Norm's Top 10 Worst Cars of All Time

So a little while ago (ok, over a year ago?) I did a post about 10 great performance bargains. This time, its the cars that should never have been built. Unlike most car-guy lists on the subject, I am going to try and focus on cars that have been built in recent memory and will ignore the oldies such as the Edsel and Mustang II. So here you go, the norman pantheon of crappy (not craptastic) vehicular transport.

10) suzuki x-90
The designer still has not figured out what he was trying to make. Long before the word "crossover" ever reached the American lexicon, and in fact long before the SUV buying spree hit its peak, Suzuki was already getting ready for the time when people would want a tall seating position but the features of a car.

The problem is, it took the worst of everything. It had 95hp lawnmower engine. It had a T-top (the Firebird called, it wants its roof back). It had a high seating position, rolled a lot, and then had a normal car trunk instead of a full SUV hatchback.

The finishing touch? It put the full spare inside the trunk, so there was no room in it. Glorious.
9 (tie) pontiac sunfire
Take one of the crappiest cars ever built - the Chevy Cavalier. Then make a sport/luxury version by making it look cross-eyed and designed by a 10 year old boy. Dont improve the engine, chassis, steering, suspension, or overall handling. Just sell it for more money, and a lot of idiots in Maine will buy one.

9 (tie) pontiac g3
Take one of the crappiest cars ever built - the Chevy Aveo. Then make a sport/luxury version by making it look just plain dumb. Dont improve the engine, chassis, steering, suspension, or overall handling. Just sell it for more money, and most of the idiots in Maine will buy one.

9 (tie) pontiac g5
Take one of the crappiest cars ever built - the Chevy Cobalt. Then make a sport/luxury version by.. well they really didn't do anything at all, I suppose they were tired of trying. Dont improve the engine, chassis, steering, suspension, or overall handling. Just sell it for more money, and most of the idiots in Maine will buy one. See the pattern?

8) saab 9-7x
Arguably the best Trailblazer ever built, it is absolutely the worst "Saab" ever made, because it was about as Sweedish as a meal of Slim Jims, Twinkies, and KFC. Of one of the many things GM has screwed up over the years, Saab was one of the most egregious, and one of my most loved brands (as I spent much of my childhood riding around in Saab 9000's, damn sweet cars for thier time, which have been barely updated.) The 9-7X is a testament to GM's corporate idiocy, and has barley sold any units. Let us hope Koeingsseggsegssg can do better.

7) Subaru Baja
I liked the Baja, until I found out that the pass through was the size of a letter box and that it cost $2,000 MORE than a subaru legacy outback wagon. So... you cut off the back roof, I cant fit large objects (like um...multiple pairs of skis) anymore, and you want me to pay for the privilege of looking like goofy wannabe hippie? Right... I think I will go take my $2,000 extra and buy a Ford Ranchero..

6) chevy HHR
The PT Cruiser was a success. So what did GM do? They hired the designer and had him transplant the PT Cruiser onto a Chevy Cobalt body. And then, they claimed the inspiration was 30's Suburbans. Insulting. I've riden in one, I felt like I was inside a coal car that had been turned into a prison cell, with small windows which you had no chance of seeing anything out of other than the sky. I actually dont hate the exterior styling that much, but if you ever sat in one of these you would understand my hatred. It is slated to be killed off next year, thankfully.

5 and 4 (tie) Chevy SSR and Plymouth Prowler

Factory built hod rods. Seems like a good idea. But dig a little deeper, and these rotten apples should have never been allowed past concept car stage.

Offender number 1: the SSR. This thing is based on GM's small pickup truck body. Yeah. Pickup truck. They actually sold it as a pickup as well. Does it look like a pickup? Does it have a useable rear bed? No and no. Problem was it drove like a small GM pickup (badly), albeit one with 350hp.
Then you have the Plymouth Prowler. Looks good. Looks real good actually. So why is it one of the 10 crappiest cars of all time?

First of all it looks good because it was a direct and unauthorized ripoff of a award winning Chip Foose design.

Then, they dropped in a 250hp v6, instead of the v8 which should have lived under the hood.

After which, they decided to emasculate the car with a automatic transmission as the only option in a purpose built sports car, and then topped it all off with a full serving of crappy handling and bad driving dynamics. It makes the list because this should have been one of my favorite cars of all time, but was killed by evil corporate beancounters who dont understand true market economics (the same guys who helped killed the american car industry overall, and gave us crappy American car after crappy American car for three decades.)

If you are going to make a retro sport coupe, please please give it a v8 with some power, and the option to have a manual.. and you know.. be sporty.

3) jaguar x-type
Take a 2nd gen Ford Mondeo. Make it cost $10,000 more. Make it look crappy and boring. Put a leaping cat on it. Sell it to the public. Continue selling it to the public even after the Mondeo gets a redesign, and is way better and still $10,000 cheaper. Make "sport" version of wagon by making roof rails chrome. Kill off the car because it was a complete and utter failure, and made the brand look crappy and hardly worth having in the driveway of your $5million house anymore. Such was the unhappy history of the crappiest Jag ever built, and yes, I am including the atrocious XJS. Thank God there is the new XF, and I hope the pain of the x-type fades quickly..

2) Geo Metro convertible
Take one of the crappiest cars ever built, one which has the structural rigidity of a toothpick house, and then cut off the roof. The end result is the structural equivalent of those new Poland Spring water bottles - 25% ligher, and guaranteed to crumple the second you touch it. Only thing is, you get to be inside the Geo when this happens. But really, the number one reason that this thing is on the list is because you have to be seen in it. To enjoy a convertible, you have to have the top down, and that means everyone can see you. That is absolutely the last thing you want to have happen when you are driving around in this junker.

1) trailblazer XUV
Do you regularly buy living Christmas trees? Are you a terracotta warrior collector? Do you have a hankering for an open-air Popemobile? Do you have a pet giraffe? If you answered no to the above questions, the Trailblazer XUV is one of the worst vehicles you could buy. It was a trailblazer with a roof on the back which slid forward to let you put in objects that were tall but could not be laid flat... like... a lit patio heater, a cursed native american totem pole, a pet NBA star, or your friend who refuses to sit down ever again because of a deathly fear of lint. I think that pretty much covers it. The downside was a ton of weight positioned at the worst possible point (the roof), instead of, oh I dont know, a crew cab Silverado pickup? Good call GM.

Russia to buy Mistral assault ships from France

Russia is seeking to buy a Mistral class amphibious assault ship from France. This is a huge admission of inability on the part of Russia.

Assault ships are small aircraft carriers which are used for marines and helicopters, and in a pinch can use Harriers and other VTOL aircraft. The Mistral is about 20,000 tons - which makes it a medium weight assault ship.

The us versions are about 40,000 tons, which put them in the same class as most other country's full aircraft carriers.

The fact that Russia, which has been struggling to even convert a Kiev class crusier to an aircraft carrier for India, is now shopping abroad is a sign of just how far their shipyards and domestic military industry has fallen. The Russian Navy was never the strongest of its forces, but buying from France? That is falling a long long way.

On another note, France continues its longstanding trend of supplying military hardware to every undesirable corner of the globe. Damn French.

Why Craigslist is a Pain in the Ass

And its not Craigslist's fault. Its the fault of all of the scammers out there, most of whom are not US based, and the chance at $100 or $10,000 US hard currency is too good to pass up.

It seems the current scam actually involves Paypal, not Western Union for a change, not sure what the angle is, Paypal is usually pretty secure (a good sign though is the fact that no one, ever, in the history of Craigslist that I have experience, has asked to use paypal other than scammers).

Things I love about these:
1) They all have their full and very generic names as their gmail account name. "John Smith" is my personal favorite
2) They barely speak English
3) They want to "buy" the item without even having seen it
4) They want everything ASAP - nothing on Craigslist is ASAP - its As Soon As You Show Up With Cash in Your Hand

Randy recently told me of one which used the address and pictures of a place which was actually up for rent, none of these are that good, but still amusing.

grace mark

to me
show details 1:26 PM (34 minutes ago)

oh thanks for your quick response,am mrs Grace,am living miami florida,i will like to tell you that am so interested in buying this your item for my son whom schools in oversea there in(west Africa)..and i will be paying you via my paypal account i want to tell you that i will not be able to come for the pickup..i will be paying you $150 for the item and $200 for the shipping down to my son iwill like you to get back to me with your paypal e-mail account,so that i will be able to make the payment ASAP..i am waiting for your response..

catherine allen

to me
show details 10:30 AM (3 hours ago)

Well im sorry,i only deal with paypal and it's safest way to pay
online cos have been scam before and i dont give out my account just
like that..So if u are still willing to sell the item for me kindly
get back to me with your paypal email money request or if you do not
have one.Just log on to this link by setting up a paypal email money
request once you are done with that,kindly
get back to me with it so that i mcan proceed with the payment
asap..Looking forward to read from you..

Best Regards,

Sent from my iPhone.

(I especially loved the Sent from my iPhone touch - when it was not formatted correctly to be the tag for the real "Sent from my iPhone")

Then, after I told scammers to go away (in slightly more uncouth terms), this is the response I get:

catherine allen

to me
show details 4:04 PM (0 minutes ago)

iyalaya obo iya,ogun apa iya ni,kilon wori iya,baba iya..wakuni,were..

John Smith

to me
show details 1:24 PM (41 minutes ago)

Am okay with the price
Do you still have it with you???
How old is the item,?
Does it work perfectly?
Does it have accessories and box??

Do you have paypal account??Payment will be made Via My PayPal Account
cos its very secure and safe to receive to receive in an online
transaction.Get back to me with your paypal email account so i can
send the money into your account ASAP.

Norm Solves the World's Problems

One of the central planks of my platform when I run for ruler of the world will be this:

A new "lane" for certain drivers. Previously known as "the shoulder" all drivers of:
Oldsmobiles (how ever many are left)
Rounded (pre STS/CTS) Cadillacs
Any American car from the 1980's
and Subaru Wagons
will be required to drive in this "lane" under penalty of having their driver's licenses revoked and their cars sold for scrap.

A panel (me) would be set up to arbitrarily decide which demographic of cars was currently pissing me off and would be added to the list.

The Electric Problem

Electric cars are coming. Range extended hybrids will be the first, and then popular, name brand full on electric cars.

But there are some issues.

For plug-ins, how do you calculate MPG? For the Volt, GM claimed it would get 230mpg city, then the EPA said no, but plugged the government built car as the savior of all things holy.

The problem is how far you drive it. Drive under 40 miles, and you are all electric. Drive to Grandma's house in Duluth and you are going to be burning a fair bit of gas - the Volt will probably get 40mpg or so. The media has focused on how you measure such things, and the answer is - its tricky.

But I have another, and realistically bigger problem. I dont have a garage. Actually, not only do I not have a garage, most of the people who live in cities and a great number of people who commute into cities do not have garages. They live in apartments, they live in townhouses, they live in 2 family homes, and even those who at one point had a garage they could conceivably park their car in have accumulated so much stuff that landslides are a significant risk when opening the garage door. Range extended electric vehicles and plug in hybrids (the distinction is whether the gasoline motor ever drives the wheels, in a plug in Prius it will, in a Volt it wont) need a garage space, or an extension cable awkwardly run out to the car in front of the yard.

Practical things like this matter to car buyers. I would speculate that I just cut in half the number of potential Volt owners.

However, perhaps the biggest killer is this: once you have bought your home, accumulated enough wealth to buy a Volt, then cleared out all the crap in your garage you accumulated in the process of accumulating wealth, a vehicle plugged into a 110 V circuit for eight hours gets about the same energy as what is in a third of a gallon of gasoline.

I hate slow pumps at the gas station. They drive me crazy. I specifically avoid stations which I know to have slow pumps. A third of a gallon in 8hrs? That is a whole different scale of slow.

Sure, you can plug it and forget it, but still, that is a very small of energy to put "in the tank" overnight, in your garage that you had to clear out just for the purpose.

Dont get me wrong, I love the idea of the Volt. I think it is a great step forward in cars and car design. If it works well, I think people will willingly and in great numbers overcome their doubts and worries and buy the car and all subsequent EVs, but it is important to see all of the issues.

If you are a home owner with a spare space in the garage, have a 220v hookup, work in the city or close to home, have extra income to spend on saving the environment, are a first adopter and dont mind buying from Govt. Motors, boy have I got a car for you.

Cato Update on Obamacare

Quick update of main issues, from the Cato Institute:

Wonder What ObamaCare Would Be Like? Look at Massachusetts

In today’s Detroit News, Cato director of health policy studies Michael F. Cannon explains that we can see what ObamaCare would look like by examining post-reform Massachusetts. It's not a pretty picture. More Massachusetts residents think the reform has failed than think it's succeeded — and with good reason. "Premiums are growing 21 to 46 percent faster than the national average," Cannon writes, and "Statistics on waiting times for specialist care in Massachusetts read like a dispatch from Canada."

Sorry, Mr. President, the Legislation Disagrees with You

"If you like your health insurance, you can keep it," is a frequent presidential refrain. Unfortunately for President Obama, the House bill contains several provisions that disagree. In an Orange County Register op-ed, Cato senior fellow Michael D. Tanner shows how the legislation could oust you from your current plan.

How ObamaCare Would Ration Your Medical Care

In the September issue of Townhall magazine, Cannon explains that although "President Obama is far too skilled a politician to admit that he wants the federal government to ration medical care, that is precisely what he has in mind." Take, for example, Obama's statement that when it comes to end-of-life care decisions, "I think we have to have rules." Cannon recounts different ways they could ration care, from explicit rationing to price controls to trying to have doctors do the dirty work.

Irrational Incentives in Massachusetts

The current issue of Cato Journal contains an article by Craig J. Richardson looking at how Massachusetts' mandates and subsidies have created perverse incentives for employers and employees. A $1,000 raise can actually cost workers more than $3,000, while employers face disincentives to expand and hire new workers. The current mess in Massachusetts "offers cautionary lessons for the United States."

Patrick Stewart sees a ghost

Interesting ghost sighting, mostly because I like him as an actor, and think that most people (myself included) would not be able to come up with any reason he would have to make something like this up. The play is very highly received, he is a world-class actor, and he does whatever shows he wants at this point: its not about publicity.

From the Telegraph: - He saw the apparition while performing Waiting for Godot with Sir Ian McKellen.

Stage hands believe he saw the ghost of John Baldwin Buckstone, who was actor-manager of the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the mid 19th century and a friend of Charles Dickens.

Upon coming offstage for the interval, Stewart told his co-star that he saw a man standing in the wings wearing what looked like a beige coat and twill trousers.

Sir Ian asked him: "What happened, what threw you?"

"I just saw a ghost. On stage, during Act One," Stewart replied.

The episode was related in a documentary about the Theatre Royal Haymarket, produced by television channel Sky Arts.

However, it appears cameramen failed to capture images of the ghost itself.

Buckstone had a long association with the Theatre Royal, first as a comic actor, then as a playwright and finally as its actor-manager from 1853 to 1877, during which time it put on some 200 productions. The house became the leading comic theatre of the day.

He did not die in the building, passing away peacefully at home in Sydenham, Kent, after a long illness in 1879 aged 77. But theatre lore professes that he nevertheless haunts the place to the present day.

Nigel Everett, a director of the theatre, said: "Patrick told us all about it. He was stunned. I would not say frightened, but I would say impressed."

Appearances of Buckstone were not that frequent, Mr Everett said, with the last being by a stage hand about three or four years ago.

He added: "The last time an actor saw him would have been I think Fiona Fullerton, playing in an Oscar Wilde, 10 or 12 years ago.

"The ghost tends to appear when a comedy is playing."

While he said he did not consider Waiting for Godot to be a comedy, he thought their production did have comic aspects.

"I think Buckstone appears when he appreciates things," he added. "We view it as a positive thing."

Why GM was reluctant to sell Saab

Even though they had done basically nothing with it for 15 years other than try and sell rebadged Subarus and rebadged Chevy Trailblazers, GM did not want to let go of Saab when they had to.


Because they put a lot of time and effort into this, the next gen 9-5 (which should still be called the 9000 - has BMW ever changed the name of the 5 series? No.)

Other good news? Every engine will have a turbo, all the way up to a 300hp v6 turbo with advanced AWD.

The nice thing about classics is that they are great books, and they are cheap. Because they are off copyright, anyone can make a version of them, and while some editing and typefacing, formatting, printing and binding went into the cheap Barnes & Noble editions, absolutely nothing (other than a scanner) goes into the Google version.

Which is why they are free.

Not only are they free to read online, they are free to download in PDF format. Which is actually very nice, for those of us (Norm included), who consistently use and rely on portable electronics (in my case, a Nokia 770 and Palm Pre - a giant crack though my laptop screen greatly reduces my love of reading on it...).

It also makes me wonder what the cost would be just to print off the whole book? If only I was still a student at Colby (printing was free)... it would have made all those English Lit classes significantly cheaper (though significantly more annoying - carrying around a backpack full of 8x10 novels? not fun).

Anyway, go to and get your read on.

Cows: Threat to Mankind?

About a month ago I posted about how dangerous cows were to humans. Now, a UK farm group has come out with a stiff warning.

"LONDON (Reuters) - The deaths of no fewer than four people after being trampled by cows in the past two months has prompted Britain's main farming union to issue a warning about the dangers of provoking the normally docile animals.

Cows can become aggressive and charge, especially when calves are present and walkers are accompanied by dogs, said the National Farmers Union (NFU)."

The thing is, I actually have some experience with this. I have been hiking in the UK my whole life, and part of that is going through farm fields (a lot of public paths do so in the UK). There are a lot of cows in these fields. What I have learned is this.

1) if there is a bull be careful, don't look at it, don't make noises at it, and walk with a quick pace

2) if there is no bull, you can take your time, take some pretty pictures etc

3) do not moo at the cows. They really don't like this.

4) do not stare at the cows. They really don't like this.

5) if you moo at the cows, and try and stare them down, you will get what is coming to you. Cows are quick when they want to be. How good are you at jumping fences and hedges?

In other words, cows are dangerous when you are a provocative pain in the ass. This pretty much goes for every single animal out there, except for the few predatory types left which still think of you as lunch.

Torrents dying

The Pirate Bay was shut down by a take down notice from the Swedish Govt. While there are mirrors of the site up and running (and on the run), the original is gone. Very sad.

Another major torrent site, Mininova, just got notice that the Danes dont like file sharing either, and were told to take down every copyright-infringing torrent, or pay $1,000 for each one... which pretty much means its gone.

RIP Torrents, long live whatever comes next.

Big Picture

the best thing about the Boston Globe? Actually its the only part I look at at all: The Big Picture. A pretty much incredible photo blog.

One of the recent ones is all shots of aircraft, and it is spectacular. The formatting does not work for me to do my usual copy and past - the pics are too big.

Head over here to see it.

World's Largest Wooden Building, or Russia is Crazy, part 157,634

Pretty impressive... not much more info available, but crazy nonetheless

nikolai sutyagin's home in arkhangelsk, a city in russia's far north-west, started life as a two-storey building,
however this is no longer the case. for the past 15 years sutyagin has dedicated much of his spare time
transforming the house into what is considered the tallest wooden building in the world, or at least russia.
at present the building has 13 floors and stands at 144ft / 43m high.

Norm Quoted in the NYT

Got quoted in the NYT today. Not the best quote, but so it goes.

Did you pay over $1000 for your computer?

Because if you did, chances are you bought a Mac.

A new study shows that 91% of computer buyers who spent over $1,000 were getting a Mac.

Average selling price of your shiny white box: $1400.

Average selling price of your matte black box: $700.

So yeah, on average Mac buyers pay twice as much to get a computer. Which, well, strikes me as really dumb. I mean, what are you doing on your computer that you need to spend so much? Because if it is a Mac, you are not gaming on it. In fact, in a recent ranking (told to me by my brother James) Mac came out as the #3 gaming operating system, beaten by Linux with WINE windows emulation. Yeah. And don't try and tell me you use your Macbook Pro for photo editing. a) getting rid of red eye and cutting out the dumpster on the left of the photo does not count, and b) you dont need anything faster than a 1999 Gateway for photoshop. If you said "I run Final Cut all the time" then fine, anything less and you dont need a Mac. And anyway, if that is the case, why are you using a laptop? Do you work for Perez Hilton?

Car Safety technology: Norm's Take

A slew of new technologies are coming out to make driving safer. This is my take on them.

Radar which stops you from rear ending the car in front in traffic:
This is fantastic. Its debut was with Volvo, fitting, so that all the soccer Mom's and dim witted drivers dont ram me in the ass when I am parked somewhere under Boston. I am a big fan of this one, though if you are one of the drivers who thinks it might be worthwhile to shell out an extra $1,000 for this, you probably should not be driving.

Cameras which tell you I am in your blind spot:
I could count the times that someone almost swerves, actually you cant call it swerving, lazily drifts into me on an almost daily basis. Route 2 in the morning, check. Route 2 at night, check. On any long drive (especially through CT), this is guaranteed to happen at least once. I am looking forward to this one.

Rearview Cameras:
Unless you work at a preschool, this should not be a safety consideration. Nonetheless, I will include it here. If you are among the 90% of Americans who dont know how to reverse, this should be a good one. If you drive a big SUV - I can see the justification. From the front, the back of my expy was in a different zip code. If you drive a Lexus.. well.. you drive a Lexus.. enough said.

Cameras which tell you when you are changing lanes:
The idea here is they beep at you if you have not used an indicator. This is a good thing. Also, I am of the firm opinion that these should be mandated on all narrow highways (the Merritt comes to mind) and on craptastic little roads like Fresh Pond Parkway and Soldiers Field in Boston - too bad the lane markings are so bad on those the cameras would probably not work. Also, I think these should be mandated for drivers 70 and up.

Brake lights that strobe when braking hard:
These are good. I thought about it a while ago (having some kind of low/hi for brake lights), and then Mercedes came out with the solid/strobe setup. I am a big fan. I count myself as one of the few drivers who pays attention not only to who is in front of me, but who is behind me as well. Years of driving a tank (Expedition) aggressively do that to you.

Cruise control with radar to follow the guy in front:
Means that all the gapers in the left lane will go exactly the same speed. I HATE when they all go the same speed. It is getting me pissed off just thinking about it. If you are not passing someone, get the hell out of the left lane you lazy bastards. The only good thing about this is that maybe, just maybe, they will be paying so little attention that when I blow by them on the right then cut them off, they will forget to angrily accelerate and try and stop me.

The abandoned seaplane

Found this pretty incredible story/photos around on the interwebs:

It's a beautiful seaplane abandoned between the sea and the desert of Saudi Arabia and it's been left there for almost 50 years. The plane is a PBY-5A Catalina, a military American seaplane from the 1930's. It's is located on a beach off the Strait of Tiran on the Saudi Arabia side of the entrance to the Gulf of Aqaba. Thanks to Adam, we get to know about it and it's story (You too can propose a story to us) :

"The aircraft is a PBY-5A model and was bought from the US Navy by Thomas W Kendall, a retired businessman who converted it to a luxury flying yacht.

The PBY-5A Catalina was one of the most widely used multi-role aircraft of World War II.

In the spring of 1960 Mr Kendall took a pleasure trip around the world with his wife and children together with his secretary and her son. A photographer joined the group to cover part of the trip for life magazine.

On the 22nd March 1960 they landed at the Strait of Tirana and anchored the aircraft a short distance from the shore to spend the night there. They heard someone shouting but did not pay any attention.

In the afternoon of the following day they were attacked with machine guns and automatic firearms from a headland nearby. The children were able to swim back to the aircraft. Mr Kendal and his secretary were wounded while trying to start the Catalina but moved it about 800 metres, unfortunately it ran aground on a coral reef.

The firing lasted 30 to 40 minutes and no fewer than 300 shots hit the aircraft. The fuel tanks were perforated and 4000 litres of fuel poured from the holes but miraculously the aircraft did not catch fire. The sea was only about 1.5 metres deep and all aboard managed to leave the aircraft and reach the shore.

On the beach they were captured by a group of Bedouins attached to the Saudi Arabian army, who had taken them to be Israeli commandos. They were eventually taken to Jeddah, interrogated and finally set free with the help of the American Ambassador. The Ambassador protested to the Saudi Arabian government but they refused to accept any liability for the attack and consequent loss of the aircraft." Incredible story.

Why the Pre rules

I am currently writing this on my laptop, which is connected to the Sprint network with my Pre running as a wireless modem.

Really wireless, because the laptop is connected via wifi to the Pre.

Yeah, its nerdy, but I love it. Wifi wherever I go.

WSJ ObamaCare Contradictions

Good article here.. I will paraphrase.

ObamaCare's Contradictions

The President does both sides now on his health insurance plan.

Over the past week, President Obama has held three town-halls to make the case for his health-care plan. While he didn't say much that he hasn't said a thousand times before, his remarks did offer another explanation for the public's skepticism of ObamaCare. Namely, the President contradicts himself every other breath. Consider:

He likes to start off explaining our catastrophe of a health system. "What is truly scary—what is truly risky—is if we do nothing," he said in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We can't "keep the system the way it is right now," he continued, while his critics are "people who want to keep things the way they are."


However, his supporters also want to keep things the way they are. "I keep on saying this but somehow folks aren't listening," Mr. Obama proclaimed in Grand Junction, Colorado. "If you like your health-care plan, you keep your health-care plan. Nobody is going to force you to leave your health-care plan. If you like your doctor, you keep seeing your doctor. I don't want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care."

Mr. Obama couldn't be more opposed to "some government takeover," as he put it in Belgrade, Montana. In New Hampshire, he added that people were wrong to worry "that somehow some government bureaucrat out there will be saying, well, you can't have this test or you can't have this procedure because some bean-counter decides that this is not a good way to use our health-care dollars."

So no bureaucrats, no bean-counters. Mr. Obama merely wants to create "a panel of experts, health experts, doctors, who can provide guidelines to doctors and patients about what procedures work best in what situations, and find ways to reduce, for example, the number of tests that people take" (New Hampshire, again). Oh, and your health-care plan? You can keep it, as long your insurance company or employer can meet all the new regulations Mr. Obama favors. His choice of verbs, in Montana, provides a clue about what that will mean: "will be prohibited," "will no longer be able," "we'll require" . . .

Maybe you're starting to fret about all those bureaucrats and bean-counters again. You shouldn't, according to Mr. Obama. "The only thing I would point is, is that Medicare is a government program that works really well for our seniors," he noted in Colorado. After all, as he said in New Hampshire, "If we're able to get something right like Medicare, then there should be a little more confidence that maybe the government can have a role—not the dominant role, but a role—in making sure the people are treated fairly when it comes to insurance."

The government didn't get Medicare right, though: Just ask the President. The entitlement is "going broke" (Colorado) and "unsustainable" and "running out of money" (New Hampshire). And it's "in deep trouble if we don't do something, because as you said, money doesn't grow on trees" (Montana).

So the health-care status quo needs top-to-bottom reform, except for the parts that "you" happen to like. Government won't interfere with patients and their physicians, considering that the new panel of experts who will make decisions intended to reduce tests and treatments doesn't count as government. But Medicare shows that government involvement isn't so bad, aside from the fact that spending is out of control—and that program needs top-to-bottom reform too.

Voters aren't stupid. The true reason ObamaCare is in trouble isn't because "folks aren't listening," but because they are.

Naked Fail

Ranimal found this one... classic...

Naked passenger arrested on flight from Oakland
August 20, 2009 2:50 PM

OAKLAND (AP) — Authorities say a St. Louis-bound Southwest Airlines flight was forced to return to Oakland International Airport after a male passenger stripped, hit another passenger and fought with crew members.

Alameda County sheriff's deputies say flight 947 returned Thursday morning after 21-year-old Darius Chappille of Oakland allegedly exposed himself to the female passenger sitting next to him and punched her in the face.

Lt. Howard Jacobs says flight attendants and other passengers then subdued Chappille, as he disrobed. He was apparently completely naked when sheriff's deputies arrested him.

Chappille and the woman were taken to the hospital for minor injuries.

A Southwest Airlines representative says the flight took off from Oakland again around 10:16 a.m.

Why Greenpeace needs to go away

"The giveaways and preferences in the bill will actually spur a new generation of nuclear and coal-fired power plants to the detriment of real energy solutions."

How the hell does Greenpeace seriously put coal and nuclear in the same boat? Nuclear provides 70% of our CO2 free energy, and that is without building a plant in 30 years. Yet Greenpeace seems to think that it and coal are just the same thing.

What the hell do you want Greenpeace? You don't even know anymore do you? You wanted to saved the whales, they are basically saved (the Japanese never got the memo it seems). You wanted to save the ozone, is seems to be doing pretty well. Now, you want "real energy solutions" but you dont want the one energy solution which can actually provide real energy.

Your policies are based on idiocy, emotion, and anti-homo sapienism, they are not even based on actual environmental benefit anymore.

Go away. Go back to your yurts, tents, caves and recycled post-consumer cardboard hovels.

Kansas: I love you

I have only driven through Kansas once. I probably only stopped for Subway and a bathroom. If I remember correctly, there were so many bugs hitting the windshield of the Expy it sounded like I was in the middle of a downpour. But now, there is a reason to love Kansas.

They enacted a law making it illegal to drive in the left lane unless you are passing! This is fantastic. While I don't want to see this abused when there is no one on the road but you... most of the time, everyone needs to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE LEFT LANE AND LET ME BY. This really, honestly, drives me crazy. All the time. Every time I see it, which is every single damn time that I drive. And what do I do? Tailgate, honk, undertake, highbeam, use the slow lane as a passing lane (or my personal favorite, passing 100 gapers at once using the truck hill climb lane), everything which is not the way that the roads are meant to operate. And it is entirely the fault of the damn gaper who thinks its ok to do 70 in a 65 in the passing lane because the guy 100 yards in front of him is doing the same speed. I am fine with 90% of the American population being gapers when they all queue up in one line when 4 are available, when they all subsidize my life with their bad purchasing habits, and when they pay for my TV content by staring at commercials, but when they all sit in the same damn left lane--always with just enough slowpokes and trucks dotted around the inside lanes to make passing exciting or impossible--and block the highways with their collective gapetastic lack of brainpower, then they drive me crazy.

Why do I love Kansas? Because they state that "the law is designed to reduce road rage and prevent motorists from trying risky maneuvers." Thank you Kansas, thank you. If only I could put up with living in flat state millions of miles from mountains or the oceans, I would live there. Actually, no. But I do love the law, and hope word gets around..

If other states don't pick up this law I might just have to turn to plan b.. missiles

Carbon Footprint

Just did the math (working on an analysis of Waxman Markey).

With credits from the Northeast cap and trade program I could offset my entire annual carbon footprint for about $20.

For over a year in 2007-2008 you could have bought 1 ton of European CO2 for under $1.

It just seems pathetically meaningless..

But think about this: in the EIA high-case scenario for the Waxman Markey bill, my annual CO2 footprint (9 tons) would cost $1,674 in 2030.

The Hippie unfriendly algal biofuels option: Fish squeezing

A new company has come up with a way to bypass the inherent difficulty of algal biofuels: getting the biofuel out of the algae. But first, some background:

Algal biofuels have a lot of potential. Basically, it has a very high yield per acre, it consumes rather than produces CO2 (I have researched it for EnSys because of this), and in the long term could be a great solution to the "energy crises" - if anyone can get it to work. Tests have been going on since the mid 50's, and so far, no gas.

It is, however, impressive technology. Set up a tank, tanks, or pond. Feed it light and CO2 (one free, the other you will be paid to take). After a while, take the algae and break them down to get the oil they have produced out (this part is especially tricky).

The problem is that it never works out. Invasive algae take over from the stuff you want. The little guys die out from not enough this or too much that. And, in the end, it is damn hard to get any fuel actually out of the persistently non-permeable cell walls.

Enter the fish.
IMG_4632.jpg image by blogindulgence

The new company's idea is to avoid all that trouble with harvesting by having little fishies swimming around and then, when you are ready to harvest, squishing the fishies. They have eaten tons of biodiesel (or not actually biodiesel, it has to be refined first), and thus it is all concentrated in one place, and so would supposedly be easier to harvest.

Imagine the conversation:
"So, that old Mercedes runs on biodiesel?"
"Yeah, converted it myself"
"You know, it smells different, my friend used to have one, always smelt like fries or chinese food, this kinda smells like fish"
"Yup, I run it on the crushed remains of algae farm raised fish"
Hippie number one runs away, crying, castro hat falling off mid emo-sprint

The other problem, and one that actually interests me more, is the fact that with this option you are not raising one crop, but two. The added challenges, difficulties, and variables make it hard for me to believe that this will be the algal biofuels approach which finally brings the tech out of its 60 year test phase.

California City: the 3rd largest in California

There is a ghost city that never was in the desert of California. Pretty incredible story this (text from jalopnik and wikipedia):

California City had its origins in 1958 when real estate developer and sociology professor Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres (320 km2) of Mojave Desert land with the aim of master-planning California's next great city. He designed his model city, which he hoped would one day rival Los Angeles in size, around a Central Park with a 26 acre artificial lake. Growth did not happen anywhere close to what he expected. To this day a vast grid of crumbling paved roads, scarring vast stretches of the Mojave desert, intended to lay out residential blocks, extends well beyond the developed area of the city. A single look at satellite photos shows the extent of the scarred desert and how it stakes its claim to being California's 3rd largest geographic city, 34th largest in the US. California City was incorporated in 1965.

California City came about as part land speculation, part ambitious dream. In the 60's the population boom was coming to fruiting and was fueling enormous need for additional housing. Nathan Mendelsohn was the man with a dream of building an entire new city north of Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, a planned metropolis which offered an escape from the problems of Los Angeles. After developing his ambitious plans, securing funding and purchasing 186.5 square miles of desert, he brought in city planners who laid out streets, parks, neighborhoods and industrial districts. The planned roads were cut into the desert and the city was incorporated in 1965. Lots were sold cheap, as low as $990, and industrial plots were sold for $1 an acre in order to encourage business to move in. It was going swimmingly for a while, the land speculation frenzy meant everyone wanted to be in on the ground floor of the next big thing, so people were buying, but they weren't building.

After years of planning, the effort ran out of steam. Without a reason for the city to be there, people didn't have a reason to move in. Mendelsohn sold the property and moved on to other endeavors. To this day there are only 8,385 living in the western corner of the huge city. Hyundai actually took advantage of the cheap land and built their desert testing facility to the west of town. The vast and empty network of roads remain though, a testament to the huge dream and optimism of the plan. It's kind of spooky looking through the city that never was.

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Why transformers 2 sucked: this guy directed it

Yahoo Fail

So my current email system is pissing me off slightly, because I hate (really hate) local email clients like Outlook and Thunderbird (why should I have to store emails on one computer in one place, or face a 100mb inbox limit? Is this 1997?), but I am also pissed off about the fact that Outlook registers emails sent from atallett @ ensysenergy dot com through Gmail, as "from atallett @ gmail dot com, on behalf of atallett @ ensysenergy dot com, all the extra spaces etc so I dont get spam), so I have heard yahoo does not have this issue. Ok, I gave it a try.

First up, yahoo is now calling their email ymail. Hilarious. The bad part is that 5 years after gmail came out, ymail is not even close to being as easy to use as gmail... from 5 years ago. Fail.

And then there was this: one of the most annoying things I have ever come across in my life. I am sorry Yahoo, but if this is what you serve up, you deserve the long slow death you are dying..

Every time you want to send an email - this pops up. Maybe it is just for new accounts, I dont care, it is ridiculous and amazingly annoying.

War without a General: a sure path to defeat

“You need a general,” said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia and chairman of the health subcommittee of the Finance Committee. Of the job vacancy, Mr. Rockefeller said: “It’s a big problem. I can’t explain it.”

The Obama administration has yet to fill the role of CEO (though they don't call it that - the government avoids the term) for "Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services" - the organization which oversees the government healthcare plans.

It is quite a surprising oversight by the administration, seeing as they have put healthcare reform at the top of the priority list.

Of course, part of it could be that Obama had earmarked the spot of Health and Human Service Secretary for the ultimate scumbag of Washington: Tom Daschle. Tom had worked hard for Obama through the campaign, and the position had been publically promised to him (in Washington terms) since Obama won the primary.

Of course, he could not take the job, because it turns out he took free services (limo, driver) from a "friend," and then did not realize he would have to report it to the IRS. Whoops. The man with no morals is amusingly enough currently selling his "consulting services" to United - the private company which is to blame for much of the public hatred of private companies, and a private company which is firmly opposed to public healthcare. Oh yeah, and all this is after he authored a book supporting public healthcare. In other words, Tom Daschle would sell his soul for a nickel and a newspaper article.

This all becomes more amusing because Obama promised not to hire lobbyists into his administration - he has hired 20+ so far, and tried to get Daschle in.

Tom Daschle is a bit of a sidetrack, as he was never up for the job of running Medi(care/caid), but the speculation is that without a health secretary Obama did not want to move on an administrator - essentially the position one below that of the secretary.

So there you have it, we don’t have anyone running Medicare or Medicaid in the middle of the biggest healthcare reform effort since the New Deal because Obama wanted to give a Secretary position to an ex-Senator lobbyist who helped his campaign.

So much for "ethical" and "interest-free" - not that they were ever big concerns of mine to begin with. At this point I would very happily settle for "ineffective." I used to think that an ineffective government was a bad thing: all through the healthcare debate I have been hoping the government did not have the ability to ramrod the bill through. Part of it has been that no one knows what is going on. The Blue Crosses are running around asking why they are not the health care co-ops of choice, and if they will qualify. American people were concerned and unsure of what they will be getting and what they will be paying. And Medicare and Medicaid really had no idea what was going to happen if the US went to a single payer system.

Perhaps it would have been good to have a general or two to fight the war...

Stig's Identity biggest mystery of last 100 years

At least, according to a British newspaper poll it is. Stig got 25% of the vote, Loch Ness Nessie got 16% and the JFK assassination got 12%.

Seems about right.

New Study finds Twitter 91.3% pointless

Basically, a new study found that 91.3% of all tweets on Twitter had no value. Roughly 40% were just junk ("My left big toenail is cute"), and about 40% were conversations - IM's. All in all, they found that only 8.7% were actually "of value."

This comes on the heels of another study which showed that only 6% of Twitter users are actually genuinely active.

All hail Twitter, King of hype. Not sure how Twitter managed to explode and become the cool new thing the way it did, but with much more content (photos, etc) I think Facebook has a lot more staying power.

Pics of the day: Living bridges

This is taken from - and it is pretty amazing.

The living bridges of Cherrapunji, India are made from the roots of the Ficus elastica tree. This tree produces a series of secondary roots from higher up its trunk and can comfortably perch atop huge boulders along the riverbanks, or even in the middle of the rivers themselves.

Cherrapunji is credited with being the wettest place on earth, and The War-Khasis, a tribe in Meghalaya, long ago noticed this tree and saw in its powerful roots an opportunity to easily cross the area's many rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their bridges.

In order to make a rubber tree's roots grow in the right direction - say, over a river - the Khasis use betel nut trunks, sliced down the middle and hollowed out, to create root-guidance systems.
The thin, tender roots of the rubber tree, prevented from fanning out by the betel nut trunks, grow straight out. When they reach the other side of the river, they're allowed to take root in the soil. Given enough time, a sturdy, living bridge is produced.

The root bridges, some of which are over a hundred feet long, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional, but they're extraordinarily strong - strong enough that some of them can support the weight of fifty or more people at a time.

Because they are alive and still growing, the bridges actually gain strength over time - and some of the ancient root bridges used daily by the people of the villages around Cherrapunji may be well over five hundred years old.

One special root bridge, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world, is actually two bridges stacked one over the other and has come to be known as the "Umshiang Double-Decker Root Bridge."

Click on any image for a larger view

All the credit for this blog goes to Atlas Obscura's Wonderful Post on living root bridges. Many thanks to Tim
Video from: Travel and... Action! Thanks Barbara, Jose and Gines

Boeing Delays Dreamliner, regrets A380 snarky comments

Ok, I made up the second part of that headline, but the whole time that Airbus was having problems getting their A380 off the ground Boeing was trying to pull Airbus customers over to the new and amazing Dreamliner 787. Well, it would be amazing, if it ever flies.

Turns out that while electrical wiring was the problem for Airbus' big baby, it is the carbon fiber (this time around) in Boeing's fuel sipping sparrow which is causing the problems. Some wrinkling of the carbon fiber and you end up with a whole lot less structural integrity.

The two planes dont compete with each other at all - one is XXL and for emerging markets more or less, the other is L and for established markets - basically. But they are both next generation halo aircraft for their companies, and it turns out both have been incredibly difficult to get off the ground. Airbus suffered through three years of delays, multiple CEO's, customers backing out of contracts and other such difficulties. Looks like we might see some of the same from Boeing.

Obama backs away from health insurance plan, offer's non-for profit co-ops instead. Blue Cross says WTF?

So the new idea to cover the 50 million Americans who do not have coverage is to offer some form of non-for-profit insurance co-op. It seems that the American people were not all for "real change" when that change would have reduced quality of coverage for most of us and added trillions to our debt.

Instead, the govt. might be moving towards offering non-for profit insurance co-ops. This would ensure that there is "competition" in the system, because we all know when a bunch of private companies are selling the same product in the same market there is no competition...

“That’s really the essential part, is you don’t turn over the whole new marketplace to private insurance companies and trust them to do the right thing. We need some choices, we need some competition.”
-Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services
On a final note, the BCBS associations across America must be asking themselves if the govt. has ceased to remember they exist. After all, the only provide coverage to about 100 million Americans, and administer Medicare and Medicade... I am not lobbying for them to be required to offer coverage to the 50 million who dont have it, I am saying we have been down this road before and the result is non-competitive offerings and inefficient organizations.

Why I hate Pelosi, and politicians in general

From an article on Nancy Pelosi and Senate travel costs:

"It's long been apparent that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has a "plane thing." After the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, Ms. Pelosi had a little dust-up with the Bush Administration over her request to use the military version of a Boeing 757 for official travel.

Earlier this year, the speaker had another hissy fit because her new, preferred mode of transportation (a Gulfstream G5) wasn't available. Judicial Watch obtained copies of memos from senior Congressional staffers, demanding answers from the Air Force (which handles most VIP airflift missions for DoD), and suggesting there might be hell to pay because a requested aircraft type was already booked.

"It is my understanding there are no G5s available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable...The speaker will want to know where the planes are..." wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, King writes, "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker."

Supporters of Ms. Pelosi note that her predecessor, Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert, also traveled on a private jet. But Mr. Hastert didn't began using military aircraft for routine travel until after 9-11, and there is no record of him constantly badgering the Air Force for use of executive jets. Records provided to Judicial Watch indicate that Ms. Pelosi's office typically "booked" a G5 every weekend, but often cancelled at the last moment. There is no indication of how much money was wasted on prepping aircraft that were never used.

Such revelations became a p.r. nightmare for the speaker, but Ms Pelosi and her fellow Congressmen don't care. Earlier this week, they added another $250 million to a defense appropriations bill to buy two additional G5s and two more Boeing 737 business jets. The Pentagon had only requested a single G550 and one 737, in addition to the purchase of two Boeing business jets that are currently being leased.

In other words, Congress wants four more top-of-line executive aircraft and by all indications, the lawmakers will get them. We haven't heard a peep out of GOP lawmakers (who also enjoy access to the aircraft), or President Obama. This from the same Republicans who complain about runaway government spending--and a Commander-in-Chief who threatened to veto the defense bill if it contained more money for the F-22 Raptor. As always, hypocrisy is one of the few genuinely bipartisan issues in Washington."

Why are they spending MORE than the Air Force asked for, when the Air Force needs things like.. oh I don't know.. more fighters to replace the 40 year old ones they are flying? Ok, 40 is a bit of a stretch, but somehow I think the USAF and the US general population would be a lot better served by more F-22's than more G5's for Pelosi's vacations...

Also - how is there not a huge scandal over this? In the UK there was a scandal over costs for MP's that was a fraction of the totals discussed here. And in that case, it nearly brought down the government (a PM can lose his post if he looses the support of his party, even between elections - he is the Prime Minister, not the President, and thus part of the legislature). Good 'ol Gordon almost got the sack because his party spent some money on 2nd home repairs, but California Nancy doesn't take flak for her G5 addiction? Ridiculous.

Another funny pic

A little picture heavy recently, I know, but I thought this was hilarious:

funny pictures of cats with captions

VW buys Porsche

This has been a long and dragged out battle. Though Porsche made some impressive numbers in a couple of moves with VW stock, it also spent a ton of money trying to buy up a lot of stock when it was very highly valued.

In a great reversal of fortune Porsche almost collapsed under the weight of debt from trying to buy VW - and VW was in great shape through the last couple years partly because the incredibly high price of its stock due to the Porsche purchases and takeover bid. Now the VW board has approved the purchase of Porsche in order to save their upper crust older brother. Oh the irony.

To be perfectly honest, it wont mean anything to the rest of us. VW/Audi/Porsche already operated like siblings and have been long tied together. There is a lot of crossover and sharing between models, a trend that is likely to continue. It is possible that there will be more sharing between Porsche and Lamborghini though - traditionally Lambo has shared a lot of parts/engines/everything with Audi. It will also be interesting to see how Bentley and Porsche get along as bedfellows, as the Conti and the 911 pretty much chase the same crowd.

The best part of the deal would be if Porsche designed a coupe for VW, ended up using it itself, and then tuning it to be one of the top performance bargains (a rare thing from Porsche). What would really suck though is if Porsche ended up rebadging a big VW SUV and putting in slightly stiffer suspension and more power and then all the rich soccer moms and most of the population of Park City could drive around thinking they were in a Porsche but sitting high above the ground where they feel safe from the fact they have not a frickin clue how to drive.

Oh wait, both of these already happened.

Obama analysis

This chart is a few weeks out of date, but still interesting. Basically, the highest Obama approval ratings are in areas where he essentially extend Bush policies - namely Iraq (where he has followed the Bush timeline and kept the same leadership), and Afghanistan (where he implemented a "surge"). On the domestic issues, his approval is rapidly dropping.

I am interested to see how this one plays out. I would be very happy to see him loose support, as it would prevent the sweeping anti-capitalist changes he seeks to bring to this country, and somewhat impeded the Democratic control of the executive and the legislature.


Obama Looses Steam

Seems that the poorly designed, unsupported, and expensive health care bill is taking its toll on Obama and his approval ratings. Overall job approval ratings dropped below 50% for the first time, hitting 47%.

It seems to me that reality may finally be catching up to the golden child.