Monday, September 19, 2011

Haggling for fair price on a Toyota Sienna

I purchased a new minivan a couple months ago. I hate buying cars. The whole process seems very confrontational. To speak in terms of 7 Habits, it feels very win-lose with me being the loser. That is probably why I put off making the purchase for so long. I am happy to say that I actually nailed it this time. I do not believe I took the dealer to the cleaners, but I feel good about what I paid and thing I negotiated well. I ended up paying $12,000 for a $17,000 car. Here's how:
  • My wife did a lot of research about minivans and narrowed us down to Siennas and Odysseys. By limiting the "serious" search to those two the search space became tractable.
  • I shopped at the end of the month. The dealer specifically referenced this as we were going back and forth, in that he wanted to make the sale before the end of the month.
  • I researched the prices of cars the night before, so I knew the internet price prior to stepping on the dealership. I do not know if they would have tried the higher price if I didn't know, but knowing the price on the web took the first $1000 off immediately.
  • I enumerated the available cars in our area and graphed the mileage vs. the price:
    Car Year Miles Price Town Dealer
    Sienna LE 1999 87391 $8,765 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna LE 2004 79136 $11,763 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna LE 2004 77313 $12,686 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna XLE 2004 87501 $12,889 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2007 74353 $13,997 Framingham Direct Auto Mall
    Sienna XLE 2004 96191 $14,555 Lexington Lexington Toyota
    Sienna 2006 76846 $14,597 Framingham Direct Auto Mall
    Sienna CE 2008 83783 $14,986 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna 2005 59732 $14,988 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna 2007 63706 $14,997 Framingham Direct Auto Mall
    Sienna XLE 2006 88967 $15,678 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna LE 2006 51593 $15,953 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna LE 2006 80134 $15,995 Tewksbury Tewksbury Toyota
    Sienna LE 2007 61517 $16,988 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna CE 2007 57668 $17,317 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna LE 2008 68134 $18,378 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2008 53970 $19,222 Lexington Lexington Toyota
    Sienna LE 2008 54830 $19,730 Woburn Woburn Toyota
    Sienna 2008 65614 $19,877 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna LE 2009 49274 $19,987 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2008 63053 $19,995 Tewksbury Tewksbury Toyota
    Sienna LE 2007 57863 $20,996 Hyannis Hyannis Toyota
    Sienna 2009 36132 $21,322 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna LE 2009 44968 $22,487 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna LE 2010 33505 $22,679 Hyannis Hyannis Toyota
    Sienna XLE 2007 42937 $23,782 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna XLE 2008 63772 $23,999 Lowell Lannan Chevrolet
    Sienna 2008 40786 $26,588 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2008 80244 $27,634 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2011 25508 $28,566 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna XLE-L 2008 37135 $29,834 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna XLE 2007 58888 $31,255 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2008 19025 $31,255 Burlington-ish Herb Chambers
    Sienna 2004 96708 ? Woburn Woburn Toyota

    This enabled me to to draw a "best fit" line and point to where the price for certain cars should be at certain mileages. The scientists among you may notice some problems with the graph, but I believe it still sends the right message. By pointing out that the price for my car was on a peak, I had some clear math to get another $4000 off.
  • Probably the most important is that I was willing to walk away. I made it very clear that I did not care if we bought a particular car at a particular time. I did not try to act like I didn't care, I really didn't care. That takes work.
Of course, this doesn't work for every dealer or every car. I could not have used my nifty graph to negotiate a price down if the price was one of the local minima. Also, the graph only allowed me to pull the price down to where it should be. I didn't get a "steal" on the car. I did walk away feeling good about it, which is worth a lot in my book.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Day9's Starcraft 2 mechanics tips

Starcraft came out the year I started college. I spent a significant portion of my time as an undergraduate playing, particularly during my freshman year. A friend of mine that lived down the hall had such mad skills that he ranged toward the top of the ladder. I stunk, but still had a fun time. Flash forward to 2010, when Starcraft 2 came out. My time for playing is significantly more limited, but I still enjoy the game. I also still really stink. I mostly play the campaign and co-op with my brothers, but occasionally I swallow my pride for some ladder play in the bronze league.

I looked for a Starcraft podcast to listen to in an effort to improve my game a bit. I found Starcast. While the episodes do not maintain the production and host quality I expect from TWiT netcasts, it is a fun low-key show with good information spread here and there. The hosts pointed me at a gold-mine (or mineral-mine, if you will) of tips in Day[9]'s daily podcast. I do not particularly like the speaking style of Sean Plott (a.k.a. Day[9]), but the content is pure Starcraft gold (or mineral, if you will). Every player should watch his newbie mechanics episodes: 257 and 261.

This list contains a summary of the mechanics he emphasizes:
  • Click on things instead of area select
  • Don't scroll your screen with the mouse
  • Use hotkeys, including groups
  • Use screen hotkeys
  • Click on minimap
  • Watch the minimap, not your main screen
  • No click spam, just accuracy
  • Establish patterns and develop habits
  • Tap (hotkeys without moving screen)
  • Move slices of your army instead singles
  • Always have building structures building things
  • Never get ahead 500 minerals
So if you just started Starcraft: Good luck, have fun, and I hope that helps. If you have been playing a while, got any silver-bullet tips to share? Keep an eye out for me on as Zorgum.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Resurrected" to mortality

The issue at hand is that the "Resurrection" entry in the LDS Bible Dictionary must be wrong because of Hebrews 9:27. Specifically, man can only die once and can therefore not be restored to mortality after death. The corollary to this is that anybody who believes otherwise is a nincompoop. I will be playing the role of nincompoop today.

There are many scriptures which explain that Christ resurrected first. Acts 26:22-23 says that Christ "should be the first that should rise from the dead." 1 Corinthians 15:19-23 describes Christ as "the firstfruits of them that slept." Colossians 1:18 described Christ as "the firstborn from the dead," while Revelation 1:5 calls Him "the first begotten of the dead." Seems pretty clear to me, but I must be misunderstanding something about Hebrews 9:27.

Hebrews 9:27 states "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement." That does seem a bit confusing. I interpret the "once" to apply to the "appointed," but I can see where the other interpretation comes from. A good friend of mine who majored in English Language Linguistics and studied Early Modern English agrees with my interpretation, but there are others who see it the other way.

A drastic approach would be to discount the letter to the Hebrews. It is always dangerous to get theology from wikipedia: Plus, the afformentioned LDS Bible Dictionary insinuates that the letter did come from Paul. So the letter to the Hebrews remains cannon.

Is the Bible infallible? Certainly not. Consider the two conflicting accounts of Paul's vision: Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9. There are also conflicting accounts of Judas' death: Matt 27:5 and Acts 1:18. When we start getting into contradictory interpretations (such as the current subject of this discussion), the list grows by leaps and bounds.

Consider the experience of Joseph Smith, found in Joseph Smith History 1:11-12:

11 While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
12 Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

So Joseph went and prayed to ask for this wisdom. We know how that turned out.

Today we have modern prophets and apostles. Just as Peter, Paul, and the other ancient apostles brought clarity in how to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, our modern day apostles bring clarity in establishing the official theology of the church. Were ether set of these great men infallible? No. Do words from dead prophets have more authority than words from living prophets? No.

Then again, I'm just today's nincompoop.