Wednesday, September 29, 2004

 

Happy Happy Joy Joy

It's just about October in an even-numbered year, which means two things: new Hot Water Music, and another version of Grand Theft Auto. It's just about time to kick back in a comfy chair with a PS2 controller and an arm full of leftover Halloween candy.

 

Mr. 205 MPH speaks...

...maybe. Who knows if it's really him or not.

At some point, the party's going to get shut down for fast bikes. Either the insurance rates will continue to climb, or the feds are going to step in and do their thing. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

 

Name Dropping

Both Rolling Stone and All Music Guide reference Husker Du's amazing epic Zen Arcade in their reviews of Green Day's American Idiot.

The Green Day album is quite good. Not as good as Zen Arcade (well, we'll see if American Idiot is used as a benchmark in 2024), but it's a nice piece of social commentary wrapped in Green Day's slashing pop-punk style. Good stuff.

Monday, September 27, 2004

 

Kerry May or May Not Be an Assault Rifle Owner

From the NY Times:

Senator John Kerry's campaign said yesterday that Mr. Kerry did
not own a Chinese assault rifle, as he was quoted as saying in Outdoor Life
magazine, but a single-bolt-action military rifle, blaming aides who filled out
the magazine's questionnaire on his behalf for the error.

Michael Meehan, a spokesman for the campaign, said Mr. Kerry, the
Democratic presidential nominee, owns two guns, a double-barreled 12-gauge
shotgun and the rifle, which Mr. Meehan said Mr. Kerry "keeps as a relic" and
had never fired. Mr. Meehan said the gun had no make or model markings on it and
that Mr. Kerry "got it from a friend years ago," adding that such rifles were
first manufactured in Russia more than 100 years ago and were used by the North
Koreans and the Vietcong.

The clarification came in response to an
article yesterday in The New York Times quoting Mr. Kerry's response to a
question by Outdoor Life: "What is your favorite gun?"
"My favorite gun is
the M-16 that saved my life and that of my crew in Vietnam," said Mr. Kerry, a
veteran, according to the October issue. "I don't own one of those now, but one
of my reminders of my service is a Communist Chinese assault rifle."

Though the comment was presented by Outdoor Life as part of an
"exclusive interview with the two presidential candidates," four pages that
included many long, conversational answers using first-person pronouns, Mr.
Meehan said Mr. Kerry's portions were written by his staff. A public relations
representative for Outdoor Life did not respond to a message seeking
comment.



I, too, often confuse the obscure Mosin-Nagant bolt gun with one of the most famous (infamous?) Evil Black Guns ever produced. I mean, they've both got barrels, some wooden stuff hanging off the back - kinda easy to confuse them.

Probably more telling than the flip-flop over what gun he owns is the fact that he let his staff fill out the questionare for an outdoors magazine, despite the fact that he's claiming to be such an avid outdoorsman himself.



 

Regular Folks Know a Lot

Ain't this the truth:

BUT CONSIDER HOW MUCH REGULAR FOLKS KNOW. If you have not been famous or
otherwise insulated, you have likely had half a dozen jobs by the age of 50. You
have perhaps started, or tried to start, your own business. You have moved at
least four times in adulthood, and bought and sold perhaps that many houses or
condos, You have researched a number of areas of the country and lived in two or
three (and not just Washington, New York, and Los Angeles). You have perhaps
served a military hitch. You have had children in public schools or you've been
home-schooling; you've raised funds for a church or a lodge or a Boy Scout
troop. In some context or other, you have sold something door to door, published
a newsletter, sold advertising, served on a committee, had a hand in hiring and
firing.If you've ever had a hobby, you probably have an expert education in
something like motorcycle mechanics, photography, flying, firearms, railroad
history, or ornithology.

SNIP

So what's the big mystery? Not that ordinary people knew "arcane" things
about typefaces and spacing, but that the big machers at CBS didn't know
perfectly ordinary things.

SNIP

It required making an ordinary observation: "Hey, these things don't look
like they were typed in 1972." It just required being part of the real
world."Out of touch" doesn't even begin to describe what CBS did -- what CBS
News is.


I wanted this blog to be a Rather-free zone, but this article is about more than that, so I feel OK posting it. Well, maybe just a bit dirty. But, really, when it all comes down to it, normal people know a heck of a lot, and I'm expected to bring my extracurrecular knowledge to work - so why shouldn't the mainstream media? Granted, I'm not exactly Capt. Detail at work, so maybe this was something I wouldn't have caught - but I work with people who do possess that level of detail, and I'd hope that CBS might have one or two of them around as well (especially, ya know, maybe as factcheckers or something).

Sunday, September 26, 2004

 

"Daily Show" Viewers Among Most-Informed Voters

Not like it should be a surprise or anything:

No Joke: Daily Show Viewers Follow Presidential Race

PHILADELPHIA -- Viewers of late-night comedy programs, especially The Daily
Show with Jon Stewart on the cable channel Comedy Central, are more likely to
know the issue positions and backgrounds of presidential candidates than people
who do not watch late-night comedy, the University of Pennsylvania’s National
Annenberg Election Survey shows.

SNIP

“In recent years, traditional journalists have been voicing increasing
concern that if young people are receiving political information from late-night
comedy shows like The Daily Show, they may not be adequately informed on the
issues of the day,” said Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, a senior analyst at the
Annenberg Public Policy Center who conducted the research. ”This data suggests
that these fears may be unsubstantiated. We find no differences in campaign
knowledge between young people who watch Leno and Letterman – programs with a lot of political humor in their opening monologues -- and those who do not watch
late night. But when looking at young people who watch The Daily Show, we find
they score higher on campaign knowledge than young people who do not watch the show, even when education, following politics, party identification, gender,
viewing network news, reading the newspaper, watching cable news and getting
campaign information on-line are taken into account.”

SNIP

A content analysis of late-night comedy content conducted on Leno,
Letterman, and Stewart monologues and headlines from July 15 through Sept. 16
indicates that 33% of jokes made by Stewart during the show’s “headlines”
mentioned at least one policy issue, compared to 24% of Leno’s monologue jokes
and 21% of Letterman’s. Other topics covered in late-night monologues included
candidates' personalities, their chances of winning as well as events and
blunders that occurred on the campaign trail.Of the 83 political jokes made by
Stewart, only 9 specifically targeted Bush. That was 11% of his political jokes.
The same number targeted Kerry. “The Daily Show segments are less likely than a
Leno or Letterman joke to use a quick punch-line to make fun of a candidate,”
said Young. “Instead, Stewart’s lengthier segments employ irony to explore
policy issues, news events, and even the media’s coverage of the
campaign.”


So, for those of you that don't already realize that Jon Stewart and gang are
among the most-effective distributors of information on TV, there's your
proof. A little sarcasm, irony, and self-depreciating humor goes a long ways with us 20-somethings.

 

Hardcore

The story of "Nick Sadler" (not his real name), a Fortune 500 VP who quits to enlist in the army post-9/11:

http://www.hoo-ah.net/

Dang.



Saturday, September 25, 2004

 

Henry Rollins on the Passing of Johnny Ramone

From an e-mail that's going around:

As you probably know by now, Johnny Ramone (the guitar player of the one
and only Ramones) died last week on September 15th. From what I have read and
heard, he died in his sleep, surrounded by friends and family. About a week
before he passed away, I was over at Johnny's house visiting with him and his
wife Linda. It was hard to see Johnny Ramone with his hair short and gray. He
was thin and in pain. We talked about a lot of stuff: the upcoming Ramone's
tribute show, his health, film, music, and the times we played together. I told
him about the time the movie Rock & Roll High School played at the Ontario
Theater and how the Ramones walked through the theater right before the lights
went down and pretty much the whole place emptied into the lobby. He asked me if
I had seen the Ramones documentary, End of the Century (I had not seen it but
had heard amazing things about it). He told me he had a copy of the final edit
and if I wanted to, we could check it out. So we did. We sat there and watched
the whole thing. It was great and it meant a lot to watch it with him. It was
heavy to watch him watch himself and I wondered what he was thinking. After the
film was over, we talked awhile longer but it was late and Johnny was tired so
it was time for me to leave. He said to come by any time and I said how about
next week. We made plans to watch a movie and I told him I would call. I put my
hand on his arm and said, "I'll see you soon, young man", and then Linda walked
me out and I went home. That's the last time I ever saw him. I did call him a
few days after our visit to see when was a good time to come over again and he
said that he had people coming by for the next few days. Since I had to go east
to do some shows I told him I would call him after the show on Sunday and we
would set something up. That was the last time I spoke to him. On the day he
died, I was about to call him when I got the call that he had passed away. It
may sound lame, but it felt good to have the chance to personally thank him for
how The Ramones influenced a lot of bands and reached more people than anyone
could imagine. He was very humble about it all.The Ramones 30th Anniversary
Tribute happened on September 12 at the Avalon in Los Angeles. The Red Hot Chili
Peppers, The Dickies and X played great sets and then CJ Ramone, Marky Ramone
and long time producer Daniel Ray took the stage and played while different
guitar and vocal teams came out and did Ramones songs. Tim Armstrong, Danny
Bosstone, Brett Bad Religion, Eddie Vedder--everybody sang and played great. I
went onstage with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols and we did Judy is a Punk,
Commando and Blitzkrieg Bop. It was a rush and over before I knew it. I was
standing on the side of the stage catching my breath and Jones said that it was
too bad we didn't have another five songs because we were just getting into it.
I got to meet Tommy Ramone backstage, he's the only Ramone I hadn't met yet,
that was so cool. The evening's host, Rob Zombie, an extremely good guy, called
Johnny on his cell phone from the stage and we all cheered as he held up the
phone so Johnny knew we were there for him. When CJ and company went back
onstage to do Pinhead I figured it was my time to get out before the parking lot
was full of people. I slipped out the side exit and was back in my room minutes
later, still sweating. What a night. I'm glad that Johnny knew the show went
down and that it was a success. I believe that Johnny he was holding on for the
show and once it happened, he let go. What a man, what a band.


Friday, September 24, 2004

 

Drove the New Dodge Magnum RT

Yep, had a chance to hop behind the wheel of a nice Dodge Magnum RT yesterday. Yea, it's got a Hemi.

As anyone who follows my posts on the Impala SS forum know, I love the Chrysler 300 which is also built on the so-called LX platform.

The Magnum simply doesn't have the same interior quality as the 300C. I think it's still pretty nice inside, but some buyers might expect a bit more for $30K. The seats are nice, the gauges are easily visible, and most of the surfaces are soft to the touch, but it's lacking something. I like the exterior shape, but the nose still looks too big - like they stole it from a previous-generation Durango or something. It cuts a nice profile, though, and I think it looks great from a rear three-quarter viewpoint. The vehicle I drove was in a bluish-grey that Dodge calls Magnesium; it's a beautiful color that really compliments the sheetmetal. The paint quality leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps the Canadians are rolling it on or something. The 300C still has a lot greater Pimp Factor, but the Magnum looks better than any station wagon should.

Appearance items aside, the Magnum shares important mechanical bits with the 300C, like the mostly-superb A580 5-speed automatic transmission, and the V8 engine that needs no introduction.

Getting the car on a lift provided another chance to fall in love with this platform. The front suspension does away with the traditional lower control arm in favor of two links (one lateral, one locating); with the right bushing design, this allows one to engineer in some compliance in the rearward direction (for absorbing bumps), while providing good resistance to deflection under lateral loads (such as cornering). There's also a high-mounted upper control arm, a rather tall spindle, and a strut. It's similar to the Honda approach, but much taller. Out back, each side uses a pair of locating arms along with a pair of semi-trailing arms and a single toe link. I seem to recall that a show car I examined last winter used a lot of cheap-looking stamped arms in the back; the production parts I saw on this car looked much nicer. All in all, it looks like someone did the job right. I'm guessing that this suspension arrangement is pretty expensive, but probably worth the money. There's nice "little" touches like a cast transmission crossmember (it's also very short, further increasing its stiffness), and a pretty trick-looking tranmission mount bushing. The exhaust even has an X-pipe crossover.

The driving experience is much like the 300C. The same sharp handling and excellent braking that I found in the 300C are also present here. I was impressed with the visibility - there weren't the blind spots that one would expect by looking at it from the outside. There's plenty of headroom front and rear for tall passengers, and while some folks might like a bit more width, I think most people will find the interior dimensions to be just right. The size of the rear liftgate opening is quite adequate, but it's equipped with this electromechanical release that flat-out sucks. It nearly always takes two tugs to open the liftgate - one to hit the switch that triggers the actuator, and a second to give the actuator a chance to unlatch. They either need to redesign the switch or the actuator mechanism, or just develop a decent mechanical latch that doesn't freeze-up after a few years in the Salt Belt.

Of course, it's a quick car. I still don't think it's got the same low-end grunt as a LT1 B-body (the 1st-gear overall gearing is about the same, taking everything into account), but maybe that's because the Hemi has such a massive top-end rush that the lower end just feels a bit soft in comparision. I also think it sounds pretty nice past the half-throttle point or so. It probably could stand to be louder, but for an OEM exhaust system, I personally think it sounds great.

The bottom line is this: the Dodge Magnum is the most powerful production vehicle available in the US for under $30,000, it provides a ton of practicality, it appears to be extremely well-designed, and it should appeal to anyone who has looked at the past few years (OK, maybe the past few decades) of product from Detroit and asked themselves, "Where's the stuff that makes American cars cool?" Looking at the success of the 300C and Magnum, it all seems so obvious - we like big rear-wheel-drive cars with tons of power and the proper dose of technology. So why isn't everyone else building something like this?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

 

Students Punished for Installing "Stripper Pole" in Dorm Room

From the "Dammit, Why Didn't I Think Of This Idea When I Was In College" file:

Students punished after stripper pole party

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) -- Three students at Jacksonville University
have been punished for installing a stripper pole in an on-campus apartment and
taking pictures as clothed female students performed on it at a party.

About a dozen women competed for a $100 Victoria's Secret gift
certificate September 11, said James Foster, a 20-year-old who hosted the party.
None of the women disrobed.


Two words: consenting adults. I'd think that the university's time could be better-spent solving real problems in the dorms - like punishing those idiots that insist on burning incense in their rooms. Seems like these students should get some sort of award for resourcefulness or something.

 

John Gibson is a Flaming Idiot

I don't normally jump on the whole Fox News bashing bandwagon, but John Gibson really threw up all over his keyboard today and claimed that killing Iraqi terrorist Zarqawi is more important than tracking-down Bin Laden:

So what do we have? We have a guy who personally enjoys cutting the heads off
Americans — he reserves that job for himself — and a guy who is planning to
launch a civil war in Iraq.
All this adds up to public enemy number one.
As
bad as Usama is, the man America must kill now is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

As Gibson points out, Zarqawi has killed three people. Bin Laden killed nearly 3,000 in a single day, and probably another thousand or so in other various attacks. Gee, who am I going to go after?

This is exactly the sort of distraction that some folks warned about before we took a detour from the War on Terrorism and marched into Iraq. I mean, if my house is robbed, the cops don't want to do anything about it, and I decide to get revenge by finding the nearest crack house and burning it to the ground, I've probably eliminated a large negative influence, but I haven't really accomplished what I set out to do.



 

Tractor Blogging

After talking about it for a couple of years, I finally went out and bought a properly-sized compact utility tractor:






I ended up with a new Kubota L3130 - power by a 3-cylinder diesel with 32 gross HP, 25 HP at the PTO. It has an SAE Cat 1 3-point hitch out back, with a Kubota LA513 loader up front. We also purchased a Land Pride 60" rear-discharge finish mower and 60" box blade (the latter of which has not yet arrived). The thing has some decent-sized turf tires (18-44/20s out back - my first vehicle with dubs!) - filled, of course, which really give the thing a stable feel, even with a full bucket. It has Kubota's Glide Shift Transmission (GST), which is basically a manual-valve-body electronically-controlled automatic with 12 forward and 8 reverse speeds. In other words, it allows shifting on-the-fly without use of the clutch. There's also a shuttle shift, which allows clutchless shifts between forward and reverse. Doing stuff like loader work by just banging the gears seems really odd at first, but it saves a lot of wear on that delicate and deeply-buried clutch assembly.

The thing chews through waist-high grass and weeds without a problem, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what it does with a rotary cutter (AKA "brush hog"). It's really nice being up a few feet higher and having the mower deck discharge to the rear, instead of at my feet. 'Twas not a cheap purchase, but I think it'll pay for itself over the years. Additionally, as we found when shopping for a used unit, Kubotas seem to retain their value extremely well. Still, it's probably the worst purchase I've ever made in terms of horsepower per dollar.

EDIT - man, it has been painful trying to get these pictures to post correctly. I think I've editted this post about 8 times now.

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