October 27, 2007
(On the left is Cherry-Valley singer Mike Hand performing with Cherry-Valley guitarist Carl Waldman.)
Clem Coleman works wonders in the kitchen (local grown treats like: Rosebrook Elk boneless eye o' the round roast with herb bread crumbs au jus; Gaia's Breath Farm organic pork shoulder roast cooked in Coca Cola, and the legendary Hanger Steak).
Front of house, Clem's wife Dana Spiotta keeps things welcoming and friendly (you'd never guess she has several novels under her belt, one of which won the 2006 National Book Award for fiction).
Spend an evening at the Rose and Kettle and you'll understand why it was voted Metroland's "Best Restaurant Worth a Drive" in 2007. Like many local institutions, the Roe and Kettle has fluctuating opening times, so to make sure you are not disappointed, check the blog before dropping by.
September 15, 2007
This is the point at which some 'greens' will jump in and shout about diesel pollution and soot and carbon black, but I just don't buy the argument that Europeans are blindly killing themselves with diesel cars while states like California and New York are saving lives by preventing their residents from owning diesel cars. Just doesn't add up. Why aren't Calif-orkians pushing to ban all diesels, including semis, which are almost universally diesel? Probably because a. those trucks truck in many goods and foods that the Calif-orkians consume, and b. diesels really are more efficient and, overall, less polluting.
Furthermore, while it is possible to argue that a person who needs a car to get from A to B should choose an electric or hybrid over a diesel, it is NOT possible to argue that a person who needs to haul a couple of tons of stuff from A to B over hilly terrain should buy a hybrid, because there are no hybrids than can do that (yet?).
There is no escaping the fact that diesels extract more power from fuel than gasoline engines. You only have to compare the two on a hilly country road. A diesel can maintian speed with fewer revs and fewer downshifts than a gas engine of comparable displacement. It is simply more powerful. Articles and blog posts in the US that compare a big Mercedes sedan with a teeny gas or gas/hybrid car are missing the point, largely because they are written in the absence of small diesel cars for comparison. The big Mercedes is hauling around a lot more weight. The real comparison is the sort of small diesel family car people buy by the millions in Europe, regularly getting 50+ miles to the gallon (like the Citroen I bought in 1992--great performance, great handling, a smooth and quiet highway cruiser at better than 50 mpg).
That is why, according to PSA, the collective Peugeot and Citroën brand, "the percentage of the European fleet [18 EU countries including France, Germany and the UK] of new car registrations has risen from 22.3% in 1997 to 50.8% in 2006."Note that the country with the highest percentage of diesel cars is France with 71.4% of new cars registered in 2006 being diesel (over 1.4 million). According to California green thinking, the French must be hell bent on mass suicide.
July 8, 2007
I'm not sure I agree with the thesis that Internet shopping is pushing up carbon emissions, there are so many offsetting factors to consider. But I was impressed with the Smith Edison electric vans featured in the story. With a 3500 pound payload, 150 mile range, and 50 m.p.h. top speed, these vehicles could handle a large percentage of the local delivery duties in most countries.
May 31, 2007
The electric car beats the Ferrari and the Porsche
The electric car beats the Lamborghini and the NASCAR
Even when you set aside the mega-geek factor and the bragging rights, I believe fast and powerful electric cars and trucks are the way to change the American perception of EVs for the better.
For the record, my first ride in an EV was 1971, before some readers of this page were born, and it was not a demo or a prototype. It was a commercial vehicle in daily use, a British milk delivery truck to be exact (you may have a hard time finding info specific to these EVs on the web unless you to know that the Brit term for them is "milk float"). Being a 'milkman' was a great way to earn money between high school and university and I was in good company (Sean Connery worked as a milkman in Edinburgh, although he drove a horse-drawn cart, not an electric 'float').
In techno-speak and biz-think, the role of the electric milk float meshes perfectly with the traditional characteristics of an electric vehicle. The range was 30 miles, plenty for the inner city delivery route I covered. The speed topped out at 30 mph, the highest speed limit of any of the roads on the route. The float pictured on the right is pretty much the same as the one I drove. It is even in the livery of the Unigate company, the same dairy I worked for, owned by food giant Unilever. The image is from the amazing milkfloats.org.uk web site. Amazing because yes, there is a whole web site devoted to these vehicles.
The awesome torque of electric motors was perfectly suited to getting a loaded truck off the mark and up to speed in a hurry. The crates back then were metal. The milk bottles were glass, and a full load of 750 Imperial pints weighed, well, it weighed a whole...a big...well a heck of a lot (if anyone happens to know how much, I'd love to hear from them). The point about the weight is, heavy loads are easy for an electric motor to handle (as most EV fans know, electric motors drive locomotives and cruises ships). Furthermore, the weight declined during the seven to eight hours that I spent dropping off full milk bottles and picking up empties, even as the batteries were being discharged. Back at the depot I would plug it in to recharge in overnight and it would be ready to go the next morning.
Remember folks, those EVs have been working like that, efficiently and pollution-free, since the 1960s. This was not a reaction to the oil crisis of the 1970s. What do you bet that more than 80 percent of all U.S. Postal Service delivery vehicles fit the 30/30 operational parameters of that old milk wagon? We could have had four decades of great gas-saving and emission-reduction from the postal service rather than a sweetheart deal for a petroleum-based government contractor (Grumman seems to make most of the postal vans I see in Florida--and I think the USPS ordered them in 1986).
May 11, 2007
The joke was NOT about the street legal JET-IN-A-VW project (I think there's an old proverb that goes something like "Jest not about a man who can fit a jet engine into car and live to drive it about"). Indeed, I urge you to read Ron Patrick's account of the project--it's fascinating stuff, especially the matter-of-fact manner in which he says things like "The first thing I did when I got the car was to cut the hole in the back for the engine. Made a fancy jig out of a tripod, a rod, and a lawnmower wheel to mark out the cut and went at it with a pneumatic saw" and "Air for the jet enters the car through the two side windows and the sunroof. It's a little windy inside but not unbearable." Amazing!
My infosec joke was about VW, which used [allegedly] a VW corporate jet [aircraft] to steal a bunch of secret documents from GM. And herein lies the automotive angle, something I have not heard anyone speculate about before. As part of the settlement of the ensuing industrial espionage lawsuit, VW agreed to buy more than a billion dollars worth of parts from General Motors over 7 years. That agreement was around 1997. So we can assume VW used a lot of GM made parts in its vehicles between 1997 and 2004.
Now, have you experienced reliability problems with a VW during that time period? I know my daughter has, on two different vehicles (kid can be such slow learners sometimes). And I seem to recall that VW has consistently had at least one model in the Consumer Reports "least reliable" list every year during that time, and still does today....do I need to connect the dots?
Let me drop another hint, outside the auto field. In the last year, Dell, Apple, IBM, Toshiba and others have all had to issue recalls on notebook computers with batteries made by Sony. All the numbers I have been able to find [as a blogger, not a paid journalist with a fact-checking department at my fingertips] seem to indicate that a smaller percentage of Sony Vaio computers shipped with the defective batteries than Toshibas, Dells, etc. Hmmmmmm....
April 13, 2007
These folks specialize in repair and restoration of Citroen 2CV and have many Deux Chevaux (French spelling) for sale. At the website you will find "plenty of information about 2CV's in general, repair and maintenance instructions, spare part supply, a very informative 2CV buyer's guide that tells you what to look for when you plan to purchase a 2CV and a complete online 2CV Users Manual." BTW, the fine example shown here is apparently located in New York state and up for sale. If you are interested, you might want to email cars at 2cvsrus dot com and ask for details of the "Stunning yellow and black 2CV Charleston."
[Many thanks to alert reader Christine who very rightly pointed out that the original post was incorrectly titled Deux Cheveux--after laughing along with Christine for some time, I have now corrected it.]
And how the wind flies in the Springtime when you're having fun in an open top vehicle. My wife loved her Mercedes SL 500 and her SLKs, the 230 and then the 320. I loved to be driven in them, top up or down. But alas no room for the dog. Poor doggy (and sometimes Stephen when the doggy took precedence).
Now stable-mate Jeep comes to the rescue. The latest iteration of the Jeep Liberty is to offer something a friend of mine has sought for years: a roll-back roof (as described at the autoblog).
"One of the most-talked about options [on the '08 Liberty) will be the power-operated sliding roof, called Sky Slider. While most automakers offer a sunroof, the Liberty's canvas roof runs nearly the length of the vehicle. It can be opened from front to back or from back to front."Not that this is new--anyone familiar with French autos knows they have long sported variations on this idea, back as far as the Citreon Deux Cheveux at least. However, none of them are over here, and none of them are in a serious off-road/around-town vehicle like the Liberty (disclaimer: we own a 2005 Jeep Liberty Diesel that we like quite a lot).
My friend's wish was for a rugged vehicle able to accommodate wife and two kids in comfort and tour around with the roof open. The 2008 Liberty with the Sky Slider looks to be about the only contender in that category.
March 31, 2007
Yes, for the sticker-shocked London visitor I might have something to soothe the nerves, a centrally-located London hotel that does not cost a fortune. Note "might." This is not the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (nothing under $400 a night) or even the Marriott County Hall (a relative bargain starting at $300 a night). I've stayed at both and, while I can assure you that both offer superb service, I can't say they offer three to four times the value of the Morgan Hotel, currently one of the top ranked establishments at the very useful Trip Advisor. And while the Marriott and Mandarin have their own charm and gravitas and history, so does the Morgan.
If you travel a lot you have probably figured out that a large element of hotel accommodation satisfaction rating is expectation management. Nowhere is this more true than in London, which offers a bewildering array of hotels, many of which charge exorbitant prices, and too many of which change hands more often than the English weather changes season.
So what you can expect from the Morgan, a small, independent, family-run hotel in the heart of London? Number one: A very clean room that is small but well-appointed and well-serviced by a polite and cheerful staff. The ambiance is closer to that of a bed and breakfast than a big hotel. If this sounds appealing then the Morgan is a bargain, particularly for individuals for whom hanging out in the hotel is not a big part of the trip, like me when traveling to London on business.
I probably wouldn't choose it for a honeymoon or a two week holiday with two kids in tow but it could be just the ticket if you're coming to London for a night or two at the theatre (and ideally located for such). I chose it for a calm retreat and good night's sleep at the end of a series of days spent visiting various client offices around London. I was not disappointed.
What else can you expect? You can expect a relatively quiet night's sleep. The hotel is in a terrace of what were once houses but now are mainly offices, backing onto small gardens that in turn back onto the British Museum. Rooms at the back of the hotel are well-insulated from the sounds of Bloomsbury Street, which itself is not terribly noisy (nothing like the same amount of rowdy late night pedestrian traffic you get in Convent Garden just a few blocks away--and very handy if you're up for some night life).
As with any hotel, noise in the rooms is relative to the number and demeanor of other guests (with the possible exception of the afore-mentioned Mandarin, probably the best insulated hotel I've experienced in Europe). I have certainly stayed in places that charge twice as much and have inferior sound insulation. Given the close proximity of the rooms at the Morgan, loutish guests or noisy early risers could be a problem, but I got the distinct impression that travelers who choose the Morgan are more than likely to be sensitive to its intimate ambiance and conduct themselves accordingly. (Conversely, I sense that some guests at more expensive hotels seem to think the queen's ransom they paid for a night's accommodation entitles them to be as loud as they like.)
Traveling alone, the size of the room, and bed, was fine (and a couple who are very much in love should do fine as well). The TV was very small, but I wasn't there to be entertained. I only turned it on once, probably because I get most of my news from the 'net these days. Tasteful use of shelving and recessed lighting made the best of the room space. A small table and chairs provided a comfy place to sit and relax, read, or surf the Internet via the free wireless connection. I have stayed in two different rooms (202 and 206) and the bathrooms in both were small and shower-only, no tub--but very clean and recently upgraded with modern fittings.
Soap and shampoo supplies were a bit basic but the towels were above average for a UK hotel (closer to good-old American cotton than traditional English sandpaper). Hair driers were installed in both rooms but no ironing board (I'm sure you could arrange the use of one if you wanted). There is individual room temperature control, including AC, a must for summer in London in the age of global warming. Of the two rooms, 206 was quieter.
As far as my needs went, location was great. The only other hotel nearby, actually right across the street, is the Radisson Kenilworth. A lovely hotel but 166% more expensive last time I checked. The nearest tube is a short walk and you can stroll right into Convent Garden or onto Oxford Street in minutes. There is a Starbucks about two blocks in one direction, and a Costas is just around the corner.
Finally, something very nice you can expect at the Morgan, and can depend on getting--if you get up before 9AM--is a fine English breakfast (cereal, juice, coffee/tea, toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomato) dished up in a very smart dining room, cooked to order, and served with a smile. It was certainly a good way for me to start the day.
So there you have it, and if you don't like it, don't go there. But if you go there knowing and liking what you read here, you will probably be satisfied. That seems to be the trick of it, especially if you read Trip Advisor. Note that some people went to the Morgan with expectations that were not met. That was hardly the hotel's fault. Folk who follow Web 2.0 trends might have spotted this aspect of "customer review" sites. You don't 'know' the person doing the reviewing. You have to deduce their character from their articulation. Some reviews are really gripes and some are clearly unfair. On the other hand, if you read these reviews you can adjust your expectations and decide if a place if right for you.
And one final note for e-commerce analysts: This hotel ranks near the top of its class on a very popular travel site and it doesn't take online reservations. you have to use email, fax, or phone.
March 11, 2007
Sadly my wife's health just isn't what it used to be and, since she is the captain of the boat and I am just the lowly deck hand, the boat has got to go. You will find some nice pics at a web site I just created: hatterasforsale.net and a mirror at hatterasyachts.net. The sites are identical and have links to the broker handling the sale, A1A Yacht Brokers of St. Augustine. the boat is moored at the fun and funky Oyster Creek Marina. Asking price is $79,900.
February 24, 2007
This design offers great aerodynamic potential and an amazing driving experience if the cool videos on the web site are anything to go by. So, you get the design possibilities of a three wheeler with a lot less chance of tipping over.
Second up in this post is BMW's Clever, which looks a lot like the Carver. I'm not implying anything by this, and BMW has plenty of cred in the alternative [and less than 4 wheels] vehicle space, notably with the C1. It would seem that something both designs have in common is the ability to alter the power source/drive train fairly easily. In other words, the vehicle consists of two main parts: the driver/passenger module and the drive unit. These are connected by the tilting mechanism. As alternative fuels and more efficient motors come online, it would seem that this design is well-placed to implement them quickly.
What is not entirely clear from either the Carver or Clever sites is how you would go about buying one of these vehicles. I realize that there are huge hurdles between a working prototype and a street legal vehicle. Crash testing and emissions being the two big ones I would think. Does anyone know if there is a category of road vehicle equivalent to the experimental aircraft? That would seem to make sense at a time like this, when rapid improvement and innovation in vehicle design and efficiency could reap huge dividends for the environment and global politics, not to mention driving fun.
The last item for this post, the Loremo, looks more conventional, but is actually quite radical. It has four wheels, but is very light in weight. Together with excellent aerodynamics this yields over 100 miles per US gallon. The light weight is achieved with space age materials and a design that features no side doors. Apparently this results in much greater cabin strength at lower weight.
The driver and front passenger step into the car from the front. The entire dashboard and steering wheel lift up. The rear passengers enter at the rear through a large hatch-back. Check out the web site for more photos.
Again, not clear when you will be able to buy one, but if I was an oil-dependent sheik, I'd be worried that designs like these are well-advanced and threatening to cut gasoline consumption as they become street legal.
February 9, 2007
If you think compressed air is a puny power source consider that the US Navy mounted 15 inch compressed air guns on the experimental U.S.S. Vesuvius, in 1888. Today, you can buy a compressed air rifle that fires 6 rounds of 77 grain 9mm ammo at 900 fps.
So, the main limiting factor with compressed air is not power, it is supply, the need to recharge. Well, how about a small, efficient on-board powerplant that runs a compressor to recharge the holding tanks? This could be used for longer trips, typically outside of urban areas. We like it.
We'd like to see regenerative braking added to the mix. Maybe the compressor is electric, powered by lithium iron batteries, recharged by solar panels in the roof, regenerative braking, and as power source of last resort, a small diesel. BTW, kudos to BMW for putting regenerative braking into the 5-series.
February 8, 2007
About a year ago I noticed that a lot of hotels have been upgrading their TVs. Many now have stereo speakers. And quite a few have auxiliary inputs for video and audio. If you're lucky, these inputs are on the front of the box (sometimes they are exposed, other times they are hidden behind a plastic panel). With the right cable you can simply plug in your music player, switch the TV to AUX input, and get a decent room-filling sound.
On this latest trip to Malaysia I finally remember to bring along the right cable. Mini stereo plug on one end, left and right phono plugs on the other. Actually, the cable also has a video plug on each as well, handy for sending movies and photos from my digital camera to the TV screen. Not all hotel TV remotes have an AUX or alternative Video input button so you may have to select this on the front panel of the TV box.
My room at the Prince Hotel in Kuala Lumpur has a very nice Sony Triniton with stereo speakers and I am really enjoying the sound of my playlists on them. It is definitely richer than the sound on the small iPod travel speakers I have tried.
p.s. Hotels in Kuala Lumpur seem to be one of the world's best travel bargains. For $88 per night The Prince Hotel gives you a large, ultra-modern room with loads of tasteful woodwork and a superb view. Okay, you have to pay $12 a day extra if you want high speed Internet. But where else can you get a hotel this good with high speed Internet for $100? The service is first rate. The staff are cheerful and polite, attentive but discreet. Want room service to come back at 4PM because you're busy blogging. No problem and no grumbling. And no clumsy "Do not disturb signs." There's no annoying knocking on doors here--each room has its own electronic bell that guests can control from inside the room. And when you step outside your room you find the hallway is scented with aromatherapy oils.
February 4, 2007
On the bright side, service on Korean Airlines was excellent and the 14 hour flight is survivable in coach, even when coach is full. The inflight entertainment system was the best I've seen/heard yet. More details to follow. The folks at Incheon airport were terrific and the airport itself first rate. The hotel I picked for a day room also turned out to be a great find. More details to follow, including the amazing electric loo.
February 3, 2007
If you have ever flown from Terminal One you may know that some of the foreign carriers don't staff their check-in desks all day. So it doesn't matter how early you get to the terminal, you'll still have to stand in line. You either wait on your feet for the desk to open, or you wait for the line to move through. The picture above is from my Treo, showing the line at Korean Air at 9:00PM, half an hour before the desks opened (and that applies to business and first class too). I had the same problem when I flew business class to Moscow from JFK on Aeroflot last year, although that flight had a fairly light load so the actual wait in line was not that long. Unfortunately, tonight's flight to Incheon/Seoul looks to be packed.
I plan to sleep as best I can although we will hit daylight after a few hours. It seems so weird to be boarding a plane on Saturday night and deplaning at 6:00AM on Monday. I have booked a room at the Incheon Hotel so I can sleep on Monday until the flight from Incheon to KL, which doesn't leave until 4:30 in the afternoon. We'll find out if it is worth the $80. And if I can't sleep, then a shower and a bit of blogging should pass the time (call me a wimp but I gave up the idea of taking in the sights in Seoul when I saw the weather forecast--freezing--while KL will be in the nineties).
February 2, 2007
My final decision came down to dollars and sense. The lowest fare from Jacksonville was out via JFK, then Korean Air to Seoul, thence to KL. Return is going to be China Air to Taipei thence to LAX and JAX. All are Delta code-share and so I will rack up some nice SkyMiles. But, and it could be a sore but, the layovers are loooong, particularly on the way out. So stand by for tips on how to kill 8 hours in JFK and Incheon, Seoul.
Also stand by for photos of KL, famous for the Petronas Towers and other impressive urban architecture. Last time I was there I killed a whole afternoon in the galleria-style mall in the base of the towers. Mainly people watching. And there are plenty to watch--24 million in a country not much bigger than New Mexico (according to the CIA).
January 28, 2007
It's a diesel sedan that gets 37 mpg on the highway but can still do 0-60 in under 7 seconds. It can meet ultra low emissions standards by using urea: "For more aggressive emissions aftertreatment, a BLUETEC system can move up an AdBlue injection system. A water-based urea solution, AdBlue is carried in its own small tank and metered into the exhaust in minute quantities..." Check out the details here and at the Daimler Chrysler site (and look for a future Jeep to use the same technology--I'm saving up already).