Category Archives: My own little world

2019 Honda Insight—A 5,000-mile review

I live in my own little world

Jim and I traded in our 2017 cars (Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla) in July. He got a 2019 Honda Civic in cosmic blue (an awesome color) and I got a 2019 Honda Insight hybrid in black.

I have been out in the desert chasing trains for the last week, which means putting mileage on the car to get where the trains are. I passed the 5,000-mile mark on the Insight, so I thought it would be time for a review.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this car gets a 5.

On a scale of 5 stars, this car gets 2½ stars.

On a scale of 5 diamonds, 2½ diamonds.

2019 Honda Insight

This car has potential. I can see that, but Honda has some work to do. In my wise and unmatched wisdom, a car should not be this difficult to drive. It’s so difficult that it is almost dangerous.

In it’s defense, I believe something happened to the computer and/or software somewhere around the 2,300-mile mark. At 3,000 miles, I took it in for servicing, told them about the weird problems that had been occurring since 2,300 miles, and asked them to do a factory reset on the computer.

They claimed they did.

I don’t think so.

I have been working in and on computers since 1976, and never have I seen a factory reset that kept the customer’s custom settings. None of my custom settings were changed, which means that it was not a factory reset.

The first 2,300 miles were a pleasure to drive, even though I had some adjusting to do to understand how a hybrid works and how to drive it most efficiently.

EPA gas mileage rating is 55 in the city, 49 on the highway. At first that seemed weird since highway mileage always is more than city mileage since one is not wasting gas sitting at traffic lights. However, in the case of the hybrid, one can sit at traffic lights while in electric vehicle (EV) mode, so no gas is being used. Ergo, higher gas mileage in the city.

Once I understood that, it was very easy to get 50+ mileage in the city and 47+ on the highway. The best I ever did was 53.8 in the city and 49.1 on the highway. That was before the 2,300-mile mark (B2300).

Since then, I have never gotten better than 48.3 mpg in the city and 45.7 on the highway. Here are some other things that seem to have changed at the 2,300-mile mark (A2300):

    1. I live at the top of a hill. B2300, I could coast the mile down the hill in EV mode. A2300, it’s rare that I can back out of the garage in EV mode, much less coast down the hill, even if the battery charge is 50% or more.
    2. EV mode B2300 was always available with 3 bars on the battery charge gauge. A2300, it’s a 50/50 chance of being able to use EV mode with 3 bars on the battery charge gauge.
    3. The car B2300 was great at telling me when I could switch to EV mode, and it was consistent. A2300, it’s just plain weird. B2300, if I parked the car with 3 bars on the charge gauge, I would always be in EV mode when I started the car and started moving. A2300, hit or miss. No rhyme or reason. I hate inconsistency.
    4. B2300, I could always coast down a hill in EV mode. A2300, hit or miss again, even if the charge gauge says I have a full charge!
    5. Coasting down a hill B2300 always charged the battery. A2300, maybe yes, maybe no.
    6. B2300, I could not be in EV mode if hard acceleration requested. I grew up in the Muscle Car generation. I know what hard acceleration is, and Insight confirmed that B2300. A2300, I’m being kicked out of EV mode while coasting down a hill due to hard acceleration requested. Uh, no.
    7. B2300, I could not be in EV mode if engine too cold. A2300, I can have driven 500 miles, parked the car for a minute in EV mode while I reset Google Maps for my next destination, have a 50% charge on the battery, but can’t enter EV mode due to engine too cold. I don’t think so.
    8. B2300, I could not be in EV mode if cabin being heated. I was able to easily determine that cabin being heated was defined as turning the heat up to 71°F. Everything was fine at 70°F or lower. A2300, I have been able to be in EV mode with the heat set at 83°F. That’s cool, so to speak. However, A2300, I also have been kicked out of EV model due to cabin being heated but the heat was set at 66°F. Drat.
    9. B2300, I sometimes got the message EV mode not available. A most useless message. A2300, it got worse. I get the message while in cruise control, while coasting, while sitting at a traffic signal. Makes no sense whatsoever.
    10. B2300, I had great confidence in the computer’s estimate of mileage range. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    11. B2300, I had great confidence in the mileage. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    12. B2300, I had great confidence in the speed. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    13. B2300, I had great confidence in the miles per gallon. A2300, not so much. See #18 below.
    14. B2300, I could use EV mode while in cruise control. A2300, not necessarily.
    15. B2300, I has able to determine that EV mode was not available at speeds higher than 76 mph. A2300, I have used EV mode at 87 mph (this is California highway driving!) but at another time, at 43 mph, I was informed that EV model not available. Speed too high. WTF?
    16. B2300, hard braking, or even semi-hard braking, would recharge the battery, even if I was braking in EV mode. A2300, 90% of the time any kind of hard braking will cancel EV mode. Consequently, it’s more difficult to keep the battery charged when driving around the city, and much more difficult to get that 55 mpg EPA estimate!
    17. B2300, I had great confidence in the gas gauge. A2300, not so much. See #18 and #19 below.
    18. At 4,382 miles, the computer system crashed.
      I was driving home on the freeway, and even in stop-and-go rush-hour traffic, which is where EV mode really is useful on the highway, the speedometer always said I was doing 70 mph. I could not use EV mode in that stop-and-go traffic, which is where it’s really useful, even though I had about a 75% charge on the battery. Thus, I was using gas, but the range was stuck at 481 miles, even though I drove about 160 miles. I drove through my neighborhood at 5-10 mph but the speedometer still said I was doing 70 mph. I parked in the garage at 70 mph. Not sure how I got the car to stop in 450 feet at that speed….
      During this trip, the mpg was stuck on 43.1 mpg. Even if true, that’s poor mpg for a car rated at 49/55, and believe me, I’m a very conservative driver at my age, not like even 20 years ago when I had a 1998 Pontiac Trans Am with 308 HP.
      I was so angry at the vehicle that I simply put it in park, turned it off, and went inside. Didn’t even unload all my camera equipment and such. The next morning when I needed to go to the grocery store, everything seemed to be working again, at least in the A2300 mode. Still couldn’t coast down the hill like I did B2300.
    19. B2300, I found the range estimate to be quite accurate. A2300, not so much. The car holds at least 10.66 gallons of gas. I like to run my cars until there is very little gas left in the tank. That was difficult to do in the ’70s, and I did run out of gas a few times. Always had 5 gallons in the trunk, though. In today’s world, with computers telling us the mpg and the estimated range remaining, it’s pretty easy. In one instance I had 8 miles range left. That was the time that I put 10.66 gallons of gas in the car. Recently, A2300, I had 7 miles range left. I was only able to put 8.791 gallons of gas in the car. Hmmmm. Something’s not right.

I have to take my eyes off the road way too often and too much to check to see if I can switch to EV mode. If I can’t, I have to read the message to see what I am doing wrong. The EV mode button is in the middle console, next to the Economy mode button and the Sport mode button.

However, the positioning of the three buttons is all wrong. The button that one uses the most should be the closest to the driver. In this case, it’s Economy button, Sport button, and EV button. The Economy button needs to be pushed only once to be in Economy mode all the time. The Sport button needs to be pushed only once to be in Sport mode.

If one enters Sport mode, one has to push the Sport button again to exit Sport mode and then has to push the Economy button to get back in Economy mode. I can handle that, since I’m rarely out of Economy mode and rarely in Sport mode. The EV button, however, needs to be pushed so many times during a simple 5-mile trip that it should be closest to me, perhaps even with a button on the steering wheel instead of some of the other non-needed controls located there.

I find it interesting that the car B2300 was so smart that it could tell me everything about itself and was super duper at disengaging from EV mode when things weren’t right. Since I’m somewhat conversant in computers and computer software—I know what can be done, especially since we’re on the verge of artificial intelligence—it seems to me that this car would be much safer if the software engineers would program the car to be smart enough to switch to EV mode whenever possible, leaving me to pay attention to what’s happening on the highways and streets….

I don’t know if other hybrids have these idiosyncracies, but the next time Honda sends me a letter telling me WE NEED YOUR USED CAR! I think I’m going to take them up on it and at least check out the newest version of the Insight.

Meanwhile, though, I am quite addicted to the hybrid lifestyle, notwithstanding all the inconsistencies and problems, that I think I shall check out other companies’ hybrids and see what they are like.

If you have an insight (pun intended) into other hybrids, please let me know in a comment. As an aside, I definitely am not interested in an electric vehicle at this point. Since I do a lot of driving out in the southwestern deserts, I need the 550-mile range that this Insight gives me without needing to plug it in somewhere.


Meanwhile, Happy Birthday, Mom!

I live in my own little world

Dawna Melene Brinley KirkToday would have been my mother’s 88th birthday, according to her.

She claimed she was born in 1931.

She wasn’t.

She was born in 1935.

But I didn’t find out about that until May 11, 2019.

I have copies of my dad’s high school yearbooks. His picture is in them. My mom’s is not. Now I know why.

However, at, one can find yearbooks for just about any school in the United States for any year. Presuming that my mom was born in 1935, I went searching for yearbooks for Kingsville, Texas, for 1950-1953, and found one with Dawna’s picture in it (right).

My mom—I’m going to call her Dawna from here on out that since that is her name, and mom just doesn’t sound right since I never had any mom relationship with her—died in 2012. It was all those death notices, burial notices, and memorial notices that I found online while doing genealogical research that got me to digging deeper. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the genealogy per sé; I was more interested in any medical information I could find concerning both sides of the family.

I have been estranged from both sides of my family since 1993-1994 so I could not answer the doctors’ questions about family medical history.

Dawna’s side of the family are Mormons ,and dad’s side are Catholics, so when I came out as gay to everyone during those two years, well, they came down on me hard, sending me some of the most despicable stuff I ever had read.

Finally, after reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I quietly said goodbye to everyone and simply ceased communications with them. It was this sentence that convinced me of the way to move forward in my life:

You did not have a choice into which family you were born,
but you have a choice now as to who is in your famil

When I was in Ogden, Utah on May 11, I looked up my maternal grandfather since I knew he lived in the area. My favorite aunt & uncle (dad’s side, but Southern Baptists in 1993) came down on me the hardest.

Douglas E. BrinleyMy maternal grandfather—we’ll call him Dr. Brinley since that’s his name—was number two. Dr. Brinley is retired from Brigham Young University where he taught marriage courses, conducted marriage seminars, was a marriage counselor, and authored many books on marriage. Do a Google Images search on Dr. Douglas E. Brinley…. Yep, that’s my maternal grandfather and all his books on heterosexual marriage and families. Many of his books still are for sale at

While I was visiting with Dr. Brinley, he told me that Dawna was pregnant with my oldest brother when she & dad got married on January 27, 1951. (Interestingly, my wise old grandmother, dad’s mom, was born on January 26.) When they found out that Dawna was pregnant, they ran off to Mexico to get married. Back in the 1950s, though, Mexican marriage certificates were not recognized in Texas. With that discovery, they ran off to Comanche, Oklahoma, just across the Texas/Oklahoma border, and got married again. I’m thinking, if you’re going to get married, just get married already. Sheesh. Of course, times were a wee bit different then.

I had noticed in all the genealogy records that Dawna’s birth date was always shown as “about 1935.” Well, in my mind, “about 1935” for online records could, of course, be 1931. In several instances, I attempted to add the correct information for Dawna being born on September 30, 1931. That specific edit never stuck, although other edits I made did. In some instances, people unknown to me changed my edit back to “about 1935.” I found that interesting but not worth exploring further.

With my visit to Dr. Brinley, though, suddenly it made perfect sense why Dawna would lie (for 61 years) about her birth date and why it was always shown in the records as “about 1935.” Everyone knew exactly when she was born, but if we do the math, we find that my dad, born on January 15, 1930, was 21 years old. Dawna, born on September 30, 1935, was 15¼ years old. In other words, dad was a statutory rapist.

When I came home from Utah, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to do the DNA test. The results showed that I definitely was Dawna’s child, but who my dad was is not quite definitive. I’m definitely related to my living brother, but excepting him, it seems that I’m more closely related to my oldest uncle—I’ll call him Charles; you know why—on my dad’s side. Ancestry hints that one of his children likely is my sister. His other children are hinted at first cousins or siblings.

I know that DNA inheritance is only partially inherited and can even skip complete generations, but still….

If we do the mathematics for human pregnancies, I was born on March 11, 1955. Nine months previous to that would seem to indicate that I probably was a June 14 Flag Day conception. That would be super since my dad was in the Air Force! Patriotism! Gotta love it! However, dad was stationed in Korea at the time, as well as six months previous to my conception and six months after. Maybe patriotism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be….

If we take this a little further, we find that Dawna was living with my dad’s parents at the time. Guess who else was living with my dad’s parents? Yep. My dad’s three younger brothers, all still in K-12 school. I’m thinking that Dawna got lonely and Charles comforted her, so to speak.

John Ancel Kirk, Jr.My (supposed) dad (right) committed suicide on January 15, 1961. He was working for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Palestine, Texas. They found his body in a box car on January 18. Interestingly, January 15, is my second oldest brother’s birthday. So here’s how I am picturing this going down:

We’re having a birthday party for my brother. Dawna and dad get into a fight (Dawna already was a great drinker at that time, according to hearsay), and Dawna blurts out:

Ha! Russel’s not even your son! He is Charles’s.

I think hearing from your wife that she and your younger brother were sexually intimate, that said sexual intimacy resulted in a child, and then doing the math to confirm that Russel could not possibly be your child, could be quite disturbing. How would one live with that? Obviously, my dad decided that he couldn’t.Charles, Rodney, & Doug Kirk

DNA evidence, as well as a lot of circumstantial evidence, seems to indicate that Charles is my dad. The picture at right is of my supposed dad’s three brothers; Charles is at the left.

Charles is the only uncle on my dad’s side who still is alive.

I’m thinking about sending him a Father’s Day card in 2020.

If I do, should I sign it?

“Love, Your Son, Russel.”

Maybe I’ll leave out “Love,”….


Happy birthday!

….stuck in the kitchen

I live in my own little world

If the weather is good in the morning, I pot or plant in the ground at least one plant. The big ones first. This morning I got quite a few planted in the ground. Here they are.





Trichocereus sp.

Mammillaria magnimamma

Mammillaria hahniana

Mammillaria pilcayensis

Oreocereus species

Notocactus leninghausii

Echinocereus reichenbachii v. albispinus

When I came in from the gardens, planning on working in the office, I found an unknown creature at the end of the hallway giving me the evil eye.

Zoey the Cool Cat

There was no way to get to the office, so I was stuck in the kitchen, but at least that’s where the margaritas were.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Super volunteer is sad & depressed

I live in my own little world

Sad & depressed I am.

Super volunteer Russel Ray just isn’t wanted anywhere. Seems I give a good name to bad volunteers, so I’m not wanted.

Apparently when I started volunteering at Friends of Cats, they thought, “Yeah, another volunteer. Whatever.” Then they discovered that I’m not like other volunteers. I actually like to do things, especially if no one else likes to do them.

Unfortunately, non-profits have paid staff, people who are paid to do things, so when a super volunteer comes along, paid staff get anxious about, perhaps, losing their jobs.

I’ve done the city animal shelter, Second Chance Dog Rescue, San Diego Cactus & Succulent Society, and now Friends of Cats. If they have paid staff, they just don’t want regular, consistent, good volunteers.

I was doing whatever the various staff asked me to do. First and foremost was laundry, which I kind of enjoyed doing. While washers and dryers were running, I would socialize with the cats. Sometimes I would get asked to help feed, empty trash, pick up and clean empty food dishes, scoop poop, whatever. Always willing to help wherever I could. Someone apparently took issue with my help. I think it’s the only three people who had never asked me to help them with something.

So…. On to my next volunteer adventure.

I have been accepted at San Diego Oasis. I will be helping K-6 students who have been identified as lagging behind their peers in reading. Reading Tutor training is October 16 & 17, and I think actually tutoring the students begins in late October or early November.

I also will be implementing a chess club at one of the Oasis locations, possibly both of them. And I have been approved for teaching a class on “Taking & Making Great Pictures.” Chess and photography won’t start until February 2019, though.

Meanwhile, here’s my last two picture from Friends of Cats:

Black cats

Black cats

Remember that if you have a black cat that spends time outdoors, bring the little one in for Halloween night and the several nights leading up to Halloween. There are cruel, mean, nasty people in the world who like to abuse black cats at this time of year.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Sending thoughts and prayers….

I live in my own little world

I almost feel bad today.

I went to Walmart at 6:00 this morning to get some cat litter for Zoey the Cool Cat. When I checked out, the machine asked me if I wanted to donate to disaster relief. For the first time in my life, I said no.

The only disaster that everyone is collecting for is Hurricane Florence and the floods.

Well, Twitler has shown me that I need to look out for myself because he’s trying to destroy people like me, as well as other people typically called “minorities, people of color, women, etc.”

Since red states like North Carolina already get way more money from the government than they contribute, money which comes from blue states like California, where I live, I just decided to keep my money, especially since my tax burden under the Twitler tax giveaway to the rich is going to increase significantly for 2018.

Good luck over there on the East Coast. Sending thoughts and prayers…..

(Yeah, I’m cynical under Dictator Twitler and his regime.)

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post


By now all the cats should be hairless

I live in my own little world

I have two main tasks each day I volunteer at Friends of Cats, Inc.

One is to wash and dry cat beds, towels, blankets, etc. There are four washers and four dryers, all running pretty much 8 hours a day. Each time I put items in a dryer, I clean the lint screen. All the lint screens look like this:

Dryer lint screen

Every. Single. One.

By now all the cats should be hairless.

I’m guessing someone comes in overnight and glues all the hair back on the cats….

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post


I live in my own little world

Back in 1966 when I was under the tutelage of my wise old grandmother, I had a little cactus garden. Nothing but cactus. Little plants with spines and thorns. Lots of owees did I get. They were painful, but nothing that a teenager couldn’t handle. If I could handle grandmother whippings with an oleander switch, heck, I could handle just about anything.

Fast forward 50 years and the closest I get to those little plants with those spines and thorns is about four inches away but protected by the lens of my camera.

Last Friday I went to the Super Succulents Celebration hosted by Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall, about 40 miles north of where I live.

Since waterwise plants include cactus, there were a lot of cactus on the grounds of this huge plant nursery comprising over twenty not-flat acres. Speaking from experience, don’t try to walk all those acres at one time.

Having been there before, I knew to take my Canon 760D camera and all three of my lenses, a Tamron 18-300m, a Tamron 90mm macro, and a Tamron 150-600mm. There were so many plants in bloom that all I used was my macro lens.

Here are four of my favorite cactus spine and thorn macro pictures:

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

Macro picture of cactus thorns

If you look closely at the third picture, you can see a few translucent circles at the bottom of that spine. Those are raindrops. It had rained earlier that day, so I got lots of extraordinary macro pictures of raindrops on cactus and succulents. I will share them in my next post.

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post