The question is, how much legroom. Instead of a "3 1" configuration, I think this is more like a 0.5 2.0 0.5 1.0 configuration. So let's see, I'm driving, and there's a person sitting kind of in front of me to the right, and kind of behind to the right, and then another jammed in the "way back". Forget it, give me the car without seats, everyone sit on the floor.
cp: you know
cp: Kabura is a city in somalia
cp: and also a pistol
Also spotted in Car and Driver:
Monday, 27th of February, 2006
On other internet technologies, Facebook has decided "Starting today, we are going to let people in college and high school be friends." It appears the Facebook has exploded at the high school level. Now we get to experience groups like the "We are the Smart Ones Who actually Know Our School's Name! and Registered Under Ladue Horton Watkins".
Here's the description: "Hey! Isn't awesome knowing the name of your own school? haha! I mean who would choose Horton Watkins Ladue HS?! or more recently Ladue HortIn Watkins! Yeah, Horton is totally spelled with an O not an I!"
Here's the story:
An investigation done in South Florida uncovers behaviour that I have experienced first hand among the local law enforcement in St. Louis too. I recall from November 2002 - "Stop driving like a fucking idiot or I'll beat your ass up!" - University City police officer, in broad daylight, with a passenger witness in my car. Town and Country wasn't much better when I went to their police station once to bail out a friend who got thrown in jail for an outstanding traffic ticket. They were yelling at me for coming to bail someone else out.
It seems like the investigation also uncovers a pattern that I've observed here - the smaller the police department (in terms of area of responsibility), the greater the tendency for crooked practices. Any encounter I've ever had with the St. Louis City Police, County Police, Missouri Highway Patrol, or even Maryland Heights has always been so much more of a normal encounter than with little forces like Frontenac or Ladue. I think it's an important negative side effect of the way St. Louis area local government is organized that is worth thinking about.
Friday, 24th of February, 2006
Tuesday, 21st of February, 2006
I think I have more patience with cars than for my own good. Anyway, with that laundry list, I took the car that I can't fix faster than the events that happen to it out to the shop my friend Keith operates, the Autotire in Ballwin. So they start off by taking off the front right wheel and one of the lug nuts comes off with half of the wheel stud still inside it. Hmmm, well that's definitely a broken wheel stud. Not too surprising for an 8-year-old car that I change the wheels on a few times a year. Fortunately there's a Subaru dealer down the street and they were able to quickly order it and get it delivered over while they worked on everything else. I'm glad that was taking place at an auto shop, not a parking lot - where I usually change my tires.
It was also time to finally face the facts of what sort of interesting alignment was on the car, since replacing the steering boots involved removing the tie rods, and therefore getting them realigned. Ever since I bought it in 2002 the steering wheel wasn't straight, and it pulled to the right on Colorado Interstates (Yes, only Colorado Interstates - something about the road surface is different than all other roads that accentuates the alignment issues.) I never got it looked at because otherwise the tires wore evenly and the car tracked straight. Well it turns out there's about 3 degrees of extra negative caster in the right - probably from something interesting the previous owner did to the car, and someone at some point compensated for it by dialing in a bunch of out-of-spec toe-in/toe-out settings to shift the thrust angle of the car so that the caster problems are not as intense.
The story of what the car has been through before I owned it continues to unfold - when I removed the right headlamp and turn signal assembly last month I discovered a bunch of marker scribbles on them that you see so often at salvage yards. Hmmm, could it be possible that this car has been in an accident? I shouldn't be surprised, for a car that was $2000 under Blue-book value.
Well anyway the rest of the services done to the car continued without event - until they took it out for the standard check that they are required to do after performing brake service on the car. The ABS computer started freaking out on them, pulsing the pedal at the slightest braking engagement, and then just downright quit and threw an ABS light, indicating its failure. Well, I had to move on with my day, so they'll have to take a look at the wheel speed sensors some time later this week.
So I suppose I've swapped some somewhat urgent services now with some somewhat less urgent services that need to be done to this car, and taking a look at what has happened to the A/C in the last month or so is able to be moved up a bit on my list of things to take care of.
And to make it clear that this entry is not by any means pointing fingers, I continue to endorse Keith at Autotire in Ballwin as a great place to take your car problems to - they're definitely my problems and they always do a great job of fixing them, and coming up with creative solutions to the obscure issues that I bring them in the midst of the adventure with my car that I've decided to embark on.
Monday, 20th of February, 2006
First, a brief overview of what this is - it's a video camera that records onto an internal hard drive - no DVDs or tapes needed. Basically, they've finally decided to apply portable hard drive technology that has been found in the iPod for a while now to the video camera. This camera has been out since Thanksgiving, and since then the prices have dropped - so much so that this base model HDD camcorder is almost the same price as a base model mini-DVD camcorders. I've never been a fan of the 30-minute recording time of mini-DVDs in medium-quality mode - it just seems so restricting - we haven't had a video format able of storing so little in 2 decades - and I thought the 60 minutes of miniDV was bad. Alas, the hard drive solves this problem - with 20GB of storage, even in the highest quality mode you can put about 4.5 hours on it, and even up to 20 hours or so in low quality mode.
Here's why I returned it - the hard drive works great when I'm just recording events indoors - but put it in my car and it would sporadically (about every 5-10 minutes) stop recording and give a "Recording Failed" message. From that point, the hard drive works on some things for a few seconds and then you can start recording again. I suppose in the right conditions an iPod or a computer would "skip" too but certainly I would rather it just skip recording a few seconds and start back up instead of just quitting - it just seems like riding around in a car shouldn't regularly cause a video camera, or any portable recording/playback device to fail. This reason alone caused me to return it - if it does this out of the box who knows what kind of road I'm going to be on for the next year.
I have other complaints too, none which caused me to return the camera, but while I'm complaining about bad engineering I might as well point out other things that make a JVC camera, well, a JVC and not a Sony. I did my homework and knew from the start that this camera was going to have mediocre image quality - worse than every other digital format that exists, maybe on par with a budget Digital8 camera. Sound quality was actually very good, though, I found. But enough has been said about that.
Let's talk about the ergonomic quirks. There are some manual functions on the camera, though the one important to me is manual focus. The controls for it are kind of hidden in the little 4-button navigation on the side of the camera - obviously not designed to be used frequently. I also liked how it showed you where you were in the zoom range - 1X, 2X, 3X, etc. But if you wanted to use that wonderful feature that swivel LCD devices have - rotate the LCD 180 degrees and use the camera "backwards" and take videos of yourself, suddenly the camera thinks you're too stupid to use the manual focus, and also too stupid to understand what 1X, 2X, and 3X means in the zoom range. It simply disappears! You hit all the buttons on the manual controls to try to focus the camera but, nope! You're locked out! Now a software feature that these 180-degree swivel cameras have is that it mirrors the image so that what you're looking at is more like a mirror. Now I know a lot of people probably don't do this, but often I like to fold the rotated screen back into the camera so that the screen is not swiveled out of the camera, but you can still see the image you're taking (actually kind of like the camera is shown in the promotional photo above!). Well in this case, the camera is too stupid - it doesn't know to un-mirror the image, rendering that mode of operation almost useless. At least, not usable unless I wanted to get dizzy.
But the idea is great - the camera plugs into the computer as any external USB 2.0 storage device, and you can move the movies stored in MPEG-2 format and pictures in JPG on and off the camera fairly easily - though you do have to rename all the movies from .MOD to .MPG.
It also passes my "power-cutoff" test. There is an important test that I put every video camera through before buying it. I start recording with the power adapter plugged in and the battery off. Then I unplug the power. This sort of simulates what would happen if the battery ran out, or if someone tripped over your power cable. What we don't want to happen is to lose the video footage we just took up to the power-cutoff point. After performing power-cutoff and starting it back up again, the JVC does tell you it needs to "recover data", forcing you to click "OK" a couple times but then you're back in business.
Course, all that said, that brings me to the return/exchange experience I had at the Best Buy in Chesterfield today. The policy on the back of the receipt says "14-day Return Period - We accept returns or exchanges 14 days from the original purchase on computers, monitors, printers, notebook computers, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras and radar detectors. Restocking Fee - Unless defective, a restocking fee of 15% will be charged on opened notebook computers, projectors, camcorders, digital cameras, radar detectors, GPS/navigation and in-car video systems. Unless defective, a restocking fee of 25% will be charged on special order products, including appliances."
So I'm within the 14-day return period, and I would say that a product that gives an error "Recording Failed" all the time would be considered "defective" and not subject to a restocking fee. Nope. Apparently "defective", as defined by Best Buy, means the product has to exhibit the defective symptoms in a 10-minute period of time in the ideal temperature and operating conditions of the Best Buy store while one of the members of the Geek Squad used the product. That is a much narrower definition of "defective" than clearly indicated in the policy.
While the Geek Squad person was using the camera and trying to replicate the defect I wandered over to the camcorder section of the store to pick out another camera - I had complete intentions from the beginning to just get a different one. I was greeted by this late-middle-aged blonde lady who was the only person working cameras and I asked her how the miniDVD cameras worked. Basically, she had absolutely no idea - other than the fact that it recorded on DVDs. I told her my requirement of being able to do random-access deletions from the media and she had no idea if the DVD-RW/DVD+RW formats do that. At this point she could have admitted her lack of knowledge and grabbed a blank DVD-RW to try out the camera and show me if it would do that - but I suppose that's out of her league. Well I knew for a fact that DVD-RAM allowed for such functionalities, which I informed her, and then she suspiciously confirmed. I should have never told her this was replacing a camera I was returning - because she went back to the Geek Squad staff and from that point forward she treated me like crap.
Anyway, back at the Geek Squad pad, they were of course unable to duplicate the defect. When it looked like I was about to get screwed here I raised the volume and intensity of the complaint from nice to annoying and they were able to "make up a new rule" that they will waive the restocking fee if I buy a camera of greater or equal value.
So I go back to the Cameras department to get my DVD-RAM camcorder. The only one Best Buy caries is this entry-level Panasonic which is on sale for $499. The camera lady asked me if they replicated the defect and I foolishly told her they would waive the restocking fee if I got a different camera, and she started to get all upset at me, and stormed over to the Geek Squad desk. Basically what happens from that point forward is that they refuse to exchange the defective JVC Everio I'm bringing in for the Panasonic DVD camcorder - the only camcorder they carry that meets my requirements - just because it's on sale and $40 less. Even adding a bunch of DVD-RAM media to my order wouldn't cut it. To add to the ridiculousness they don't even carry the JVC Everio anymore (probably to everyone's benefit) - and the camera lady even acknowledged that the Panasonic is the only camera they carry that will replace the JVC in functionality, but they won't give it to me unless I pay the $499 + $80 restocking fee.
At this point I'm talking to the manager of Geek Squad, who was about the same age I was and made the foolish mistake of not getting his supervisor because I tore him and the camera lady to shreds and broadcasted it to the entire store. They clearly failed in two points and were completely unable to provide responses to them: 1) They are enforcing a policy on "defects" that indicates consumer complaints of defects are automatically considered lies unless proven true, and 2) just because they don't happen to carry the replacement product and the nearest equivalent is $40 cheaper they will also not acknowledge the product is defective. By now I definitely had everything I needed to pursue a successful merchant dispute, initiated by my credit card company, and I got the bonus satisfaction of humiliating the corrupted system of returns/exchanges and the personnel defending them in front of a large crowd of Presidents' Day Sale customers. So I call up the merchant dispute department of my credit card right there in the store, with the Best Buy camera lady interrupting and hurling backhanded insults at me.
Upon departing from Best Buy, I decide to make another effort - as the saying goes, a picture is worth 1000 words, and I happened to have my digital camera too. In this case, this picture here is worth about multiple thousands of words, $80, about 1.5 hours of my time, and the $2500/year worth of merchandise bought at Best Buy that is now going to be done at Circuit City.
The Geek Squad staff took one look at the picture and realized now that I wasn't lying. They were doing all the necessary procedures for getting the restocking fee waived, but then the camera lady came back and shoved her nose into the whole thing again and I could clearly hear her arguing with the manager not to give me the refund. Geek Squad's analysis stood firm, though, and I got the refund - though I wonder what sort of incentive structure exists at Best Buy that would promote such lousy salesmanship.
Since there's no way I would buy anything else at Best Buy (other than to use that $25 gift card) I went down to Circuit City - to talk to two salespeople who have actually used the products they sell, and had demonstration models of the cameras with DVD media in them so the customer can try it out before they buy a potentially defective product and then have to pay a fee to return it. The whole reason I go to a store is so I can try the product - otherwise I'd just buy it online for crying out loud.
So of course fiddling with the Sony DVD camcorder I discover that indeed, DVD-RW also supports random deletion of tracks from the disc, because you can format the disc in "VR mode". So, at the end of the day, every one of those DVD camcorders meets my specifications - but the Best Buy salespeople were too engaged in their defense of a made-up policy to actually sit down and try to sell something.
Incidentally I've also noticed that the Circuit City salespeople aren't as aggressive in selling you the extended warranty - the Best Buy people always point out some sort of defect with the product which you are about to buy as an excuse to get the extended warranty. Again, proof that Best Buy has a convoluted sense of product defects - they acknowledge a defect upon selling the product and then don't when it's time to return it. Not to mention the plan was $299 for the Everio when he tried to sell it to me. That alone is a good enough reason to go to Circuit City - the compared $119 for the extended warranty will save you $180 if you are the type that gets suckered into buying the warranty.
By the way, that DCR-DVD105 Sony Handycam I looked at is an amazing camera for $474 - touch-screen controls makes it a big winner, and add to that excellent day and night images and audio through the Zeiss lens. It's so much of a better and more satisfying camera, even if you can only throw 20 minutes of footage onto it. When it's recording you can hear it make a disc write only every 10 seconds or so - this must help it maximize battery life and not be quite so sensitive to skipping. It passes the power-cutoff test I mentioned above for the JVC with flying colours - when you power it back on after a power-cutoff it automatically restores the last video you were taking and puts you back in business without any user intervention.
Sunday, 19th of February, 2006
Course, earlier this afternoon at Washington University we played the Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italien and premiered an awesome piece by Gay Spears, Where the Rivers Run. I love the 5-meter rhythms all over the piece and the spotlight on percussion in the middle. We concluded with the Bloch - Concerto Grosso for Strings and Piano obligato. What a great piece there too.
Monday, 13th of February, 2006
Sunday, 12th of February, 2006
Saturday, 11th of February, 2006
When I installed them I sat in them briefly because I have heard WRX seats sit a little higher than Legacy seats, so I figured the non-turbo Impreza is probably the same. Sitting in them briefly I was happy to see that I still fit in the car and my legs weren't smashed up against the steering wheel or anything. Having the front seats removed was also great for vacuuming areas under the seat that usually never get touched with a vacuum. Since I didn't have a portable vacuum I ended up doing the seat install by the vacuum at a local Shell station.
After the seats were fully installed, I started to drive and realized everything was moved all over. First of all, I could actually see the entire hood from my new, slightly taller seating position. The steering wheel was now a bit lower relative to my seating position, even with the tilt adjusted all the way up to the top. The arm-rests on the doors actually are in a position that makes sense now, instead of being like 1 inch higher than is really useful for putting the arm there while driving, and the extra little bit of height changes the way I feel next to cars - I don't feel like I'm driving a Miata anymore, more like an Impreza. Actually, everything about the driving position now - window sill height, space between my head and ceiling, steering wheel position, seat position, is now exactly the same as it was in the 2001 Impreza that I've spent a lot of time in - imagine that... Apparently the Legacy and the GC8 Impreza have fewer differences than I thought. I've always commented before on how the Legacy had a steering wheel position better suited for a 5'11" person like me than the Impreza, but apparently that has everything to do with the seats and nothing to do with the rest of the car.
Since I wasn't exactly miserable in the 2001 Impreza, I am definitely cool with the new height of the RS seats in my Legacy. Comfort-wise, they're a big upgrade - the side bolsters are perfect in that I can rest my elbows on them and still have my hands on the steering wheel. The bolstering, in general, feels great and more like a performance car than a late Buick. The headrests make more sense and are more comfortable. The ride quality of the car has improved dramatically too as it goes over bumps. And as you can see, they look nice - they're significantly darker than the existing seats, but they match the dark plastic trim that's all over the dashboard. Another bonus is that the passenger side has a coupe-only feature - the lever in the back that releases the seat from the rails. Kind of convenient when I'm loading something into the back seat. In general, those front seats slide forward a lot more because they are from a coupe.
Friday, 10th of February, 2006
Monday, 6th of February, 2006
Saturday, 4th of February, 2006
Audi A4 2.0T Quattro
Lexus IS250 AWD
Mazda MazdaSpeed 6
Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec.B
Volvo S40 T5 AWD
So how did the Subaru compare with all the other $30-40k sedans? #1.
Here are some quotes:
"While we admit the spec.B is a bit of a 'cheater car' since production is so limited, the suspension changes don't dramatically affect the car; we think Subaru should have been more aggressive with its tuning, actually. Point being that a regular (cheaper) 2.5 GT could easily be made into a better-handling spec.B by hitting the aftermarket, and would still end up thousands less than most of the cars in this test."
"It's rare that one car possesses everything in a comparison test. But in this case the choice was easy: the only one of the seven that combines real power, corner-carving handling, a manual transmission and good looks to boot is the Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec.B. The fact that it can do 4-wheel-power-on drifts... yeah that's important too."
"The Subaru Legacy 2.5 GT Spec.B wins me over with its combination of utility and sheer driving excitement. While I feel its relatively dull looks do not add anything to the face value, the looks on people's faces as you blow by them in this thing are priceless."
"Add the 'specs' up, plus the lightest curb weight of the group, and you have one awesome-performing awd sports sedan. It completely demolished the other six in every outright speed contest, scampering to 60 mph in just 5.1 sec."