Two wheels, no waiting

Tom Donhou, who builds bicycle frames in London, observed that it’s quite possible to do 60 mph on a bicycle if you have a steep-enough hill at your disposal. Well, been there, done that. But what I did is not a patch on Donhou’s accomplishment with a custom machine — basically one of his stock frames, slightly shortened, with handlebars dropped and a 104-tooth chainring — and an aerodynamic boost based on the time-honored principle of drafting.

He made it up to 80 or so before running out of road, and by “road” we mean a two-mile runway that hasn’t so much as a hint of grade. A test on a dyno suggests a possible speed of over 100 mph.

This isn’t the fastest anyone’s ever been on a bicycle — Fred Rompelberg once knocked out 167 mph over the Bonneville Salt Flats — but for what is essentially backyard engineering, this is a remarkable achievement.

(Via Mashable.)

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Serenity then

There was once an episode of Seinfeld called “The Serenity Now.” This has nothing to do with it.

What we have here, basically, is a picture I’ve had sitting on the drive for years and didn’t think anything about until good old File Maintenance Time.

Female cast of Firefly and Serenity

From left to right: Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite); River Tam (Summer Glau); Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin); Zoe Alleyne Washburne (Gina Torres).

Random factoid: Serenity, the film, according to Wikipedia, cost $39 million to make; it earned $38,869,464 at the box office. I figure they probably sold $130,536 worth of posters.

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Can we bar these tools?

It was just this week that I was kvetching about crapware being installed, or trying to be installed, with routine software updates. Apparently this is going to be the rule, rather than the exception, from here on out:

When people download software from SourceForge, or any major repository of Open Source software, they expect the software to be trustworthy. (baring unintentional bugs)

They do not expect the software to be a source of “drive by installer” style malware, spyware, adware, or any other unrelated/unintended software.

SourceForge’s new owners, Dice, have consciously and deliberately moved to a model violating this trust.

With their recent changes, users downloading from SourceForge now receive a special closed source installer which attempts to foist unrelated third party software onto them.

In terms of sheer enormity, this is like PBS replacing Charlie Rose with Jerry Springer.

Oh, and guess where OpenOffice sends you to download the suite? Yep. Supposedly this is opt-in — the developer need not submit his package to this kind of wrapping, if he’s willing to forgo the revenue that supposedly would be generated therefrom — but bad downloads eventually crowd out good ones, à la Gresham.

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A cleansing to be desired

Someone perhaps named Sienna Christensen sent me something with the subject line “Report: August 23, 2013 – Preferred celeb cleanser.” Now I can think of several celebrities who could stand some cleansing, and a few who probably should be decontaminated according to hazmat protocols, but unfortunately, that’s not what Ms Christensen is pushing:

Stop listening to the voices of discouragement.

There’s a new powerful combination that’s proven over-and-over to help the celebrities trim down quickly for their next movies.

And best of all, the combo is being offered as a free trial for a limited time.

Not to mention a whole lot of white text which you’re not supposed to read, but your spam filters are.

The last visible line of text:

Lilly-Stevens Software Engineering and Distribution Center 8 White Tail Lane, Mansfield, MA, 02048

I’m not sure I’d want my name on something like this — that is, if that were my name.

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City of the Dislocated Shoulders

Dave Schuler looks at Chicago, just up the road:

Without the jobs in meatpacking, steel, light manufacturing, transport, or those associated with being the center of retail empires, Chicago is still wicked, crooked, and brutal but it is no longer proud, no longer strong. There is no future for Chicago as a place where the pale and slender young men and women flit from bistro to boutique. Or even the fashionably sun-kissed ones.

There are two possible reactions to this. We can either surrender to the fate that decay brings and be willing to become Nineveh on Lake Michigan, crumbling and forgotten, or we can make Illinois a welcoming place for making things, wresting things from the soil, industry, and commerce. And deal tirelessly with the problems those things bring along with them.

This metaphor slightly misses the mark, since Nineveh wasn’t left to waste away: it was sacked. Former vassals of the Assyrian empire were more than happy to pay back Nineveh for slights received. And let’s face it, Rahm Emanuel ain’t exactly Ashurbanipal.

Still, that’s pretty much the dilemma facing the soon-to-be Fourth City, and there are times I get the feeling that everyone south of about Kankakee would just as soon it detached itself from the rest of the state and floated into the lake.

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Meanwhile in Trollhättan

Some dead car companies never die:

National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS), the Chinese backed company formed to buy the assets of Saab, says that it has hired 300 workers for the factory in Trollhättan, Sweden and that it hopes to start making cars again there by the end of this year. Mikael Oestlund, a spokesman for NEVS, said that the Trollhättan plant is “practically ready” to begin production of the 9-3 sedan. That production is dependent on coming to agreements with suppliers. Also, some of Saab’s former suppliers failed when the automaker went under and replacements for those parts must be found. “We are not there yet and therefore we are not able to make the decision of start of production,” Oestlund said.

Yet another Saab story! I think we’re being, you should pardon the expression, trolled.

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Demotional rescue

I reached the tipping point — or maybe the tipping point-zero — in two separate instances on two different software packages on two different machines yesterday. However, I maintain one standard response to such things: “Like hell you will.”

Apache is now distributing OpenOffice, formerly OpenOffice.org, and I’m thinking that they might want to take their name off it. I installed 4.0.0 on the work box not so long ago, and was rewarded for my efforts with feature bloat and unnecessarily complicated toolbars. That sort of thing I’m used to. But then it started to crash on a regular basis. I figure any spreadsheet software that fails on an effort to insert four lousy lines — no formulas or anything — into a 16k single-sheet document needs to die, and pronto. I banished the offending version and went back to 3.3.0, which I still had in a directory somewhere.

At home, things were even more drastic. DivX, a nice little package of codecs and converters and whatnot, has been pestering me for updates for some time now, and when I gave in, they threw up a whole new splash screen telling me how wonderful this new toolbar was. Now I look upon toolbars approximately the way I look upon cold-air intakes: they might have been useful twenty years ago, but they’re not getting near my engine. I duly unchecked the box, which also threatened me with a whole new search engine, and a new splash screen came up with the option greyed out — but still, technically, checked. Out you go, DivX, and never darken my drives again. I suppose I’ll have to sacrifice a few video clips, or wait until VLC’s next act of codecsterity, but I am not giving anyone the chance to load any more garbage on this box than is already there.

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Kid, you read too much

Local library has reading competition every summer. One lad wins it five years in a row, reading a total of 373 books. Horrified officials bar him from further competition:

According to the librarian who made this idiotic decision, Tyler [Weaver] “hogs” the contest. So, instead of actually having the contest be about merit and who actually does the work of reading the most age-appropriate books (Tyler hit 63 this summer, by the way), in the future the “winner” will be determined by a random drawing! So, the contest is now turning into, as we used to say in elementary school, a booby prize.

I say, bump the kid — he’s nine now — up to reading higher-level stuff. It surely can’t hurt him. I suggest Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House collection, which includes the highly pertinent short story “Harrison Bergeron.”

(Tweeted in my general direction by Sarah Rumpf.)

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What have I done? (2)

Not long ago, I made some noise to the effect that my accomplishments up to this point might seem meager to some, but dammit, they were mine.

This prompted a mild (compared to what he’s capable of) rebuke from Francis W. Porretto, who used the dreaded word “settling,” and probably had nothing to do with this Jack Baruth statement:

We’re on this planet for a limited time, each of it. There’s time to do something memorable. Build, design, write. You don’t need to be beautiful to be interesting. Look at me. I’m the ugliest fucking guy in central Ohio, which is saying a lot. No woman has ever sincerely called me handsome. When they say it, they mean “interesting”. Sometimes interesting is good enough. Look: you’re reading this and it isn’t because I have pretty eyes. It’s not too late to be somebody, to do something. I’d like to write a great book before I die. Maybe it won’t be great. But I’ll try. I will rage against the dying of the light, I promise. I will create and I will put forth effort in genuinely human areas like music and I encourage you to do the same thing, to be more than somebody who eats and talks about eating and floats in a blithe bubble of meaningless self-esteem. I’m going to keep trying, no matter how discouraging the results are.

And I remember my brother on his deathbed, reading me the Riot Act according to Dylan Thomas in approximately that same tone, and I figure I have now been properly scolded.

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About those Chinese Jeeps

Remember the flap over this during the presidential campaign? Sure you do.

Chrysler Group’s Italian overlords and Guangzhou Auto will now build Jeeps together for the Chinese marketplace:

Citing sources in the Changsha municipal government, Shanghai’s National Business Daily said that a formal agreement will be signed in the next few months. The news follows January’s announcement of a preliminary agreement between Chrysler (which is majority owned by Fiat) and Guangzhou to build Jeep branded vehicles in China. Apparently the two parties, though, disagreed as to which plant would assemble the Jeeps. Fiat-Chrysler wanted to use GAC Fiat Automobile Co.’s factory in Changsha, a JV that it already operates with Guangzhou, while Guangzhou Auto wanted to use its own factory in Guangzhou.

Now that the disagreement has been resolved, the Changsha GAC Fiat plant will build Jeeps on an assembly line shared with the Fiat Viaggio compact sedan.

You’ve seen the Viaggio: it’s essentially the North American Dodge Dart. Does this mean that Chinese Jeeps will be, um, something less than Trail Rated? I’d bet on it. Of course, if they’re not coming here, it may not matter.

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Wider columns needed

Or something. The following screenshot was taken from the endlessly fluctuating iTunes playlist on the workbox yesterday:

iTunes screenshot

For the, um, record, the albums referenced are Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and The Secret of Association.

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Is “hybrid” the new black?

What happened when Nancy Friedman asked about renting a hybrid car:

She: Oh, yeah. We have lots of hybrids. But not full hybrids.

Me: [silent, puzzled]

She: You know, they still need gas.

Me: [not sure I heard correctly] But … isn’t that what a hybrid car is? Gas and electric?

She: I mean, they’re hybrid but not completely electric.

Are there varying stages of hybridity out there? Not that I’m aware of, but then I’m often the last to know.

I wondered whether for her, and maybe for a whole cohort of younger drivers, “hybrid” had lost its original “combination-of-two-things” meaning and now signifies “less than 100 percent gas-powered.” Or, perhaps, just “nontraditional in some nonspecific way.”

I haven’t rented a car in about half a decade. Maybe next time I’ll wander into the storefront, point to something Mopar, and ask “That thing got a Hemione?”

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Fog at Clear Channel

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth regarding Reed Mullins’ departure from KTOK, and perhaps a bit less of it regarding the apparent conversion of KTST “The Twister” into an automated jukebox for some dayparts.

Lest you think this was a local phenomenon, however, you might want to check RadioInsight, which has been documenting scores of Clear Channel layoffs in markets major and minor — just within the last week.

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Do you need that much Stuf?

If you haven’t checked your Oreos lately, be advised that the Double Stuf variety falls short of its denomination:

Math teacher Dan Anderson, who runs the blog A Recursive Process, did the math for us.

He weighed 10 regular Oreos, 10 Double Stuf Oreos, 10 Mega Stuf Oreos and 5 wafers, then performed some basic calculations to determine the creme content of the aforementioned cookies.

Anderson discovered that the Double Stuf contains, not 2.0 units of Stuf, but a mere 1.86. And you should not be surprised to hear that the Mega Stuf doesn’t even qualify as a Deka Stuf.

Says Walter Olson at Overlawyered:

[W]ho would like to predict whether some law firm will file an intended class action over this problem within the next twelve months, on a scale where zero indicates “completely confident that there will not be such a lawsuit” and 10 indicates “completely confident that there will be”?

Put me down for 8.14 (which, incidentally, is 10 minus 1.86).

You know, we never had these problems with Hydrox.

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The screwing you’re getting

If we must tax things because of externalities, why aren’t we taxing sex?

If individual choices and behaviors should be taxed if they add to health care costs (a proposition [Kevin] Drum sees as so self-evident that Republicans are Neanderthals for opposing the idea), then why isn’t anyone suggesting a tax on sex? I can’t think of any discretionary behavior that has more implications for health care costs than sex. There’s contraception, abortion, STD’s, pre-natal care, birth, and at least 18 years of juvenile health care with no taxes being paid. Not to mention a new future Medicare recipient who, by current law, will pay in far less to the system than he or she will take out.

Then again, the most influential person of the second half of the 20th century might have been Hugh Hefner, since he (1) advised guys that casual sex was okay and (2) irritated enough women to help trigger a countermovement which demands that everything men get, women get, only more so. Copulation is the new national religion, and woe betide he (or, for that matter, she) who seeks to separate its churches from the State.

If we must have a new tax, let it be a tax on bullshit. The take from the 2014 mid-term campaign ads alone would pay off half the national debt.

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Not a girlmobile

Just when I think the vehicle/gender question has grown stale, somebody throws me a curve, and when that somebody is Jack Baruth, I listen. The car in question is the ’13 Dodge Charger in poorhouse SE trim, and it’s definitely for boys:

[T]here are a few of you out there who will love the Charger, as I do. Because it’s a road warrior, because the bones of it feel heavy, because you can throw the tail out on rainy city streets, because it looks like Mike Tyson in some sucker’s rearview mirror, because it’s a man’s car in an era where just writing “man’s car” in this review will upset some people and probably rightly so, I can’t apologize for how I was raised and what I believe. I suppose a woman could own and love it but she’d have to be a bad-ass herself, Anne Hathaway in a black leather outfit or that one girl from Sleater-Kinney who screams all the time. This Canadian automobile is meant to serve a declining number of traditional Americans, that cool dad who swears at dinner then winks at you and who owns Snap-On tools and who holds the door for old people and who has a preference between Ozzy and Dio. If you’ve ever seriously thought about font choice or identity politics for more than thirty seconds, this may not be the car for you. But if you want the toughest car twenty-seven grand can buy, if you want to know what it was like to open the throttle on a 360-powered Fifth Avenue in an era of ninety-horsepower Accords, step right up.

Powertrain: the newish Pentastar V6 (292 hp), the oldish Daimler 5G-Tronic autobox. Twenty-nine miles per gallon. And oh, my daughter could drive this thing. Then again, as she’ll readily admit, her lead foot extends upward to just below the knee.

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