Suzuki's last attempt at a cheap AWD car (the Aerio) did not give Subaru anything to worry about. But the new $14,999 (for the 5-speed manual) SX4 will come with AWD standard, as well as ABS, side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring, remote entry, A/C, power everything, 16" alloy wheels, ambient temperature display, and fuel economy display. This is quite a bit more car than the Honda Fit - both in terms of toys and overall physical size. While the AWD system is still FWD-based and inferior to Subaru's, it does have a manually locking center/rear coupling device. In fact, you can also manually select FWD, and do those burnouts that you can't really do with a 2.0L engine on an AWD car. Or leave it in AWD-Auto mode and let the system slip into AWD when things get slippery.
It's a pretty car - a joint development by Suzuki and Fiat, and designed by the Giorgetto Giuguaro Italdesign studio. It's sold in Europe as a Suzuki and a Fiat, and will be launched as a Lancia next year.
Picture - The fully loaded Sport trim is $16,399 and adds climate control, keyless starting, 9-speaker sound with a 6-disc changer, heated mirrors, audio controls on the steering wheels, and more. Trying finding all that in any vehicle in that price range. The interior looks like it was lifted straight out of a Mazda, and that is a good thing. The 100k-mile/7-year warranty is great too.
I have found the car to get if you want to spend less than what a Subaru will cost. Even the new Suzuki WRC car is going to be based on the SX4.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mercedes is experimenting with cramming the 500+ hp 6.2L V8 into the C-class. That's right, the small "cheap-class" platform. I thought the 5.5L V8 in the C55 AMG was pretty crazy already, but the 6.2L will make this little Mercedes sedan a real road rocket. It would be a good excuse to charge $70k for a Cheap-Class Mercedes too.
Thursday, 28th of September, 2006
"If you have friends who couldn't get on Facebook beforeŚeither because their school didn't give out email addresses, or because they went to work instead of collegeŚnow they can all get on Facebook. Help spread the word by entering their email addresses here:"
The number of news stories (local and national) of people pressing harassment charges against other people for things they do and say on Facebook is quickly multiplying. Yes, pressing charges, in the real world and in real courts. Welcome to the real world, kids.
Wednesday, 27th of September, 2006
Monday, 25th of September, 2006
I like the stadium, even though the old one has architectural uniqueness to it. The new one looks decent, and it doesn't seem like a design that we will grow tired of quickly. It does a good job of making you feel like you're in an urban stadium. The sound system, at least in the box seats, was pretty good for a stadium - I usually expect them to throw in something awful - good enough for some announcing only. But the system there does a good job of thumping out the bass of the dance music they primarily play clips of throughout the game - which is the genre I think I prefer for this situation.
One interesting problem with the restaurants on all levels of the stadium is that the exhaust from cooking somehow manages to get pumped over the stadium and sinks down into the center of it, giving a nice fog effect for many wind situations.
The actual game itself was just another example of the problems the Cardinals have been experiencing, though it wasn't a boring game.
Thursday, 21st of September, 2006
"Upon reaching a small hill marked with a checkerboard in red and white, which is being marked as a middle marker in the final approach, the pilot needed to make a 47░ visual right turn to line up with the runway and complete the final leg. The aircraft would be just two nautical miles from touchdown, at a height of less than 1000 ft when the turn was made. Typically the plane would enter the final right turn at the height of about 650 ft and exit it at the height of 140 ft to line up with the runway. Landing the 13 approach would become even more challenging when crosswinds from the northeast were strong and gusty during typhoons. From a spectator's point of view, watching fully-loaded Boeing 747s banking at low altitudes and taking big crab angles during their final approaches was quite the thrill. Despite the difficulty, it was nonetheless used most of the time due to the prevailing wind direction in Hong Kong."
In spite of having only 1 runway and the difficult landings, in 1996 it was the third busiest airport in the world with 29.5 million passengers and moved more international cargo than any other airport in the world. It was closed in July 6th, 1998 when the new airport was opened.
Here are some ways not to land - though in spite of the interesting things that pilots did to the big 747s that are akin to what I was seeing them do with Harriers over Labor Day, the airport has had a pretty good safety record:
Picture - Sometimes the crosswinds can make lining up tricky, but I think this Japan Airlines 747 has to go around for another try. Landing on top of an A310 on the taxiway would be bad.
Picture - A bit better for this Singapore Airlines 747, but if they don't fix that soon they're going to wind up in the bay.
Picture - Or you can get a problem like this - touching down completely misaligned with the runway. The Nippon Cargo pilot managed to straighten the whole thing out with the front landing gear still up in the air, skidding around, and bursting a whole bunch of tires and damaging the engine 4 pod.
Picture - It gets worse. This Malaysian Airlines 747's engine actually struck the runway.
Picture - This one definitely missed the runway - that's what happens when you land in a typhoon. It touched down more than 2/3rds of the way down the runway and ran straight off of it in into the bay.
Really, if you like commercial airplanes, you ought to check out the Airlines.Net gallery - it has some of the most amazing airplane photos I've ever seen.
Thursday, 14th of September, 2006
Wednesday, 13th of September, 2006
Picture - I-64 east-bound just before Spoede Road at night in March 2006, without the reflectors, for comparison.
Picture - I-270 north-bound at Olive Blvd., with reflectors
Picture - I-270 north-bound at Page Ave. The concentration of reflectors increases at interchanges, providing guidance that street lamps cannot provide.
Picture - It's almost like an airport runway/taxiway or something.
Picture - No excuse for wandering over to the shoulder here!
Monday, 11th of September, 2006
Sunday, 10th of September, 2006
But my bad impression of Amoco started a few years ago. I was with a friend, who was having trouble getting the credit card to work at the pump. Incidentally, this same trashy gas station at Olive and Price consistently rejects my credit card half the time, and that has been a problem for as long as I have lived in St. Louis. Being that this was the only card she had, she went inside and had the gas station attendant run the card. Instead of running the card, getting a pre-authorization, and then turning on the pump like a normal gas attendant does, she decides to just turn on the pump and deal with the credit card later. It's bad to assume that a credit card that was rejected at the pump is going to all of a sudden work inside the store, even if the pumps outside consistently don't accept credit cards. Lo and behold, after pumping a bunch of gas into the car, she goes inside the pay and the credit card machine rejects it. My friend also happens to be one of those people who doesn't really carry cash. This resulted in a bit of a situation that ended up in an argument and the attendant having to copy down the license plate (which she interestingly wrote down as "Brentwood Volvo" since there was no front plate on the car) and allow my friend to go back home to get some other form of payment. Fortunately I was able to make everyone's life easier at this point and just pay for the gas with cash that was in my pocket - but still a rather appalling experience for my friend.
This particular station at Price and Olive is just the worst of all in all aspects - it has redefined what a "service station" is. For the last couple years, whenever I have had the misfortune of choosing to stop there, they have never had any towels at any of the pumps, the window squeegee reservoirs are all dry, and the trash cans are overflowing with trash that hasn't been taken out for days probably.
And then there are the Amocos floating around that seem to keep interesting hours, and when they're closed they leave the pumps on but the main pumps underneath are either off or acting up. I've been to the one at Lindbergh and Conway several times now during the middle of a Sunday only to discover the station is unattended. Half of the time it's unattended, they leave the pumps on so that you can just pay at the pump and the owner of the gas station gets to earn money selling gas without having to pay an attendant. One time I was there and there were half a dozen people there trying to pump gas but half of the pumps would only let you pump 1/10th gallon, while the other half didn't work at all - and everyone was driving around doing a dance from pump to pump to figure out if they could get any gas out of this thing.
Saturday, 9th of September, 2006
After laying a whole packet of parking tickets on it, they brought in the tow truck. The perpendicular parking makes it really easy to tow!
Someone online commented how at least the tow operator knew that it was rear-wheel-drive. However, I think he may have been confused, because he did jack up the front and put a dolly on the front wheels.
There has been a lot of nightly lane closures on the Interstates in St. Louis County all summer. Joe has been observant enough to see that one of the major activities involves drilling holes in the pavement, and we've been unsure as to what the end purpose of that is. Tonight, while driving home, when I crested the hill going west on I-64 past Spoede, the most noticeable improvement of the road works was suddenly apparent. They have finally installed/replaced the reflectors! They've got them all between the lane lines, all over the shoulders, and ones at the on/off ramps are extremely useful since I-64 and I-270 are completely unlit at night in many places anyway.
Friday, 8th of September, 2006
Thursday, 7th of September, 2006
Wednesday, 6th of September, 2006
The news feed does not provide any information that you otherwise wouldn't have been able to get by clicking on each of your friend's profiles and seeing what has changed every day. But that is time-consuming - let's automate this rather monotonous, yet somehow entertaining activity for everyone and put it all on one page so you can spend your time doing better things, like actually talking to the people that you stalk every day.
But no, apparently we opened up Facebook to the masses of internet users who don't seem to understand that when you post something on the internet, you are providing information to the public. Maybe this is the wakeup call everyone needs, to realize what they are really doing when they post things.
Tuesday, 5th of September, 2006
Basically the Gibson was stolen from Carnegie Hall in 1936 and finally resurfaced to the public in 1985 as the holder of it, Julian Altman, was on his death bed. This Julian Altman was an interesting fellow - apparently a relatively accomplished violinist but never played professionally - the title "strolling violinist" seems to accompany this person's story. The later years of Altman's life was interesting - he eventually wound up in jail for molesting children, where his health problems increased and basically ended up dying in jail.
The other part of these stolen Stradivari stories that I haven't thought of is that a violin usually needs work done on it after a few years - who do you take a stolen Stradivarius to without getting found out? If you want a good story behind how the Strad showed up at Ed Wick's instrument shop, 47 years after it was stolen and needing a new bridge and a seam reglued, you can take a look on Joshua Bell's website.
Saturday, 2nd of September, 2006
Here are some other good ones from Car and Driver this month, on that back page of Reader Sightings:
Friday, 1st of September, 2006