Thursday, December 18, 2003

Starbucks vs. Subway

I don't know why Starbucks own their stores outright, and Subway has franchisees, but I'm pretty sure Arnold Kling is wrong. Subway is notorious for selling many franchises in a given geography.

According to a press release excerpting a study Pierre Azoulay (Sloan School of Management, MIT)

...another franchisor in the sample declared it was following the Subway franchises lead when denying exclusive territories to franchisees, apparently not realizing that Subway faces chronic litigation from franchisees because of encroachment-related disputes.

I'm not sure I believe CE Petit's claims about the relative difficulties of making sandwiches and coffee either. There is a world of difference between a good sandwich and a bad one. If you don't believe me, try a Subway turkey sandwich and compare it to one in shrink wrap from a convenience store. Think the only distinguishing factor is the knife they used to cut the bread?

So why have they chosen their respective strategies? I think Wayne Eastman's thoughts are the closest to mine. It's all about the brand...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

My most expensive burger ever

I went to Josie's on Pico last night. It was heavenly as usual.

Dinner started with Josie's customary slice of cheese and mushroom quiche; it was very thin, and very, very good.

We only ordered one appetizer for the table - the sublime 100 tomato tart. Why 100? I have no idea. The tart consists primarily of rather sweet grape tomatoes on a bed of melted goat cheese, all nestled in a shallow tart shell. The tomatoes are impossibly sweet and explode with flavor when you bite into them – a nice contrast to the creamy taste and texture of the cheese.

When I was ordering, I had my eye on two entrees, the lamb chops (too normal?) and the buffalo burger topped with foie gras (too gimmicky?). When I asked our waitress for more detail, she recommended the lamb chops, but said ordering the burger was an “event”. That sealed it, I got the burger.

It was monstrous. Without the top bun it was easily 7 inches tall and surrounded by herbed and truffled fries tossed with a bit of grated cheese. The fries were fair; in my opinion they would have been better without the terrible truffle treatment. Eggs and truffles – fine, pasta and truffles – also fine. Fries and truffles – I’ll pass. The ground buffalo was quite good and just slightly on the rare side of medium. Topped with a thick slab of foie gras, grilled onions and mushrooms, it was served with fresh catsup, mayonnaise, and an excellent red pepper based sauce. A Juicy Crumbly Rich Meaty Mountain of meat. Of course, I ate the whole thing. (and inspired the woman at the next table to do the same)

Dessert was a chocolate lava peanut butter cake, with peanut butter cream and a wedge of peanut brittle. Imagine a 6 inch wide Reese’s peanut butter cup, and invert it. Then inject an ounce or so of warm chocolate sauce and serve. Two (or more) great tastes that taste great together.

If I could eat at Josie’s more often, I’d be as big as a house.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

10 of my LA favorites

Inspired by Armed Liberal, who in turn was inspired by Tedman.

I've only lived here 3 years, so I'm hardly an expert on L.A. dining, but listed in alphabetical order below are 10 of my favorites....

26 Beach Cafe - Breakfast - Venice
Although some praise their burgers and salads, I will not. I must however state, for the record, that they serve the most incredible French Toast I've ever eaten. There are many varieties available, but I favor the one with strawberry and cream cheese stuffing.

Abbot's Pizza - Pizza - Venice, Santa Monica
Tomato/Basil and BBQ Chicken are my favorites. The Venice location turns out more consistent pies and a more interesting experience , but Santa Monica has the better parking and fountain drinks. An excellent meal for the money, the taste/dollar ratio is in the same league as In N Out.

Carousel - Armenian, Hollywood and Glendale locations
Falafel, hummus, baba ganoush and a whole lot of stuff you may not have eaten before. Everything I've had here is excellent. Relatively simple dishes, but executed very, very well. Plan of attack - Go with friends, order too many items, share, waddle home.

El Cholo - Mexican, various locations
Yes, some people hate this place, but I think they're nuts. Anyone who has served so much food to so many people for so many years has clearly got a good thing going. My personal favorite here is the #1 combo, a cheese enchilada and beef taco, two staples that should always be this good, but often aren't.

El Tarasco - Mexican - various locations
Oh, the beefy, cheesy, greasy goodness. The Super Deluxe reminds me of the Tex Mex of my childhood - only better. As good as the Super Deluxe is, the El Tarasco burrito is even better. Marinated beef with onions and cilantro (among other things), and it's outstanding.

In N Out - Almost everywhere
Could be the best taste/dollar ratio available in the Southland. I don't go for any of that off the menu stuff, though I'm sure it's fine. They only sell a few items, but each one is excellent. Compare/contrast with Carl's Jr, many items of dubious quality.

Langer's Deli - Mac Arthur Park
The Best Pastrami Ever. Get the rye bread, which is exceptional. And don't forget the validated parking down the street.

Josie - Fine Dining - Santa Monica
I'm not really sure how to categorize this one besides excellent and expensive. Minor emphasis on game, creative (but not annoyingly so) menu. The only restaurant in this price range that I like enough to spend my own money on; so bring your wallet, or better yet, someone else's.

Pie and Burger - Burgers of course - Pasadena
The urBurger that all others aspire to. Simple, meaty, tasty. The pies are also excellent; this is always worth a trip to Pasadena. Better than Apple Pan in my opinion.

Versailles - Cuban - various locations
Yummy, Garlic, Chicken, Pork, Beans. I don't really think I need to say anything more about it, except for the fact it is the only place I've ever seen Mate soda. Did I mention the garlic?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Favorite Thing I Saw On A Blog Today

A bit of a movie review from Bruce Anderson's Journal (no permalinks, but dated 2003-06-06)

"Movie is muddled and confusing. If you have to read a long treatise on the meaning of the film after watching it to understand it, it's crap."

I know I've had that feeling before.

Monday, June 09, 2003

The World's Best Concession Stand Crabcakes

It was mid afternoon in Northern Virginia, at a little town fair. You've probably seen the type, plywood booths selling cotton candy, softserve ice cream and frozen -> microwaved corndogs. (These last are abominations, settle only for freshly dipped and fried dogs served with mustard. Yum) Also, little tent type booths selling "art" that seemed to be made primarily of coke cans and rusty wire, or wooden toys turned out by retired engineers. Upon arrival, I had two thoughts: first, there would have been approximately 254,876 more people if this was in Southern California; second, where is the "food" court?

When I saw that sign, I knew there was no way I could pass it up. I mean, come on, "The World's Best"? I wasn't exactly qualified to judge, as I'd never before eaten a Concession Stand Crab Cake, but I plunged ahead nevertheless. As I slowly moved to the front of the line I noted that the crab cakes didn't come from a box - good. Buns fried in butter like substance, pleasant aroma, no heat lamps - good, good, good. So I forked over my $5 and got, well, The World's Best Concession Stand Crabcake. Nice juicy lumps of crab meat crisply fried and pleasantly spiced. I've spent more on crabcakes that weren't as tasty many times.

I'm amazed and pleased when I come across a treasure like this. Now just one question remains. What is Old Bay seasoning, and why did I see it all over the region? As usual, I'll turn to Google for answers and post if I find anything interesting.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Southern Pride?

Went to the the Robert E. Lee Chapel and museum in Lexington, Va. last week. His horse, Traveler (who died of lockjaw) is buried outside. Patrons (mostly southerners) leaving the museum throw pennies on top of the horse's grave.

I don't know about you, but I'm fairly sure Lee would not have appreciated people tossing portraits of Lincoln on Traveler's grave.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The blog words

They're not flowing. They are unlike a well poured Coke, or a beer with the perfect head. Or even the glug glug glug of milk from the nifty paper box with a plastic cap.

No, recently they've been more like honey. Not just any honey, but the kind of honey you bought for a recipe a year ago. And used once, then stored on the lazy susan. It waited, quietly drying out and crystallizing until it barely flows at all. Until only a Herculean squeeze of the little plastic bear could coax it out into a guest's tea. (Be careful not to let them see you do this.)

So I guess really, the words are just like the honey in my kitchen. Mostly ignored, seldom used, and in danger of being discarded.

Monday, April 28, 2003


Chewie's Back!

But please, oh please, don't bring back the Ewoks.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

On Making Enchiladas - regardless of recipe

A few times a year, I make enchiladas, Tex Mex style (cheese inside, topped with red sauce, onions and more cheese), for about 10 people, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. I don’t really recommend making them yourself, as the whole process is quite time consuming, but if you live somewhere you can’t get decent Tex Mex or you really enjoy cooking, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Tex Mex enchiladas are almost always made with corn tortillas, and the quality of the tortilla makes a big difference. As far as I can tell, the brand doesn’t matter much, but freshness does. Ever had sort of rubbery or tough enchiladas? Chances are good the tortillas were old. Do not despair though; you can avoid old tortillas easily by using a trick I learned from the tortilla salesman. First, go to the tortilla shelf and grab a package from the front and one from the back, making sure both are from the same vendor. Now, take each package in both hands and gently bend it back and forth, as though you were trying to make a wave run through the stack from side to side (not top to bottom). Feel a difference? The old package should feel stiffer. Nine times out of ten, the old stock is rotated to the front as new deliveries are made, and the fresh ones are put in back. Take the time to find the softest, most pliable package; it’s worth the effort. Also, if you have really fresh ones, you should be able to taste the corn (just a tiny bit sweet) in the final product.

I’ve used a number of cheeses, including fresh mozzarella and a number of Mexican varieties, and I don’t think the variety matters too much. Even supermarket brands are ok if you shred them yourself. However, it is nice to get a bit of a mix; I prefer mostly cheddar with some monterrey jack and mozzarella thrown in. Since grating a lot of cheese is a pain, I sometimes buy it preshredded (if Seliot isn’t around to help), but you have to be careful here. Once cheese is grated, the taste goes downhill fast - so avoid something that was processed weeks ago by joyless gnomes who seem to think of cheese as a consumer product, not a delicious foodstuff. In other words, just say no to Kraft.

Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong here. Ancho and California peppers work well, but the long red ones from New Mexico seem to have the most heat and best flavor. If you can stand the fire, I recommend about half New Mexico and half something else. Some people toast/roast them before processing, but I’ve given that up. When you process the chiles into a paste, be sure to grind them finely. If you don’t, you and your guests will be picking bright red bits of seemingly indestructible chile pepper from your teeth for a day or so. The first time you see a little red sliver you’ll suspect your mouth is bleeding -- probably not, you just didn’t run the blender long enough. Feel free to add chili powder to spice up your sauce, but do not use it as the foundation.

Now this is where you’ll make or break your enchilada experience. Even though tortillas and cheese are important, the sauce is where the rubber hits the road. The single most critical thing about the sauce is you use high quality stock. If you’re seriously considering canned stock from the supermarket, go ahead. Then, when you discover that your enchilada sauce tastes like salty, slightly spiced, and highly processed bits of red rubber playground balls, you can pour it out and start anew. My stock hierarchy goes something like this:

Homemade > Premium/gourmet > Stock in a box > Low sodium > bouillon > generic

If you can’t get stock in box, don’t bother making your own sauce. Trust me on this.

And now please, enjoy your enchiladas.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Restaurant of the week:

My favorite category of good food is undoubtedly the kind that is cheap. And while there are many manifestations of good cheap food, they can be horribly difficult to find. Probably fewer than one burger/taco/burrito/hotdog place in five is worth returning to, and only one in 20 are really outstanding. This week, I was fortunate enough to find one of them.

I don't know why it took me so long to try falafel sandwiches, what's there to dislike? They’re fried (good) and wrapped in bready packages (good). However, it must be noted that the fried/bready combo alone is insufficient for tastiness: - I had a burger in Cincinnati that had French fries on it, it was disgusting. I not only quickly warmed up to falafel; I mentally added them to the list of foods to be Sought Out.

At Sunnin Lebanese Café, the falafels make the grade. Unlike most I’ve tried, where 2 – 4 balls of (hopefully recently) fried goodness are stuffed into half a pita, these are rolled in pita bread like a burrito. Inside are tomatoes, tahini, greens (probably lettuce, but maybe not), and falafel of the heavens. It’s a great combination of tastes: sweet, bitter, tangy, earthy – and consistencies: crunchy, doughy, mushy and crisp. Each is a meal in itself, with no accompaniment needed. However, being an American, I couldn’t resist the siren call of some fairly good French fries. I also tried a beef shwarma that was decent, but not in the same league as the other sandwich. If there is anything to improve, I’d prefer the falafel a bit crispier, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Sunnin has now leaped to the front of the falafel pack, and eclipsed Falafel King as my go-to Mediterranean spot. Now, if I could just get them to switch from Pespi to Coke…

Sunnin Lebanese Café
1779 Westwood (Just north of Santa Monica)
(310) 477-2358

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Restaurant of the week:

I only knew it by the sign over the little blue building with the line out front. It reads, Mariscos, in big red letters painted over a shrimp who seems to be enjoying a day at the beach. The real name is either La Playita or Guillens Mariscos, but that was impossible to divine from the exterior, or extract from the guy at the counter. He was a bit impatient with my high school Spanish, and kept eyeing the growing line behind me.

There are two main categories of things on the menu - seafood cocktails including:

Fish/Shrimp combo?

and Tacos/Burritos including:

Pork Skins
Beef Head

I had two tacos, one shrimp, one pork. The pork taco was mostly meat with diced onion, chopped cilantro, and a bit of diced tomato - but not much. Everything seemed pretty fresh, and was wrapped in two corn tortillas. The burritos (ordered by my friend Seliot) differed from the tacos by being bigger, and having some rice and a little bit of beans added to the mix. Again, the burrito was mostly meat, not much in the way of filler. Each order was accompanied by a small portion of hot pickled veggies - carrots, radishes, a bit of onion and a jalapeno.

Ok ok you say how about the taste? Well, overall it was pretty darn good. Let me start by saying the tortillas were top tier and seemed pretty fresh. The pork was far better than the shrimp in my opinion. In fact, it was one of the best non sausage pig products I've had in quite a while. Tender, tasty and not greasy or gristly. The shrimp was a bit disappointing though, there wasn't quite enough of it and the taste was fairly bland. I addressed this minor shortcoming by dousing the taco with Tapatio sauce and bringing the taste to life.

Overall, it was pretty good. Cheap, tasty, quick. Not the best ever, but I'll work it into my rotation.

La Playita
3306 Lincoln Blvd
(310) 452-0090

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

This seems startlingly accurate, but I would have guessed that my percentage would be at least 50.

You are 32% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at

Via The Poor Man.
We're the 53rd best place to live accordking to this survey; bah, how can I trust any ranking that puts L.A. behind San Francisco and New York? I sure wish I could see the ranking criteria they used. I'm fairly certain Mercer Human Resource Consulting didn't put the same priority on weather that I would have.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Coffee is not really the first thing (not even the first beverage) that springs to mind when someone says "Playboy".

But in the grand tradition of hard hitting business exposes like "The Women of 7 - 11" and "The Women of Enron", Playboy plans to follow up with "The Women of Starbucks". I know that lots of writers hang out there too, so maybe the editors could make it an all Starbucks issue. You know, some journalism and fiction for people who, um, read Playboy for the articles.
As my archives slowly accrete, the numbers of hits from search engines grow also. Some of the more common ones are:

SUV tax breaks
Goodyear blimp
National Geographic Swimsuit

Less common:

Trista Ryan Tahoe
Goodyear (and Goodrich) blimp
Luke Ford
And my favorite - Doritos ads

I hope at least some of you found your visit enjoyable.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Update: My wife, who considers herself a Liberal Democrat, scored 44%.


But wait, maybe the joke is on me.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Well, this clears up a few things.

Generally Liberal
How Republican Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

via Howard Owens
Beautiful drive in this morning, all 2.2 miles of it. Snow on the mountains, low clouds hugging the Hollywood Hills, diffuse gray light washing over all of it.

Alas I lack a
Digital camera now
No picture to share

Monday, February 24, 2003

I could not possibly offer better coverage of the blog event than these folks already did. (Round up here.)

Of course, I do have some random musings…

I really hate to be late, but there we were, late: Sara, Seliot, the wife and your humble correspondent. After some monumentally poor L.A. traffic decisions (let’s just take the 405 to the 101) on my part, we finally made it to the panel about 30 minutes after it started, but apparently hadn’t missed much.

The discussion had a very different feel from the Chinatown blogfest. For one thing, most of the bloggers were basically journalists, as opposed to the previous panel where the participants seemed to blog as a form of artistic self expression. Also, the acoustics of the two rooms couldn’t have been more different. The Chinatown space had a lively and boisterous feel (not many panel discussions are disrupted by the sounds of a noisy shower upstairs), and the AFI room seemed dead in comparison. Have you ever been in a room that just seems to suck the life out of audience? Think back to your last professional conference, the one where you fell asleep after lunch after the lights dimmed.

Also, kudos to Emmanuelle who kept the “panelists must discuss cam girls” theme going in tony’s absence

Highlights included:

Luke Ford’s hilarious logic chain “proving” that most bloggers should be right wing. Distilled to something like - most bloggers are well informed, most well informed people lean toward the right, therefore most bloggers should be right wing. I can’t possibly do justice to his rapid fire delivery or air of confidence.

Meeting Howard Owens

Having Eugene tell me “you might be right” after I contradicted him. (ever so slightly)

Meeting the Number One RiShawn on the internet.

The little salami things topped with a cherry tomato half and five dots of mustard, arranged in the same pattern as the five dots on a six sided die.

Seeing tony’s new, more aerodynamic hairstyle

Friday, February 21, 2003

OK, Seliot

It's not the car, it's the driver.

Huzzah for the SUV's!

That last guy does sound like a bit of a jerk though. :)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

A few thoughts on Armed Liberal's post, and his question asking – “what you see as your safety.”

One reason his potential partner has more capital might be that he manages financial risks better than most, perhaps including A.L. I know a decent number of people who have been successful financially, and I wouldn’t consider any of them gamblers. Although our culture has an image of entrepreneurs as aggressive risk takers, the ones I know are not. Although many, if not most of them, are willing to put capital and their reputation on the line, they only do so when the odds are stacked heavily in their favor.

The Millionaire Mind (and to a lesser extent The Millionaire Next Door) explore some of the above issues thoroughly and are certainly worth reading. Rather than being get rich quick guides, these books study the habits of people with money and how they got it. In a sense, they are get rich slow guides

Also, a few of my safeties:

A prudent, supportive, but questioning wife (and family)

Arai helmet, Aerostitch jacket w/ armor, boots, gloves etc.

SIPDE Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide and Execute

Outstanding business partners (who hire the best employees we can find)

A willingness to walk away from potentially lucrative business when it just doesn’t smell right
Obligatory Bachelorette Post:

I watch about 7 minutes a week of these shows, usually when my wife calls me in saying “comehere comehere comehere hurry” for some romantic moment or another. I trudge in, watch the vignette, often make a snarky comment, and leave.

Until last night, I would have argued that many watched “those shows” not to see the romance, but to see, in the words of ABC, “who will leave broken hearted”. It’s the same sort of fascination (IMHO) that causes people to rubberneck while driving by accidents on the freeway.

Last night was different. After watching a cannily edited show that implied Charlie would be “The One”, Trista picked Ryan. The Nice Guy. Mr. Sensitive. A poetry writing, animal painting, toilet seat down putting (ok, I’m guessing here) nice guy. As a fellow nice guy, I just have to say


It is a pity all nice guys don’t have those pecs, but we work with the tools God gave us, no?

P.S. Did anyone, I mean anyone REALLY need to hear about Charlie clipping his chest hair? Egads

Tuesday, February 18, 2003


That I shall not, nay will not, eat the same sandwich (no matter how good) more than one time per week. Also, I will not purchase more than one bag of either acceptable Dorito color (orangey red and greenish blue) per week, instead I will opt for Trader Joe's potato chips. Yea, though they contain more fat than the aforementioned fried corn snack, they are so, so much cheaper and moreover, leave neither a lingering salty chemical taste in the mouth, nor an unsightly (though tasty) residue on the fingers.

Medium cokes will continue to be ok.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Come on, you know you've got one. Some grandiose prediction or another that you might pontificate on after knocking back a few cold ones.

Maybe you've been known to wax eloquent on the "inevitable" ban on fossil fuels, or speak long and loud about Europe's need to abandon the social welfare state as its population ages. Whatever your particular hobbyhorse, now is your chance to back up all that talk - and it's all in the name of charity.

Hop on over to Long Bets and check it out.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Ok, so that was pretty cool. I went to the live from the blogosphere event last night, and had a great time.

I met Tony, Armed Liberal and Tenacious G., Kitty, and Ev. My friend Seliot and I had great seats right behind some guy blogging the event with his mobile phone.

Some impressions:

Tony - funny, and seems to be a heck of a nice guy (I even took his picture with Ev)

Ev - very thoughtful, and had the night's coolest announcements

Armed Liberal - Interesting in person, as expected, but also more intense than I anticipated. Not intense as in scary, but intense as "he seems to know and care an awful lot about the things he discusses"

Kitty - got a ton of applause when she introduced herself, and handled herself fine in front of the crowd (better, I think, than she imagines)

I'll probably blog more on the event later, but it was an excellent evening. Good dinner (eat the fried eel Tony!), good companionship, a rather interesting panel discussion capped off by a little blogger networking.

By the way, did I mention Google is acquiring Blogger? Wow!

Friday, February 14, 2003

So I heard the Syrian Grand Poo Bah speak this morning. (At least I think he was Syrian, he spoke right before the Frenchman)

Blah blah Israel, blah double standard, blah blah blah.

It reminded me of nothing so much as Eric "Otter" Stratton's speech in Animal House.

"The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests — we did. [winks at Dean Wormer] But you can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg — isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America!"

I'll let you make the necessary word substitutions on your own.

Sunday, February 02, 2003


I had all these weird ideas in my head today while updating my computer OS. While shaking my head ruefully at the process, a few of them spilled out and managed to sneak onto blogger.

I'll try to stay in the upright and locked position from here on out, at least when I'm near the keyboard.
Bruce Bair of Santa Monica Yoga!

You are now on Google, congratulations!
Did you know that when trying to unlock a car door with your remote it doesn't matter:

-how long you push the button (although on some models this sets the alarm off)
-how hard you push the button
-what angle you hold the remote
-what side of the car you are on, or
-whether the batteries are fresh?

If that car is not yours. Regardless of how much it looks like your car, it just won't open - no matter what.
In case you're wondering about the context for the following post, you can check the comments on for 1/31/2003.

But you're probably not.

Friday, January 31, 2003

Although people usually tell me that I'm a smart guy, I'm feeling rather stupid at the moment. Because for the life of me, I can't figure out who Ann thinks she is and why she is yammering on ad infinitum about the content of someone else's blog. I mean, if Ann was the subject of the post I could understand her bitterness. Maybe I could also understand it if Ann was a friend of the subject's. (Ok, you are, so you got me there)

In other words, grrl, if it bothers you to read seliot's comments, don't. If you don't like the idea of reading public comments on your friend's blog, tell her to delete the comments! Or don't read them! I don't really think it's your business to tell her what seliot can and can't comment about.

Which is all just a long-winded and possibly belated way of saying, "Shut up."

Maybe if you met seliot, you'd like him (and Moxie might too), he happens to be a damn good guy. And remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So chill, ok?

Friday, January 24, 2003

They never had anything THIS interesting when I was a kid.

National Geographic Swimsuit Issue! Yeah, you read that right.

Oh come on now, I know I wasn't the only adolescent who paged through old issues to look at bare breasts from cultures around the world.

Was I?

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Hopefully the last SUV thoughts (for a while)

Seliot's a bit upset, and I suppose I can understand why. To some extent, I think I addressed most of his concerns in my previous points, but a bit more clarification is in order.

I don't deny that people should be able to choose their own car (though I wouldn't say car choice rises to the level of a RIGHT), and I'm not asking to outlaw SUVs. As far as I'm concerned, it's irrelevant how safe (with respect to it's occupants) any car is. I don't really care if you have spikes on the inside of your car, or load your airbag with gunpowder - as long as it doesn't hurt someone else.

What ticks me off are people whom, when confronted by evidence that their 3 ton vehicle is a serious threat to others, don't seem to care. Or worse, respond by saying "everyone else should get a bigger car". The point is that SUVs don't conform to "normal" auto safety standards. They are considered "light trucks" and no one ever imagined (I imagine) that that car category would one day make up about half of new car sales. I can understand that having some small percentage of vehicles that don't conform to ordinary standards would be ok. Perhaps regulators thought they wouldn't be driven as many miles, or that their drivers would be professionally trained, or any of a thousand other things that might make such a category an acceptable risk. Everyone else shouldn't get a bigger car because no one intended for there to be so damn many of these things on the road! All I ask is that those vehicles be treated like what they are - one of the most common members of our automotive fleet, and therefore regulated like other passenger vehicles.

If someone can honestly tell me they don't care that they drive a vehicle that is significantly more dangerous to people around them, and are unwilling to have SUVs designed like other cars on the road, screw 'em. I do hope they roll over, because I care less about such a self centered jackass than I do about their unsuspecting victims.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

More SUV thoughts.

I'm really not sure who to be ticked at over SUV's, but there are two groups I can think of offhand.

The first is bad drivers. I hate unpredictable, aggressive, and inattentive drivers, but I really don't like them behind the wheel of 3 ton trucks. Just today, I was tailgated by some blonde in a brand new Escalade (still had paper plates) in Santa Monica. When I looked in the rear view mirror, she had one hand on her cell phone, and the other off the wheel adjusting her hair. I fantasized briefly about walking up to her window at the next light and asking if she had ever considered using one hand to steer in traffic. I find it VERY easy to dislike people like that. (Any guesses on how much cargo she was carrying?)

The second is the managers at Ford and GM who design and produce things like the Escalade, Expedition, and Tahoe. After poring over a twisted set of government regulations, they managed to produce a vehicle that (compared to the average car) kills more of its passengers, kills more people it hits, gets really crappy mileage, and handles like pigs on rollerblades, but hey they're profitable!

Just because I don't like them doesn't mean I want to ban them, but isn't it reasonable to make them conform to the same standards as other passenger vehicles?

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Yesterday, I almost got to see an SUV roll over, and I think was secretly hoping it would. Some idiot in a maroon (bad car color) Ford Extravaganza came barreling around the corner and managed to get his inside front wheel airborne. My first thought was, if he rolls, that as***** might hit me. The second was, well at least another one of those things would be off the road.

You see, I really don't like big SUV's. If you're a ranch foreman - fine, ferry workers to a construction site - ok, carry 1 toddler and 3 bags of groceries from your local Snooty Mart - not so ok. If you want to drive an inefficient death trap/killing machine, I wouldn't care if that decision didn't affect the rest of us. But it does.

Gregg Easterbrook blasts away at SUV's and how they got that way in a four page broadside that's worth reading regardless of your position on Big Vehicles. His article relies a little too much on anecdote for my taste, but the arguments are compelling nonetheless.

Favorite quotes:

"The mid-size Nissan Maxima, which weighs less than half as much as a Hummer, has more front legroom."

Many SUVs, such as the Durango, have been consciously engineered to look as threatening as possible, with auto companies using focus groups and other techniques documented in High and Mighty to determine which features and styling cues suggest an anti-social message and then zeroing in on them. The styling goal for the oversized Dodge Ram mega-pickup was "a vehicle that would make other motorists want to get out of your way."

Why are SUVs so profitable? Because they sell at premium prices while being in many respects shoddy merchandise.

So ask yourself, do you have a "right" to drive a vehicle that is 5 times more likely to kill others than an ordinary car? If you really think the answer is yes, I hope you roll over before you get the chance to hit someone. And hey, don't forget, you're more likely to die in that accident too!

I just brought up Yahoo and one of the top links is a story on increasing SUV tax breaks, but only for the REALLY big ones (as mentioned in the above article). I swear, sometimes it seems like the Bushies are doing everything they can to drive me away from their party.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Woo Hoo!

Homer's Back

Glad to see they are renewing my favorite show EVER, and it's still fresh and funny after all these years. I used to watch the Simpsons every Sunday with my wife (then fiancé). Simpons, King of the Hill, X Files - it was a ritual. That lasted about two seasons until we got tired of the X Files and lost momentum on the whole Sunday TV thing.

These days we watch very, very little television (but I make up for it by playing video games), but we're making a place for the Simpsons at our Sunday dinner table. I really enjoy cooking and the Simpsons, so this arrangement lets me get some quality time with the wife at the same time. A trifecta!

P.S My wife also got me a talking beer opener with Homer's voice. Easily the coolest gift I got over the holidays. :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

QE2 fails inspection

I find it sort of disturbing that QE2 failed the health inspection. (The crew never referred to the ship as The QE2, just QE2 - no article). I had the "pleasure" of traveling aboard her from New York to England last year, and let me tell you, the food was the best part.

There were a variety of things I disliked about the boat, including small rooms (one of the two beds in our room was too short for me to sleep on), omnipresent smoke, nearly constant vibration, and a disturbing class system onboard for crew and passengers. Each deck (or class of service) had its own dining room and staff, and the staff got whiter and more European as you went up geographically (more $$ decks) or in prestige (more $$ in pay). Ugh.

But the food was very, very good. Breakfast in particular, as I had smoked salmon every morning with a bagel, cream cheese and capers. I'm far too cheap to eat salmon at home on a regular basis, but when it is always part of the menu, why not?

Monday, January 06, 2003

Bush's Tax Announcement


The economy is in a slump, you've overhauled your administration team, and everyone seems to think "SOMETHING should be done". And this is the best you can do?

I basically agree with the reasoning, but come on. Shouldn't your "centerpiece" be something a bit more dramatic, and less likely to be pilloried as a tax cut for the rich? (which it basically is) Hopefully one of the real econo bloggers will have something good to say about this, but I'm a bit doubtful. I'm more than a bit worried that the hands on our economic tiller may be guided a too much by ideology. I suppose time will tell. (results expected later this year)

Friday, January 03, 2003

One Big Pelican

I love watching the pelicans fly along the coast, and I often see them when I bicycle down to the South Bay. They look so ungainly on land, but like some sort of prehistoric fighter plane aloft. Although the way they dive bomb fish is pretty cool ( awesome dive followed by a nice water spout), I really like watching them skim over the water's surface in formation when the conditions are right. Apparently, they do this because of some aerodynamic efficiencies and I guess I'm not the only one following them with interest.