Give ’em enough grope

TTAC head honcho Mark Stevenson reviews the V6 version of the Dodge Charger, and in so doing contrasts it with another largish sedan with sporting pretensions: Nissan’s Maxima. One particular data point that wounds me to the quick:

If you are looking for a driver-oriented cockpit, the Maxima wins this round as well, with an interior feeling very similar to the [Cadillac] CTS Vsport in the way it encapsulates you. The Charger is much more open up front and lets you put your hand on the leg of the lady next to you.

I am required to point out here that (1) my current ride is basically a three-generations-ago Maxima and (2) if the passenger seat is occupied, my hand does not stray east of the shift lever. Which is not to say that I’ve never thought about it.

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Don’t want to rush things

For the most part, I can support this decree:

When I become King of the World, Arbiter of Good Taste, and Prince of Land and Sea I shall decree that the Monday following a long holiday or vacation shall be a shortened work day, six hours instead of eight, so that one can ease back into the turmoil.

Just one question: are we chopping those two hours off the beginning of the day, or off the end? (Or are we trimming one hour on each side?)

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Not from Federation stock

Flip phone chassis designed to look like a Star Trek communicatorThe argument for the flip phone, of late, has been pretty much limited to “Hey, they were good enough for Star Trek, weren’t they?” Well, things just got a little bit more complicated:

Structured-light 3D scanning allowed the Wand Company to ensure that every line and curve of the original communicator was perfectly captured. And while the Wand Company’s latest product won’t be able to call a starship orbiting the planet, it will pair with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones to answer calls with a flick of the classic antenna grille.

The Communicator will include a sleek stand, using an invisible magnetic catch to hold the Communicator securely in place. It also has a built-in wireless charging capability, so that the Communicator will always be fully charged and ready for use.

Diecast metal, stamped and machined aluminum, specially made microphone and antenna grilles and a painstakingly reproduced housing texture further ensure that the Communicator is a serious prop that will delight collectors.

“Serious prop.” I like that. It’s not really a phone itself, of course, but it will let you talk to one.

The Star Trek Web site is taking preorders at $149.95. The Wand Company has already begun producing phasers, kinda sorta.

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Trumpetuously so

Bill Quick finds some redeeming social value in the Presidential campaign of Donald Trump:

The GOP lineup is desperately trying to find some way to not piss off the base so much that it bolts or stays home, and yet at the same time keep the oligarchs who are financing their campaigns happy. Trump is blowing all that straight to hell.

Still, The Donald is only slightly more Republican than I am, and has actually tossed a few dollars into the massive Clinton money hole, which suggests a position for him on the outside, shooting in:

I hope he ends up going third party. I’m not sure who it would hurt the most — the GOP or the Dems.

You know, just once in my life I’d like to see a Presidential election actually thrown into the House. (And there are, not 435 votes, but fifty.)

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The siblings of Big Brother

Woot yesterday was selling a home security system, festooned with no fewer than four video cameras, and this was their pitch:

Big Brother is absolutely watching. You might as well stop fighting it and just watch him right back.

Look, that Orwellian nightmare has come and gone. We’re in a place Georgie-boy never even DREAMED about. Privacy is gone, and we gave it up willingly for likes and stars and upvotes. So why fight it? This is the world we want! Get some cameras and join in!

With a security system, you’ll be able to see the world around you. Your friends, when they’re line-of-sight. Your family, when they wander around the yard. Total strangers, when they walk within range. It’s the very same power every government has, only on a smaller scale. Why, with a little practice, maybe you can even zoom in and read the paper over your spouses’ shoulder!

Don’t be afraid of Big Brother. Be his ally! Lament the privacy that’s now long gone by treating yourself to a nice security system and become part of the system. It’s not so bad, as long as you stay out of Room 101.

This is of course snark, as Woot cranks out for every product it sells, but that one line in the second paragraph is just a hair chilling: “Privacy is gone, and we gave it up willingly for likes and stars and upvotes.” Now you know what we truly value.

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Roll them all over

Few shout “We are a legitimate business!” louder than your friendly neighborhood payday-loan joint. Maybe it is. I haven’t been there. But certainly this particular operation threw away its bid for legitimacy:

The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers by trapping them into loans they never authorized will be banned from the consumer lending business under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission.

The settlements stem from charges the FTC filed last year alleging that Timothy A. Coppinger, Frampton T. Rowland III, and their companies targeted online payday loan applicants and, using information from lead generators and data brokers, deposited money into those applicants’ bank accounts without their permission. The defendants then withdrew reoccurring “finance” charges without any of the payments going to pay down the principal owed. The court subsequently halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets pending litigation.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants told consumers they had agreed to, and were obligated to pay for, the unauthorized “loans.” To support their claims, the defendants provided consumers with fake loan applications or other loan documents purportedly showing that consumers had authorized the loans. If consumers closed their bank accounts to stop the unauthorized debits, the defendants often sold the “loans” to debt buyers who then harassed consumers for payment.

So weasels and jackals can crossbreed. Who knew?

(Thanks to Roger Green.)

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Unsmart cookie

First we find out that Double Stuf falls short of being truly Double. Now we’re getting an Oreo in which you can barely see the Stuf:

Oreos are getting a skinny new look, and its maker says the new cookie is a “sophisticated” snack for grown-ups that isn’t meant to be twisted or dunked.

Mondelez International Inc. says it will add “Oreo Thins” to its permanent lineup in the U.S. starting next week. The cookies look like regular Oreos and have a similar cookie-to-filling ratio, except that they’re slimmer. That means four of the cookies contain 140 calories, compared with 160 calories for three regular Oreos.

For those who will sit there and eat half the package at a sitting, this is essentially meaningless.

And apparently the Thins are (quelle surprise!) fragile:

[I]t took months for the company to perfect manufacturing for the Thins. Early on … 60 percent of the cookies were breaking, but that the rate eventually came down to 3 percent.

Perhaps this could be alleviated with a Double Stuf Thin, though I suspect that isn’t happening. In the meantime:

You can twist the Oreo Thin, but three out of every four cracked when we tried — unlike the original, which as we all know, usually separates with ease.

So clearly the manufacturer is invoking the original first definition of “sophisticated”: “deprived of native or original simplicity.”

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Drachma queen

To some extent, I sympathize with the Greeks during this, their Hour of Need; but it’s not going to go away without a whole lot of hardship. Believe me, I know.

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Faster than you’re allowed to imagine

You may remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, an artifact of the Malaise Era that topped out at 85 mph (insult one) and highlighted the 55-mph national speed limit (insults two through infinity). It died an unlamented death in the late 1980s, and in a Junkyard Find piece for TTAC, Murilee Martin finds the rare example that adheres to the letter of the law while hurling all over its putative spirit:

Speedometer from Merkur XR4ti

Said Martin by way of explanation:

The Merkur XR4Ti also had an 85 mph speedometer, but it was presented with a certain amount of winking and nudging.

Nudge, nudge, say no more.

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Maximizing air exposure

At least one day every summer you’re going to encounter some situation like this:

We’re all feeling the heat right now, and where as comfort wise indoors naked in front of the air con is preferable, there comes a time when you just have to leave the house.

So true. I do strive to minimize such excursions, or to combine as many of them as possible into a single trip. (This latter habit, so to speak, I picked up during Energy Crisis I, when we were all exhorted to make fewer trips.)

Were it not for the fact that I would actually have to go somewhere on said excursions, by which I mean “somewhere other than a mere drive-through window,” I suppose I could position myself naked in front of the A/C vents in the car, but this has its drawbacks, most of which have to do with the lowered presumption of privacy out in public. (And I have leather seats, so at the very least I’d have to bring along a couple of towels.)


Turn the Vangsness up to 11

The eleventh season of CBS’ Criminal Minds begins this fall, and of course Kirsten Vangsness will return as FBI analyst Penelope Garcia, a role she says was originally intended for a guy:

The story on Garcia was that they had a man whose name was Garcia. They shot the scenes with all the other characters talking to this man named Garcia. When they looked at the footage later, they suddenly realized that they had this pilot that was going to come out, but it was too guy heavy. There wasn’t enough female characters. So they thought they’d put in these two lines, have a woman come in and say those two lines and figure it out from there.

Even then, it wasn’t much of a role, but she got to put her stamp on it early:

It was just this little two-line thing. I remember they called me and said, “Bring your own clothes because it’s just going to be this one scene.” I’m a size 10-12, and in Hollywood, there’s either a size 0 or a size 22. Middle ground is kind of rare sometimes.

I’m a very creative dresser, so when I brought in my clothes, they said, “Are you crazy? This is the FBI. You can’t wear any of this!”

This was, of course, before they discovered she was so popular they had to make her a regular. And at forty-three, she will still wear what she will:

Kirsten Vangsness at GLSEN 2014

Wait a minute. We need a shot of her in glasses:

Kirsten Vangsness promo photo

Her love life has taken an odd curve, also. Having once described herself as “queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna,” she’s now on a somewhat straighter path:

My boyfriend and I are going to go on a meditation retreat at the end of April. That’ll be fun. I fell in love with this guy, which is like the craziest thing. I was engaged to a woman. I was perfectly comfortable and happy with the nature of our relationship, but sometimes relationships fall apart. The last thing I would’ve thought was that I would meet a guy and fall in love. But I did it.

And hey, it’s not like she’s been re-routed to the office of Too Frickin’ Bad.

(Quotes from

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Zombie pitcher on the mound

No, wait, he’s not dead, or even undead:

If the Dodgers have figured out the Lazarus Effect, all of baseball is threatened.

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The Pergelator looks up from The Frozen Ground to issue a proverb:

It’s a little weird how strongly I react to images of pretty women, and from the evidence, I would say it’s not just me but most men react the same way. There is one school of thought that says naked women, whether images or in person, tend to sexually arouse men. There is another that says their appearance is relaxing. I think both are true. Your reaction depends on you and the situation.

I haven’t seen this particular film — two words: “Nicolas Cage” — but it must have been a fairly ferocious bit of cinema to prompt this kind of speculation, though apparently female lead Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t participate in the Parade O’ Flesh.

On the Internet, images dropped below a dime a dozen a decade ago, so I have to figure that someone who is jarred by the sort of skin exposure that can be seen any day of the week on any of a thousand Tumblr blogs is perhaps too excitable to be trusted around an actual physical female, regardless of her attire. “In person,” however, calls for an entirely different metric, and I don’t expect to find such an event “relaxing,” if only because I have no reason to think it’s going to happen any time soon, and the element of surprise trumps the possibility of relaxation. I am, of course, willing to be proven wrong, but I’m not going to plan for it.

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The Era of Bad Feeling

Tam captures exactly the mood during the automotive Malaise Era:

To someone growing up in 6th or 7th Century England, the world must have seemed overshadowed by a glorious past. Like Tolkein’s Gondor, the reminders of civilization were all around: in grand villas with no-longer-functional plumbing; huge, decrepit public buildings looted for stone to make pasture fences; and ruler-straight, board-flat paved roads, with weeds and trees growing between the frost-heaved pavers.

How similar the life of the auto enthusiast on these shores in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Performance was a thing of the past, strangled by emissions and fuel economy needs and gun-shy insurers.

Yea, verily. I had to sympathize with the plight of a lad who’d acquired a 1980 Dodge Aspen with the legendary Mopar slant six; he apparently was not aware that the ’80 model reverted to a single-barrel carb and struggled to produce 90 hp, six less than my ’75 Toyota Celica with one-third less displacement. (And after that, Aspen and sister Volaré flew out the window, replaced by an endless stream of decidedly unspecial Ks.)

Tam also cites the case of the ’76 Cadillac Eldorado ragtop, billed as “The Last American Convertible.” I dug out a guidebook to “collectible cars,” published in 1982, which had this to say:

Our guess is that it may not be until the year 2000 that the ’76 Eldo convertible becomes scarce enough to be noticed by serious collectors — about the only reason it would be desirable even then. And because most owners have already mothballed their cars as future investments, mint-condition ’76s may actually be a bit more commonplace in a few years than the lower-production, less “worthy” 1971-75 models, which aren’t all that different anyway.

Lower production? Yep. This generation of Eldo moved about 7000-9000 ragtops a year, until GM made all this noise about “Get it while it’s last” and built 14,000 of them, almost all of which went into storage.

Then convertible production resumed in the 1980s, and legalarity ensued:

In the lawsuit, filed in federal court here … two men contend GM embarked on a fraudulent advertising campaign, deliberately misrepresenting the ’76 convertible as the “last of the breed” and a “priceless collector’s item” and luring thousands of buyers with “cavalier campaign promises.”

GM attorneys countered that the lawsuit was vague and contained no evidence that GM intended, as part of a fraudulent scheme, to resume convertible production after the 1976 model year.

“Because ‘Murrica!” says Tam. Yep.


J-pop plus neo-folk

I can’t think of any other equation that works out to this:

Lilywhoooooooooo (with ten O’s, it appears) is singer/guitarist Fumie Yagi, seen here, and keyboardist/drummer Hiroyasu Nakamuru, who appears on most of their other tracks. (The earlier, more upbeat “Sakotis” is also on YouTube; they have a full album on Bandcamp.) For some reason, I am fascinated by this just-beyond-minimalistic stuff.


The more things change

Why there will always be a market for the fake ID:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is it possile to automatically run through date of birth questions?

Explanation? Of course:

I’ve been locked out of my playstation account because I forgot what I put in for my date of birth. Is it possible to create something to automatically put in every date until it finds the correct one?

The only way this could be more delicious would be if Sony demanded a copy of the pertinent birth certificate before allowing reentry.