Archive for February, 2010

things i have learned in the past week

this past week, i moved from philadelphia, PA to durham, NC. i start my new job on monday where i’m sure i’ll learn a lot but even the moving process itself has taught me a lot:

1) respect for truckers. i used to think that all they did was murder prostitutes and bully drivers of smaller vehicles. driving a long truck is tough; my 16 foot moving truck had serious issues making tight right turns in the city. on the highway, it had no acceleration,  no rear view mirror, and no comforts inside the cabin.

2) baltimore has no decent radio stations. NONE. washington d.c., on the other hand has a ton of radio stations, many of which are good. too bad d.c. traffic is a chaotic hive of crazy drivers, road-works, and confusing highway signs.

3) shredded paper  makes for good packing material. cheaper than bubble wrap but just as good. not a single thing broke on the 400 mile journey in the moon castle bounce truck.

4) i have great friends. thanks nancy, darrick, darleen, and tom who helped me move!

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February 20, 2010 at 3:26 pm 3 comments

all wheel drive but not all you want

i was unpleasantly surprised the other day while eating my ice cream dessert. it turned out that what i thought was mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite flavor) was really just mint ice cream. this crucial omission of chocolate chips made the ice cream vastly inferior to its candy-infused big brother. in many ways, this reminded me of the subaru impreza that i recently drove for a month.

every aspect of the car seemed to be missing a vital component that would propel the car to greatness. lurking under the hood is a 2.5L 4 cylinder boxer engine which produces around 170hp, which is what you would expect from a car in its segment.  so driving this impreza feels remarkably…pedestrian. flooring the throttle jolts you back in your seat momentarily but as the tachometer climbs above 3000rpm, you expect to be rocket-sledded into somewhere way in the distance by the turbo you wish were under the hood. instead, all you feel is the massive disappointment of the the four-speed automatic gently pulling you to nanny state-approved speeds.

at least the tachometer is nice to look at. overall, the dashboard is very well laid out. note that there are no gauges to measure engine temperature or oil pressure, which maybe implies that subarus are so well made that these two parameters will never be issues. i especially appreciated the oversize fuel gauge which visually reassures you of that one last tick of fuel left in the tank which you must massage the fuel-hungry AWD system to sip, not slurp. even with the most miserly driving, i could only manage around 27 mpg on the highway and 22mpg in mixed city driving. in this area then, the impreza trades carbon dioxides and $2000-$3000 for the added security and improved handling of awd – no complaints here.

at first, the cabin of the car looks very impressive. “is that a swath of aluminum across the dash?” “oh look – the doors are adorned with stitched leather!” “are these seats upholstered in real suede?” appearances in this case are deceiving. touching the various surfaces of the interior gives you a feeling of cheapness. everywhere you look, mismatched plastics meet at rough, unaligned edges. most of the dashboard feels like it is made of recycled tic-tac boxes and the experience was similar to being inside an american car made in the 1990’s. the fit and finish of the honda civic and toyota corolla trounce the impreza in this regard while the vw jetta absolutely puts the impreza to shame; the interior in the impreza is made from materials so cheap that vibrations made from operating the windscreen wipers can be felt in the gas and brake pedals. in numerous places, you find dummy buttons that would correspond to a clever electronic gizmos in the higher impreza models (wrx and sti), reminding you that this car is missing things that would make it so much better.

it is hard to say what the designers were striving for when considering the styling or the car, or lack thereof.  “narcolepsy” comes to mind. to be frank, the impreza’s styling is the food equivalent of oatmeal – functional but flavorless, boring, and un-original. in this day and age, when numerous affordable cars are beautifully and artistically designed (mazda 6, fiat 500, ford fusion), it is mind-b0ggling why a car maker with subaru’s resources could produce anything as uninspired as the impreza. i am certain that pictures of this car could be used in calming down students with ADHD in grade schools.

despite the utterly drab exterior, i am quite worked up about the subaru impreza. my frustrations don’t stem from the impreza being a bad car, because to be honest it is a good car in the same way mint ice cream is a good flavor. instead i am upset that in this day and age where car makers are under incredible pressures to perform and deliver quality products to consumers, that so many details could be omitted from this car. yet, the car makers have the hubris to sell the car to naive consumers anyway. to make my point, i challenge you to find mint ice cream at your local grocer. i’ll wager that you will only be able to find mint chocolate chip because it is infinitely better than plain mint at only a fraction of the cost more to make. it would seem that we understand the economies of ice cream better than the economy of cars.

February 3, 2010 at 5:10 pm 1 comment


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