Archive for December, 2008

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A New Chariot, And A Challenge

December 23, 2008

Well, I decided that the winter beater was a little too beat, so I pulled the trigger on one of these Aveo 5 SVM’s that we had on the lot at my store.  It was a steal, ’cause it was sitting out there 60 days and the boss had it priced for less than what we owned it for.

Anyway, it’s a silver 2007 with about 12,400 on the odometer.  It seemed like a smart buy since it has plenty of factory warranty left, my techs said they hardly ever have problems, they hold their resale well, and I should be able to achieve some pretty respectable MPG’s with the little 1.6L engine.  Although, I did splurge and get some 16″ wheels for it (since I naturally get a discount, and the stock 14’s were just too cheap-looking), so it might effect my efficiency a tad.  We’ll see.

czaveo1

By the way, SVM stands for Special Value Model, which means that this car is about as no-frills as one can find these days.  A basic AM/FM radio, crank windows, 5-speed manual transmission, no A/C, cruise, or power…anything.  Pretty much just the essentials are included, although it does have side impact airbags and a nifty digital clock right on the dashboard.

As far as the MPG’s go, I thought I’d spend the winter tracking the tank and see what this little golf cart can do.  The goal is to beat my summer car, the modified 2000 Cougar aka “Slow and Low”.   On paper, this looks easily achievable, considering the official EPA numbers:

aveovscougar

The Aveo is definitely at a disadvantage, however.  Consider alone the ambient temps here in Minnesota in the wintertime (below zero for most of last week), which translates into both less efficiency when she’s going, but also burning gas while she sits there warming up (I’m sorry, but when it’s 10 below, I’m going to run it for at least 5 minutes.  The car was so frozen the other day that the clutch actually stuck to the floor).  Now, add the snow factor (and all the spinning and slogging that results), along with the fact that I wouldn’t consider myself as an expert with a stick shift, and that I won’t be logging nearly as many highway miles (I’m transferring to a store that is much closer to home)….I think we might have a pretty good competition here.

So, for the record, Slow and Low burned 213 gallons of fuel and travelled 6505 miles last season, which sets the mark to beat at 30.537 MPG.  Can this little Aveo do it? 

Mileage logs will be tracked here.   Or, better still, I’ll try to figure out a way to paste the tracker button

somewhere on the main page (it’s a little too wide for the sidebar).

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Holiday Greetings, From The Chamber

December 18, 2008

I just thought I’d mention that my activity will be a little light around here, with all the hustle and bustle and whatnot.  But don’t worry, I’m still checking in when I get the chance.

Anyway, here’s one of my rare open threads.  But if the holiday season isn’t a sufficient topic of discussion in and of itself, I’ll take the liberty of adding a little entertainment in my own style…

So, since I was in the mood for some classic kung fu from the ’70’s, I’ll present the final scene from The Mystery Of Chessboxing (aka Shuang ma lian huan), where the infamous Ghost Faced Killer meets his demise. 

I know its cliché, but they just don’t make ’em like this anymore.  Too bad, really.

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Coining Blago’s Hairstyle

December 14, 2008

Well, people started talking about it the minute the Illinois governor made headlines last week, so I figured that I might as well give my 2¢.  The topic?  Blagojevich’s hair.  Just what do you call it, Mr. Google

But hairdressers all over America needed little else than to look at his hair — “there’s no name for that,” said Calvin Klein’s hairstylist Roberto Novo. “Ugh” — to gasp in horror.

OK Roberto, I’ll consider that a challenge, and offer up my take.  There was one resemblance that immediately came to mind for me (probably because I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life):

blagovshelmet

I’m going to call it…the CCM

(please excuse the fact that I reversed the image; I did so for illustrative purposes)

So with that, I pat myself on the back for my moment of brilliance, and open the thread up to general Blago discussion. 

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BTW-  I still can’t pronounce the guy’s name, so “Blago” it shall be.

Update:  I’ve been running into a few more side-by-sides, so I’m going to post them here as I go:

Bla-lego-vich

Bla-lego-vich

(h/t Tex)

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Are You Smarter Than A Lizardoid?

December 8, 2008

As a nice follow-up to my Thanksgiving Day post, LGF Gets Punked, I thought it’d be fun to play a little game.  For this contest, I’m going to post a question, and the first commenter to answer correctly is going to win a fabulous prize. First though, a little background…

In our first episode, I had gotten the Lizardoid’s undies in a bunch by rogering up the LGF Dictionary blog with a couple of cute little items, like a my own YouTube video, a short LGF bio on myself, and a vandalized header. Oh, and I also moved the dictionary itself over to the Chamber (I did give it back, just for the record).  Anyway, after a bit of drama in the Thanksgiving thread over on the main site, the blog key holder Zombie arrived to calm the horde, and blithely posted the following:

I heard a rumor the LGF Dictionary had been hacked, so I just went in 5 minutes ago and unhacked it.

if it gets hacked again, I’ll probably just take it offline.

Too many people knew the password, so it was floating around a little loose.

(Password changed, needless to say.)

At the moment, the dictionary itself is no longer there (just the blog); I may re-upload it, may not.

Wait and see what happens.

The fact that a wordpress.com blog has no “password” and that it wasn’t “hacked” notwithstanding, Zombie did manage to remove my mess (something that really took only a couple of clicks, no doubt), and the dictionary itself is now posted at LGF proper (why it wasn’t there all along, I’m not sure).  

But “wait and see” we did, and when you go to the blog now you can check out my little encore:

czbaaaack

I’m going to take the liberty of utilizing the LGF Dictionary one last time and say….

Bwahahaha!!!

But the question to my contestant field of LGFers past and present is a simple one:

How the heck did I do it?

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Update: It took a few days, but the LGFers finally got word:

chenmandy

Ah yes, that’s the question.  But again, no “hack”.  Please, let’s review the facts:

1) On Thanksgiving, I was granted admin privileges to LGF-D by one of the handful of other admins on that blog

2) Once I was in, I performed a few actions, including booting the other admins (save Zombie), replacing the header, posting a new thread (”The Legend Of ChenZhen”), pasting my “you’ve been punked” youtube video in place of the dictionary page (and moving the dictionary text to my own, password-protected page), and grabbing a few screenshots along the way.  (nothing that couldn’t have been put back to normal without too much trouble)

3) I post the “LGF Gets Punked” thread here in the Chamber, displaying the screenshots and providing a forum for discussion

4) after sitting that way for a few hours, Zombie was eventually alerted, quickly moved in to erase all those things, booted me as the last remaining admin (leaving only herself), and posted her aforementioned comment on LGF

5) a few days ago, my encore appeared at LGF-D (and only remains posted because, presumably, Zombie hasn’t been alerted to it yet)

And with that, I give everyone a big…fat…HINT.  (Since no one had noticed, and the post is likely to be gone soon)

Update:  The blog is gone, as Zombie promised.  Time to reveal the answer.  Not too complicated…

Since I knew that it would be easy for Zombie to fix all those things I listed in #2 above, and that I’d be promptly blocked, I thought it might be fun to “schedule” an encore as long as I was in there.   For wordpress.com blogs, the scheduling part is easy to do from the post editor:

Scheduling a Post (Timestamp)

Scheduling a Post (Timestamp)

The problem was, any new thread that I penned would have shown up at the top of the list in the dashboard, (even if it hadn’t been published yet), meaning that it probably would have been caught when she was deleting the other stuff.   What I needed was something that would have been buried a little to avoid detection. 

Now, what many wp.com bloggers might not realize is that you can use the above interface to reschedule a post that has already been published.  So, all I did was look for an older post that I could use to drop in my video and set a new date.  And as luck would have it, Zombie unwittingly gave me a little gift over a year ago, ’cause I found a thread aptly titled “I’m Ba-a-a-a-a-ack”.   Destiny?  I dunno.   But I figured the chances of catching that were slim to none, and even the fact that I was subsequently blocked wouldn’t stop the post from appearing at the specified date and time.

In other words, what you saw here was a brave nomadic warrior’s voice from the blogospheric grave coming back to issue another punking, and certainly NOT another “hack”.

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Not Just Another Blackwater Thread

December 7, 2008

Tomorrow, those Blackwater security guards are supposed to surrender to authorities in Utah:

WASHINGTON – Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards indicted in Washington for the 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians plan to surrender to the federal authorities Monday in Utah, people close to the case said, setting up a court fight over the trial site.

The case already is shaping up to be a series of contentious legal battles before the guards can even go to trial. By surrendering in Utah, the home state of one of the guards, the men could argue the case should be heard in a far more conservative, pro-gun venue than Washington, some 2,000 miles away.

The five guards, all military veterans, were indicted on manslaughter charges Thursday for their roles in a 2007 shooting in Baghdad that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead. A sixth guard reached a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid a mandatory 30-year prison sentence.

Now, I say “just another thread”, because I did have a thread about the incident after it happened last year.  mercsribbon2And in the spirit of the other post,  I’m not sure if I want this one to focus on the incident itself or the legal situation that these five guys find themselves in.  Instead, I think I’m going to use the story as an excuse to revisit the topic that kinda flew under the radar the last time, especially now that we’re a over a year post-surge in Iraq and people are now declaring our victory and everything.  So…

Just how big of an impact have the contractors like Blackwater had on what’s transpired?  Or, asked another way, how large of a component of the “surge” have they been, and how critical to the mission’s success?

It’s a topic that doesn’t get mentioned much, so I’m mentioning it.  The effort has been more privatized than any other in our history, so I think it’s worth examining.  And while the V-I Day proponents claim to honor the sacrifice of American, Iraqi, and other coalition forces, they’re ignoring the tens of thousands of hired guns who were handsomely compensated by the American taxpayer.  How come?  After all, contractors (armed and otherwise) have suffered over 1,000 dead and 10,000 wounded, a rate of approximately one for every four of the U.S. Armed Forces.

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About This “But He Kept Us Safe” Meme…

December 5, 2008

I have to apologize to my fellow members of the WPPBA, ’cause I really haven’t been paying as close of attention to politics as I should as of late.  So, I return to the fray… 

I couldn’t help but notice the recent hubub over the “Bush Legacy Project“.   Interesting, but not unexpected, all things considered.  I suppose the operative word there is “project”.  Hmmm…”project”.   When I think of “projects”, the first thing that comes to mind is one of those assignments that teachers hand out to groups of high school students.  And in the history of “projects”, I imagine that this would go down as one of the tougher ones.   Just think, having to come up with positive things to report on the Bush presidency.  I’d hope those kids would be graded on a curve.

But, hey, someone’s gotta try, right?   So, enter Peggy Noonan, who gives it a shot in today’s WSJ:  ‘At Least Bush Kept Us Safe’

Back to the Christmas gathering. There was no grousing about John McCain, and considerable grousing about the Bush administration, but it was almost always followed by one sentence, and this is more or less what it was: “But he kept us safe.”

Now, I’m not sure who hangs out at Peggy’s Christmas gatherings, but I can’t picture that statement resonating with anyone besides the zombie-eyed Bushbot kool aid overdosers that make up that 20% of Bush’s approval ratings.  Maybe it’s just me.  I guess if you’re that desperate to look at the glass as full even when it’s nearly empty, this kind of notion probably elicits a few head nods in a room full of like-minded individuals.  But the reality is that it’s so hollow that the sound of bullshit splattering actually echoes when shoveled with this sentiment.    Yep.  {{{{{echoes}}}}}  Here’s why…FILES-US-ATTACKS-BUSH

In order to really embrace this idea, one has to commit to a couple intellectually dishonest assumptions.   The primary one, of course, being  the assumption that the whole “keeping us safe” concept didn’t get added to the list of presidential responsibilities until after 9/11 (’cause certainly 9/11 was a far cry from “keeping us safe”).  The subset of that would include the “out of the blue” arguments I’ve heard from Krauthammer and others; as if the president and the entire U.S. intelligence community had never heard of Al Qaeda or bin Laden, and no one had ever thought about counter-terrorism before that day.

Since this one is pretty obvious, the 20 percenters usually follow “he kept us safe” with the qualifier “since 9/11”.   This is a nice segue into the next assumption…

A secondary assumption is that one really understands al Qaeda’s capabilities, motives or intentions.  After 9/11, no doubt many of my fellow Americans believed that AQ’s goal was something along the lines of systematically striking at every major city until we were all dead.  The attacks supposedly (perhaps because of their magnitude) marked the beginning of some onslaught, and we were expecting to be faced with wave after wave of terrorist plots and bombings.  A crisis that only a strong president could do what needed to be done to prevent the imminent Armageddon.   Or something like that…which is supposed to give the weight to the “after 9/11” portion of the meme.

The problem is, this mindset ignores whether real terror threats to domestic targets have actually increased or decreased since 9/11.  But we’re to assume, I guess, that they’ve increased.  As Noonan correctly pointed out, much of that information is kept out of the public view, so we could speculate all day long, but just entertaining the question leads one to ponder the second one:  Has Bush kept us “more safe” than, say, Clinton?  And once you’ve gone there (comparing to other presidents), you’ve effectively watered down “he kept us safe” as a notable accolade. 

Or, it could very well be that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11 because, frankly, they haven’t really tried to.  Maybe they haven’t felt the need to.   To use a hockey metaphor, it’s hard to congratulate the goaltender that lost a 1-0 game, even though he only let in one goal.  Many, including myself, have suggested that 9/11 was less about killing Americans, and more about provoking a response.   Bush certainly gave them a response, and we got a giant, expensive, and deadly mess in Iraq (and occasionally a mocking by the al Qaeda creeps via the internet along the way). 

Anyway, after eight tumultuous years, and where we find ourselves now, its kinda telling that people like Noonan are posting up op-ed’s saying “Hey, at least we weren’t bombed again!”, and presenting it as the primary thing that matters.  It probably sounds good to the aforementioned faithful, but I don’t think it’d help the grade out on the “project”.

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Update:  Meanwhile, over at the discussion-free zone dubbed JammieWearingFool, JWF posts the following:

Say what you want about George W. Bush, but you cannot deny him this. Despite every effort made by the media and the left to undermine his policies designed strictly for this purpose–to keep us free from terrorism post-9/11–he got the job done, and for that he has earned his legacy.

That’s right, not only was Bush doing battle with al Qaeda, he was winning in spite of the plans of the evil media and half of the American citizens.  No doubt, it must be tough for him to keep that cape hidden under his suit.

Anyway, aren’t we counting our chickens before they hatch a bit here?  There’s still 40-something days left in Bush’s term, after all.   But should the unfortunate occur, I have no doubt that voices like JWF’s and Noonan’s Christmas Coctail Team will go moaning on about how much we could really use a Republican taking the oath Jan. 20 instead of Obama (because of those innate national security skills, of course) or blaming the media and/or the left for “undermining” the policies of the wise GWB.

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Yep, I’ve Got A Blavatar Too

December 5, 2008

After a year of spreading the purple throwing star around to every blog, message board and random social networking service I came across, the circle is finally complete.  As silly as it might sound, I’ve been itching for one of these for quite some time, and just recently the good folks at WordPress.com granted The Chamber an early Christmas gift:

blavatarsnip

I’ve got an avatar, a gravatar, and now…a blavatar!  Cool huh?

As an aside, there is a slightly amusing background story on how the star came to be, in case you’re curious.  I was pretty peeved at the WordPress people at the time, but lately I’ve been thinking it may have been one of the best things to have happened to The Chamber.  With little setbacks come great ideas, I guess. 

So, the purple shuriken of the Brave Nomadic Warrior of the Political Web ™ is now universal and worldwide.  Sort of my own “ghost face killing plate” (if you’re down with kung fu cinema metaphors), so you know who’s around when you see it.