Civic misbehavior

When the Feds came up with fuel-economy ratings, they also came up with an all-purpose disclaimer: “Your mileage may vary.” And it will, unless your regular driving happens to coincide precisely with the EPA’s standard test cycle.

Or there simply could be something wrong with the car:

Heather Peters is an angry consumer who knows she has little chance of winning a war with Honda Motor Co. and its army of high-priced lawyers.

The Los Angeles resident is miffed that her 2006 Honda Civic hybrid doesn’t get its claimed fuel economy. And she isn’t satisfied with a proposed class-action lawsuit settlement that would give trial lawyers $8.5 million while Civic owners would get as little as $100 and rebate coupons for the purchase of a new vehicle.

With few exceptions, class-action lawsuits are conducted for the benefit of attorneys, but you already knew that, right?

On Jan. 3 she’ll take her case to Small Claims Court in Torrance, where California law prohibits Honda from bringing an attorney. She’s asking for the maximum of $10,000 to compensate her for spending much more on gasoline than expected. Honda said the Civic would get about 50 miles per gallon, but because of technical problems the car gets closer to 30 mpg.

Now the original sticker on an ’06 Civic Hybrid said 49 city/51 highway, which is indeed 50 combined. (The formula revision in ’08 says 40/42; owners reporting to fueleconomy.gov say they’re getting about 45, with a range from 30 to 72.) In this case, Honda says there’s a technical issue:

Honda has acknowledged that the battery on 2006 through 2008 Civic hybrids “may deteriorate and eventually fail” earlier than expected. When the battery pack can’t be charged to full capacity, the car relies on the gas engine more and fuel economy suffers.

Apparently this was a problem on earlier models as well:

The hybrid battery in the Honda Civic Hybrid is covered by a 8 year/80,000 mile warranty, but many people are now exceeding that mileage. It is becoming obvious that all HCHs and Insights, will eventually develop battery problems. Batteries seem to be lasting an average of seven years.

Replacement battery packs run around $3000.

I am definitely torn on this matter. On one level, if there’s an acknowledged problem, and apparently there is, Honda should step up and replace the deteriorating battery packs. But I worry that some people are going to see this and think that their failure to get EPA numbers is always actionable.

Note: I have one reader who admits to owning an ’06 Civic Hybrid. She says she gets mid-50s on level roads between 55 and 60 mph. Doesn’t sound like her battery pack has gone to hell — yet.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Update, 2 February: She won.

Further update, 9 May: Reversed on appeal.

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Never say “Bite me” to Santa

Payback will be swift and merciless:

Elf Cutlets in Wine

(Via Criggo, which finds far more of these items than you’d think possible.)

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What your definition of Griz is

All sorts of weirdness connected with this game, not least the fact that Yahoo! Sports, where I usually get my box-score numbers, called this one as a final with four and a half minutes left. At the time, it was Thunder 89, Grizzlies 81. There was, of course, no way Memphis was going to lose this by eight, not with its entire frontcourt in double-double territory and with Russell Westbrook unable to buy, or even rent, a bucket. With a minute left, the Griz were down by two, 92-90. With five seconds left, the Griz were still down by two, 94-92. Westbrook drew a foul and sank both free throws; Zack Randolph responded with a trey; Kevin Durant drew a foul and dropped in two more points, and a Hail Mary by Z-Bo fell short at the buzzer, OKC escaping with a 98-95 win.

The Griz pulled down 49 boards, 19 off the offensive glass, well ahead of the Thunder. What Memphis didn’t have was a long-distance attack: sixteen 3-point attempts produced only six points. They also didn’t have Mike Conley, who rolled an ankle 24 seconds in; Jeremy Pargo filled in admirably well. Meanwhile, OKC was putting up three-balls all over the place, hitting 10 of 25, which is only 40 percent, but considering the Thunder shot only 37.7 percent, 40 seems miraculous. (Memphis was only slightly better, at 39.1.)

And I’m not kidding about Westbrook, who finished with four points, all from the stripe; he was 0-13 from the floor. On the upside, James Harden hit 20 for the first time this season, Kendrick Perkins had 10, and deadeye Daequan Cook went 3-4 from somewhere across the Mississippi in less than 15 minutes. Durant? Thirty-two. About his season average so far.

After this, the Mavericks (the Mavericks?) are going to look like a breather. But that’s tomorrow night in the Gas Chamber. I trust Yahoo! won’t post the score in the middle of the afternoon.

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No Volts for Mitt

Mitt Romney is not impressed with the Chevrolet Volt:

If you want to know exactly what Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney thinks about the Chevrolet Volt, listen to his laugh before he answers a question about the car posed to him during a radio interview on WRKO in Boston recently. Romney was asked what he thought about the car, and he responded with a dismissive-sounding laugh by labeling the plug-in hybrid an “idea whose time has not come.” He later explained that his attitude is proved correct by the Volt’s low sales numbers. Whatever the reason, he clearly does not approve of the car.

This from a man who can’t build up any additional market share in his own political party. It is to laugh.

The last Chevy so politicized was the Corvair, half a century ago, and it suffered from the same problem: nobody liked it but the buyers. I suspect the Volt story will play out the same way, with all manner of yammering in the air while GM quietly fixes any lingering issues with the machine — but of course by then it will be too late.

If Aunt Mittunia wants my vote, he’ll rechannel his wrath towards those Washington hotheads who don’t know anything about cars except that they want to regulate them.

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Potential Congressman alert

This guy seems to have precisely the level of brainpower they’re looking for:

Screenshot from Yahoo! Answers

For that matter, as long as you’re trying to download some RAM, why don’t you see if you can download one of those big terabyte drives? Shouldn’t take you more than, oh, when did Starfleet get those replicators anyway?

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O blessed inertia

While Congress was busy tossing brickbats and whatnot these past few weeks, they were also not renewing the tax credit for corn-based ethanol:

The United States has ended a 30-year tax subsidy for corn-based ethanol that cost taxpayers $6 billion annually, and ended a tariff on imported Brazilian ethanol.

Congress adjourned for the year on Friday, failing to extend the tax break that’s drawn a wide variety of critics on Capitol Hill, including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Critics also have included environmentalists, frozen food producers, ranchers and others.

The policies have helped shift millions of tons of corn from feedlots, dinner tables and other products into gas tanks.

As much as $45 billion may have been poured into this particular rathole since 1980, to the tune of 45 cents per gallon.

The mandate for renewable fuels, however, has not been rolled back, and is scheduled to more than double by 2022, so the actual effect on your local gas station is not at all clear just yet, especially since that Brazilian ethanol is derived, not from corn, but from sugar cane.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Morning beclowns eclectic

This morning, Tam disclosed the 15 tracks most played on her iPod. I noted thereupon that I couldn’t follow suit — at the time, 890 (!) tracks in iTunes were tied for Most Played with 29 plays each — so I decided to write down the first 15 out of the Randomator (my semi-trick auto playlist). Number One was punched in manually, and the others duly followed:

  1. “A Wednesday in Your Garden,” the Guess Who
  2. “Deborah,” Dave Edmunds
  3. “Two Buffalos,” Rolf Harris
  4. “Jelly Jungle (of Orange Marmalade),” the Lemon Pipers
  5. “Holdin’ On to Yesterday,” Ambrosia
  6. “Let’s Live for Today,” the Grass Roots
  7. “Mr. Businessman,” Ray Stevens
  8. “Miracle,” Nonpoint
  9. “Breakdown,” Seether
  10. “Going in Circles,” the Friends of Distinction
  11. “She Bop,” Cyndi Lauper
  12. “Cinnamon Girl,” Neil Young with Crazy Horse
  13. “In Too Deep,” Genesis
  14. “All I Want,” A Day to Rememmber
  15. “Lips Like Morphine,” Kill Hannah

If anyone cares, this (un)set was followed immediately by Neil Sedaka’s original “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.”

(Total tracks available: 6,492.)

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Woman of influence

Four years ago today, Benazir Bhutto, the first woman ever elected to lead a Muslim state, was assassinated; an al-Qaeda minion claimed responsibility, but few, in and out of Pakistan, seemed to believe him.

That very day, a picture of Bhutto turned up in my browser cache, and I filed it away; I stumbled across it again last night while scrounging for Rule 5 material. I was reluctant to use it, not entirely sure that it was genuine.

Eventually I found an image from a newspaper in Montenegro that used the photo, but I was still a bit uneasy.

Bhutto family with Indira GandhiThen this showed up in a tab:

We can see where Benazir’s head was at here. She’s 18 and makes a small effort to wear a tunic but the flip in her hair and the “Free to Be You and Me” feel of her bell-bottomed outfit say more about the West than the East. It’s like she’s doing California doing India. Mrs Gandhi’s hair says she has better things to do than henna and primp. And Zulfiqar’s suit clearly echoes his time studying at Oxford. In other words: western and secular.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, of course, was Benazir’s dad, then the President of Pakistan.

Which brings me back to this photo, which surely dates to her period of self-exile in Dubai, from 1998 until the fall of 2007, when she thought she’d struck a deal with Pervez Musharraf. In Dubai, perhaps, you can get away with this:

Benazir Bhutto in later years

Which means she was somewhere between 45 and 53, and that particular set of numbers was finally what persuaded me to run the photo: she was within a few months of my age.

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And then there was one

Former Tulsa Tribune staffer Jeff Kauffman remembers the last days of the Joint Operating Agreement between the Trib and the Tulsa World:

Society changed, technology changed, and the JOA that helped both papers for so long became a critical lifeline for the Tribune and a lead anchor for the World. The agreement was set to expire in 1997, but negotiations had to begin five years prior.

The World’s management did its homework, saw the same surveys that showed that people had begun to depend on the local paper for the local story, preferring to get national news from cable programs and evening broadcast news. To face the competition, new computer systems were required, modern presses were needed to bring photographs and graphics to life. Changes had to be made and the Tribune was in no position to dictate conditions.

Jerry Pogue, who’d worked at both papers, told it this way:

“The World said, ‘We have no intention of negotiation. You can close up shop now, or you can wait and die.’”

Then again, says Kauffman, perhaps the Trib died at the right time:

When the Tribune closed, there wasn’t the Internet to compete with for eyeballs and ad revenue. The Tribune staff didn’t have to endure the round after round of layoffs that would have been inevitable. It never fumbled with clumsy online versions, trying to mash a square paper in the round hole of the Internet. Its standards for journalism, story telling, accuracy, and adherence to style were high until the end. It won awards and it revealed crooks and it made a difference in the community. What more could you ask from a local newspaper?

From my own archives:

In the Tribune’s last op-ed, Ben Henneke, president emeritus of the University of Tulsa, once a World staffer, mused:

“I know many of the editorial staff at the World. They will try to be evenhanded, fair, impartial, wise and many-voiced. In the future it will be volitional. It was mandatory when there was a Tribune.”

I suspect I’m one of the last people on earth who actually prefers an afternoon paper. (Opubco put the Oklahoma City Times out of its misery in 1984.) Then again, it’s not like anyone consults me on such matters.

Further exploration: The last days of the Tribune.

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A hundred years from now

Bill Quick started up Daily Pundit on Christmas Day 2001, which is widely regarded as a Good Thing. And I’d love to know the definitive answer to this question he poses:

It’s been a hell of a ride. I’m looking forward to another hundred years of it, and hope you are, too. I just wonder how I’ll be delivering the free ice cream a century from now, though.

Assuming that yes, he’ll be around in 2111, here are the Top Ten ways the Blogosphere (a term Quick put to good use) will be different:

  1. Mommybloggers will be supplanted by Grannybloggers
  2. Amish go electronic, will set up videoblog called “TheeTube”
  3. A sample of Gutenberg’s DNA will be used to create a clone, which will then demand royalties from the by-then-defunct Movable Type platform
  4. Mickey Mouse will finally be out of copyright
  5. Top-level domains with fewer than 11 letters will no longer be offered
  6. Google “upgrades” your thermostat
  7. Glenn Reynolds Enterprises charges 21 cents to use the word “Heh”
  8. WordPress will actually figure out how to maintain a database with a minimum of overhead
  9. Al Gore is burned in effigy for inventing the Internet
  10. Robert Stacy McCain will get invited to a convention

Disclaimer: Whatever disclaimers may be necessary in 2111 are herewith invoked, just in case.

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Where have all the buyers gone?

Each week, The Week has a two-page spread called “Best Properties on the Market,” usually with six or seven homes (or whatever) scattered hither and yon, including price information and contact person. And at the end of the year there’s “Best Homes of the Year,” featuring earlier Best Properties and what happened to them.

This year, what happened to them is not pretty: of the seven Best, only two have sold, and of the five remaining, four have had their prices cut. The biggest drop: a 146-acre spread near Great Barrington, Massachusetts, including a four-bedroom house designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen. The $4.9 million price tag has shrunk to $3,450,000. Wheeler & Taylor has the listing for this property. I don’t really expect any of you to show up in the Berkshires with a hatful of cash, but hey, I’m just doing my part for the realty-based community.

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A Wolf hunt of sorts

After the Orlando game, I said something to the effect that “the T-Wolves don’t figure to be the patsies they were last year.” And they didn’t; Minnesota was never out of this game — “a grinder from the start,” said radio guy Matt Pinto — until 0:03, when Kendrick Perkins put the kibosh on a Michael Beasley jumper and then calmly sank two free throws to put it just out of reach, 104-100.

This was Ricky Rubio’s debut, and whatever the Wolves wound up paying for him, it was worth it: the man is harder to track than the Higgs boson. He didn’t score a lot in 26 minutes — six points — but he served up six assists and pulled in five rebounds, eluding Thunder defenders all over the court. And while the Minnesota long-ball game was largely thwarted, Beasley and Kevin Love simply switched to shorter shots and rolled up 46 points between them. With this much going on, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were going to have to switch to Batman and Robin mode.

Which they did. KD had 33 points, Westbrook 28, and they drew fouls from all over, sinking all 15 of their free throws. Which is a good thing, because fouls were being called left and right all night — except when they weren’t. (Dallas expat J. J. Barea evidently is going for Best Supporting Actor.)

But look at this by quarter:

OKC  23  29  26  26  104
MIN  24  22  26  28  100

Nobody had time to dominate anyone else, not even the Dynamic Duos on both sides.

One night off, and then another back-to-back: at Memphis Wednesday, and at home against the Mavericks on Thursday. Here’s where we find out if last year’s Grizzlies were a fluke. (Hint: They weren’t.)

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And to think we mock Metta World Peace

The former Daniel Knox-Hewson, twenty-three, has changed his name via deed poll to Emperor Spiderman Gandalf Wolverine Skywalker Optimus Prime Goku Sonic Xavier Ryu Cloud Superman Heman Batman Thrash.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see his monogram. And the same goes for his best bud Baron Venom Balrog Sabretooth Vader Megatron Vegeta Robotnik Magneto Bison Sephiroth Lex Luthor Skeletor Joker Grind (previously the somewhat more prosaic Kelvin Borbage).

Whether these somewhat-contrived names will stand the test of time remains to be seen; no one, for instance, seems to remember composer Johann Gambolputty de von Ausfern-schplenden-schlitter-crasscrenbon-fried-digger-dingle-dangle-dongle-dungle-burstein-von-knacker-thrasher-apple-banger-horowitz-ticolensic-grander-knotty-spelltinkle-grandlich-grumblemeyer-spelterwasser-kurstlich-himbleeisen-bahnwagen-gutenabend-bitte-ein-nürnburger-bratwustle-gerspurten-mitz-weimache-luber-hundsfut-gumberaber-shönedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm.

(Note: “Metta World Peace” is the artist formerly known as Artest, as in Ron Artest, as in Los Angeles Lakers.)

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His name was never mud

First, The Song:

You wouldn’t know it from the mono clip, but that song was recorded in 10-track (!) way back when. The existing stereo mixdown is, um, kinda weird.

From the liner of the one and only Music Machine LP (Original Sound, 1966):

You have just purchased a most unique machine. It has five moving parts but uses no oil. It runs on high-octane acceptance. Its components are soul, unity, communication, and originality. It will never clang, rattle, ping, knock, hiss or break down. Occasionally it will hum, though intricate and precise are by no means delicate. From time to time, this machine may require a tune up, but at no expense of inconvenience to the consumer. Major or minor adjustments are possible only through the developing factories or Original Sound. These adjustments are unnecessary however, your machine is flexible yet solid and made to last.

Eventually, four of those five parts moved on, leaving Sean Bonniwell to carry on. He kept the Music Machine name, sticking his own in front of it, for one more album, then disappeared into soft-rock oblivion. (Yes, he could do that sort of thing; he’d started out as a Sensitive Folkie, after all.) An autobiography (Beyond the Garage) appeared in the 1990s.

The story apparently ended Saturday with Bonniwell’s death in California. I didn’t hear about it until Sunday, through this Holly Cara Price tweet. Music Machine bassist Keith Olsen went on to produce a few zillion albums; the other members seem to have dropped out of sight. Still, there’s The Song, and it’s not going away.

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We toll you once, we toll you twice

The Feds impose an excise tax of 18.4 cents on every gallon of gas. In the past, I’ve suggested that this might be bumped up a bit. A recent poll, though, indicates that I’m very much outnumbered:

58% prefer tolls to pay for new lanes or highways compared to 28% for increased gas tax, according to a recent Reason-Rupe (R-R) poll of 1,200 people. There’s 77% opposition to raising the federal gas tax and only 19% support. 65% of people think federal gas tax money is spent ineffectively to 23% who think it is well spent.

A clear majority according to the R-R poll support tolls — 59% — when they save drivers a “significant” amount of time. There’s 57% support for converting HOV lanes to HOT.

(Full report in PDF format here.)

Update: Not applicable in Georgia.

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