Xeriscaping Continues

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Fall is my favorite season… Last time we had AC on was back in August and we just fired up the gas furnace a couple of weeks ago. We usually get 4 months per year where HVAC sits switched off. If we need to cool down the house we use box fans. If it gets cold we open all the curtains to passively heat with the sun. Sometimes I fantasize about living in a place like San Diego where the weather is always perfect. Although I bet plenty of people in San Diego still run the AC. We have neighbors that never open their windows too, which never ceases to amaze me when we are out on a perfect day. Continue Reading

The Perception of Old

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If you’re serious about getting ahead financially you probably don’t want to be driving a new car. Most self-made millionaires, the ones that had to work for their money, drive older cars. It’s common knowledge yet most people prefer a short-term thrill of buying a new car over a long-term reward of becoming financially independent. Where I live, the majority of cars on the road look like they just came off a showroom floor. Sure, you see cars from the 90’s and the early 2000’s but it seems that they are a minority nowadays. Continue Reading

MAXI Cooper – First Steps

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From time to time I’d browse the local Craigslist ads to see if I can find a cheap pickup truck for sale. Not the Tundra-RAM-1500-F150-king-cab monstrosities clogging the American roads but those smaller Tacoma-Ranger-Frontier varieties from the early 2000’s. Something with a 4-cylinder engine and as simple and as economical as pickups get. I was thinking that I should be able to find a small pickup truck with under 100K miles in good condition for around $5,000. Turns out that’s not really possible based on all the ads I’ve seen. Continue Reading

What a Ruckus

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“What are you gonna do with this thing?” asked my wife.  A valid question indeed.  One freezing day in January a Honda Ruckus moped was dropped off in my driveway as a result of a $900 Craigslist transaction that took place earlier that morning. A 2009 model with 4,160 miles and a tendency to stall after a few minutes of riding. It looked like a kids toy next to my Honda Nighthawk motorcycle. A bug-eyed chihuahua to your German shepherd if you will. Continue Reading

Fun and Savings on Two Wheels

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Some of my earliest childhood memories flashback to the time spent at my grandparent’s house in a small village within a 2-hour ride from a big city where my family lived. My parents would drop me off in June and pick me up in late August. They would visit on weekends, but most of the time I’d be left alone to do whatever it is that kids used to do before Internet. My grandmother had a small “farm” with some livestock, fruits and vegetables. I’d be expected to help which meant sneaking a few strawberries without getting caught, at least in my mind. Continue Reading

On STUFF and Costco’s Return Policy

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Picture of how the dining room looked like before we bought the house… Our Costco set was even bigger!

Stuff expands to fill available space. You live in an apartment and yearn for a bigger place. You get a house but after a couple of years it feels cramped. You upgrade to a bigger house and find that while certainly more spacious than the apartment or the starter home, somehow every room is filled to capacity again. Our family is a good example of this paradox. Continue Reading

Diagnosing RPM Idle Issues in a MINI Cooper

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Back in 2012 I bought a 2009 MINI Cooper hatchback to replace the aging 2004 BMW 330i ZHP that was rapidly approaching the point where a bunch of expensive work would be needed on a regular basis. Bimmer was a wonderful performance car but at 130K miles it was definitely a liability. I wanted to replace it with something sporty yet “frugal” and after multiple test drives of different makes and models I decided on an R56 MINI Cooper with a naturally aspirated non-turbo N12 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. If you search for “MINI Cooper problems” you will find enough to run the other way. However, if you do a bit of digging you’ll find that most issues discussed ad nauseam on various forums are mostly for a Cooper S i.e. turbo engine. Since I wanted something reasonably reliable and easy to DIY, I decided to go with a base model known as “Justa” as in “Just a Cooper”. After 4 years of ownership the car proved to be as reliable as a Toyota Corolla…until now. Continue Reading