Posts Tagged ‘cars’


The Thinking Viking has found his car keys.  In my shoe. Again. As in, repeatedly.  I almost thought I was sleepwalking. Nope.  It’s my bird, Cray.  Just watched the (surprisingly strong) little dude do it.  Right off my end table. He drags them off , onto the floor, flies down and keeps dragging them…and then, for reasons I cannot fathom, he drops them in my shoes.  2 ounces of shiny excited Australian dwarf parrot  and mystery solved.

No need to think about it.

MJ

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The Thinking Viking “sort of” met Paul Newman once. Not really, but let me explain.  I was on my way to a Genetics lab for school at the good old University of Colorado, Boulder. I was on my only vehicle, my beloved 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000 Z1-R.  When new, it was the fastest production motorcycle on the planet. I called her “Goose” after Max’s freind in Mad Max who rode a nearly identical bike in the movie.  Thing was beauty.  Modernized, electronic, mildly advanced  ignition, rejetted cards, bad ass air intake, custom windshield…  prolly about 125 horsepower.  Handled like a water buffalo, but she was pretty quick.  Figure 9.5-10 sec quarter mile.

Anyhow, I was still pretty punk at the time, I was in my bad ass leather – with spikes, mind you, my own semi-mind-trip-with-chaos art on the back.  I pull up next to a nice old red Ferrari on my right.  Late fifties. It just gets better the closer I get.  Bystanders are staring. This thing is NICE – museum nice.  Million dollar nice. I am impressed – I love cars, the crazier and more bad ass the better.

So I pull up to the stop line and look over to check it out at rest.  I am jealous.  Then I look at the driver.

He seems familiar.  Hmmm.  Brain starts clicking.  Whirrrr. Click. Click.  Then, “ping”.  I get a hit.

NASCAR Hat.  Aviator shades, large and dark.  NASCAR Pit Crew jacket.  Older white dude who looks familiar.  Yes, I am actually a NASCAR fan- prefer Formula – 1, but meh, fast cars. Cool.

I know who this guys is.  That’s fucking Paul Newman.  He owns a NASCAR car  employs a Pit Crew. I know he owns old sports cars.  I cock my head and rise my helmet’s visor, an eyebrow raised, looking right at him. Sunglasses. Over-sized, I’d say, like celebrities wear when they are going under cover.

He nods, and smiles. A hand is briefly raised from the wheel in a subtle wave.  It is returned by my hand raise from the bars briefly.  I grin. The light turns green.

I left that damn Ferrari in the dust.

It’s a simple matter of weight ratios.

Think about it.

MJ

PS I sold that bike many years later for four times what i paid for it, to a young Japanese man named “Testuo”


The Thinking Viking loves old machines. Here’s a selection from a annual car show near my home in California.
(more…)


I have a portable mini/camping TV that I often have on a local news station on my desk/coffee table. It’s partly how I break news to Twitter/Facebook – often faster than many major internet services, if I do say so myself.

Today, another mass killing at a school – nursing school this time, 6 dead at last count.  Suspects perhaps at large.  Last Friday, news broke about  a mass murder – 5 dead in a home, apparently related. Don’t get me wrong – this is important, terrible. terrifying, even. Teen died in a hospital after being stabbed.  Iraqi woman beaten to death in so-Cal.  Treyvon Martin’s killing has young black men and some young white men afraid for their lives others may be forming gangs or hit squads. Thanks to Big Media and the instant-net, truth – and ugliness – travel fast.  But, fact is, murder rates are at the lowest in about three decades (that’s back when crack cocaine hit the streets and the War on Drugs got really ugly) Wiki stats. But you never hear that mentioned during one of these stories. Wouldn’t be good to confuse people, make them less afraid.

And right after this special report – a breaking bit on Lindsay Lohan and some famous chick feeding her baby like a bird. (while I find this repulsive, it is not an unknown practice in other places. Get over it).  Fear to fluff in one quick fade.

So, if I am the average viewer, I should be afraid for my life to walk the streets and to embrace vicariously living through a troubled  starlet (hmm not working. I’m a dude…) and feeling superior because I don’t do something vaguely gross in public. So, protect me, please, get the bad guys lurking in the bushes, go ahead and use drones to watch my street. Monitor all internet traffic because pedophiles and hackers exist. I don’t need to go outside…. look, see? Lindsay’s off probation, what whackiness will she do next?

It’s OK, it’s fine. I just need to be able to get to my car, my nice safe car.  What’s that? Gas prices rising?  Oh no. PLEASE PLEASE  protect “our” oil supplies!  War? No problem.  I’ll just watch it on the news. Right after this commercial about a new drug for some disease I never knew about before I just learned it could kill me.  Or, maybe it will just make my eyes itchy, or make my wife VERY happy.

Ranting done, for now. I reserve the right to continue this rant later.

MJ

PS

3 PM – Body count up to 7 in today’s killing. Suspect in custody.  Interrupted some fluff I had on with the sound off.

PPS I just occurred  to me – the legal definition of “murder” could be affecting these stats.

PPPS next day – breaking news is a huge tornado on the ground in Dallas county Texas


Warning, this is going to be a bit of a rant.

I was at my credit union the other day (move your money!) and as I was signing the receipt I noticed something a little odd that bothers me still. Beneath the signature line was a line labeled “Driver’s License Number”.  Innocent enough, you say.  But those three words speak volumes about our American society.

Why? It does NOT say “Identification Number”.  It says “Drivers License Number”.   Who ever wrote the text for those receipts assumed everyone doing business with the credit union would have a driver’s license. You can’t get one without a driving test, so you must have access to a car.  Ever heard of someone renting a car for someone else to use for their driving test (you can’t rent a car without a license) ?  Didn’t think so. (note: I checked, and they have no problems accepting non-driver’s-license valid government issued ID, state ID cards, passports, military ID etc) There are more people than you realize who don’t have licenses.  The very poor, the mentally ill,  the disabled or very elderly – by and large they get around by begging rides.  And, of course, people convicted of DUI or who have lost licenses for other reasons. I’ll get to public transportation in a bit.

The city where I live is not pedestrian-friendly.  Many streets simply don’t have sidewalks.  I’ve been out running and seen several places where the sidewalk simply dead ends at a patch of dirt. Wonder where the sidewalk ends? Ask me, I’ll show you.  I wondered about this, and I did some research; the city was chartered in 1956 – the era of the interstate,  of American domination of the world auto industry.  The suburbs were exploding, and it was rapidly becoming impossible to get to work or visit friends without driving.   Every family had a car (well, almost) and it was a  status symbol to have the “two car garage”.

Before I moved to California, I was an avid bicyclist in Boulder, CO.  Boulder has an extensive bike/foot path system, and it’s usually faster to bike than to drive because of this.  When I showed up at work out here on my bike, after a ride of less than a mile on quiet side streets the first thing everyone said to me wasn’t “good job for going green!” Or “good job, get some exercise”. No, what they said, every one of them, was “What’s wrong with your car?” I’ve since moved several miles closer to the hills.  But I don’t ride my bike much out here. Why? I was nearly killed on my motorcycle a couple of years ago.  Bicycles are even more vulnerable. During my recovery I got back on the bike to work my leg.  I noticed a couple odd things.  First, the city lets people park their cars in the bike lanes, forcing cyclists into traffic and second, the bikes lanes on the large streets are also turning lanes for cars. It just isn’t very safe to ride your bike on the streets. I’ve tried taking the local buses. A trip that would take me fifteen minutes or so in my car took  over an hour, and I still had to walk about a mile to reach my destination.  Round trip? Over THREE HOURS.  I really began to pity people who didn’t own a car.

I’m not making this up.

And people are worried that Iran will build a nuclear weapon, start a war, and OH NO! Gas prices will rise! It will cost more to drive my precious car!  What about all the death that a war would bring?  The destruction and misery?

Wake up, people. We are responsible for much of the strife in the middle east. We still practically drink gasoline.  I’m not sure how we can change, but the problem isn’t a lack of oil.

Think about it.

Whew. Rant done. For now.

MJ

Please see “Gasoline Perfume” for more on my thoughts about a war with Iran.

Please see “Your Vote Doesn’t Count – Because You Can’t Place It”  for my take on requiring photo ID for access to the voting booth.


Mildly paranoid tonight.  Blame it on the movie Code 2600 that I saw this evening.

You’ve seen the ads.  Hapless drivers respond with joy when their new car parallel parks itself.  Another clueless motorist is saved from dozing and veering of the road.  Radar keeps another from following to close.  Crash-detection automatically rings up help and communicates this to you via built-in cellular with speakerphone.  Cool, right?  These are good uses of technology, right?

What I see is someone who never learned to park, someone who shouldn’t be driving when exhausted,  an habitual tail-gater and a system that could easily be used to spy or worse – shut down your car and lock you in, right as the assassins take aim.  A little extreme on the last, but low-jacking is more common than you might think.  I recommend a watch of the series “Bait Car” to see what they already can do.

Want safe travel? Take mass transit. It’s almost automated.  Want to travel the highway in a personal automobile?  Drive responsibly, don’t rely on technology to make you safer, do it yourself.  OK, for the most part the crash-and-call-911 thing seems OK. Creepy if you  think about the fact that it could easily record anything you say in your car, and you will only find it in cars that can be remotely operated, but it will probably save some lives.

On the way to the movie, my passenger  plugged in a Garmin GPS to the USB port on my car stereo for charging, and next thing I know it stopped playing from my 8 gig SD card and switched to the tuner. This is the same GPS that, when scanned by my PC, had 14 viruses.  That’s right, viruses on a GPS unit, and car stereos with USB ports. Car stereos that could be in cars with full-time internet or satellite access and removable media in the 8 gig range.  I could plug my phone into that same USB port (I don’t actually – I use the car charger. It’s faster) . My phone that is basically a mini computer.

Think about it.

Skynet, anyone?

I’ll park my car all by myself, thank you.

MJ


So, couple days back I notice my car  registration expired. Totally forgot that when you buy a used car in California, they don’t give you new tags.  Your registration fee is only good until the date that is already on the vehicle.  Well, I bought that zippy little blue Subaru in June, so I wasn’t thinking about this problem, ya know? But it should be easy.  Foolish mortal.

So, off to the Department of Motor Vehicles I go. Easy.  I take a number, plop my ass down and read my book.  Easy. In less time than I expected – this  IS the California DMV after all, my number comes up-  Easy.  I proceed to the window, turn over paperwork, chat a bit.  Easy.  Start to pay.  Easy. Then I discovered the insurance card I had was old, expired even.  Not Easy. They have Rules About These Things.  Never remembered to print out the new one I received via email.  I go home, no use fighting that battle. Not even an hour total.  Oh, well, things happen.

Something was bothering me…something about the people I was waiting with.  I’m bemused for a while, but nothing comes to me.  It’s not like they were the Walking Dead.  Couple were pretty pale, sure, but I doubt they were vampires.

So I’m set to go back today, but before I go, I read my new policy – I changed it after selling my beloved old BMW last week, and now only needed insurance on one vehicle, you know the  “little blue Subaru”, the only one I own now? Well, it wasn’t on the policy.  They took off the wrong car.

Facepalm.  I slowly shake my head.  Bloody hell. Time to call Customer Service.

Ray of sunshine! I get right through.  She seems competent.  I explain about the whole “wrong car” thing .  She tries to open my policy. And then she says “I’m sorry sir, but my system just crashed and I can’t correct your policy right now, I’ve just called IT for help. Umm”…

I’m not an asshole in these situations.  Typical call center rep HAS to call IT when things like this happen.  They’re not allowed to work on their PCs.

“Can you transfer me to someone whose computer is working? It’s kind of  a problem, you know, the wrong car? Car I’m driving over there uninsured?  The DMV will probably notice that.” See? It is that easy.

“Sorry, sir, the phone system is tied to our accounts program… it’s all down” – she sounded worried.

“Can I have someone call you ? at (my correct cell number)”.

“Sure.”  I’m resigned to failure this time.  Time for  plan B: I’ll eat lunch, wait for a call and  THEN go.

An hour later a new policy drops into my email.  Guess they figured out the trouble.  Yes, the right vehicle is there. Print this baby out and I’m good to go.  Find printer, power cord, USB and….PRINT!

My ink has run dry.  I don’t have a spare. Sigh.  OK, go to FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) and print, THEN to the DMV.

Hell, it’s now after 3 when I arrive.  I wait for a number, then read my book.  Hmm – no one else is reading.  Just one old dude in the next row.  Now, at forty, kids call me “old” and it would be a little odd for me to date a 20-something. But I am not old- that guy, he was old.  He looked happy and healthy though, and if he’s at the DMV then  he can still drive. Good for him.  And he is the only other person reading to pass the time.  Few cell phones in use, a couple texting, couple music fans.  But most were just… sitting there.  Kind of zombie like.  Not grim but all rather sad looking.  This kind of unnerved me.  More on that later.

It is the same routine, but now all is in order. My number is called, station 17.  Papers shuffle, I hand her my debit card.

“Declined” — tries again “Declined”- and I just checked my balances, I have plenty in there.  I look at the credit card terminal.  Suspicious because the only other place this happened, they had a particular brand of credit card machine – a Hypercom.  Those who know me know just how much I know about these machines, they are readily spotted by the color and layout of their keypads and printers.

And…the DMV has exclusively Hypercoms.   We try it at three stations.  I know what’s wrong, mag stripe is weak and the terminal is not picking up all the needed bits of data off my card, simply hand keying it will allow it to process.  I also know there is no way to convince her to hand key the card number. They get too much fraud.

I don’t have enough cash to cover it.  It’s 4:15.

I ask her if I can skip the line when I come back? She says sure, but I have to be in the door before 5. I jog to the car.  My bank is only five or so minutes away.  Fifteen minutes later I’m back with cash, walk right in, wait while she finishes her current customer and…done and done.

But I can’t stop thinking – no one else was reading to pass the time?  What does this mean about our society?  That out of forty+ people, 25-30 just sat there, staring, not talking or reading?

Is it the DMV that sucks the life from those who enter its doors?  Maybe, but I don’t recall it being this way years ago.

I think what I saw was mass mild DMV induced despair.  If I had this much trouble just getting registered when I wasn’t expecting to, what other night mares must those people be dealing with?

Just a theory.

MJ