Monday, January 23, 2012

Copycat cars: Haven't I seen that design somewhere else?

Toyota Camry
Subaru Legacy
Look at the similarity of the taillights on the Legacy vs. the Camry...coincidence? Sometimes it's hard to conclude who is the innovator and who is the thief - cars are planned and designed years before we consumers see them, and often shrouded in secrecy. I wanted to point out a few more examples of copycats: design features that look all too similar. Click through for more.

Audi A4

Saturns were always a bit boring, but their one interesting design feature was the upward "swoosh" on the body cladding on the side profile, which became a continuing motif on most of their cars since the original SL1 in the early-90s. It's a pretty unique feature, so it immediately caught my eye when the latest Audi A4 incorporated the same "swoosh". Coincidence that Audi began using the design cue when Saturn began to see the end of its existence?

Mazda 6
Tesla Roadster
Toyota Corolla
One could argue that there are only so many possible taillight designs that meet regulatory safety standards and also look reasonably good. The clustered circle design is one that is used quite often. Cars from the Mazda 6, Toyota Corolla, and Tesla Roadster have used an iteration of this design.

Peugeot 407

Chrysler Sebring
Chrysler used the "gaping mouth" grille in the 90s, well before Peugeot began using it. Given Chrysler's relatively low penetration in the European market (vs. Peugeot's large presence), this act of copycatism isn't as heinous in my books.

Jaguar XF
Chrysler 300M
Flip the Chrysler 300M grille upside down, and what do you get? A Jaguar XF!

Mitsubishi Galant
Lexus ES
Here's a fun one - the Mitsubishi Galant, a dreadfully boring Hertz-special based on the Chrysler Sebring, received a new rear fascia in 2009, 3 years after the Lexus ES released a stunningly similar design. Lexus isn't known for stirring designs, so I'm not sure this was a great move for Mitsu.

Lexus RX
Hyundai Veracruz
Squint long enough, and you will easily mistake the Hyundai Veracruz for the Lexus RX. Intentional? I would think so. The Hyundai looks just a little blander, a little vaguer, and a little less refined...but at a $10k savings, who cares?

Buick Regal
BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe
As I mentioned in a previous post, BMW designers oddly stole a page from Buick's book when they borrowed the upward swoosh on the side of the Regal for the new 6-Series Gran Coupe. The swoosh looks great on the Regal, but is lost on the already-busy design of the 6 GC.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

for the lyric is like a fly

arriving out of plain sight

suddenly persistent, insisting

promise me baby you will let me know

for a gnat

vanishing not far

to who knows where

comes back sometimes

12 years later to finish a line

for lost dog answers to George

here boy or the merest nod - pat

on the thigh have you seen my

bride in wait for that ambling Jake

eye ever over shouldering

a stack of never dwindling blank pages

to live perhaps 2.3 billion seconds

is time to name all of the tree I loved

naming is better than ice cream

for life is lived longer in song


88 pages, Slight Publications

from Amazon -

Mere Nola,

Monday, January 16, 2012


Poetry Specifics

Poetry is generally lines 1 to 9 words long,

ends render comma superfluous, that is

Sure the acutely made specific

the first refuge of remark

lists you get to write lists yes

the list you discover where its at

X most definitely marks the spot
, okay? Adds voice, see

some have more Voice than bye crackey

I like more Ear than a goose

make that line end like a cliff!

Simile-ize, I like Chat

I don't know that Chat

Savant At Work

okay so saved your old plastic bottles

get your clean white rag, like to keep things neat

little bit of change and catch your drips

come on down to the Bulk Taps

everyday liquids with contemplative music

call it olive oil food stamp accepted

conversion factor conversation starters

come on down to the Bulk Taps
She was like, like itself

You saw those eyes

and wanted to have them around

it is for all seasons,

our liking to sustain a crush,

isn't it / don't we?

so he became quite attracted to

daily transactions with his server at the café

she had had an Uncle like me.

now were avuncular a profession

I'm known as a Distinguished Practitioner

of the art, for she was an exhibit

of the muse wearing mascara and tattoo

serving coffee and toasting bagels

One day he brought in a photo book he made

of Passaquan, a place like her in its defiance

there should be anything but beauty

and said I want you to look at this

wow she said

and back to serving

but something had been established

later there would be discussions of promising junk

they found, and revered,

a light fixture in particular it was a very nice thing that December, to discover Alma now operated the counter at the cafe. I knew there was something odd about this, for to sight that too good to be true is as rare as the counter is common and I did not believe it could for long contain her - volume. My intimated dread was based on the certainty of conflict arising from a crazed customer dis-service oriented cafe manager justifiably liked by none; evil stepmother all but stenciled on her forehead, I reckoned I'd be lucky if Alma lasted a month, about how long it took before her expanding, captivated and satisfied customer base was disabused of its good dream at the cafe; like having a privileged view of a passing comet, I vowed to enjoy each cup she served.

It certified my step and each encounter put some wind in my sail, brightened my morning, this first hand evidence that such people existed - her indelibility.

During that time it amused me to stand in a line that seemed to vie, as if it were an audition, both men and women, to gift our prized server more special and better than the last - auditioning customer - I saw her receive earrings, pins, cards - and grinned later to think perhaps it was this shower of trinkets that made her flee, and it was the story of her life where cafe work was concerned...

My Servers Eyes

just colonize all of me instantly

my Server is moving right along

she's got other things going on

still she always says my name

thanks darlin come back again

One Afternoon when it was slow

I made a little move

as she polished the display case chrome

to a soft face reflecting glow

and her once black now near sheer T

made eye earring contact

an inevitability

How her wrist

lives to flip the throttle

now she holds

the bunnies all a swaddle

she knows when

I look like a double

My Server is why

all boys rock songs about girls

My Server plays drums

on all girl rock songs about fun

and I knew from the start

each cup from my Server

at the cafe

was lucky and numbered

Hey Alma Mae

could you cream my cup of coffee

to the color of a brown paper sack

I'm sorry to say its To Go

but I'll be back tomorrow

Alma you know that

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chip gonna picture every sto front po boy painting yet

Chipmon inna b po boy laureate

for what part of Po Boy don't you understand?

Chip took pics of mayonnaise drips

off the cool green hills of lettuce

tomato in debt to Hieronymus

sausage so filthy and delicious

each bite punch your ticket

Lester Carey's cursive sings

Checks cashed WIC accepted

french roll long as a stretch limo

wheels of tomato

triangles of meat and cheese

motif like jaws of serrated teeth

tongues protrude at the ends

of this promiscuous sandwich, even

the legendary 16 cent potato po boy of yore

french fries & brown gravy

coca cola 25 cents total man,

you never went to bed hungry

While we're at it let me ask you this -

how much Comfort has Jimmy Cliff's

Sitting Here in Limbo created?

In the World, accounting for every hearing of the song since

The Harder They Come was released in 1972.

Bleakly affective moods alleviated, for instance.

Its the bell, the performance is an exemplar of Beauty,

a reason for hope, feel whole little spells of it facing a

dashboard, imprisoned by my idioms, hearing the bell -

ah plans enacting, its done a lot I bet.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For melting glaciers is my business, and filling 85 gallon
rolling plastic "toters" on a twice weekly basis with non renewable
resources the "markit" calls useless

For things are produced and called goods and then they are
marked with prices.

For prices are made of dollars

For dollars are made of labor exchanged

For just buy another and this will be good for the "economy"

For the "economy" does not mean economy but ones inalienable freedom
and liberty to the purchase of happiness and in this I am coached
by the Advertisements that fill my ears and eyes with taunts and cajolery
out to demean, impugn, incite and probable ridicule should I not own this

For folks at prices like this supplies will not last and you should buy two
or five.

For if you ACT NOW we will include at no extra charge the effortless orange peeler, that's right, nothing but the fruit in seconds and you will wonder:
how had I ever done without it?

For that is not all
Taking of the Rock

Jack says there's a beautiful rock out in the desert in an abandoned quarry he had
to leave cause the 4 wheel drive on the Nissan failed, and do I feel like giving him
a hand going back and getting it.
Now that sounds like fun.
We meet up in Riverside.
Drive northeast, 30 miles or so. This is Desert, in the Lucerne Valley.
I follow him to a lonely and lonelier road and we go and go, till it turns
from pavement to dirt, and 10 more miles that way.
Till my two wheel drive can't proceed.
Ride the rest of the way with Jack.
All alone out here. The silence, solitude, plain air and vast nowhere vista
is awesome. Now out of the valley and up into hills.
Jack creeps the truck up some gnarly rocky rutted winding road, till we
can proceed no farther. Park and get the rock dolly Jack made for just this
occasion, using the wheels from my old Yamaha 550cc Seca, welded an axle,
a cradle, and a handle. Even tied a little rope to the arm of the brake drum in
one of the wheels, so we can stop.

We go up the way, winding around a turn, a hundred or so yards.
Beside a gully where rests the ancient wreck of a big A-frame truck,
and then up some more to the Quarry, which looks dynamited out
of the hillside. And there's the Rock.
Jack spills some water on it for me to see.
A luster of pale avocado jade, veined with purple, flecks of gold.
Now he taps it with a hammer.
It very purely rings.
That's how you know.
Okay, lets go.
He wants to do a surprising amount of pussyfooting to lift it up straight
to fit on the dolly. Its rectangular, about 18" square by about 40" tall.
To use boards and other rocks to leverage it step by step.
As a kid I learned how to lift prone 55 gal drums of stuff much easier.
Jack doesn't think so, and it won't do to injure myself.
What you do is squat, grab one end and rise, legs, back and arms into it,
just a little wiggly reaching a fulcrum, then its easy, 600 lbs, I guess, straight up.
My technique has prevailed. Not often that happens. Heh heh.
Now he secures it with rope to the dolly.
This is early May and its warming up.
There's also a bowling ball sized chunk of the same stuff.
Very difficult to break the dolly back from vertical to the slightly canted
horizontal position we'll need to roll it down the hill.
But we try.
The loaded dolly, as we lift it to aim its downward roll, becomes a catapult
when the weight of the rock shifts, suddenly flinging us aside.
The string operated Brake is a joke, the cart crashes.
The Armbreaker I call it.
90 yards to go down this rock strewn path.
We have a length of rope.
Wish we had a rake.
I help him tie a harness around the Rock, an immense effort.
He takes his 30 feet of slack in front of it and starts to pull, while
I push behind it, for momentum. We make 20 feet or so.
And then the harness has to be fitted again, which takes a while.
We get another 8 feet.
Eph this, I clear a path, turn the rock from narrow to wide so I can roll it.
Jack's shaking his head, saying Dude as in that's wasted energy and that
ain't gonna work, but I get it it to tumble - a 20 plus something foot advance.
We try that again.

It goes like that.
Its absurd, but you can't leave behind the efforts taken to get it this far.
And it is getting closer to the truck. You think of the pyramids and, two
guys ought to be able to figure this out.
Every now and then I roll the balling ball rock in front of us a ways.
Till we catch up. At the turn, we're halfway to the truck, but fortunately
our decline increases. I toss the little one down and it tumbles off the path,
down the hill. Jack is tying the harness together again, and taking a break.

I tromp down for it.
Lift it up.
Audible Shudder - the Willies.
Fling the rock up and scramble up the hill.
Watch it from up there.
About 5 feet long. Sidewinding. Wow.
Wonder and a slightly sick feeling.
Jack gets a chuckle.
That's the last response you want he says.
For one you don't drop the rock. Its a weapon.
Two be still and look around.
Where's the one, there's usually another.
Is that right.
About 5 hours in all, the sun is going down.
We set planks from the hill to the back of Jack's Nissan.
It is a rare unrestrained excitement on Jacks face at our accomplishment.
Big boys with real toys get the good rocks, he proclaims.
I'm envious at the relation of the artist to his material.
I think of my drugstore rolls of film made from the hooves of cows.
He shakes my hand and says
I couldn't have done it without you.
Jack who specializes in not needing help.
Immensely satisfying to see it on his truck.
Drive back to Big Bear, get a hotel and hardly move for 24 hours.
And then very slowly for another day - all beat up.
Jack's geologist friend estimates its weight - 700 lbs.
In the next few years Jack whittles it down to about 90.
Carves the bowling ball chunk into a water bowl for Sasha.

I'm always hoping he's going to offer it to me.
That's alright.
I got plenty of other stuff.
Two months later I'm listening to him tell the story at his 4th of July party.
And somebody says,
- Really, you can just take rocks like that?

I think we shared a grin, thinking

Yeah, you just take em -

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Our Nissan LEAF After Nine Months

We've completed nine months and a bit more than 8,000 miles of driving our Nissan LEAF as our family's primary vehicle, and we continue to be thrilled with it.  The car is very easy to live with for all of us.  Both my wife and I enjoy driving the LEAF more than we do our Prius due to the LEAF's quietness, smoothness and peppy acceleration.  The car is roomy enough for our baby granddaughter's car seat in the center rear, with her parents on either side of her.  To make matters all the sweeter, the only time that the LEAF has ever been to a gas station is to put some air in its tires.  We only put about 4,000 miles on our Prius in the last six months of 2011, as compared with its average of 14,000 miles per year in prior years, and as compared with 6,000 miles for the LEAF in the same six months.

Charging Costs
As far as the cost of driving, we're still at zero fuel costs due to our home's solar power and the Time of Use electrical rates for EV charging from our utility, SCE.  I should mention some detail on that.  During the winter months, the Time of Use rates are less beneficial to us because the Peak rates during the daytime peak solar generating hours are lower than those during the summer.  Because of this, because the sunny hours are fewer, and because of our higher household power usage, especially during the holidays, we had another month when our monthly charge was close to $100.  But we began the month with a net metering credit of $224 due to a credit balance built up during the summer months.  So after December, month ten of our net metering year, we still have a credit balance of $124.  

By the end of February, when our net metering year ends, we'll probably have used up our credit balance and we'll likely owe a small balance of under $100 for the entire year.  That cost will cover all of our household power use as well as the cost of charging our LEAF.  Some of this extra cost will have been due to LEAF charging, but an almost equal amount will have been due to having extra family members living with us for the last eight months of the year.  We'll see how this settles out in a couple of months, but I'm very happy that our total costs for electrical power will be so low.

So what else might you be wondering about the LEAF?

How far can I drive on a full charge?: Between 70 and 85 miles under most circumstances.  A bit less at high speeds or aggressive driving, or on hills or in very cold temperatures.  A bit more at lower speeds and with conservative driving.  The "tank" is full every morning, so you can drive mileage like this every day.  How many miles do you drive daily?
To learn more about LEAF driving range, read this thread on the My Nissan LEAF forum.  A member, Tony Williams, has developed a downloadable mileage chart for various driving speeds and conditions.  here
How long does it take to charge?: About four hours, most nights, while we're sleeping.  Quick charging stations are being installed which will charge a LEAF to 80% full in about 30 minutes.

Is it slow and pokey, like a golf cart?: Absolutely not.  The LEAF is peppy and quick, like a normal small car, but it does it with incredible smoothness and quiet.  It also climbs hills like a champ.
Doesn't charging an EV just shift the pollution to the power plant?:  No, even if all of the power came from a coal-fired power plant, the pollution and CO2 produced would be less than from the same number of miles driven with a gasoline car.  And don't forget that drilling, transporting and refining that crude oil into gasoline uses a bunch of power and causes even more pollution.  By contrast, electric cars can be charged using power from cleaner sources, such as hydro, wind geothermal, natural gas and solar, as our car is.
Won't we need to build a lot more power plants to charge EVs?: No.  EVs are most cost effective when charged during late night hours, when electrical demand is low.  We could put millions of new EVs on US roads without building a single additional power plant.
What about maintenance costs?: So far, our maintenance costs have been zero.  That includes the first maintenance at 7,500 miles, which included just a tire rotation and some inspections.  Because the LEAF has so few mechanical parts as compared with a gasoline car, maintenance costs are expected to continue to be low.
But what about the cost of replacing the battery?:  The main batteries of the LEAF are warrantied for eight years and 100,000 miles.  When they need to be replaced, the cost will be several thousand dollars.  But these costs are expected to drop over time, as have the replacement cost of Prius hybrid batteries.  And compared with the expected maintenance costs of a gasoline car over eight years, the costs will likely be similar.  But our choice was to lease the LEAF for 39 months, so we won't be paying for any battery replacements.
What problems have owners been having?:  Very few, really.  Some have recently reported that the sidewalls on the tires are not very durable, and there has been some edge wear on the front tires.  The car lacks a spare tire, which, given the relative fragility of the tires, seems short sighted (though the LEAF comes with three years of roadside assistance and towing).  Some windshields have cracked, but this is common on new cars, as the glass is made thinner to reduce weight.  The brakes are grabby at very low speeds, like when driving slowly in parking lots.   There have been a very few reports of unexpected electronic faults, but these have been unusual and sporadic.  Some owners feel that the paint is thin.  The climate control is designed so that if you need to defrost the windshield, the heater must come on, which reduces driving range.  There may be a few others, but that's about it.

In Next Month's Post:  Month Ten in our LEAF and an update on what's going on in the world of Electric Cars.

EDIT: I realized that this post would be a good one in which to summarize our solar power production and our calendar year total power usages for 2011.

Our solar PV system size is 24 Sunpower panels of 215 Watts each for a total of 5,160 Watts DC installed on a 20 degree roof facing slightly west of due south with slight shading from trees in December and January.

For the 2011 calendar year:
Total Solar PV Generation: 8,556 kWh
Total Usage (including EV charging): 10,293 kWh
Total EV (LEAF) Charging: 2,483 kWh (April 1 through Dec 31, does not include public charging)

Now for the monthly report on our LEAF-related usages:

The Numbers:
2011 Nissan LEAF SL Placed in Service: March 30, 2011
All Home Charging Done Using: 220 Volt Aerovironment/Nissan Level 2 EVSE
Month:  December 2011
Total Miles at Month End: 8,174 
Miles Driven in Month:  1,003 miles
Electric Power Used for Charging in Month: 325.3 kWh (measured at wall power source, includes public charging)
Public Charging in Month, Power Use:
 18.2 kWh 

Charging at Home in Month, Power Use: 307.1 kWh
Energy Efficiency, Month of December 3.15 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)

Total Charging Energy Used, Lifetime, YTD and Net Metering YTD: 2,586.4 kWh (Includes public charging)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime:  3.16 miles/kWh (wall to wheels)
Energy Efficiency, Lifetime:  31.6 kWh/100 mi (wall to wheels)
Number of Charging Days in Month: 24
Most Electric Energy Used for Charging in a Day in December: 19.6 kWh  (5.2 charging hours)
Most Electric Energy Used at Home for Charging in a Day in December: 19.6 kWh (5.2 charging hours)
Least Electric Energy Used for Charging in a Charging Day in December: 7.9 kWh  (2.1 charging hours)
Average Electric Energy Used for Home Charging in a Charging Day in December:  12.5 kWh  (3.3 charging hours)
Household Power Used for Month:  937 kWh (without car charging)
Total Power Used for Month:  1,244 kWh (includes car charging)
Solar PV Power Generated for Month:  519 kWh
Net Power Used or Sent to Grid for Month:  725 kWh net used
December Electric Bill, So Cal Edison, Schedule TOU-D-TEV:  
$99.92 (A charge in this amount will be added to our net metering total charge for the year.)
Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative kWh Used at Month #10:  1,983 kWh (Total of 1,983 kWh net used for the net metering year. This is total usage minus solar PV generation.)

Solar Net Metering Year Total Cumulative Cost at Month #10:  -$124.17 (Total cost is still a credit for the net metering year to date due to TOU rates)
Cost for Charging Car in December:  $0.00
Cost per Mile:  $0.00
Cost for Charging Car, Lifetime: $0.00
Cost per Mile, Lifetime: $0.00

(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost for Charging Car in December: $39.92)
(If We Didn't Have Solar Power, Est Cost per Mile in December: $0.04)
Average (Mean) Miles per Driving Day in December:  34.6 miles

Average (Median) Miles per Driving Day in December: 35 miles
Longest Day's Driving in December:  71 miles
Shortest Day's Driving in December:  14 miles
Number of Times we Took the Prius Instead of the LEAF Due to Low Charge: 3 times
Unexpected Low Charge and Unable to Reach Destination:  Never