Monday, April 16, 2007

2007 New York International Auto Show

This past weekend, my wife and I went to what's become an annual rite for us: the New York International Auto Show (or "Autoshow," as the sign says). Yeah, I'm one of those lucky guys with a wife that actually likes cars.

I'm pretty sure this is our third. We skipped last year because I was in too much post-surgical pain, but that's another story.

If you've never been to the NY "Autoshow", it's pretty amazing in a lot of ways. The first thing about it is that it's always freakin' packed. It doesn't help that we always go on weekends, and this time we went the day before a major storm that everybody knew was coming. There had to be about 200,000 people there at the same time we were. I mean you can't even walk.

The second thing is the Javits Center, which is odd in that it's both way too small for this event, but also freakin' huge. Now, I've been to Tokyo - I've been to both the Big Site and the Makuhari Messe, and they are HUMONGOUS. I've also been to the L.A. Convention Center, which is also pretty big. Javits isn't that big. But it's still a giant glass and steel structure that dwarfs any other indoor public space in Manhattan.

The third thing is obviously the cars. Now, this year I forgot my camera, which was a goddamn travesty, but at least my wife brought hers. She actually took most of these shots. I just wish we'd gotten more.

Check it out, Camaro convertible:

I gotta admit, I've been a Camaro guy all my life, but I'm more excited about the new Dodge Challenger. Something about the new Camaro looks a little too modern-day Chevy to me, which isn't a good thing. The Challenger's all retro except for that hemi engine. We actually were really hoping to see the Challenger (we missed it last year), but Dodge apparently forgot to bring it.

They did bring some sort of badass Dodge Viper SRT10, as if the stock Viper SRT10 isn't badass enough:

Here's the Dodge Demon:

Actually a pretty hot looking little car.

For you import guys, Lexus had a new hybrid sports car there:

No, that's not the same car as the Toyota FT-HS, at least not the same sheetmetal. The Toyota was there as well, and it looked kinda butt. Honestly, I wasn't too impressed with the look of this Lexus, either - I'm just not a huge fan of Japanese concept designs. I do like their more practical, real-world car designs, just not their sports and concept cars. They look to much like spaceships, not something you drive on a road.

I gotta point out one thing. You see that finish? That's silver paint. It should be stainless steel or aluminum. Doesn't look right to me.

Here's an overview of the Ferrari booth:

See now, this I just don't get. Ferraris are nice cars, and expensive. But every year, they bring like three models to the floor, and about half the crowd is gathered around them at any one time. WTF? None of these people could afford one, so they're just there to look - but you can walk into a Ferrari showroom any day of the week and see one of these. Meanwhile, there are literally dozens of upcoming models or concept cars on the floor that you can never see otherwise, just sitting there all day long.

This was pretty cool - GM is testing out designs of their "smart cars", which to me look a whole lot like the little cars you see driving around all over Japan these days:

Here I am in the all-new 2008 Mini Cooper S:

I love this car. I haven't even driven one, but just sitting in it, I can tell it's everything I want in a car. I'm 6'4, and it's really difficult to find a car that's comfortable in all dimensions - enough legroom, enough headroom, enough back support, and with the controls at exactly the right positions while still giving me a good view out the windshield. Almost no car gets it right, whatever the price. The Mini Cooper does. It's almost unbelievable that such a small car could be so comfortable for a guy my size. Just look at how relaxed I am. It feels really big inside.

Here's another '08 Cooper S, so you can see the full car - along with a couple of goofballs waving to our camera:

I've been a fan of the Mini styling ever since BMW reintroduced the brand name a few years ago, and that goes for both the interior and exterior. The 2008 redesign just makes a good thing better. If I have anything to say about it, this is going to be my next car. Did I mention it's a car we can actually afford? And that even the turbocharged Cooper S gets 34mpg? (The stock model - without the "S" - gets 40mpg!)

My wife is not so practical. If she could have her way, we'd have one of these:

It's the new Jaguar XKR, my wife's new true love. $86,000, if I remember right. I sat in an XK - the coupe version of this car - and I wasn't that impressed. I felt cramped, and I literally tripped over the deck getting into the car. I wasn't the only one, because the liner was completely ripped up from the hundreds of other people who had obviously done the same thing.

Honestly, one thing I came away with from this show was how much I still love our 2006 PT Cruiser. The 2005 auto show was what finally convinced us to buy one, and it's still better looking (inside and out) and way more comfortable than any other car in its class. It's not perfect, but then you can't expect perfection for $14,500. But it is cute as hell, it's got a great retro-futuristic interior (updated for the '06 model year) and tons of leg- and headroom. And it was great in our move to the new house - it hauls an obscene amount of junk. Still, someday we'll want a second car, or an upgrade/replacement. So the PT's not going to be our last car.

We'll be back next year to see what's up. I've still gotta put myself inside a Dodge Challenger - maybe it'll pull me back from the brink of Mini-dom.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Album Review: PUFFY (AmiYumi) - Hit & Fun

Post Moved!

This post now resides at my Puffy-dedicated blog amiyumidas. Please click here to be taken directly to the post. If you're interested in Puffy, you may want to browse around a bit while you're there - I've got a lot of cool stuff.

Please update your bookmarks.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Trees a Crowd

So maybe some of you - probably only personal friends, but who knows - wonder what it is that I do in between posts. Well, I do work, and with one car between two people and a long commute via the Long Island Rail Road for both of us, our weekdays are pretty much totally shot. That leaves the weekend, and since we're only just now entering our second year in our "new" house, we've still got a lot of work to do. This was part of the weekend just past:

That's 17 little baby trees, plus another just out of camera shot below the edge of the frame. And yeah, that's my kinda ugly back yard, which looks like it just got beaten up in a schoolyard fight. "You should see the other guy!" I'm working on it, though. When we first moved in, that entire grassy area above was nothing but a big mound of dirt with clumps of wild garlic growing out of it. Did you know garlic grows like a weed? Neither did I, but we've got it all over the place. Anyway, the back yard is better now. Someday it'll be a lawn.

This is the teeny tiny tree just out of the bottom of the frame above:

Awwww. How adorable. Hard to believe that within a few years it'll be pushing 60 feet, eh? (In all seriousness, I kinda doubt the conditions in my yard will permit that, and I hope they don't.)

So why plant 18 trees in my back yard? Privacy. You see that chain link fence above? That's my neighbor's. They seem like nice people and all, but I mean, this is my view whenever I'm outside:

We may as well be sharing a back yard. And I can kinda do without looking at garbage all the time. That's my neighbor's fence, too, and I didn't really want to put another one in front of it.

We needed to chop down an existing tree in order to make room for these, which we did all by ourselves. And let me tell you, hacking a tree to pieces with a chainsaw is probably the most effective way of waking yourself up in the morning. Removed the stump too. Wasn't even that hard, but then it was small. If you're interested in what kind of tree these are, they're Skyrocket Junipers (Juniperus Scopulorum), which grow straight up, not out. Ideal for a small yard without much space to lose.

Planting trees is not that difficult. It really is basically just digging a hole and plopping the tree in it. If you want to do it right, you take a little more care and make sure you line the hole with organic material, water it in, place the tree, cover with as much of its native soil as possible and as much new soil as necessary, then fertilize, mulch, and water some more. We did it mostly right, so hopefully our trees will do well and grow up nice and big.

Not that they're doing much good as a privacy screen now, but you gotta take the long-term view. See the big picture. Eventually, they'll look something like this:

Oh, and that little tiny tree below?

Well, they don't call it the "green giant" for nothing. These trees grow up to five feet per year. I got it to fill out some extra space in that corner and to break up the monotony of a row of skyrocket junipers.

I'll update maybe once a year so you can see how they're doing. Hoping to get some good growth this summer, and a useful screen within 3 years. I'm probably being optimistic, but a guy can dream, right? And I have such simple dreams.

About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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