When It Rains, It Pours

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This weekend while talking with a friend of mine who manages the Supper Club, we got to chatting about the nature of cascading problems. Like Lays, you can never have just one: problems seem to maliciously collaborate with one another so as to guarantee the worst possible impact.

Luckily, my problems in the grand scheme of things are absolutely trivial – as far as I know I still have my health, and RedMonk is getting some good ink lately (more on that later) – but in addition to the aforementioned MySQL outage which has been sucking up my time and with some personal/family issues that have come up in the past few weeks, I got some bad news today on my faithful steed.

In preparation for my cross country drive back to Maine (wasn’t one of you supposed to talk me out of that?) for a summer of working/vacationing out of my favorite state, I dropped my ’96 Ford Taurus SHO off at the dealer this morning for an A/C recondition and overall tuneup. Unfortunately, they discovered at least two grand worth of work that needs to be done (blown front struts, broken rear sway bar, bad head gaskets on the engine, etc), which is getting close to exceeding the value of the car. After initially giving them the go ahead for a portion of the work, I talked to my brother and dad (the finance geeks in the family), and reluctantly came to the conclusion that it’s time to look for a new car. Calling the dealership back to cancel the work was not an easy task.

It’s difficult for me because I’m sentimental by nature and I get very attached to things like cars that serve me well, and this car has done nothing but serve me very well since I got it in ’97. Even were I to have faith in an afterlife, there aren’t many religions that I’m aware of that extend that to automobiles, so I’m more than a bit sad at the forthcoming end to my car’s life.

After a couple of hours research and a couple of conversations with my brother, I seem to be focused at least for the moment on the Volvo S40 T5 AWD. If any of you have positive or negative things to say about that or other Volvos, let me know. I’m looking for a.) a sedan, b.) something reasonably priced (though I’d love to have Christopher’s ride), c.) that’s relatively sporty, and (preferably) d.) has all wheel drive. If you’ve got suggestions, I’m all ears.


  1. volvos are the safest cars you can buy. from a risk management perspective your CEO will be very happy to know a key employee has a good strong shell around him

  2. Owned a volvo for 6 years. Very dependable, expensive to repair, and some models require special tools for simple things like an oil change that only the dealer has. check out the local mechanic to see if he has volvo software for diagnostics..also a dealer exclusive for some models..

    On the very good side, one of the safest cars to drive. If you wreck, unless it’s with an 18 wheeler, you win. Solid as a rock…

    also, good for the cross country trip, you can count on getting there.

  3. forgot to mention, awd from volvo is their best feature. last snow storm, we were the only car to get out of the neighborhood

  4. Sorry for your loss.

    I don’t have any advice about volvos, but I do have some thoughts about why it’s not irrational not to want a new car.

    New car means getting used to new things, small things like where the cup holder is and what angle you have to hold your foot at to maintain 40mph for city driving. When you know a thing well enough to love it, it loves you back by acting exactly the way you expect it to.

    Also, Brett Blaser had a comment on cascading failure a while ago — he pointed out that most systems are designed to be resilient on one dimension at a time, to tolerate failure of any one component. It’s when more than one thing breaks at once that you get into chaos-land, because the way things compensate for being broken in one way is to lean harder on their other aspects…

  5. The Subaru’s are great cars. Their crash ratings are on par with Volvo’s and they are far cheaper to acquire and repair over the long haul.

    Volvo’s AWD doesn’t have a limited slip diff, which you might need in heavy Colorado snow.

    The porsche is awesome. 300hp and some serious stopping power. Although I can pratically hear the gas getting pumped from the tank, and it would suck in the winter.

    A 10 year old Ford. You are definitely do for a new car. I wouldn’t sweat it.

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