I’ve posted my final photo album from last month’s trip to the mountains. Like before, this is a fairly small album.
I’ve just posted some photos from an autumn visit to Gorges state park. The park has improved significantly since I was last there, with the inclusion of a stellar visitor’s center (with some really nice views). Gorges remains one of my favorite state parks!
I’ve posted another photo album from my trip last month to the Asheville area. This time, the focus is on Lake James State Park, which is located near Marion, NC. This park has incredible vistas of mountain ranges over the lake, and was well worth the visit.
I’ve just posted my Lake Norman State Park photo album, showcasing a few sights from the park. We visited this park last month during a short trip to Asheville. Though it was a cold day, the park was another nice one to visit.
Back in early October, I visited Crowders Mountain state park with my girlfriend and my family. Located west of Charlotte, the park is a very nice (and popular!) place to visit, with fantastic views of the surrounding countryside atop the mountain. I’ve just published some photos of our visit. If you’re ever in the area, check it out!
I’ve just released a new version of Googlebar Lite, which includes a fix for search word buttons in Firefox 25. If you spot any other problems, please let me know. Here’s the full change log:
- Bug Fix: Word search buttons should now work properly in Firefox 25
Googlebar Lite is currently experiencing some problems with the search word buttons in Firefox 25. This is due to changes made to the underlying interface to the find bar, which I use to do the actual search operations.
I am currently working towards fixing the issue, and I hope to have a new release available sometime soon. Please be patient as I work on a fix. If you spot any other issues, let me know!
For a little while now, I’ve been playing and enjoying Terraria, a side-scrolling exploration game (somewhat similar, from what I hear, to Minecraft). Its 16-bit vibe really hits the nostalgia button for me, not to mention that it’s just plain fun.
That said, I think the single most attractive feature of this game is that you get to really explore a computer-generated world (no two of which are alike!). It’s the exploration factor that attracts me most. Once I hit the “hard mode” portion of the game, it starts to feel like a grind to me. The discovery of brand new places and items is my carrot on the stick; once I’ve fully uncovered the map, the game loses its luster.
I think the same thing can be said for a number of other games I have enjoyed in the past, including ones like Skyrim. The expansive world is just plain fun to explore; there’s always a new cave, or city, or ruin to find and explore. Quests can keep things interesting, but it’s seeing new places that really gets me excited.
Are there any games out there that are, to some degree, solely about the exploration? I’m pretty sure that Dear Esther fits that bill (and I have yet to play it), but I’m wondering if there are others I’ve missed. I have to believe that purely exploration-based games have a market (see Beyond Eyes, for example). If anyone can provide recommendations for titles in this space, I’d love to hear them.
I’ve just posted a small photo set from a visit my family took to the SciQuarium in Greensboro back in August. If you have children, it’s a fantastic place to visit. The animal and fish collection there is very fun to look at!
Let me get the crux of this review out of the way: the car buying service offered by the North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union (of which I am a member) rocks. Before I get to the details, allow me to provide a little background.
I’ve been driving a 1999 Mazda Protege since June of 2000. The Protege is an extremely reliable car, but mine was really starting to show its age: rust was visible in a few places, the pin stripes on the side were flaking off, and the car had gotten quite loud on the road (the wind and road noise were pretty unbearable). Having talked about getting a new car for a year or two, I finally decided to take action. In searching for a new car, I had a few essential criteria:
- It should be a four-door sedan
- It should have a quiet and smooth ride
- It should be a step up in quality from my Protege
I ended up test driving five vehicles, all in the same size and price class: the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 6, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry. All of these vehicles have their own strengths and weaknesses (e.g. the Mazda 6 was the sexiest on the outside, but had a rather loud and “active” ride), but I was able to whittle it down to two cars: the Altima and the Camry. I ended up choosing the Camry (though it was admittedly a tough choice; the Altima is a pretty nice vehicle).
Once I knew what I wanted, I started looking at local dealers’ prices. My dad reminded me that our credit union had a car buying service, so I looked into it, mostly out of curiosity. Their process typically works as follows:
- You select the make, model, and year of the car you’re looking for.
- You select the color and options you’re interested in.
- You provide some contact information and submit.
Once the credit union has your information, they’ll look for a car that most closely matches what you asked for. They’ll then negotiate a price for that car, and will let you know what that price is. The turnaround time for this entire process was only two days (I submitted the request on a Monday and had a quote the very next day). My primary goal was to get an anchor price that I could use when negotiating with the local dealers.
The quote I received for the car I was interested in was way less than I expected it would be; nearly $5500 off the sticker price! Not only that, but they offered me nearly double what Carmax would have given me for my Protege! Needless to say, I was stunned at how competitive the deal was. Car shopping is an intimidating process and the negotiation phase was something I wasn’t looking forward to at all. This service shortcut that headache altogether!
I decided to not even bother trying to negotiate for a better deal elsewhere. I’m sure there are people who could have gotten a better deal, but I decided that my time and efforts were worth something, and SECU’s offer was very tempting. The car was delivered to my local SECU branch (they can deliver to your house, if you so desire), and most of the paperwork was handled for me. I essentially drove to my bank and swapped cars with the driver who delivered it (after signing the requisite forms, of course).
All in all, I would definitely use this service again. I’m so impressed with how easy it all was, and it took the most frustrating aspect of car buying out of the equation completely. If you’re a member of a credit union, I highly recommend checking out this kind of service if it’s available. It just might be the way I handle car buying from now on.