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A general post today.

The weather is nice and warm (though we do need that winter rain still…), so I’m feeling festive. I’ve been on a coding streak for the last three days, so I’m feeling more upbeat at work.

I’m also looking forward to the weekend, since it will be an awesome drive to Stellenbosch tomorrow morning. My epic revamp is picking up pace, somehow, but I’m not complaining.

Bella finally crossed 30 000km today, only 6 months late. Seriously, I need to sell this car and get a cheaper one, because about 27 000 of those km are to work and back only. Or I just need to drive around more, since I’m getting back 15% in eBucks.

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Carpooling in Cape Town makes no sense – an update

One of my first posts on this blog was about why carpooling makes no sense in our city. I’d like to issue a small update to that post, based on my experience.

My home situation has remained the same since that post, with one recent development – my sister is now working for the same company as me. As a result, we now take turns driving on a weekly basis. We both get to save on petrol, and since I managed to secure an official parking spot at work, we get to share that space.

My knee has improved greatly in that time, so driving in traffic does not give me pain for days anymore. We leave work at 15:45, just before things start getting rough. Traffic is not predictable anymore though, but most days it’s fine. We no longer belong to the gym, as I prefer my own exercises now, so the schedule is basically constant.

This is still not carpooling though. The colleagues who stay in my area often go to site to visit clients, while my sister and I are office-based, so we can’t set up a reliable schedule with them. At least I don’t have to feel guilty anymore about being one of the many single drivers.

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Traffic in Cape Town – no solution in sight

A few weeks ago I was on the way home from work. As I headed down the N1, I noticed the cars were backed up a lot, way worse than normal. As I got closer, the radio announced that there had been an accident halfway down the M5.

What did this mean for me? My commute time had probably just tripled, and on a Monday afternoon to boot. So I decided to experiment, by taking another route home. Before I could get boxed in, I switched lanes to get into the CBD. I spent 15 minutes waiting in a line on an offramp to the CBD.

15 minutes after that, I was on Nelson Mandela Blvd. 15 minutes after that, I was on the M3. I then decided to wind my way through the suburbs to get home. Total drive time? Approx 1 hour 10 minutes. For reference, it normally takes me max 25 minutes to get home.

What this incident drove home once again, is that there are very few ways in and out of Cape Town. Having a huge amount of cars on the roads compounds the problem. Until our public transport system gets sorted out (for reals, and not half-half solutions), this problem will only get worse.

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Taking it easy on the roads

I’ve had a few close calls on the roads in the last few weeks. One incident involved a car from another province who dead braked in front of me at a green light while we were going at just under 60km/h. The reason?

I had hooted at him about 10 seconds earlier for almost scraping into me when he cut across the lane in front of me. I had to perform an emergency stop otherwise I would have crashed into the back of his car. The man in the Toyota behind me actually reversed a bit, I’m guessing because he saw that this other guy was about to do something crazy.

The dude then proceeded to pull away slowly over the intersection while the light was red. I won’t mention the type of car he was driving, because I already have a strong bias against drivers of those types of vehicle, and I really do try to stay logical about things.

It wasn’t a BMW, but the sentiment remains the same

Now that I’ve resumed going to a client’s office about 50km away from the office for one day a week, I’ve decided to approach things differently. Normally, I would leave home at normal time, hang around in the office for an hour and a half, then go 120 up the N1 to the client.

For the sake of my blood pressure (and petrol), the last few times I’ve still left home at normal time, but then taken a leisurely drive to work (80 on the freeway, 90 in the slow lane on the highway). I’ve bought a coffee at the shop, driven another 10 minutes to a breakfast KFC, and sat in their parking lot for an hour while reading. I then go 100 on the N1 to the client with my music up and windows (slightly) open.

The result? A marked decrease in petrol consumption (using anecdotal readings from Bella’s in-built fuel consumption meter): normally ~130km petrol used over 100km physical distance covered, now at ~110km used. Also, I’m much calmer when I reach the client.

I’ve just changed insurance companies as well, so staying calm on the road is in my best interest.

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Buying a car in SA

Don’t.

With that out of the way, the truth is, one cannot survive without a car in a big city in SA. Or rather one can, but it would be a miserable existence, where one plays a game of Russian Roulette everyday: which form of public transport will malfunction today – train, bus or taxi? Which combination will get me to work alive, and in the shortest possible time, with all my possessions still within my ownership?

Pretty bleak stuff. All my life, my parents would take us where we needed to go – school, out, wherever, in the car. When I went to Stellenbosch, my parents were horrified that I would need to walk to the shops, and walk back from test venues late at night. I wasn’t jazzed about the idea either, but there was no alternative.

I survived, as millions of people do everyday. I now easily walk distances that I definitely would have considered as driveable only before. That’s not the point of this post though.

The other day, I found amongst all the lengthy contracts I signed for my car, a single page summarising the costs, the extras, and the total amount I would be repaying. Every month when I see that installment come off my account, I cringe a little, then sigh.

Seeing that total amount again reminded me that the day the bank gives me my deed, I will have paid back double the original price of the car. I got extremely furious at that thought, and remembered that the finance lady had originally tried to get me to sign for the car at a fluctuating interest rate.

When I reminded her of the email I had sent her indicating I wanted a fixed interest rate, she tried to convince me to keep it linked, as the paperwork was already drawn up, it was later afternoon, she would need to contact the Pretoria office to get new paperwork, and the interest rate is currently in a downward trajectory, wouldn’t I want my installments to fall accordingly?

I had my dad with me in case any shenanigans were attempted, and this was clearly a shenanigan. I told her again that I wanted a fixed interest rate. Within 15 minutes, we had the new paperwork. It made no difference to the installment, and the interest rate was hiked 2 cycles later.

I felt that I couldn’t trust buying a second-hand car in Cape Town. Being a Capetonian, and knowing how Capetonians drive, I didn’t want to go through that hassle. That, and the fact that second-hand cars in Cape Town are not that much cheaper than new cars, especially when they are being financed.

I love Bella – I love driving her around, I love the features, I love that she doesn’t have that “tin can” feel that many other cars in the same bracket do. However, if I were to do it again, I would driven with the family to Worcester or George, and picked up a used car. Ultimately, the car only needs to get me through the 20 minute commute from home to week everyday.

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Microsoft keeps removing features which made Windows Phone different

The other day, I read a lengthy article by Paul Thurrott about how Microsoft is taking away everything that made Windows Phone different. Everything that made it special.

Features which made it stand out from the crowd, like tile based design, Live Tiles, integrated social networking (not that I cared about that), native Office, Hubs etc. Under Nadella’s rule, while many things have changed for the better, this I count as something which is changing for the worse.

Today, I get an email from Microsoft. They are dropping support for Rooms on Windows Phone. A Room was basically a native messaging app for Windows Phone Users. I set up a Room for the SO and I to chat, keep a single shared notebook, share photos and a shared calendar. It’s faster than Whatsapp, syncs with our MS accounts and allows me to do voice to text over the Bella‘s bluetooth.

So from March, we will still be able to access the Notebook, calendar etc, but we will no longer be able to send chat messsages. Windows 10 for Phone will introduce a new chat system.

sob

Now, I’m not one who dislikes technological change, but this, I may take a while to get over.

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I’ve been forced to drive at 80km/h

This wouldn’t have been an issue for me before, but since I am now deep into my QLC, it is a problem. A while ago, I had an incident involving Bella’s back right wheel and an unreasonably high kerb.

After receiving two quotes to repair the damage to the mag, one for R2000:

Not bad

and one for R10 000:

jackie what

I was authorised by the insurance to take the wheel to a specialised rim place who would repair it for R1000. Not sure what the point of me running around getting quotes was for. Anyway, the mechanic is quite close to my workplace so I popped around there on Monday for them to take off the damaged wheel and put on the spare one.

WP_20150129_06_27_55_Pro

So this week, I had the pleasure of travelling on a national highway (part of my commute) at 80km/h. I was forced to forgo my normal shortcut in the afternoons of zooming up the highway a bit in the opposite direction, then cutting around and zooming home. Instead, I had to crawl through about a million robots and traffic to exit the area using the more traditional route (ok it’s like 5 robots). That turned my 4 minute zoom into a 17 minute stop-start aaaargh.

Me, this week

Me, this week

 

To my utmost delight, my wheel was finished yesterday, looking brand new. Bonus, when I went to reinflate the tyre with nitrogen, I didn’t have to pay since Bella is always going there for her tyres. Yay 🙂

me, today

Me, today

Just kidding. This is more accurate:

Definitely me, today

Definitely me, today