From @Hertz to @DollarCars and No Improvement

Updated 2011-10-12, see below.

I used Expedia to book my current flight to the U.S. When I tacked on a car rental, Expedia offered Dollar, which I had never used but was fine to accept after a string of not so great experiences with Hertz.

Dollar is quite the experience though:

  • When I picked up the car, the agent presented me with small print (on her screen) claiming that I had to prepay gas or won’t get the rental. Nothing like this had been spelt out when I reserved (and paid for) the car.
  • The agent continued to try pushing more features onto me. “But if you drive too fast and a tire bursts this will be very expensive at your current plan blablabla.” She only stopped when I asked her: “But the car does come with four tires, doesn’t it?”

The car then, a Nissan Versa at 33K miles, has its share of dings, scratches, and stains. More importantly though:

  • I can either have a low beam or lit instruments, not both. When I switch on the low beam at night, the instrument panel goes dark. I searched the manual for some dimming function but didn’t find anything.
  • Similar thing with interior lighting. Either it is on all the time or it is off all the time. The in-between time-constrained state when you open the door and leave the car doesn’t seem to exist.
  • Folks in the back can’t get out from the inside. You’d expect a children’s safety switch or something. Maybe it is there, but three grown computer scientists couldn’t find it. So much for car usability.

I guess I’ll try Avis next…


After I blogged this, Dollar got in touch and I received a helpful service email. Basically, it suggested that I bring in the car for maintenance. I didn’t have time, but the thought was appreciated.

We had found a solution to problems 2 and 3 above. Problem (2) was a short circuit or something so I stared the light down until it came on and kept working after that. Problem (3) was simply a very basic car – the child safety lock was a small physical switch inside the door.

Stanford Oktoberfest 2011

Stanford’s German Student Association (SGSA) held its annual Oktoberfest event at Bechtel International Center yesterday. Having been SGSA’s president in 2003, this organisation and its socializing and cultural events hold a special place in my heart.

As a historical tidbit, I was asked about the band playing. I remarked that it is the Karl Lebherz Band and that I had brought it in in 2003 to replace the Edelweissband which had become too expensive. Commented a passerby: “Oh, so you are responsible for the noise.”

Enjoy some quiet photo impressions!

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Höhenrausch (Altitude Fever) in Linz

Höhenrausch.2 is an art exhibition currently going on in Linz, Austria. I got to see it as part of the social program of the annual OODACH meeting. It is a wooden walkway on top of several major inner city buildings in the city of Linz, with various art installations and fantastic views along the way. Below, please find some photo impressions.

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Mooncake Madness!! (Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival Day)

Tomorrow, Monday Sept 12, 2011, is Chinese Mid-autumn Festival Day. On this day, Chinese eat “mooncake”, a small cake or something maybe better called a large cookie. It is also an important present to give to others. Observing the madness of mooncake (present) shopping I can’t help but think that in the future this day will not be remembered as Mid-Autumn Festival Day but rather as Mooncake (Madness) Day, much like Thanksgiving Day in the United States turned into Turkey Day.

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