Saturday, July 29, 2006
Each control (steering, throttle, and brake) has immediate response and prodigious range. As soon as you see a gap in traffic, you can fill it. Not just because the car is small, but it's also fast and it changes direction quickly.
The only limiting factor is how obnoxious the driver is willing to be.
I ordered a Motorola RAZR phone, because it was compact and seemed to have good battery life. I have it now, and with the exception of a couple of odd usability choices, I'd have to say it's a pretty good phone.
I happened to come across the first cell phone I ever owned, which by chance was also a Motorola from the late 1990s. I thought it was interesting to compare the size of the two phones:
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
I'm not sure why I like small cars so much. They're generally fun to drive, since they have low polar moment and less inertia sloshing around. I like that making a car lighter creates a positive feedback loop (a lighter car can use smaller brakes, which makes it lighter, which means it can use a smaller engine, which makes it lighter...).
People often wonder why, since I'm so tall, I don't drive a big car or SUV. Being 205cm tall, the first thing I look for in a car is how roomy it is for the driver, and I have not found any correlation between exterior size and interior room. Some cars that I have looked at that have excellent room:
- Mercedes E-class, S-class
- BMW 3-series and 5-series
- Mini Cooper
- Porsche Cayman
- Porsche 911 (1965-1986, 1999-on)
- Ford Explorer/Expedition
- Nissan Quest
- Formula Ford
- Mazda Miata
The last time we went, he was such a mass of fidgets that I didn't really enjoy it. But this time, he made it through nearly the entire show, and I had a great time. I especially enjoyed the clowns and the trapeze artists.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
If you stand in just the right spot, you can see the twin white chimneys on his house rising above the field of hay, creating the feeling that Wyeth's Christina evokes in me:
Something that made me happy this morning.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
I'm hoping this car will serve our needs well for another five or six years, and I also figure that giving it a nice wash can't hurt:
Saturday, July 15, 2006
But this weekend, all I really need to do is take an hour or two to go through my e-mail inbox and clear out the debris from the last two weeks.
Plus no social engagements and no travel.
So I can mow the lawn.
Something simple that I like.
If you're 200 cm tall (6' 6 3/4"), then you're taller than 99.98% of other adult males.
If you're 205 cm tall (6' 8 5/8") like me, then you're taller than at least 99.999% of other adult males. Among the US population, you are taller than all but about 7,000 other adult men.
Which is why, in my life, I have only met 2 people who were taller than me. And one of them was Robert Parrish.
Replica of a wind-up tin toy (even the tires are folded tin) loosely modeled Malcolm Campbell's Bluebird LSR car:
LEGO model of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F1 car, circa 2001:
Automoblox C9 sports car:
No reason, just for fun.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
The (often discredited) BMI or body-mass index formula is designed to provide a quick estimate of whether one is underweight, of normal weight, or overweight. The formula assumes that weight increases with the square of height rather than the cube, so it tends to overstate the BMI for tall folks.
This page provides a calculator which adjusts for this effect.
- "Buy a Mini" trading cards to hand out to my "like-minded" friends
- Window placards with such charming messages as "Hey, Sexy"
- A cheesy ballpoint pen
- A really cheap Moleskine knock-off notebook from China
- Various come-ons for Mini financing
- A duplicate roadside assistance card
The only remotely cool item was two "Interstate Bingo" cards. Of course they were bent in half by the ape who packed the box.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Q. What exactly makes the name XL more palatable than Big and Tall?
A. It is strong. It exudes confidence. Whereas big and tall is like, 'I am a freak.'
Other tidbits from the interview include a discussion of the travails of getting "premier" clothing labels to manufacture (or license the manufacture of) large sizes:
I find Mr. Levin's cynicism breathtaking. In an earlier interview with the Boston Globe, he said:
Q. Casual Male XL has persuaded elite brands to manufacture big and tall sizes. Why did it take them so long?
A. These brands do a lot of aspirational, inspirational-type branding. To see it on a big size — they don't want to go there. It took us a year to work with Reebok, to have them shop our stores and realize that a lot of these customers are jocks themselves. These were football players and basketball players so why would you not try to continue the brand heritage into those sizes?
Q: You recently changed the name of stores from Casual Male Big & Tall to Casual Male XL. Why such a fuss over a few letters?It's wonderful for David Levin's wallet, I'm sure, that he has figured out how to sell clothes to overweight men without forcing them to admit that they are overweight. But what about tall guys? Casual Male retail stores do not stock any pants with inseams longer than 36 or waist sizes smaller than 44.
A: The big and tall market is a $6 billion business. It was puzzling why our market share -- at $430 million -- was so small. We got a focus group together of men those sizes who never shopped at Causal [sic] Male. We asked them what their perception was and it was alarming. They thought we didn't carry their sizes, that we don't have their brands, and that our clothes are for older men. When we asked them about the big and tall market, they said: 'We're not those guys. Those are obese guys, overweight guys.'
Q: But these sound like big and tall men. Aren't they?
A: Even though at a 42- or 44-inch waist, they are pretty big guys, it's a matter of self-perception. Today, we don't think we're as old as we are, as big as we are. We don't look in the mirror and see ourselves that way. Lazy, fat, and unmotivated were what they associated with the words big and tall. XL, though, that's powerful, that's masculine. So the light bulb went off.
Friday, July 07, 2006
Then, as now, I love to walk in the woods, so I used to venture from the town land onto the Army land. The annex was, I think, about 600 acres, and it included some truly beautiful wetlands. I particularly enjoyed exploring the old networks of roads. You could see the traces of the original farm roads (the Army seized the property during WW II) overlaid with the newer paved roads used by the base. There were numerous abandoned ammunition bunkers as well. At that time, the annex was not open to the public, and in fact was actively patrolled, so you had to be on your toes to enjoy a decent walk.
When the toxic cleanup and remediation is finally completed, I believe that the land is going to remain undeveloped. I also understand that the bulk of the land is to be opened for hunting, which is great for hunters but not so good for everybody else.
What brought this to mind was a walk I took yesterday, to the abandoned US Air Force base in Truro, Massachusetts on outer Cape Cod. The same derelict buildings and roads, but this time sited on a 200-foot high bluff overlooking the Atlantic ocean.
I really enjoy walking through abandoned ruins, even modern ones. People (and societies) are happy to talk about themselves, but it's what they leave behind that really tells their stories.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
The first time I took my 911 on the track, it was with a fair bit of trepidation. But I found that when driven normally, it handled wonderfully. Brake steadily for the turn, begin turn in while the brakes still on (to get some weight on the front), then steady throttle to the apex, followed by full throttle from the apex to the exit. At any point in the turn, minor throttle adjustments can be used to trim the line. Perfect, just like a race car.
I've done a fair amount of racing and time trialing, and I've also done a lot of instructing at BMW and Porsche driver schools, and I would say that a Porsche 911 also serves as an excellent error amplifier. For example, if you get on the throttle before the car is turned into the corner, you will experience tremendous understeer. React by cranking in more lock and easing off the gas and you will experience a dramatic shift to oversteer (as the cranked front wheels find grip) followed by tail-first exit. Or if you come in to a turn too hot, turn in to early, then get off the gas in mid turn, same scenario.
But in the hands of a capable driver, what a thrill:
I'm a big fan of land conservation groups in general, such as the Trustees of Reservations (TTOR), but Audubon is one of my favorites. The three sanctuaries that I know the best are Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, Wellfleet Bay, and Broadmoor in South Natick.
Monday, July 03, 2006
During their relatively short breeding season, four to five weeks in June and July, the deer fly (Chrysops discalis) can make life miserable for the dedicated woods walker. These flies feed by dive-bombing the victim, quickly slashing a hole in the skin, secreting saliva with irritating chemicals that increase blood flow, then eating blood from the wound.
These flies typically feed on large mammals. They are attracted to the plume of carbon dioxide that typically emanates from such mammals, as well as to the movement of large dark shapes. Their brute-force feeding style does not work well on fur-covered surfaces, so the flies tend to seek out parts of the body without protection, such as the eyes and ears.
In my experience, the use of DEET-containing repellent has absolutely no effect on deer flies. What does work is to wear a broad brimmed felt hat. The flies lock on to your CO2 plume, then home in on the hat, then dive in and attempt to feed madly on the brim of the hat. Their behavior pattern is fixed. They do not attempt to move around on the victim prior to feeding; the dive bomb and instantly start chewing.
Discovering this quirk of deer fly behavior has really improved my experience of the woods this time of year!
Saturday, July 01, 2006
The Porsche has a temporary service spare which must be inflated using a pump prior to use. It has restricted speed and distance limits.
The Mini has no spare. The tires are run-flats, which can be driven on with zero air pressure for a limited distance (120 miles) at a limited speed (50 MPH). Once they've been run flat, they must be replaced. They are not commonly available, especially outside of the core Mini markets (the Northeast, California, and the Pacific Northwest).
The two types of tire problems that I've experienced in my motoring career (not counting delaminating retreaded tires) have been slow-to-fast leaks caused by nails in the tread and catastrophic loss of pressure caused by bending the wheel rim on potholes. The former can typically be repaired, and as long as you keep pumping up the tire, aren't a big deal. The latter, of course, require a new tire and a new wheel.
To make the Mini more useful and usable, and to reduce the chances of needing to buy a new run-flat tire just because I pick up a nail, I assembled the following on-board tire kit:
The items in the kit fit, more or less neatly, in a small bag:
which in turn nestles happily in my newly installed euro parcel tray:
I also purchased the smallest tire pump that I could find, which fits easily in the glove compartment:
I'm going to live with the run-flat tires for a while, but I expect to ultimately replace them with regular tires with better performance characteristics.