Sorry for not posting for some time. Good and bad things happened, but it’s all good.
The bad thing that happened is that I had a minor accident with my car. The only victim was the car, which is currently in the body shop. The radiator is broken, and the body needs some readjustments. But I am unharmed, and nobody else was involved. And I am covered by the insurance, except for a deduction.
I took this as an excuse to buy a new car: a Toyota Prius. Not cheap, but well worth it. It is much larger in the inside than I thought, more spacious than the old 2001 Honda Civic (which I will sell as soon as it is fixed). I can highly recommend it, also for families (I do not need a bimbo box, and we have three kids).
Driving a Prius has a few odd side effects: first, you try to get as much mileage out of it as possible, and it improves with time, even over the week since I bought it. A round trip from home to work currently gets me 48 miles per gallon, most of it over the freeway and climbing up and down the eastern hills in the Bay Area, although I usually use the fast lane. Seeing the current fuel consumption in real time educates you on how much the driving style affects it. I think this would also help a lot in conventional cars.
The second side effect is that I am now usually volunteered by my coworkers to drive to the restaurant for lunch (be prepared for jokes like ‘Oh no, it stalled’ when waiting at a red light). And third, I begin to feel sorry for other car owners who do not own a Prius. One nice gimmick is the ‘smart key': I can open the doors and start the vehicle without ever pulling the key out of the pocket. And on backing up, I can see what is behind me on the monitor, using a small camera mounted just above the license plate.
I never had a better car than this one.