Not your father’s HUMMER

In fact, this little Tweety-colored beastie is not a HUMMER at all: it’s a first-generation Scion xB that thinks it’s an H4.

Scion xB with HUMMER body kit

If you’re wondering why someone would do such a thing, the reason is probably something like this:

This Hummerified xB was parked in the field that serves as the parking lot for the Oregon Country Fair, an annual hippie festival that typically trebles the number of mysterious, quirky and incomprehensible cars in and around Eugene for several weeks each summer.

Given this milieu, the EcoHUMMER is almost certainly intended as a parody of the HUMMER aesthetic, albeit at a significant penalty to the xB’s impressive around-town efficiency. Which seems a little self-defeating, and based on the reaction of several nappy-headed gents lounging nearby, the irony (or whatever they call it these days) of the retrofit was lost on the fair’s more thoroughly laid-back elements. “Like, why would someone do that?” one glassy-eyed fellow asked his friend. “Like, why would he want to make his car look like that?”

Still, it’s a fitting tribute to HUMMER’s polarizing influence, that someone was inspired to retrofit a Japanese city car to resemble one. It’s even more fitting that reactions to a replica HUMMER are just as confused, emotional and intense as they are to the real thing.

I’m guessing the vehicle flanking the faux-HUMMER is a genuine Mercedes-Benz turbo-diesel — running on vegetable oil, of course.

Comments (4)




Too much social

Did you ever get the feeling that there were just too many connections out there?

Everything on the internet has been made social, which, for all the great rhetoric, means we find out when people who are on our digital friends lists are at McDonalds, or we are faced with a pile of confusing symbols that seem to suggest # and @ are taking over the language.

I would like to prune my Facebook friends list. I’m afraid this would either hurt people’s feelings or, possibly worse, they wouldn’t even notice. I would like to prune my Twitter list down to people I either know or who are writing things that build up my thought life though, again, I don’t want to offend someone.

I would like to turn off comments on this slowly dying blog.

Confession of sorts: She announced later that she had, indeed, pruned her Facebook friends list. I immediately dragged my own list out of its normally-undisturbed slot on the left sidebar to see if I’d been eased out. I hadn’t. (And then, being me, I wondered how I’d managed to get onto her list in the first place.)

How do you say “I don’t know you. You’re probably very nice. I can’t add your voice to the mix right now. Sorry.”

Just like that, I suppose.

It’s a lot of noise, you know. It splits my attention far too much. I neglect important things when I’m busy in the care of everything. I envy my friend, in some ways, who never created a Facebook account, or anything similar. “Don’t do it,” I said. “Just don’t.”

I question my own wisdom in creating a Facebook account. Yet it’s kept connections open among some people who need connections open: myself, my ex, our two children, and by extension their 4.3 children. It’s brought me back in touch with people I used to visit a decade ago; it’s brought me back in touch with people who built the local modem community 25 years ago; it’s even brought me back in touch with people from my high-school class, which graduated 41 years ago.

But I can’t allow it to become a time sink, which is why I’ve automated so much of the process: spending all day on Facebook (or worse, on Twitter) is bad for one’s mental health, and not conducive to holding a job.

So I left her a note, not on Twitter, not on Facebook, but on that “slowly dying blog.” It read something like this:

I am always just a trifle unnerved when you venture into “Why bother?” territory, mostly because I know this isn’t as important to you as Real Life — and it shouldn’t be — but partly because I’ll miss you when you’re not around.

Clumsy, but true. There are times in our lives when that’s the best we can do.

Comments (5)




Buckeye Joads

I’m proud to be an Okie from … Ohio?

My best friend from high school recently moved to Charleston [South Carolina], following her boyfriend. She said there is a very distinctive anti-Ohio attitude in the city.

It got me thinking about The Grapes of Wrath, with its references to the derogatory “Okies” from Oklahoma that fled Midwestern dust bowl despair for California’s lettuce bowl during the Great Depression.

Are Ohioians the new Okies?

I guess I never thought much about how our economic diaspora might be affecting other communities. Aren’t we the ones responsible for the gangbuster real estate industry in the South?

Two points before we go further:

  • Oklahoma is not in the Midwest. Borrow a map.
  • I lived in Charleston for most of the 1960s, and while I didn’t have any particular problems with assimilation, at the very top of the social scale I could detect the slightest hint of “What, you can’t trace your ancestors back to 1670?” (It didn’t help that when I finally managed to get a girlfriend, she had a family tree going back all the way to King Richard, and the first King Richard at that. And no, she didn’t wave this in my face; I found it out much later.)

But let’s continue:

According to my friend, Natalie, however, the job market in Charleston is abysmal. In Ohio, she sold print advertising. Now the college graduate is a waitress, and she’s not optimistic about her prospects.

Ohioans are attracted by South Carolina’s beaches and sun. About 40 percent of the state’s residents were born elsewhere. It is a “magnet state,” while Ohio is just the opposite. Natalie said all of her friends, a group of about 10, are from Ohio.

Charleston is a tourist town and it is has a tourist economy too. That means lots of service industry jobs, few corporate headquarters and a cyclical business season that all but shuts down in the off-season.

Then again, forty years ago people, especially young people, were trying to get the hell out of South Carolina, which they considered backward, hidebound, and excessively sweaty.

So this, too, I suspect, is cyclical. I don’t feel out of place in the Carolina Low Country — I’ve been back for short visits twice since I moved away — but I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of it as the sort of place where I could put down roots. Maybe it’s just due to the fact that by the time I reached an age where the idea of “roots” started to matter to me, I’d already wound up as, you should pardon the expression, an Okie.

Comments (7)




Not for stone-throwers

I’m putting this up mostly because it would make Trini’s eyes bug out, fan of startling architecture that she is:

Glass house by Drew Mandel

This house was designed by Toronto architect Drew Mandel, and it’s featured in Atom Egoyan’s 2009 erotic thriller Chloe. You can just see Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson living there, right?

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper can see herself living there, were the following conditions met:

[I]f I had jillions of dollars, and a ton of Windex to keep all the fingerprints off the glass, and perhaps no toddler who would completely fall down those unguarded stairs, I would love to live here.

Having once managed to fall down unguarded stairs in a house with a whole lot less glass than that, I can see her point.

Comments off




Outflanking maneuver

Now this just might have potential:

[W]hile the left is all in favor of diversity, professors in fields with “studies” in the name (and in the liberal farts in general) are often US-born and thus “privileged” (to use the left’s own term) in comparison to the rest of the world. Why not have a kamikaze propose that grievance studies professors must all be H1-Bs from Third World countries? To the left: “Why are you against more opportunities for Third World scholars?”

Given the vast quantity of absurdum in the Groves of Academe, the occasional reductio ought to do them some good.

Comments (1)




The rats of NIMBY

This is not something you want to see with your breakfast cereal:

[T]here it is, in living color and bold as brass, a middle-sized member of the rodentia, upon whose species the [Indiana] Department of Natural Resources is spending a half-million of my money in order to reintroduce. Them. Of which. (Grammer-MEDIC!)

Psst, DNR? It’s a RAT. Eats some of your food, fouls the rest. Just like the cute little white-footed mouse the paper tells me they resemble. State bird biologist John Castrale — who I’d like to think may have more of an eye on hawk and eagle food than he lets on, but that’s just me — is quoted saying, “These species were here for thousands of years … we have an ethical responsibility to maintain … diversity.” Wonder how he’d react to an infestation of brown roaches? They’ve got all kinds of seniority, their species havin’ “been here” for millions of years!

Neotoma magister, as it happens, makes the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened,” which is rather a long way from “nearing extinction” and exactly one step above “Who gives a shit?” The name “Allegheny woodrat” should tell you that it’s kind of out of its range in Indiana, and this won’t make you think otherwise:

The Allegheny Woodrat prefers rocky outcrops associated with mountain ridges such as cliffs, caves, talus slopes, and even mines. This is mostly true for Pennsylvania and Maryland. In Virginia and West Virginia, woodrats are found on ridges but also on side slopes in caves and talus (boulders and breakdown) fields. The surrounding forest is usually deciduous.

We’ll give the Hoosiers “deciduous,” but that’s about as far as we need to go. And it’s not like we evil humans are driving the species to extinction:

Whatever supposedly-valuable niche is filled by a critter whose job it is to ruin my cornflakes, we can do without it. We can especially do without havin’ to put rats on Welfare with my tax money. Doggone it, they’ve failed at the species’ most iconic behavior and if the little thieves can’t manage to breed like, f’pity’s sake, rats, we should not be proppin’ them up.

Aside: A deceased field mouse showed up in the hallway at 42nd and Treadmill this morning. I was not motivated to mourn.

Comments (3)




Bucharestive

Romania’s prime minister Emil Boc has announced a 5-point increase in the nation’s VAT, to 24 percent, in an effort to guarantee $25 billion worth of bailout courtesy of the International Monetary Fund.

The austerity plan negotiated by Boc and the IMF calls for a reduction in the national deficit from 7.2 percent of output to 6.8.

The Romanian government also plans to cut salaries of public-sector employees by 25 percent; an effort to cut public-sector pensions by 15 percent was ruled out by the nation’s Constitutional Court.

Comparison: For 2010, the US deficit was 10.64 percent of GDP.

Comments (1)




Strange search-engine queries (230)

Another Monday, another trek through Deep Server Loggage, in the hopes of finding something worth reporting before Al Gore gets his globally-warmed little hands on it.

mary fallin topless:  This would not get her elected governor, I suspect. Not that I’d want to discourage her or anything.

meaning of atomic dust:  It means that our quantum mechanics and such aren’t any better at housekeeping than the rest of us.

double dork butt rash:  Remember when punk bands had punchy names?

nano anvil:  Currently under development by Acme for the new Warner Bros. series Really Tiny Toon Adventures.

become invisible (just like a vampire or ghost!) poof:  This may not save you if there’s a nano anvil heading for your scalp.

what do 2 and L mean on transmission changes?  You wanted to learn how to drive, hotshot. Now RTFM.

al gore no shirt:  Well, of course. Have you noticed how warm it is?

dissolve bikini form nsfw:  Not safe for beaches, either, necessarily.

hitl hitler the hitlest:  If I is the hitler, you is the hitlee.

i’m losing my ability to conversate:  That should cut down on the talkage around here.

nonce’s bolt hole mr. tourette’s:  Aw, stick it in your own bolt hole.

anything wrong with using a slightly “expired enema”:  Aw, stick it in your own bolt hole.

“where oh where can my baby be” cthulhu:  The Bholes took her away from me / She’s in the Dreamlands so I got to take care / And maybe we’ll be reunited there.

Comments (2)




You can never please anybody in this world

The “anti-power trio,” Lester Bangs called them. They were the Shaggs, sisters from remote Fremont, New Hampshire, who really didn’t want to be musicians, but their father insisted. In 1969, they cut an album called Philosophy of the World, which was like nothing else you’d heard before, and like nothing else I’ve heard since.

And now their story is coming to the stage, kinda sorta:

Featuring a book and lyrics by Joy Gregory, and music and lyrics by Gunnar Madsen, The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World chronicles the real-life story of sisters Dorothy Wiggin, known as Dot (vocals and lead guitar), Betty Wiggin (rhythm guitar) and Helen Wiggin (drums), who had no previous musical experience when their father, Austin, pulled them out of school and set them on a very crooked path to artistic immortality.

Oh, I wasn’t kidding about “nothing else you’ve heard before”: Philosophy of the World makes Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica sound like John freaking Tesh. (You can hear the title song here.) The late Cub Koda, who knew his rock and roll, described it this way:

The guilelessness that permeates these performances is simply amazing, making a virtue out of artlessness. There’s an innocence to these songs and their performances that’s both charming and unsettling. Hacked-at drumbeats, whacked-around chords, songs that seem to have little or no meter to them (“My Pal Foot Foot,” “Who Are Parents,” “That Little Sports Car,” “I’m So Happy When You’re Near” are must-hears) being played on out-of-tune, pawn-shop-quality guitars all converge, creating dissonance and beauty, chaos and tranquility, causing any listener coming to this music to rearrange any pre-existing notions about the relationships between talent, originality, and ability. There is no album you might own that sounds remotely like this one.

There might have been a second album — the girls went back into the studio in 1975 — but Austin Wiggin died that year, and the group disbanded. All those tracks eventually surfaced, of course. (You perhaps don’t want to hear their cover of “Paper Roses.”)

And after all:

You may love their music or you may not, but whatever you feel, at last you know you can listen to artists who are real. They will not change their music or style to meet the whims of a frustrated world. You should appreciate this because you know they are pure what more can you ask?

From the liner notes from that first LP. What more, indeed? (And yes, they have a Web site.)

Comments (5)




Living space: the final frontier

Actual family-size families are moving into Manhattan:

Sales of three- and four-bedroom apartments swelled last year, even as sales of smaller places declined, and the trend has since persisted. The increased sales are another sign that New York City has become a more appealing place for families. In addition, prices for these apartments have decreased more significantly than those for smaller units, and so are now more affordable for more people.

For those of us who tend to think of the Big Apple as being suitable only for singles and DINKs, this might serve as our wakeup call. On the other hand, if you’re looking to buy, here’s yours:

Last summer Irene and Oleg Davie moved into a five-bedroom apartment at 225 East 74th Street with their son, now 11; their infant daughter; two Havanese dogs; a live-in nanny; and a live-in housekeeper. “It’s an amazing thing to have an apartment big enough for all of that,” Ms. Davie said. They paid just under $7 million.

Still, it’s not like they’re being squeezed, at least in the physical sense:

Their apartment’s most appealing feature is its 1,000-square-foot kitchen. “Not even many houses have kitchens that big,” Ms. Davie said.

My whole house is barely that big. And if you don’t need that much space, you can live at the same address for a whole lot less than $7 million.

(Via this Michael Bates tweet.)

Comments (1)




Ain’t got no ohms

Ezra Dyer, who used to mess around with car stereos, writes in Automobile Magazine (7/10):

In the aftermarket stereo world, Rockford Fosgate amplifiers are renowned for their ability to handle crazy loads. Some guy would have a two-channel Rockford amp rated at 15 watts that was somehow running twenty subwoofers and causing permanent hearing damage two counties away. He’d say, “Well, it’s 15 watts at 4 ohms, but I’ve got this sucker running a sixteenth of an ohm, so now it’s pushing 5000 watts.” That’s like saying, “Well, my Nissan Versa’s got 107 hp, but now that I’m towing this motorhome, it’s putting out 450 horses.” And somehow, in the electric world, that makes sense.

There’s some smidgen of sense to it, but not as much as I’d like. My ancient (1974) JVC receiver, according to the specs, puts out 42 watts per channel (all four of them) into 8-ohm loads, and 48 watts into 4-ohm loads. (For completists: 20 to 20,000 Hz, 0.5% THD.) Interestingly, the amplifier will let you combine front and rear outputs into 110 watts per channel, but only into 8-ohm loads.

Gwendolyn’s stock stereo, from Bose via Clarion, is claimed to be a 200-watter; the speakers, depending on which source you believe, are either 1- or 2-ohm. (There are seven of them, so far as I can tell: a full-range driver in each door, a tweeter in each A-pillar, and a subwoofer hanging off the rear deck.) Low-impedance speakers are essential to the car-audio experience, because they can run with lower-powered amplifiers, which make less demand on the vehicle’s electrical system.

Which, of course, leads to the inevitable question: What the hell is impedance, anyway? It used to throw me for a loop back in the days when I was puzzling over simple electrical circuits. Sinusoidal waves (which amplifiers provide to speakers) encounter both resistance and reactance, the former in phase with the signal, the latter out of phase. The vector sum of these is the impedance. If this seems like an awful lot of math for a guy installing stereos at Best Buy, well, all he has to do is check the specs for potential mismatches.

Still, that math inevitably involves imaginary numbers, which will not help you tow a motorhome with a Nissan Versa.

Comments (4)




It’s just his neurosis that ought to be curbed

Well, isn’t this sweet:

Israeli researchers have developed software that claims to identify depressed bloggers by analyzing their writing.

The program scours blogs for words and phrases, descriptions and metaphors that can indicate the writer’s psychological state.

You don’t say. Oh, wait, you do say:

The software’s initial test run, which was part of a research study headed by Professor Yair Neuman of Ben-Gurion University’s department of education, combed more than 1,000 blog posts written by American bloggers that were online in 2004.

As part of the research, the software was asked to determine what it perceived as the 100 “most depressed” bloggers and the 100 “least depressed.”

Neuman told Haaretz that the software diagnoses largely matched those of four clinical psychologists who made their own diagnoses based on the blog posts.

Sign of paranoia: wondering if any of my 1,564 blog posts from 2004 might have been subjected to this analysis.

Eric Scheie is a bit less sanguine, and predicts something like this:

Dear Mr. Blogger,

According to our software analysis, your recent blog postings indicate a strong correlation with the indicators of section 311 of the DSM IV. We suggest you seek professional counseling. A copy of this diagnosis will be forwarded to the Justice Department, the IRS, and the ATF. If you own any firearms, we suggest they be surrendered now!

Sincerely, Your Independent Online Software Shrink Service.

God only knows what they’d have thought of the late Rob Smith.

Comments (4)




After the draft

It’s been suspected — and now pretty much confirmed — that Cole Aldrich is the second coming of Nick Collison, a Jayhawk with a smartaleck streak. It remains to be seen, however, if Aldrich is comparably sweaty.

Second-round pick Tibor Pleiss, who isn’t emerging from the German shadows any time this year, is getting some kind words from the pundits. For example:

“To get this guy with the 31st pick, and you don’t have to pay him the rookie salary scale, an absolute steal,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said immediately after the pick. “Sam Presti and his scouting staff I think have come up with a gem here, because in a draft with a lot of quality big guys this young guy has long term potential.”

Speaking of potential, former Hornets guard Morris Peterson, who was dealt to the Thunder in exchange for two first-round picks, is believed not to have any:

Hornets fans should pause momentarily to thank the Thunder for the benevolence. This will be the second time Oklahoma City has bailed out the Hornets. First, the city welcomed the franchise during the relocation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Now, the NBA franchise will take off New Orleans’ hands a player who, unfortunately, had linked with Peja Stojakovic and James Posey to symbolize the teams’ misses in free agency. With those salaries draped around the neck, the wonder was whether the Hornets would be able to find a taker. Whatever it was [New Orleans GM Jeff] Bower told the Thunder that got OKC to bite on Peterson, it must’ve been a whopper.

Granted, MoPete had a blah year, but it wasn’t as blah as the year before, and he’s now in the position of having something to prove. The only thing really standing in Peterson’s way is the fact that the Thunder have been stocking up on shooting guards of late: you have to figure that Thabo Sefolosha, James Harden and the newly-acquired Daequan Cook will be ahead of him on the depth chart. Maybe they’ll play him at small forward, current location of Kevin Durant and a large empty space. Or maybe they’ll just buy him out. If I were Kyle Weaver, I might be sweating a bit right about now.

That leaves Ryan Reid, an undersized (6-8) and overaged (24) power forward. If there’s a spot for him anywhere, it’s in Tulsa, perhaps alongside Latavious Williams.

If this seems like an awful lot of activity for one team out of thirty, well, this is the way Sam Presti plays it, and, as SI’s Chris Mannix quipped, “At some point in the next few years, Sam Presti is going to own all 30 picks in the draft.”

Comments off




Plenty of clues

As thinly-disguised rewrites of Jane Austen go, Clueless, the 1995 Amy Heckerling film, was one of the best: Alicia Silverstone’s Cher Horowitz, basically Emma Woodhouse dropped into 90210, was indeed simultaneously “handsome, clever, and rich.”

The character that stuck in my mind, though, was Cher’s BFF Dionne Davenport, played by Stacey Dash. And she didn’t quite fit into Emma’s story, but what the heck: what’s the harm in adding one more gorgeous teenage girl?

It was many years later I discovered that Ms Dash had been born in 1966, making her twenty-nine when Clueless was released. Which makes her 44 this year, and today she looks like this:

Stacey Dash at the 2010 Playboy Jazz Festival

(Shot at the Playboy Jazz Festival, June 12 and/or 13, 2010. A larger version is just a click away.)

Comments (6)




Spammed by Tim Geithner?

Well, no, not exactly, but this new scheme to separate you from your money, titled “Recipient Directives On Foreign Payment,” purports to emanate from Geithner’s office at the highly-spurious irs-asset-control@ustreas.gov.

Lowlights:

After reviewing your online email communication messages on your unsuccessful transactions with most European and other foreign banks in Africa, we wish to let you know that we have communicated with most of these foreign banks that withheld most international payments to individual accounts so as to find out why these funds were withheld and the source of the funds.

Conclusively, we discovered that most of these withheld and/or unpaid funds being remitted to individual accounts abroad originated from lottery organizations, international trading companies and deceased personals.

Wouldn’t it be comforting to know that Treasury is reviewing your email? No?

And amazingly, all those lottery organizations, international trading companies and deceased personals you hear from every day of your life really are legit; it’s just those damn foreign banks getting in the way.

By the virtue of the provision of the law which confer on us powers to advocate, adjudicate suspend and authorize an immediate transfer of your funds internationally, we hereby state emphatically and without prejudice that should there be any information that may succeed your application for fund release that are currently deposited in most European and other foreign banks, please do not hesitate to provide us the information so that we will know how to help you receive your funds.

Kindly provide your personal contact details by sending us the information below along with a scanned copy of your international passport or drivers license so that we will forward it for verification and payment.

Oh, and don’t dawdle:

Failure to properly apply for the funds release for transfer to you within 7 days, will nullify your chances of receiving this funds, and this funds will be confiscated and made to be forfeited under the Money Laundering and Other Financial Crime Prohibition Act of 2003.

Also note that due to my position as the U.S. Treasury Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, I will not always be available to answer any of your calls because i am not always in my office due to the states political matters and my office numbers are usually engaged until i return after few days. If you have any issue to discuss regarding your funds, kindly email me and i will always get back to you as soon as possible.

Good old Tim, always there for us.

I need hardly point out that the proffered email links don’t come within a thousand miles of the, um, U. S. Treasury Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, presumably an affiliate of the Department of Redundancy Department.

Comments (2)




Wagon tales

I have spoken before of my fondness for Infiniti’s junior crossover, the EX35, which isn’t anywhere as overwrought as its FX37/56 sibling, and which has fewer SUVish pretentions. Still, the jacked-up silhouette remains, and cargo space is sacrificed in both EX and FX for the sake of styling. Fercrissake, whatever happened to good old wagons?

The answer, of course, is that nobody will make any for us because we keep buying either SUV or SUV Lite. I saw an utterly lovely Mercedes-Benz C240 wagon (with 4Matic, yet) in None More Black at the supermarket today; I actually dawdled my way out of the store in the hopes of getting a chance to bounce a couple of questions off the driver.

And for once, my timing was impeccable. Said she: “It’s exactly the right size.” I gauged the cargo space as she loaded up the groceries: this would work, I said to myself. And then came the Crushing Blow: “They’re not sending us any more of them, though.”

Figures. A sensibly-sized wagon with all-wheel drive, a smallish V6 (I at first thought this would be a 2.4-liter I4, but apparently Daimler had given up on the idea of badging to match the engine displacement by the time they mailed out this model), and no pseudo-badassery. And no takers: when the C-class was revised for 2007, the Germans decided that it wasn’t worth the bother shipping us any more small wagons, especially if they can talk us into the EX-ish GLK-class crossover.

Which leaves me with one actual wagon on the For Consideration list: Hyundai’s i30. I find the idea of trading an Infiniti I30 for one of these most amusing, but in the States, Hyundai has designated this model as the not-so-funny Elantra Touring. It’s a hair smaller than the C-class Benz, probably costs way less to support, and neatly sidesteps the “What the hell business do you have driving a Mercedes?” question.

Comments (7)