For those who don’t know, I am a driver. I’m one of those guys who has spent countless hours and bales of cash becoming as good as I might at manipulating a motor vehicle. I have driven over half a million miles in two decades. I have driven in seventeen different countries. I have crossed the continental United States six times, often in three days or less. I have raced on the road, on dirt, on four wheels and two for the majority of my lifetime. If I ever get around to starting a family, the wife will drive a high-powered sedan, not a SUV. I have never owned a vehicle with an automatic transmission, and I never will. I’m also an engineer and have been a master mechanic for a decade and a half. In short: I know my cars.
If we roll the clock back about two decades— I was probably the last generation of kids who got their license the second they were old enough to, bought a car the second they could afford to, and spent every moment not consumed by work, school or naked girls trying to make the thing go faster. This period of time was known as the late 80s and early 90s. At that time, every domestic car made was a steaming pile of shit. Even the halo cars. This was when every family car was a box, the Corvette was slightly slower than jogging, and Ford was churning out four-cylinder Mustangs that looked like door stops, and more or less drove like them.
Naturally, my father was a domestic guy, as when he went through his driving rite of passage, the big three actually made interesting, quick cars. They were still crap, indifferently built by idle communists, but at least they had big engines and curves. You couldn’t race, unless you were hard-core enough to know the name Carroll Shelby, but you could cruise. Quickly. When I came of driving age, however, there were no big engines. There were no curves. Everything was a box, coasting along form the Carter era of general stupidity, and generally terrible. No, if you wanted something relatively cheap, well made, and zippy as a teenager, you bought Japanese and dreamed European.
Namely, because the Europeans had not yet become simpering, hand-wringing pussies yet, and hence still made sports cars for playboys to blast along the French Riviera. Playboys who could drive, mind you, because 98% of cars made in Europe came with a manual transmission. For most, due to economy. Manuals were cheaper to build and fix. For the speedy stuff, because a slushbox was a crime against nature. So it was, our walls were plastered with Lamborghini Countaches and Ferrari Testarossas and Porsche 911s. And we pinched our pennies and did all manner of terrible job to purchase that first Toyota Celica or Datsun 240z. Or if we really bled ourselves to death and discovered a level of sleep deprivation previously thought impossible, a well used Porsche 944.
And that’s what I did. I loved and stroked and entirely rebuilt mine, because it was a wreck when I got it, and put some 50,000 miles on the thing in two years, before my life took the path less traveled and I was able to climb a few rungs in the vehicular hierarchy. When the 944 was broken, which was often, I chugged around in a Toyota Pickup that I bought for a happy meal amount of money. It never broke, the doors closed properly, the weather stayed outside, and it would climb up a lamp pole if you let it. My peers and I did as teenagers do, and nary a domestic vehicle was to be seen, save for the hapless soul stuck borrowing the family truckster to get anywhere.
By the mid to late 90s, when we were discovering these weird things called “college” and “drunk, naked women”, the Japanese and Europeans were in all out war with each other on the car front. The Japs built their legend cars: The Supra, the Skyline, the NSX, the 300ZX. All designed to compete with the Porsches and Ferraris of the day, at a fraction of the cost, with near total reliability. I bought my first Supra Turbo without a moment’s hesitation, even though I had very little idea of how I was going to pay for it. Fate, it seemed, was on my side, as those days marked the end of anything resembling a normal life.
And boy, what a difference a decade makes. In 1995, Toyota made three excellent sports cars. In 2005, they made none, having completely brushed off their die-hard enthusiast market to concentrate on twelve “different” SUV models and eco-boxes for morons. The Europeans had also lost the plot, trading beautiful, exotic machines that were amazing to drive for flappy-paddled video games designed with the glitarati, rather than drivers, in mind.
Around that time, though, something strange started to happen at home. Domestic cars started to not suck. First, there was the 3rd generation Dodge Viper, which marked the first time the car was actually drivable, and in many ways survivable. Then came the S197 Mustang, Ford’s first honest attempt at one since the early 70s, and damned if it wasn’t a good, well made, quick car. Chevy joined the show with the C6 Corvette, which also marked the first time a Corvette actually handled properly and had an engine that wasn’t hilarious.
Fast forward another decade, and we’re left with a rather surprising reversal of the entire car industry. Japan, with a few exceptions, more or less makes generic, boring crap. Yes, you can weld the hood on a Toyota or a Honda and drive it for 300,000 miles, but for those of us who would rather drink a gallon of Drain-O than do anything of the sort, that accomplishment is somewhat moot. Europe had a ball-ecotomy, which combined with marketing idiocy, now seems only to make quick cars for idiots. To buy a Ferrari today requires enough money to purchase a fairly nice house in most states, and should you be foolish enough to do so, you’ll be treated to the world’s most realistic video game, and little else. The driver is so disconnected from the car, he may as well stay at home on the couch. Lamborghini has been entirely ruined by Audi. Porsche has been entirely ruined by themselves, to the point that the marque once known for the most die-hard of fans will no longer make their flagship sports car with a manual transmission. If you want to actually drive a Porsche, you’re stuck with a Cayman, and who knows how long that will last until it is finally given the PDK-only death blow.
There are a few hold-outs left in Europe who still make an interesting car. Lotus, for example. But even they, on the tail end of the brilliance that was the Elise and Exige, have slowly started ruining their cars with weight and flappy paddle nonsense.
But lo: Things are afoot at home. The last decade has seen some utterly amazing things happen in the domestic car market. To everyone’s surprise, mine especially, about the only place you can get a good, reasonably cheap, fast driver’s car any longer is if you buy one made in the USA. There is one notable exception, and that is BMW— who now makes most of their interesting cars in the states. But still— you’re spoiled for choice.
The new Viper, which everyone including me thought would never exist, is by far the best one ever made. It retains an even huge-er V10, a manual gearbox, and looks that… well, look at the damn thing:
Then there’s the new C7 Corvette, which if you hold your breath through the distasteful bailout odor, one can only conclude is the best car the company has ever made.
Finally, there’s the Ford Renaissance. What started with the S197 Mustang and kicked into orbit with the Ford GT has continued with the Raptor, the latest-gen 662 horsepower Shelby GT500, and now this:
The new Shelby GT350. Manual, light, 8,000 rpm flat-crank V8. If that doesn’t have you throwing money at the screen, there’s little help for you.
I really never saw it coming. Ford flat out blindsided this once-Japanese-and-Euro-phile car nut by making some of the fastest, prettiest, driver’s cars in the world, and with a price tag that makes one consider buying two. So, my hat is off to you, guys. Against all odds, you’ve made me a Ford man.
I’ll take the GT350 in white, with blue stripes.
posted by Mr. Lion @ 20:16 EST | comments (0)
USA wins, NY loses.
So, the midterms went about as expected. The only exception being in NY, where some 2.2 Million idiots re-elected one of the most corrupt and generally idiotic Governors we've ever had. That number of fucking morons more or less corresponds to my daily commute, though, so it's not very surprising.
Also not surprising is the usual braying idiocy from the low-information left on places like twitter, where they're bemoaning the death of "diversity" and "women's rights" and other general stupidity.
Never mind that the GOP just elected an openly gay Congressman, the first black Senator in the South since ever, the first black woman in Congress, and the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress.
Yeah, no "diversity" or powerful women here.
posted by Mr. Lion @ 09:54 EST | comments (0)
Can you hear me now?
Well, it's iPhone 6 day, and as I track the major releases, one is now in my hot not-so-little hands. As with many Applethings, fiddling with the physical device is half the fun, and the 6 does not disappoint. It's extremely thin. Comically so. To the point that, having built a few embedded display and remote systems with LCDs and various radios and batteries in them, I have to wonder if space aliens were not involved in cramming this much stuff into something so thin.
Thinness aside, though, the other dimensions feel quite large. I picked up a 6, rather than the idiotically gargantuan 6 Plus, and the phone just about fits perfectly in my hand. However, I have the size 3XL meat hooks of a man who swings hammers and sets things on fire for a living, and the scar tissue to go along with it. That makes me think the phone in the hands of a more typical pipecleaners-out-of-torso type will have some difficulty manipulating it as effectively as the 4" iPhone 5.
In many ways, the initial regret I have is that the thing is so big. I considered the 4" phone to be just about perfect as a phone form factor. And while I can use the 4.7" well enough thanks to said large hands, it does "feel" about 10% too big in typical use. Sure, videos look amazing and I have space for an extra row of apps on every page, but I don't use the thing to watch videos. Aside from that, I don't have many other gripes about it. The sleep/wake button being on the side is actually a better spot for it, however my muscle memory still has me pawing away at the top of the phone for that function. The new location also leads to hitting the volume buttons while “squeezing” it to turn it off, but I’ll probably get used to a grip that avoids that eventually. Other stuff? Well, I don't much like the look of the milled antenna slots on the back that interrupt the aluminum case. Yes, I know they need to be there, but why not make them black? Hell, why not make the whole thing black? Screw this "space gray" nonsense. I want black. So, Apple: When it's iPhone 7 time, don't make the damn thing any bigger, and do make it black, and I promise I'll buy one of those Rose Gold Apple Watches to go with it.
Few gripes aside, everything else about the phone is just that much faster and better. The A8 processor is a beast and handles everything I’ve been able to throw at it. The new cell radio gives me an extra dot of signal at locations I’d not had much previously. The battery lasts longer. The speaker sounds better. The camera is amazing. While I still wish it didn’t stick out of the case, thereby ruining the flat-laying elegance of the previous phones, I’m willing to put up with it considering it’ll lay flat with a case on it.
There are a few other things I’m not thrilled with, but they mainly have to do with iOS 8. On the whole it too is better in just about every way, but as has been Apple’s way of late, a few new and annoying features come enabled by default. First among them, keyboard prediction, which is idiotic and distracting, however well it may work. For those of us who can type and actually take some small degree of pride in being able to communicate like a normal human without freaking netspeak, it’s just needless clutter on an otherwise elegant keyboard. Fortunately, you can turn it off. Another largely useless feature, at least for me, is display zoom, which in effect turns your shiny new big 4.7” display back into a 4” display, so far as app icon and text sizes go, via magnification. I suppose that’s useful if you’re old and have coke bottle glasses, but I do not, so off it goes.
The one remaining “feature” that has been the bane of my existence for quite some time now, and still can not be effing disabled, is coverflow in the music app. Apple: Some of us like to navigate through music while the phone is horizontal, as well access the audio control buttons. While coverflow is technically neat and visually impressive, it is also completely fucking useless and I do not want it. Give me the ability to turn it off.
One thing I must give credit to Apple for, though, is the implementation of TouchID. As I’m upgrading from a 5, this is my first experience with it. It works very, very well, and most importantly, lets me decide how I want to use it. It’s possible, for example, to use TouchID to purchase things from iTunes and use ApplePay, while still retaining a traditional passcode to unlock the phone. This is hugely awesome for me, as it is exactly the use case I want.
Upgrading the phone from a backup was also painless and straightforward, as you’d expect from an Apple product. The only hiccup I had was Verizon’s activation process being somewhat silly, but that was resolved quickly. I actually have to applaud them on said resolution, as when I called in to customer service I was only on hold for about 15 minutes before I got a human who fixed the issue in a few seconds. On a launch day where you have thousands of people activating phones every second, that’s pretty impressive. So are the 4G speeds.
So, in a nutshell, it’s an incrementally bigger and better iPhone, but it’s still an iPhone, which means it works properly and doesn’t waste my time with too much bullshit. It’s faster, better, and well worth what I paid for it— and as such par for the course for Apple. While there are a few things I’d change, if this is the future of the phone, I’ll take it quite happily.
Plus, I get to send Android retards into pants-shitting-hysteria mode every time I pull it out of my pocket, and now thanks to U2, get to do the same with music snobs. Sweet!
posted by Mr. Lion @ 17:06 EST | comments (0)
The Fruit of Things.
So, the iPhone 6 has landed, which as fun as that is, means the end of the usual smug and annoying Samsung/Android ads on the tube. That alone is worth the $300.
I can't say I'm a fan of a larger form factor-- frankly, I wish they'd kept the 4" size in the lineup as I consider it just about perfect. But, I guess 4.7" won't necessarily kill me, and the new camera and speed bump alone make it a worthwhile acquisition. One thing that does annoy me is the protruding camera housing, as it ruins the ability for it to lay flat without a phone condom. Though, with the added image stabilization, it's sorta-worth having a wart on the back of the phone.
What is interesting is ApplePay-- we knew it was coming, though the level of integration is.. well, Apple-like. I wish they'd have made a merchant-side widget to make the whole process seamless, but I can see that gaining quite a lot of traction, and really only Apple can do it. At least properly. I wouldn't wish an Android Wallet on my worst enemy.
The Apple Watch was expected. The degree to which they seem to have hit it out of the park on a first generation release, though, is all anyone with a clue needs to know about the future heath of the company. Apple's party piece has always been thinking about all the little corner cases and gotchas that are both hard and annoying to solve-- and only Apple solves them. So while purely on an aesthetic view, the Apple Watch doesn't do a whole lot when put up a Breitling or Rolex, it does change the game so far as usable wearable technology. If you weren't keeping score, this is the first wearable computer that actual humans might want to use.
It also opens a few interesting doors in the realm of two factor authentication and many other interesting things. So, while I don't necessarily want to shell out $350 for one, I'll pretty much have to just to stay ahead of the curve on developing widgets for it.
The one more more thing surprise with U2 giving away their latest album had been hinted at, though many thought they'd be pre-loading it on iPhones. Instead they gave it away to everyone using iTunes. And as I've been waiting years for a new album from them, hey, that'll work.
All in all, I expect both of the new devices will sell in record numbers, and once again everyone who doesn't care about the hard stuff will scramble to knock off the new hotness. So the circle continues.
posted by Mr. Lion @ 15:25 EST | comments (0)
A modest proposal for Sen. Sanders.
... who, surprise!, thinks we should tax the rich to pay for.. stuff.
First, Mr. Sanders, a lesson in math and economics for those who have little understanding of it. Namely you. For example, lets assume for a moment that we were to tax "the rich" at 100%, which is the socialist wet dream vile progs like you tend to circle-jerk over. That would amount to "revenues" of around $800-900 billion. Enough to run the government for something like three months. To say nothing of the deficit you claim to give a rat's ass about. It would also cause the vast majority of "the rich" to get the hell out of dodge, and by proxy, take a rather huge swath of the economy with them.
Based on that, I suggest that Mr. Sanders fuck off. Not just a normal amount of fucking off, though. No. I suggest that he pick his old, scrawny, vile prog ass up off his perch, and transport it to one of the many socialist utopias that are already far more advanced along the path to idiocy he seeks. I recommend Venezuela, Argentina or Cuba. I'm sure Mr. Sanders' blithering idiocy will be entirely welcome there among the ruling elite. The unwashed masses, probably not so much, but so goes the annals of utterly retarded utopian fucking idiocy.
posted by Mr. Lion @ 14:24 EST | comments (0)
Film Review: November Man.
This had all the makings of a good film. Brosnan as an even darker Bond, an interesting setting, a good supporting cast, and what at first glance appeared to be a decent story.
Of course, as the typical Hollywood writer has their head so far up their ass to be able to see their last meal, it joins a long list of otherwise interesting concepts, utterly ruined by cheap, circle-jerk sympathies.
It shouldn't surprise me, given that Finch and Gajdusek are about as top shelf as box wine, and Granger's There Are No Spies was hardly known for its deep characters. But still, this film is a travesty of a spy thriller. While Brosnan's usual swagger is fun to watch, the story is ruined with the "US are the bad guys" cliche that is one smelly fish.
The suckocity of this film does manage one trait: To concisely catalog everything that has been wrong with the self-reinforcing delusion that is the mentality of the average screenplay author.
posted by Mr. Lion @ 00:47 EST | comments (0)
Apparently people are starting to realize that the market delivers only so many idiots, even with a government thumb on the scale.
Electric car sales are not charging the marketplace. A new study by online automotive research company Edmunds.com suggests the segment may have run out of gas.
Sales of electric drive vehicles are stuck at about 3.6% of all new car sales for 2014, Edmunds senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said.
That's below the 3.7% market share for 2013, and it's not likely to grow any before the end of the year.
And that's during an otherwise robust sales season. Total figures for August were higher than any time in the last decade.
Automakers sold about 1.6 million vehicles in the U.S. in August, an increase of about 3% from August 2013, according to initial industry estimates released Wednesday.
"The whole automobile market has grown," Caldwell said. "We’re not seeing electric vehicles as part of that growth."