Monday, July 28, 2008
What were they thinking*?
* answer: They weren't
Posted by gjblass at 4:08 PM
"It's a total departure," said General Cigar president Angel Daniel Núñez. "Macanudo has always been on the lower end for strength."
Macanudo 1968 debuted this week in Las Vegas at the International Premium Cigar & Pipe retailers trade show, and it will reach cigar shops in August. Covered in a wrapper leaf grown in San Agustín, Honduras, it has filler from the volcanic Nicaraguan island of Ometepe as well as Dominican filler.
The cigar will come in boxes of 20, ranging in price from $8.50 to $11 per cigar. It won't be sold online or in catalogs.
For more on the release, see the July 29 Cigar Insider. For James Suckling's view on the new Macanudo, read his blog.
Posted by Chismillionaire at 3:57 PM
The uneasy feeling that one gets simply by viewing photos of these decaying structures is multiplied when personal items are left behind, or as in one strange case, jars full of brains and skulls.
read more: click here there are 2 pages worth | digg story
Posted by gjblass at 3:55 PM
72 years ago, a man named William Zimmerman sat down to tell a story about "mysterious Chinese tunnels" to the U.S. government. That interview was conducted as part of the Federal Writers' Project, and it can be read online in a series of typewritten documents hosted by the Library of Congress.
Zimmerman claims that "mysterious" tunnels honeycombed the ground beneath the city of Tacoma, Washington. These would soon become known as "Shanghai tunnels," because city dwellers were allegedly kidnapped via these underground routes – which always led west to the docks – only to be shipped off to Shanghai, an impossibly other world across the ocean. There, they'd be sold into slavery.
[Image: The cover page for one of many U.S. government documents called "Mysterious Chinese Tunnels"].
Subterranean space here clearly exists within an interesting overlap of projections: fantasies of race, exoticism, and simply subconscious fear of the underworld. White Europeans had expanded west all the way to the Pacific Ocean – only to find themselves standing in a swamp, on earthquake-prone ground, with a "mysterious" race of Chinese dock workers tunneling toward them through the earth, looking for victims... It's like a geography purpose-built for H.P. Lovecraft, or something straight out of the work of Jeff VanderMeer: down in the foundations of your city is a mysterious network of rooms, excavated by another race, through which unidentified strangers move at night, threatening to abduct you.
It's urban historical anthropology by way of Jean Cocteau – or Sigmund Freud.
[Image: Another "mysterious Chinese tunnel" in the Pacific Northwest (via)].
In any case, because "construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad required large numbers of railroad laborers," Zimmerman's tale begins, "many Chinese coolies" had to be smuggled into the "rapidly growing city of Tacoma." They "arrive[d] mysteriously," he says, "smuggled in on ships, and even Indian canoes, from British Columbia."
At that point:
- Several opium joints were known to be operating in Tacoma. And there was no question in the minds of many people that the narcotic was smuggled in through tunnels from their dens to cleverly hidden exits near the waterfront. They were also convinced that the tunnels were dug by Chinese, either as a personal enterprise or at the behest of white men of the underworld, as no white workmen would burrow the devious mole-like passageways and keep their labors secret.
It's even rumored here in the BLDGBLOG offices that a mere 5% of the original tunnels have so far been discovered – until a graduate student in anthropology from the nearby University comes across a clue in an old government document, leading her to a small, bricked-over window near a drain in the downtown fish market... Directed by Gore Verbinski.
[Image: Entries to Tacoma's mysterious Chinese underworld? Photo by Stephen Cysewski (via)].
Meanwhile, that same year – 1936 – a 39-year old man named V.W. Jenkins sat down with a representative of the Federal Writers' Project, and he had this story to tell:
- In the spring of 1935 when the City Light Department was placing electric power conduits under ground, workmen digging a trench in the alley between Pacific Avenue and 'A' Street at a point about 75 feet south of 7th Street, just back of the State Hotel, crosscut an old tunnel about ten feet below the surface of the ground. This tunnel was about three feet wide by five feet high, and tended in a southwesterly direction under the State Hotel, and in the opposite direction southeasterly toward Commencement Bay. I entered the tunnel and walked about 40 or 50 feet in each direction from the opening which we had encountered. There it went under the hotel the tunnel dipped sharply to pass under the concrete footings of the rear wall, proving that the tunnel was dug after the hotel had been built. In the other direction the tunnel had a sharp turn to the left, and after several feet, a gradual curve to the right, so that it was again tending in the same direction as at the opening. About 50 feet from the opening on the Bay side the tunnel began to dip and in another ten feet began to decline very sharply so that it would have been necessary to use a rope to descend safely on the met slippery floor. The brow of the bluff overlooking the waterfront is but a short distance from this point, explaining the need for the rapid downward slope, although it is probable that farther on there is a turn, either right or left, and that the tunnel was dug at an easier grade before emerging at a lower level.
- Some persons contend that these openings found in the vicinity of Tacoma were caused by trees buried in the glacial age, and after decaying, left the openings in the glacial drift. If this is the true explanation for the tunnel I have described, then the tree that made it must have been a giant that grow such in the shape of a corkscrew.
That same site describes the actual process of Shanghai'ing:
- The victims were held captive in small brick cells or makeshift wood and tin prisons until they were sold to the sea captains. A sea captain who needed additional men to fill his crew notified the shanghaiiers that he was ready to set sail in the early-morning hours, and would purchase the men for $50 to $55 a head. 'Knock-out drops' were then slipped into the confined victim's food or water.
Unconscious, they were then taken through a network of tunnels that 'snaked' their way under the city all the way to the waterfront. They were placed aboard ships and didn't awake until many hours later, after they had 'crossed the bar' into the Pacific Ocean. It took many of these men as long as two full voyages – that's six years – to get back to Portland.
This site offers quite a lot of history of the Tacoma tunnels, and ten minutes of Googling will reveal at least a dozen blog posts and assorted minor newspaper articles about the phenomenon; but there's something particularly intriguing about an official oral history, conducted by the U.S. government itself, in which tales of subterranean geography are revealed.
It's like a form of national psychoanalysis, where each session takes the form of geographic speculation.
More practically, such interviews are a fantastic premise for a short novel or film.
[Image: Photo by Michael Cook. "Looking into the bottom of the William B. Rankine G.S. wheelpit from the Rankine tailrace"].
Briefly, though, I'm also reminded of BLDGBLOG's interview with Michael Cook, posted last summer. Cook is an urban explorer based in Toronto.
Toward the end of that interview, I asked Cook "if there's some huge, mythic system out there that you've heard about but haven't visited yet" – some long-rumored underworld that might only be speculation.
- I guess the most fabled tunnel system in North America is the one that supposedly runs beneath old Victoria, British Columbia. It’s supposedly connected with Satanic activity or Masonic activity in the city, and there’s been a lot of strange stuff written about that. But no one’s found the great big Satanic system where they make all the sacrifices.
You know, these legends are really... there’s always some sort of fact behind them. How they come about and what sort of meaning they have for the community is what’s really interesting. So while I can poke fun at them, I actually appreciate their value – and, certainly, these sort of things are rumored in a lot of cities, not just Victoria. They’re in the back consciousness of a lot of cities in North America.
Posted by gjblass at 3:38 PM
Women golfers as a whole get an unfair rap when it comes to attractiveness. Sure, some LPGA members are carrying around an extra hundred pounds (female versions of John Daly), but that doesn't mean there aren't still some real hotties in the golfing world.
read more | digg story
Posted by gjblass at 3:36 PM
by Dana Dratch
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Chances are it's the price of gas, not auto insurance, that's driving you to the poor house.
But if you want to cut your auto insurance premiums to the bone, stay away from small, fast cars.
"It's a common denominator among vehicles that have the highest losses -- a lot of smaller, sportier vehicles, says Russ Rader, spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
"Contrary to the idea that smaller cars can help you avoid crashes, the data shows that small cars get into more accidents," he says. "If you feel like you have a vehicle that can zip in and out of traffic, chances are you'll do that."
Each year, the institute, and its sister organization, the Highway Loss Data Institute, analyze the actual insurance losses associated with the most popular vehicle makes and models. Since insurance companies use similar kinds of data to set premiums, the rankings give consumers a window into how their vehicle choices affect their auto premiums.
And, once again, the data suggests that small cars and speed are an expensive combination for insurers -- especially with a young driver behind the wheel.
"tend to be driven in ways that lead to more crashes," says Rader. "They also tend to be driven by younger, riskier drivers." And smaller cars also tend to be more affordable, which makes them more attractive to those same younger drivers, he says.
"The Subaru Impreza WRX, the Mitsubishi Lancer, the Acura RSX, the Nissan Sentra SE-R -- these vehicles have the highest rates of collision," says Rader. "And age is a part of it. It's how these vehicles are driven."
10 Most-Expensive Cars to Insure
The 10 vehicles that account for the highest dollar amount of losses for insurance companies (starting with the most expensive) are:
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on 2004-2006 models
10 Least-Expensive Cars to Insure
The 10 vehicles that account for the lowest dollar amount of losses for insurance companies (starting with the least expensive) are:
Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, based on 2004-2006 models
The car that comes in fifth on the "most expensive to insure" list, the Scion tC, has one of the youngest demographics. Thirty-five percent of drivers are under 25, says Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president for the Highway Loss Data Institute.
But the car at the top of the list, the Cadillac Escalade, bucks the trend. So why is a luxury SUV most commonly driven by a more affluent and comparative older clientele on the list? Two words: theft magnet.
"The Escalade has a lot of buzz in the entertainment industry," says Rader. "You can't watch an episode of 'Cribs' without seeing an Escalade. So it's desirable."
So desirable that owners face a comprehensive premium of six times the national average, says Hazelbaker.
"It's one of the iconic vehicles that continues to be popular with pop culture stars, so it continues to be popular for people to steal," he says. Plus, "everything in an Escalade bolts into a Suburban," he says.
Least Expensive to Insure
The vehicles that are likely to have the lowest insurance costs? Today's version of the good old fashioned family car, says Rader. These skew toward large sedans, oror minivans.
"They tend to be driven by people who are not as likely to speed or drive recklessly," he says.
And they also aren't as likely to be used to commute to and from work, says Hazelbaker. That means the cars aren't on the road during rush hour, which also lowers their risk.
"We have an awful lot of soccer mom cars on that list," he says. "The (Buick) Rendezvous, the (Subaru) Outback, the (Honda) Pilot, the Chrysler Town & Country -- all of these are sort of 'mommy mobiles.'"
And none of the vehicles on the cheapest to insure list "are very large," either, says Hazelbaker. "As the size of an SUV or pickup goes up, you do have higher losses."
The all-around least expensive to insure? The Ford Five Hundred, the study found. A medium-sized, affordable sedan now known as the Ford Taurus, "it's probably driven by a favorable demographic in a favorable way," he says. "It's a suburban family second car."
Cars of this type "are probably living in a garage," which makes them less of a theft target. Plus they tend to be less desirable to thieves, he says.
"If you're going to pick out something to steal, what would you choose?" says Hazelbaker.
When Bigger Isn't Better for Premiums
But larger vehicles don't automatically mean lower premiums. Some super-size vehicles could actually increase the cost of your insurance.
When two cars collide, the average repair cost for each is about $3,000, says Hazelbaker. But some larger vehicles are routinely linked to higher-dollar damage to other cars. And that could cost you in terms of more expensive insurance.
The top five linked to highest dollar damages to other cars, according to the institute, are as follows.
- Hummer H2 SUT 4dr 4WD
- 4dr 4WD
- 4dr 4WD
- Dodge Ram 2500 mega cab 4WD
"They're big, heavy vehicles that tend to inflict a lot of damage on what they hit," says Rader. See the top 10 list.
Keeping Premiums Down
Want to keep your premiums low? Talk to your agent before you buy your next vehicle, says Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry organization. Once you've narrowed your choices to two or three models, ask if any of the premiums will be significantly different. Note if any of the models have high repair costs or theft rates, she says.
It can be tricky. Even different models of the same car can have different costs when it comes to insurance. "A different motor or different luxury items" can change your premium, says Worters.
One example is a convertible. That ragtop could cost you more than the hardtop version of the same car, says Worters. A convertible is "easier to get into, so it might be more costly," she says.
Another tip off to high-priced premiums: higher-priced cars.
"The more expensive the car is, all things being equal, the more it's going to cost to insure," says Dick Luedke, spokesman for the State Farm Insurance Cos.
And each car has more than one score to consider. The same car that shows lower-than-average losses in terms of inflicting damage might be worse in terms of theft. But insurance companies, and the premiums, take the whole package into account.
So what categories make the most difference, when it comes to your premium?
"The biggest portion of auto insurance is for liability," says Luedke. Next is collision and comprehensive, fairly equally. And after that comes medical payments, he says.
Smart money: Look at your car's scores in all categories, but in the end, shop safety. Pick up great safety information, like crash tests results, rollover ratings, recalls, consumer complaints with the following sites.and
And the car is only part of the equation. You, your lifestyle and your driving record will also have a sizable impact on the premium. To calculate your premium, insurance companies analyze everything from your age, residence, and driving patterns to your prior driving record and credit history.
When it comes to the premium, says Hazelbaker, "the person in the vehicle makes the most difference."
Dana Dratch is a freelance writer in Roswell, Ga.
Posted by gjblass at 1:17 PM
Posted by Gary at 12:59 PM
Posted by gjblass at 12:57 PM
Relatively obscure German tuner Wheels and More comes out of the woodwork with an upgrade package for the Audi R8 supercar.
A handmade stainless steel exhaust system and a reprogrammed ECU give the Audi's 4.2-liter V8 another 37 horses to bring total output to 457 horsepower. New sport springs assist the handling while lowering the car's stance by about an inch. Wheels and More has also upgraded stopping power with a set of eight-piston calipers on 15-inch brake discs.
Not surprisingly considering the company name, the standout feature on the revamped R8 is a set of 20-inch forged alloy wheels, which are available in two different styles.
Check out the Wheels and More Web site for further details.
What this means to you: The flashy wheels add a whole new element of style to the already aggressive R8 exterior.
Posted by Chismillionaire at 12:45 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Michigan — Chrysler has announced that August 1 will mean the end for Chrysler Financial's lease business. James Press, Chrysler's vice chairman and president, said the problem with leasing is similar to the issue facing the housing market because of interest-only and adjustable-rate mortgage deals, and called the situation "a bit of a bubble." Chrysler Financial's leases had made up about 20 percent of its total business, The New York Times noted.
"The economic advantages of leasing have really disappeared," Press told media and financial analysts in a conference call on Friday. The combination of low demand for full-size pickups and sport-utility vehicles — an important part of Chrysler's lease business — and the high cost of borrowing were factors in the decision by the now privately owned automaker. A drop in the residual value of the big vehicles when they come off lease has meant losses for Chrysler and other automakers. Vehicle auction company Adesa reported a 7.4 percent drop in wholesale prices for used vehicles in the first half of 2008, while the cost of borrowing for Chrysler and other companies has increased.
Chrysler dealers will be able to offer leases through outside lenders, but Press said the company also plans to sweeten traditional finance deals to make them more affordable and attractive to buyers. For starters, the current program of zero-percent financing for up to six years will be extended and will cover more vehicles.
Interestingly, Chrysler's owner, Cerberus Capital Management, also owns 51 percent of General Motors' finance arm, GMAC. Whether this change will come to General Motors as well remains to be seen.
What this means to you: The scrambling continues in Detroit to figure out a way out of economic trouble, or to quote the Wall Street Journal, this is a sign that "the woes afflicting Detroit and Wall Street are starting to feed on one another." — Laura Sky Brown, Correspondent
Posted by Chismillionaire at 12:44 PM
The Nissan GTR may be the best thing ever to come out of Japan. Maybe better than Sushi.
Posted by Chismillionaire at 12:39 PM
By Sara Nelson
But that was not the case in Moscow as a team of Russians decided to supersize and hold what they are calling the world's longest BBQ.
And at 335ft long it's got to be a strong contender.
Sizzling ... sausages cook on the mammoth 335ft grill
But does it measure up?
Scores of volunteers rolled up their sleeves and mucked in to cook a whopping 500 sausages on 250 skewers arranged across the gigantic BBQ.
Held in the grounds of the Novyi Bereg Yachting Club yesterday, this flaming feast was a meaty spectacle to behold.
Posted by gjblass at 12:27 PM
A spectacular photograph snapped from NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-64 mission in September 1994. NASA Astronaut Mark C. Lee is floating 130 nautical miles (149.6 miles or 240.8 kilometers) above our home planet Earth. What a view!
here is some more:
Larger: http://chamorrobible.org/images/photos/gpw-2005012 ... (1600 x 1600 pixels), http://chamorrobible.org/images/photos/gpw-2005012 ... (2800 x 2800 pixels), http://chamorrobible.org/images/photos/gpw-2005012 ... (3000 x 3000 pixels) via photo 20 at http://chamorrobible.org/gpw/gpw-20050129.htm
#1. Untethered NASA Astronaut Bruce McCandless II, Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-41B), February 1984
(a) 3072 x 3072 pixels, bandwidth-friendly: http://img174.imageshack.us/my.php?image=1sts41bbr ... (img174.imageshack.us/my.php?image=1sts41bbrucemccandlessfk2.jpg) via http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2000-001156. ...
(b) 3000 x 3000 pixels, bandwidth-friendly: http://img145.imageshack.us/my.php?image=2sts41bbr ... (img145.imageshack.us/my.php?image=2sts41bbrucemccandlesslt4.jpg) via http://grin.hq.nasa.gov/ABSTRACTS/GPN-2000-001087. ...
#2. Untethered NASA Astronaut Robert L. Stewart, Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-41B), February 1984
http://chamorrobible.org/images/photos/gpw-2006102 ... (medium), http://chamorrobible.org/images/photos/gpw-2006102 ... (large) via 21 at http://chamorrobible.org/gpw/gpw-20061021.htm
#3. "Walking in the Void": http://www.nasa.gov/vision/space/workinginspace/ev ... (www.nasa.gov/vision/space/workinginspace/eva_stats.html)
Posted by gjblass at 12:25 PM
Sort of Strange but talented..nonetheless.
Learn how to Cwalk:
Posted by gjblass at 12:02 PM
Yes, it does back flips. It is a Eurocopter BO-105 CBS 4 Twin engine helicopter. Stock model with a Rigid Rotor system, the fixed rotor is why it can do aerobatics
Posted by gjblass at 11:57 AM
Posted by gjblass at 11:50 AM
- If Laura, Kate and Sarah go out for lunch, they will call each other Laura, Kate and Sarah.
- If Mike, Dave and John go out, they will affectionately refer to each other as Fat Boy, Godzilla and Four-eyes.
- When the bill arrives, Mike, Dave and John will each throw in $20, even though it's only for $32.50. None of them will have anything smaller and none will actually admit they want change back.
- When the girls get their bill, out come the pocket calculators.
- A man will pay $2 for a $1 item he needs.
- A woman will pay $1 for a $2 item that she doesn't need but it's on sale.
- A man has six items in his bathroom: toothbrush and toothpaste, shaving cream, razor, a bar of soap, and a towel .
- The average number of items in the typical woman's bathroom is 337. A man would not be able to identify more than 20 of these items.
- A woman has the last word in any argument.
- Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.
- A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.
- A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.
- A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
- A successful woman is one who can find such a man.
- A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
- A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.
- A woman will dress up to go shopping, go to the gym, water the plants, empty the trash, answer the phone, read a book, and get the mail.
- A man will dress up for weddings and funerals.
- Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed.
- Women somehow deteriorate during the night.
- Ah, children. A woman knows all about her children. She knows about dentist appointments and romances, best friends, favorite foods, secret fears and hopes and dreams.
- A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house..
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
A married man should forget his mistakes. There's no use in two people remembering the same thing!
Posted by gjblass at 10:47 AM