G outclassed

I have had absolutely no seat time in the Mercedes-Benz G-class, the Geländewagen, which was to the Axis what the Land Rover was to the Allies¹, so I can’t verify any of this description personally, but damn if it doesn’t sound plausible:

If you’ve ever driven a G-wagen (and I did), it’ll cure your taste for them permanently, knockoff or not.

Imagine the crazy taxi from Roger Rabbit, only three times as tall, with a blown AMG motor, and that’s what you have here. It’s a 536-hp clown-car with a suspension made of Slinkys and pool noodles. The Edmund Fitzgerald was more stable — right before it sank.

I see one of these occasionally at the Homeland on May at Britton, and once I caught a glimpse of the driver walking away. I came this close [gestures] to falling into a rack of grocery carts.

¹ Not really.

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Rained out on opening day

After overpruning a rosebush the year before, I decided to leave it alone, and I believe it will produce close to a bumper crop — eventually. For now, we’re running at a hair above 85 percent of normal rainfall for the year, but a nice six-hour soaker yesterday got this bud to start opening wide:

One rose, close up

An embiggened version, as usual, is on Flickr.

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Erase that MK

Lincoln has one vehicle with an actual name: the ancient Navigator SUV. The rest of the line is MKthis and MKthat with neither rhyme nor reason. This is about to change, says Ford President of the Americas (now that’s a title) Joe Hinrichs:

“I know MKX and C and Z and T. I’ve studied them very well. I know them well, but we also understand the issue. It’s, frankly, where the auto industry — the premium industry — has gone, if you look at all the nameplates. But another way Lincoln could distinguish itself is to leverage its heritage. So I’ll leave it at that.”

The MKS replacement (I think), previewed as the Continental Concept at the New York Auto Show, will be called Continental, definitely a heritage name.

And there may be one other factor at work:

[W]hile sales of the MK models are down 7.2 percent thus far in 2015, sales of the Navigator — the sole bearer of a proper name in Lincoln’s lineup — have climbed 84 percent over the same period, though part of that could be attributed to lower prices at the pump fueling renewed overall demand for trucks and SUVs, as well.

What’s the only Cadillac you recognize on sight? Right: the Escalade. I can’t believe those nitwits are going to call something “CT6” when there’s a dire shortage of Fleetwoods.

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Advanced shelling

The SB Nation title was “TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON TACO CANNON,” and justifiably so, since it’s about a taco cannon:

The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks just had their most successful season in history, with the school’s hockey team making its first Frozen Four, and they’re building a new $80 million arena set to open in October. Whether that arena has good sports teams or nice seats or structural integrity is irrelevant, because it has something more important:

This is the sort of thing that has to happen when Pinkie Pie and Sonata Dusk get together.

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We are always doomed

And we will continue to be doomed for the foreseeable future, if the pattern holds:

My school (Kinkaid in Houston) took speech and debate very seriously and had a robust debate program even in middle school. In 1975-1976 the national debate topic was this:

    Resolved: That the development and allocation of scarce world resources should be controlled by an international organization

The short answer to this proposition should realistically have been: “you have got to be f*cking kidding me.” But such were the times that this was considered a serious proposal worth debating for the entire year. In fact, in doing research, it was dead-easy to build up suitcases of quotations of doom to support the affirmative; it was far, far harder finding anyone who would argue that a) the world was not going to run out of everything in a few decades and b) that markets were an appropriate vehicle for managing resources. I could fill up an hour reading different sources predicting that oil would have run out by 1990 or 2000 at the latest.

And now, of course, we’re awash in the stuff, with storage at Cushing at 78 percent of capacity. We will, of course, run out in 2030, or 2130, or 2525, if man is still alive.

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Same surf, same turf

This turned up over at Interested-Participant, along with the note that “it seems to tell a story:”

Register receipt of some sort

Well, it’s marginally amusing in that the person drawing the line around “EBT FOOD STAMPS” prefixed EBT with a D to indicate “DEBT,” but there’s this undertone of “How dare these poor people eat like this!”

And that rang a bell over in the archives, circa June ’11:

There was some minor grumbling last month after word got out that some guy in Wisconsin had bought $140 worth of lobster, steaks and Mountain Dew with food stamps, and the usual noises were being made about how this was absolutely inevitable or how this was utterly unacceptable. (Best example of the latter, in fact a contender for QOTW here, was by a commenter at American Digest who said that there were only two things you should be able to purchase with food stamps: gruel and diet gruel.)

This is what you’re not seeing on that register tape: five 24-packs of Mountain Dew at 6.79 each, plus twelve bucks worth of container deposit. And it turns out that the actual purchaser, in fact, was not living large — not very large, anyway — at our expense; he was buying this stuff with EBT and then turning it over for cash, to the tune of 50 cents on the dollar. This isn’t what you’d call the highest use of taxpayer dollars, but anyone who is shocked — shocked! — to see this sort of thing going on probably isn’t paying attention: the system that can’t be gamed very likely can’t even be built, and I figure there’s nothing to be gained by paying some Federal agent to peer into people’s grocery carts.

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Undeserved appreciation

Want to see someone’s jaw drop? Tell them that the computer for which they paid $1000 won’t bring twenty bucks at a garage sale.

Nor is this phenomenon limited to computers, either:

I’ve run into adamant, intractable private sellers on three different occasions in recent weeks, and I’m finding their mental attitude almost incomprehensible. In each case the seller argued along the lines that he’d paid X for the article in question, and therefore he wanted to recover as much of that price as possible. The fact that the same article could be bought, brand-new, for a significantly lower price was irrelevant as far as he was concerned.

And even if you can’t get a new one for cheaper, the old one is still not worth what it used to be:

I’m seeing this crop up in more and more areas of the market right now, including housing and vehicles. Actual market values are ignored as sellers demand unrealistic, unreasonably high prices. Some of them are just plain greedy. Others seem to be conflating the price they paid for something with an emotional investment in it. They’re trying to recoup that emotional investment, rather than the item’s actual present monetary worth. I can understand someone who needs cash wanting to get the best possible price, but the market sets that price, not the individual. If he demands too much, he’ll get nothing at all.

Among the worst offenders are people who wrecked their almost-new $30,000 cars and are horrified that the insurance company totaled it and handed them a check for $18,500. These are kin to the idiots suffering from “buyer’s remorse” and want to trade the car they had for 72 hours even up for another one of a different color or some such horsepuckey. In vain will you explain to them that the moment there’s a new name on the title, it’s a used car.

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Motto trend

Newly installed TTAC editor-in-chief Mark Stevenson, about whom I said something partially unkind on Twitter t’other day, has come up with an interesting Question of the Day: “What’s the worst automaker slogan?”

So many of them were so utterly awful that in the first 24 hours over 100 comments were posted, all of them text. However, the absolute worst, in the opinion of yours truly, requires actual sound effects:

Worse yet, way out in the sticks evoked by this noise, actual dealers were few and far between.

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All Googly and everything

More often than not, the woman featured in one of my Rule 5 posts will have been selected because her birthday is imminent or just past. Indian actress Kriti Kharbanda would have been a perfectly reasonable March choice under those criteria, until all of a sudden she wasn’t:

Sandalwood actress Kriti Kharbanda, whose birthday is listed as March 4 on Wikipedia, revealed that her birthday was yesterday. “Well my parents told me I was born on the 29th of October! I think I’ll stick to that:) Wikipedia came into my life much later. No faith,” tweeted Kriti.

Her Wikipedia page has since been updated.

Kriti Kharbanda

Kriti Kharbanda

Her earliest film appearances were not particularly successful, though she did make something of a breakout in Googly, a 2013 romantic comedy with action-flick overtones in which she was featured with Yash. The trailer gives you some hint of what it’s like, maybe:

If you had been wondering about that reference to “Sandalwood,” it’s a Hollywood-like place in the South Indian state of Karnataka, where films in the Kannada language are produced. Kriti Kharbanda is apparently working on five such films this year — plus one in Telugu.

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The other side of the city limits

There are those of a certain philosophical bent who think that everyone should live as close to downtown, and as close to one another, as is inhumanly possible. (There are several pod persons on OKCTalk who call for the bloody dismemberment of this town, for its reduction to maybe half of its 621 square miles, all in the name of Holy Density. Fortunately, none of them live near me.) This isn’t happening here, and it’s not happening anywhere else either:

It’s still a bit disconcerting to see how far suburbs have spread across the landscape. It’s no wonder traffic has become so congested. I really think we could use a new model for suburban living, but as long as land on the outskirts of town is cheap, and people are willing to spend the necessary time in their cars I don’t see that things will change. Self-driving cars are going to insure that we continue on this same path. Replace your windshield with a big screen TV, talk out the front seats entirely, replace the rear seat with a lazy boy, and shoot, you wouldn’t even have to go home, you could just crawl around in traffic all night long. In the morning you could go back to work. So you smell a bit, your co-workers will just have to suck it up. Or get some of those smell blocking chemicals.

Of course, you must remember why people moved out to the ‘burbs in the first place:

The nicest thing about houses is that they are quiet, well, as quiet as your immediate family is. No neighbors walking across your ceiling, no hooligans blasting heavy metal till 3 in the morning. Dull, boring and comfortable.

What’s that worth to you? I know what it’s worth to me, and in a year’s time it’s a number in five figures.

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Scoobyus minimus

Most of the chatter about Hillary Clinton’s van trip has been about Chipotle and burritos and such, with hardly any attention paid to the Mystery Machine itself. Ronnie Schreiber has determined that it’s an Explorer Van, a conversion done on an existing Chevrolet chassis, and that it’s not exactly opulent:

While some of Mrs. Clinton’s critics have described the van as luxurious, and Explorer Van’s sales manager described it to me as a “loaded Limited SE model,” he also said that most of its products are used as family vehicles, not executive limousines.

A fully equipped Chevrolet-based Explorer Van runs about $66,000. You can configure your own Explorer Van and check out the standard features and options here. Considering how many of America’s moms are carpooling kids to school in $40-50K Lexus RXes and Audi Q5s, Hillary’s van hardly seems extravagant. She’s traveling comfortably I’m sure, but I’ve reviewed Audis and Jaguars that were more luxurious and exclusive.

Equipment? Meh:

Yes, it does have a decent sized flatscreen television, but it’s not anything close to sybaritic luxury. The seats are leather upholstered, but the second row has standard captain’s chairs and not the airliner first class style seats with footrests like you’d see in the back of long wheelbase luxury cars in China, the new Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach, or in a Japanese domestic market executive van like the Toyota Alphard.

All of which would cost somewhere in six figures American. So if Mrs C is not exactly dead broke, she’s not living especially high on the hog while she’s on the road, which perhaps will reflect favorably on her: said Schreiber, “The fact that she’s a return customer for Explorer Vans humanizes her in my eyes, even if I may have some skepticism about political road trips.” The fancy stuff comes later.

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All because of “It”

Washington Wizards guard Paul Pierce, before the NBA playoffs even got under way:

“We haven’t done particularly well against Toronto, but I don’t feel they have the ‘It’ that makes you worried. There isn’t a team I look at in the Eastern Conference that makes me say, ‘They are intimidating, we don’t have a chance’.”

Said Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri at a fan rally before Game 1 of the Toronto/Washington playoff series: “People want me to say something about Paul Pierce, but we don’t give a shit about ‘It’.” The NBA promptly fined Ujiri $35,000 for such untoward language, and added $25,000 more for the entire Raptors organization, presumably for not keeping its GM in line. (The Wizards, you should know, beat the Raptors in overtime, 93-86, with Pierce scoring a team-high 20 points.)

This is the second time Ujiri has gotten in trouble with the NBA’s Language Police; before last year’s playoffs he said something even terser about the Brooklyn Nets. Toronto dropped Game 1 that time, too. You’d think the guy could take a hint.

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Getting a move on

The season’s just started in Triple-A baseball, and I haven’t dragged my miserable self to the ballpark just yet, so I missed the big Pitch Counter, the dictates of which will be enforced starting the first of May:

Pitchers will be allowed 20 seconds to begin their wind-up or the motion to come to the set position.

The pitcher does not necessarily have to release the ball within 20 seconds, but must begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position to comply with the 20-second rule.

For the first pitch of an at-bat, the timer shall start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber, and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.

The timer will stop as soon as the pitcher begins his wind-up, or begins the motion to come to the set position.

If the pitcher feints a pick off or steps off the rubber with runners on base, the timer shall reset and start again immediately.

Umpires have the authority to stop the 20-second timer and order a reset.

Following any event (e.g., pick-off play) that permits the batter to leave the batter’s box, the timer shall start when the pitcher has possession of the ball in the dirt circle surrounding the pitcher’s rubber, and the batter is in the dirt circle surrounding home plate.

Following an umpire’s call of “time” or if the ball becomes dead and the batter remains at-bat, the timer shall start when the pitcher is on the pitcher’s plate and the batter is in the batter’s box, alert to the pitcher.

And should there be a Pitch Clock Violation, the count increments by one ball; presumably, if the count is already at three balls, the batter walks.

This isn’t the only rule change intended to speed up the games:

Inning breaks will be two minutes, 25 seconds in duration. The first batter of an inning is encouraged to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with 20 seconds left on the inning break timer. The pitcher must begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position at any point within the last 20 seconds of the 2:25 break.

Beginning May 1, should the pitcher fail to begin his wind-up or begin the motion to come to the set position in the last 20 seconds of the inning break, the batter will begin the at-bat with a 1-0 count.

Beginning May 1, should the batter fail to be in the batter’s box and alert to the pitcher with five or more seconds remaining on the inning break timer, the batter will begin the at-bat with a 0-1 count.

Should any of this prove Not Heinous, we may see it at the major-league level eventually. I’m not sure what I think of this yet, largely because I have yet to see it in an actual game; I have yet to hear the guy doing the radio call make any mention of someone getting a warning from the umpires for dawdling.

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The fourth-idiot theory

So how about this Marco Rubio dude? The Z Man is not overly impressed:

After eight years of Obama, the GOP is convinced they must have a non-white at the top of their ticket. So much so Jeb Bush is ready to change his name to Juan Eduardo Arbusto. Since that’s not likely to fly, the GOP has Marco Rubio warming in the bullpen, ready to step in as their man for the nomination. Rubio has the added benefit of the immigrant’s back story. He’s a meat head, but charming with a good narrative to sell.

That’s the thing with Rubio. He’s basically a Cuban Sarah Palin. He’s not stupid, but he is not sitting around working physics problems in his free time either. He’s also a man of pedestrian tastes and sensibilities. Unlike Palin, he has the brown force field around him so no one dare call him stupid or even hint at it, for fear of being called a racist.

A good argument for None of the Above? Not as good as this is:

The last 25 years seem to prove that we could just do away with the office entirely. After all, if the last three idiots could not bring down the nation, the office must hold no power at all, relative to the rest of the country.

But watch that next step: it’s a doozy.

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Chopping down the shade tree

Your average automaker would much rather you visit the dealer for your service needs instead of doing it yourself. (Said automaker is kind of a skinflint when reimbursing the dealer for warranty work, but that’s another issue.) Imagine their delight if they could force the issue:

Automakers are supporting provisions in copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and car enthusiasts from repairing and modifying their own vehicles.

In comments filed with a federal agency that will determine whether tinkering with a car constitutes a copyright violation, OEMs and their main lobbying organization say cars have become too complex and dangerous for consumers and third parties to handle.

Allowing them to continue to fix their cars has become “legally problematic,” according to a written statement from the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of automakers.

The dispute arises from a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that no one thought could apply to vehicles when it was signed into law in 1998. But now, in an era where cars are rolling computing platforms, the U.S. Copyright Office is examining whether provisions of the law that protect intellectual property should prohibit people from modifying and tuning their cars.

Of course. Everyone thought the DMCA was all about people pirating movies and such — until all sorts of unrelated oxen were subjected to governmental gore. The one thing you can always be sure of with intellectual property: the word that matters is not “intellectual.”

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One out of twelve

The Friar notes that his particular calling might make his selection for a jury rather problematic:

My own profession is also sometimes considered a disqualifier; in the minds of some people the opinion of a clergyperson carries more weight than do the opinions of others. I am pretty well sure that none of those people are close friends or relatives of clergypeople.

Oh, that’s bad:

On the one hand, my low chances of service are kind of sad, because some aspects of the judicial system are pretty interesting when seen up close, as I remember from my previous profession as a newspaper reporter (protected by the same Amendment, just a different clause).

No, that’s good:

But on the other hand, no jury service means a reduction of the number of hours I am required to listen to lawyers, as well as judges — who, more often than not, used to be lawyers.

Like seemingly everything else in life, it’s a trade-off.

I filled out the county’s questionnaire for the jury pool a few weeks back; my guess is they’re starting to run low of potential jurors. Mostly, I was surprised: I’ve been a resident of this particular county for the last 25 years or so and this is the first time I can remember actually seeing this form.

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