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Screen printing

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Star Wars 1942

Another site I stumbled across today - custom made Star Wars figures set back in World War 2. If these were for sale, I'd buy them in a heartbeat. I would love to see an animated feature along these lines a la the Clone Wars series that was done on Cartoon Network.

See them all here.

Ten still attainable 70's Muscle Cars

A classic car expert identifies a category on the rise: 1970's muscle cars.
Phil Skinner, Special to the Los Angeles Times
April 14, 2008
As you cruise car shows in the greater Los Angeles area, you might notice that muscle cars from the 1970s are increasing in popularity. Phil Skinner, editor of Kelley Blue Book's "Early Model Values Guide," agrees. He's the sort who would rather spend time snooping around at auction yards and surfing Ebay Motors than sipping pina coladas in Malibu.

Knowing his penchant for a good classic-car deal, we asked him to share his knowledge and his photos of this latest upstart classic category. The result is this list of 1970s muscle cars that a) are still financially viable, and b) have the potential of increasing in value.

See the related photo gallery for:
1973-76 Chevrolet Nova SS
1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 fastback
1977-78 Pontiac Trans Am coupe
1970-71 Plymouth Duster 340 coupe
1971-73 De Tomaso Pantera coupe
1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442/W30 coupe
1975-76 Chevrolet Vega Cosworth ed
1973 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible
1971-73 Datsun 240Z coupe
1977-79 Chevrolet Corvette T-top coupe

Cheap(er) Drinks: Tips For Enjoyable Drinking Without Going Broke

While the Pig Roaster isn't in dire straits, saving money always goes a long way with Mrs. Roaster. I also like the arguments provided in the article below for trying out the premium rum market. The Roaster has become a bit of a fan recently and would HIGHLY recommend just about any of the Havana Club line of premiums - the only caveat being that you need to be outside of the US to procure any. Keep it in mind the next time you're visiting our neighbors to the north.

The Roaster also digs the daquiris when they're made at home (and not frozen) - just remember, FRESH lime juice IS A MUST! None of that off-the-shelf bottled crap. Its got an artificial sugary bite to it that just won't do. Do yourself a favor and pick yourself up a nice juicer over at Target for 10 bucks and squeeze 'em yourself - it'll make a world of difference. While you're there, grab a muddler for another 10 spot, pick up some mint leaves, and you can use those freshly juiced limes to serve up some killer Mojitos as well - the perfect summertime beverage! Impress the ladies (and get 'em drunk). Tasty with a kick!


Posted by Paul Clarke, April 9, 2008 at 3:15 PM

It’s tax time, and once you’re done sweating over the paperwork and writing out your check, you could probably use a drink. Ah, but there’s the rub—the IRS just walked away with your wallet, there’s a recession staring us in the face, and, to top it all, the real estate market is peeking into the abyss. At times like these, it’s hard to saunter out of the liquor store with a $50 bottle of scotch in your hand when within a few months it could turn out to be worth more than your house.

But that’s okay (well, it’s really not, but let’s pretend it is for now)—you can still have friends over for a perfectly satisfying and relaxing drink without cracking into the kids’ college fund. Here are a few ways to accomplish this (beyond the patently obvious "drink less"); be sure to join us in the comments section with any ideas you have.

  • Change your brands: Obvious, yes, but it’s one of the first places where you can save. If you’re accustomed to unwinding with a glass of Laphroaig—around $66 a bottle in my area—it may be time to reassess lower-priced single malts such as Glenfiddich, which weighs in around $40.
  • Change spirits: This may call for a greater shift in tastes and habits, but ultimately it could be the most rewarding. Let’s take that glass of scotch: basic single malts tend to start in the $35 range, depending on where you live, and the price rapidly escalates into the $50, $75 and beyond stratosphere for anything beyond the most basic. The situation is similar with cognac, and with decent tequila. But take a walk around the liquor store, and you’ll find excellent spirits that are still true bargains: satisfying and sippable bourbons start a good $10 to $15 cheaper than scotch, and except for the absolute top-of-the-line, the super-premium bottles top out at a price-point where scotch and cognac are just starting to get respectable.
  • Discover rum: Premium rums are astonishingly cheap when compared to similarly aged spirits such as whiskey and cognac, with sippable rums starting in the low $20s. Even better, the quality and range of excellent sipping rums has taken off in recent years, and some truly exceptional rums can be found for about the same price as a basic single-malt scotch or reposado tequila—think Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 Anos, which retails for around $35; or Barbancourt 15-year-old, which goes for around $40. Explore the rum category, and walk out with two bottles of top-of-the-line spirits for less than what you’d pay for a single bottle of mid-range cognac.
  • Embrace the cocktail: You don’t always have to break out the good stuff when guests come over, as long as you employ a little creativity. Cheaper, premium brands make wonderful cocktails (in many cases, they work a lot better than the higher-priced super-premiums), and you can prepare a wonderful drink for a fraction of the price of a glass of straight spirit. For instance, instead of opening that $40 bottle of Macallan, try mixing some Manhattans: you can pick up a bottle of Rittenhouse bonded rye—a double-gold winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and one of the best bargains out there—for around $15, plus a bottle of decent sweet vermouth for another $6; toss in some Angostura bitters—$6 for a bottle that’ll last for years—and you’ve got perfectly respectable drinks for a crowd for much cheaper than what you’d spend on a single bottle of good scotch.
  • Mix cheaper cocktails without compromising quality: Good tequila and triple sec can be heart-stoppingly expensive, so instead of serving margaritas, switch to daiquiris: Cruzan, Brugal and Flor de Cana all offer excellent white rums in the $15 or less region; add some fresh lime juice and a little laughably cheap sugar, and you have a classic, equally respectable daiquiri.

Volunteers needed for trip to Mars

The European Space Agency (Esa) is seeking volunteers for a simulated human trip to Mars, in which six crew spend 17 months in an isolation tank. Are you up for it?

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Mario Theme Played with RC Car and Bottles

Super Mario theme recreated by driving an RC car at perfectly placed line of glass bottles. Pretty damn cool.
Mario Theme Played with RC Car and Bottles - Watch more free videos

Trapped In An Elevator For Two Days: The Video


elevatorvid.jpegIn 1999, BusinessWeek production manager Nicholas White went outside to smoke a cigarette and, upon returning, got stuck in an elevator. For 41 hours. The story of his ordeal is woven through Nick Paumgarten's new New Yorker feature about elevators, and is, predictably, the most interesting part. It's amazing how much 41 hours in a small metal box altered White's life forever, for the worse. And—oh yes—there is (sped-up) security camera footage of him the entire time. It's mesmerizing, because you can imagine him slowly going insane, which is exactly what's happening. Below, the video, and the article's summary of White's life since he was rescued. Let this be a cautionary tale to all of you who may find yourself similarly ensared in this most primal of New York office drone nightmares!

White never went back to work at the magazine. Caught up in media attention (which he shunned but thrilled to), prodded by friends, and perhaps provoked by overly solicitous overtures from McGraw-Hill, White fell under the sway of renown and grievance, and then that of the legal establishment. He got a lawyer, and came to believe that returning to work might signal a degree of mental fitness detrimental to litigation. Instead, he spent eight weeks in Anguilla. Eventually, Business Week had to let him go. The lawsuit he filed, for twenty-five million dollars, against the building's management and the elevator-maintenance company, took four years. They settled for an amount that White is not allowed to disclose, but he will not contest that it was a low number, hardly six figures. He never learned why the elevator stopped; there was talk of a power dip, but nothing definite. Meanwhile, White no longer had his job, which he'd held for fifteen years, and lost all contact with his former colleagues. He lost his apartment, spent all his money, and searched, mostly in vain, for paying work. He is currently unemployed.

Secret underground warehouse in Tokyo (video)

Secret underground disaster supply warehouse in Tokyo --

In this video, a camera crew follows a city official to a trapdoor hidden in a Tokyo sidewalk, which opens to a narrow stairway leading to a giant underground warehouse stocked with emergency supplies. (Watch it.)

Located 20 meters (65 ft) underground, the 1,480 square meter (16,000 sq ft) space contains emergency supplies to be distributed to the public in the event of a major earthquake. Items include 5,000 blankets, 8,000 rugs, 4,000 candles, 300 cooking pots, 200 t-shirts, and emergency medical supplies. A conveyor belt system is installed to help transport the supplies up to street level.

The underground warehouse is connected to an unnamed station on the Oedo line, Tokyo’s deepest subway. Apparently, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government maintains more than one of these warehouses, but the locations are kept secret.

10 beautiful iMac setups worth a look (pics)

The original Intel iMac (24″) received CNET’s “Must-have desktop” in their 2006 Top 10 Holiday Gift Picks list. Technology columnist Walt Mossberg described it as the “gold standard of desktop computing”, and Forbes hailed it as “industry-altering success”. No wonder iMacs turn eyeballs wherever it is spotted.Here are 10 beautiful iMac setup

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Batman Gotham Knight - DVD / Blue-Ray

Anime-inspired direct-to-DVD anthology film. Comprised of six short stories, from diverse creators, including Academy Award-nominated Josh Olsen (A History of Violence), Batman Begins writer David S. Goyer, and comics scribe Brian Azzarello. It's planned for a release window of two to four weeks prior to the release of The Dark Knight, and would bridge the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Written by batfan

Official Site Warner Video

IMDB Batman: Gotham Knight (2008) (V)


250,000 Plastic Bottles => 1 Floating Island Paradise

Spiral Island Closeup

If you can’t afford to buy your own tropical island paradise, why not build your own? That is exactly what Richie Sowa did back in 1998, from over a quarter-million plastic bottles. His Spiral Island, destroyed years later by a hurricane, sported a two-story house, solar oven, self-composting toilet and multiple beaches. Better yet, he has started building another one! His ultimate goal? To build the island bigger and bigger and finally float out to sea, traveling the world from the comfort of his own private paradise.

Spiral Island Construction and Steering

The original Spiral Island was (as its successor will be) built upon a floating collection used plastic bottles, all netted together to support a bamboo and plywood structure above. Located in Mexico, the original was 66 by 54 feet and was able to support full-sized mangroves to provide shade and privacy, yet also able to be moved from place to place by its creator as need with a simple motorized system.

Spiral Island Early Stages

An environmentalist to the core, Sowa is also an artist and a musician. More than just the universal dream of an island retreat, Spiral Island is also his vision for low-impact sustainable living. The next version of the island will be built to withstand more treacherous weather than the first and will also be located in a more sheltered part of Mexico’s waters.

The Above Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not video is a great introduction to the island, which conjures images of Gilligan-done-right. Spiral island is able to exist and move about in Mexico in part because it is classified as a ship, not an island, like an atoll out of WaterWorld (only much much cooler). On September 7, 2007 the new Spiral Islander social network utility was opened to the public to allow visitors, Spiral Islanders and friends of Richie Sowa to connect and communicate about the history of Spiral Island and to learn more and discuss Richie Sowa’s new Spiral Island. Want more islands? See these 7 Island Wonders of the World from WebUrbanist.

Fly Away! The Ultimate Guide to Budget Airlines Travel

Next time you are planning a trip but are a little short on cash, this ultimate guide will supply you with some excellent tips and links to help you find the cheapest airfares available. Choose your destination, take your pick of several low-cost budget airlines companies, and then just find the best prices around for your journey. Bon voyage!

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Recession Cigar Tips from my friends at Stogie Review

Cigars are almost always marketed toward an affluent crowd, or at least with affluence in mind. The major manufacturers in the industry assume that you are both willing to pay premium prices for premium sticks, and that you can. But those of us not in the investment banking trade can hardly afford to stock up on boxes of pCigars in a Recessionricey Fuentes whenever the fancy strikes us. And, given’s today’s rocky consumer market and quite probable economic recession, it’s tougher than usual to maintain our expensive cigar hobbies.

But there’s a silver lining here. I see today’s adversity as the best education a stogie enthusiast can get. Let’s face it; most of us could stand to get better at managing a cigar budget. This recession might be precisely the kick in the pants we need to start spending and collecting responsibly. In that spirit, below I present five tricks that I’ve developed to help me get the best bang for my bear-market buck:

1. Take a course in personal finance and/or financial accounting at your local college. I can’t stress enough how important it is to know the basics of personal finance. Sadly, American schools – including most of the country’s best universities – are doing a piss-poor job teaching us how to keep our books and budgets in order. The next time you’re thinking about dropping $250 on a new appliance at Best Buy, think again. That quarter-thou is much better spent on an online or night course in financial accounting. You’d be amazed how much practical, lifelong value you can get out of such an investment. And when you buy your textbooks, buy them used.

2. Get smart about CBid., affectionately known as “CBid,” is a bargain hunter’s paradise. But it can be tricky. Always, always, always know the retail price of what you’re bidding on. That box of vintage Patels might look like a steal at $75, but once you factor in shipping costs, you’re roughly at the MSRP. It helps to keep two windows open on your browser: one for CBid, and one to run spot-checks on prices via Google,, CigarsInternational, Tinderbox, etc. Remember: You can only beat the market price if you know the market price.

3. Reverse-engineer a yearly “luxuries” budget. Developing a budget from scratch can be a daunting and often counterproductive task. Instead, take stock of all of last year’s expenses, then work backward. How much do you really spend each year? How much do you earn? What expenses can be cut? What allowances can be made? By building a template from last year’s budget, then whittling down unnecessary expenditures, you can develop a smarter and leaner budget for the year ahead.

4. Don’t get carried away. Nabbing great deals on CBid or in B&M bargain bins can be exhilarating. But know when to quit while you’re ahead. That $20 bargain might look attractive today, but five “$20 bargains” over the course of a week will be every bit as expensive as a one-time $100 splurge.

5. Find your inexpensive, everyday cigar. Discover your favorite cheap cigar. Now stock up on a box or two. Try to make these your go-to sticks for everyday (or every other day) occasions. Oftentimes, online retailers will sell wheels of 50 $1 sticks that are comparable to much pricier premiums. There’s no shame in smoking these house blends, especially when no one’s around to impress.

-Jon N

Green Yachting Chismillionaire style


From Australian superyacht designer Scott Blee comes the Sabdes 50M, an impressive follow-up to his 230-foot Sabdes 70M. The artful vessel is a "mere" 164 feet of floating luxury, but it carries within its modest dimensions a surprising degree of earth-friendliness.

Rest assured there's no shortage of big-money opulence on board, including acres of wood veneer and glass, but this one hits the waves with a hybrid propulsion system that employs electric motors and a diesel-powered generator to charge a bank of batteries.

The system promises to be vastly cleaner and more fuel-efficient than traditional marine powerplants, and Sabdes says the 50M will have a higher cruising speed than comparably sized vessels. With retractable battery-powered electric thrusters fore and aft, the big boat has the ability to maneuver silently in port or through more sensitive marine environments.

Other elements ease the superyacht's eco-impact in subtler ways.

The eco-friendliness includes a bow design that reduces wave slap and wake, making life a little easier on aquatic animals and the shoreline. Inside, LED lighting preserves battery power, as does a greater reliance on natural cooling to supplement the climate control system.The steel hull's slender, aquadynamic shape gives the vessel a cruising range of 3,000 nautical miles (almost 3,500 statute miles, or roughly the distance from New York to London) and contributes to its relatively fast cruising speed of 25 knots (about 29 mph).

So - how much? If you have to ask...

More photos, courtesy of Sabdes.






If your personal life is your business, is everything a writeoff??

Sometime last year, podcaster Anneke Rudegeair bought three different brands of condoms. This month, she sat down with TurboTax and listed the cost of rubbers as a deduction. It was, she believes, a business expense.

Rudegair, 28, is better known to legions of fans as Soccergirl Incorporated, the self-described "podcasting librarian with big tits." Her job, for which she grossed $22,000 in 2007, is to show off her charms on her site and purr about all things sexual in her podcasts.

So there's an argument to be made that the Future-Condom Challenge she and her boyfriend undertook was part of the gig.

"What otherwise would be your regular life becomes your business life; that's been true for podcasting since the beginning," said Rudegair, of Germantown, N.Y. "It's all legitimate."

Nice work if you can get it. Which, technically, is the central conundrum of new media pioneers and their accountants at tax time: In an age when bloggers and podcasters are making a living -- or trying to -- by blogging and podcasting about their personal lives, what exactly is legitimate? And if writing off your personal life is as easy as writing about it online and getting some Google ads, why doesn't everybody do it?

The Internal Revenue Service certainly doesn't make it clear. A request for information was met with directions to a page at entitled Business or Hobby? Answer Has Implications for Deductions. There, the public is informed that "an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year."

Broadly, the notion is you have to make some money. But there's no further details concerning the IRS' views on how living one's life in public apply to expenses that are "common and accepted in the taxpayer's trade or business."

It's a topic so new, it confounded a number of legal and tax experts contacted for this story. A spokeswoman for the Office of Tax Policy Research at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business said her experts couldn't comment because, "As we move into new technology, it's really hard to know about some of this stuff."

"I hadn't really thought about bloggers, but they're basically making their personal lives their businesses," said John Robinson, an accounting professor at the University of Texas' McCombs School of Business. "When you make expenditures that are primarily for business purposes, then it's deductible. If it's primarily personal, then it's not. As for the experimental use of a condom, you have to ask, would she have engaged in these extra expenditures were it not for her work? I honestly don't know how I'd apply that rule. This is plowing new ground."

Indeed, those in the field are feeling their way as the mediums mature. Rudegair said she was nervous the first time she put "podcaster" on the form as her occupation, worried that "they'll think it's a made-up thing." And Mike Yusi, who produces the twice-weekly music show UCRadio out of his Los Angeles home, illustrated the difficulty defining whether his show is a hobby or a job by indicating that he "would do it whether I could write it off or not, but once the possibility to offset the costs came up, I jumped at it."

Rob Walch, coauthor of Tricks of the Podcasting Masters and host of Podcast411, agreed there's some gray area.

"If you were to go to get a manicure or massage and you blog podcast about it and you are making money on the blog or podcast, you could write it off," Walch said. "But that does not mean you will not get audited."

That's the rub, said New York blogger Julia Allison, who writes extensively about her personal life at her And Another Thing… blog and in her work for TimeOut New York. The IRS, she quipped, will audit a podcaster who expenses condoms "just for fun."

"The IRS doesn't understand, isn't interested in understanding that your personal life can sometimes merge with your professional life," she said. "It has to be 100 percent business. If there's even a small percentage that is for your personal life, you can't expense it."

Many play it safe. Dennis Gray of San Luis Opisbo, California, host of the parenting podcast 101 Uses For Baby Wipes, often receives free products for review. To avoid the tax consequences of receiving those items, he gives them away on the show when he's done.

"That makes it a wash, an income and expense at the same time," he said. "I don't want to have to declare all that nonsense, book it as income, use it as income, calculate appreciation and turn around and sell it. So I get rid of it to avoid the tax man."

For Rudegair's part, she said she hesitated to deduct much early on but now she puts down such items as those condoms and outfits she buys for her web videos as well as such traditional business expenses as computer equipment, home-office space and travel related to promoting her show.

"I don't know if I'm going to get in trouble for this, but it's defendable," she said. "I mean, I'd love to show the IRS which episode I did what I did in."

Promise of a Quantum Internet

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Entangled Web: The optical components on this lab bench, such as mirrors and filters, allow researchers in Prem Kumar’s lab at Northwestern University to direct and manipulate light. In Kumar’s most recent work, he has created a quantum logic gate within an optical fiber; such gates could eventually enable networks of quantum computers.
Credit: Prem Kumar

The promise of quantum computers is tantalizingly great: near-instantaneous problem solving, and perfectly secure data transmission. For the most part, however, small-scale demonstrations of quantum computation remain isolated in labs throughout the world. Now, Prem Kumar, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University, has taken a step toward making quantum computing more practical. Kumar and his team have shown that they can build a quantum logic gate--a fundamental component of a quantum computer--within an optical fiber. The gate could be part of a circuit that relays information securely, over hundreds of kilometers of fiber, from one quantum computer to another. It could also be used on its own to find solutions to complicated mathematical problems.

A logic gate is a device that receives an input, performs a logic operation on it, and produces an output. The type of gate that Kumar created, called a controlled NOT gate, has a classical-computing analogue that flips a bit registering a "1" to "0," and vice versa. Quantum logic gates like Kumar's have been built before, but they worked with laser beams that passed through the air, not through fiber. The new gate lays the foundation for experiments that demonstrate the abilities of quantum computers in fiber, says Kumar. "The exciting thing here is that an application is within reach," he says. Within the next year, Kumar and his team plan to test the gate in a specific application: conducting a complex auction over a secure quantum network.

Researchers at IBM, MIT, and many other corporations and universities have been working on quantum computers since they were first proposed in the 1980s. A quantum computer is a device that processes bits of information by exploiting the weird quantum-mechanical properties of particles such as electrons and photons. A quantum computer is theoretically able to process exponentially more information than classical computers can. The unit of information in a classical computer is the bit, which represents either a "1" or a "0"; but in a quantum computer, it's the qubit, which can represent both a "1" and a "0" at the same time. Since qubits compute with multiple values at once, the processing power of a quantum computer doubles with each additional qubit. This characteristic would enable a quantum computer with only a couple hundred qubits to significantly outperform today's best supercomputers.

Kumar's group makes qubits out of photons that are "entangled." That means that their physical characteristics, such as polarization, are linked in such a way that if one photon assumes a particular physical state, the matching photon instantly assumes a corresponding state. A few years ago, Kumar demonstrated that optical fiber itself could cause photons to become entangled, and that they would remain entangled over a distance of 100 kilometers. His recent work, described in Physical Review Letters, goes one step further, creating a logic gate that entangles photon pairs.

To use this gate, Kumar needs photons that are identical in every way except polarization, or the orientation of their electromagnetic fields.These "identical" photons are sent through optical fiber to the gate itself, a small maze of devices that route photons in different directions depending on their polarization. Passing through the maze causes certain photon pairs to become entangled. But not all photons make it through the gate; only when photons reach detectors on the other end, and the researchers can measure whether or not they are entangled, do they know the gate succeeded.

The only way to know whether or not the gate worked is to wait until a collection of photons has been fired at it, says Carl Williams, coordinator of the quantum information program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "Most of the time the gate fails," he says. "It's a probabilistic thing." But when the gate fails, the researchers simply disregard the unentangled photons.

"The great thing about this work," says Williams, "is that it's in fiber. This is a big deal because it could lead to distributed networks. ... The obvious application is for long-distance quantum communication between two smaller quantum computers." One of the crucial elements in a conventional optical network is a device called a repeater, which amplifies signals that have degraded over distance. Williams says that a quantum logic gate, such as the one that Kumar built, could be used in a circuit that amplifies a signal without losing the entanglement of the photons.

"This is an important step toward constructing a quantum Internet," says Seth Lloyd, a professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and a leading researcher in quantum computation. "Such a network would have powers that the ordinary Internet does not," he says. "In particular, communication over the quantum Internet would be automatically secure."

Lloyd notes that Kumar's paper illustrates how a simple quantum logic operation can be performed using individual photons. "The current paper represents a significant advance in the technology of quantum computation and quantum networks," he says.

Jaguar XF getting solid reviews

Now the key is to see if that translates into sales growth.

Posted Today 04:00 AM by Angus MacKenzie
Filed under: Auto Review, The Big Picture, Jaguar, Sedans

2009 Jaguar XF

"Wow!" That's the first entry in the notebook from Saturday morning's run up the Angeles Crest Highway in the supercharged Jaguar XF. The Angeles Crest, with its switchbacks and sweepers that jink and dive and swoop through the mountains behind LA, is one of the world's great driving roads. And on it the new XF proved it's one of the world's great driver's cars.

There's a delicacy, a deftness of touch about this car that's preternaturally animalistic: Alert and agile, light on its feet, oily-smooth in its transitions, this Jaguar felt truly cat-like as it sashayed up the Angeles Crest at sport bike speeds. The steering is near perfect in its weighting and linearity; the turn-in response almost telepathic; the ride buttoned down yet beautifully composed. I've had some exhilarating drives on this road, most recently in a Porsche 911 GT2. But I don't think I've driven a better sedan here. Yet.

2009 Jaguar XF rear

Curiously, there's nothing unique, or even particularly special, about the XF's chassis hardware. The front suspension is double wishbone, and there's a multi-link set up at the rear, fairly standard fare for a car in this class. Okay, the shocks feature Jaguar's CATS adaptive damping technology, but, again, this is hardly a new or unique technology. So what's the alchemy at work here?

I know from experience Jaguar's ride and handling wizard, Mike Cross, is one of the best in the business. The quietly spoken Cross is our kinda car guy: A demon driver, race quick on the track, with the innate ability to make almost any rear drive car corner in a lurid tire-smoking drift when he feels like having fun. Yet his cars are anything but the rock-hard, kidney-rattling rides you can sometimes get from enthusiast engineers.

Part of the secret -- and only part, for although I've known Mike for years, and been on several very fast and very sideways rides with him in prototype Jags, he won't reveal all the tricks of his trade -- is that Jaguar pays very close attention to controlling the roll rate of the suspension, even when car is travelling in a straight line. The idea, says Cross, is to reduce what ride and handling engineers call "head toss", the side-to-side pitching of your head that occurs when your car rides over bumps on alternate sides.

You can feel it in the XF in the way the vertical body movements are so deftly modulated. But that's only part of the story. The XF, like our much-missed XKR long termer, rides beautifully for a car rolling on low profile 20-inch Pirelli P Zeros. It's firm and taut, but never harsh. A constant dialogue from the chassis means you know exactly what's going on where the rubber meets the road, but the conversation is always calm and muted, even when you're driving hard. How? I suspect a lot of time and effort on geometry and bush design, but only Mike Cross and his team really know.

Here's what I like most about the new Jaguar XF: I find it somehow reassuring that even in this age of computer aided engineering and zillion gigabyte simulation programs, the auto industry still has black arts that are only truly mastered by their most experienced and talented practitioners. The XF's sublime chassis proves beyond question that when it comes to fine tuning ride and handling, there is simply no substitute for the human touch.

Color From The Adelaide Festival: Northern Lights

Light projection installations have been filling dark nights with radiant colors a lot in the past year. With the previously mentioned exhibit Evoke, by Usman Haque, who wrapped the facade of York Minister with projected colors that were sensitive to the sound waves created by people in the immediate area, to the recently ended Adelaide Festival...

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Driving the Passat CC

First Drive: 2009 Volkswagen Passat CC

Volkswagen recuts the conservative Passat and sews up a stylish four-door Comfort Coupe.

By Edward Loh

In the fashionable world of sports sedans, the VW Passat has always been the wall flower in the grey wool suit; well dressed, if conservative. The style mavens at Volkswagen are hoping to change that image with the new 2009 Passat CC.

What they've attempted to do is turn the Passat, a sedan homogenized for global consumption, into a Euro-cool, haute couture ensemble. To this end, VW designers and engineers took the Passat and ripped up its seams, recut its sheetmetal, and tailored what they call the Passat Comfort Coupe.

Though it is technically wrong to call a four-door, four-seater a coupe, there is apparently a bit of latitude in the world of high style. It's not a new idea for zee Germans, either. Mercedes was the first with the Vision CLS concept - the car that eventually became the successful CLS. BMW has just released their soft road take on the four door coupe, with their X6 SUV sports activity coupe. The freshness of VW's take on this concept is that the CC is the first time we've seen this kind of roof-chopping, seat-removing action in a transverse, essentially front-wheel drive layout.

There is a lot of the CLS throughout the Passat CC. In profile or at a three quarter angle, there is nothing else on the road that looks like the CC - except for the CLS. It's not just the dramatically lowered and back swept roofline either; check out the frameless doors of the CC. They're also found on the CLS. The panorama sunroof seems to a production take on the concept CLS's all-glass roof.

Versus the regular, or as dubbed by VW, "classic" Passat, the CC is quite different. Though the 106.7 inch wheelbase is shared, the CC is longer by 0.6 inches at both ends, which helps make the roof look even lower than the two inches it already is. At its highest, the CC is only 56-inches tall. With a stance that is 0.4 inch wider in front track and 0.6 inch wider at the rear, the CC looks ready to get down and party in comparison to the buttoned-up Passat.


Inside, the CC stays true to its conservative roots. Though you sit 0.6 inches lower in bucketed, laterally-supported seats, have a high window sill and steeply-raked windshield for a hot rod effect, the switch gear and surfaces are all Passat. Some details, like the chrome bezeled dials and Climatronic HVAC system -- which integrates into the nav/stereo system -- are new to CC, as is the glovebox iPod/USB connectivity (which also routes through the nav/stereo system) and the aforementioned Panorama sunroof. The latter, it must be mentioned, is a bit of misnomer - it is reasonably wide, but extends no further than the B-pillar.

Rear seat passengers are also treated to bucket-like seats, which is really a bench cushion with thigh bolstering, split by a center, roll top covered console for drinks and an emergency medical kit. The rear seat armrest hides a ski pass through. Legroom and shoulder room are more than adequate, but as you'd imagine, headroom suffers quite a bit. Six footers will hit their heads on the ceiling, which has been reduced by 1.2 inches, but more disconcerting is how close the C-pillar intrudes near the side of brows and ears.

Though it can be powered by any one of five engines in Europe, including two diesels, the U.S. market will only get two of the gas versions to start: a 3.6-liter narrow angle V-6 and VW's 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four that has spidered across the automaker's lineup. Transmissions options are a six-speed manual (available with the 2.0-liter turbo only) or a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic. For cost reasons, we will not get VW's slick 6-speed dual clutch transmission (DSG). VW's 4Motion all wheel drive system will be available on the top spec, VR6 3.6-liter model.

VW did not have any U.S.-spec models available for our drive in Munich, Germany, so we drove the closest thing -- a top grade Euro-spec Passat CC 3.6L 4Motion VR6.

Along with having the six-speed DSG transmission we won't get, there were several key differences between this CC and the ones that will come to the States. The Europeans have 20 more horsepower (300) and shorter gearing, which make their cars feel very quick off the line. VW claims the European CC will hit 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, while ours apparently gets there in 6.2 seconds. U.S. cars are also neutered to 130 mph, while European versions can hit 155 mph.

The Europeans also get several high tech/luxury options that we will not, including Lane Assist (system that senses when the car drifts out of the lane and steers it back), Park Assist (automatic parking), Active Climate Seats (perforated seats that heat and cool), and Adaptive Cruise Control (system that monitors and adjusts the gap between the car ahead). We're on the list to eventually get Adaptive Chassis Control (a system that adjusts the suspension damping and steering ratio for sport, comfort, or normal driving), and a back up camera (which hides behind the VW logo in the rear) will be an available option at launch.

So what do we get? From what I can tell after driving the Passat CC 3.6L 4Motion VR6, with the wrong transmission, shorter gearing, and 20 more horsepower -- we're getting a quick, stylish, reasonably sporty sedan.

Starting the car involves sliding the smart key into a rectangular receiver near where a traditional key would be inserted. Pushing it all the way in turns the fob into a start button, and gets the engine firing and needles sweeping around clean, white lit gauges. So far, the feel is decidedly pretty sporty. The engine burble, steeply-raked windshield, high sill, and lower seating position contribute to this effect, as does the neck straining acceleration when the throttle is matted. Passing is no problem in the CC VR6, especially in vehicles equipped with paddle shifters. Credit goes to the eager, quick shifting DSG box and extra power. The real test will be if our automatic equipped CC's can feel this compelling.

Though it's long and low, the Passat CC drives small and sporty. The engine snarls when revved, and gets a bit thrashy as RPM builds. Visibility is good through the front, and less compromised out of the rear windows than the roofline suggests. Though the C-pillar is impressive chunky, blindspots are covered by the fixed triangle of rear glass.

It's not tossable like a GTI, but around fast sweepers and tight corners it doesn't sway and carom from corner to corner like its big brother Passat. What it does is snake around impressively with medium-weight steering feel and a nicely-controlled chassis, thanks in part to the high-tech chassis control system. In Sport mode, with tightened steering and continuously adjusting rebound/damping, the Passat CC does a pretty good impression of a corner carver. We'll see about the U.S.-spec model. It's not perfect - the 4Motion all-wheel drive system can be shucked and jived into some understeer -- but even when the rain fell hard around Munich's Tergensee lake region, the CC always felt completely in control.

The entry-level Passat CC Sport will start just below $27,000. At the top end, the Passat 3.6L 4Motion VR6 will be right around $40,000. VW believes that the top seller will be the 2.0-liter CC equipped with an automatic transmission and one of its options packages that should retail for just under $30,000.

With a competitive set that targets the sharply dressed Acura TL specifically, and includes such style legends as the Infiniti G35 and BMW 3 Series, VW's style council has certainly aimed for haughtiest of haute couture. Will their bold style statement be all the rage when it hits runaways this September? Or a reason to call the fashion police? We'll see...

2009 Volkswagen Passat CC
Base Price $27,000-$40,000 (est)
Vehicle layout Front-engine, FWD/AWD, 4-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine 2.0L/200-hp (est)/207-lb-ft (est) turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4 , 3.6L/280-hp (est)/265-lb-ft (est) DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic
Curb weight (dist f/r) 3400-3900 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 106.7 in
Length x width x height 188.9 x 73.1 x 56.0 in
0-60 mph 6.6 - 7.4 sec (mfr est)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 16-20 / 24-29 mpg (est)
CO2 emmisions 0.83-1.03 lb/mile (est)
On sale in U.S. September 2008

Speed Racer 4 Minute Extended Movie Trailer

Speed Racer

If you’re not sold on Speed Racer after seeing this 4-minute extended movie trailer from Yahoo Movies, than I think there is no hope. I’ll admit it, I was a total naysayer, but the last few trailer have totally convinced me on this film’s potential. And this 4-minute extended movie trailer features even more crazy action. I almost wish I hadn’t seen some of this stuff on the internet, because it will probably make for an incredible experience on the big screen. Watch the clip below, and share your thoughts in the comments.

Retired NYC Subway Cars Creating a Reef off the Coast of Delaware

by Andrew Posner, Rhode Island, USA on 04.14.08

Image Credit: Tim Shaffer for The New York Times

If you think subway cars are only useful so long as they are efficiently carrying urban travelers from point A to point B, well, you're wrong! It turns out that hundreds of retired New York City subway cars have been finding a second home--80 feet underwater, and 16 nautical miles off the coast of Delaware. There they are helping to transform "a barren stretch of ocean floor into a bountiful oasis, carpeted in sea grasses, walled thick with blue mussels and sponges, and teeming with black sea bass and tautog." So far, 666 subway cars have already made their way to the ocean floor, and the results have been impressive: "a 400-fold increase in the amount of marine food per square foot in the last seven years," and "In the last several years, the reefs have drawn swift open-ocean fish, like tuna and mackerel, that use the reefs as hunting grounds for smaller prey. Sea bass like to live inside the cars, while large flounder lie in the silt that settles on top of the cars." This is great news, as ocean acidification from climate change and other human disruptions are harming reefs around the world.

So what about the environmental impacts from the subway cars themselves?

Some environmental groups, such as the American Littoral Society, "opposed the use of the Redbird cars because they have small levels of asbestos in the glue used to secure the floor panels and in the insulation material in the walls." However, "State and federal environmental officials approved the use of the Redbirds and other cars for artificial reefs in Delaware and elsewhere because they said the asbestos was not a risk for marine life and has to be airborne to pose a threat to humans."

The only significant problem, it seems, is that other states are catching on to the trend, but unfortunately there is only a limited number of retired subway cars available. As a result, "States have experimented with other types of artificial reef materials, including abandoned automobiles, tanks, refrigerators, shopping carts and washing machines." But none have worked very well; the fish seem to like the roominess of the subway cars, and their weight ensures that the structure stays stably anchored to the sea bed. Besides, while the environmental impacts of dumping subway cars are, at worst, minimal, it doesn't seem like a great idea to begin throwing all our abandoned appliances in the sea in the hopes of restoring aquatic ecosystems...

Delta and Northwest Announce Merger

Travelers Could See Higher Prices, Fewer Flights in Biggest Ever Airline Combo


April 14, 2008—

Delta and Northwest have agreed on a merger to create the largest airline in the world.

The boards of both airlines  which operate more than 2,700 daily flights combined  approved the combination Monday night after months of negotiations. Faced with skyrocketing fuel prices, grounded planes, canceled flights and soaring ticket prices, the carriers hope a merger will help them stay afloat during difficult times.

There will be no hub closures and Delta's Richard Anderson will be CEO of the merged operation, which will keep the Delta name and Atlanta headquarters, the airlines said in a statement.

The merger combines Delta's strengths in the South, Mountain West, Northeast, Europe and Latin America with Northwest's routes in the Midwest, Canada and Asia. Delta pilots reached an agreement on post-merger contract, the airlines said, and employees will get seniority protection and equity in the new airline.

According to a memo to employees, non-pilot staff of the two carriers will get a 4 percent equity stake in the new company on closing of the deal, to be allocated based upon relative payrolls of the companies and individual employee earnings. Also at closing, Delta frontline employees will get pay increases.

Northwest investors will get 1.25 Delta shares for each share they hold -- that's 17 percent more than today's closing price. The combined airline will have about $35 billion in annual sales and 75,000 employees, according to Reuters.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers' said it opposes the deal because it's not in the best interests of employees or the communities served by the carriers. "We will do everything legally possible to oppose any merger that threatens our members' jobs, labor contracts, pensions, seniority and their right to union representation," the union said in a statement late Monday.

The deal comes as four major airlines have declared bankruptcy in the past three weeks. Others have recently tried to avoid a similar fate by raising fuel surcharges, reducing frequent flier mile benefits and charging a fee for an extra bag.

That's why, according to many aviation analysts, the merger is necessary to make the ailing industry healthy again.

"We have too many airlines with too many hubs offering too many seats, which is the reason this industry cannot be consistently profitable," said Ray Neidl, aviation analyst with Calyon Securities.

What It Means for Travelers

But for both for airline employees and passengers, a merger could be messy.

For travelers, a marriage between Delta and Northwest could mean fewer flights and higher fares.

Travelers in the Midwest, in particular, could have fewer options because Delta and Northwest both operate major hubs in that region and could drop overlapping flights during consolidation. It's unclear if Cincinnati and Memphis, for example, would remain hub cities as Delta and Northwest come together.

Of all of their routes, only nine of Delta and Northwest's overlap, according to data compiled by the OAG-Official Airline Guide.

If history is any indication, the number of seats available out of certain cities could drop dramatically. The number of seats out of St. Louis dropped by about 75 percent after TWA and American Airlines merged, according to OAG data.

"For consumers, the downside is that the airlines that merge are going to be trying their hardest to take planes out of the mix, to take destinations out of the network, and, therefore, they can have fewer choices and higher prices," Richard Aboulafia, aviation consultant with The Teal Group, told ABC News Friday.

For airline employees, the merger is also likely to create a new landscape.

Atlanta-based Delta employs nearly 49,000 people, while Minneapolis/St. Paul-based Northwest employs another 30,000. The airlines would be tasked with trying to merge their staffs, unions and operating systems.

Delta and Northwest also fly just one type of jet in common, meaning consolidating their fleets will be difficult. Delta operates a fleet of nearly 600 aircraft and Northwest operates a fleet of more than 500.

For pilots in particular, the effort to merge Northwest and Delta has been tricky. The merger has stalled in recent months because the 11,000 pilots employed by the two airlines could not come to an agreement on integrating their seniority lists.

Many say the merger could also set off a ripple effect throughout the industry and prompt other carriers to merge. That would result in even less competition and fewer choices for passengers.

"There's a feeling that if Delta and Northwest do create the biggest carrier, that everyone else will want to follow," Aboulafia said. "It's the theory of the musical chairs, basically. They could easily be followed by Continental and United  they're considered the most likely follow-on merger."

Next Steps

Now that Delta and Northwest managements have agreed on a merger, the Department of Justice also needs to sign off on the deal. Experts said there's a rush for that to happen sooner rather than later because the airlines expect it would be more challenging for the merger to go through during a possible Democratic administration.

Still, the airlines are confident the deal would be good for business, allowing Delta and Northwest to merge their strengths, especially in different areas of the international market. Delta flies to Europe while Northwest flies to Asia.

"There's real synergy between the two networks," Aboulafia said. "It's, arguably, from a geographic standpoint, from a network standpoint, the best possible merger."

Tuesday Tunes with the Pig Roaster

I've decided to change up days for my one-week-old regular feature. Partly because of the risk that my Friday selections would be overshadowed by the all-powerful Van Damme, but mostly because I like the sound of my new title: "Tuesday Tunes with the Pig Roaster."

So welcome to post number 2 in my music series!

This week we take a look at Rodrigo y Gabriela. This couple was all over MTV (anybody remember what that is?) about a year ago. Not music videos, however, but in commercials - though I'm not sure what for. It was the Pig Roaster's wife who actually picked up on them and started sending YouTube links to the Roaster as she (correctly) assumed it was up his alley. Was it ever!

A little back story - these two are originally from Mexico City where they fronted an unsuccessful heavy metal outfit. From there, they somehow found their way to Dublin, Ireland where they found, of all things, Spanish Flamenco music. From all of this they've formed a sort of musical hybrid that they call "Heavy Metal Flamenco."

They can call it whatever they want - I call it GREAT! Flourishing acoustic guitar with lightning fast chops and syncopating rapid fire percussion (on the guitars!) mark this music with some serious attitude.

Diablo Rojo:


Metallica's Orion:

Intrigued? You should be. Album recomendation: "Live in Manchester and Dublin" which includes not one, but two takes on another Metallica tune: "One"