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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PHELPS POOLING THE GOLD

OLYMPIAN STROKES HIS WAY TO $1.6M BOOK ADVANCE

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Click to enlarge

By KEITH J. KELLY


EVEN before landing back in the US, Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps, winner of eight gold medals in Beijing and the man being hailed as the greatest Olympian of all time, was converting his fame into a big pool of Yankee dollars.

Phelps snagged an estimated $1.6 million advance from the Free Press imprint of Simon & Schuster for his latest book, to be called "Built to Succeed."

Waxman Literary Agency, working with Phelps' long-time talent manager Peter Carlisle of Octagon, brokered the deal, which had a $1 million floor price just to get into the hunt.

At least a half-dozen major publishers took a look before Dominick Anfuso, editorial director of Free Press, landed the deal.

In the book, which is being called an "inspirational memoir," the publisher said that Phelps will reveal the secrets of his success, and give a behind-the-scenes look at his approach to training, competition and winning.

The narrative thread is expected to be the eight final swims of the 2008 games.

The book will make it onto bookshelves by December.

Phelps, now 23, had first signed up with Carlisle when he was 15 and was just starting to turn pro.

Phelps' coach, Bob Bowman, had first approached Carlisle about repping Phelps, but Carlisle rebuffed Bowman's overture. At the time, Carlisle was heavily involved in the burgeoning snowboarding scene and didn't want to diversify.

But Bowman persisted and now Carlisle has his own version of Olympic marketing gold, thanks to his most famous client.

Carlisle told The Wall Street Journal recently that he thinks Phelps will eventually earn $100 million in his lifetime from marketing and endorsement deals.

Phelps has already earned a $1 million bonus from swimwear maker Speedo, at the Olympics, for breaking the 36-year-old record for the most gold medals earned in a single Olympics, which was set by Mark Spitz.

Last year, Phelps was said to have earned about $5 million from marketing and endorsement deals with companies like Visa, Omega, Power Bar, Speedo and AT&T.

This year, experts say he'll easily double that figure.

Whatever Phelps' long-term selling power turns out to be, he has already passed one of the early marks of hotness by selling out magazine covers.

Sports Illustrated put Phelps on the cover of the Aug. 25 issue that hit newsstands last Thursday with his eight gold medals forming an Olympic necklace -a reprise of Spitz' famous SI cover in 1972.

Early estimates are that Phelps' issue sold close to 130,000 copies on newsstands - a 54,000-copy, or 72 percent, surge over the 75,640 copies that the magazine sold in an average week in the second half of 2007.

Dara's deal

Dara Torres, the 41-year-old swimmer, wrapped up her two-book deal with the Broadway imprint of Random House Inc., even before she splashed down in Beijing and promptly added three more medals to her collection.

Torres, who came out of retirement two years ago, after the birth of her first child, to prepare for her final Olympic event, plans to write a yet-to-be titled inspirational memoir scheduled to be on shelves next April.

The second book, a fitness guide, won't hit shelves until the spring of 2011.

The books were purchased by Stacy Creamer, editor-in-chief for Broadway, in a deal brokered by Evan Morgenstein at Premier Management Group.

Torres has competed in the 1984, 1988, 1992 and 2000 Olympics and has 12 Olympic medals overall, including five golds and the three silvers that she added to her haul at the Beijing Games.

Fast track

Doubleday is speeding up the release of "The Man Who Owns the News," the Michael Wolff tome on Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp. (which owns The Post) and its epic $5.4 billion takeover of The Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones.

The book, which Amazon still lists as landing on shelves in February, will now be out in early December.

Wolff, a columnist at Vanity Fair, is going to be able to doubly hype the book.

First, he's writing about Murdoch for his monthly column in the October issue that hits newsstands next week. Then Vanity Fair's December issue, which hits in November, will feature an excerpt from the book.

A spokesman for Doubleday said, "We expect to get 100,000 copies out to start."

Last August, Wolff snagged what is believed to have been a $1 million advance to write the book for which Murdoch agreed to grant access.

keith.kelly@nypost.com

Top 3 Most and Least "Fee Crazy" Airlines

Airline fees are a controversial topic these days, so we look a look at the fees that airlines were charging and picked the top 3 most and least "fee crazy" airlines. Avoiding fees is hard, so why not try to avoid the airlines that charge them instead?



Most Fee Crazy Airlines:


  1. U.S. Airways: Not only does U.S. Airways have the distinction of being the only US airline to charge for water, they were also the first to discontinue free snacks. They've also decided to do away with in-flight entertainment. So what will you think about while you're bored, hungry and thirsty? How about that $15 first checked bag fee, the $25 second checked bag fee, the $5-30$ fee to choose your favorite economy class seat, and the whopping $250 fee you paid to change your ticket. Oh, yeah, and remember when they made everyone crazy by charging a $5 fee to book a ticket... with their own website?
  2. United Airlines: United is following U.S. Airways lead with a combination of cutting amenities and introducing fees. They've done away with snacks and are selling "snack boxes." Soon, United will be raising the prices for these items and economy class passengers will be expected to pay $9 for a sandwich. While you're munching on that overpriced nonsense, you can add up the following fees: $15 to check your first bag, $25 for the second bag, and $125 for the third. Then there's the $25 you paid to book your ticket over the phone, the $125 you paid for the privilege of traveling with your pet in the cabin, and of course, the $349 per year that you pay to be able to "stretch out and relax in comfort in seats located at the front of the Economy section,".."if available."
  3. (tie) Delta Airlines & American Airlines: American was the first airline to charge for the 1st checked bag, and Delta has managed to resist that fee — but Delta's other fees are just so darn expensive that we had to call this one a tie. Ultimately, it costs more to check two bags with Delta than it does with U.S. Airways, United, or American. American currently charges $15 for the first bag, $25 for the second, and from $3-6 for snacks. Delta charges nothing for the first checked bag, but if you're thinking of checking two bags, get ready to pay $50 for the second bag, and $125 for the third bag. Ouch! Delta's snacks are complimentary, but they charge from $1-10 more for certain special items.


Least Fee Crazy Airlines:


  1. Southwest Airlines: Southwest is the only major airline that isn't charging a fee to check two bags, and the third checked bag will only cost you $25. There is also no fee to change your ticket. Instead, you'll get a flight credit that is good for one year. They don't charge a fee to book over the phone or in person, and they don't charge a fee for an unaccompanied minor.
  2. AirTran: AirTran has fees but they're lower than a lot of its competitors. For example, the 2nd checked bag is $10 and the third is $50. The ticket change fee is $75, and unaccompanied minors will only cost you $39, as opposed to $100 on Delta, United, etc. You will pay $6 for an advanced seat assignment and $20 to sit in an exit row.
  3. JetBlue: JetBlue keeps threatening to go over to the dark side with new charges for things that used to be free (headsets $1, blankets and pillows $7) but they still have some of the more reasonable fees in the industry. There is no charge for the first checked back, and the second bag will cost you $20. Changing your ticket will cost you $100, and expect to pay from $10-20 more for their mini-business class "extra legroom" seats. Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are plentiful and free, however. Love those blue potato chips.

If you're looking for an easy way to compare fees, check out this excellent PDF from the folks at SmarterTravel.com, Airfarewatchdog.com, and SeatGuru.com.

Dodge Trucks....Why men are so attracted to Dodge Trucks

Man hires hitman to kill wife. Wife Kills Hitman!

MSN Tracking Image

The Associated Press
updated 5:14 a.m. ET, Sat., Sept. 16, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. - When Susan Kuhnhausen returned home from work one day earlier this month, she encountered an intruder wielding a claw hammer. After a struggle, the 51-year-old nurse fended off her attacker by strangling him with her bare hands.

Neighbors praised the woman for her bravery, and investigators said they believed the dead man — Edward Dalton Haffey — was burglarizing Kuhnhausen’s home.

But after an investigation, police now say the intruder Kuhnhausen strangled was apparently a hit man hired by her estranged husband — Michael James Kuhnhausen Sr. — to kill her.

The 58-year-old husband was taken into custody Thursday and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail.

Haffey had worked as a custodian under Kuhnhausen at an adult video store, according an affidavit filed by the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office.

Kuhnhausen and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce, and she told officers “her husband was distraught about the divorce and wanting to reconcile but that she was insisting on the divorce,” the affidavit states.

A background check showed Haffey had served lengthy prison terms for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder and convictions for robbery and burglary.

Inside a backpack Haffey left at the scene was a day planner with “Call Mike, Get letter,” scribbled on the week of Sept. 4, the affidavit said. Michael Kuhnhausen’s cell phone number was jotted on the inside of a folder, it said.

An emergency room nurse who lives in a southeast Portland neighborhood, Susan Kuhnhausen arrived home on the evening of Sept. 6 to find Haffey coming at her with a claw hammer.

She was struck in the head and wrested the weapon away, but the struggle continued and Haffey bit the nurse, according to police. A large woman, she was eventually able to get the slight Haffey into a chokehold and police later found him dead in a hallway. An autopsy revealed the cause of death as strangulation.

Police say she acted in self-defense.

There was no sign of forced entry into the home, but according to the affidavit, Susan Kuhnhausen offered an explanation for the lack of evidence of a break-in: Her estranged husband had the security codes for the home’s alarm system, and would have been able to disarm it.

Michael Kuhnhausen denies any involvement, the affidavit states.

Susan Kuhnhausen was out of town attending a nursing conference and did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

She left this message on her voicemail: “I’m not able to answer all the calls that I’ve received in the past few days. I’m being comforted by your concern and your support. I want you to know that our lives are all at risk for random acts, but more likely random acts of love will come your way than random acts of violence.”


Israel to Display the Dead Sea Scrolls on the Internet

Published: August 26, 2008

JERUSALEM — In a crowded laboratory painted in gray and cooled like a cave, half a dozen specialists embarked this week on a historic undertaking: digitally photographing every one of the thousands of fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls with the aim of making the entire file — among the most sought-after and examined documents on earth — available to all on the Internet.

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

From left, three views of a fragment of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls: a plain digital image, a color scan and an infrared scan.

Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times

Simon Tanner is leading a team at Israel's museum who are digitalizing the Dead sea scrolls.

Equipped with high-powered cameras with resolution and clarity many times greater than those of conventional models, and with lights that emit neither heat nor ultraviolet rays, the scientists and technicians are uncovering previously illegible sections and letters of the scrolls, discoveries that could have significant scholarly impact.

The 2,000-year-old scrolls, found in the late 1940s in caves near the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, contain the earliest known copies of every book of the Hebrew Bible (missing only the Book of Esther), as well as apocryphal texts and descriptions of rituals of a Jewish sect at the time of Jesus. The texts, most of them on parchment but some on papyrus, date from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.

Only a handful of the scrolls exist in large pieces, with several on permanent exhibit at the Israel Museum here in its dimly lighted Shrine of the Book. Most of what was found is separated into 15,000 fragments that make up about 900 documents, fueling a longstanding debate on how to order the fragments as well as the origin and meaning of what is written on them.

The scrolls’ contemporary history has been something of a tortured one because they are among the most important sources of information on Jewish and early Christian life. After their initial discovery they were tightly held by a small circle of scholars. In the last 20 years access has improved significantly, and in 2001 they were published in their entirety. But debate over them seems only to grow.

Scholars continually ask the Israel Antiquities Authority, the custodian of the scrolls, for access to them, and museums around the world seek to display them. Next month, the Jewish Museum of New York will begin an exhibition of six of the scrolls.

The keepers of the scrolls, people like Pnina Shor, head of the conservation department of the antiquities authority, are delighted by the intense interest but say that each time a scroll is exposed to light, humidity and heat, it deteriorates. She says even without such exposure there is deterioration because of the ink used on some of the scrolls as well as the residue from the Scotch tape used by the 1950s scholars in piecing together fragments.

The entire collection was photographed only once before — in the 1950s using infrared — and those photographs are stored in a climate-controlled room because they show things already lost from some of the scrolls. The old infrared pictures will also be scanned in the new digital effort.

“The project began as a conservation necessity,” Ms. Shor explained. “We wanted to monitor the deterioration of the scrolls and realized we needed to take precise photographs to watch the process. That’s when we decided to do a comprehensive set of photos, both in color and infrared, to monitor selectively what is happening. We realized then that we could make the entire set of pictures available online to everyone, meaning that anyone will be able to see the scrolls in the kind of detail that no one has until now.”

The process will probably take one to two years — more before it is available online — and is being led by Greg Bearman, who retired from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Data collection is directed by Simon Tanner of Kings College London.

Jonathan Ben-Dov, a professor of biblical studies at the University of Haifa, is taking part in the digitalization project. Watching the technicians gingerly move a fragment into place for a photograph, he said that it had long been very difficult for senior scholars to get access.

Once this project is completed, he said with wonder, “every undergraduate will be able to have a detailed look at them from numerous angles.”

Ready for take-off, Tiddles? Meet the cats which have sprouted wings

While most cats are renowned for having nine lives, these moggies are clearly living on a wing and a prayer.

The cute little devils began sprouting bumps on their backs, which later turned into wing-like growths, during a recent spell of hot weather in China's Sichuan province.

Cat

Cat owner Feng says her Tom cat grew wings after becoming stressed during the recent mating season

One cat owner, known only as Feng, claims her cat's wings are a result of stress after he was 'harassed' by females looking to mate.

'At first, they were just two bumps, but they started to grow quickly, and after a month there were two wings,' she told Huashang News.

'Many female cats in heat came to harass him, and then the wings started to grow.'

Cat

This moggie also has the wings which genetic experts say does not harm his quality of life

Cat

The harmless growths appeared during a recent spell of hot weather

And while she says her lovable Tom is no devil, his wings, which contain bones, make him look more like a 'cat angel'.

But genetic experts claim there is nothing angelic or magical about the condition, which doesn't hinder the cat's quality of life.

They say the wings can form through poor grooming, a genetic defect or a hereditary skin condition.

Delayed by her bra, air passenger is indignant

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

OAKLAND -- When Berkeley resident Nancy Kates arrived at Oakland International Airport to board JetBlue flight 472, she thought she was heading off on a routine journey to visit her mother in Boston. Instead she ended up in a standoff with Transportation Safety Administration officials over her bra.

In the post-Sept. 11 world of heightened airport scrutiny, Kates, like most travelers, is familiar with the drill: Take off shoes and belts, open the laptop, carry shampoo in 3-ounce bottles.

For Kates, on Sunday, though, the security check got too invasive. A big-busted woman wearing a large underwire bra, she set off the metal detector. She was pulled aside and checked by a female TSA agent with a metal-sensitive wand.

"The woman touched my breast. I said, 'You can't do that,' " Kates said. "She said, 'We have to pat you down.' I said, 'You can't treat me as a criminal for wearing a bra.' "

Kates asked to see a supervisor and then the supervisor's supervisor. He told her that underwire bras were the leading item that set off the metal detectors, Kates said.

If that's the case, Kates said, the equipment must be overly sensitive. And if the TSA is engaging in extra brassiere scrutiny, then other women are suffering similar humiliation, Kates thought.

The Constitution bars unreasonable searches and seizures, Kates reminded the TSA supervisor, and scrutinizing a woman's brassiere is surely unreasonable, she said.

The supervisor told her she had the choice of submitting to a pat-down in a private room or not flying. Kates offered a third alternative, to take off her bra and try again, which the TSA accepted.

"They tried to humiliate me and I was not going to be humiliated over this," Kates said. "If I was carrying nail clippers and forgot about them, I wouldn't have gotten so upset. But here I was just wearing my underwear."

So she went to the rest room, then through the security line a second time. Walking through the airport braless can be embarrassing for a large-chested woman, not to mention uncomfortable. The metal detector didn't beep on the second time through, but then officials decided to go through Kates' carry-on luggage, she said.

The whole undertaking took 40 minutes, Kates said, and caused her to miss her flight. JetBlue put her on another one, but she was four hours late getting to Boston.

"It's actually a little funny in a way, but a sad, sad commentary on the state of our country," Kates said. "This is bigger than just me. There are 150 million women in America, and this could happen to any of them."

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said Monday that he wasn't familiar with the incident. But he said in all circumstances, "we have to resolve an alarm."

That's the case for bras, artificial hips or anything with metal that sets off an alarm, he said. "Unfortunately, we can't take a passenger's word for it."

Melendez said he didn't have any statistics on how many times passengers are screened because of bras. But he said, "we do everything we can to ensure that a passenger doesn't feel humiliated."

Kates said she plans to talk to her family lawyer as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Organization for Women and decide how to pursue the incident.

Barry Steinhardt, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, said Monday of federal security officials: "They can't find bombs in checked luggage, and they're essentially doing a pat-down of private parts. This is a security apparatus that is out of control."

Kates said that although she flies about once a month, the only other time her bra has set off alarms in an airport was while she was being "wanded" in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. When she explained to the security agent that the wand was picking up the metal in her bra, she said, that was the end of the matter and she was allowed to go on her way.

Why having an extra wife may lead to a longer life

By Fiona Macrae


The key to a long life could be as simple as getting a second wife.

Research suggests that men from polygamist cultures live 12 per cent longer than those who limit their affections to one woman at a time.

It is thought men benefit from having a fuss made over them by a gaggle of women.
They may also better care of themselves into old age when they have a large family to feed, this week's New Scientist reports.

Hugh Hefner

Long life: Hugh Hefner, 82, and his three girlfriends - Holly Madison (l), Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson (far r)

Sheffield University researchers uncovered the 'benefits' of polygamy by scrutinising World Health Organisation data on marriage practices and on life span.

The analysis shows that men who live in countries where it is common to have more than one wife tend to outlive their monogamous counterparts.

The finding took into account a country's economic situation to minimise the effect of better nutrition and healthcare in monogamous Western nations.

It is thought that the pressure of having to provide for a big families may lead to men taking better care of their bodies and their health. They may also benefit from the care and attention of several wives.

Lance Workman, an evolutionary psychologist at Bath Spa University, said: 'If you have got more wives to look after you, they might fuss over you and that might help you live longer.

'We know that in monogamous societies married men live longer than bachelors.'

Evolution may also have a role to play, with the fierce competition for women in polygamist societies ensuring only the fittest specimens get the girl - and have children.

Good genes would be passed on, endowing good health on future generations.

Dr Workman said: 'If you look at polygamist societies, men are quite competitive towards other men because the pressures are bigger.

'The most successful men can have four or five wives, whereas the least successful don't have any. The females go for bigger, stronger, wiser.'

In some war-like tribes, the men with the most murders on their hands command the most wives, he added.

Chris Wilson, an evolutionary anthropologist from Cornell University in the US, agreed there could be benefits to being surrounded by women in old age.

'It doesn't surprise me that men in those societies live longer than men in monogamous societies where they become widowed and have nobody to care for them,' he said.

iPhone Gaming Control Pads in the Works

The developers at iControlPad have posted some updates to their site since we originally wrote about them back in May.

For those who don’t remember, iControlPad is hoping to deliver an under $30 gaming control pad for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The latest prototype casing is shown here:

They say the color and texture will be glossy and smooth in the final production model.

iControlPad, however, may not be the only product in the works. I’ve also anonymously received an image of what appears to be another gaming pad design that is reportedly scheduled for testing in October. No other details were provided about who might be producing the device, but the image is published here for interest:

In either case, developers will have to specifically support these gaming pads in their apps to make use of these upcoming accessories.

Update: Additional photos and notes about the iControl Pad from Gizmodo:

  • Male connection and Female plug though connection
  • Digital directional pad, 4 Face buttons, 2 shoulder buttons and start and select buttons.
  • Access to all iPhone ports, buttons and the camera while in the iControlPad.
  • Full year guarantee
  • Wikipedia Comes to the iPhone with Wikipanion

    Written by Corvida

    A new school year is about to start and students nationwide will be clamoring for ways to keep up with their school work. With many schools starting to offer free iPod Touches, iPhones, and laptops, the iTunes App Store will be one of the first places to go for back-to-school apps.

    The new school year also means that research via Wikipedia is going to be on the rise. Fortunately for those with iPhones and iPod Touches, they can now access Wikipedia anywhere while on the go with Wikipanion from the iTunes App Store.

    Wikipanion Review

    Wikipanion (iTunes link) is the best application out for Wikipedia on the iPhone and iPod Touch. This app is simply genius and gives you a simplified version of Wikipedia without leaving out any of the site's extra features. To simply the site to fit the screen size of the iPhone, the normal links that you'd see to each section of an article are foregone on the main screen. Instead, there's a small icon located at the bottom of the app that's similar to the bookmark button in Safari on the iPhone. Using this button, users can access all the sections of an article.

    Looking for the list of sources, related topics, and external links for your article? There's a button to access these features also. You not only get to see the links, but you can open them in Safari. According to the developers site, loading Wikipedia pages with Wikipanion is a lot faster than accessing the Wikipedia site from the iPhone's browser. To be honest, we agree.

    Wikipanion: The New College Student's Bible

    With just about everything accessible from this app including pictures, links, and more, the only thing that's missing is an automatic bibliography creator. Students and Wikipedia fans alike will definitely find this app to be enjoyable. However, if you're into creating articles on Wikipedia, I'm afraid this isn't the app for you. There's no way to edit an article. However, all of Wikipedia's articles are now accessible with just one click with Wikipanion.

    Piracy Is Not Theft....

    Magenta Ain't A Colour

    Magenta Ain't A Colour
    By Liz Elliott

    A beam of white light is made up of all the colours in the spectrum. The range extends from red through to violet, with orange, yellow, green and blue in between. But there is one colour that is notable by its absence (click here to check). Pink (or magenta, to use its official name) simply isn’t there. But if pink isn’t in the light spectrum, how come we can see it?

    Here’s an experiment you can try: stare at the pink circle below for about one minute, then look over at the blank white space next to the image. What do you see? You should see an afterimage. What colour is it?



    You should have seen a green afterimage, but why is this significant?

    The afterimage always shows the colour that is complementary to the colour of the image. Complementary colours are those that are exact opposites in the way the eye perceives them.

    It is a common misconception that red is complementary to green. However, if you try the same experiment as above with a red image, you will see a turquoise afterimage, since red is actually complementary to turquoise. Similarly, orange is complementary to blue, and yellow to violet.

    All the colours in the light spectrum have complements that exist within the spectrum – except green. There seems to be some kind of imbalance. What is going on? Is green somehow being discriminated against?

    The light spectrum consists of a range of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation (check this too). Red light has the longest wavelength; violet the shortest. The colours in between have wavelengths between those of red and violet light.

    When our eyes see colours, they are actually detecting the different wavelengths of the light hitting the retina. Colours are distinguished by their wavelengths, and the brain processes this information and produces a visual display that we experience as colour.

    This means that colours only really exist within the brain – light is indeed travelling from objects to our eyes, and each object may well be transmitting/reflecting a different set of wavelengths of light; but what essentially defines a ‘colour’ as opposed to a ‘wavelength’ is created within the brain.

    If the eye receives light of more than one wavelength, the colour generated in the brain is formed from the sum of the input responses on the retina. For example, if red light and green light enter the eye at the same time, the resulting colour produced in the brain is yellow, the colour halfway between red and green in the spectrum.

    So what does the brain do when our eyes detect wavelengths from both ends of the light spectrum at once (i.e. red and violet light)? Generally speaking, it has two options for interpreting the input data:

    a) Sum the input responses to produce a colour halfway between red and violet in the spectrum (which would in this case produce green – not a very representative colour of a red and violet mix)
    b) Invent a new colour halfway between red and violet

    Magenta is the evidence that the brain takes option b – it has apparently constructed a colour to bridge the gap between red and violet, because such a colour does not exist in the light spectrum. Magenta has no wavelength attributed to it, unlike all the other spectrum colours.

    The light spectrum has a colour missing because it does not feel the need to ‘close the loop’ in the way that our brains do. We need colour to make sense of the world, but equally we need to make sense of colour; even if that means taking opposite ends of the spectrum and bringing them together.

    Well, now we've got that sorted out, explain this: stare at the dot in the middle of the image below - you should see all the colours melt away.



    America's Best Handling Car Part 2 - Track Testing

    STAY TUNED: Come back this Fri. (Aug 29) to find out who we picked as this year's America's Best Handling Car.

    Perhaps no other single test can reveal as much about a car's handling as a full-bore hot lap of a racetrack. Within a few high-g turns, any idiosyncrasies hidden in the chassis begin to materialize, behavior that seems benign at six-tenths may suddenly become frightening at ten-tenths; the true handling stars quickly stand out from the merely good. There's nowhere to hide. No wonder cars squeal so much when you wring 'em out around a road course.

    Of course, it helps if you conduct said hot-lapping on a great track with a great driver. And for our "Apex Predators" test we had both. Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway near Monterey, California, wriggles with 2.338 miles of tight, low-speed bends, knuckle-whitening sweepers, a V-max kink, and the elevator-in-a-freefall ride that is the infamous Corkscrew. To tame this asphalt bull we turned to professional road-racing star Randy Pobst (see accompanying story), who proved his skills by needing only one warm-up lap to feel comfortable in each car, by invariably producing his fastest lap on his first flyer, and by never putting a wheel wrong all day.

    Though the resulting lap times were intriguing, ranking speed wasn't our goal. Instead, after each run, Pobst provided a thorough debrief of his impressions, noting each car's strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day-after working his way up from the slower cars to the fastest in the field-Pobst then delivered a detailed, worst-to-best finishing order from his professionally honed perspective-an invaluable addition to our objective and subjective data.

    G Whiz
    What better location than Laguna Seca to get into the nitty-gritty of handling. As each car travels counterclockwise around the course (the solid line), the dotted lines represent the magnitude of lateral g Randy is generating, plotted perpendicular to the driving line. Serving as a visual gauge, the width of the white band signifies 2 g (1 g to either side of the driving path). And each car's peak g in most of the corners, as well as peak speeds between them, are also indicated. As your eye travels around each one, try to feel these g-tilt slightly left or right in your chair.

    You'll notice these lateral acceleration peaks are a lot higher than what we obtained earlier from the skidpad. Why? Around the skidpad, we're averaging the car's cornering, erasing any small irregularities. On an undulating track, however, road camber and vertical loading, can produce dramatic spikes in the results.

    As you will see, that mammoth number-making machine-the Viper-is at it again here, but there are plenty of nuances to be found among the other cars as well. Note how the Viper does a big correction at the end of turn 2. Or how early the Porsche starts making lateral g entering turn 4. Ideally, each turn's cornering episode starts early, grows to be as big as possible, and ends late. But not too late, of course.

    Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Overhead View
    CLICK TO VIEW GALLERY

    CHEVROLET COBALT SS
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:47.751
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.545 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 9TH

    "Pretty darn good," says Pobst after parking the Cobalt SS post-laps. "A lot less steering response than some other front-drive cars I've been in-it can feel a little bit numb-but the steering is linear, with no play, so you have good control." (It's worth pointing out that the Cobalt tied with the Audi R8 for second-heaviest steering effort, and Pobst had commented previously that he's not a fan of overly light steering.) As for responsiveness, Pobst notes, "quite a bit of understeer in the middle of corners, and when I tried to rotate the car it wouldn't let me. I could see the stability-control light winking at me-I'm sure the system never fully turned off." He also says the combo of 260 horses and front drive produced marked torque steer when powering out of second-gear corners. In terms of overall feel, though, Pobst has lots to praise. "Shock damping is really good-not harsh, yet the body roll was well controlled. Combined with the flexible engine, and especially considering the price, this is a really fine effort, a good package for a front-drive car. Much more refined than the Shelby GT500KR."

    SUM UP: Pushes the limits of front drive-hard.


    MINI COOPER S
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:51.977
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.515 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 8TH

    With one car already logged in his cerebellum, laps in the Mini provided Pobst with a basis for comparisons-which he immediately made. "It's clear the Mini handles better than the Cobalt. I can place the car precisely where I want it. And there's so much less understeer. A lot of front-drive cars understeer under power, but mid-corner the Mini was really nicely balanced. I got more and more aggressive-even got the tail to wag a little bit, which is really enjoyable." Like the Chevy, the Mini tended to overcook its tires when exiting tight turns under throttle. "A lot of wheelspin coming out of Turn 11-more even than in the Cobalt-but the Mini was better in the high-speed corners." In terms of steering, Pobst ranks the Mini on par with the Chevy. "Maybe the Cobalt didn't communicate quite as well, but the steering is comparable in both cars. Doesn't feel like it's power-assisted." Pobst also praises the Mini's stability. "Confidence-inspiring. Into Turn 4 I didn't brake at all, due to the sense of control I had. Overall, a fabulous car. I hate to rank it eighth, but you can only do so much with front drive."

    SUM UP: Handling sweetness tops the Chevy's superior stick.


    MITSUBISHI EVO MR
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:47.713
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.559 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 6TH

    Mitsu's ultimate Evo barely outgunned the feisty Cobalt SS around Laguna, yet after piloting his first all-wheel-drive car of the day, Pobst immediately remarks upon its mostly superior handling behavior. "The Evo has really good balance on turn-in. You can feel the tail moving around, a tendency to rotate at corner entry [no doubt the Evo's Active Yaw Control rear differential at work], which I like. And there's great traction, no wheelspin anywhere. In fact, I came out of the Corkscrew so hard I almost went off!" But while he sings high praise for the Evo's balance and grip, Pobst also notes that such talents come at a price. "It feels really predictable, but up to a point. When you get to the limit, it can let go suddenly. Once, going into Turn 5, I got sideways big-time. Still, a lot of fun, and pretty easy to catch with the four-wheel-drive system." For all its raciness, the Evo can't escape its everyday-Lancer roots. "Feels like it has a high center of gravity, tall and narrow-which it is. Almost tippy at times. And the steering is a little lighter than the Mini's or Cobalt's. Extremely well-balanced car, though."

    SUM UP: Race-car character can't cloak family-car bones.


    AUDI R8
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:40.920
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.610 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 1ST

    "Well, we're not in the little cars any more!" Pobst exclaims with a smile after his R8 hot laps (ooooh, you shoulda been there to hear this Bavarian UFO circle Laguna at warp speed). "Real race-car feel. So obvious it's a mid-engine car, especially after the front-drive cars. I felt like I was moving a lot less mass around when I entered corners, even though the R8 is still a relatively heavy car. There's no substitute for having the engine just ahead of the rear axle. That's the perfect place for it." Indeed, Pobst is all thumbs-up. "Steering feel is just terrific, and handling balance is superb. The mid-engine layout makes the R8 feel light on corner-entry. It wants to turn, but that's underlined with a real predictability. The amount of grip and the way the car cornered and rotated slightly was so much like a race car. Doesn't feel like it's four-wheel drive. Also, it's completely comfortable and luxurious." Does Pobst have any complaints at all? "After the first lap and a half, the front tires got hot and started to go off, so I didn't have the bite on corner-entry. Still, in terms of handling feel...utterly superb."

    SUM UP: Want to make a race driver grin? Say "R8."

    2008 Audi R8 Rear Three Quarters View
    CLICK TO VIEW GALLERY

    PORSCHE 911 TURBO
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:42.507
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.589 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 4TH

    We couldn't obtain a test unit of last year's best-handling winner, the Porsche GT3, nor could Porsche provide us with its even hotter sibling, the GT2. Yet our consolation prize, a 911 Turbo, acquitted itself admirably. "Porsche still offers a totally unique driving experience," says Pobst. "The Turbo, with all its stability systems turned off, demands full attention from the driver. The tail is far more active than any other car I've driven today. It's very different from the others. The more I drove it, the more I enjoyed it." Pobst claims the Turbo's strong subjective ranking owes to its exemplary balance. "I was busy driving it, but it was still rewarding because I like getting a car to drift, to use all four wheels. As I started to raise my entry speeds, the back started working more and more. I had to be right on top of the Turbo all the time; it took a lot of quick steering corrections. The Audi felt more modern, more peaceful at turn-in, while the 911 is an E-ticket ride. Steering was fabulous, quick and satisfying. Much as I love the Turbo, though, in terms of overall handling the R8 is a better car."

    SUM UP: Totally involving-sometimes more than what you want.


    NISSAN GT-R
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:40.453
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.628 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 5TH

    "Sweet!" gushes Pobst after his maximum laps in Godzilla. "Really comfortable on the track. GT-R can easily handle its power-I want more! Minimal body roll, but still good control. I could break the rear end loose when I wanted to, but when it went it really went. Steering is quick, very quick responding-which allowed me to catch the car easily. Really, it's a beastly car-not necessarily in a bad way. It's a visceral car to drive. A lot of fun." Which begs the obvious question: Given his enthusiasm, and the GT-R's impressive track numbers, why didn't Pobst rank the GT-R higher than fifth? "While it predominately understeers slightly, it can easily be provoked into snap oversteer. That was fun, but the GT-R is violent when it breaks loose; the R8, in contrast, drifts sweetly. The "R" mode really isn't a race mode-there's still a lot of stability control working, which is fine for the average guy but frustrating for me as a race driver. And before you turn stability control completely off, boy, you'd better have a lot of car-control clinics under your belt. The R8 is much more refined, a muscular dancer. The GT-R is a wrestler."

    SUM UP: Lives up to its Godzilla nickname.


    MAZDA RX-8
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:50.418
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.524 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 3RD

    Already those of you who live and die by the numbers are aghast. Second-slowest lap time? Next to last in lateral grip and the figure eight? Yet a third-place ranking by Pobst? Above my beloved GT-R? Listen to Pobst: "In the purest sense of a sports car, the rear-drive RX-8 is the most satisfying through corners. I felt like it was a glove on my hand. I could put it right where I wanted. Extremely well balanced, easy to drift, unfettered by weight. The all-wheel-drive cars tend to understeer, and then when they do break loose it's a big event and a lot happens. In the RX-8, on the other hand, things happen a little bit at a time. It's just so much fun to drive." Pobst's words only reinforce our own: Big handling numbers are instructive and meaningful, but they often tell you nothing about the actual experience of driving a car, how it "feels." Though underpowered and under-tired compared with other entries here, the RX-8 has grace and fluidity and balance like few other sports cars on the market today. "The more powerful cars feel like riding a horse," Pobst says. "The RX-8 feels like wings bolted right to your arms."

    SUM UP: Optimized for humans, not for computers.


    BMW M3
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:42.964
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.593 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 2ND

    Pobst's first three words after his M3 track laps: "What a ride!" And then he got exuberant. "Makes you a believer in rear drive. Refined, but it rocks, too. Given the car's power and the fact that it's riding on street tires, the traction is excellent. Turn 4 is a fast, top of third gear corner, and while exiting at over 100 mph, I could push the M3 into a small drift. Sweetheart. Overall balance is really good-I don't remember much understeer at all. Also, the M3's steering feel is one of the best here. You've got that big fat wheel rim in your hands. Communicative and quick steering, with great satisfaction. There's body roll but not a sense of it. The damping keeps everything under control without harshness. Greater refinement than in the RX-8; you can feel there's more money in the pot." Pobst experienced a few hiccups with the DSG transmission ("shifts were harsh, and a few times when I tried to downshift it stayed in the higher gear"), but he had nothing but kudos for the chassis. "Not ready to say it's better than the R8, but what a ride!"

    SUM UP: The lofty 3 Series chassis raised to even loftier heights.


    FORD SHELBY GT500KR
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:44.716
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.591 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 10TH

    For a moment, the Laguna pit lane sounded like an episode of "The Dukes of Hazzard." "Yeeeee haaaawww!" yelled Pobst as he exited the bright-blue Shelby. "God bless the ponycar!" Then we gave him a few moments to calm down. "Honestly, I think my expectations were low, based on the inexpensive Mustang chassis. But the GT500KR may well have the highest fun factor here. It's not sophisticated, but the Shelby crew has done an amazing job of making this chassis work. I could drive the living daylights out of it. And the exhaust note sure doesn't hurt." Yet "fun factor" and "great handling" aren't necessarily synonymous. And while he clearly enjoys himself power-sliding the big KR around Laguna, Pobst readily admits the Shelby has its shortcomings. "Every so often, a hinge would show up. When exiting a corner, I'd get a wiggle from the suspension or a tire that was bound up and releasing. And while I felt like I was going really fast, I'm sure I wasn't as quick as I thought. The Shelby is really enjoyable to drive, but in a buckin' bronco sort of way." Ah, but who doesn't enjoy riding tall in the saddle now and then?

    SUM UP: The pony of choice for getting your kicks.


    DODGE VIPER ACR
    BEST LAP (MIN:SEC): 1:35.117
    AVG. LATERAL ACCELERATION: 0.658 G
    SUBJECTIVE RANKING: 7TH

    On the numbers boards, the Dodge Viper ACR devastated the field. Quickest in the figure eight by nearly half a second. Most lateral grip by far. Fastest lap time by almost five seconds. Ah, but that was almost a given: With its adjustable suspension (tuned by a Dodge engineer prior to our track laps), downforce-churning rear wing, and huge, barely legal Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires, the Viper ACR is in all fairness a race car you can drive on the street. Pobst loves it. "We just made the jump to light speed! Just raised the limits of cornering and braking into another dimension. Tires felt grippier than many full-slicks cars I've raced. But when they break away, it's quick and it's big. Still, I felt in complete control." So how did this big black bat finish only seventh on Pobst's scorecard? "The Viper is high in terms of numbers," he says. "But it's brutal. It's like riding a bull. It's tremendous fun, and I love that there aren't any electronic stability controls, but if you're going to drive the Viper anywhere near its limit, you had better know what you're doing. It's not a finesse car. It's enjoyable but crude."

    SUM UP: Sledgehammer demeanor, but the ultimate track ride.


    How did they do that?
    For this year's Best Handling competition, we tried out a new method of measuring steering-wheel angle using what's called motion-capture-from-video. The software -- ProAnalyist by Xcitex of Cambridge, Massachusetts -- can track the motion of just about anything (like a steering wheel) without having to attach clumsy gizmos. Cool. And with some much-appreciated help from Al Murphy of Analysis of Motion in nearby Simi Valley, it worked right out of the box (something that never happens). Check out some of our results in our videos.

    Steering angles
    In the example on the right, the steering-wheel angle of the R8 and M3 are shown over the course of their fastest laps. Note the Audi's additional steering movements, the BMW's sharp counter-steer correction midway around its lap -- insights we'll be probing more in the future.

    Randy Pobst
    If it's got wheels, this journeyman sports-car pro will race it.

    Just think: He could've been an accountant. Yes, Dayton, Ohio-born Randy Pobst got his college degree in accounting (earning a 3.52 GPA, no less). Fortunately for motorsport, he chose another path after attending his first autocross at age 19. "I watched the first two events, then I ran my Datsun 510 in the third and won, beating the class champion." The die was cast.

    In the ensuing three decades, Pobst has forged a solid career up and down amateur and later professional sports-car racing ranks. His first national championship came in 1990, and he's added a half dozen more since then. Pobst has raced at every major road-racing course in the country, has several SCCA national championships to his credit, and is a two-time class Daytona 24-hour winner. Although most of his career has been spent in the GT ranks, he's also raced and won in prototype categories in the ALMS and the Grand-American Rolex series. He's enjoyed factory rides with Audi and Porsche, as well.

    This year, Pobst has two full-time rides. One is at the wheel of the APR Motorsport VW GTI that competes in Grand-Am's Koni Challenge Series. The other is aboard a GT class Porsche GT3 Cup for K-Pax Racing, which competes in the SPEED World Challenge.

    Given that he's driven all sorts of cars with a variety of powertrain layouts and engine locations, we felt Pobst would be the ideal pilot to give us balanced, unvarnished feedback on the wide variety of cars we rounded up for Laguna. And he did that to a high level. Randy got up to speed quickly, was super consistent lap to lap, and worked hard to understand each machine. Plus his enthusiasm for cars and motorsport is infectious. And you have to love that.
    -Matt Stone

    randypobst.com



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