Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Getting out to an Islanders game is, in fact, not even the least bit easy. Each leg of the trip from door to door took roughly two hours and 40 minutes and required going in the wrong direction at least once. Once there, however, Debs and I were not disappointed. Not only did we have fantastic seats, but, well, it was an awful lot of fun for a game I had no real vested interest in. While the Islanders won in a fourth-round shootout, with both goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Rick DiPietro standing on their heads the entire time, the real news of the night was that Sidney Crosby's 25-game scoring streak came to an end at long last. It's always fun to see a little bit of history.
I will say, however, the Islanders' postgame celebration was a bit much.
And what a year it was.
To really give you all the full treatment on 2010, it seems appropriate to do one of those ridiculous lists where I put in perspective just how many different teams I've seen, stadiums I've been to, cities I've visited and, what the hell, plane rides I've been on. Why the hell not? Here it goes.
2010 In Review
-- I saw 7 new professional sports teams (Philadelphia Flyers, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Dodgers, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Twins, New York Islanders)
-- I saw 9 new stadiums both college and professional (Wachovia Center, Turner Field, Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium, New Meadowlands Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, Nassau Coliseum)
-- I saw sporting events in 16 total venues (Giants Stadium, Wachovia Center, Prudential Center, Citi Field, Turner Field, Camden Yards, AT&T Park, Dodger Stadium, New Meadowlands Stadium, TD Garden, Lucas Oil Stadium, Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Wrigley Field, Nassau Coliseum)
-- I visited 20 different cities (Philadelphia, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Tzfat, Eilat, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington D.C., San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Sonoma, San Luis Obispo, Boston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Chicago)
-- I spent time in 2 countries (United States, Israel)
-- I flew on a plane 20 different times.
-- I stayed in 13 different hotels, some of them amazing, some of them horrendously awful.
-- I passed through 14 different airports.
-- I delivered 1 Best Man Speech.
-- I had 1 sibling get married.
-- I ate at 2 different In-N-Out Burgers.
-- I had 4 slices of Giordano's stuffed pizza.
-- I saw 1 football game in a baseball stadium.
-- I won 0 fantasy leagues.
-- I wrote 141 entries in this space.
-- I got 1 new job.
-- I traveled 2 times for work.
-- I started 1 tedious, boring and insignificant blog.
Busy, huh? Yes, I thought so, too. Don't worry though. It's almost over. 2011 is almost here and with that there will be a new 12 months filled with frantically planned trips to sports venues, more weddings, more plane flights, more general exhaustion and probably about four new page views at this blog by someone other than me. Can't wait.
To close 2010 out, here, for the final time this regular season, are your sure to be wrong football picks.
Last week: 9-7-0
NY Giants (-4) over WASHINGTON
ATLANTA (-15) over Carolina
Pittsburgh (-6) over CLEVELAND
Minnesota (+3) over DETROIT
Oakland (+4) over KANSAS CITY
Miami (+5) over NEW ENGLAND
NEW ORLEANS (-8) over Tampa Bay
NY JETS (even) over Buffalo
BALTIMORE (-10) over Cincinnati
San Diego (-4) over DENVER
Chicago (+10) over GREEN BAY
INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over Tennessee
Dallas (even) over PHILADELPHIA
SAN FRANCISCO (-7) over Arizona
Jacksonville (-3) over HOUSTON
St. Louis (-3) over SEATTLE***
***If it were possible for both teams to lose this game, I would pick that result.
That's it for me. Happy New Year, everyone. Bring on 2011.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
What's that? Shocked that I've never seen a sports team play at home when its home is in the same metropolitan area I've spent 21 years of my life in?
Well, so am I. In fact, I find it downright mindboggling that I've never actually made a trek to Uniondale to see the Isles ply their trade or check out their home building. A rational look back on it reveals the reasons are many: a) I'm a Devils fan, b) the Devils and Rangers are both closer to where I grew up and live currently, c) it is almost impossible to get to Nassau Coliseum on mass transit.
Once I decided to do this whole "see every team in the MLB, NHL, NBA and NFL" thing I knew the day of reckoning that forced a trip out to Long Island would come, but for some reason I just continued to push it further and further back -- though there have been a few near misses and close calls. If it's right there, the urgency to get moving seems to not be particularly pressing. But at long last I've decided to finally get off my rear with the help of an equally eager coworker, which will see us take the LIRR from Penn Station to Hempstead, NY, then a bus from the Hempstead Transit Station to the Coliseum -- this is after I've already taken a subway from my apartment to Penn Station. All in all, it's a tidy 90 minute trip on mass transit to get to a suburban hockey arena with little around.
But oh boy, am I excited.
The Islanders, perhaps you've noticed, are not particularly good, and haven't been for a while. Given that it seems kind of odd to me that they used to be great.
Seriously. There's an argument to be made that they had the greatest dynasty of any professional sports team in the last 30 years. From 1980-1983, the Islanders won the Stanley Cup four straight times, a fact that, seemingly, no Islanders fan I've come across professional will forget to mention to you. Yes, other teams have won four straight Cups or four straight championships before, but none have done it in the same age of expanded playoffs that the Islanders did. New York had four rounds of postseason jockeying to get through in order to win it all, and they did it four straight times. And very nearly a fifth.
Add it all together and the Islanders won 19 consecutive playoff series in the early 1980s, a stunningly impressive achievement that is arguably not to be seen again.
Of course, those Islanders are a far cry from the current ones, who are deeply steeped in rebuilding mode currently, and as a fan of the Devils who can't avoid reading about their current season, I'm starting to find out what that's like. But it should still be an interesting game for any number of reasons, namely that a) it's a new place, and b) they're playing the Penguins and Sidney Crosby, who just might be the hottest player in the world right now.
Well, Crosby scored two goals and tallied an assist last night against Atlanta, which gives him a scoring streak of 25 games, a stretch during which he's scored 50 points. It's a streak so long, the last person to have one longer did so for a team that no longer exists. That, since you're wondering, would be Mats Sundin, who had a 30-game streak in 1992 for the Quebec Nordiques. To make the night even more interesting, the game is going to be captured by HBO for its current Penguins/Capitals 24/7 series, which, if you have no been watching, has been spectacular television -- and I'm not just towing the line of a hockey fan on that one. It has been gripping, informative and visually arresting to see. Oh yeah, and it's on again tonight.
Now, I will admit, the show is far better on HBO where the cursing isn't censored because, well, hockey players, and their coaches, swear a lot, regardless of who's listening. Fortunately for Washington's Bruce Boudreau, the Commish has let it slide.
So put it all together and you've got an interesting TV show, a phenomenal player, and apparently a reason for me to make the arduous trek to Nassau Coliseum for the first time ever tonight. And since nothing seems to be going right for the Giants right now in any way whatsoever, I could use the distraction. If anything the extensive mass transit to Uniondale will be long enough that I probably won't remember the Giants exist by the time I get there. Until Sunday, of course, when I foolishly hope against hope that the magic will happen.
I'm a fan. I don't know any better.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
By Mark Kleis
2010 will likely go down in history as one of the most historic years in the automotive industry, with major shifts in paradigms, safety legislation and global alliances. Of the most memorable events will likely be the seemingly endless string of safety recalls that plagued Toyota, and as a result the number of complaints logged by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration were driven to a record high of over 40,0000 valid complaints.
By mid-December of 2010, NHTSA had already received complaints across all automakers totaling over 40,000, which is four times more than previous years based on analysis by Edmunds and The Los Angeles Times. The same data showed Toyota leading with the most complaints of any automaker with nearly a quarter of all complaints.
Toyota’s complaints per 100,000 vehicles climbed from 37 in 2009, to 87 in 2010. The second worst offender was Nissan, logging 62 complaints per 100,000 vehicles sold, followed closely by Volkswagen with 58 complaints. The overall industry average came in at just 47 complaints per 100,000 vehicles sold – a figure bumped from just 30 the previous year.
Ford and Honda had the lowest complaint ratios for any large manufacturers in the U.S.
Just the Facts:
American Honda says thieves have hacked 2.2 million customers' personal data.
Names, e-mail addresses and VINs are among the data, but no financial information.
A second list of 2.7 million Acura owners was also stolen but included e-mail addresses only.
TORRANCE, California — It sounds bad, but perhaps it's not as bad as it could have been: American Honda has notified 2.2 million customers that a list including e-mail addresses, VINs and login information has been stolen by unknown hackers. Company officials say the list didn't include Social Security numbers, birthdates, bank information or other data that would leave people vulnerable to identity theft.
The Columbus, Ohio, Dispatch reported that the list belonged to an outside vendor who was using it to send "welcome" e-mail messages to customers with OwnerLink or MyAcura accounts. Reportedly, 2.7 million Acura owners were on a separate list that was also stolen, but that one had only e-mail addresses on it.
American Honda contacted its customers to apologize and remind them about the possibility that bogus e-mail could come to them asking for private information. Owners can get more information on this FAQ page.
Here's the link to the TOV forum that I found this on, some of the other members have translated the text;
Monday, December 27, 2010
BY STEVE SILER December 2010
A mildly refreshed version of Acura’s generally capable but unremarkable and slow-selling flagship sedan. On sale in much the same form since the 2005 model year, the 2011 Acura RL gets a tweaked front fascia with chrome spears in the outboard air intakes and a slightly toned-down version of the much-maligned, guillotine-esque beak that was fitted a couple of years ago. It’s still unattractive, natch. Also new are the decklid trim; power-folding side mirrors; and 15-spoke, 18-inch wheels. Inside, the infotainment interface has been revised (although the quality of its graphics remains largely the same), and genuine maple trim and a new Sea Coast interior color are now available. (Yes, Sea Coast could refer to just about any color, from sandy beige to watery blue to oil-slicked black. Here, it’s a light tan.) The most significant alteration is the upgrade from the previous five-speed auto to a six-speed box. It’s the only transmission available.
Just fine, as before. It’s easy to forget what a nice car the RL is to drive—as consumers seemingly do on a regular basis—until you slide back into it. The naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6 (generating 300 hp at 6300 rpm and 271 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm) pulls with zest and remains silky smooth all the way to its 6800-rpm redline, the latter a consistent trait of Honda’s engines. Acura claims the six-speed automatic’s extra ratio allows the RL to hit 60 about 0.5 second quicker than before, while gaining 1 mpg in the city and 2 on the highway. For reference, the 2011 is rated at 17/24 mpg, and we tested a 2009 RL to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.
Acura claims the 2011 is quieter inside, thanks to resonator devices that are said to chop 1.3 decibels off the tire-noise scale. With the new resonators, the RL isn’t yet as quiet as, say, a Lexus LS, although the Acura’s noise levels can hardly be characterized as loud.
The RL is good to drive, but as fine as it is in that area, the fact remains that the car is down on power and/or torque compared with many competitors in the $50,000 arena. This includes the Infiniti M37X, the Lexus GS350, and the BMW 535i—all of which offer V-8 alternatives for those wanting even more power. Just as egregious is the RL’s distinct lack of, well, distinction. Sure, it has the grille that no one likes, but other than that, it has little identity. Shoppers in this segment are often looking for some cachet, and this car doesn’t have it. Further, more room in the rear seat and trunk would help Acura cajole fifty large out of more than 200 to 300 people per month. In other words, the RL needs more than this refresh—it needs a replacement. Fortunately, one is around the corner, likely in a year. See our blog post on the next RL for details.
In addition, Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com reveals the top five brands with the greatest share of market interest for 2010.This year marks the fifth consecutive year that Kelley Blue Book saw increased visitation to its website, with nearly 24 million more visits to kbb.com in 2010 versus 2009.
Because kbb.com is one of the most-trafficked automotive research sites, visitation to specific vehicles has become a leading indicator of sales patterns for manufacturers.
Kbb.com's Top 20 Most-Researched New Vehicles of 2010
1. Honda Accord
2. Honda Civic
3. Toyota Camry
4. Honda CRV
5. Hyundai Sonata
6. Nissan Altima
7. Honda Pilot
8. Ford Mustang
9. Toyota Highlander
10. Toyota Rav4
11. Toyota Sienna
12. Honda Odyssey
13. Chevrolet Equinox
14. Toyota Corolla
15. Ford Fusion
16. Ford Escape
17. Toyota Prius
18. BMW 3 Series
19. Chevrolet Camaro
20. Volkswagen Jetta
The Honda Accord, Honda Civic and Toyota Camry (in varying orders each year) have been the top three most-researched new vehicles on kbb.com each year since 2004. However, a few vehicles made jumps into the top 20 most-researched new vehicles for 2010 that were not on the list in 2009, and many models have changed their standings among the top 20 when compared to last year.
The most noteworthy success story this year is the Hyundai Sonata, which made a giant leap up 24 positions, from number 29 last year to number five this year. Hyundai's popular all-new Sonata helped to re-shuffle the deck among the top 20 most-researched new cars of 2010, knocking a few vehicles further down on the list compared to where they were last year.
A number of popular new or redesigned models also increased their standing for 2010 versus 2009, including the Ford Mustang, up eight positions to number eight, the Toyota Sienna, up seven positions to number 11, and the Chevrolet Equinox, up seven positions to number 13. In addition, the BMW 3 Series was new to the list for 2010, making its debut at number 18.
Likewise, many vehicles that are staples on the annual kbb.com top 20 most-researched new vehicles list experienced a decline in standing for 2010 when compared to 2009. The Toyota Corolla fell nine positions to number 14 this year, and the Toyota Prius dropped nine positions to number 17. In addition, the Chevrolet Camaro was down seven positions to number 19 for 2010."
The site traffic on Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com clearly demonstrates which models are resonating with today's new-car shoppers, especially when we examine the most-researched new vehicles of 2010," said James Bell, executive market analyst for Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com. "Hyundai's homerun Sonata was not only the darling of the industry this year, but also made a strong impression in the minds of new-car shoppers by leaping ahead to the fifth most-researched new car of 2010. In addition, two popular Toyota models, the Corolla and Prius, experienced drops on the list this year, likely due to a combination of lower fuel prices and reduced overall interest in compact and hybrid vehicles, and also possibly due to Toyota's public perception crisis during the recall saga of 2010."
Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com 2010 Top Five Brands with Greatest Share of Market Interest Among New-Car Shoppers
Toyota with 13.4 percent
Honda with 11.4 percent
Ford with 10.2 percent
Chevrolet with 8.3 percent
Nissan with 6.2 percent
Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and Nissan (respectively) are the top five brands with the highest share of market interest -- defined as the percent of new-car shopper activity for a particular brand -- on Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com for 2010. While these five brands remain in the same positions as last year, Toyota has experienced a decline in share of market interest for 2010 while Ford's share of market interest continues to grow. Toyota managed to hold down its top spot for 2010, even though its share of market interest declined 2.4 percentage points from last year. While Ford remains in the number three spot, its share of market interest increased 1.5 percentage points for 2010 when compared to 2009. The remaining three (Honda, Chevrolet and Nissan) brands' share of market interest numbers remained relatively flat year-over-year.
Source (via autoblog);
Friday, December 24, 2010
Iranian-Afghan past history of relationship
Thursday, December 23, 2010
I am without speech. Still.
Sunday's colossal debacle against the Eagles, which saw the Giants go from likely No. 2 seed to playoff life support in a matter of seven and a half minutes is not something that I have yet been able to comprehend or grasp. In fact, I'm still not able to speak about it out loud with thoughts of anger and depression over what could have been. Granted, the Giants aren't exactly done. If they defeat the Packers this Sunday they'll have clinched a berth and will still have an outside chance of winning the No. 5 seed lottery to face whatever dung pile "wins" the NFC West, but should Big Blue not come through in Green Bay they'll need help on the final day of the season.
And ain't all that just a bit angst-inducing?
Well, yeah. It is. I do like New York's chances since Aaron Rodgers, while he is expected to be under center for the Pack, is still coming off a concussion that one would have to think leaves him a little woozy, no? I guess we'll find out on Sunday.
blown 24-point lead against San Francisco in the 2002 playoffs, and Super Bowl XXXV come close to the gut punch this game delivered. But as I always tell myself, I can handle the depression with the greatest upset in football history in my back pocket.
Of course, that was just the start of a week that has quickly entered a downward spiral.
To make the pain worse, my fantasy football team decided to score all of one touchdown in the semifinals which robbed me of a potentially hefty payday. That one, I'm sure, matters to a lot of you.
But I had an ace up my sleeve. After two full years without seeing a Northwestern basketball game in person, the Wildcats were coming to Madison Square Garden this week, giving me the chance to see a squad that was one of eight remaining undefeateds in the country and just might be the one that finally breaks NU's hex of missing the NCAA Tournament. Of course, it was difficult to feel as though Northwestern's place in March was assured given it had played a non-conference schedule that a group of fifth-graders could probably finish at least .500 against. Still, like clockwork, the Cats took out St. Francis on Monday night with me and some 2,000 other of my closest friends watching.
All was well and good. Until Tuesday.
He's a big man after all.
After harassing the supervisor long enough, one of the will call employees, realizing that dozens of tickets which would not be used were still sitting on the table, simply handed Kristen one, prompting the supervisor to smugly chirp, "See? Everything works out."
I hope he's never known the touch of a woman without paying for it.
In any event, with Kristen in the building and Northwestern holding a halftime lead against St. John's, everything seemed nice and fine until the Wildcats suddenly forgot how to shoot and Luka Mirkovic forgot out to play defense in the paint. One unexpected loss to a team expected to be a nonfactor later and suddenly Northwestern's perfect record had a blemish that just may keep them from dancing in three months.
So all that was pretty bad. Then last night I got the flu. So everything's going great. Amazingly, the most normal thing that seems to be happening is that the Devils fired coach John MacLean this morning and brought in Jacques Lemaire for a third tour behind the bench. Then again, GM Lou Lamoriello goes through about seven coaches a season anyway.
Alright, time for some picks.
Last week: 6-10-0
PITTSBURGH (-15) over Carolina
Dallas (-7) over ARIZONA
NY Giants (+3) over GREEN BAY
New England (-9) over BUFFALO
NY Jets (+1) over CHICAGO
Baltimore (-4) over CLEVELAND
KANSAS CITY (-5) over Tennessee
ST. LOUIS (-2) over San Francisco
Detroit (+4) over MIAMI
JACKSONVILLE (-7) over Washington
San Diego (-8) over CINCINNATI
Houston (-3) over DENVER
Indianapolis (-3) over OAKLAND
TAMPA BAY (-6) over Seattle
Minnesota (+14) over PHILADELPHIA
ATLANTA (-3) over New Orleans
There you have it folks. Hopefully next week is better. Oh, and Merry Christmas.
While an earlier version called a proof-of-concept aircraft has logged more than 500 hours of flight testing, flying the version built to Federal Aviation Administration rules is what really counts toward bringing the plane to market.
Honda’s project is part of a renewed and growing intersection between automobiles and aviation that is occurring around personal- and business-transport. Honda touts the same qualities for the plane, such as “dynamic performance” and efficiency, as it does for its cars. The company has said it is essentially applying lessons learned in auto manufacturing to the aircraft business.
Cirrus Aircraft, a longtime maker of small single-engine propeller-driven planes is developing a small jet designed for personal use that it has described as a minivan with wings. Terrafugia, a small aircraft start-up in Woburn, Mass., plans to start selling a flying car called the Transition late next year.
Honda says it will build five FAA-conforming jets for testing before ramping up production in 2012. The company says it has more than 100 orders for the light business jets, which have a top speed around 483 mph and a ceiling of 43,000 feet. Honda plans to deliver the first one in the third quarter of 2012.
The next Acura flagship likely will be called RL, not Legend or anything else terribly evocative, and it most certainly will not have a V-8 (we were told to stop asking). A former chemical engineer, Poponi is a numbers person, and she cites surveys that Acura believes disprove any notion that cylinder count is of real importance to luxury customers. “The market is moving to us,” the Acura folks said, citing increasing demand for higher fuel economy as well as the economic downturn prompting luxury customers to rein in their extravagant ways. We also kept hearing statements such as “Honda is a very conservative company,” and “the RL customer is a conservative customer.”
These hints suggest that the next RL will build upon the improvements made for 2011 in the areas of quietness, safety, and material quality, although the car will probably not feature terribly radical styling, nor will it grow all that much. So it won’t be a Lexus LS fighter but more like an Infiniti M fighter. Given that, we would also be very surprised if the next-gen car doesn’t add 25 to 50 horses so it can at least match the M37’s base output of 330 hp. When will we see the next-gen RL? With the current model’s age—and abysmal sales of about 3000 per year—it can’t come soon enough. Nods and nudges from Acura folks suggest that it will arrive very soon, perhaps within the next 12 to 18 months. We think the RL had better be at least a bit flashy if Acura hopes to get newfound attention from consumers in the brutally competitive $45K–$70K luxury-car segment. In this case, erring on the side of conservative may be an error indeed.
Details were far sketchier regarding additional members of the Acura lineup. We were told that Acura will soon introduce something unconventional sometime around the launch of the new flagship sedan. Will it be sporty? Probably. Will it be called NSX? Who knows. Will it be the front-engine supercar we saw lapping the Nürburgring a couple of years ago? No. Although that car was all but finished, according to Acura insiders, it was cancelled—not even shelved—due to Honda’s concerns that it might be crass to offer a $150K–$175K sports car in the face of worldwide economic hardship. However, much of the technology developed for that car will appear in the new car. Whatever it’s called.