Mascots

A yellow car sits parked at the edge of a precipice.  Worn mountains cross the horizon as a thin ribbon of green meanders across the desolate field surrounding it.  At first glance, you could easily mistake the scene for a commercial, but you soon realize that the car is a toy and the scene is another achievement for a mascot.

Torchbug from Jalopnik

Mascots seem to have a curious life in the United States. Their popularity rises and falls like the tides of the ocean.

Do you remember Stanley?  You know, the little guy who usually wore a striped shirt and blue pants.  Someone would ship him in the mail to you and ask you to take a picture of him in some scenic place before shipping him out onto the next random person?  Well Stanley is one paper link on the long chain of mascots that have traveled abroad.

Flat-Stanley-St-Peters-Sq

Either before him, or around the same time, was the wandering gnome.  Unlike Stanley, the gnome was kidnapped.  Cruelly taken from his owners.  Then, after a ransom letter containing a picture of the beloved creature, the gnome was whisked across the globe. Pictures were sent back to the owners of their gnome skiing in Amsterdam, tanning on the beaches of the Caribbean, having coffee in Italy, and parachuting out of airplanes.  It ended well for the family as the gnome retuned one day with a peep or clue from his kidnappers.

Woody_London

The rule of the mascot is simple:  Send it to an interested person; Have that person take a picture or pictures of the mascot in an interesting place; Ship the mascot off to the next person.

The rules for the mascot are unspoken and more involved:

1.)  The mascot must be cute, quirky, or friendly in personality.  The mascot needs to make friends quickly with each new person it encounters if the trip is going to happen.  Otherwise the mascot will be quickly thrown into the trash and forgotten.  This is why little bears, gnomes, paper children, and “cute” cars are used frequently. A spoon, not so much.

2.)  The mascot must be small.  Shipping costs money and if the mascot is too big or heavy, the cost to ship it will severely reduces its chances of meeting the next person. (This is why even teddy bear mascots are usually six inches or less.)  Flat Stanley is the gold standard here.  Being made of paper, he could be folded up, shoved in a regular envelope, and mailed off anywhere for less than the price of a candy bar.

3.)  The mascot must be durable.  Think you last flight in coach was bad?  Imagine being squished through rollers, tossed into bins, having other boxes staked on you, traveling with no heat or air conditioning, getting tossed again by strangers, and finally being shoved into a mailbox until the recipient finds you.  Now imagine doing this over and over again.  Mail carriers take care of their deliveries, but people are people and mistakes happen.  The mascot has to be tough to handle these situations.

4.)  The mascot must be affordable.  Whenever one of these journeys starts, the owner of the mascot will be faced with the fact that they might never see their mascot again once it is dropped in the mail.  It may never even make it to its first destination.  With this thought burning in the owner’s mind, they are not going to invest heavily into the mascot.  Usually the mascot will cost ten dollars or less.  (Again, Flat Stanley was king in this area.)  You might find the rare person who will spend a bit more for sentimental reasons, but usually the mascot will be low cost.

Mascots are a great way to physically connect with your friends in a way that facebook, e-mails, and phone calls can’t.  It’s a way to share fun and happiness when you can’t be there in person.  It’s an act of faith while also an adventure on the cheap.  I see the ebb and flow of their popularity traveling forever.

Go mascot.

Sheep

 

Your basic truck

Along a twisting ribbon of asphalt, an old Dodge pickup rambles on; its 64 year old engine chugging dutifully.  As mix of patina and rust, the old Dodge isn’t doddering along a dusty country road, no sir.  It’s running hard and heavy against much newer iron on a full-fledged race track!

LeMons_Miller_Leaders-50Dodge

This is the Twenty Four Hours of LeMons; a race where cars of questionable reliability and near the end of perceived life expectancy are given a last chance for fame and glory.  The old Dodge is here running its first race.

Grumpy Cat Racing 1950 Dodge

Four months ago, the Dodge wouldn’t have imagined it.  The truck was lying derelict behind a garage in Denver.  The owner bought the truck through sweat equity in December2013 and started wrenching on it in January.  There he found it had been in an accident and that the springs were literally held on with bailing wire!

The owner, under the handle of wizard0ne0, tuned up the engine, replaced the radiator, replaced both front and rear axles, gutted the interior, replaced the floor pan, installed a roll cage, and put in a proper fuel cell (gas tank).

Return-of-the-LeMonItes-Winners-IOE-3

With six drivers pulling four hour stints behind the wheel, the truck that could did the impossible and became the first new to racing vehicle to not break down and complete the entire race with 149 laps.  (Very slow laps.)  Team Grumpy Cat racing might not have won the race with their old Dodge, but they did win the Index of Effluency award.

What amazes me about this truck wasn’t just the feat it had accomplishes, but that the exact same make and year of truck is the focal point for a man named John Jerome in his autobiographical book, “Truck”.

Truck-book

Through his writings, John describes in vivid detail the trials and tribulations of buying a 1950 Dodge pickup and rebuilding it from the ground up.  Not restoring it, mind you, but rebuilding it in order to make it better than when it left the factory.  “Supertruck” he called it.  From precariously hoisting the engine on a creaking barn beam, to finding out that the wheel bolts on the right side of the truck are reverse threaded for safety, John spends a year on his project before succumbing to reality and slapping the thing back together pretty much the way it was when he bought it.

The book is hilarious and full of zen-like moments.  It’s also his most popular writing.

It’s ironic that over thirty years later someone decides to take the same type of truck he had and make it work in a way he never imagined with less work and angst that he endured.

If John was alive today, I’m sure he’d bristle at this young upstart so quickly building his project and accomplishing his goals.  John would then, just as quickly admire the man’s feat before heading out to the barn to admire the honest beauty of your basic truck.

1950 Dodge

If you know who wizard0ne0 of Grumpy Cat Racing is, please put his name in the responses so I can give him the credit he, his team, and all those that helped him deserve.

From Car and Driver magazine

 

 

 

May wishes for summer adventures.

It’s mid-May; what are your summer plans?  Many of you have suffered a long and vicious winter this season.  Being locked up inside must’ve kicked your summer plans into overdrive.  I’m sure you spent hours, if not days going over every detail of what you would do once released from winters icy grip.

Here’s your opportunity kick those plans in motion and let the world know what you are going to do this summer.

You suffered the cold, so reward yourself by making those plans come true!

With an itch to see some spruce, I am going up to Maine.  I will hike the trails and enjoy lobster freshly caught.  Many pictures will be taken and wonderful ideas will be hatched.

I will also be hiking the trails more often around my local.  There are many places close by that need exploring and there’s no reason not to go.

I’m also going to do my first solo camp.  It’s amazing that I’ve never done one before, but I always felt like I needed to include the wife on this.  She has no desire this time, unless it’s glamping, (just say no) and I want to do the rugged thing.  I have made a concession on where this will be done.  I wanted to try this at Deep Creek Preserve since it’s my go to hiking place, but she would rather have me camp at Oscar Scherer State Park.  (I might push for Myakka River State Park since it has primitive campsites available.)

I will also be posting about my daypack since gear is always popular to blog about.

So what are going to do this summer?  The days are warmer and the nights are warmer.  Hear the whispers in the distance?  Those are your adventures calling.

Illusions

Image from tampabay.com

“Never interview your heroes.  You will be let down.”

Those words echoed in my head as the podcast rambled on.  The ‘caster was relating a story he experienced back when he worked for a music rag.  One of his editors was begging him to interview a country star that she had become enamored with.  He warned her with those two lines before letting her go.  The result was almost typecast.  The “hero” she had built up so high ended up being just another human being.  Words that were written in form weren’t sagely divined, but manipulated to fit the need. The star’s aura was just the spotlight in the background used to highlight him on stage.  She had left empty and disappointed.

The truth is many have fallen for this trap; including me.  We watch our actors, performers, singers, sport stars, politicians, ect… trip the lights fantastic and think that is how they live their lives every moment of every day.  They float instead of walk.

The truth is they walk just like the rest of us.  The smart ones realize it.  They try to tell the truth.  Songs have been written about it.

“Grand Illusion”

“Fifteen Minutes of Fame”

“Ordinary Man”

“Ordinary Average Guy”

The real train wrecks come from the people who get lost in the hype. (Yeah, that person.  And that one, too.)   When those poor people hit the ground, they hit hard!  Some don’t make it back.

In complete irony I’ve found it easier to meet a celebrity I don’t care about than someone I do.  When it’s someone you don’t care about, you don’t care.  They are just another person on the street.  You might know their face and name, but it’s like knowing that guy or lady down the street.  You politely nod or wave hello, maybe say something nice about the weather and go on your way.  But if it’s a “hero”, look out!  Everything becomes a big deal.  “Am I dressed ok?  How’s my breath?  What should I say?  How the while the “hero” just wants to live a normal-ish life.

I think instead of trying to meet “heroes”, it would be better to meet compatriots.  (People who would have a baseline to create a relationship from.)  People like you.  I’d gamble that a good percentage of my readers are also bloggers.  Either way it’s a great way to get a conversation going. It opens up the dialogue. Questions and comments of finding inspirations and characters to describing where you come from and the influences from that experience are things that can be shared over a burger and fries.  There’s no invisible barrier between us.  Just two people discussing and discovering things.  It’s a more rewarding and realistic experience.

I’d rather meet with any of you over any “hero” any day.  There are no preconditions; just the chance to learn.

That’s the best meeting of all.

 

Should You Upgrade from a Galaxy S4 to a Galaxy S5 by Blaine Kelton

I’d like to introduce to you Thoughts, Ramblings, and Daydreams first guest blogger, Blaine Kelton. 

Blaine is a college grad with a degree in Journalism.  He found my sight and politely asked if he could guest post.  We passed e-mails for a while and I found him to be very sincere and a go-getter.

I’m not a big tech guy, but Blaine is.  He sent me this post about the upcoming Galaxy S5 and asks if it’s worth considering.  (I found a few things that made me go, “Hmm. Interesting.”)

So, please read his post and, more importantly, leave a reply.  let him know what you thing.  We all need feedback.  Let him know what you like and don’t like.  It’s all helpful.

So without further adieu, welcome Blaine.

gs4

With the upcoming release of Samsung’s Galaxy S5, the question on the minds of many is whether it’s immediately worth an upgrade from a Galaxy S4 to the new flagship. The answer is unclear, and frankly it depends on what you want from your smartphone.

Everyone knows that a smartphone is only as good as its ability to accommodate current apps and technology surrounding the phone as well as its ability to interact with existing digital infrastructure. In those respects, both the GS4 and GS5 fully demonstrate proficient ability.

So what’s different? Taking a look at the physical dimensions and displays, the cameras, and the chipsets differentiates the phones for the most part.

Dimensions and Displays*

GS5

The GS4’s screen is 5″ and makes use of Super AMOLED technology. The display shows with a resolution of 1080×1920 with pixel density of 441ppi.

In comparison, the GS5 doesn’t get much bigger in terms of display, which for Samsung is an unexpected upgrade given that from one flagship to the next we generally see a considerable increase in size. At 5.1″, the trend is pretty much broken. Still, the phone implements the Super AMOLED technology and maintains a 1080×1920 resolution with its pixel density at ~432, slightly less than the GS4 due to its larger display with the same resolution. Whether or not the display speaks to a worthy upgrade is yours to decide.

Cameras*

The GS4’s camera is a 13MP model with LED flash technology and its prominent features include image stabilization, autofocus, face and smile detection, panorama, and an HDR mode. The video recorder records video in 1080p and offers image stabilization at 30 frames per second.

Samsung hit the camera hard with the GS5. The full upgrade boasts a 16MP camera with LED flash technology and the added features include phase detection autofocus and improved image stabilization. The video recorder now offers 4K video recording at 30 fps and also includes improved image stabilization. The GS5’s camera and its capabilities are among the most talked-about features and should be a huge consideration in going forward with an upgrade from a GS4 to a GS5.

Chipset

GS5Running

The GS4 always had a powerful processor, that being the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 at 1900MHz. The device is capable of running updates to the JellyBean operating system and includes an Adreno 320 graphics processor. The 9GB of user storage (of a total 16GB onboard storage) is expandable by microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC for a total of up to 64 GB.

The GS5 hits the chipset pretty hard as well. The new flagship is super-speedy with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor operating at 2500MHz. The device runs on the newest Android OS for smartphones, KitKat, and includes an Adreno 330 graphics processor. The 10.7GB of user storage (of a total of 16GB onboard storage) is expandable by microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC for a total of up to 128 GB.

Don’t forget that the GS4 can be updated to run KitKat. In addition, because of the potential of expanded storage, no one should have problems in that arena. If the above stats leave the GS5 a little underwhelming, consider the following additional features.

The GS5 comes equipped with the much-discussed heart rate monitor on the back side just under the camera. To that end, Samsung is really pushing health and fitness technology in its product line. On the inclusion, Verizon Wireless states, “Even your heart gets some love with the first–ever built–in heart monitor that checks your heart rate with just the touch of a finger.” And they’re not the only ones talking. Health in the mobile age has been a trending topic since the initiation of the S Health Partner in the Samsung product line.

The GS5 is also waterproof and dust resistant, with an IP certification at IP 67. Unless you’re a free-diver texting on the way down, that means you’re totally covered. Literally.

The inclusion of Galaxy Gifts for the GS5 will also be a major consideration for most in that they include subscriptions making use of the heart rate monitor and camera upgrades. Totaling just under $600, the options are nice indeed.

If you’re still having trouble deciding between a new upgrade or sticking with the older model until you’re ready, just be sure to remember that the choice ultimately lays with you and what is valuable to you in a smartphone. Keep your research thorough prior to the April 11 release of the Galaxy S5 to keep your options completely open.

What makes a truck?

Image from Topspeed.com

 

 

Unless you are an auto enthusiast, you might not know how bizarre and convoluted the classifications of vehicles truly are.

I knew about this weird world of government vehicle classifications from various resources, but quickly set it aside to maintain my sanity.

Take for instance the question posted above:  What makes a truck?

Define it.

I bet you could rattle off the names of trucks without trying.

F-150, Silverado, Ram, Sierra, Tundra, Titan, Ranger, Colorado, Tacoma, B-2000, Frontier, Dakota… It’s as easy as looking down the street or in your parking lot. (For those outside the U.S. let me throw in HiLux, Amarok, and G-Ute trayback.)

image: Fourwheeler.com

But what about vans?  Do they count?  They do if you ask plumbers, florists, electrical workers and water technicians.  These people own vans to help earn their living and usually treat them as such.

image: Ford.com

How about SUVs?  Are they a truck or are they an amped up station wagon? A Cadillac SRX argues the case for station wagon, but what about a Nissan Xterra or Jeep Wrangler? Some would argue that their body on frame construction earns their membership into the truck club.

Image: Cadillac.com

The truth is that the “truck” classification by CAFÉ and the EPA is very broad and diverse group.  Did you know that the Chevrolet HHR and Chrysler PT Cruiser are listed as SUVs and thus in the truck club?

Image: motortrend.com

How about Subaru’s medium sized wagon? In 2006 this vehicle was listed as a wagon and an SUV depending on model.  If you picked the Legacy, it was listed as a station wagon.  If you chose the Outback version (Basically the same thing with an inch or two more ground clearance, different fog lights and plastic cladding on the bottom of the sides) according to the EPA and CAFÉ, you bought an SUV.  The Baja is also classified as a SUV, but I was half expecting it to be classified a small pickup given that Subaru cut the back of the roof off to make an open bed for it.

image: Carbl.com

image: Jasononcars.com

image: Norcalcars.com

See, I told you it was bizarre and convoluted.  (Ok. The Baja is an earlier design, but you get the point.)

One of the reasons it is so are the lobbyists and the EPA itself.  The government mandates that vehicles get a certain amount of gas mileage per class.  The problem is that for some companies their best-selling vehicle in that class is also the one that has the worst fuel mileage.  You might see a lot of SIlverados running around hauling nothing heavier that their owner and maybe their dog, but there are also a lot of them running around packed to the gills with heavy, bulky equipment or pulling trailers around.  These vehicles are designed to carry heavy loads and the strength and power needed to do it safely comes at the cost of mileage.  These trucks also have one of the highest owner loyalty groups ever.  That’s something these companies will almost kill for.  (Not including my wife and I.  Together we have own both the small and large versions of pickups from every member of the big three.)

The problem comes with trying to balance out the poor mileage truck sales with good mileage truck sales.

“Just sell more small trucks like the Tacoma and Colorado.” You say.  It’s not so simple.  See, because of all the safety regulations put into these trucks, their weight has gotten so high they are almost comparable to full sized trucks.

“Make them lighter.”  Easier said than done.  Ford is the first company to risk building a pickup with an all-aluminum body to save weight.  The metal costs more that standard steel, the build process had to be completely rethought.  (Welded aluminum will actually cause electrons from one atom “shift” to another until the entire weld breaks.), and every single Ford dealership that deal with bodywork had to learn how to properly fix damage to these panels when accidents happen and buy special equipment to fix them.  Guess where all that extra expense is going.  Yep.  Right into the sticker price.

“Well, offer engines that run on things other than gas.”  They do now.  It’s just not cheap.  You can get flex-fuel, hybrid, diesel, and even compressed natural gas engine for trucks… at  cost.

Hybrids usual cost about $1,000 to $1,500 more than a standard gas engine.

Diesels used to cost $2,000 more but with the new smog regulations the price has raised upward to $4,000 over the price of a gas engine.  (Plus diesel fuel costs roughly 50 cents more per gallon than 87 octane gasoline and you can’t use veggie oils anymore since it will clog up all the new technology.)

Compressed Natural Gas in the latest offering to help the EPA ratings.  Not being gasoline at all, it really boosts the numbers up and at roughly $1.50 per gallon to fill-up, the compressed natural gas option looks really good.  Until you see the price tag of $9,500 for this choice.  And that’s down a thousand from last year’s price!  CNG also has the wonderful challenge of dealing with safety in crashes.  Remember the press GM got over its Volt electric car?  People were shocked that the batteries ripped open when the vehicles were crashed so hard into walls that the frames ripped apart.  (Something that happens to all the cars tested when doing the offset crash into a giant, sharp block of concrete.)  Imagine the sheer terror when one of these trucks is hit so hard that the compressed gas tank ruptures.  The reports will have you think a nuke went off!

Because people want real good mileage in a class of vehicle that is designed to do heavy work, we have odd things like station wagons and minivans listed as trucks.

So I ask, what is a truck?

Let me know in the response section.

Ebb and Flow

Welcome to my 300th post. Tonight we dine in hell. Nah, that would require liver stuffed mac and cheese, drizzled with olive juice.

300 shouldn’t be special, yet for some reason it keeps shouting to me that it is. Isn’t the usual big moments, 10, 50, 100, 250, 500, ect.?

The fact that this is number 300 added to the complexity of this post. The car guy in me wanted to make it about the Chrysler 300 series and the forgotten, semi-fake Chrysler 300 of the late 70’s.

It was an optioned up Cordoba.

I’d do a review of the movie 300, but except for commercials, I never saw it. (Why is it in these movies the men have full beards yet somehow have the technology to have the rest of their bodies cleanly shaven? What were they afraid of, razor burn?)

I could talk about the probably 300 jelly beans my wife and I have eaten over the last month, but it’s almost Easter and who hasn’t done this?

I’d love to boast about the 300 creative ideas bouncing around in my head, but I definitely don’t have anything close to that number. (but I do have a few I’ll be sharing.)

Nope the real reason why this 300th post is important is you. If ti wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be motivated to do this many posts. It’s seeing the likes and reads that encourages me to go on.

I had a real strong case of “stuckitis” and I think I’m finally breaking free. I just needed to get myself to sit down and actually tap theses keys again. (Ok. It’s more of a slam/pound than tap. I’ve never been gentle with mechanical things.)

300 is a big number because it represents a commitment. Continue on or turn the corner. For me the adventure and discovery still go on, so now that I’ve crossed the field of limbo. I can continue.

Let’s see what’s over that next rise.

Ketchup with us #39: Ten minute challenge

And go!

This challenge by Michele and Mel is to take the next ten minutes and write whatever pops into your head.  No rehearsing, no cheating.

So here are my thoughts.

Nothing…

Nothing…

Why do I have to punch these keys so hard?  I’m sure they can hear it two rooms away!

How should I end my Pony Express story?  Daniel is going after the bear to get the mail.  How does he get it?  It is spring?  Does he find it in the cave?  Are there cubs?  Does the bear circle around and hunt him for food?  How do I do this properly and keep it realistic?

I love my new truck but hate the mileage.  Why did Dodge have to make it run on Midgrade?  Trucks are supposed to handle third world 80 octane garbage, not need fancy gas to run right.  Stupid idea Dodge!

I must be the only one who thinks this though.  The Ram pickup outsold Chevy this month.  A feat that hasn’t happened since 1999.

I need to take more pictures.  I need to find time to take more pictures.  I also need a good app for my android phone that will allow me to crop these pics.  This blog needs more picture posts.

I really need to go camping soon.  I have all this great gear that I can blog about, but I have to test it first.  Any review is useless without even trying the equipment first.  I need to hurry up and do it too, before the summer heat and humidity comes.  This is our Northern summer time of year.  Nice and cool in the morning and pleasantly warm in the afternoon.  Soon it will be 80 and muggy when I wake up and get unbearable from there.

It’s good to do these challenges again.  I miss linking up with these ladies.  They are a lot of fun.

Not ten minutes but not bad.

What are your ramblings?

olddognewtits.com

 

2015 Jeep Renegade – Have we met before?

Jeep Renegade

Jeep is screaming at the top of their lungs about the new Renegade.  Oddly enough, it seems familiar.

It’s not the full independent suspension.  That’s completely new and going to cause all sorts of revolts from the Jeep purists.  (It is based off the Fiat 500 after all.)

It’s not the size.  It’s roughly the same as the square head-lighted, YJ Wrangler, but the four doors changes the feel dramatically.

It’s the look!  I’ve seen that look before.  No.  Not on a Jeep.  I’ve seen it somewhere else.  Oh, that’s right.  The International Scout II.

1975Scout_02_700

The Scout II was International’s attempt to compete against the popular Jeep CJ-7.  They made it a little bigger to carry people in the back more comfortably and give a little more storage space behind them.

amunoz

Never heard of them?  They started out making competitors to the Chevy Suburban and worked there way down in size.  They never had a lot of sales, so they eventually went bankrupt in the Eighties.

Now Jeep brings out this little runabout and I can’t help  but notice the similarities.

Same round headlights

2015-Jeep-Renegade-Trailhawk-show-floor-on-stage

Same upright grill

Same boxy look

And same kick up in the bottom of the rear side window.

It’s a modern Scout  to me.  Possibly getting a diesel option for it doesn’t separate the idea either.  International threw diesel engines in the Scouts back in the day as well.

But then, Jeep doesn’t really have to worry about people like me noticing the look. They aren’t aiming this at me.  They aiming at the people who have Soul.  Kia Soul that is.

comp_fiatchart11_315inline

Yep.  They built this to go after Kia.  I didn’t know the urban commuter was so important to Jeep.  You sure wouldn’t know this from their commercials.

140303113949-jeep-renegade-2015-620xa

To compete against the Soul, The Renegade will have the same interior mood lighting and techno gadgets galore.  To one up Kia, Jeep will offer a double sunroof as an option.  It’s called a sky roof and will let a lot of sunlight in to wash out the touch screen on the dash quite nicely.

2015-jeep-renegade_100458780_m

As you can bet, the hardcore religious Jeep worshipers are going into hysterics over this.  They are crucifying the Renegade and anyone who defends it with a passion that would make any political party envious.  “Ugly” and “Fiat Panda wannabe” are among the few comments I can repeat here.  Most are far worse.

There is a chance for Jeep to get a marketing win out of this though.  The know it’s not a Wrangler.  They don’t want to try to sell it to Wrangler buyers.  They want to sell it to Kia owners.  So they need to make their commercials for this market.  This give them a chance to spoof themselves.  Using an overly dramatic voice they could talk about conquering deadly potholes, splashing through the torrents of the neighborhood sprinklers, and narrowly avoiding the rampaging large SUV wildlife on the road while snagging the tight parking spot right next to whatever hangout is popular at the moment.  Don’t think it will work?  It did for Suzuki (until Consumer reports killed it)

 

Now if Jeep wants to get crossovers from their own brand there’s only two ways of doing this.  Camping and Ralley.

Mini-Countryman-ALL4-Camp

Mini Countryman mud

Either way it’s going to be an interesting time for Jeep – even with a 30 year old style.

Jeep-Renegade-2014-Image-069-800