Archive for June 2009

Last man standing

I’d bet on the Blue Oval.

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No sale

NCR Corporation, founded in 1884 in Dayton, Ohio, is relocating its headquarters to Duluth, Georgia, along with approximately 1250 jobs. In addition, NCR will build a new production facility in Columbus, Georgia, which will employ about 870.

NCR’s statement:

NCR decided to create a single innovation hub for its worldwide headquarters in Georgia after extensive analysis of potential US locations, using independent data on the available workforce, infrastructure, financial incentives and government tax structures.

It didn’t hurt that NCR already had corporate presences in Duluth and in Peachtree City, and that some of its biggest customers — for instance, the Home Depot — were based in Georgia; but what swung the deal, apparently, was a $60 million package of benefits and incentives, approximately twice what Ohio was willing to spend to keep the company in Dayton [pdf].

The Urbanophile notes:

[T]his thing affects everybody. Even the best regional performers will be fighting horrible brand headwinds as long as the region in which they are embedded continues to fail.

And in Dayton, Bill Pote reacts:

The question is — do we have the will to make Dayton emerge a different yet stronger city and region? Or will we simply become paralyzed by the enormous challenges we face as Dayton sinks further into irrelevance and becomes a far-away exurb to Cincinnati?

One Fortune 500 company remains in the Miami Valley: NewPage Corporation, a major producer of coated and specialty papers.

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Controlling the engine

I turned this up on Usenet, and it’s at least as ludicrous as some of the Y2K stories that floated around ten years ago. It was found in

Since GM has begun their bankruptcy, their cars and trucks are failing quickly. It’s estimated that by the end of the month, no GM vehicles will be running or repairable. The cause is in the engine’s computer controlled ignition system. It’s a little known fact that ever since computer circuits became part of modern vehicles, the manufacturers have been sending out a signal via satellite which monitors and controls these vehicles and adjusts their operation based on instructions generated by their systems which is based on the data received from petroleum refiners, which instructs the engines to function according to changes in fuel refining. This is just part of the picture, because these auto manufacturers also adjust these engine control systems based on location, altitude, and other external conditions, solely based on GPS signals being sent by the vehicle.

With GM in bankruptcy, these signals have ceased to operate. Vehicles are now unable to adjust their systems according to variable fuel and environmental conditions, and are now locked according to the last signal sent by GM prior to the start of the bankruptcy proceedings.

It’s already been determined that in the last few days, GM vehicle gas milage has dropped by ten to thirty percent. Emisions have risen dramatically, and engine output power has dropped significantly.

The result has been, but not limited to engine flooding, poor engine timing, loss of vacuum control, scored cylinder walls, and eventually complete engine failure. It’s just a matter of time before all GM vehicles will fail and become unrepairable. This affects all GM vehicles except those manufactured prior to the use of computerized controls. All GM vehicles still in use who were manufactured prior to the early 1980’s are not affected. All vehicles since then are computerized and will fail within the next few weeks.

Now is the time to consider the effects of being without a vehicle. If you rely on your vehicle to earn a living, or require a vehicle for survival, now is the time to purchase another vehicle manufactured by another company, and send your GM vehicle to the salvage yard before it leaves you stranded, undermines your income, and possibly endangers your life.

James V. Masters
Automotive Engineer
Masters Automotive Engineering Inc.

If you’re concerned about this, a helpful hint: the tinfoil goes between the sunroof and the headliner.

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Stay, just a little bit longer

Well, looky here: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has ordered a stay of the Chrysler absorption by Fiat, pending a review of the whole shebang by the Supremes.

If this doesn’t wrap up in a week, the whole deal could be scotched:

Chrysler has until June 15 to emerge free and clear, else Fiat can walk away. And if that happens, Chrysler might owe Fiat $35 million — which is just $7 million short of what the three Indiana funds [who filed the suit] together have invested in the Pentastar.

All of a sudden the fait looks a hell of a lot less accompli.

Update: SCOTUSblog:

The wording of Ginsburg’s order — “stayed pending further order” — is the conventional way by which a Justice or the Court carries out an action that is expected to be short in duration, and not controlling — or even hinting at — the ultimate outcome. Any speculation that her order meant the Court was leaning toward a further postponement would be unfounded.

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Thoroughly pucked

Buck finds this High Truth in his mailbox:

A little known fact…

The first testicular guard “Cup” was used in hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974.

It took 100 years for men to realize that the brain is also important.

If your immediate response was “Just a hundred?” you’ve probably been hanging around me too long.

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Sarah stops traffic

The Governor of Alaska showed up for Founder’s Day in Auburn, New York on Saturday.

Sarah Palin in Auburn, New York

Why, you ask? Auburn’s own William H. Seward, who served as Secretary of State in the Lincoln and (Andrew) Johnson administrations, was responsible for negotiating the purchase of Alaska from the Russians in 1867, and inasmuch as it’s the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood this year … well, you get the idea. And the crowd was duly wowed.

Incidentally, that’s a ’59 Cadillac. Of course.

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Grounded, and not by the weather

Flying operations at Vance Air Force Base near Enid have been suspended: 770 civilians employed on base are on strike, after the bargaining agreement between the civilian contractors — CSC Applied Technologies LLC and its subcontractors — and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers expired and a new contract was rejected.

About half of the members of Local 898 of IAMAW are aircraft mechanics, though the group also includes firefighters and logistics personnel.

Colonel Richard Murphy, acting commander of the 71st Flying Training Wing, had this to say:

The Wing’s response to the strike is driven by several factors. One is the concern for the well-being of our personnel, and the families who live here on base. While the strike continues, Air Force augmentees from Columbus AFB in Mississippi, Altus AFB and Luke AFB in Arizona, have been brought in to ensure that we have a fire department staffed to respond to emergencies on base.

We also have Security Forces augmentees from this base activated to ensure the safety of base personnel and property.

The base was previously struck in 1965, albeit against a different civilian contractor; reportedly a strike was in the works for 2001 but the idea was canned after new BRAC lists began showing up.

And speaking of BRAC, Enid’s military liaison noted:

“At the end of the day you do not have pilots being trained,” [Mike] Cooper said. “That will be hard to defend in any future BRAC.”

The machinists have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging misconduct by the contractor.

Senator Jim Inhofe, who visited the scene earlier, issued a statement:

When I was in Enid, what I suspected to be the case proved true. The local leaders do have the best interests of Vance, Enid, Oklahoma and the Air Force at heart, and I believe they are willing to work out a deal that is acceptable to both sides. Jerry McCune, the local union executive, and Gary Richardson, the CSC project manager for Vance, are good men who want to do what is right by their respective organizations and the community. I applaud their efforts to avoid the strike, and I believe that if left to them, this situation can be rectified.

It is these local leaders who must be empowered to reach a solution in a short timeframe. If the outside forces are the only ones allowed to conduct the negotiations, the real danger is the strike will continue on without an end in sight. In this scenario, it is clear Vance and the Enid community will be the losers.

The contract offer had been rejected by 96 percent; 94 percent voted to strike. No negotiations have been held as yet.

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A penalty box for two

Advice from Brian J. Noggle, in the Webster-Kirkwood Times:

President Obama has raised CAFE standards to 39 miles per gallon in 2016. That move will all but eliminate SUVs, pick-up trucks, large sedans, midsize sedans, and everything much larger than the Smart ForTwo which presently only barely exceeds the standard and seats two passengers in a lightweight vehicle that suffers badly in automobile collisions. Consumers should buy now if they anticipate needing to carry cargo or children at any point in the future.

Proponents of the new standard hope that new technologies will allow vehicles to surpass this standard without compromising automotive power and safety. Proponents of automobile technology who lack engineering degrees also have anticipated flying cars for decades, but they don’t have to contend with the laws of physics, merely the laws of hope and change.

On a related topic, Car and Driver (July) did a comparison test between the two newest hybrids — the third-generation Prius vs. the new Honda Insight — and for the sheer hell of it, threw in a three-cylinder 1998 Geo Chevrolet Metro with 110,000 miles on it. The little low-tech grocery-getter managed to get the same gas mileage over a 600-mile run (42 mpg) as the Prius, and slightly better than the Insight (38 mpg). This suggests that we’re not going to find much more fuel economy in future vehicles, unless the Obamanauts find a reliable source of liquid unicorn scat or something, and that in a world with its priorities in order, Henry Waxman would be forced to give up his limo for the back seat of a ’75 Civic.

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Perhaps you know one of these

The Hyacinth Girl reviews The Hangover, and singles out one character for Special Mention:

[Ed] Helms’ character’s bitchy girlfriend was an over-the-top caricature of the post feminist, entitled, manipulative woman that I hate so much. You know, the chick that tells you that your days of drunken video game playing with your buddies are over. O.V.E.R. You’re an adult now, and you must drink red wine with your “couple friends” accordingly. I hate that chick. To her I say, “Beer me, woman, while I kick the husband’s ass at Street Fighter.”

I think this is what Morgan Freeberg would call an E-Girl.

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Winchester Cathedral

It didn’t bring Rachel Lucas down:

I’ve always had a thing for stained glass, and does it matter if I don’t believe in Mary’s virgin birthing of Christ, or of the Garden of Eden, or of the serpent, or original sin, as is shown in this window according to our tour guide? It’s still wonderful to look at. Still makes you think about all creation and what exactly we’re doing here.

Which just may have been the whole idea all along.

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Shark treatment

If it’s really necessary to punish Jessica Alba for all those shark posters in downtown OKC, I suggest a variation on Ludovico’s Technique: pop her eyeballs open and make her sit through seven or eight screenings of Into the Blue.

Arguments that this would violate the Eighth Amendment will be heard below.

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Flip this, pal

Whose house is it, anyway? Lynn spots a dispiriting trend:

HGTV is being taken over by real estate shows and even the normal home improvement shows beat you over the head with equity, equity, equity and don’t paint your walls that color because buyers won’t like it and you must “invest” in granite countertops because it’s what all the buyers want. This is exactly what has caused the problem in the housing market — people are encouraged to think of a home as an investment.

This is absolutely the wrong attitude to have about home buying. I’m not an expert in these matters but it doesn’t take an expert to know that when someone creates a bubble it will eventually burst. A home is not an investment, at least not in the sense that you will sell it and make money; it’s a home, a place to live.

Lately, not in that other sense either.

And should I want the inside of my house to look like the office of a deranged dentist from the 1950s, or if were I to install Formica countertops with a boomerang pattern — well, HGTV can bite me. I’m not going anywhere. When the next owners take over, they can send any complaints to me at Pine Box, Seventh Space From The Right, Row Twenty-Nine. I don’t much care what anyone thinks about that interior styling, either.

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Hope and change

Bob Hope 44-cent stampWith a dollar, in fact, you can get two of these and twelve cents change. The Postal Service, in an unusual display of sense and sensibility, presented this stamp for the first time aboard USS Midway, now a museum in San Diego, a nod to the man who entertained the troops for nearly fifty years, and to his wife Dolores, who just turned 100.

If you want more than two, the Postal Service sells panes of twenty for $8.80 — plus, um, shipping.

(Seen at Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Read my lips: no new mixes

Actually, those are Dave’s lips, but hear it from him, whydoncha:

I was just listening to the timeless Stevie Nicks/Tom Petty classic “Stop Dragging My Heart Around” on KFOG online, the streaming version of my favorite station back in my Bay Area, CA days. Everybody that knows this song (and as classic as it is, most rock enthusiasts over 30 do) knows that Stevie starts out the singing, with Petty coming in later just before the chorus. Except in this version Petty started out the singing. Not to knock Tom Petty at all, for he is one of my favorite artists, but dammit THAT’S NOT HOW THE SONG IS SUPPOSED TO SOUND!! Another recent abomination is they took The Black Crowes’ “Hard To Handle” and inserted a horn section into it. What was the perfect raw jamming sound got tarted up like a cheap midtown hooker.

To quote Joan Crawford, when she found the wire hangers in her daughter’s closet, “Why? WHYYYY!!??”

With regard to the Crowes, the version on their Shake Your Money Maker album does indeed lack the brass, but the version released as a single is the remix with the horn section, perhaps a nod to Otis Redding, who cowrote the darn thing, and who, you may be sure, had the horns on his version. That one’s a close call.

But Tom Petty never sings before Stevie. It’s just not done.

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Yet somehow it’s in six languages

I refer, of course, to the 36-page manual for the gizmo you just bought, only six pages of which are likely to be in your native tongue. And while I’m not in a position to evaluate all of them, Cobb has a complaint about the English:

Why is it that instructions don’t use articles? Assembly instructions especially use this clipped sort of English that never uses the word ‘the’ or very many prepositions either.

Tab A, Slot B. Insert as directed. Cut and dried. But wait:

My first inclination was to think that in the bad old days before electronic publishing (now there’s a term nobody cares about using any longer) that access to variable spaced fonts was limited, and it was the prohibitive cost of having instructions printed up that forced and economy of words. If so, then why would we continue the practice today? Surely nobody has any love for the brevity of such English. Instructions are generally a source of great anxiety and frustration. Next to Legalese, Instructionese is probably the most dreaded dialect of English. I can’t imagine that they do the same trauma to the syntax of other languages. Or maybe this was just some huge practical joke by Scandinavians when they realized they had a market for unassembled furniture over here in the States.

Truth be told, I have just as much trouble with the pictures as with the clipped Sgt. Friday tone of the text, but maybe that’s just my bad eyes. (And is it just me, or have the White Pages with the phone listings gone to solid grey? I sure as hell can’t make out any actual letters anymore.)

Then again, it could be much, much worse:

The main theme of of this empowering essay on dialectic discourse is not situationism as such, but neosituationism. Therefore, if postsemiotic patriarchialist theory holds, the application of liberating anterior pressures is the subtext of choosing between prematerialist feminism and the capitalist paradigm of renewed oral reality. “Society is impossible,” says Sartre. So it could be said that Bailey would favor a Rousseauvian cum-Hobbsean pan-liberation of all pressures simultaneously resulting in the most empowering externalities.

If I have to go through that sort of drivel to change the blade on my lawn mower, I’m throwing the sumbitch out and hiring a passel of Guatemalans.

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Why plus sizes are so hard to find

It’s not just the extra material, explains Virginia Postrel:

Plus sizes create a fundamental problem for manufacturers and retailers — a problem that takes statistical analysis, rather than ideology and emotion, to understand. Consider a simple example, a group of five average-height women who weigh 120, 130, 140, 200, and 240 pounds. Their average weight is 166, about the U.S. average. But a size created around that average would fit no one in the group.

As it happens, weights, unlike heights, don’t fit neatly under a bell curve:

There really are a lot of larger women, but “larger” covers a lot of different weights. The individual bars [on the graph] get smaller at higher weights. But, unlike the upper end of the height graph, they don’t quickly dwindle out of sight. The total number of women who weigh more than 200 pounds is much greater than the number of women who weigh 110 or 120 pounds, while the number of women at a specific weight — 200 versus 250, for instance — is generally fewer.

Translated into clothes, that means a lot of different sizes.

You can see those graphs here. What it boils down to is this:

At the upper weights, each new size covers relatively few people. Adding size 16 may make women who wear size 18, 20, or 22 feel a little better, but it won’t get them to buy your clothes.

Which reminds me: Do they still have half sizes anymore? I used to be married to someone who wore something like a 22½. (She’s a tad smaller these days.)

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Global worming

I can already tell I’m going to like this story:

So far, I have a hot dog stand in Iceland, a mad cryptozoologist, some Dune-obsessed geologists, and a blimp. I need a villain.

To be portrayed by Morgan Fremen in the film version, no doubt.

(Sorry. I’m way under quota for bad Dune jokes. Scytale the Face Dancer has already threatened me with a stone burner.)

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No sneakers, though

I’m assuming, since she’s a grown woman fercryingoutloud, that the First Lady picks out her own threads, in which case we have the very definition of a mixed bag. When she looks good, she looks very, very good, but sometimes there’s this:

Michelle Obama at Westminster Abbey

The Times was somewhat critical — “impossible to defend,” they said of that abdominal-stratification effect — but the Times is unfailingly polite.

Which is why I turn here to E. M. Zanotti:

The Times may be vomiting all over itself trying to justify this clear bout of temporary insanity, but real people know that, not only do horizontal stripes make you look like you have (a) no waist and (b) a giant ass, particularly when you partition off your hips and ass with a GIANT BELT. Also, she’s wearing two cardigans, a fact which normally would be a problem, but when compared to the shirt, does not even merit comment. At least the yellow one works with her skin tone. But no. That SHIRT. It looks like her bottom half was eaten by several different aprons consecutively. Or like she was attacked by a roving band of uncharacteristically unmerciful, glue-gun wielding scrapbook moms armed with ribbon from the Jo-Ann Fabrics clearance bin.

Then again, if this doesn’t get Mrs. O an entry over at Go Fug Yourself — getting her own category might be a trifle premature — surely nothing will.

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Not that expectations were all that high

“I don’t know anything about cars,” says new GM chairman Edward E. Whitacre Jr.

Then again, it’s not like such a thing has never happened before. In fact, only two years ago, Chrysler installed Home Depot expat Bob Nardelli in the corner office in Auburn Hills. And that worked out okay, didn’t it?

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In a blaze of glory

Since the Gazette apparently has the temerity to take votes for Best Blog this year, I suggest we all vote for Okiedoke while there’s still time.

Besides, any vote Mike gets is one that won’t go to me, which is, as Martha says, a Good Thing.

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This week Andrew Ian Dodge is “Browning the CoTV,” trying to get some colour into the 338th Carnival of the Vanities.

And speaking of browning, I have to whip up a batch of rolls this evening. I’m going to have to monitor their progress carefully, since 325° is not warm enough, but 350° might burn them. Halfway in between? Well, maybe, but the oven control jumps by increments of five degrees, and it won’t stop on 338, let alone 337½.

(Tangentially: Is there a cooking school out there whose official school colors are Brown and Serve?)

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Motives a trifle loco

Last year I opined:

I honestly don’t think that any rail system we could actually afford to build is going to make traipsing across town any easier for me; as it stands, I can drive it in 18-20 minutes each way, at the cost of half a gallon of precious fuelstuffs plus the usual wear and tear on my motor vehicle.

Jeff Shaw looks at the possibility from the other end of the Turner:

I would like to see a train service, not only for the romantic notions of train service, but for the sake of practicality. If it’s quicker and more reliable than the bus I ride to work, and I don’t have to walk six blocks after I get off, I’ll be on it. If it’s just another unproductive drain on the tax base, then I’m afraid I’m against it.

Actually, I’m hoping for a productive drain on the tax base. I’m not insane enough to think that rail will pay for itself out here where the rubber meets the road — there will always be a gap between what gets spent and what comes into the fare box — but I persist in believing that the option ought to be there, if only because cars are bloody expensive and there ought to be some means of getting around that doesn’t cost you four or five figures a year. Call it a romantic notion. (Note: There is nothing romantic — well, almost nothing — about a bus.)

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I can’t believe it’s not beta

From the Dashboard, as noted by Sonic Charmer:

This is a collection of posts around from people talking about the same stuff that you do. Beta! You can add tags you want to follow on the left-hand side, and also remove tags that you aren’t that interested in. For more information, check out this post.

So, um, what’s with the “Beta!”?

What person, from any walk of life, reads that blurb and thinks “Oh, it’s beta? Okay then, I shall think about this feature differently than if I didn’t know it was beta. I’m sure glad WordPress pointed out to me that it’s beta. That’s really good to know. Just think if I hadn’t known it was beta!”

Part of me thinks that WordPress just put the word in there as computerey-jargon to make WordPress seem more computerey. I mean, it’s almost as if the author of this blurb didn’t even really know what “beta” meant, but was ordered to include a blurb about it being “beta”, and figured it was just some nice, cool, hip feature they had to advertise. So they put the exclamation point after it the same way one would put one after, oh, “Extra Strength!”, “Fast Acting!” or “with T25!”. The message seems to be: “Hey kids, it’s beta! Get excited about it because it’s beta! You like beta, don’t you?”

I liked Beta when VHS was in beta.

So where’s the, um, gamma?

[W]hen is it ever not going to be “beta”? I’ve been on WordPress over a year now and this message has been there the whole time. Of course, Google’s Gmail is still called “beta” after like 4-5 years, so I guess this is nothing.

I’m tempted to conclude that “beta” — which always was silly, irritating, insider jargon to begin with — has now officially lost whatever meaning and purpose it may once have had. It doesn’t even really seem to mean anything anymore.

To me, at least, it means one thing and one thing only: “Use this at your peril, for we not only will not support this product, we will deny ever having seen it.”

Note to WordPress: How about a Beta Blocker plugin?

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Today in peener elongation

Once in a while, a spammer almost comes up with something resembling a story. From yesterday’s email:

Guys with long love tools always win — vinaigrette banyan denominational hustings

I can imagine a banyan denominational husting, though I can’t think of any reason to drench it with vinaigrette.

And the title was nearly as lyrical:

Use mind to improve your fang overbearance modernism abruptness incurvature

Truth be told, I’ve seen lots of modernistic architecture with abruptness and incurvature, and while it was occasionally overbearing, it didn’t do a thing for the ol’ fang, if you know what I mean.

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Short answer: no

The Hyacinth Girl asks:

I’m wondering if I need to start taking photos of my cleavage or something to get on these banal “83 Hottest Conservative Babes” lists. I can’t say that these “babes” getting the lion’s share of the attention in a male-dominated field for superficial reasons doesn’t annoy me, but it’s not necessarily their fault. They understand the simplicity of the male mind a lot better than I do, I guess. I’m no sexless feminist demanding that you notice me for my intelligence alone, but skanking out just seems like cheating.

Deep in the chromosomes, I’m probably as sexist as the next guy, or at least the guy next to him, but apart from a few extra spins of the traffic meter for the individuals linking in, I don’t see a whole lot of benefit to such lists. And besides, the ladies I seem to crush hardest on don’t ever seem to be listed therein anyway.

In sum: I appreciate the occasional peek, but I am disinclined to hang around Google (or worse, Bing) all day keying in “[name of babe] sexy pictures.”

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The Saab story continues

Saab, orphaned by GM, has been adopted: the Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg, backed by a team of Norwegian investors, is buying the troubled automaker.

The deal has not been finalized yet, but this may be enough progress for the Stockholm government to begin considering loan guarantees for Saab, which it would not do until a private-sector buyer was found.

At least one Saab fan is hopeful:

The fact that Saab and Koenigsegg could be linked in the press for the next however-many-years instead of references to “GM’s loss making Swedish unit” and “platform sharing” will be a real positive break for Saab.

The fact that Saab’s management and designers might now get the chance to push the envelope and make some absolutely brilliant cars with some cutting edge technology thrown in is an exciting prospect to ponder.

The inevitable downside:

Koenigsegg are most likely going to have to go head over heels into debt with the [European Investment Bank] (and others) to pull this off. Saab’s sales are in the toilet right now and there’s going to be a lot of work required to turn that around. They have new models coming and they definitely have a marketing edge now, but what of dealers, distributors and the supply chain?

This is not going to be an easy task.

Then again, revival is almost always harder than burial.

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Quote of the week

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison tweets from his home in metro Seattle:

Saw sign on I-5 for Phone # to snitch on carpool lane violators is 206764HERO … hero?? … maybe a hero to all the hall moderators out there

C’mon, Nick. It’s Seattle. The place is full of ’em.

(Via Daily Thunder.)

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By the way, you still owe us an LP

Patti is remembering Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel, arguably one of the musical highlights of 1974, and definitely an album I have yet to get tired of after thirty-five years, perhaps because of its sheer variety: the first single released was “You’re No Good,” a Clint Ballard, Jr. song, previously an R&B hit for Betty Everett, backed with “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You),” from the Hank Williams catalog. You couldn’t get a whole lot more eclectic than that. And the eight remaining tracks range from James Carr’s R&B cheatin’ song “Dark End of the Street” to Little Feat’s trucker anthem “Willin’,” which is a hell of a range by any standards.

What’s always fascinated me about this album, apart from its musical merit, was that it was issued as a contractual obligation: when Ronstadt signed with David Geffen’s Asylum label, which issued her Don’t Cry Now LP in 1973, she still owed her previous label, Capitol, one more record. The usual pattern under such circumstances is to fish some previously-rejected tracks — or, alternatively, previously-unheard live tracks — out of the vault and get it over with. Not this time. Heart Like a Wheel was as fully realized as anything Ronstadt had recorded up to that point, and it sold about twenty times as much, which prompted Asylum to insure that both producer Peter Asher and musician Andrew Gold were on hand for Linda’s next album, Prisoner in Disguise.

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Just a dusting

This is sort of an experiment: a once-a-week (maybe) roundup of news I’d otherwise managed to overlook or actually deliberately ignored, with just a hint of snark. Think of it as an extended 3WC and you won’t be far off the mark.

Social networking does more harm than good, says Trent Reznor:
Oddly, he didn’t tweet that.

Carrie Prejean replaced by first runner-up:
According to one estimate, by the year 2019 fully twenty percent of the population of the world will have been fired by Donald Trump.

Thirty years without John Wayne:
Man, American, one only. Accept no substitutes.

Chocolate inhalers hit the market:
Is there that much difference between cocoa and cocaine?

Chaz Bono embraces his manhood:
He’s probably no John Wayne — just like the rest of us — but remind me to buy him a beer anyway.

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Grip no longer to be gotten

At least, not in California, if this proposal goes through:

The [California Energy Commission] is looking at a rating system for the rolling resistance of passenger and light truck tires sold or available for sale in California.

The CEC proposed a rating system for passenger and LT tires in which all tires of the same size and load index be ranked against each other from lowest to highest Rolling Resistance Force (RRF), i.e., most efficent to least efficient. “All tires with an RRF within 15% of the lowest RRF reported tire for that combined tire size designation and load rating will be rated ‘fuel efficient tire’,” suggests the CEC.

Which is not so bad an idea, except for one minor detail: tires with low rolling resistance have less actual road grip, pretty much by definition.

If enacted, though, this system will simplify buying for people who shop for performance tires online at places like the Tire Rack: all else being equal, you should choose the tire that does worst on the California test.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Blip, blop

As I’ve noted several times, I am not interested in selling the palatial estate at Surlywood. However, I do try to pay attention to the real-estate market, which perhaps excludes me from this list of the clue-adverse:

This is perhaps the most frightening news of all, that so many people still haven’t adjusted their expectations to economic reality. Maybe they’re under the influence of Kudlowism or, more likely, they’re liberals who think that the Department of Unicorns and Rainbows has already fixed the economy.

People who haven’t actually tried to sell their homes, and who haven’t paid attention to the real-estate market, seem to imagine that the crash that hit last September was just a blip signaling a short-term recession and now we’re in blue-sky territory. When the sheriff’s auction becomes the primary venue for home sales, maybe people will start paying attention.

Foreclosures are indeed up in Oklahoma, but the situation here is decidedly less dire than in other places where the bubbles were bigger. For the last couple of months, I’ve been watching four houses nearby to see if I could detect any trend. Two have sold; one was turned over on a lease-purchase deal; one remains on the market. This is not necessarily representative of the whole state, or even of the northwest quadrant of Oklahoma City, but I have to assume that folks here aren’t entirely discouraged yet, especially since another one in the zone being monitored went on sale this month.

And the arrival this past week of the chairman of the National Association of Home Builders failed to regloomify the local market:

Nationally, home building is reeling, in some places it’s on the ropes — and in a few particularly hard-hit markets, it’s knocked cold.

“Normal” production used to be 1.8 million new units a year; now the pace is about 380,000 units, [Joe Robson] said. Being an Oklahoman of some experience makes his burden a lot lighter, especially now.

Things could be a lot worse here. Home sales are off and construction has been cut way back, but home values on average have remained firm, even ticking up at times.

That’s a 79-percent drop nationwide. Local builder Jeff Click has been tracking building permits in metro Oklahoma City, which are off by about half as much. Maybe we can say that it’s only half as bad here.

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Just say no, no, no

Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” came up on the iTunes shuffle yesterday evening, and this is one of the tunes for which I actually shelled out an extra buck for the video, so I flipped the screen and watched. (So can you.)

About forty seconds into the next track, I was still staring in disbelief: at the time, this was a cute sort of girl — why else would I have shelled out an extra buck for the video? — but geez, you should see her now.

And it occurs to me that if the government is going to continue to make war on (some) drugs, they’d probably get more mileage out of Winehouse’s plight than they’re getting with their current pitches.

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Two point eight

Mike Hendrix does the right-from-the-admin-panel upgrade:

Another trouble-free, one-click, minute-and-a-half at most upgrade for WordPress was just installed, and I bet you didn’t even notice. What a remarkable piece of software; can’t praise it enough.

I’ve become a trifle chary about mentioning the upgrades here: seems like every time I do, I hear from a reader whose own installation went straight from PHP to PLOP. So I did the 2.8 install on Thursday morning — while someone was posting a comment, apparently — but decided not to say so at the time.

I did, however, back up the database before the install, which added a couple of minutes to the time elapsed.

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Next time, tuna fish

To my surprise, the government did not grant another stay of execution to analog TV, which yesterday transitioned from merely dead to really most sincerely dead.

Actually, there remain stragglers: low-power stations were not required to convert to digital, and so I thought I’d crank up an old portable TV which knows from nothing about digital signals and see what showed up.

KOCO-TV (5): “If you’re seeing this message, your TV set has not been upgraded to digital.” Alternate version in Spanish. (Scheduled to be discontinued in 30 days.)

KTOU-LP (21): Home Shopping Network affiliate.

KCHM-LP (36): Univision affiliate.

As pickings go, this is on the far side of slim. Officially, there are eight low-power stations in the area; I’m out of range for some of them, like the one in Norman, and much of the same programming can be had on cable anyway. (The FCC has never approved a must-carry rule for low-power stations, although one was under consideration last fall for Class A stations, those with calls ending in -CA.)

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Original shin

It is difficult, I surmise, to shrug off all the cultural detritus that informs — or, more precisely, deforms — our ability to reconcile the differences between what we look like and what some self-proclaimed arbiter says we should look like.

After reading this analysis, I remembered something I’d once read, and headed into the stacks in the next room to retrieve Madison S. Lacy’s Leg Art, his book of 20th-century girlie pix, completed by publicist Don Morgan after Lacy’s death in 1978. One Major Babe largely overlooked by the book was Myrna Loy, typecast as an ethnic femme fatale in the age of silents, and at the time never once suspected of having sparkling comedic timing. (The Thin Man took care of that.)

The one perfunctory publicity shot of Loy in the book is described as “rare,” because, said Lacy, “Myrna’s limbs were somewhat heavy.”

Is that a fact?

Myrna Loy

It’s enough to make Nora Charles vow: “Must scold, must nag, mustn’t be too pretty in the mornings.”

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Since this will be misread anyway

Actual headline from NewsOK:

Battiest woman dies in vehicle accident

This is the story. And this is where she’s from.

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Well, he’s better than dirt

“Well, most kinds of dirt. I mean, not that fancy store bought dirt. That stuff’s loaded with nutrients. I… I can’t compete with that stuff.”

Steve Buscemi is Moe Szyslak.

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Maybe not such a Dopey idea

Says here that the Volvo XC90 seats, um, no more than seven:

Volvo XC90 advertisement featuring Snow White

Out of the current auto ads, this might be the fairest of them all.

(Via Agent Bedhead.)

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Cultural outpost

Andrea Harris arrives in Virginia (yay!), and she’ll rest later. Right now, the play’s the thing:

Anyway, guess where I’m going in a few minutes: to the local Shakespeare theater to see Hamlet. And then later tonight, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and then tomorrow Comedy of Errors — all at the same theater. Which is like, within walking distance. In all my years of living in urban cultural centers I’ve never actually seen a real play — I had to come to remotest Bucolica to get some real culture, which all of the People That Matter are always careful to assure everyone doesn’t exist in this country outside of places like New York and San Francisco. What a surprise, they’re wrong.

Surly note from the People That Matter: “Dead White Males. Don’t count.” Well, Tom Stoppard isn’t actually dead yet, but he’s past seventy and can’t last forever, and anyway, what does he know? He’s not a Wise Latina, after all.

And now that I think about it, it’s been a while since I’ve been out that way.

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Speed bumps with wheels

Around here, if one lane is moving markedly slower than the other, I start looking for a Buick, and with judicious application of the loud pedal, I’ll find it soon enough.

Other parts of the country seem to have different obstacles entirely:

It sure seems that every time I run into a bunch of cars backed up in the left lane I find the head of the line is being held up by a Prius. Is there something about that car that makes you drive like a moron? Maybe it is the sense of entitlement you feel by buying a green car that makes you drive like a Dickhead?

Which is not to say that I’ve never seen such a thing before:

So I’m tooling up the Lake Hefner Parkway and not actually looking (much) at the blonde in the red Mustang convertible, when a member of the Anti-Destination League shows up in the lane ahead of me: a greener-than-thou Toyota Prius at a stolid 61 mph, impeding progress and probably proud of it. I noted that this was probably just my evocation of a standard stereotype, and such things have been wrong before — fercryingoutloud, I actually once knew a gay man who was an absolute slob, which conventional wisdom says is impossible, or at least unheard of — but it didn’t stop me from uttering a few choice Anglo-Saxonisms as I passed the little electric wheezer. (Speed limit on this section of the Parkway is in fact 65 mph.)

But the counterexample came less than five miles later:

And eastbound on Memorial Road at a crisp clip, I was passed up by someone in a big hurry — in a Toyota Prius. Under the circumstances, I suppose I should have apologized for driving too slowly.

From this I conclude the following:

  • I should probably avoid Priora when driving in the Midwest;
  • It’s a good thing GM never built any Buick hybrids.

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