Sunday, February 28, 2010

Youtube Video of the Day
Amazing Bicycle POV Video

I discovered this video while I was looking for bicycle POV videos to watch while I was riding the exercise bike. According to the notes on this video, "legendary" mountain biking brothers Dan and Gee Atherton are riding on a course built in the slum of Dona Marta in Brazil. In this video, they are basically riding from the roof of one shanty to another, while the residents watch from their doorsteps, inches from where these mountainbikes come streaking down. Something like this would make a good James Bond movie opening sequence.

Note the Red Bull sponsorship. Does anybody really drink this stuff?
Chris Dodd Rolls Over and Plays Dead on CFPA
When danger reared its ugly head, he bravely turned his tail and fled

Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd talks a tough talk, but when the going gets tough, Dodd gets all Sir Robin on us. The current scuttlebutt is that virtually all of the important safeguards in the bill to create a strong Consumer Financial Protection Agency have been taken out of the most recent version of the bill. No independence, no enforcement, huge swaths of transactions where the agency has no authority. Just like the healthcare bill, eventually the bill just gets bad enough that it's not worth supporting at all.

Where Have all the Jobs Gone?

Check out this time-lapse graphic of the U.S. unemployment rate by county, prepared by LaToya Egwuekwe.

Unlike many recessions where the misery was isolated in certain regional pockets, this graphic shows that the unemployment rate in this "Great Recession" has shot up accross-the-board. Last week, Whirlpool announced the closing of its appliance plant in Evansville, Indiana. Whirlpool is moving the jobs to Mexico. Whirlpool was one of the biggest employers in the region. It was also one of the last major appliance makers with a substantial unionized workforce in the United States. Yesterda, the AFL-CIO lead a "Save Our Jobs" rally near the closing plant. As a side note, the Evansville Whirlpool plant Whirlpool plant built P-47 fighters during World War II. The "Arsenal of Democracy" is being dismantled bit by bit. Henry Ford knew that to have a strong industrial economy, the workers (on balance) had to be able to afford the goods they produced. The manufacturing "geniuses" of today seem to have lost that wisdom.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to Apologize

Toyota Head, Akio Toyoda, is in Washington, apologising for Toyota's recent quality and safety issues. He's drawn a lot of flack for the tone of his apologies. Perhaps he needs to take a lesson from Monty Python.

or - from A Fish Called Wanda

Toyota on the Hotseat - This Looks Like a Job for . . .

Toyota is on the hotseat on Capitol Hill. Time for a new spokesman. time for NATHAN THURM

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Presenting Kilroy the Blobfish

I saw this picture in the L.A. Times online, and I had to post it. Wikipedia has an entry on the blobfish. From what I have gained from Wikipedia and elsewhere, the blobfish is found in deep waters off of Tasmania. It is threatened by overfishing and Michelle Obama's physical fitness campaign.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Good News and Bad News from Marjah

There is good news and bad news coming from the US surge in Afghanistan. The good news is that the military is bringing with it "government in a box" to prevent the anarchy that was the bane of the US occupation of Iraq. The bad news: Justin Timberlake is supplying the box.

The Scandal Behind Evan Bayh's Retirement
All the Inside Information about the Kickbacks, The Love Child & More

When Senator Evan Bayh announced recently that he would not be running for re-election this fall, it seemed natural to expect that there was a scandal behind the announcement. Was there a homosexual rendezvous in a airport bathroom? a mistress in Argentina? A secret love child? Millions of dollars of quid pro quo kickbacks from lobbyists? Has he always been a spy from the planet Mediocrity sent here to take up space until his identity is discovered? Right now, all evidence points to the latter.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DeltaWing Indy Car Prototype

Check out the car in the photo to the right. If engineer Ben Bowlby has his way, the cars racing in the Indianapolis 500 will look a lot like the car below. The DeltaWing prototype car made its debut as a full-size mock-up today at the Chicago Auto Show.

While the car may look like futurism run wild, it is a serious design intended to reverse a two decade long slump in the Indy Car series. I'm an Indianapolis native and a big fan of the Indianapolis 500, and Indycar racing in general, but even I acknowledge that change is way overdue in the basic Indycar formula.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway was founded not to host a big annual race, but to be a testing ground for real world automotive technology. For nearly three quarters of a century technology from Indianapolis has made its way into daily drivers, starting with the rear-view mirror, an innovation from the first Indianapolis 500.

In the mid 1990s, technology reached the point where the cars couldn't get any faster without unduly endangering the drivers and spectators. You could change the cars all you wanted, but the g-forces on the drivers wouldn't change. At Indianapolis, the drivers hit a physiological wall at about 230 mph. When the cars got that fast, the focus switched from innovation to ensuring driver safety. Once they realized the cars couldn't go any faster, they focused on controlling costs. The car designs were basically frozen, and even though the actual racing was as good or better than ever, the lack of continuing change quite frankly made the series less interesting. (Incidentally NASCAR faced a lot of the same problems just a little bit later. Nascar's "car of tomorrow" was an attempt to address them. There are some signs that the fans haven't been too keen on the changes.)

The DeltaWing concept is the most focused effort that I've seen so far to reverse this trend. The goal was to make the cars safer, cheaper, more interesting, and more relevant to current automotive engineering issues. The DeltaWing concept addresses all of these goals head on.

The photo to the right comes from DeltaWing Racing itself. The best coverage of the Chicago unveiling that I could find was by the good folks at Jalopnik.

I wish the folks at Deltawing good luck, but I don't think Indycar should standardize on any single futuristic prototype. Instead, I think they should have a prototype series, and let all of the contenders fight it out. I think Indycar should go further, and every 5-years or so come out with an engineering challenge setting out the technical specifications for the next generation of cars. The testing would make weekdays in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway interesting again. The engineering challenges would draw more active support by world automakers and component companies.

Below is a Youtube video of a simulated Deltawing race at Mid Ohio.

Is HAMP Being Tossed in the Hamper?
Obama Administration to Mortgagers: "I'll meet you HAFA way."

While publicly maintaining (incredibly with straight faces) that the HAMP mortgage foreclosure avoidance program is a success, Obama housing officials are quietly moving resources to a new program, HAFA, the Home Affordable Foreclosures Alternatives Program. (I read that as HAFAP, which sounds a lot like "half ass" but that's just me.)

The HAFA program is designed to give borrowers (but more directly, lenders and investors) a soft landing by subsidizing short sales and deeds-in-lieu of foreclosure. According to this article at, the Obama Administrationis shifting focus away from the failed/failing/futile/fubar HAMP modification program to the HAFA "don't let the door hit you on the way out" program. HAFA provides for $1500 in "borrower relocation assistance" -- read that as "cash for keys", $1000 in administrative expense reimbursement to the servicer, and $1000 immediately and $3000 on resale to junior lien holders as an incentive to give up their lien. This assistance is provided to "HAMP-eligible" borrowers. In other words, as i read this, if you don't qualify for HAMP, you won't qualify for this either. Nevertheless this program could be exceedingly useful to the majority of HAMP-eligible borrowers who don't see the benefit in a permanent HAMP modification.

Now it's time for my marginally relevant video of the day. "I'll meet you halfway. That's better than no way. We've got to find some way to get it together."

While I'm on the subject of the Partridge Family, I couldn't resist including a video that's marginally relevant to the marginally relevant video. This one is a rare video clip of Sound Magazine, A Partridge Family tribute band that had an all too brief career in the late 1990s. If you're a Partridge Family tribute band, what do you use for your signature song? Naturally, you use Kiss's Shout it Out Loud.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Terrorism at the Super Bowl - 1977 Style

There have been tons of news stories about heightened security at the Super Bowl. Everybody will be searched to make sure they aren't bringing in a bomb. Note to terrorists: It's been done. Way back in 1977, the Movie Black Sunday was all about a terrorist attack at the Super Bowl. The terrorist was Bruce Dern at his psycho-best. The plot: hijack the goodyear blimp, fill it with a couple million flachets (nails) and explode it over the stadium with the game in progress. You real terrorists will never top this plot for shear evilness, so you might as well not try.

SuperBowl Highlights - 1982
Up With People

This Sunday, the New Orleans Saints will tangle with the Indianapolis Colts. This is a great match-up for me. The Colts are my hometown team. Drew Brees of the Saints is from my alma mater, Purdue, so I want him to do well.

I've already blogged on the geriatric Who concert at halftime. Still, you can't say the old days were better. Here's a Youtube video of halftime 1982 guest artists Up with People. You don't have to thank me twice.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Public Citizen on "The Right of Publicity"

Here's a link to Public Citizen's Consumer Law and Policy Blog. This blog always has a lot of good stuff for those interested in consumer issues. Specifically, this blog covers one issue that isn't ordinarily thought of as a consumer issue, or even as a free-speech issue but it is. Paul Alan Levy of Public Citizen has written repeatedly in the blog condemning a modern trend to expand the Right of Publicity indefinitely. This is being done on a state-by-state basis, and it seems to fly in the face of the explicit text of Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution's which explicitly grants Congress the right to grant protection to the works of authors and inventors for a limited time.

The current controversy is over the commercial use of the image of Barrack Obama. I don't think the founding fathers would have agreed with the notion that George Washington could demand royalties and censure any image of him in the marketplace. I don't think we should allow such a policy today.