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Friday, August 22, 2008

The Most Amazing Skateparks in the U.S.!

Thanks to increased exposure from the X Games and Tony Hawk, skateboarding is more popular than ever. In fact, more and more skate parks are popping up throughout the country. Here are five worth checking out.

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5 Possible Futures For Michael Phelps

By Alex Blagg

phelps_Cams.jpgNow that he’s out of the pool, with no more races to win or records to break, Michael Phelps has a bit of a problem. Perched mightily atop the apex of modern athletic achievement, with the white hot light of International Superstardom now pointed directly at him, Phelps is in the unfamiliar position of having to perform for a worldwide audience by doing something other than that with which he’s most comfortable: swimming. And as anyone who’s ever had the mixed blessing of being “on top” of anything can tell you, the only place left to go is back down.

With a figure like Phelps, who has been so universally praised in the press, hailed as a hero by the millions of Americans who watched as he made history, and achieved a level of fame usually reserved for Jesus and Burt Reynolds in the 70’s, the eventual media backlash is inevitable - and our own jokey, superficial assessment of some his poorer fashion choices is just a toe dipped in the cesspool of cruel, insatiably hungry TMZ cameras and tabloid gossip monsters so eagerly awaiting his return stateside. As America’s love affair with Phelps finally begins to cool, his every move is going to be captured, scrutinized and criticized until the modern media has managed to mold and shape him into whatever story arc they ultimately choose for him (hint: it will be whichever one proves most profitable). He hasn’t even gotten back from Beijing yet and fame-baggage such as cereal box scandals and the rumored lust of Lindsay Lohan have already managed to enter his sphere of orbit. Only time can tell what will ultimately become of Michael Phelps, but for the sake of speculation, here are five possible futures he could be facing, as demonstrated by legendary swimmers of Olympics past.


Option 1: Become A Pseduo-Celebrity

Role Models: The most obvious comparison - and one Phelps himself has been complicit in making with his Sports Illustrated cover homage - is with 70’s swimming icon Mark Spitz. After setting 7 world records at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Spitz returned to lucrative endorsement deals and the enthusiastic courtship of the fickle folks in Hollywood, due as much to his movie star looks as his world champ status, a fact about which he himself once bragged publicly. However, the Golden Boy image and swingin’ 70’s style couldn’t make up for his spectacular inability to act, and the film and TV offers soon gave way to the occasional bit part and sports broadcasting gig. These days he mostly does commercials and talks about swimming. Bruce Jenner - while not a swimmer, but a decathlete - could also provide a potential cautionary tale as someone whose Olympic achievements were ultimately eclipsed by an unfortunate appearance in the Village People biopic Can’t Stop The Music, giving birth to Brody Jenner, and becoming the standing patriarch of the Kim Kardashian Klan.

How Phelps Could Achieve This: In today’s celebrity-centric media landscape, this seems to be the path most easily and obviously taken by Phelps. Today it’s the cover of the Frosted Flakes box and text messaging with Lindsay Lohan, final stop: I Love Money: Season Four and Phelps-brand swimming floaties.

Read the rest, after the jump!


2. Become A Bonafide Movie Star

Role Models: After retiring from swimming in 1928 with five Olympic gold metals, Johnny Weissmuller went on to become a major movie star, making more than ten successful films in the titular role of Tarzan, then going on to star in another successful film franchise with Jungle Jim. While never nominated come Oscar time, Weissmuller managed to maintain a productive and profitable career in Hollywood for decades to came.

How Phelps Could Achieve This: Unless there’s a great thespian hiding in that freakishly elongated torso of his, Phelps had better hope that - like Weissmuller - Hollywood can find for him a role whose acting demands amount to grunting, yelling and beating his chest. Or that Brendan Fraser retires.


3. Become A Benign National Hero

Role Models: After retiring from professional swimming after winning three gold medals then placing 2nd to Johnny Weissmuller at the 1924 Olympics, Duke Kahanamoku went on to
became a national ambassador for swimming, then popularized the sport of surfing, which at that point was only known in his homeland of Hawaii. Duke once rescued eight capsized fishermen from drowning, using his surfboard to paddle back and forth to the shore, bringing survivors to safety. Lifeguards have utilized surf boards for rescue efforts ever since. Later in life, Kahanamoku served 13 consecutive terms as the Sheriff of Honolulu, Hawaii, where he is still regarded as a hero to this day.

How Phelps Could Achieve This: Considering his past DUI and the general lack of morality found among the famous in contemporary culture, this seems like a long shot. But his current heroic status could indeed be extended indefinitely if he did something truly spectacular, say invent some kind of new extreme watersport, then swim all the way to Afghanistan and arrest Osama Bin Laden?


4. Marry Rich

Role Models: Old-timey swimmer Charles Daniels - no, not the same guy who challenges Satan to fiddling competitions - won 5 gold medals between 1904 and 1908, all while rocking a full-length suit with shoulder straps and with pants down to the knees. Then he went on to marry Florence Goodyear, heiress to the Goodyear tire fortune, and likely spent the rest of his life lazying about by a pool.

How Phelps Could Achieve This: I’m sure Paris Hilton is available if he wants her, and together they could undoubtedly set records for worst additions to the gene pool.


5. Quietly Return To Civilian Bliss

Role Models: Upon winning 8 gold medals in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, Matt Biondi took his Berkeley degree and moved to Kamuela, Hawaii, where he got married, had a kid, and now teaches math, U.S. History, personal excellence, and swimming at a small high school.

How Phelps Could Achieve This: Deeply examine the last couple years of Britney Spears’ life, then manage to arrive at the personal realization that sometimes its best to just take the money and run.

How to Backpack Around Southeast Asia on $20 a Day

Tell your friends you’re going backpacking in Southeast Asia and they may smirk at the suggestion you’re getting in touch with your spiritual side. But there’s another kind of inner peace you may discover, the kind that can only come from saving money while still having the time of your life.

Southeast Asia is beautiful, culturally rich and a place where its easy to live off of $20 or less a day. You won’t even feel guilty eating greasy street food–the cheapest way to dine–because you’ll burn off all the calories on the trail. Go now and you’ll avoid the crowds that come in peak season but still benefit from the cooler weather.

Your biggest expense will be the airfare—getting there can be pricey, but Cathay Pacific’s All Asia Pass gives you 21 days to fly to four destinations and starts at $1,199. Here are some of the hot spots included—and why they belong on your itinerary.

Mae Hong Son

This northwestern Thai mountain region draws fewer tourists than Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, but it still has everything a backpacker would need. You’ll find basic necessities like ATM machines and Internet cafes in the town of Mae Hong Son. Make this town or Pai your home base, but head to hill tribe villages for unforgettable culture and Thai food cooked fresh over an open fire. Hire a guide who can arrange your meals and campsites, or check into a Pai hotel for less than $30 a night and go on day hikes.

Currency: baht

Peak season: November to April

Ho Chi Minh City

Hostels can cost as little as $10 a night in the city’s backpacker ghetto, Ngu Lao. Spend a day trekking the Cu Chi Tunnels, a piece of Vietnam War history outside Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), before getting out and going north along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Hop-on, hop-off buses cost about $20 to take you all the way to Hanoi. The one place you’ll want to make sure to get off the bus is Dalat valley. See coffee and silk being made, and take in waterfall views.

Currency: dong

Peak season: November to March

Phnom Penh

This Cambodian city draws a slew of tourists gawking at French colonial architecture and learning grim Khmer Rouge history on the Killing Fields just outside the city. The real attraction is Angkor Wat (near Siem Reap); a spectacularly preserved temple that was first built as a Khmer castle in the 12th century and has served as religious center for both Hindus and Buddhists. The less spiritual among you may recognize the temple as the site used in the 2001 movie, Tomb Raider. Siem Reap is backpacker-friendly with a number of inexpensive restaurants, Internet cafes, and places to burn CDs of your trip photos. Hostels in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap cost $10 and up a night, while buses between the two are $5–10.

Currency: riel (US dollars are widely accepted in cities)

Peak season: October to June


Southeast Asia’s own Sin City is the ideal place to celebrate the end of your long trek. The Guardian ranked The Dome Bangkok’s best bar, and it’s true that the swank rooftop lounge is a good way to indulge. On the other end of the spectrum, you can kick back with a beer in the aptly named Cheap Charlie’s, a shack surrounded by massage parlors (I’m not here to judge). Rest your head at Bangkok Centre Sukumvit 25, touted as the world’s largest budget accommodation ($9 a night in a dorm-style room), close to all transportation and equipped with WiFi.

Currency: baht

Peak season: April to August

Now that you have climbed Buddhist temple stairs, stood on the killing fields and partied in Bangkok, you can spread the word to all those smirky friends that backpacking in Southeast Asia isn’t just for college kids trying to find themselves. Or you may want to keep the information to yourself so it will still be affordable next time you go.

35 Greatest Works of Reverse Graffiti

In the environmental movement, every time you lose a battle it’s for good, but our victories always seem to be temporary and we keep fighting them over and over again.” David Suzuki.

Alexandre Orion

Welcome to the world of reverse graffiti, where the artist’s weapons are cleaning materials and where the enemy is the elements: wind, rain, pollution and decay. It’s an art form that removes dust or dirt rather than adding paint. Some find it intriguing, beguiling, beautiful and imaginative, whereas others look upon it in much the same way as traditional graffiti – a complete lack of respect for the law. Reverse graffiti challenges ideals and perceptions while at the same time shapes and changes the environment in which we live, whether people think for the better, or not.

We thought we’d compile a collection of some of the most incredible works of reverse graffiti and the artists behind them for your viewing pleasure.

Reverse Graffiti Project1. Moose: Original Reverse Graffiti Artist >

Mona Lisa in Dust2. Scott Wade: Reverse Graffiti on Cars >

Alexandre Orion3. Alexandre Orion: Skulls in Sao Paolo >

Dust Monster4. More Reverse Graffiti from the Public >

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

The top 10 essential places to have sex...according to Playboy

Public Relations

By Lola Augustine Brown

Grab your love life by the collar and get out of the bedroom; there's a whole world of cheap thrills and naughty sex out there. So ditch the duvet and work your way through these 10 essential places to have sex before you die.

1. In the Car
The bigger the vehicle the more scope there is for sexual adventure, but if you don't drive a Bentley have no fear. You'd be surprised at how well you can get down in the most cramped spaces. Set the satellite navigation for the local lovers lane or secluded parking lot and start steaming up those windows.

2. In the Pool
The water rushes around your genitals making both of you feel different and more exciting. The buoyancy allows great thrusting with minimum effort, and orgasm is reached with ease as the water relaxes and soothes. You can take it slow or reenact one of the steamy scenes in Showgirls. Beware as water may kill the natural lube and make entry a little difficult, but ultimately worth the effort. Aim for a hotel pool after dark rather than the local rec center unless you want a criminal record for your efforts.

3. The Cinema
It's what art films were made for, so go really late to a sexy film and choose a secluded spot. Knowing that no one can see you back there invites naughtiness. Thing is, can you cope with the shame of being caught in the beam of a torch wielded by an awkward, acne-ridden teenager suffering from a bad case of girlfriend envy?

4. Back of a Cab
Why wait until you get home? You managed to haul your drunken asses into a cab. Slip the driver a crisp note and tell him to take the scenic route as you make full use of the spacious back seat. So long as you can handle the cabbie getting his kicks as you get yours, fun for all parties ensues.

5. On a Train
Watch Risky Business for some foreplay inspiration then book two tickets on the A train to O. Find a secluded train, wait for the carriage to empty then get frisky to the swaying motion. Booking a night in a sleeper car is the less risky option for fulfilling this particular fantasy, but in essence you're still doing it aboard.

6. In the Woods
Show your appreciation for the beautiful countryside around you and get your kicks al fresco. Bend your girlfriend over a stump for earthy pleasures and let your mating call resonate through the trees. Just watch out for stinging nettles, Army reservists and rambling church groups, all instant passion killers.

7. In a Nightclub
For those times when you've met a horny new lover and all that bumping and grinding has left you both a hot mess, the average nightclub has a number of options for near-public sex. The washrooms, provided you can both sneak into one of the booths, are prime spots for a tempting splash of oral sex before going home to really explore each other's bodies. If you find a booth in a dark corner, a long skirt and an open fly can disguise all kinds of mischief.

8. On a Boat
Provided you've got your sea legs, the motion in the ocean is a chilled-out aphrodisiac. A small vessel is preferable to the cross-channel ferry (the bunks are too narrow). Slowly rocking into the sunset and diving off the side to cool off afterwards: pure bliss.

9. A Mile High
Defying the laws of physics to get two people in an airline lavatory truly marks you out as a sexual pro. Positioning is limited but rear entry is possible and promises a high chance of success. Virgin Atlantic has the most spacious toilets and even used to offer a bed for transatlantic sky-high action, but other airlines are not so sympathetic to passion. Make sure to give that proud smile as you walk back to your seat.

10. On the Beach
The crashing of waves, stars twinkling above and hot blood coursing through your veins -- what a potion for romance. So drop down and get it on as you sink into the sand. Take a blanket for maximum comfort, and be prepared to be scratching sand out of every crevice for the next few nights.

Beijing Olympic Stadium: 30 minutes before Men's 100m Final

This is a High-Definition 360 degree picture of the Bird's Nest.....Absolutely Amazing.

Hennessey Turbo Challenger runs 11's

HOUSTON — Hennessey Performance Engineering (HPE) is in the midst of developing the first tuner-modified version of Dodge's new Challenger SRT8. At least this is the first modified new Challenger Inside Line has seen that actually appears to be up and running on the road. And it's definitely the only new Challenger we've seen sporting a Garrett ball-bearing turbocharger. Hennessey is calling it the HPE600 Turbo. That's "600" as in a claimed 620 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of peak torque.

Starting with a Challenger SRT8, Hennessey polishes the 6.1-liter Hemi V8's cylinder heads and drops the compression ratio down from 10.3:1 to 9.6:1. Custom headers feed the big turbo that then pushes its charge through an air-to-air intercooler and back into the engine. Oversize fuel injectors keep the combustion chambers full of high-octane go-juice while a 3-inch-diameter stainless-steel dual-exhaust system handles waste gases. Combine that power with a set of Nitto rear drag radials and, Hennessey says, the car will steam down the quarter-mile in 11.9 seconds at 121 mph after a conservative launch.

If nothing else, however, the Hennessey Challenger is also a looker. Hennessey-branded 20-inch deep-dish five-spoke wheels add some classic muscle flavor while the "hockey stick" graphics push that over the top. Hennessey also lowers the car a bit and upgrades with the brakes with StopTech components.

Currently HPE is working out various bugs in the five-speed automatic transmission to get the combination just right. Once they've done that, however, they've promised the car will immediately land in Inside Line's greedy mitts, so look for a full test in the near future.

What this means to you: Even with gas at four bucks a gallon, there's still room in the world for hot rods.

Oil drops almost $7 per barrel- largest single day decline since 1991

NEW YORK ( -- Oil prices plummeted Friday, erasing the previous session's spike, as the dollar strengthened and investors worried that a decline in demand will spread outside the United States.

U.S. crude for October delivery dropped $6.59 to settle at $114.59 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The drop in oil was the largest single-day slide in dollar terms since Jan. 17, 1991, when oil fell by $10.56. On that day, President George H.W. Bush withdrew oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve ahead of the first Gulf War.

But in 1991, oil was trading at just $32 a barrel, so the more than $10 slide in dollar terms represented a record 33% drop. Oil fell 5.4% Tuesday, which does not even crack the top 50 price declines in percentage terms.

Oil's second-largest slide on Friday comes a day after the second-largest gain on record. Crude futures soared $5.62 a barrel Thursday to rise above $121 a barrel.

"We're trending towards a lot of oil price volatility on the direction of the dollar," said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst with Cameron Hanover. "There are huge amounts of money involved, and the large moves have been based primarily on dollar strength."

Dollar rebounds: The dollar rose after a key measurement showed British economic growth stalled in the second quarter.

The U.K.'s gross domestic product between April and June showed zero growth, the country's statistics office reported Friday.

The economic weakness in Britain signaled that falling demand for oil due to high fuel prices could spread to Europe, according to Kyle Cooper, director of research with IAF Advisors in Houston.

"Fewer trucks delivering packages, fewer people going to work ... There's a very strong correlation between GDP growth and oil usage," said Cooper.

The U.K. report follows other reports this week showing weakness in the euro zone and Japanese economies, putting U.S. investment - and the dollar - in a more favorable light.

A stronger dollar makes crude more expensive for foreign investors, because crude futures are traded in U.S. currency. Rising dollar values also pull investor money out of oil, since many use crude and other commodities as a hedge against inflation.

Georgia-Russia: Oil rose Thursday on tensions between NATO and Russia over the nation's occupation of Georgia. Georgia contains several vital pipeline links that carry crude oil and natural gas between Europe and Asia.

But those tensions appeared to ease Friday.

"There was the potential for some type of action across the Georgian border and we just haven't seen anything," said Neal Dingmann, senior energy analyst with Dahlman Rose & Co.

Also easing supply worries, a BP-led consortium prepared to resume oil flow through the region's Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, a major oil link between Turkey and the Caspian Sea.

"We're still integrity testing," said BP spokesman Toby Odone, "We expect it will be back in normal operation next week."

U.S. gasoline demand: Falling demand for petroleum-based fuels in the United States has been the main force behind oil's fall from a record high of $147.27 in mid-July.

Demand for gasoline last week was about 9.5 million barrels a day, or 1.6% lower than it was last year, according to an Energy Department inventory report released Wednesday.

Drivers were also spending less time on the road in June, according to a second report from the Transportation Department last week.

Drivers will even cut back over the Labor Day weekend, according to a projection from motorist group AAA. The number of travelers avoiding cars and air travel, and using buses, trains, or other transportation will increase by 12.5% this year, AAA said.

National gasoline prices are down more than 42 cents a gallon from the record high set last month, according to the AAA's daily survey of service stations, falling below $3.70 a gallon. To top of page

Italdesign Quaranta-

The electroluminescent speedometer brushes 200 kph as we hurtle down the back straight of a secluded, banked-oval test track near Turin, Italy. From the seat to my left, snapper Bramley captures the moment with his Canons. To my right is Fabrizio Giugiaro, director of styling of Italdesign and the primary creative force behind the outrageous machine we're riding in. I'm the man in the middle. That's correct, because a central driving position is one of many fascinating design aspects of the Italdesign Quaranta.

"200K! Not bad for a concept car, no?" Giugiaro is engaging, passionate, fashion-model handsome, and funnier than Letterman. The engine blares and blats under full throttle, yet as we glide this futuristic, fighter-jet canopied doorstop to a halt, the expected guttural thrum from an idling four-cam V-10 is noticeable by its absence. The only noise I hear is the distant whir of a cooling fan mixed with miscellaneous electronic fizzes. "It's wrong. All wrong," Fabrizio says. "The car is running, but there is no sound. Crazy!"

That's because this turntable star of the 2008 Geneva motor show shares its basic philosophy not with the Lamborghini Gallardo that Giugiaro also designed, but with that poster-child of all hybrids, Toyota's white-hot-selling Prius. Welcome to the hybrid-powered, all-wheel-drive, mid-engine exotic sports car.

The Quaranta is overwhelming in concept, execution, and design detail. And unlike so many show ponies (that look racy underneath an auto show's bright lights, but in reality are motivated by a golf-cart motor and a few 12-volt batteries), this Italdesign creation is a fully engineered runner. And we're here flogging it for all it's worth-many millions, no doubt-less than 60 days after its worldwide debut in Geneva.

Fabrizio Giugiaro, cool as ever, thanks to canopy's anti-UV treated glass.

Massage the right button, and the rear decklid opens to reveal a powertrain cribbed from what we know as the Lexus RX 400h. Italdesign and Toyota have an ongoing relationship; their first project, the Toyota Volta concept of 2004, laid the groundwork for this far more outrageous interpretation of the green exotic. Although the Toyota sport/utility provides its 3.3-liter DOHC V-6 engine, electric-motor assist hardware, continuously variable transmission, all-wheel-drive system, and a bucketload of electronics (including the IP-mounted display that shows when the power is flowing to and from the motors and battery pack), the rest of the Quaranta was designed, engineered, and built by hand from the ground up at Italdesign's Moncalieri, Italy, facilities.

With its modified, side-exit exhaust and reprogrammed engine-management systems, this 3100-pound ecomissile is rated at 268 total horsepower. Battery charging is assisted by Toyota's regenerative braking system and also by solar panels affixed to the car's front and rear horizontal surfaces. As functional and styling elements, the panels generate an additional 250 watts of free power, so long as the sun is shining.

2004's volta concept was badged as a Toyota. It isn't as extreme, yet a few of its design cues are reinterpreted into the Quaranta.

We can talk about the Quaranta's design until Hillary Clinton becomes president, but suffice it to say that it draws the eye from every quarter. Giugiaro calls it a "single-volume" design, meaning it has no particular deck, roof, or hood line; rather, the car's front, rear, middle, and greenhouse sections are all encompassed in more or less one form. Flat surfaces contrast with the arched roofline. The huge center canopy opens via remote control, and its front and rear edges connect visually with the above-noted solar-paneled sections. The rear view places the emphasis down low, as the car is widest at the bottom and narrowest at the top. There are no exterior (or interior) rear/sideview mirrors; these functions instead are managed via cameras that send images to a bank of TV monitors on the instrument panel.

The Quaranta's most striking angle is from the bird's-eye view, straight overhead. From there, it appears more a piece of modern art-pure graphic sculpture-than an automobile. The paint is a warm, matte-finish metallic silver, which adds another industrial-design element. At 175.2 inches long, the Quaranta splits the difference between the Gallardo and big brother Murcielago.

Strong, lightweight carbon fiber is employed for the monocoque chassis, with various aluminum and steel substructures. The bodywork is a combination of composites and aluminum. No off-the-shelf MacPherson struts here; the Quaranta uses racing-style stuff, in the form of custom-made multiple suspension links and pushrod actuated coil-over shock absorbers. The battery packs are mounted between the engine compartment and the cabin. The twin fuel tanks hold a total of about 16 gallons of gas and offer a claimed range of over 600 miles. That equates to around 37.5 mpg, a far sight better than a Murcilago.

Giugiaro has small children, so the Quaranta packs a removable leather-covered baby seat. Toyota-derived powertrain is mounted transversely, like a Lamborghini Miura's-with half as many cylinders.

The massive glass canopy opens to reveal a dazzling cockpit that combines a future-tech look with leather-covered surfaces as only Italians can do them. "The easiest way to enter is to just kind of walk into it," says Giugiaro. And he's right. Step over the sill from either side onto the floor in front of the passenger seat and then sit down into the driver's seat. Having many controls mounted into the flat-bottomed steering wheel is a design element Fabrizio and his legendary father, Giorgetto, have employed many times. Thumb the power button, and the gauges and camera monitors come to life, as do the electric motors. But, as is typical of hybrids, there is no starter. The view through the huge, single piece of tinted glass is unobstructed and otherworldly. Now I know what fish and fighter pilots feel like.


As I ease the Quaranta toward the entrance to the track, all notions of the "photo speed only" mandate, so typical of concept car drives, go straight out the canopy, while Giugiaro instructs me to slam my foot to the floor. The gas engine lights and spins to max revs, the CVT feeding in power as speed climbs. We do a couple wristwatch 0-to-60 runs and get mid-to-high five-second runs with three aboard. It's not crazy fast, but impressively quick. There's none of the crashing and banging so typical of these handbuilt one-offs, as chassis insulation and such are seldom bothered with. The V-6 exhaust tone could pass for that of a V-12, but would never be mistaken for an engine with eight or 10 cylinders.

Italdesign put a considerable amount of time into the Quaranta's aerodynamics, and it shows. It's rock-flat stable at 120 mph, feeling well trimmed and exhibiting no lift and just enough downforce to keep it planted. Giugiaro admits that more is possible here, because of course it's not a production model, although it was treated much that way in the design process. The hushed sound, flat surfaces, and lack of exterior mirrors or wings mean wind noise is extremely low.

After lapping the bowl several times, the Quaranta's creator leads me toward the track's skidpad. G-force runs-in a concept car? Oy. I crank the wheel and begin running an imaginary 200-foot circle. This thing has major grip. No way could I get it to push out without destroying the custom tires. I then try some low-speed transitions. Next thing I know, I'm flinging it side to side like a kart. Wish Reynolds and Mortara were here-nobody would believe this.

I point the car toward a nearby transporter, but Giugiaro again waves me off. "I want to see it on the road. It has never been driven out in the world before. You drive it back to Italdesign." Wait a minute. Handbuilt concept car costing millions. What if I stuff it? No official license plates. No registration. What about insurance? This thing is as street legal as the Space Shuttle. "This is Italy," Giugiaro reminds. "The rules for such things aren't so clear here. So we do what we want." He settles into the left seat to help me watch the cameras, and the car's flanks as we prepare to hit the autostrada. As you'd expect, the locals went freako over seeing this four-wheeled spacecraft on Northern Italy's public roads. Kids jumped and pointed. Cell-phone cams clicked. Vehicles moved out of the way for us, then up, then back, then around. Soon we relaxed and drove it like a car, if not exactly a normal one. The most interesting moment? Pulling through a toll booth. The cointaker looked as if he was seeing Martians abducting Enzo Ferrari, but never said a word.

As we recover from the experience of piloting the Quaranta, Fabrizio Giugiaro's mind is racing ahead somewhere else. "After watching it in motion, I see things. The camera monitor locations are wrong. There are a few lines I wish I had changed. Maybe the surface of the paint should be different. Other things, too. It's time to do something new."

Italdesign Quaranta
Base Price $3,000,000, give or take a mil
Vehicle layout Mid-engine, AWD, 3-pass, 1-door coupe
Engine 3.3L/208-hp/212-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6 plus 167-hp front and 68-hp rear electric motors
Transmission Continuously variable auto
Curb weight (dist f/r) 3100 lb (mfr)
Wheelbase 103.1 in
Length x width x height 175.2 x 78.2 x 48.4 in
0-60 mph 5.6 sec (MT est)
Fuel econ, combined 37.5 mpg (mfr)
On sale in U.S. Don't you wish?

2008 Gurney Edition Mustang

Carroll Shelby has a Mustang of his own (a whole bunch of 'em, in fact). Parnelli Jones has a Mustang of his own. And now another legendary racer, Dan Gurney, has a Mustang of his own, too. It's a limited-edition Saleen; just 300 will be sold. And, yup, like the Mustangs of his rivals, it's real fast.

Gurney hasn't raced professionally since 1970, but he's nearly as famous now as he was in the Sixties. His resume includes four wins in Formula 1 world-championship events (including one in his own Eagle F1 car), seven Indy Car victories, five NASCAR wins, and countless first-place finishes in sports-car events. He was also, as he learned from the father of Jim Clark at the Scotsman's funeral in 1968, the only rival driver feared by the late, great two-time world champion. Since 1970, Gurney has been the sole owner of All American Racers, a team that has notched 78 race wins (including the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Daytona). The man knows a tad about fast cars.

The Saleen-built Gurney Signature Edition Mustang certainly boasts an impressive spec chart. Under the hood lies the company's supercharged, 4.6-liter V-8, good for 465 horsepower and feeding a short-throw five-speed manual that drives a 3.73 Max Grip limited slip. Suspension is a stiff Racecraft design with a Gen-II Watts-Link rear end (a first for a Saleen), which lowers the car's roll center and helps keep the live axle centered under the car (improving handling balance). Tires are high-performance Pirelli P Zero Corsas (285/30ZR-19s in front, 285/35ZR-19s in back) on five-spoke Heritage Edition gray alloys. Brakes are 14-inch vented discs with four-piston calipers up front, 11.8-inch vented discs at the rear.

The dress-up includes a Gurney body kit, "duck-bill" rear spoiler, hood pins, and custom graphics. Inside await excellent leather sport seats with Alcantara inserts, stand-up boost and air-temp gauges, and Gurney's felt-pen signature smack-dab on the center of the dash.

Compared with a production Shelby GT500, the Gurney Mustang kicks out 35 fewer horsepower. But you'd hardly know it by the stopwatch. The Gurney rockets to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds (same as the last GT500 we tested) and trips the quarter-mile lights in 12.9 seconds at 111.3 mph (compared with 12.6 seconds at 114.2 mph for the Shelby). Braking performance is actually better than the GT500's: the Gurney stops in just 108 feet, versus 118 for the factory Ford. And thanks to its Racecraft underpinnings and grippy Corsas, the Gurney trumps the GT500 on handling power, running our exclusive Figure 8 test in just 25.5 seconds (versus 25.9 for the GT500) and wringing out 0.96 g of maximum lateral grip (compared with 0.89 g for the Shelby).


So, for sure, the Gurney edition reveals the prowess of its namesake, particularly on the handling course. But how is it in the real world? Interesting you should mention that. I'd called Gurney to discuss his signature car, and during our chat The Master asked, "What do you think of it?" Gulp. Dan Gurney is asking for my driving feedback.

I swallowed hard and stepped into the breech. "Honestly, I think the springs are too hard. I think you could soften them, loosen up the damping a bit, and make the car more rewarding to drive on ordinary roads without giving up a lot of handling capability. I also noticed a few hiccups in the throttle response, which sometimes continues to roll on when you lift off for an upshift and sometimes hits a dead spot when you're trying to blip the gas for a heel-and-toe downshift."

Gurney was silent for a moment. I started to sweat a little, then he answered: "I agree with you completely. I think what we've got here is a car that's great for someone who wants performance optimized for the slalom course, but I wouldn't mind softening the suspension a bit -- without raising the ride height much. You don't need a race car on the street. A softer setup would be more like what a guy at my well-seasoned age would enjoy." Gurney also acknowledged that he too had noticed the throttle issue. "It's the idle return. Has to do with meeting emissions. I think we may be able to iron that out eventually." Gurney went on to suggest that he'd even like to see an automatic transmission offered in future versions of the car. "Ford has one ready to go. Would work great in this car."

Of course, by nature Gurney is a tinkerer -- even the Saleen folks will admit that, if he could, he'd constantly be making tweaks to his Mustang here or there. Which is not to say that Gurney is dissatisfied with his signature steed as it is now. "It's a wonderful thing to have a Mustang with my name on it," he says, the pride in his voice loud and clear.

Saleen offers the Gurney in just three colors: Performance White, Torch Red, or Vista Blue. You won't miss it when one rolls by: It's hard to ignore those racing-stripe accents and the Gurney Eagle logos sprinkled about. Each of the 300 cars stickers for $58,000, with the only extra-cost option being rear window louvers.

If you buy one, be sure to keep the garage locked. Otherwise, one night Gurney might sneak in and start fiddling with the caster angles.

Sportec SP750

HORI, Switzerland — Sportec, the Swiss Porsche specialist, has introduced the SP750, its range-topping performance upgrade for the Porsche 911 GT2. In fact, Sportec offers several stages of tune for the GT2.

The SP750 is so-called because Sportec's kit for the twin-turbo 3.6-liter flat-6 engine kicks output to 750 PS, or 740 horsepower, with torque climbing to 627 pound-feet.

Sportec has reprogrammed the ECU and fitted more potent turbochargers and larger intercoolers, along with other internal engine mods, including titanium connecting rods and sport cams. A high-performance exhaust system includes high-flow catalytic converters and twin tailpipes. The company claims 0-60 acceleration takes less than 3.2 seconds, while top speed jumps to 217 mph.

The SP750 also gets a reinforced clutch kit and rides on Sportec SPR alloy wheels, available in polished or anthracite finishes, with Michelin Pilot Sport tires — 245/30ZR20 front, 325/25ZR20 rear.

Additional hardware enhancements include upgraded suspension and brakes, as well as revised aerodynamic bits. An aluminum pedal set, velour floor mats and a choice of leather or Alcantara upholstery and trim are among the interior appointments.

If that's just too much oomph, you can start with a Phase 1 upgrade: 599 hp and 586 lb-ft, with 0-60 acceleration in less than 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 210 mph. The next Phase kit will kick things up to 646 hp and 586 lb-ft, with the 0-60 sprint dropping to less than 3.3 seconds and top speed swelling to 214 mph.

The College Try of Gin

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2008
By Jack Bettridge

The class was entrepreneurship. The assignment was to create a marketing plan for a theoretical product for college credits. The idea was a gin "for the new gin-eration." Cornell University students, David Hughes and Scott Krahn, not only dreamt up the product, but after two years of research and development actually put it on the market as DH Krahn gin.

The spirit was born of the idea that gin had been saddled with an image of being a drink for a bygone generation, and if that stereotype could be overturned, young people would be more comfortable ordering it. The partners attacked the challenge not only through youthful marketing, but by conceiving gin anew. They did this by dialing back the scope and intensity of flavors, edging toward the profile of vodka, which is the world's most popular spirit.

It's a canny notion, if you consider that gin is essentially the first flavored vodka, beginning life as a neutral grain spirit and then being infused with botanicals. The lightening of the flavor profile makes the beverage more accessible to the first-time gin drinker. We found it refreshing on its own and in a dry Martini. However, the gin is not as amiable a match with tonic or in a wetter Martini as the mixers tend to overpower the spirit.

DH Krahn has fewer of the botanicals that typically flavor gin, concentrating on Italian juniper (the signature flavor for which gin is named), Moroccan coriander seed, Thai ginger and orange, lemon and grapefruit peel. (Classic gins may include such botanicals as anise, angelica root, orris seed, cassia bark and almond.) The result is a gin that is less complex than such well-known brands as Bombay, Plymouth and Tanqueray, with an emphasis on citrus.

DH Krahn is distilled in one run in a copper alembic still built by Jean-Louis Stupfler, a Bordeaux-based maker of alembics frequently used in distilling Cognac and Armagnac. Like a pot still, the alembic can only be run one batch at a time, which limits the quantities that can be produced. Many gins are distilled in continuously running column stills, which need not be shut down.


Nose: Lemon, clean, bright almost soapy fresh

Palate: Dialed juniper, citrus, rock candy notes, but not cloyingly sweet.

Finish: Sharp and tangy.

Moody's cuts Fannie's and Freddie's ratings

Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) plunged anew after Moody’s cut its ratings on the companies’ preferred stock, citing rising losses and the possibility of a government bailout of the government-sponsored mortgage finance companies. Fannie Mae, the better capitalized of the two, fell 7%, while smaller Freddie Mac plunged 17% in late morning New York trading.

Moody’s cut its outlook for the mortgage firms’ subordinated debt to negative from stable, whle cutting Fannie and Freddie’s bank financial strength ratings to D-plus from B-minus. That downgrade reflects the likelihood the firms will require “extraordinary financial assistance,” either from the government or shareholders. Last but not least, Moody’s affirmed Fannie and Freddie’s senior debt ratings.

“Given Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s importance to the U.S. mortgage market, we believe there is a very high level of support for their debt from the U.S. Treasury,” said Brian Harris, a Moody’s senior vice president. “And, given these [government-sponsored entities'] more limited ability to raise capital and grow their portfolio to accomplish their public policy role in a time of mortgage market turmoil, we believe that there’s an increased probability of actual support coming from the U.S. Treasury.”

Moody’s said the reduced preferred stock rating reflects a rising “risk of dividend omission on the preferred stock.” Investors fear any additional government support of the companies could wipe out common and preferred shareholders, though Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said he wants to maintain the firms’ current structure.

Moody’s also cited the firms’ “constricted” financial flexibility given the plunge in their shares, which makes it harder for them to raise new capital, and concerns about the performance of the companies’ mortgage portfolios, which could reduce capital to the point where the companies would no longer pay dividends on the preferred stock.

Korean Bank Eyes Lehman Brothers

Lehman Brothers (LEH) surged 13% in premarket trading after Reuters reported Korea Development Bank may buy the struggling U.S. brokerage firm. “We are studying a number of options and are open to all possibilities, which could include (buying) Lehman,” a KDB spokesman said, Reuters reported. The comments come just a day after another sovereign wealth fund, Singapore’s Temasek, expressed interest in possibly adding to its stake in another hard-hit U.S. financial firm, Merrill Lynch (MER).

Lehman has been seeking a buyer for part of its investment management business in its latest bid to raise new capital, but talks with possible partners in Korea and China reportedly broke down earlier this week over price. That led analyst Dick Bove to write in a research note Thursday that the firm could be headed for a hostile buyout. Whether Lehman chief Dick Fuld, who has said he wants the firm to remain independent, would be open to a deal with the state-owned Korean bank remains to be seen. But with Lehman in need of cash as mortgage-related assets suffer a continuing decline, he will certainly have to have an open mind.

Save or live the High Life? AKA Normal or the Bernie's Red

Question: I just turned 24, and the constant pressure from financial advisers to “save save save” for retirement makes me anxious that I’ll never be able to retire. I contribute 10% of my salary to my 401(k) each year - some of which my company matches - and I recently took on a second job to save for a home. Still, I feel miserable. My friends cruise around in BMWs, but I’m afraid to spend a dime on myself lest I ruin my future. I’ve looked at retirement calculators, but most don’t let you enter an age below 25. So I have no idea whether I’m doing enough, too much or just the right amount. What do you think? Are my worries are justified? —Jessica, Boston, Mass.

Answer: In the spirit of full disclosure, I must confess that I’ve been a bit of a cheerleader when it comes to encouraging people to save. I emphasize saving for two reasons. One is that it’s essential. No saving, no retirement. It’s that simple. And the sooner you get into the habit of regular saving, the better your chances of being able to retire in comfort.

That said, I agree that some advisers can get too strident. They create the impression that unless you’re salting away most of your salary you’re a spendthrift. Sure, contributing to 401(k)s and other retirement accounts is crucial. But you don’t want to go through life feeling guilty every time you treat yourself to dinner at a decent restaurant.

I mean, you do have a life to live before retirement. And what’s the point of retiring in comfort if you lived a pinched existence during your career? What’ll you do in your dotage? Reminisce about how much fun it was to forego family vacations so you could boost your 401(k) contribution rate yet another percentage point?

Clearly, retirement planning has got to strike a balance. You want to save enough so you’ll be able to enjoy retirement. But not so much that you can’t also live a satisfying life during your career.

Live below your means

I think the best way to achieve that balance is to adjust your expectations so that you’re content living a little bit below your means. Let’s say your salary is high enough that you can buy a BMW, but doing so would require you to spend every cent you make. Well, maybe you decide to go with a moderately priced Toyota instead so you have some dough left over that you can plow into retirement savings.

It’s that sort of reasonable compromise you want to shoot for in retirement planning, whether it’s choosing a car or a home, planning vacations or whatever.

You don’t want to go to extremes. If you try to live like an ascetic not only will you not enjoy life, but you probably won’t be able to stick to an unrealistic savings regimen anyway.

Rather, you want to make choices that will allow you to live comfortably, but not extravagantly during your career, which should also allow you retire without having to ratchet down your standard of living.

Get an estimate

As for figuring out how much to save, our cleverly named What You Need To Save calculator can give you a quick approximation. Just plug in your age, salary and the amount you’ve saved already, and voila! You’ll get an immediate estimate of how much you should be putting away to be able to retire with 80% of your projected pre-retirement salary (minus your annual savings) at age 65. (As you’ve noted, the lowest age you can enter is 25, but it’s not as if one year will make a radical difference in your recommended savings rate.)

I would expect that someone in their 20s will find that they’ve got to save somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of their salary to have a decent shot at a secure retirement. The figure might be lower for someone who’s already got some savings set aside, as you do. The figure might be higher if your income is high for the simple reason that Social Security will replace less of your pre-retirement income, which means you’ll be relying more on your savings to provide what Social Security can’t.

Expect the unexpected

Whatever figure you arrive at, you should know that, as a practical matter, anytime you’re making projections many years into the future, you’ve got to take the results with more than a few grains of salt. A lot can happen over 30 to 40 years. The market might not deliver the returns you’re hoping for, your investing strategy may hit unexpected snaps, layoffs, illnesses or family obligations may interrupt your savings regimen - you get the picture. Life isn’t as predictable as a spreadsheet.

So if possible you want to build a cushion into your savings regimen, maybe shoot for 12% if 10% is called for. If you can’t manage that, then set aside a few extra bucks when you can - save part of a bonus or a windfall if you’re lucky enough to receive one. It’s also a good idea to monitor your progress periodically, say annually, by going back to our What You Need To Save tool.

At your age, I wouldn’t get too fixated on a particular percentage, though. Fact is, at the very beginning of your career, developing the habit of regular saving and putting away at least something on a regular basis is at least as important as the actual amount you save. By getting an early start, you’ll avoid the pitfall of finding yourself so far behind in your 40s or 50s that you’ve got to resort to shock savings therapy to have any hope of retiring before you’re 80.

Finally, remember that the savings target you eventually settle on has got to make sense in the context of your life as a whole. It’s okay if you’ve got to exert control over your spending impulses or even decide that some purchases are off limits, at least for now.

But don’t get so caught up in frugality that your drive to save dominates your life and sucks the joy out of living. Because if you can’t take pleasure from life today, it’s hard to imagine that you’ll truly be able to enjoy retirement tomorrow.

New Mirror's Edge Gameplay Trailer Shows Free Running Acrobatic Insanity

New Mirror's Edge Gameplay Trailer Shows Free Running Acrobatic Insanity

Even though Mirror's edge made Ashcraft a little ill at E3, the game looks like it's going to be one hell of a ride. This quick paced gameplay trailer gives us a little taste of what we can expect.

IOC To Launch Investigation Into Ages Of Chinese Gymnasts

The International Olympic Committee will investigate whether the Chinese women's gymnastics team that won the gold medal had underage athletes, saying "more information has come to light."

"If there is a question mark and we have a concern, which we do, we ask the governing body of any sport to look into it," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Friday.

Messages for the International Gymnastics Federation were not immediately returned.

Questions about the ages of at least three of the athletes on China's team have swirled for months. Online records and newspaper accounts suggest three Chinese gymnasts -- He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Jang Yilin -- may be as young as 14, but Chinese passport records show they meet the age rules. A gymnast must be 16 in an Olympic year to compete at the games.

The IOC had said previously that it had verified the passports of all athletes competing at the games.


HuffPost published official documents last week showing that Chinese gymnast He Kexin was 14 years old and underage. See them here in "Scandal of the Ages: Documents Reveal Underage Chinese Gymnast."

Miami Gets 600 Solar Powered Bus Shelters

Written by Jaymi Heimbuch
Thursday, 21 August 2008

Fuel Miami, LLC, a media company, has come up with a brilliant give-take plan to boost its company, its advertisers, and the city of Miami.

The company is installing 600 solar-powered bus shelters in Miami, upon which they’ll be able to place their customer’s ads, and with no need to plug into the grid.

The shelters will save about 2 tons of CO2 emissions each, illuminating the ad panels and the shelter itself using the resource for which the state of Florida is famous.

This is one of those places where utilizing solar power seems most obvious. The energy used to light bus shelters is easily overlooked when we’re trying to change the world, but relatively small steps like this make a big difference. It’s an exciting project, and I’m hoping will encourage other media companies vying to provide cities with their outdoor furniture to make similar moves, and for cities to push bidding companies to make innovative proposals like Fuel Miami, LLC.

The only issue I can think of that would put a damper on this cool project is…well, have you seen the condition of most cities’ bus shelters? I imagine keeping vandals away from the solar panels could be a bit difficult.

Man uses Barbie fishing rod to make record catch

In this undated photo released by the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission, David Hayes holds his state record-breaking channel catfish while his three-year-old granddaughter Alyssa holds the Barbie rod and reel that Hayes used to reel in the 21-pound, 1 ounce fish in Elkin, N.C. (AP Photo/N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission)
AP Photo: In this undated photo released by the N. C. Wildlife Resources Commission, David Hayes holds...

David Hayes' granddaughter just ask him to hold her Barbie rod and reel while she went to the bathroom. He did. And seconds later he landed the state record channel catfish at 21 pounds, 1 ounce.

Alyssa's father had bought the pink Barbie fishing rod for Christmas and she had caught a few bluegill before her grandfather hauled in the catfish.

The Winston-Salem Journal reported the catch Aug. 5 in eastern Wilkes County has been certified as a record by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Hayes and his granddaughter have been fishing in the pond behind his house since she was big enough to hold a pole.

Hayes said his granddaughter worried he would break her rod. He landed the 21-pound fish on a 6-pound test line. It was 32 inches long, 2 inches longer than the rod.

Giant dog turd brings down power line

Inflatable or not, you wouldn't want to meet the dog that laid this.

This giant inflatable faeces (actually a sculpture by the American artist Paul McCarthy) broke free from its moorings at a modern art museum in Switzerland before bringing down a power line.

The artwork, named 'Complex Sh*t', was lifted by a sudden gust of wind from its home at the Paul Klee centre in the city of Berne.

As big as a house, the gigantic inflatable eventually came to rest 200 yards away in the grounds of a children's home.

Enlarge giant piece

The giant piece of 'art' broke free from its moorings at a museum in Berne

Museum authorities said the work had an automatic safety device that was supposed to make it deflate in the event of a storm - but it failed to operate.

The museum's director Juri Steiner said Mr McCarthy had not yet been informed of the fate of his artwork, and that he had not yet decided whether to reinstall it in the centre's garden.

The sculpture was featured in an exhibition called "East of Eden. A Garden Show".

The Paul Klee centre's website described the show as containing 'interweaving, diverse, not to say conflictive emphases and a broad spectrum of items to form a dynamic exchange of parallel and self-eclipsing spatial and temporal zones.'

McCarthy is well known for his inflatable artworks, two of which - Blockhead and Daddies Bighead - were displayed outside the Tate Modern in London in 2003.