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How to Sell a Vehicle in Texas
June 25th, 2013 | View Post
Having bought and sold a number of vehicles in the state of Texas over the past year, a friend of mine recently asked me for some help with the process. True to anything state-related, there's a network of forms and filings required. If you screw up any of the process, you can wind up being liable for tickets and accidents incurred by the vehicle. This has actually happened to me twice now, albeit I've been covered by the paperwork I filed in both cases.

If you follow these five steps, you'll be covered for any case that could arise from the sale and transfer through a private-party.

Step 1
On the back of your title, you (as the seller) have to sign the title over to the new owner. He or she keeps the title and is then responsible for mailing it in to the title department. Since I live in Austin, I typically take this directly to them, but I digress.

Step 2
Download and fill out Form-130U. You (as the seller) need to fill out and sign the middle section and the buyer can fill out the rest.

Obviously you're supposed to fill out the actual sale price of the vehicle, but since I strongly disagree with any form of taxation, even more so when it involves double-taxation (as this process does), I would encourage you to fill out whatever value you feel comfortable with (see the bottom of this post for more information).

If you forget to sign this section, you'll either have to meet with the buyer a second time or they will have to forge your signature in order to get the title properly transferred.

Step 3
It's a good idea to exchange an informal document so that you've got something between you. Just print out two copies and fill it out by hand. Each of you should keep one copy. At a minimum, you'll want the form to include each of your names, driver's license numbers, and the VIN.

It's not required, but is good for having a record of the sale.

Step 4
Once you have completed all of this, fill out the vehicle transfer notification form online. This is to protect both the seller and buyer, but mostly the seller. It's easier to complete if you do so with the buyer there, but it's certainly not necessary. Be sure to print out the response you get from the state.

Step 5
Take all of this paperwork and file it away in a manila folder. I find that most people are really bad at keeping up with paperwork, but I've twice had to pull out the Vehicle Transfer form to clear my name of tolls the buyer had accrued on my vehicles.

The Standard Presumptive Value
Finally, the SPV (Standard Presumptive Value) is an utterly bullshit mechanism that the State of Texas came up with for combating people who have set the sales price of the vehicle too low on form 130-U. I note that this is utterly bullshit because I conducted a private study of the system about a year ago and discovered some alarming results. After running statistics on about 20,000 vehicles, I found that inexpensive cars were valued at or above their actual sales price, and higher-end vehicles were valued well under theirs. The State of Texas actually has a calculator available online so you can see how they appraise any vehicle.

As an example, when I genuinely paid $900 for a used Camry, the state taxed me as if I had paid $1,600 for it. So not only was the state double-taxing the car (actually quadruple-taxing since it had 3 previous owners), but they weren't even taxing it at the rate I paid for the vehicle. I was ignorant of the process when I made this purchase. It happened again when I purchased a Toyota Tacoma for $5000. The truck was undervalued due to extensive damage on the back of it, but since the state ignores any relevance of condition, they deemed it to be worth almost $9000. They wanted to tax me accordingly, but I fought against that. To prove it was worth much less, I had to get an appraisal from a certified dealer for $100 (the state minimum that he could charge) just to illustrate why I should be taxed less.

Worse still is that when I compared this with higher-end vehicles (a Corvette listed at $60,000 say), the SPV would actually come in substantially lower than the actual vehicle value.

Again, I'm 100% opposed to any kind of taxation, but even more so when it's designed to further fuck the poor as this system most clearly is intended to do.

How to Fuck the State of Texas
In short, go to the state's SPV Calculator. Type in the VIN and the mileage of your vehicle (whether you're the buyer or seller). The program will spit out a vehicle appraisal. The state will take the greater of this number and whatever you fill out on Form 130-U and tax you at that value. Obviously don't put a penny more than what the SPV comes back as.
My Poor Fragmented Ankle
May 10th, 2013 | View Post

Vance Kotrla and me taking a buddy picture just a few weeks before I landed on the ankle. This photo would have been in early March 1996.
Just a few weeks after my 17th birthday I participated in the 1996 Katy ISD Junior Varsity district track meet. I was not very fast, but that only partially mattered; I was a pole vaulter. I wasn't a particularly great pole vaulter, but as it happens nobody else was either. The two leaders in the district were me and a guy named Jim Davidson. Incidentally, he went on to marry Vance's (in the photo) high school girlfriend. I like to think I was favored to win.

I always warmed up in my heavy sketcher boots - the iconic 90s leather boots with steel in the toes. It was certainly unconventional, but my logic was that if I could get my feet moving in those, the feather-weight track shoes with spikes would let me fly. It's unclear if that decision affected what happened next, but my coach certainly thought so.

After just as handful of warmups, I took to the vaulting runway again. My speed was good, the pole hit the vault box right on the mark, and I launched a good eleven feet into the air. It was almost perfect. Unfortunately instead of landing on my back, I came down straight onto my right ankle. The weight of my body from that height essentially bent my ankle 90 degrees inward. I laid on the pad screaming in excruciating pain. I was eventually carted away to the trainer on the school's golf cart. My dad drove me to the hospital shortly thereafter.

The hospital told us that I had a very bad sprain, but no broken bones. I wore a soft ankle brace for the next two months; Jim Davidson won the meet.

Fast forward 17 years.

Apparently after almost two decades of recurring injuries from football, soccer, tennis, baseball and running, my ankle said 'go fuck yourself'. I literally just stretched my ankle at my desk and it never recovered from that stretch. I was immediately in pain. I assumed I had just contorted it strangely and it would be fine in the morning. Not so much.

It turns out that there are three bone fragments (apparently referred to as loose bodies) floating around in my tissue. Over the years, the ligaments have been pulling away from the ankle bone forcing these loose bodies into uncomfortable positions. It's not clear exactly what I did, but the end result is that two of my ligaments are torn and at least one of the pieces of bone has turned itself inward causing all of the pain. This was confirmed with an ultrasound.

Adding to my month of international traveling, home rebuilding, moving, and job transitions, I will now be doing all of this from a boot and having surgery before long; the bone fragments really need to be removed. Since I've apparently been exercising on the ankle of a 65-year-old for the past 17 years, I'm very curious to see what my ankle feels like in a few months. Thankfully my sister has graciously agreed to care for me!
House of the Rising Sun (Very Drunken Version)
May 4th, 2013 | View Post
After somewhere between 7 and 9 martinis I decided it would be a good idea to try and sing the classic Animals song "House of the Rising Sun". Since singing is one of the two things I have just had to concede failure to, this was doomed before it started.

I do however like the little drunken piano solo at 3:23.

I was days from moving and so the house looks especially bare.

R.I.P. Party Bus
March 8th, 2013 | View Post

The specially rigged up driver's seat
One of the things I've desperately needed to take care of this year has been the removal of a giant bus on my driveway. I had really great intentions for starting the project last April. It wasn't too expensive, I thought it would help someone gain consistent income, and I also thought it would be a fun project to share (working outside, drinking beer, wood-working, etc.).

While some of that proved to be true, I'd have to say that overall it was an abysmal failure. Worse is that I've been left to consider this abysmal failure virtually every time I arrive at my house.

I figured that I'd have to fix the driver's seat before I could sell it, but a few people convinced me that probably wasn't the case. So after typing up the story of the bus on Craigslist and letting people know I was just trying to get back what I put into it, I found a handful of buyers.

Thankfully, one of those buyers purchased it this morning and drove it off.

The moral of this entire story is that projects are fun. But if you're going to start a project with someone, make sure that someone really wants to do the project with you. All you really have to do is ask. Sometimes failing to do so will leave you with a 10,500 lb vehicle that really only serves to explain what house is yours on the block.

My view of the bus as it drove off my block.

The first time my truck has ever been parked in my driveway.

First Responder
February 10th, 2013 | View Post

The side of the car the old man was in. I should have taken a picture of the front passenger side as it was completely caved in.
I'm not sure exactly why, but I've always wanted to be the first responder on the scene of an accident. I've always assumed that I would act calm and composed under pressure, all the while doing whatever needed to be done to help the victims. I finally got a chance to find out.

I didn't see the actual impact, but I did come upon the two cars spinning out in the intersection as I came over a hill. An older man was driving the Toyota (in the picture) and apparently cut across an intersection just as a red Corvette was coming down the road. I was later told that the older man mustn't have seen the Corvette and cut right in front of it.

Although the car wasn't about to explode or anything, the man driving the Toyota had been hit pretty hard. When I ran up to the door, he was clinching his chest and a painful expression lined his face. Another woman was on the scene with me and started asking him medical questions. He was complaining about severe chest pains and was frantically looking for his glasses. Smoke started pouring into the car and so we started yelling at him to get out. I'm not sure if he was acting erratic as a result of the impact, but we eventually unbuckled his seat belt for him and helped him out of the vehicle. The woman was particularly helpful to him.

I think the bulk of the smoke was from the airbag deployment and the various fluids burning off on the engine, but it was getting increasingly hard to breath in the car's environment. I had the pleasure of calling the accident in to EMS as the woman walked him over to the curb and sat him down. Once they were on their way, I crawled around his car trying to find his glasses, but they were nowhere to be found. Since it was getting harder to breathe, and I wasn't sure if the car actually might catch fire, I thought he could probably do without them.

The guy in the other car looked to be okay, albeit his car was much worse. He was walking around on the phone and so I didn't pay much attention to him.

Once the situation was resolved and EMS was in range, I went about my day.
A New Experiment
January 30th, 2013 | View Post

Some random yoga art to make the post more interesting
This is definitely not the type of post that I am accustomed to writing, but after neglecting my blog for many weeks now I wanted to start off with something entirely out of the ordinary.

After years of fighting it, I finally gave yoga an honest go. Of course wouldn't you know, I really enjoy it. I've had many people over the years ask me to try it with them and I've never even considered it. I even dated a yoga instructor once and still wasn't convinced. I thought it was time for a new physical experiment.

A number of friends actually suggested that I try the hot yoga (bikram I believe it's called) as a way to clear my head and gain a little peace with the world. While it didn't really work for that purpose, I did very quickly discover that the endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility training was well worth my time. I really do enjoy being in shape, I just need to be motivated.

I showed up for a 90 minute hot yoga class a few weeks ago. Ten minutes into it, I was positive I was going to throw up, briefly pass out, and definitely not complete the next 80 minutes. Ten minutes after that, I caught my breath and figured if the other 30 people could do it, I could too. I worked it as hard as I could. When the instructor later found out (after class) that it was my first class ever, she was visibly impressed that I was able to perform all of the postures and was pretty surprised I'd started with their hardest class. Since I like to be good at things, that was motivation enough. I've only missed class when traveling and it's been working wonders on my body.

I started 2013 off about 14 pounds lighter than usual thanks to a spectacular Christmas diet. I think the first few yoga classes probably sweat off another pound or two, but I've been steadily increasing my weight since then; my muscles are already coming back in full force. The 90 minute class really does work every muscle group of one's body. As someone who suffers from really bad back and neck pains, I'll be curious to see if it's able to mend those areas a little bit. I can already see my leg muscles toning, can feel all of my abs, and my lower back and shoulders are developing all sorts of new muscles I'm not sure are supposed to be part of the human anatomy - at least not mine.

So overall, I'd like to give hot yoga a glowing endorsement. In hindsight, I do wish I had tried it many years earlier and regret not doing so with people who asked me to join them over the years. But at least now I know it's something to be taken seriously. Admittedly I could do without some of the hippie-verbiage and ridiculous breathing noises that come along with it, but it's a small price to endure for the payoff. Also, I would estimate about an 8 to 1 female to male ratio per class. And of that one male, at least a quarter of them are gay. So that's always an additional point of consideration for people.