Monthly Archives: June 2005

The New Mustang

Southwest is delayed yet again. This is the third delay in four flights. But it does give me some time to write about the 2005 Ford Mustang which I rented for 2 days. First impression is the agressive styling which evokes the muscle car feeling with its long hood and wide stance. Its sweeping roof lines give it a nice proportion. But once you get in, not much about this base model has anything to do with muscle. Its all about cost. Hertz only had the base V-6 with the automatic, so I am sure the GT will be a different story, but I was sorely disappointed by the performance and ride of the Mustang. Starting from a stop is peppy and responsive, but going from 30 to 60 took quite a bit of patience waiting for the transmission to figure out what I wanted to do. The poor tranny would also often kick down two gears as it overcompensated for the laggy response, filling the cabin with loud engine noises. The beautiful gargle of the V-6 seemed more for show as any demand for performa!
nce stressed out the engine.

Speaking of the cabin, the best word to describe it would be plastic. Lots of it. Had Ford put more thought into the fit and finish, I wouldn’t mind the sea of dull gray plastic, but the smart design of the black dash top is marred by such poor decisions as a the circa-1991 map light cover and the faux-chrome circles around the tach and spedometer that the designers had cut to fit the steering column. But the worst offender of them all is the nasty cheap gear shifter that looks like it belong on a toy Tonka truck with an overdrive button that is tough to know where it is, poorly marked and impossible to see. When will American manufacturers start understand the need for better interiors? Afterall, isn’t this where the drivers spend the most of our time?

The rear axel is the other part of this car that really bothers me. As a cheap sporty car, it should have tight suspension without harshness. Unfortunately, this car delivers that with the front wheels, but the dumb rear suspension jarred me to the bone everytime we went over any medium size bumps. Even going over potholes would produce significant harshness that I haven’t felt in anything other than a off-roading Jeep. Body roll is minimal, but that rear axel feels like a relic. It certainly feels like someone cut corners on this mind-mannered car and produced a real mismatch.

On the positive side, the seats we’re supportive and comfortable with a good stereo system that had well-placed front speakers. The fuel economy also seemed good, although I do not have hard numbers. Trunk space was acceptable, but I wish it was a hatch. It had a very narrow trunk opening that was difficult to use.

My final verdict would be to take a look at some other more civilized yet sporty cars that provide more versatility. Unless you’re really in love with the look and history. Too bad the base model doesn’t do history justice.

Not so Great Mall

Out of curiosity, I am at the Great Mall near Kansas City. It’s just as ghetto as the Great Mall in the Bay Area, only with less people.

Entourage

Just saw the Aquaman episode. Boy it’s a good show.

Hello Kansas City!

Never seen a flight with so many whitefolk in my life.

Things I overheard while boarding a Southwest flight

“When’s he getting out on parole again?”
“She did press charges, right?”

The coming of the fall?

I read an interesting article today in The Economist which predicts a fall or flattening of real estate prices in the US. I can’t help but agree that the irrational exhubrance of the stock market may be repeated in real properties. I’ve had this nagging feeling about it as well, but that may just be the high Seattle housing prices. But it certainly feels like the stockmarket bubble again.

The article makes a claim that the only hope for real estate is that prices stay flat since we seem to be mimicking what happened in Japan (where prices have been falling for 10+ years) and Europe and Austrailia (where prices are beginning to fall).

The article quotes the author of “Irrational Exhubrance” that the real prices of housing has actually stayed flat if you remove inflation, the goverment subsidy after WWII and the last few years. The real reason you buy houses isn’t to watch prices soar, but to protect yourself from inflation. Interesting theory. And since inflation is being well managed, we’re in for a long wait for housing prices to rise once they fall.

As much as we hate to admit, the US is not immune from the laws of economics. I have all but decided to stay out of the market for the next year — the wedding and Emily’s move being the main factors.

Housing prices may keep rising, but after thinking about it, I know I should resist the temptation to but at the top. And this isn’t a result of gut instict. Looking at the apartment rental prices around here, it seems way far cheaper to rent — even after taking the tax break into consideration. And since people need to live somewhere, the fact that mortgages far outpace rents underscores my feeling that prices are amiss. That metric is a traditional measure the market seems to be ignoring. Another aspect is that first-time home buyers are beginning to be priced out of the market. Prices can’t keep growing faster than our ability to generate income.

What really worries me is that consumers keep using their homes as ATMs, withdrawing cash from it as if it’s a money tree. I know a guy who purchased a Porsche Boxster with his home equity. I’m afraid a flat housing market will throw us back into a recession. I think I’ll start hoarding as much cash as we can.

Note to self

Maybe we can rent a 1 br. in the city and buy a cheaper weekend home towards the Pacific with a view of the water. Silverdale Lake seems like a cute resort town. Bremerton looks more like a rundown naval town.

Studio, small studio

At the gate in Seattle.

Outta here

I think I’ve been to LA about a dozen times, but I have yet to see any touristy attractions in person. This one’s no exception — except that I drove by Mann’s Chinese Theatre several times. One day.

The Burbank thing

Wow, that wasn’t much of an airport. I think I’ve seen more organized daycare centers. On the bright side, I upgraded to a Kia Amanti (mini-review to follow) but it’s black and I look like a limo driver. The Courtyard Marriott at San Fernando is quite nicely renovated. Very modern-looking with a nice lobby. Reminds me a little of the W. And I’m apparently a Marriott Elite member. Guess that’s what 290,000 points gets you.

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