Things that should count off from sticker price

TTAC asked its readership what the worst “details” on contemporary cars might be, and got a ton of responses. And yes, alas, I have some of them, starting with this rather attractive feature:

A common feature of many cars — especially Japanese models — is illuminated gauges. These gauges are always backlit, regardless of the time of day or the lighting conditions.

The problem is that most cars with this feature don’t use automatic headlights. And with the growing number of vehicles that have daytime running lights, well … you get a lot of people driving around with their dimly-lit daytime running lights on, their gauge cluster illuminated, and their taillights completely dark.

Nissan once addressed this matter by installing a second panel-dim switch, which would control the brightness of the gauges when the lights weren’t on and presumably make it easier to tell when you’d forgotten to turn your lights on. They’d deleted it by the time they built my car, but it’s still mentioned in the manual.

Then there’s this:

Blank switches, to me, are the single biggest determinant of whether an interior is high quality. No blank switches? High quality. Lots of blank switches? It doesn’t matter if the interior is made of the same material as the Crown Jewels … this interior is awful!

I have one under the gauge panel, where the traction control doesn’t live, and a hollowed-out spot on the console which I can’t explain, below the seat heater buttons and the gizmo that works the sunshade.

Speaking of the console, a commenter added this:

I’d have nominated console mounted shifters for automatics, a pointless affectation of sportiness as the most hateful automotive detail. They rob you of storage space, possibly an extra seat and make the cockpit seem much less spacious. And for what? So we can pretend we’re rowing our own? So our ultra-manly, transmission-shaming neighbors might be momentarily confused? No thanks. Put it on the column where it belongs.

Still, when approaching a stop, I grab the top of the shifter, even though I’m not going to do anything with it. Twenty years of driving a stick will do that to you.

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Ponce de Leon to the white courtesy phone

Running in Australia’s parliamentary elections under the Labor banner, suggests Tim Blair, induces a certain inscrutable form of rejuvenation. To the left, Di Smith, candidate for Wentworth; to the right, a Smith campaign poster:

Two faces of Di Smith

See also Alannah MacTiernan, candidate for Perth.

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Reduction in force

George Carlin: “In Brazil, a nine-year study of dancing has disclosed that, as many had suspected, it really takes only one to tango.”

Plus, apparently, one to hold the camera:

She gets to dance with somebody in her demo reel, although not for long. (The full sequence is here.)

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Fly Vanilla

Struggling AirAsia Japan is going through some changes:

In June 2013, [Malaysian carrier] AirAsia decided to exit its investment in AirAsia Japan, making the company a wholly owned subsidiary of [All Nippon Airways]. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that AirAsia Japan had the lowest load factors of the three new entrant [low-cost carriers] in Japan and noted several reasons for the failure of the joint venture, including an online booking system that was not fully translated into Japanese and was therefore frustrating to many domestic customers, failure to utilize travel agent distribution (which is still a major component of domestic airline sales in Japan), the inconvenience of its main hub at Narita Airport, and the airport’s severe restrictions on early morning and late night flights.

AirAsia Japan announced in August 2013 that it would continue operation under its current branding through October 26, 2013 and would then be rebranded as Vanilla Air effective November 1, 2013.

A suitable flavor for a low-cost carrier, right? Don’t assume so much. Name expert Nancy Friedman quotes a Campaign Asia report:

While the “vanilla” is synonymous with “safe and boring” in the English-speaking part of the world, it’s nothing of the sort to Japanese says McCann Worldgroup senior strategic planner, Sakura Irie. “The brand is clearly targeting young Japanese travellers so what it means in English, does not really matter.

“In Japan, vanilla does not have any connotation of being boring or bland — and the overall impression of the word is very positive. It is accessible, likable and familiar. Moreover, it gives the impression of being ‘pure and innocent’ and ‘kawaii’ — which means a lot more than ‘cute,’ it’s the feeling of emotional excitement, endearment and desire to be a part of or to own,” she continued. “It’s an interesting and in fact, very Japanese choice, I thought.”

Besides, vanilla — real vanilla, not the stuff they use in discount-priced ice cream sundries — is actually pretty darned expensive, so this could almost be thought of as an aspirational brand.

Except for this minor detail pointed out by Ms Friedman:

No mention of whether Japanese speakers will struggle with the pronunciation of the L phoneme, which is virtually identical to R in Japanese.

Read the title, then, as “Fry Vanirra,” and have a happy flight. Or fright.

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Governmental overreach

If sometimes it seems as though Barack Obama will stop at nothing to increase governmental power — well, he still hasn’t come up with anything like this yet:

In one of history’s more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which [went into effect in 2007] and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.” But beyond the irony lies China’s true motive: to cut off the influence of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual and political leader, and to quell the region’s Buddhist religious establishment more than 50 years after China invaded the small Himalayan country. By barring any Buddhist monk living outside China from seeking reincarnation, the law effectively gives Chinese authorities the power to choose the next Dalai Lama, whose soul, by tradition, is reborn as a new human to continue the work of relieving suffering.

A statement by the current Dalai Lama (source):

When I am about ninety I will consult the high Lamas of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, the Tibetan public, and other concerned people who follow Tibetan Buddhism, and re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not. On that basis we will take a decision. If it is decided that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama should continue and there is a need for the Fifteenth Dalai Lama to be recognized, responsibility for doing so will primarily rest on the concerned officers of the Dalai Lama’s Gaden Phodrang Trust. They should consult the various heads of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the reliable oath-bound Dharma Protectors who are linked inseparably to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. They should seek advice and direction from these concerned beings and carry out the procedures of search and recognition in accordance with past tradition. I shall leave clear written instructions about this. Bear in mind that, apart from the reincarnation recognized through such legitimate methods, no recognition or acceptance should be given to a candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including those in the People’s Republic of China.

Tenzin Gyatso, the current (14th) Dalai Lama, turned 78 this year.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh, largely for his post title.)

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And now, your San Diego Wind Turbines

What happens when all thirty-two NFL teams are renamed with political correctness in mind.

Although “Oakland Occupiers,” all things considered, isn’t half bad.

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Strange search-engine queries (395)

What kind of Monday would it be were it not for this weekly excursion into ever nook and cranny of the system logs? (Answer: It’s Monday. Don’t push your luck.)

In 1936 Gov. Ernest W. Marland declared martial law around the state capitol in a dispute with Oklahoma City officials over drilling on state property:  
Oklahoma City officials in a dispute? How is that even possible?

Mazda 626 GD struts compatability:  Truth be told, I don’t think there’s anything actually compatible with those GD struts.

vevrier:  You kidding? I hardly know ‘er.

maria bartiromo pantyhose:  You kidding? I hardly know ‘er.

my ankle:  How does it look compared to, say, Maria Bartiromo’s?

gruesome police photos of Bill’s accident:  Oh, come on. Have a little respect for Bill.

“phil mcgraw’s penis”:  Oh, come on. Have a little respect for Phil.

bugatti relation to fitzsimmons:  For one thing, VW Group doesn’t own Fitzsimmons.

how do i know if transmission lock up system mulfunctions:  First, ask yourself: Is our car moving?

this package is sold by weight not by volume:  Which is why there isn’t a song by the Band called “The Volume.”

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A song to remember me by

Not that I’m going anywhere anytime soon, but I wanted all this on the record.

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Routine bites hard

Somehow I can’t imagine this being real, and yet something inside of me wants it to be:

Joy Division Divorce Attorneys

I wonder if they handle bizarre love triangles.

(From 33 1/3 via BoingBoing. Yes, it’s three years old.)

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Quote of the week

One of Morgan Freeberg’s Memos for File:

Aristotle once said something that defined a state of being “educated,” as having the ability to “entertain a thought without accepting it.” There would be no point to calling this out if everyone could do this. I suppose it’s never been too common of a human talent, in any setting. And so for those participants who wish to display themselves as cosmetically smart, but lack this particular skill Aristotle was describing, there is another desire that takes shape right after the fidelity is pledged to this emerging consensus — to shed from the discourse any contrary thought that might rival for the position as an emerging consensus. They start to eliminate ideas, under the guise of entertaining them. They mock, they interrupt, they distract by way of loaded phrases like “let’s move on,” they engage in all sorts of logical fallacies, they “debunk” myths that aren’t really mythical. They ostracize, or threaten to ostracize. What all these things have in common is: They seek to shape the emerging consensus by eliminating information rather than by gathering it, which is a tip-off that this consensus is being shaped by way of ignorance, rather than by learning.

And you can spot these individuals rather quickly: they’re the ones who say that we need to have a “conversation” about some topic or other. You may be sure, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, that said “conversation” will be one-sided.

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Watchers being watched

What’s the worst thing about nude beaches? If your answer is “being observed by pervs,” you’ll probably nod ruefully at this:

The “Naturist Village” at Cap d’Agde on the Mediterranean coast of southern France, is right in the middle of its busy season. That means 45,000 holiday-makers coming and going every day — many of them families with children.

And wherever there are naked people, there will be voyeurs, camera crews and other undesirables. Authorities at the popular and high-end resort, however, have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure the safety and privacy of their lucrative visitors.

Among the measures taken: A full-time security team of 25, a three-man unit with a guard dog patrolling the perimeter of the private village day and night, 24-hour video surveillance on the outside of the resort, and a system of electronic swipe cards to get in and out.

You have to hope that the security operation didn’t mistakenly — or worse, deliberately — hire a bunch of pervs.

Before you ask: No, I’ve never been to a nude beach. Then again, beaches are hard to come by in the middle of the Plains.

(Via Nudiarist.)

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From the Mystery LP desk

Judy by Judy CollinsYou may or may not recall Judy, this late-Sixties compilation of early Judy Collins tracks, issued on Elektra Records as DS 500, which I duly added to my then-burgeoning collection along with a couple of other contemporary releases of hers. (Here’s the track listing from Discogs, where it’s listed as a promo.) AudioPhile USA, which specializes in “rare & collectible vinyl records,” recently had offered a copy of it, since sold, and in its listing quoted Bruce Eder of AllMusic Guide thusly:

This somewhat mysterious album — apparently a promotional item — is identical in content to the 1969 compilation Recollections: The Best of Judy Collins, with a different title and cover art (and minimalist back cover design) being its distinguishing characteristics. As with Recollections, this is a look back at Collins from her all-acoustic, folk music beginnings, which were already behind her in the wake of In My Life, Wildflowers, etc., and the pop hit “Both Sides Now”. It’s as valuable a vinyl account of her early period as one had in 1969, other than the original LPs.

It’s only mysterious if you hadn’t done the background research, which I did in 1970 upon acquisition of this LP, noting its similarity to Recollections, which was all over local stores, and the odd catalog number: Elektra LPs back then had a 4000 series for $4.98-list LPs, 5000 for $5.98, and a 7 prefix for stereo. (Recollections was EKS 74055.) I duly hauled out my typewriter and pounded out a letter to Elektra, asking what gives, and had Judy gone schizo or something? (Hey, I was sixteen and unrefined.)

She had not, Keith Holzman of Elektra — founder Jac’s younger brother — assured me; this was a special-products release issued through the Columbia Record Club. Had I bought this from Columbia? I had. Question resolved.

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Perhaps not entirely symbolic

The Love Tree

Says a real-estate agent of my acquaintance:

Story goes … everyone who has lived in this home has moved in single and moved out married. These two trees have intertwined as they have grown and are known collectively as the #lovetree.

I don’t know about you, but were I in the market right about now, and had I the wherewithal, that might almost be enough to get me to buy, all by itself. But that’s just the kind of doofus I am.

Besides, I know the houses in this neck of the woods, it’s a style I revere, and it’s an open house tomorrow (25 August).

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And it will remain half empty

I took a statin for a year or two, which failed to budge my cholesterol number from the upper 190s, and which made me achier than a weekend’s worth of yard work. So gradually I weaned myself away from the drug, and cholesterol immediately dropped to 165, where it’s been, give or take a couple of points, ever since.

Which means that, this risk factor now eliminated, I can do something that I probably didn’t really want to do after all:

Who in their right mind purchases grapefruit juice — besides the poor, misguided fools (such as I) who thought their enjoyment of Izze’s sparkling grapefruit juice would transfer? It tastes like distilled pus. Or the juiced musk of an African civet.

Hey, at least it’s distilled.

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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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