Our most frugal car repair ever

I’ll tell you up front that this is not really about frugal car repairs as much as it is about relationships with the people who repair your car.  I also wrote it several years ago, and we no longer drive a big van.  In fact, currently, we drive nothing.  We walk or take a bike or cab if we need to go somewhere.

**

We drive a big van, and every year at the start of the summer the air conditioning needs to be reserviced.  Now, we have lived without AC in a vehicle before, but not in these same conditions- large van (12 passenger, which we need for transporting the extra two little boys we have most days, The Equuschick and her baby on Sundays when her hubs is working as usual, and the little old lady in town from time to time).  The back windows are for looking out of, for not for letting air in.  The very back windows do not even open, it’s just a couple of glass portals in the wall of the van.  The middle windows open about two inches.  In humid midwestern summers it can get really, really sick-making hot back there.

So we pay about a hundred dollars or thereabouts and have the AC serviced.  For the first two years we had the van this was free to us because the van was under warranty.   We did not really like our mechanic.  He seemed shifty.  The van always had to be aired out when we got it back because he smoked in our vehicle.  But he was the nearest mechanic covered by the warranty.   The third year, when it was no longer under warranty, we took it in to be serviced in the spring, and  the mechanic said that our air conditioner was really broken, leaking everywhere and needed to be replaced.  It was going to cost a thousand dollars.

We did not have the money, so we saved, skimped, scraped, and saved some more, avoided afternoon driving whenever  possible, and went all summer without air conditioning.  Happily, it was a mild summer.  We kept on scrimping and saving, and the following season, by about late sprint, early summer, we had enough money to pay his price.  But we still did not like him much, and we decided that if the unit was as broken as he claimed, then it seemed likely he had been kicking the can down the road the previous summers while the vehicle was under warranty and not doing a good job with it, and he seemed sleazy.

So.. we took it to a different town to a mechanic we went to church with.  We had not gone there before because he wasn’t covered by our warranty, he was in another town 45 miles away, and he was slightly more expensive than the sleazy dude in our tiny hometown.

He kept the car a week, and came back and told us, “I hate to say that other guy was dishonest, but I have run every test I can, and I’ve done it over and over, and I cannot find a leak in your van AC.  It’s in great shape. You just need some Freon…”

So we’d saved up something like a thousand dollars for a repair that ended up being a tenth that.  Yes, he charged maybe five dollars more than the old mechanic had for the freon servicing, but you know what?  He saved us nearly 900 dollars.  The added inconvenience of taking a vehicle 45 miles away and the small extra bit he charges is completely worth it to us because we trust him and he does honest, good, work.

It seems to be a mantra of sorts with the crunchy frugalistas (which I rather flirt with being myself), to shop local, and we have tried that.  But one thing we have found is that in our small town of 5,000, 45 miles or more from anyplace bigger (it is the county seat), what this means is that many of the small, local, independent operators act like each time they do business with a customer it’s the last, they are never gonna see that customer again, so it’s not necessary to build a relationship, to gain a reputation for quality, honesty, or commitment.  They figure nobody has a choice, I think, because it is a small town in a forgotten pocket of America and 45 miles seems too far to go most people here.

It saves us money, aggravation, and even resources to skip these local monopolies and go the larger town for car repairs, and it’s totally worth it to us.  Now, this is our small town.  Not all of them are like that, thank-goodness.  But ask around, wherever you are, and get good word of mouth recommendations from several people.

In our case, we were blessed because our mechanic sits on the pew in front of us at church every Sunday.  If you don’t go to church, you could rely on word of mouth among friends.

What about you?  What areas have you found that having a relationship with person with whom you do business compensates for any added cost?    How do you find a mechanic you can trust?

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Books Read in April

A Rock in the Baltic by Robert Barr- this is free on kindle and I downloaded it ages ago and only just got around to reading it.  I loved it.  Download it. I think most of you will enjoy it. Published in 1906, it is a frothy, funny love story/adventure along the lines of Prisoner of Zenda but far funnier and sweeter, and also, I think, better written.  I don’t know why Prisoner of Zenda, exactly.  Dated?  Slavic intrigue, Russian police, spies, a prison, a love story, anarchists- but so charming and amusing.

Foundation, by Asimov: I think I will have to go back and revise my previous review of Corrosion.  It’s even better than I thought.  Corrosion, you may or may not recall, is a pastiche of Asimov’s Foundation Series, and I really think the two books should be read together to see just how well the Corrosion author did what he did.  For one thing, Corrosion stands on its own as well Foundation does, even though you know they are both the beginning of a series.  For another, Asimov’s basic premise, the predictive capability of this field he created called psychohistory, based on a thorough understanding of human behavior and psyche just was never that believable to begin with and it has not aged well.  Corrosion’s foundation (see what I did there?) may not be more believable (AI that become self-aware), but it is a more interesting premise, at least to me, and the potential problem of a society built on a baffling and now decaying algo-rhythm is right out of this week’s news.

Grave’s End, a Magical Thriller, a magical witch, an undead detective who doesn’t know why he’s undead, a mute ghost who knows exactly why he’s a ghost,  the Aztec god of the dead, the goddesses Nyx and Lyssa and a few other bizarre characters are some of the reasons most of my readership may not want to read this one, and others will love it.  It’s very, very funny, and also dark and sad and did I say funny?  I think this would transfer well to screen.  I can just see the wisecracking gumshoe skeleton roaming LA in his Indiana Jones hat and trenchcoat.   I got my copy free a couple years ago in a book promotion.  The author’s website is here– again, if you didn’t like Harry Potter you’ll hate this and even if you like HP, this one is far more realistically occultic, so if you are among my readers who would be concerned by that, pass on this one.  AS funny as it was, I feel a bit squeamish about telling y’all I read it.

The Highway Man, by H.C. Bailey- Oh, I loved this one.  No caveats.  It’s historical fiction written at the turn of the last century but set in the time of the Pretender and the last illness of Queen Anne.   The main character is penniless and without any pretensions to grandeur nor aspirations to become much more than a steward. Currently he is a sort of tutor to a young heir the same age as he is. He marries hastily, then repent almost as hastily, there is family intrigue and political intrigue and some of them mix and mingle and there is humour and pathos and real life as well, and since I am reviewing this book and telling you that you should read it, you can imagine, more or less, what happens in the end. Really, a positive review from me is a spoiler in and of itself, right?

Hitchhiking Killer for Hire This is .99 now, it was free when I downloaded a few years ago.  It’s the kind of story often used as the pilot episode for an adventure series, but it is well done and enjoyable.  Ex Military sharpshooter and special forces guy is getting out and heading somewhere to lay low and just be alive for a while.  ON his road-trip of the soul, escaping from the violence of his old life, he runs into trouble with local bad hombres through no fault of his own, and he manages to extricate himself with his military training and wits and in the process he also saves the girl and does the right thing and it was a very enjoyable excapist read.

This is book 0 in the Sharp Shooter series, and as a kind of backstory and a sample taste the author hopes you will like well enough to come back for more, it’s only 43 pages.   I like the way the ending is handled- the story is definitely wrapped up, no cliff hangers here, but you also have no doubt this guy will be involved in other stories.   However- I don’t know what happened, because there is only one other book in the series, set in the new future post America break up. IT’s 2.99.

The Lonely Island, the Refuge of the Mutineers: by Ballantyne.  This is a telling of the Mutiny on the Bounty and the mutineers who settled on Pitcairn Island.  It seemed fictionalized to me, but it was interesting anyway, and when I looked it up on Wikipedia the main events are pretty much as described in the book, including a mass conversion to Christianity some time after half the adults had murdered each other.  The book is old, so the use of the ‘n’ word is prevalent and some of the attitudes are frustrating, although the story also points to some of those same attitudes has having contributed to the violence and bloodshed.  While the story as told here is true and very touching in the end, regrettably, years later, some time after the events in the book, the islanders rather fell apart.

Hilda Hopkins, Murder She Knit: This is a free kindle book, the first in a series about serial killer Hilda Hopkins, an elderly woman with a passion for machine knitting who knits little figures of her victims. In this first book, the story is clearly riffed from the old Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace.  Her victims are her boarders, all elderly gentlemen with nobody to miss them- or their pensions. She’s not as sweet as the aunties in Arsenic and Old Lace. She’s quite clever and proud of her cleverness, but a bit short sighted in self awareness, which makes for some of the more amusing episodes. The book is short- all of them are around 80 or 90 pages, and most of her reviewers think she’s funny and likable. I was less fond of her, but she is sometimes amusing and I would not mind reading others in the series if I could justify buying more light fiction just now.  It was a light, escapist read, and the writing didn’t make me flinch.

 

Jesus Himself, by Charles Murray- more of a booklet than a book, but well worth reading.   Amazon’s About the Author: South African pastor and author Andrew Murray (1828 1917)

was an amazingly prolific writer. Murray began writing on the

Christian life for his congregation as an extension of his local

pastoral work, but he became internationally known for his

books, such as With Christ in the School of Prayer and Abide

in Christ, that searched men’s hearts and brought them into a

deeper relationship with Christ. With intense purpose and zeal

for the message of the gospel, Murray wrote numerous books

even after his “retirement” at age seventy-eight.

 

How Can I Know That The Bible Is From God  (Moments that Matter, Apologetics Press)- just 16 pages.  Helpful resource, not comprehensive, of course, at only 16 pages. From time to time I find these for free and that’s when I download them.

 

100 Cupboards
And both sequels, Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King

Let me say first of all, that having read these books, you will never feel the same way about the man-bun again, at least, I don’t, and I liked the man-bun.  He’s ruined it for me.  And that was not even the main point (although I suspect he hates them and that’s why he did what he did with them, even though it is a very, very insignificant plot point).  There is a whiff of Narnia here, with more horror. He speaks to the horror aspect of his children’s stories here.    There’s an adoption sub story that won’t make some adoptive parents happy, and it might be hard for some adoptive kids.  Lots of fantasy, magic, amusement (the overly bureaucratic faerin are hilarious even when annoying) and an interesting hero.  I love that he still throws up in fear and torment before going on and going where he needs to go and doing what he needs to do, instead of puffing out his chest and just holly ho wading in, sword swinging.

A Cast of Stones by Brian Carr- this is the first of a trilogy in the Christian fantasy genre.  The Christian part is there, and I appreciated it, but it’s done deftly, and in this world the characters go by other names (Deas, his son whose name escapes me, and the mysterious Auraurae), and I really think somebody not well versed in religion might overlook it (I went to college with adults who had read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and had no idea it was Christian), but that would be their ignorance, not the book.

The world in which this book is set is medieval in style and technology. There is a priestly cast which has similarities with the Catholic church in Europe in the middle ages. There are healer women who are not much loved by the priests, but do much good in the every day world, helping people with their herbal remedies, as well as members of the Guard, the aristocracy, traders with their caravans, and your every day salt of the earth yeoman farmers who are not quite what they seem. There are also occasional Malus, demon spirits who hate this world and would do what they could to destroy it if they were not constrained.

The book begins by introducing us to Errol, an orphaned teen-ager who has been steeped in alcohol since the death of the man he had believed to be his father.  He is hired to deliver a package to a hermit priest because he is the one who knows the way, and he needs the money for ale. Along the way, somebody tries to kill him, and his message is lost and he himself barely survives the attempt.  And so it begins- a new phase in his life, a journey, some new discoveries, growth, mysteries which unfold, only to bring new questions.

The book is the first in a trilogy, so you know you are not going to get all the answers. You do get quite a few, and you aren’t left with a cliff-hanger, which I appreciate. I would love to read the next two books in the series, but will have to wait to read them when it costs less money.

If you liked the Hobbit and books of that sort, I think you’ll like this. If you liked Eragon, this is a much better story and better told.

Cold Case Christianity-  The author is a cop who specializes in cold crime scene homicide investigations. He was an atheist who decided to investigate the claims of the gospels on the same basis or standards he uses to investigate other crime scenes.  What makes this book a little different than other apologetics books of a similar vein is that he approaches it by explaining the logical terms for various aspects of an investigation, and using real murder cases as his examples.  I would use this with a teen who wasn’t going to be horrified by details from crime scenes.  He’s not graphic, but some kids are more delicate than others. I don’t think he always hits it out of the park.  There are a couple areas that I thought were weaker than others. but I believe ultimately, whether you believe or disbelieve is a matter of faith, not 100% evidentiary facts, anyway.

 

The Green Ember –   I know these are wildly popular among my homeschooling friends, and all the rage.  I would rather not review it at all because I know just how much some of our friends love it.   I was mildly disappointed.   I can’t really put my finger on why,  so maybe my hopes were just a little too high. Or maybe it’s because I am not reading it with children.  The plot should be all one would want, adventure, secrets, escapes, drama, treachery.  I wasn’t really surprised by anything, though. I saw the ‘twists’ coming. The descriptions just went on and on.  The writing is not awful, but it drags in places, many places.  At first I had it on audible, and that was really, really hard to listen to. I enjoyed it a lot more reading it to myself. But still.  I reread the Hobbit and the Narnia books and Little Women from time to time- I don’t think I’ll ever reread this one.    It certainly could be far worse, and I would not call it a badly written book and it is definitely not twaddle.  It’s a fun story for kids of a certain age, and it’s free of the sorts of things most homeschooling parents would want their kids’ books to be free of.  If I had kids at home, I’d make it available for them to read. I just would beg not to have to read it aloud.  I’m sorry.  If you loved it, please forgive me.

 

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Fraudulent Peer Reviews Result in 107 Cancer Research Retractions

Normally, I laugh at the foibles of some of the more insular parts of the science community.   After all, some studies are born to be scorned (see Twitter, New Real Peer Review @RealPeerReview).
 
But this? This is evil. Over 100 cancer research studies retracted because of peer review fraud– that is, the peer reviewers are fraudulent accounts set up and written by the researchers themselves or their paid cohorts.  
 
You need fake peer reviews so you can move up in your chosen bubble and get grants. I get it. So go make up stuff about the love life of rats or fictional television characters, feminist intersectionality and Candyland or something.  If you’re going to lie, it’s reprehensible enough without lying about stuff that means life or death to others.
Retractionwatch is less amusing, usually, than Real Peer Review, but it’s worth keeping an eye on as well.
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Adventures

A friend took this picture, it’s a place I will never be visiting. It’s not far from here, apparently, in the mountains.  It’s a small village, and part of it is only accessible via this bamboo and steel cable footbridge.

There is a church here. They recently had a gospel meeting and afterward had a meal and some recreation together.  Note the basketball.  When I tell you it’s everywhere here, know this didn’t even surprise me. I almost didn’t notice.

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Taho!!!

Taaaaa-hoooo! Every morning between 8 and 9 the man comes walking briskly down the road, pole across his shoulders, a galvanized metal bucket with lid at each end. He is selling taho, a drink of warm, freshly made tofu, sago pearls and a home brewed brown sugar syrup.

I offered to buy some for the helper as this is her day to be here. She turned me down. I am never sure when she says no-thanks to something I offer if she really means it or if she is just being polite, but I know she meant it about the taho- later she apologized and said, “I am… um… not fond with taho.”

There’s more about it here- https://cebuanawithlove.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/taho-a-philippine-healthy-snack/

she writes from Cebu island, which is the next island north of ours. She is charged less than I am. I don’t know if it’s because Cebu is cheaper or our guy serves bigger cups or because I am Amerikana. It happens.
We pay 20 pesos a cup, whic h is about .40.

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