Saturday, October 29, 2011

Farewell Porsche...

Today I said goodbye to my Boxster. I drove it to a dealership, signed some papers and left it behind. There is a story here of course, initially it was going to be a simple story. Boy meets car, boy drives car, boy meets new car, boy trades old car in for new car. They live happily ever after.

Well the actual story is far from simple. Let's see, where to begin...and bear with me, this is fairly lenghty...

As you may know, I have a soft spot for the Audi TT. In fact, I am a bit of an Audi fan, this started with the TT and has further roots in a rather epic Audi press fleet event that I did years ago. I will definitely post about that one in the future. I am particularly fond of the Audi RS models. After driving an RS4 through the BC back roads during the press fleet event I was floored by the ferocity and pure brilliance of this car. The RS6 Avant is the stuff of legend. When Audi announced the TT-RS, I was immediately smitten. A 2.5 liter 5 cylinder turbo making 340hp? Wow, sign me up! Sadly, these cars weren't destined for North America so I more or less forgot about it. I would gaze forlornly at the occasional TT-S that I would spot on the streets of Vancouver but that car is just a bit too underpowered to be truly special. Then it all changed when Audi did a Facebook petition to gauge interest in a North American version of the TT-RS. The responses were overwhelmingly positive and Audi decided to bring the TT-RS to North America. This excited me greatly to the point where I started to have bad thoughts about my Boxster, selling it, going back from Porsche to Audi.

About four months ago now, on a whim I decided to call a local Audi dealer, the same that sold me the A4 Avant that so competently transports my little family. I asked what the deal was with the TT-RS, was it coming to Canada? Serendipity struck, the guy on the phone said that they just received two allocations, one white, one black. If I wanted, I could put down a refundable deposit and the car would have my name on it until it arrived some time in October. I could then give it a look and test drive and decide. I thought 'sure, why not' and gave him my credit card number for a deposit on a fully loaded, all-black TT-RS. After that, more details started emerging, Audi had tuned the ECU a bit to increase output to 360hp and 340lb/ft of torque for the North American version and the buzz on the Internet forums started building up. I became more and more excited about this car to the point where I pretty much had decided that it would replace the Boxster.

In mid October I finally got a firm date for delivery, October 21st. A couple of weeks before that, I put the Boxster on the market, which resulted in some interesting responses. Nothing concrete came out of this so two weeks ago now I took it to the Audi dealer to have it appraised for a trade-in. This is where the plot thickens considerably. After dropping off the car with the techies and settling into the waiting area of the dealership, the sales guy came over, wielding a piece of paper and looking quite grim. He showed me the document, which turned out to be a vehicle history report, pointing out some very bad things like a $24,000 accident claim way back in 2005 and several sales at auction. This was one of those moments where the bottom falls out of your stomach and a cold sweat breaks out. I was stunned, shocked and flabbergasted all at the same time. Remember, I bought this car as a certified pre-owned vehicle from an authorized Porsche dealer. I paid a premium for it. Given its history, it was worth about 20% of market value. Other Audi guys came over, gaping at the document and muttering how crazy this was. All the while I was sitting there thinking I was completely and thoroughly screwed. I was told to lawyer up and prepare for a court case. I was asked how I wanted to proceed with the TT-RS. I had no idea how to respond.

After the initial shock had worn off I decided to write a letter to Porsche Cars Canada to explain the situation and nicely ask for my money back. I included all the relevant documents including the signed inspection report claiming a clean vehicle history. I hinted at lawyers. I then couriered it to Porsche and waited. Two days later I got a phone call from a nice lady from Porsche Cars of North America who said they were terribly sorry and were willing to offer $3,000 for my inconvenience. I was momentarily stunned, shocked and flabbergasted again but quickly regained my composure and proceeded to tell her exactly how I felt about that. This seemed to trigger a flight response since she suggested several times I contact the dealership in question directly, bid me a nice day and hung up.

I had already sent a copy of my initial letter to the dealership so I called them, asked for the general manager and proceeded to ask her how she was going to fix this situation. This lady was a lot more grounded in reality, said things like 'I have no idea how this car was sold to you in the first place' and 'I want to help you' that considerably lowered my anxeity levels but I was still very much guarded and almost resigned to the fact that a lawyer was going to be inevitable. She then said she needed to consult with 'the vice president' and he would call me back. It took the mysterious VC two days to get back to me but when he did he was all business. Market value quotes for the car were being rattled off and I was asked if I would be so kind as to email him all the bills for costs I had incurred after purchasing the car. I remember doing this rather hurriedly at 7:45am in the morning while also trying to orchestrate the logistically challenging task of trying to get myself and Kai to work and school, Connie had already left for work.

A couple of hours later in the office, I received another call from the Vice President's favorite business manager who proposed that Porsche would buy the car back from me at market value, the dollar figure quoted as OK, not great but internally I sighed a deep sigh of relief and said I would think about it. He also proposed the interesting fact that I could still trade the car in at Audi and they would in turn bill Porsche. This required several phone calls to the Audi dealer who was taken aback at first but then realizing the need for this chain of transactions in order to sell me the TT-RS, agreed. He also noted that in the seven years in the car business he had never experienced a case like this.

The end result of this sordid affair is pretty much exactly what I had intended in the first place, trade in the Boxster for the TT. I just never thought I'd be experiencing two weeks of an anguishing crash course in used car sales that I'd rather soon forget!

The only thing left to do now is wait patiently for a couple of days longer. It turned out that one of the front brake pads on the TT had become misaligned during the journey from Hungary (that is where Audi builds TTs) to Vancouver. It needs to be replaced, the part is underway. Wednesday is the current expected arrival date. I am a bit giddy. Expect a gushing post soon...

This makes you think though. I am a bit risk-averse, especially when it comes to things to do with money and large purchases. I have always leased new cars since I like the idea of 4 years of bumper to bumper warranty. I decided to get a used Porsche to see how that would go, thought that buying a certified pre-owned car from Porsche itself would be the lowest-risk way of going about it. Well, I was proven wrong in the most thorough way possible. How this happened in the first place is still a mystery. I got several hints of the truth from various people at Porsche I spoke to but never much detail. The guy I dealt with last claimed it was an oversight on their part. Quite the oversight and I doubt it is as simple as that. But the affair is over and I am now the proud owner of a brand new 2012 Audi TT-RS. I don't care about the Porsche anymore.

Will I ever get a used car again? Probably not, crazy as that may sound. At the end of the day this is most definitely a first world problem. It turned out OK and I am much the wiser for it I suppose. I will write it up in the book of experience, stay calm and carry on.

I took a couple of quick shots at the dealer in their shop where the TT-RS is now, awaiting brake pads. Once I have it home I'll take some good shots, but here is a taste:

Friday, October 28, 2011

A chocolate treat

Some time ago I read about Soma Chocolate and became curious. Their microbatch chocolates that come from small bean batches from independent growers they work with directly sounded very interesting. I decided to order a bunch of their chocolate bars and sent an email with the order. This was at least a month ago now, I got a very nice reply saying that the availability of their bars was very variable and if I minded waiting while they collected the bars for the order. I said 'sure' and more or less forgot about it until today I found a package in the mail full of chocolate!

So far I have tried two of them. The 'old school' is a very old-fashioned mixture of cocoa nibs and cane sugar crystals ground together. The result is a very crunchy piece of chocolate full of texture and flavor, not like traditional chocolate at all but far more raw and simple. I can imagine how people used to eat chocolate this way before the modern processes of tempering and refining came along. The other one I tried is 'Arcana 100%', a blend of 4 beans without any additions of the usual sugar and emulsifiers. The result is the most intense piece of chocolate I have ever tasted, it is astringent, has quite a lot of acidity but also deep fruit flavor. Think of a hard-core Barolo that knocks your socks off, reduce it to its essense and turn in into a chocolate bar. Wow is all I can say!

I will be trying the others over the weekend, should be good...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Martha Stewart's pot pie

Connie likes to read home design magazines. I noticed a magazine on top of her pile with some great looking pot pies on the cover and took a closer look. It turned out to be a Martha Stewart magazine and it had a section about pot pies. I told Connie I would cook her any pot pie she picked, she chose a classic chicken pot pie with carrots and mushrooms. Today we went to a farm to visit a pumpkin patch for halloween. It was a clear and crisp day, we roamed around the farm, picked pumpkins from a very muddy field, got lost in an even muddier corn maze and returned home. The A4 had been splattered with mud as well so I gave it a wash. I then cracked open a bottle of wine and busied myself making dinner. It was a comfortable couple of hours in the kitchen and the end result was delicious, comforting and devoured by our little family. Kai wrote up a cooking report and gave me an A+!
It all starts with double smoked bacon...
followed by the vegetables

the filling
the pastry
the delicious end result!
the chef's treat :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

wine and charity

I work for Microsoft, making video games and other interactive entertainment for the Xbox. This is a great job, something I should maybe elaborate on a bit in a future post. Microsoft offers lots of perks to employees, including the ability to spend a number of days a year doing charity work. This is company sponsored and organized which really encourages people to participate. When an email went out recently asking for people to volunteer, I signed up.

Yesterday I went over to the Westin Bayshore hotel by the Vancouver waterfront, where I was going to help set up for a large fundraising gala. This was a benefit for Canucks Place which is an organization that provides care to kids with life-threatening illnesses. I don't care much for ice hockey or the Vancouver Canucks for that matter, but this is a pretty cool charity they have going.
I was expecting to have to move tables and chairs and such to set up, but when I walked into the place, this was already taken care of. I was whisked away into a back room that was entirely crammed full of wine. These were all the bottles donated by various people for the silent auction and I was asked to help sort them out and set them up for display. The next few hours were very enjoyable, sorting bottles by country, matching them up with auction sheets and wheeling them into the large dining hall to display them for the silent auction.

These types of high-profile fundraisers tend to attract wealthy people and judging from the wine out there, there would be no shortage of high bidders. The top bottle was a 1996 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac valued at just over $1,000. There were many others, ranging in the hundreds of bottles, valued anywhere from $40 to $500. Quite the selection!

After the wine display was all sorted out, I spent a couple of hours tying ribbons to chairs (slightly less interesting!) after which we were thanked for our efforts and I headed home. Microsoft even catered our lunch, so thanks Microsoft, you are pretty cool.

Apologies for the extreme crappiness of the photos, the camera of the iPhone 3GS is really, really bad. I have a 4S on order, hopefully my future phonecam pics will be less of an eyesore...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A home day

The Thanksgiving long weekend took its toll, on Tuesday morning I woke up feeling stuffy with a sore throat and generally feeling crummy. Now usually I take a shower, drink lots of tea, take some Advil and head to work but given my empty meeting calendar I decided to call in sick and stay home. It was a nice, lazy day, I played some Assassin's Creed Brotherhood (slowly making my way through a long back catalogue of games), made chicken soup (see Connie's blog for details), sat in the Wicked Cafe for a Cappuccino and caught up on some emails and did other bits and bobs. Before I knew it however, it was 2:45pm and I had to go pick up Kai from school. Too bad, days like these don't come around very often and I like them to last a lot longer...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Over the Thanksgiving weekend we visited my sister who just moved there from Spain. The visit itself will no doubt be very well covered on Connie's blog. I will focus on the food and drink aspect of our little visit.

I have to admit I was very sceptical of going anywhere near Vancouver Island over a busy long weekend. I am highly allergic to lineups, crowds and other things that cause me to have to wait, stand in line or otherwise tolerate delays. I don't like taking the ferry for this very reason and was expecting complete chaos but with reservations it wasn't bad at all. So I stand corrected regarding ferries on long weekends. As long as you have a reservation and you arrive on time, things should be good.

After a bit of research I decided that I had to visit Discovery Coffee. This seemed to be the highest rated coffee shop in town and we headed straight there after coming off the ferry. The place didn't disappoint, it was small, cosy and served a mighty fine Cappuccino.

After coffee we headed downtown for some lunch at Zambri's. This place has garnered many accolades and I now know why. It is a Campagnolo style rustic Italian bistro with superbly crafted food, simple and delicious. This is the exactly type of casual gourmet place that I love and we were pampered with some lovely food there. Gnocchi in a chicken broth and ragout style sauce for me, a sumptuous meatball sandwich for Kai and a deconstructed antipasti style smoked tuna Nicoise for Connie. Add some Prosecco and you have the perfect lunch for a Saturday afternoon around town.

We went back to Discovery coffee on Sunday (a different location this time, there are two in Victoria) and visited Serious Coffee on Monday with the whole crew. This place is a bit bigger and since there were 14 of us, that was a good thing!

Victoria offered up some great coffee (love Discovery!) and the food at Zambri's was top notch. Impressed!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Oceanographers and Porsches

How about that for a title?

This is a quick post from Victoria, where I am currently visiting my sister and family. But this post is not about that, I'll talk about Victoria later.

This is about the process of selling my car. Yep, I am selling the Porsche. Why oh why am I selling a perfectly good car? Well, there is a bit of a story there but that is also for later. Rest assured that something new and exciting is just around the corner.

Anyway...since putting the car on various web sites for sale, I have had some interesting emails from various people. Some serious, asking good questions about the car and usually wanting to drop the price to places where I certainly don't want to go. However so far I have had two inquiries from oceanographers currently offshore, who don't have access to their online banking or anything so want to pay by Moneygram or Western Union. One wants to buy it as a birthday present for his dad in the US, the other one for personal use. If I would be so kind as to transmit my details so they can arrange for the car to be picked up.

How very fascinating. I actually think there is an automated system here, I remember the first one came at 4am in the morning after the ad went live around midnight. The other one responded almost immediately with a lenghty reply after my first reply. The messages are very generically worded and refer to 'the item' instead of 'the car' and things like that. They are also poorly constructed and full of grammar and spelling mistakes. Soooo....interesting scammers or has there been a sudden surge of interest in second hand Porsches from the International Oceanographers Association? Hmmm....

I also got a text message last night at 1am from a Pennsylvania area code asking about the car and could I please respond to a email address. Yeah right!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Busy again!

Tempus fugit, busy lives pass by in a blur sometimes. Today I am off to Redmond, back on Friday. Then first thing Saturday we're off to Victoria to visit my sister for Thanksgiving, back on Monday. Something tells me I will have little time for the computer so blogging is unlikely to happen. I am writing this in the 10 minutes I have before I need to run out the door with Kai to take him to school before I go to work.

To provide some content of interest, a quick report of a couple of restaurants I visited lately. Connie and I went to Tableau which is a new French bistro in the spot where Voya used to be in the Loden hotel. Now when you open a classic French bistro in Vancouver you have to get it right. There is stiff competition from places like Les Faux Bourgeois and Pied-a-Terre. I have to say they did get it right, the menu is littered with classics like French onion soup, Moules Frites and Steak Frites. We tried these and they delivered. Superbly flavourful onion soup and a very simply executed Steak Frites with a little arugula and shaved parmesan. Beauty. Loved it.

Last night I went to Boneta, this Gastown favorite recently moved to a new location, in the prosperous block of Carrall street that houses the Irish Heather, Salt and the Judas Goat. There is a very interesting mall that is built between Blood Alley and Water street. Boneta looks completely different (bigger, more modern) but is instantly familiar when it comes to the food. We had a great night with superb food and the place was packed on a Monday night which is always good sign.

I have to run, no time to find pics!