good bit of your time “playing” is just setting up the board; I do miss assembling and painting the models though.

The question is, how do I find a group? Something tells me that LivingSocial doesn’t have a geek/nerd section and so far the searches I’ve done via Google and Bing have lead me back to the gaming store where mostly miniatures games are played more so than role playing games (and as I recall, the RPG groups that do meet there are pretty much full up).

I guess we’ll see, as time rolls on, but for now my Saturday and Sunday evenings are reserved for watching Orphan Black and Game of Thrones anyway.

~ JC

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  1. A raid group is a large group of players made up of up to 8 parties of 5 players each intended to allow adventuring in areas (mostly difficult instances and PvP) needing large groups. Members of this group only get experience and loot from actions in their local party, unless the experience or loot results from a raid-based quest or mob (http://www.wowwiki.com/Raid_group)