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Sunday, January 13, 2008

POWER CUT

The Guardian, last Thursday:

New manufacturer Tesla Motors, based in the technology hot spot of Silicon Valley rather than the automotive heartlands of America’s midwest, is hoping to launch its first electric sports car early this year.

Maybe not. Tesla’s roadster - a kind of eco-engineered Lotus Elise - is beset with development problems (“the first production models will come with an ‘interim’ transmission that will get you from zero to 60 in 5.7 seconds instead of the originally touted sub-4 seconds”) and the company itself is in turmoil:

A few weeks ago, we asked Tesla Motors whether a pending departure of one employee we had heard about was part of a wave of layoffs at the company.

No, said Daryl Siry, vice president of marketing. It was an issue involving a particular individual.

It turns out that that more terminations were going on behind the scenes. Ousted Tesla CEO Martin Eberhard writes in his blog that 26 employees, including some vice presidents, have recently been cut from the company. That’s about 10 percent of the company.

Tesla’s corporate vision statement:

Historically, it seemed to us that electric cars had been designed by people who thought we really shouldn‘t be driving at all - but if we must, we should suffer every minute of it. Electric cars have had terrible range and embarrassing styling. To those who say electric cars have been tried and failed we say, of course electric cars won‘t catch on if no one actually wants to drive them.

They’re even less likely to catch on if nobody builds them.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/13/2008 at 10:25 AM
(18) CommentsPermalink

FUNDAMENTALISM BANISHED

LawFont reports:

Melbourne University Law School Masters program has changed its subject “Fundamentals of Islamic Law” to “Principles of Islamic Law”. He He He.

(Via Dan Lewis)

Posted by Tim B. on 01/13/2008 at 01:20 AM
(31) CommentsPermalink

Saturday, January 12, 2008

CLIMATE, GEARS CHANGED

Snow falls on Baghdad for the first time in memory! Of course, this is due to global warmi ... er, climate change. Locals aren’t complaining:

"It is the first time we’ve seen snow in Baghdad,” said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. “We’ve seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished,” he said.

"A few minutes ago, I was covered with snowflakes. In my hair, on my shoulders. I invite all the people to enjoy peace, because the snow means peace,” he said.

It’s a snow surge! Another positive development - Baghdad motorcycle racing:

Ali Imad, a 24-year-old motorcycle mechanic who takes part in the races, said he has an “odd love” for motorcycles and simply enjoys the recreation, especially popping wheelies for the crowd.

"Life is difficult and hard and suffering. We had sectarianism. Thanks be to God, we overcame that,” he said.

In the parking lot amid the whirl of engines, he said, “People are happy and comfortable."

Outstanding.

UPDATE. “You people are fooling yourselves,” chides Penguin. “That is the warmest snow to ever fall on Baghdad since records have been kept.”

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 01:21 PM
(44) CommentsPermalink

YESTERDAY'S COLUMN ...

...  linked a day late. More about that Roebuck fellow.

UPDATE. Great line from The Serve:

Roebuck single is a hit but the album is a flop

UPDATE II. Menza:

Peter Roebuck is calling for the sacking of Ricky Ponting as he doesn’t play the game in the right spirit.

Well let’s sack Peter Roebuck for writing crap.

UPDATE III. Best comment thus far at the Telegraph:

Stripping your shtick back to its foundations you are an unashamed supporter of economics over society. So its no surprise to see you support the win at all costs mentality of Ponting and Co, as cricket is all about money according to you. So is everything else. The notion of fair play or doing something that is not do with making money is a foreign and indeed contemptible concept to your way of thinking. I know your form. To presume to equate yourself with Roebuck on cricket is just another example of your patrician arrogance. I know Nov 24 is hard to accept but stick to fear mongering and reinforcing pre existing prejudices. That’s your line of work. I look forward to your views on nuclear fusion in the near future.

UPDATE IV. From a free-wheeling Pakistan-hosted thread, here’s Dhonifan:

Does anyone see Ponting resembles Bush? one more reason to dislike him.

UPDATE V. The Age’s Rohan Connolly:

The Australians did shake Indian hands last Sunday, including those of Anil Kumble and the feisty and the equally demonstrative Harbhajan Singh, as they congregated at the boundary minutes after notching up their 16th straight win.

Sadly, the “time limit” imposed by the self-appointed guardians of acts of sporting chivalry had apparently been exceeded. And unfortunately those all-important cameras were by then trained elsewhere.

If they had caught those gestures, given the tendency to turn a momentary graphic image into a philosophical argument, things might have panned out differently.

We might have been spared some of the gratuitous sermonising about sportsmanship. Spared the stream of “Outraged from Beaumaris” letters to the editor. And spared the hysterical calls for the head of one of our finest Test captains and the further denigration of one of our finest Test teams.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 12:07 PM
(44) CommentsPermalink

POORSCHE

Get lucky in this journalism caper and you can easily enjoy a millionaire lifestyle - without the needless complication of massive personal wealth! For example, this week Daily Telegraph exec Drew Gibson dropped by my place to (briefly) hand over a Porsche Turbo Cabriolet he’d liberated from our paper’s road-test fleet:

image

These things retail here for around $350,000. Property values went up in my street just because it was parked there. Cost to insure? Probably more than the accumulated purchase price of all the cars I’ve ever owned.

A brief tasering and the keys were mine. First impression: seats are hard. Snug and supportive, but way solid. Also, when you aim your right foot at where the brake pedal should be, you hit the accelerator. The pedals - possibly because of an intrusive front differential (the Cabrio is all-wheel-drive) or possibly by design - are offset towards the driveline. Curious.

Doesn’t stop this complex device being absurdly simple to drive in slow traffic. Controls are as light as any you’d find in a sissy hatchback. The only hint of potential awesomeness is in the engine’s growly tone, menacing even at low revs. Hearing it, anyone who spent time at race tracks in the late 70s/early 80s would recall the vomp-vomp-vomp pitlane note of Porsche’s raw and violent 934 - a production-based racer that generated around 485 horsepower and treated timid or inexpert drivers cruelly.

A few decades on, the easy-rolling Cabrio pumps out 480 horses - and beats the 934 for torque and top speed. Plus it has electric/computerised everything (seats, windows, roof, traction) where the 934 required forceful manual control by people capable of biting through steel billets.

Drew is a terrific driver and very familiar with race-level cars, but is an anxious passenger, a condition I may not have improved. For the driver, though, this car is so overwhelmingly able that what should be scary-fast just ... isn’t. I’ve never driven anything that accelerates so rapidly. Scary? It was positively soothing.

Beyond certain speeds, those little quirks - rigid seats, weird pedal placement - begin to make sense. You need a serious bunch of lateral and fore-aft bracing, and the offset pedals are positioned perfectly for heel-toe downchanges (only logical; the angle of your right foot is reduced). Steering weights up beautifully. Gearshifts are practically subconscious. Brakes will dislodge eyeballs.

Only a couple of decades ago you needed a huge amount of money and sublime driving skills to get around quickly in a fast Porsche. Now all you need is the money. Or just get yourself on the gold-level Gibson friend list ...

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 11:48 AM
(38) CommentsPermalink

MINISTER FOR CREVICES

Former Peter Garrett apologist Traceeee Hutchison continues her jeeeehad against Old Domey:

It’s a bizarre set of circumstances when the federal Environment Minister appears in the Federal Court arguing for a project that even those closest to it admit will be an environmental disaster ...

Not that the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, was actually in the Federal Court this week to spin the Port of Melbourne’s fairytale on its planned dredging of Port Phillip Bay. Oh, no. This Environment Minister left it to his lawyer to tell the people who care about protecting the bay’s environment that gouging a whopping crevice into the sea floor will cause a permanent rise in the tide level.

So it’s seafloor crevices that’ll cause rising oceans? I blame icebergs: “Recent sonar surveys off the southeastern coast of the United States have detected dozens of broad furrows on the seafloor—trenches that were carved by icebergs during the last ice age, researchers suggest.” Back to Traceeee, becoming increasingly bitcheeee towards her old friend:

Apparently this Environment Minister isn’t bothered by permanent tide rises. That must be why part of his portfolio was given to his younger colleague, Penny Wong.

ROWRR! Hiss! Hiss!

Who needs climate change when you can dredge the bay? That must be the other reason the federal Environment Minister doesn’t have it in his portfolio.

Should’ve voted for someone else, girl.

This Environment Minister isn’t big on detail. What else can explain the three weeks it took him to realise he’d referred to Western Port Bay in his approval statement about dredging in Port Phillip Bay?

Imagine how Age letter-writer Tim Hamilton must feel now that Traceeee’s become a Garrett critic: “Tracee Hutchison’s article on Peter Garrett was like a silver bullet of insight that blew apart the shallowness of the attacks on the former lead singer ... Leaving a Midnight Oil concert you always felt inspired and motivated to make a difference. Listening to the critics of Peter Garrett ... only fills you with indignation.” Get ready for another load, Hamilton:

And where did our esteemed Environment Minister disappear to this week? Oh, he jumped on a joy flight to Antarctica. Apparently to check on the rising sea levels.

Let’s leave the lass to her misery:

Just like Alice when she gets greedy and eats that nasty bit of cake, the port’s plans have got bigger and bigger. And just like Alice, the port will leave behind a salty pool of tears for the rest of us to swim in.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 11:43 AM
(39) CommentsPermalink

WANT TO FEEL OLD?

Hey, who doesn’t? Simply tune into Rage then Google up recent images of featured 80s performers.

Here’s Human League.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 11:02 AM
(39) CommentsPermalink

GLOATERS MOCKED

“C’mon, Mr Anonypussy, why so shy?” Mark Steyn has fun swatting around dimwit supporters of the anti-free speech Maclean’s human rights case.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 09:16 AM
(18) CommentsPermalink

BLOOD UNSTIRRED

Peter Saunders on capitalism’s bad PR:

Capitalism lacks romantic appeal. It does not set the pulse racing in the way that opposing ideologies like socialism, fascism, or environmentalism can. It does not stir the blood, for it identifies no dragons to slay. It offers no grand vision for the future, for in an open market system the future is shaped not by the imposition of utopian blueprints, but by billions of individuals pursuing their own preferences. Capitalism can justifiably boast that it is excellent at delivering the goods, but this fails to impress in countries like Australia that have come to take affluence for granted.

It is quite the opposite with socialism. Where capitalism delivers but cannot inspire, socialism inspires despite never having delivered. Socialism’s history is littered with repeated failures and with human misery on a massive scale, yet it still attracts smiles rather than curses from people who never had to live under it.

That might be because they’re stupid. Read on.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/12/2008 at 06:51 AM
(52) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, January 10, 2008

SIR EDMUND HILLARY

image

Sir Edmund Hillary, shown above with fellow Everest conquerer Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, has died at 88. Weird political footnote: Hillary Clinton claimed to have been named after the famous mountaineer, which was odd, since he was an unknown New Zealand beekeeper at the time of Hillary’s birth.

UPDATE. From Time:

The descent was as arduous as the climb. Their path had been erased by strong winds, so they repacked every step. Finally, after more than four exhausting hours, they saw fellow team member George Lowe who had climbed up to meet them. Lowe asked Hillary how the attempt had gone.

“Well," replied the unassuming conquerer. “We knocked the bastard off."

Posted by Tim B. on 01/10/2008 at 09:11 PM
(151) CommentsPermalink

ROEBUCK RETREATS

Apparently it was all just some helpful tree-shaking:

Time to shake the tree. Sacking the captain was the only story remotely dramatic enough to bring everything out into the open. And so the article was written. It had almost been sent earlier in the match but a fever had taken hold and the thought occurred that mood might have been affected. But the point was valid. The leadership had failed.

And so the debate began ... A nerve had been touched and the important matters were going to be addressed.

I wonder how Roebuck would view a front-page column calling for his sacking.

UPDATE. It’s John Howard’s fault.

UPDATE II. Both Roebuck in his initial piece and reader zscore recall England bowler Andrew Flintoff consoling Australia’s Brett Lee after the Second Test in 2005.  Very well; but neither mention the First Test in that series, when Ponting required eight stitches to his face after being struck by Steve Harmison - and no England fielder asked the skipper if he was all right.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/10/2008 at 06:01 PM
(125) CommentsPermalink

WSJ NOW SJ

The Wall Street Journal loses its wall:

Since 2000, we’ve operated in a dual world on the Web. The majority of our daily editorial offerings have remained behind a paid subscription wall at wsj.com/opinion, while our free site, OpinionJournal.com, offered select stories plus a few Web-only features. As of today, those two sites will merge and become a single free site for all Journal opinion, both in the U.S. and overseas editions, book reviews and leisure and arts.

Cool.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/10/2008 at 12:40 PM
(31) CommentsPermalink

LOSING EIGHT

Ford Motor Co.’s vice president of global product design calls time on the V8:

Big pickups would use four-cylinder engines, luxury sedans would come with V-6s instead of V-8s. The venerable V-8 engine would be found only on big commercial trucks.

Ford went down the no-V8 path in Australia from the mid-80s until their reintroduction in 1991. These things, like engines themselves, run in cycles.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/10/2008 at 11:36 AM
(62) CommentsPermalink

BEHIND THE POLLS

Impressively honest and perceptive piece from John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei on 2008’s primary campaign losers.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/10/2008 at 11:25 AM
(10) CommentsPermalink

COUNT DOWN

Lancet’s Iraqi death count relied on data from just 47 clusters. A new count - suggesting a much lower toll - draws from more than 1,000 clusters.

UPDATE. The WSJ:

Three weeks before the 2006 elections, the British medical journal Lancet published a bombshell report estimating that casualties in Iraq had exceeded 650,000 since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. We know that number was wildly exaggerated. The news is that now we know why.

It turns out the Lancet study was funded by anti-Bush partisans and conducted by antiwar activists posing as objective researchers. It also turns out the timing was no accident. You can find the fascinating details in the current issue of National Journal magazine, thanks to reporters Neil Munro and Carl Cannon. And sadly, that may be the only place you’ll find them. While the media were quick to hype the original Lancet report—within a week of its release it had been featured on 25 news shows and in 188 newspaper and magazine articles—something tells us this debunking won’t get the same play.

UPDATE II. Wired‘s Nick Thompson:

I don’t buy right wing claims that the [Lancet] survey should be discredited just because it was partially funded by George Soros’s Open Society Institute. OSI does all sorts of great non-partisan work. But I do worry about one of the three authors, a critic of the war, declaring that he “wanted to get the survey out before the election, if at all possible."

The Bush administration has played politics with science far too many times. But that’s no excuse for its opponents doing the same.

UPDATE III. Decision ‘08:

When an anti-war partisan brandishes the Lancet numbers as if they were unimpeachable, uncontested, and uncontroversial, then it’s safe to say that we have spotted a hack.

Posted by Tim B. on 01/10/2008 at 06:26 AM
(112) CommentsPermalink
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