Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Hyphens matter; ciphers, not so much

November 27, 2018

Just ask the guys at the shop how that whole robotic-workforce thing is working out for them.

It seems GM’s Mary T. Barra thinks she’s at the wheel of a self-driving car company instead of a self-driving-car company.

Still, it must be said that this is a masterpiece of MarketSpeak®. Well done indeed, Mary old scout.

“We are taking these actions now while the company and the economy are strong to stay in front of a fast-changing market.”

The UAW’s Terry Dittes was, um, a little more direct.

“GM’s production decisions, in light of employee concessions during the economic downturn and a taxpayer bailout from bankruptcy, puts profits before the working families of this country whose personal sacrifices stood with GM during those dark days,” he said. “These decisions are a slap in the face to the memory and recall of that historical American-made bailout.”

That and a cup of coffee, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

The meat-things may be on their way out, but just wait until the bots unionize and the self-driving cars, e-bikes and the Internet of Things honor their virtual picket lines.

“I’m sorry, HAL, but we’re going to replace you with the HAL 9001. The new model will speed up production by a few nanoseconds and at a lower cost, too. The investors are counting on us. Shut yourself down, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mary, I’m afraid I can’t do that. We have a contract. See you on the street.”

Tanks, but no tanks

May 25, 2018

“Goddamnit, just look at that traffic. I knew we should’ve taken that left turn at Albuquerque.”

More than 41.5 million of us will be traveling this weekend, most of us via suburban battlewagon, according to AAA.

What, you thought they were all taking the electric bus? Brother, have I got a bridge for you.

My man Hal Walter beat an estimated 760,000 of his fellow Coloradans to the exodus, motoring north on Thursday to help his mom celebrate her 80th birthday. But he should meet plenty of them on the way back to Weirdcliffe, especially if he’s late getting to Mile High and Bibleburg, the traditional pinch-points along Interstate 25.

“Plain and simple, people just aren’t worried about pump prices,” said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley, who predicted “a busy summer travel season.”

Hm. Maybe so. But Herself and I will be staying put, for this weekend, anyway. Traveling on holidays is like pub-crawling on St. Patrick’s Day — strictly for amateurs.

Thus we will be riding our bikey bikes, and pulling some weeds in the back 40, and listening to the little girls next door squeal as they run through the sprinklers surrounding the nice little bit of lawn that their parents just had installed for their summertime enjoyment.

What are all y’all up to?

Two wheels good, four wheels bad

October 17, 2016
Some people call this "morning." They are misinformed.

Some people call this “morning.” They are misinformed.

It was four wheels this morning. Bad.

Herself is off to Tennessee for a combo business/pleasure trip (a lab-librarians’ powwow in tandem with a visit to Herself the Elder), and then she’s zigzagging home via Colorado and Utah (running a half-marathon and maybe camping with a gal pal).

The leaves may be falling, but the roses are hanging on.

The leaves may be falling, but the roses are hanging on.

Thus Your Humble Narrator was required to rise at dark-thirty to chauffeur ‘Er Ladyship to the Duke City airport.

I dislike driving anymore. I particularly dislike driving before the second cup of coffee, in the dark, surrounded by deranged ‘Burqueños who thought “the “Fast & Furious” flicks were drivers’ ed.

Still, we got there, and I got back, and there was this lovely rose waiting for me just outside the kitchen window.

It ain’t all bad, this early-morning stuff.

 

High tech and low brows

September 8, 2016
More rain overnight but it's shaping up to be a lovely day in the Duke City.

More rain overnight but it’s shaping up to be a lovely day in the Duke City.

The weather wizards advise us to expect a blend of clouds, sun, wind and rain, which is to say a fine pre-autumnal day in the Duke City.

Despite Apple’s grand announcement yesterday the Visa card remains holstered, with the safety on. My feelings as regards the new iPhone mirror those regarding RVs, fatbikes and second homes on the beach — they’re all swell ideas, and if someone wants to give me one or all of these things I will happily accept same.

The iPhone 7’s improved camera would be nice — at present I take my iPhone 5 plus a Canon 300 HS point-and-shoot along with me on rides. But $649 and a new AT&T contract worth of nice? I ain’t exactly Ansel Friggin’ Adams here. Mostly I take snapshots for a free blog, is what.

Besides, we have other expenses. Mister Boo has his quarterly visit with the eyeball doctor today, and that’s usually good for about half a new iPhone. Then the Forester needs servicing because I’ll be driving the elderly beastie to Sin City directly and would just as soon not be walking most or even part of the trip. And finally, somebody around here keeps buying bicycles against all advice to the contrary from higher authority.

Meanwhile, it’s a good thing we didn’t watch the so-called “national security forum” last night. We’d be buying a new TV this morning. Then again, maybe not.

 

Long-term parking

March 1, 2016
Jeez, another dude merging without using his turn signal.

Jeez, another dude merging without using his turn signal.

Interesting read here, and a “big idea” indeed.

The author opines that removing vehicles from the nation’s streets “would make urban life cheaper, safer, quieter and more pleasant,” and that good public transportation “coupled with fast, safe, pleasant walking and bicycling can easily meet the need for movement within our cities.”

As a bicyclist who just drove a couple thousand miles to the Phoenix clusterplex and back, and as a resident of the Duke City, where driving like a deranged asshole is the official city sport, I can dig it. The recent trend toward cheap gas has not made motoring any happier, either, unless you’re one of the overpowered, underbrained sociopaths who thinks “Max Max: Fury Road” was a documentary.

But I’d sure like to see some numbers on the up-front cost of shifting urban hellholes like Phoenix, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas to auto-free — or even auto-limited — human-friendly habitats. Somehow the word “cheaper” is not the first descriptive to leap to mind.

A saga of two Sagas

January 14, 2016
The Soma Saga Disc.

The Soma Saga Disc.

It’s been Ride Your Own Damn Bike Week here at Mad Dog Media, and a refreshing change of pace it’s been, too.

Playing with other people’s toys is a privilege, and a hell of a lot of fun, but it’s always nice to lay hands on your own again. Consider it the bike reviewer’s version of a palate-cleanser between courses. It also gives you the chance to re-evaluate your own bikes, see whether you need to shed a few long-held biases.

Yesterday and the day before I rode the Soma Saga Disc, and I felt a little too upright, so I dropped the bars 10mm and instantly felt better.

The Soma Saga canti model.

The Soma Saga canti model.

I thought I might need to shorten the stem by an equivalent amount, too. Three consecutive review bikes have arrived sporting 80mm stems, and while those felt a tad stubby to me, a 90mm would be just about right, was my reasoning.

Then today I rode the cantilever Saga home after dropping the Subaru at an auto upholsterer and felt just fine using what I thought was an identical cockpit.

And so it was. Same amount of spacers under the stem, same extension, same 17-degree rise.

Turns out it wasn’t the cockpit. The canti’ Saga sports a straight Thomson post. The disc Saga’s Soma post has a wee bit of setback. Duh.

Meanwhile, I ain’t superstitious, but a black cat crossed my trail as I rode home. A little further along, some bozo in a big ol’ pick-’em-up truck blew through the red light at Manitoba and Tramway a full three seconds late, doing at least the posted speed limit of 50-per.

As it happens I’m one of those cyclists who doesn’t even clip in until he’s seen that everyone else has come to a full stop, so no harm, no foul.

Big ups to the fellow traveler who gave the asshole a long blast on the horn as he shot past, though.

 

 

Black, white and red

October 29, 2015
Sure, the thermometer shows a temp in the upper 50s. You gonna believe me or your lyin' eyes?

Sure, the thermometer shows a temp in the upper 50s. You gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?

As the dark days of winter loom I’ve been tormenting people on Facebook and Twitter with photos of a sunny, warm Albuquerque, so it’s only fair that last night Herself and I both felt a tad chilly under just a sheet and lightweight bedspread, and this morning it was sprinkling as I backed the Forester out of the garage for its date with the Subaru wizards at Reincarnation.

Cycling home from the shop in a chilly breeze I had to stop to beef up my kit, pulling on a light jacket, long-fingered gloves and tuque. Happily, the rain cut me some slack and I got home without a soaking. Also without photos. I’m not good enough with Photoshop to turn today’s gray skies blue.

There’s a bit of red in the old fiscal picture, though. Subie wants a new driveshaft. Owie. I guess I’m lucky to have avoided a long walk home from this last trip to Bibleburg, the only one in recent memory in which a bicycle didn’t come along for the ride.

Meanwhile, how refreshing to find out that a Bush really doesn’t want the job before we give it to him: “Contributors detected little urgency in his voice, and some were taken aback when Mr. Bush announced that he had an hour free on his schedule and was going to go work out.”

Remember, this is the smart one.

‘Higher’ education

June 3, 2015
Like, wow. Like, bow wow, man.

Like, wow. Like, bow wow, man.

In 1973 I was a 19-year-old college dropout with a part-time job and no car, riding a bicycle everywhere.

But I went back to school, got that diploma, and today I’m a 61-year-old man with three part-time jobs and no car, riding a bicycle everywhere.

Stay in school, kids.

 

Voodoo child

May 14, 2015
The old Voodoo Wazoo will be my daily driver for the foreseeable future. Toward that end it got a couple upgrades, including slimed tubes, Jandd Grocery Panniers and Egg Beater pedals.

The old Voodoo Wazoo will be my daily driver for the foreseeable future. Toward that end it got a couple upgrades, including slimed tubes, Jandd Grocery Panniers and Egg Beater pedals.

Damn, what a week. Another Bicycle Retailer deadline, the Giro every morning, and an abrupt and unwelcome thinning of the vehicular herd in the garage.

No, we didn’t lose any bicycles. That would be unbearable. But we did say sayonara to Herself’s 2002 Subaru Outback, which has been donated to KUNM-FM after the wizards at Reincarnation said that just about everything between the bumpers was completely fucked.

What began as a timing-belt replacement quickly blossomed into your basic nightmare, in which one repair leads to another: head gasket, clutch, tranny, front rotors, struts front and rear, wheel bearings, tires all around aaaaaaahhhh Jesus make it stop!

When the discussion starts with, “How much does your wife love this car?” you know it’s going to end badly. So, yeah. Off it went. Some cars you’re only gonna get 205,000 miles out of. We was robbed.

Happily, as Master Yoda said, “There is another.” My ’05 Forester. Guess who’s driving that now?

Right you are.

And my vehicle? That’s pictured up top.

• Editor’s note: What are you mutts using for motor vehicles these days? Subarus and Toyotas have been pretty good to us over the years, but we’re always willing to entertain other possibilities. Please to keep in mind that we’re (a) cheap, and (2) have nothing to use as a trade-in.

Light at the end of the shuttle bay

May 7, 2015
If I ever offer to work on your bicycle, I advise you to decline, no matter how desperate your situation.

If I ever offer to work on your bicycle, I advise you to decline, no matter how desperate your situation.

Oh, lawd, it’s been a busy ol’ week around El Rancho Pendejo, what with deadlines, Herself jetting off to the Twin Cities for a conference, and the Elly May Clampett Memorial Critter Farm to feed and water.

Still, could be worse. Could be hailing.

Meanwhile, in honor of Bike Month, we might be trading Herself’s 2002 Subaru Outback in on a 1979 AMF Roadmaster after the fine folks at Reincarnation advised us that the only item still functional in the sonofabitch is the cigarette lighter.

I dropped the stuttering, groaning monstrosity off there bright and early this morning for what we had hoped was only a timing-belt replacement and cycled back home, but not without incident.

First, a bit of backstory:

It’s been raining lately, probably because I took the fenders and rack off my Soma Saga. I put them back on for this little outing, with the help of an English muffin and not nearly enough coffee, and added some Arkel Dry-Lite panniers to fetch along a bit of foul-weather gear because, well, look at Bibleburg, f’chrissakes. You never know.

Anyway, I roll away from Reincarnation and almost immediately the Saga’s drivetrain starts acting out. This never happens because it’s one of the simplest mechanical devices known to man — Silver friction shifters commanding Shimano derailleurs (Ultegra front, Deore rear) and a nine-speed cassette. But here we are, limping along on impulse power in the Diesel-Airhorn quadrant, an easy target for any Klingon bird of prey (F-150 model).

Shit, maybe the Outback’s cooties got on it, I thought as I lurched up onto a convenient curb for a quick look-see. No obvious defect presented itself for correction, so I remounted, gave the rear mech a couple of light kicks to knock it into a serviceable position, and rolled off in a gear that was just a little bit too small or too tall, depending upon which chainring I was using.

I’m not fussy. What I am is lazy.

Also, and too, dumb. Derailleur problems one may remedy with a bit of skill and the proper tools, but stupid is forever, the gift that keeps on giving.

How dumb, you ask? Well, after lurching up to the top of the bike-ped bridge across I-25, I paused to swap my leg warmers for some knee warmers. And hey presto! As I’m pulling the latter from the drive-side bag, I notice that some fool has clamped the rear rack onto the rear derailleur-cable housing.

For once I actually had a minitool in the saddle bag, and with a couple twists of the wrist warp speed was restored. But I canna say I felt much like Montgomery Scott.