No longer current

While we’re all cursing the ever-increasing price of gasoline, Bertel Schmitt has snagged a picture of what he describes as “Leaf’s Grandfather”: tucked away in a corner of Nissan’s Tech Center is a pure-electric vehicle, circa 1950.

It is not technically a Nissan; the Tama Electric Car Company, which built this nifty, if slow, box, was formed from the remains of the Tachikawa Aircraft Company, which (surprise!) got out of the aircraft business after 1945. Tama eventually became Prince Motor Company; Nissan bought it in 1966. (Nissan fanboys will perhaps be shocked to hear that the fabled Skyline was originally a Prince product.) Schmitt quotes the following numbers: cruising range, 96.3 km (almost 60 miles), top speed 35.2 km/hr (22 mph). You could probably get more than 60 miles out of the current Nissan Leaf if you kept the speed down.

Still undetermined, at least by me: if Tama was named for IJN Tama, a Kuma-class light cruiser sunk by the US Navy in 1944.

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X marks the spot

What? Somebody actually found some treasure at the bottom of the sea?

Coins worth nearly half a billion dollars finally arrived in Spain on Saturday after lying in a sunken warship for more than 200 years and following a five-year legal battle between the Spanish government and a salvage company.

The Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a 49-gun navy frigate, set sail from the coast of Peru — then a colony of Spain — with coins to help replenish the Spanish treasury’s coffers.

In 1804, British warships attacked as the frigate was approaching the Spanish port of Cádiz and the ship went down, with 249 killed.

Oh, and there was a second legal battle, which didn’t last so long:

On Thursday, the Peruvian government made an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to block transfer of the treasure to give Peru more time to make arguments in U.S. federal court about its claim to being the rightful owner. But that appeal was denied Friday by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Peru had argued the gold and silver on the ship was mined, refined and minted in its territory.

And there’s this:

[O]ne does wonder why Spain is asking for the treasure back when they had 200 years to salvage it themselves but didn’t bother…

Or maybe one doesn’t. This way, they didn’t have to do any of the heavy lifting.

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Exhibit number two

Think it’s hard to set up a small business in the States? You should try it in Greece:

“Most stores begin operating after receiving only the approval regarding their brand name, as the bureaucracy involved takes such a long time to complete that it is simply impossible to keep up with the operational costs, such as paying rent on obligatory headquarters, without making any sales,” said [Fotis] Antonopoulos.

Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

This cries out for Yakov Smirnoff: “In socialist Greece, you give government crap!”

So let’s say this little Greek storefront, which sells cosmetics and other products derived from olive oil, wants to do some Web business in the US. What happens then?

“I contacted the FDA and they sent us an e-mail with directions immediately. I filled in an online form and was done in five minutes. We received the approval 24 hours after making our application.”

American bureaucrats: the world’s finest. Count on it.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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As pretty does

Susan Friery - Boston Globe photoThis lovely lady is Susan Friery, from Newburyport, Massachusetts, aka Miss January in a 2009 “Beautiful Lawyers” charity calendar distributed in metropolitan Boston. Here’s what The Boston Globe said about her at the time:

Susan, a medical consultant and senior associate for Kreindler & Kreindler, handles a variety of mass disaster, personal injury, and medical malpractice litigation. She has worked on hundreds of 9/11 World Trade Center cases, as well as on the settlement for the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist plan bombing.

Susan loves yoga and volunteers at charities such as Habitat for Humanity.

That was then. Now she’s been suspended from the Massachusetts bar for two years:

According to court documents, Friery joined the law firm in August 1986 as a part-time paralegal and medical consultant. By that time, she had taken four semesters of medical courses in pathology at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and received training to become a morgue technician, among other disciplines. However, Friery left the program in 1985 without a degree.

But when applying for a position at the New York law firm, she falsely claimed she had graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York.

That was in 1993. And evidently everyone was fooled:

By 1998, the law firm had included Friery’s alleged medical credentials in web-based advertising.

But it was not until last August, months after her resignation from the firm, that Friery admitted she had not obtained a medical degree. Up until that point, the firm had no idea she had been passing herself off as a medical doctor.

Not that I would ever suggest that she got away with it because she was so gosh-darn cute.

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Opportunity missed

Nancy Friedman’s Leap Day update has all kinds of neat stuff for the 29th of February, including the handy word “intercalary,” which I think I’ve actually said out loud once in my life. (And I mispronounced it, too.)

This jumped out at me:

[T]here was a movie called Leap Year starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. It was a modest box-office success despite a barrage of negative reviews. In a mysterious bit of poor timing, the movie was released not in a leap year but in 2010.

This sounds like something I might want to see — romances with bizarre obstacles have been right up my alley at least since Brigadoon — and it reminds me of another mysterious bit of poor timing, nearly half a century ago.

Robin Ward’s “Wonderful Summer,” from 1963, is a classic teen-romance tune. You weren’t supposed to know that Jacqueline O’Donnell, who sang it, was married and had a child; the producers cranked up the speed to make her sound fifteen and wistful. (If you were here in 2006, you might remember how some of us cranked down the speed to make her sound like Brian Wilson.) That isn’t the problem, though. The whole idea of “Wonderful Summer” was “Well, it’s back to school, at least we have our memories.” This is the sort of record you put out in mid-August so that everyone is singing along over the Labor Day weekend. For reasons unknown, it came out in mid-October.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Ward recorded a lovely follow-up called “Winter’s Here,” which inexplicably was released on the 29th of February, 1964. “Wonderful Summer” had somehow made it to #14 in Billboard; “Winter’s Here” bubbled under, and I mean way under, at #123, and was promptly forgotten, never to be heard again — except maybe here.

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Tibial pursuit

Matt Stopera of Buzzfeed observed that “Angelina Jolie’s leg was the only exciting thing that happened at the Oscars,” which prompted me to go through the archives, and this turned up:

Angelina Jolie for GQ

Actually, you were just bullshot. The reason you’re getting this 2005 shot from GQ (thank you, Yariv Milchan) is that the leg in question — the right one — now has its own Twitter account, and, well, this is one of its niftier appearances, if you ask me, though there is of course no reason why you should.

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He was only Tasing you

The folks at Amnesty International have been collecting data on deaths by Taser and similar devices — in the States, anyway — and since 2001, they’ve counted 500 deaths due to weapons set to Stun.

And where are you most likely to get Tased to death?

Amnesty International recorded the largest number of deaths following the use of Tasers in California (92), followed by Florida (65), and Texas (37). The Oklahoma City Police Department led all law enforcement agencies in deaths (7) following by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, Harris County Sheriff’s (Tx), Phoenix, Az and San Jose, Ca., all with six deaths.

Now California, Florida and Texas rank first, fourth and second respectively in population, so those numbers don’t seem too far out of whack, but you have to wonder what’s happening around town to push the OCPD, the smallest of the agencies listed, to push the buttons.

(Via This Land Press.)

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Inaudible Saabs

Jack Baruth argues that Lexus, having raised the bar for near-luxury vehicles with a reskinned Camry, is ultimately responsible for killing Saab, and contrasts the two marques:

The Saab story includes airplanes, rally drivers, turbochargers, iconoclastic personalities, and more than half a century of fabulous designs. The Lexus story is this: it’s a Toyota for people too snobbish or fearful to be seen in a Toyota. Saabs have been wonderful, frisky, characterful companions for a very long time. People cry when their Saabs are towed away for the last time. Nobody’s ever cried over a Lexus, except possibly when they received a repair bill for their out-of-warranty second-gen LS400. Saab was real. Lexus is fake. Simple as that.

Or is it that simple? Saab has been a fraud and a fake for nearly twenty years, selling second-rate cars on dimly remembered glories. Meanwhile, Lexus has been continually building the cars their customers want, always fresh, nearly always reliable, always sold and serviced with a smile. Saab’s better future was perpetually around the corner; meanwhile, the next Lexus was completed on time and plopped, Harvest-Gold-colored, on a calmly rotating showroom turntable. Ask any Saab enthusiast about the brand and they will tell you about the 900 SPG, but ask a Lexus owner about his car and he will tell you he likes it. What is real, and what is no longer relevant?

Perhaps it’s just that mystique hasn’t counted for much in the actual cash register since Mercury tried to sell a car by that name. Daimler spent more than a decade trying to stir up demand for an S-Class Benz at triple the price under a brand name no one had seen for forty-odd years; occasionally someone dusts off a sort-of-classic nameplate from the days of American iron, there is sound and fury, but nothing to drive; I’m guessing that for every thousand self-described Alfa Romeo fans on automotive message boards, Alfa will eventually sell about 14 cars. There’s no money in dreams, maybe. Or perhaps it’s just that everybody making cars has decided that they want to grow up and be Toyota. Which is relevant, but no fun. And yet I may end up owning an Anodyne Antiseptic Avalon, simply because it’s the closest thing to what I drive now.

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Having a personal philosophy, Lemony Snicket once said, is like having a pet marmoset: “It may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all.”

For example:

(Considered, curiously, a Music FAIL. Previous marmoset moments here and here.)

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Brooming Braum’s

I wander into Braum’s a couple of times a month for various things from their side-of-the-store market: for instance, I am fond of their 9-Grain Bread, and I prefer their pickle slices for my own sandwiches. I have not, however, stepped into the restaurant area in at least a year, and while I really hadn’t thought about it, maybe I’m unconsciously reacting to a decidedly mediocre customer experience:

Its storefront experience is mediocre, just like any mediocre national fast food chain. The menu has hardly changed in the last 20 years. (Check out the three salads on offer) The stores’ interiors are stuck in the 90s and lit like operating rooms, which has the unfortunate effect of making the stores simultaneously sterile and dirty. In my experience, the bathrooms aren’t clean, the dining rooms aren’t particularly clean, and the crew’s aprons are covered with fast food effluvia.

Which suggests things haven’t improved much since the last time I had to complain about one of their stores, about eleven years ago:

[T]he staff at this particular location [address redacted, but it’s at the link] were suffering from (yogurt-induced?) brain freeze; they botched, by my unofficial count, six of eleven orders during the twenty minutes I stood there waiting for them to botch mine. The shift manager, brow furrowed to a depth somewhere below sinus-cavity level, had apparently given up any hope of whipping this motley crew into shape, and was concentrating on cleaning up the grill area, which at least had some potential for accomplishment.

I still like the food. But Hades and the soft-serve machine will have to reach mutual temperature equilibrium for me ever to set foot in that store again.

It helps that I no longer live over that way, but you may be certain I have not returned to that store.

And while we’re on the subject: I bought a box of Ice Cream Bars a couple of months ago. There was a distinctly, for lack of a better term, greasy aspect to the chocolate coating, as though they’d been dipped in a can of Spry; I reasoned that they’d secretly replaced some of the chocolate in the recipe with Folger’s Crystals vegetable oil, and vowed to buy Something Else, perhaps Somewhere Else, next time. I have no idea if they’ve seen the error of their ways, but the price, which hadn’t budged from $4.39 for several years, has now risen by a buck. Packaging looks mostly the same — no references to “Original Recipe!” or anything like that — but I’m just ever so slightly distrustful.

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Oh, fickle fandom:

Carmelo Anthony jersey revised to indicate Jeremy Lin

Geez, I hope Carmelo doesn’t see this.

(Via FAIL Nation.)

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Strange search-engine queries (317)

This is the weekly feature where we dig into the logs, find out what in the world brought people to this site, and then make fun of it. I mean, it’s not like they’re ever coming back, right?

origami weapons:  Very dangerous, at least so long that they’re kept dry.

change odometer lease getting caught:  Be of good cheer. You won’t be able to run up any excess miles while you’re in jail.

string panties bra hell:  This is not, so far as I know, where cross-dressers go when they die.

ebayseat covers for nissan x trail:  Does it not occur to these people to look on eBay?

run the wheels off it:  Careful. You might end up having to look for parts on eBay.

infiniti i30 volume knob dust:  Use the same canned air you’d use on computer components. If you let the controls deteriorate, you’ll end up having to look for parts on eBay.

4eat-g trnsmission used gaurenteed:  Found this on eBay, did you? yahoo answers bra:  If there were a Yahoo! Answers bra, it wouldn’t fit anyone very well, and there’s always some wiseass hoping to snap the straps.

single moms wearing g string under skirt in oakland park ks:  I know your type. You’re just wanting to get your hands on her straps.

can a mono sound system cope with modern soundtracks:  It’s doable, though don’t expect anything resembling Dolby Surround.

“festival” “men were urinating”:  I’ve heard of Burning Man, but I don’t recall anyone reporting a burning urethra — at least, not until the following weekend.

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Of course you don’t get wafers with it

The recent dustup between the Administration’s health-care czars and the Roman Catholic Church is, suggests Ferdinand Bardamu, a manifestation of a centuries-long antipathy, suppressed in recent years:

Up until relatively recently, anti-Catholic sentiment on the left was suppressed for two reasons:

  • Catholic immigrant groups, mainly the Irish and Italians, formed an integral part of FDR’s New Deal Coalition.
  • Catholics themselves are largely left-wing on economic issues.

Recently though, as the descendants of Catholic immigrants have assimilated into the white middle class, Catholics have progressed from being a reliable Democratic constituency to a swing blocBush won the majority of Catholics in 2004. As liberals abandoned their commitment to the working class back in the early 90′s with the rise of libertarians like Bill Clinton and Mario Cuomo, social progressivism (abortion, gay marriage etc.) is now the organizing principle of the American left — and the Catholic Church stands against this. Much has been written about how Obama’s reelection strategy explicitly involves disregarding the middle- and working-class whites in favor of wealthy SWPLs, blacks and Latinos (for whom race trumps religion), and his throwing Catholics under the bus is part of this. Liberals tolerated the Papists only so long as they were useful; now that they’re no longer willing to shut up and blindly vote blue, they’re out of the club.

And that pre-FDR hostility?

The liberals frothing at the mouth over the contraception issue are the heirs of the Know-Nothings and every anti-Catholic movement in American history going back to the Mayflower. Instead of stereotyping Catholics as dirty degenerates with too many kids (read: they have sex more than once a month), lazy (read: they enjoy life and don’t want to slave all day for a pittance), idol-worshipping (read: they appreciate beauty), and disloyal (read: they have greater principles then mindlessly worshipping the state), they rage about how Catholics violate today’s orthodoxy of pseudohedonism and non-judgmentalism. I say “pseudohedonism” because liberals only tolerate hedonism along certain approved paths. They claim to be for freedom until you want to have a cigarette, buy a handgun, or be a man and not a wussy, feminized doormat. “Do what you want, unless you make choices I personally disapprove of.”

Which is not to say that the Vatican doesn’t frown on hedonism either. What they will say, however, is that you’ll have to answer for that in the next life. Liberals, contrariwise, are insistent that you be punished for your McRibs and your M1911 and your Yukon XL right now, so they can enjoy watching your undoing.

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Meanwhile in San Francisco

No amount of backstory, I suspect, will ever explain this:

A woman described as “heavyset” and naked except for her shoes was pulled off the J-Church line on Tuesday morning, and while cops and medical personnel were evaluating her near the intersection of 24th and Church in Noe Valley, she threw off a blanket that had been wrapped around her, walked up on the hood of one man’s car, and stomped on his windshield.

Evidently she wasn’t sick to the point of being incapacitated; heck, if she can just clamber up the front of the car in a couple of steps, she must have been in pretty decent shape, “heavyset” or not.

(The photo at the link is not safe for much of anyplace.)

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In case you suffer from slow remorse

From the “I never would have thought of that” files, a complication in the return policy, though you’ll need to buy this Wednesday to take advantage of that complication:

You can return your purchase for up to 365 days from the purchase date. If you purchase on 2/29 of a Leap Year, then you have until 2/29 the following Leap Year to return those orders. That’s four whole years! Woot!

God only knows how much shipping will cost in 2016, but at least Zappos pays for that.

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Not as we do

Last year, President Obama announced a goal of a million electric vehicles on American roads by 2015, and vowed that the federal government will be buying nothing but EVs and alternative-fuel vehicles by then.

The General Services Administration, which buys about two-thirds of Federal fleet vehicles — the Postal Service is responsible for its own conveyances — has been honoring this proposal in the breach:

The U.S. government, which has given automakers and suppliers money to develop electric-vehicle technologies, last year bought 2,645 hybrid, electric and fuel-cell vehicles, less than 5 percent of the 54,843 vehicles it bought, according to the data.

That’s a decrease from the 9.5 percent average of all purchases for those models in fiscal years 2010 and 2009, when economic stimulus spending fueled $300 million of fuel-efficient vehicle purchases for the federal fleet of about 600,000 cars and trucks.

Which is not to say the GSA ignored the President entirely: more than half of their Wicked Old Ordinary Cars were flex-fuelable. Not that there’s a whole lot of E85 to be had inside the Beltway.

Among GSA’s buys: 1380 Ford Fusion hybrids, 101 Honda Insight hybrids, 145 Chevrolet Volts (apparently General Electric will be doing the heavy lifting instead), and one Toyota Prius. I’d love to know who got the Prius.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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