General

Media Bias and Google News

A local radio host was droning on about media bias again today. I thought I’d go to Google News to see about validating this theory in a highly unscientific but empirical fashion. My sloppily contrived metric? The presence of the phrase “right wing” versus “left wing” in indexed articles. I factored out Columbia (space shuttle news), soccer, hockey, and nhl as phrases that were introducing false positive hits. I chose the “wing” phrases since, when used, they are backhanded phrases used to undermine a position as extreme to one side or the other by discrediting the opinion-holder.

The results:

Right Wing: About 9,220 hits

Left Wing: About 4,890 hits

Omitting “Bush” from the right-wing search cuts out about 1/3 of the hits.

Cutting [Cindy] “Sheehan” from the left-wing results eliminates about 20% of the hits.

There are any number of conclusions that can be drawn, but I’ll leave that to my readers.

General

Car Hunt: Part 2

I previously mentioned my hunt for a new car, with prioritied on comfort and good visibility for my 6′ 5.5″ frame, long-term reliability, and performance, with secondary emphasis on price and gas mileage, and the understanding that it may need to accomodate children in the next few years. Here’s my take on the cars I looked at:

  • Acura TL – I tried to like it. The styling still calls to me. In the end, it just doesn’t compare to the Infiniti G35, all a matter of taste. The Acura is more of a sporty luxury sedan, while the Infiniti is more of a luxury sport sedan. Sport matters to me, luxury… not so much. Acura is voted off the island. The gas pedal responds slower, and there’s no reason I should pay this much money for front wheel drive.
  • Acura TSX – Inferior, smaller brother of the TL. All of the TL’s weaknesses, plus smaller space and less power. No thanks.
  • Audi A4 (2.0 CVT) – A blast, even without quattro (AWD) or a bigger engine. The best interior of any car I looked at, and well-engineered ideas throughout. Also had the most legroom due to the broad range of the power seats. I can’t wait for CVT to become more pervasive – it makes so much sense vs. the standard automatic transmission. Unfortunately, Audi’s reliability record and price killed this one. Especially as they sponge parts from the abysmally unreliable Volkswagen parts bin.
  • Ford Escape – Good legroom. Abysmal performance from the 4 cylinder necessitates the V6 engine. Handles great for a small SUV. One of the 3 vehicles that made my short list (shared platform w/ Mazda gives acceptable reliability).
  • Honda Accord – my first victim of the “stop light problem”. At my height, when in this car at a stop light, I have to slink down and tilt my head sideways to see whether the stop light I’m at is green or red. If I’m buying anything more than a value vehicle, this isn’t something I want to deal with. Bye bye accord.
  • Honda Pilot – Visibility problems of the accord with worse legroom. I expected better space from an SUV. Oh welll.
  • Infiniti G35 (sedan) – Fun to drive rear wheel drive sedan. Good legroom and visibility, and fun to drive. Gas mileage isn’t great. 2005 has a great interior compared to 2004 model. A bit on the pricey side. Also makes the short list.
  • Mazda3 (5 door) – very nicely powered sporty compact. Definitely the best value for money of anything I saw. Very narrow legroom and a gas and brake so close that my size 13 shoes tried to push both at once knocked this out of contention. Wish I fit – would be a great ride at a great price.
  • Mazda Tribute – slightly better handling cousin of the Ford Escape. On the short list as a couterpart of the Escape.
  • Nissan Murano – Nice looking smallish SUV, but the handling is mediocre and the CVT is far less refined than Audi’s. The fit is okay, but it feels like I’m driving an oversized, overpriced, hard to handle Nissan Altima. DQ’d on bad value for money and blah handling.
  • Subaru Legacy (GT Limited) – An absolute blast to drive. 250 HP and full-time all-wheel drive on a direct injection engine make for an enjoyable, if a bit cramped and spartan ride. Scared my wife on this test-drive while pushing the limits of AWD. Everything it lacks in polish, it makes up for in fun and responsiveness. The more raw driving experience tells you exactly where you stand on the road.
  • Toyota Camry – Thought I’d give my former ride a chance at being my next ride. Though it looks roomier, it has the same “stop light problem” as the Honda Accord, my old Camry, and my wife’s 626. Like I said, turning my head sideways at each green light isn’t worth my dollar.
  • Toyota Highlander – Once again, the SUV actually fits worse than the company’s sedans. In a rush to accomodate a 3rd row of seats, the front legroom on this is possibly worse than a Ford Focus.

So to recap, the short list came down to the Ford Escape/Mazda Tribute, Subaru Legacy, and Infiniti G35. The best looker and driver, with a premium on price, was the G35. It matched the Tribute and beat the Legacy on driver space. I decided the Legacy wasn’t worth the slightly cramped space, no matter how fun. The Escape/Tribute lost out on minor reliability concerns, and the fact that the G35 gets much better performance from similar gas mileage.

Make no mistake, I’m looking to pay nowhere near the $35k sticker price of a well-equipped new Infiniti G35. I decided I’d prefer a new G35 to a new or used Escape or Legacy. I’m probably actually picking my choice up tomorrow, so I’ll conclude part 3 with my shopping process and maybe a photo or two of the new ride, an Infiniti G35 Sedan.

General

Car Hunt: Part 1

After totalling my car last Tuesday, I’ve embarked on a week long search for a suitable replacement. Upon thinking about things, I concluded that I wanted something that fit my 6’5″ frame well, had more pep than my Camry, looked nice, good long-term reliability, and was a good deal. Gas mileage was somewhat of a consideration (don’t insert “Peak Oil” arguments/links in the comments, please), but only a deciding factor as SUVs threatened to dip highway mileage below 20 MPG.

A fun week to be sure. Over that time, I test drove an Audi A4, Ford Escape, Mazda3, Nissan Murano, Infiniti G35, Subaru Legacy, and Acura TL. I also looked at the Acura TSX, Mazda Tribute, Honda Accord and Pilot, Toyota Camry and Highlander.

A common issue was what I call the “stop light problem”. Many of these cars, at a stop light, require me to crouch and tilt my head so I can see when it turns green. I’d prefer not to do that in my next car. Many had legroom issues, including, surprisingly, some of the SUVs and every Nissan car. The Audi A4 beat everything in legroom, due to highly adjustable power seats. I’ve already decided on the type of car, and am busy working deals to get the best price, probably on a slightly used car. I’ll detail my choice and the decision process in part 2.

Auto technologies are developing at a blistering pace. The list of cool technologies I played with over this week is mind-boggling: direct injection engines, turbo, hybrid engines, Continuously Variable Transmissions, All-Wheel Drive, navigation systems. I’m hoping all of these can be found in one car by the NEXT time I’m car-shopping.

General

My car… totalled

Had a lovely get together with a Hyundai Santa Fe on West Paces Ferry Rd on Tuesday night. My Toyota Camry is officially “a total loss”, so I’ll be spending my Memorial Day weekend in the hunt for a new car. I have a few criteria – I must fit in it (I am 6’6″), it mustn’t be overly expensive, it must get non-sucky gas mileage, and I would prefer it to be peppier than my Camry. New or used. Any suggestions?

General

Star Wars: Return of the Franchise

Took in Star Wars Episode III last night at a 10 pm showing. Not bad. Not great. I found it overall enjoyable, but the challenge was that the plot hinges on a supposed love story between Anakin and Padme that is thoroughly unbelieveable. Natalie Portman has acted well before, so I’m left to conclude that Hayden Christensen isn’t a very good actor. Every seen in him tends to drag, to be awkward, but scenes with Chancellor Palpatine, Obi Wan, and Mace Windu are more tolerable since their acting chops are able to lift Anakin’s performance to near tolerable, particularly Ewan McGregor’s portrayal of Kenobi.

This is the movie where the pieces snap into place, connecting you with the Star Wars you think you remember from episodes IV-VI. Kenobi becomes the powerful yet humble Jedi you’ve seen before. Anakin’s anger grows (and seething is one of the few things Christensen does well), and the sense of awe is still there as he shows up in the cape and mask of Darth Vader. Several parallel scenes are nicely interwoven in some of the best editing of any of the 6 films. Visuals are stunning, yet still obviously CGI in some places. State of the art isn’t quite to photorealism yet.

In brief, if you’ve slogged through episode I and II, you owe it to yourself to see Episode III with guarded expectations. In some ways, this is Lucas’ love letter to his original fans, and it almost makes up for the insults from the first two. If the last name Organa means something to you, go. If you know something about a pilot named Antilles, go. If you want to see a planet of wookies (though not nearly enough), go. If you want to be convinced once and for all that Yoda is the most masterful Jedi, and understand why he became a hermit on Degobah, go. The connection to the original trilogy will be enough for most fans to enjoy this movie.