Monday, May 18, 2009

Airport security bares all, or does it?

By Jessica Ravitz

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Privacy advocates plan to call on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to suspend use of "whole-body imaging," the airport security technology that critics say performs "a virtual strip search" and produces "naked" pictures of passengers, CNN has learned.

A TSA employee, shown from the back, as he stands in an airport whole-body imaging machine.

A TSA employee, shown from the back, as he stands in an airport whole-body imaging machine.

The national campaign, which will gather signatures from organizations and relevant professionals, is set to launch this week with the hope that it will go "viral," said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which plans to lead the charge.

"People need to know what's happening, with no sugar-coating and no spinning," said Coney, who is also coordinator of the Privacy Coalition, a conglomerate of 42 member organizations. She expects other groups to sign on in the push for the technology's suspension until privacy safeguards are in place.

Right now, without regulations on what the Transportation Security Administration does with this technology, she said, "We don't have the policy to hold them to what they say. They're writing their own rule book at this point."

The machines "detect both metallic and nonmetallic threat items to keep passengers safe," said Kristin Lee, spokeswoman for TSA, in a written statement. "It is proven technology, and we are highly confident in its detection capability."

Late last month, freshman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced legislation to ban these machines. Of concern to him, Coney and others is not just what TSA officials say, it's also what they see. iReport: Tell us what you think about these scanners

The sci-fi-looking whole-body imaging machine -- think "Beam me up, Scotty" -- was first introduced at an airport in Phoenix, Arizona, in November 2007. There are now 40 machines, which cost $170,000 each, being tested and used in 19 airports, said TSA's Lee.

Whole-Body Imaging

These six airports are using whole-body imaging as a primary security measure, according to TSA:

  • San Francisco, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Six of these airports are testing the machines as a primary security check option, instead of metal detectors followed by a pat-down, she said. The rest present them as a voluntary secondary security option in lieu of a pat-down, which is protocol for those who've repeatedly set off the metal detector or have been randomly selected for additional screening.

    So far, the testing phase has been promising, said Lee. When given the choice, "over 99 percent of passengers choose this technology over other screening options," she said.

    A big advantage of the technology is the speed, said Jon Allen, another TSA spokesperson, who's based in Atlanta, Georgia. A body scan takes between 15 and 30 seconds, while a full pat-down can take from two to four minutes. And for those who cringe at the idea of being touched by a security official, or are forever assigned to a pat-down because they had hip replacements, for example, the machine is a quick and easy way to avoid that contact and hassle, he said.

    Using millimeter wave technology, which the TSA says emits 10,000 times less radio frequency than a cell phone, the machine scans a traveler and a robotic image is generated that allows security personnel to detect potential threats -- and, some fear, more -- beneath a person's clothes.

    TSA officials say privacy concerns are addressed in a number of ways.

    The system uses a pair of security officers. The one working the machine never sees the image, which appears on a computer screen behind closed doors elsewhere; and the remotely located officer who sees the image never sees the passenger.

    As further protection, a passenger's face is blurred and the image as a whole "resembles a fuzzy negative," said TSA's Lee. The officers monitoring images aren't allowed to bring cameras, cell phones or any recording device into the room, and the computers have been programmed so they have "zero storage capability" and images are "automatically deleted," she added.

    But this is of little comfort to Coney, the privacy advocate with EPIC, a public interest research group in Washington. She said she's seen whole-body images captured by similar technology dating back to 2004 that were much clearer than what's represented by the airport machines.

    "What they're showing you now is a dumbed-down version of what this technology is capable of doing," she said. "Having blurry images shouldn't blur the issue."

    Lee of TSA emphasized that the images Coney refers to do not represent millimeter wave technology but rather "backscatter" technology, which she said TSA is not using at this time.

    Coney said she and other privacy advocates want more oversight, full disclosure for air travelers, and legal language to protect passengers and keep TSA from changing policy down the road.

    For example, she wants to know what's to stop TSA from using clearer images or different technology later. The computers can't store images now, but what if that changes?

    "TSA will always be committed to respecting passenger privacy, regardless of whether a regulation is in place or not," Lee said.

    She added that the long-term goal is not to see more of people, but rather to advance the technology so that the human image is like a stick-figure and any anomalies are auto-detected and highlighted.

    But Coney knows only about what's out there now, and she worries that as the equipment gets cheaper, it will become more pervasive and harder to regulate. Already it is used in a handful of U.S. courthouses and in airports in the United Kingdom, Spain, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Thailand and the Netherlands. She wonders whether the machines will someday show up in malls.

    The option of walking through a whole-body scanner or taking a pat-down shouldn't be the final answer, said Chris Calabrese, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

    "A choice between being groped and being stripped, I don't think we should pretend those are the only choices," he said. "People shouldn't be humiliated by their government" in the name of security, nor should they trust that the images will always be kept private.

    "Screeners at LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]," he speculated, "could make a fortune off naked virtual images of celebrities."

    Bruce Schneier, an internationally recognized security technologist, said whole-body imaging technology "works pretty well," privacy rights aside. But he thinks the financial investment was a mistake. In a post-9/11 world, he said, he knows his position isn't "politically tenable," but he believes money would be better spent on intelligence-gathering and investigations.

    "It's stupid to spend money so terrorists can change plans," he said by phone from Poland, where he was speaking at a conference. If terrorists are swayed from going through airports, they'll just target other locations, such as a hotel in Mumbai, India, he said.

    "We'd be much better off going after bad guys ... and back to pre-9/11 levels of airport security," he said. "There's a huge 'cover your ass' factor in politics, but unfortunately, it doesn't make us safer."

    Meantime, TSA's Lee says the whole-body imaging machines remain in the pilot phase. Given what the organization has gleaned so far, she said additional deployments are anticipated.

    Original here

    Candy Bar From Mars Aims For Women From Venus

    The Fling. Image courtesy of Taylor Global, Inc.

    The "Fling" is the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in more than 20 years. Courtesy of Taylor Global Inc.

    The Fling. Image courtesy of Taylor Global, Inc.

    The word "finger" is an industry term for a long, slim confection, Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling says. Courtesy of Taylor Global Inc.

    Promotional postcard for the Fling. Image courtesy of Taylor Global, Inc.

    A promotional postcard for the Fling. Courtesy of Taylor Global Inc.

    All Things Considered The Snickers bar has a new sibling, and it's a girl.

    She's sexual, uninhibited — and only 85 calories. The "Fling" is the first new chocolate bar Mars has introduced in more than 20 years.

    Wrapped in a shiny pink and sliver package, this delicate "chocolate finger" is intended for women. The word "finger" is an industry term for a long, slim confection, Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling says, but with ads that invite you to "Pleasure yourself" in pink lettering, consumers might come to other conclusions.

    The tag line on the package is "Naughty, but not that naughty." A TV spot starts with what looks like strangers having sex in a store dressing room. Currently the candy bar can be bought only California and online, but if all goes well, Mars is hoping women will be having Flings all across the country. But is this hyper-feminine, hyper-sexualized marketing coming on too strong?

    "The overall campaign feels weird," Lisa Johnson says. "It feels creepy." Johnson is the co-author of Don't Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy — and How to Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market. She describes the marketing as a "full-frontal attack."

    "The language of it has so much sexual innuendo, you could pack it into a trashy novel." Johnson says marketers are taking the connection women often make between chocolate and sensuality too literally. "There are other things you can do that can hit this note without banging on it."

    Bowling says the campaign has been received well so far. Whether the Fling will keep calling itself a "finger," however, remains to be seen.

    Original here

    Shoppers of the future will 'pick' fruit from supermarket shelves

    By Harry Wallop, Consumer Affairs Editor

    Hand picking oranges: Shoppers of the future will 'pick' fruit from supermarket shelves
    Produce out of season takes about three or four days to travel from field to supermarket shelf Photo: GETTY

    Instead of buying pre-packaged packs of tomatoes or strawberries, they will be able to "harvest" as much or as little as they like – introducing the concept of "harvest by" dates rather than "best before" dates.

    The idea has been proposed by Futurelab, a company that helps businesses predict trends of the future, and was part of a report commissioned by Sainsbury, the supermarket chain.

    Lucy MacLennan, Sainsbury's technical manager, said: "This would completely change how we sell produce to our customers. It would get rid of best before dates and allow shoppers to buy the freshest possible fruit and vegetables."

    Currently, produce out of season takes about three or four days to travel from field to supermarket shelf, but under the futuristic plan the plants would be grown in hydroponic pods.

    These are special mini greenhouses that allow plants to grow without the need for soil; they grow in a special nutrient-enriched solution, cutting down on pesticides.

    The pods would be very light and would allow the farmer to transport the plant from his farm to the supermarket while it is still growing.

    Ms MacLennan said that shoppers picking their own crops in-store would, realistically, not happen for another ten years at least.

    "It could cut right down on wastage and packaging. It would make not just environmental sense, but economic sense too so we are looking at it seriously," she said.

    The produce most likely to be sold this way would be light-weight crops such as peppers, strawberries, raspberries, beans, peas, tomatoes and mushrooms.

    Original here

    Top 5 Of The Gnarliest College Drinks Known To Man

    by Ned Hepburn


    The world is full of rough drinks. As most of us can attest to, we’ve all been at “that point” somewhere in our early years - the point where you only have cheap alcohol and hardly anything to mix it with. These are the drinks that put hair on your chest and gravel in your voice. They are also the stupidest drinks known to man - but really, is there anything more freeing than being broke and happy? You got to be like the MacGuyver of alcohol there for a little while. Or maybe you still are. I know a guy that can make a great cocktail out of D-grade vodka and a whole orange and a handful of ice cubes and some hot sauce, no joke.

    And they’re also the most thoroughly fun to make, too. There’s nothing - absolutely nothing - more aggravating than a bartender (or “mixologist”) that takes themselves too seriously. While I love a well made Jack & Coke, I also enjoy the weird drinks that only three guys know to make. Guys with scars and beards and stories - not some white collar jackass who took a class on bar-tending at the YMCA.

    While this list is here for humorous purposes, these are all drinks that we here at Manolith have actually made at some point in our lives. So, enjoy.

    5. The Gambler


    While in college I had a speciality drink I called “The Gambler” (named after the Kenny Rogers opus). It consisted of:

    • Half filling the glass with ice
    • Half filling the glass with Smirnoff
    • Half filling the rest with blue Gatorade. Only blue. No other kind worked.

    4. The Lazy Susan


    • Fill a glass with crushed ice.
    • One can of Dr Pepper. Fill glass 3/4 of the way, drink the rest of what is left in the can.
    • Fill the rest of the glass with cheap rum.
    • Unwrap a Hostess™ Sno-Ball. Preferably the pink one.
    • Take a large swig of your drink, and follow it with a large bite of the Sno-Ball. The trick is to finish both at the same time.

    3. The Intervention.


    Modified from the popular joke about the sexual position. Google it. My boss would shoot me point blank if I typed out the whole thing.

    This particular drink has a history of a bet I lost while watching a certain episode of A&E’s “Intervention”. However, it’s a lot of fun.

    • You will need one bottle of Peppermint Schnapps, and one can full of whipped cream, and a TV showing “Intervention”. That is how the original game was played - in a basement apartment, too.
    • Take shots of Peppermint Schnapps alternated with a mouthful of whipped cream every time a family member cries.

    2. The Bacontini


    This was made after me and my roommate at the time had literally nothing to do nor drink except the ingredients to a martini and bacon. I’ve actually seen this served in a real bar in New York - somewhat different.

    • Cook 3 strips of bacon until crisp.
    • Immediately eat one. Why? Just because.
    • Crumble up the second one, put into ice in the Martini shaker.
    • Strain the gin and vermouth through one of those Martini shaker things.
    • Place other bacon strip into this new drink.
    • Congratulate yourself.

    1. The Quantum Leap


    • One tall can of PBR
    • One shot of vodka.
    • One shot of Jack Daniels.
    • One half can of Red Bull.
    • Mix.
    • Drink.
    • If you can drink this, Dean Stockwell will advise you to leap into the next body, as your job is done here.

    (Photo By Tranchis and NoalseGolden)

    Original here

    How to Fix Squeaky Brakes: DIY Auto

    By Mike Allen

    The solution: This anaerobic adhesive will make the pad stick to the caliper, hopefully reducing squeal.

    It’s the first nice day of summer; you’ve taken the convertible out of winter storage and you’re ready to hit the road. The stereo is cranking sweet guitar riffs as you cruise the beach, but for some reason the feedback on Wayne Kramer’s ax (Motor City 5, for the uninitiated) starts to sound more like the drone string on Ravi Shankar’s sitar. And that’s not good. Changing tracks, you find that same droning noise, and it isn’t coming from your high-end stereo—in fact, it’s your brakes. They are squealing. By the time you get back home, the noise has become so shrill it makes the dog hide under the porch and bark. The brakes seem to work just fine, but any application of pedal immediately makes the noise louder. Owww, it’s hurting your ears. Time to check the brakes.

    It’s Music, Man

    Let’s make one thing clear right up front: Sometimes your brakes will make noise. If you expect supreme silence, or expect your mechanic to make your brakes totally mute in every circumstance—that just may not be possible. Relax, don’t worry. A squeaking brake can stop a vehicle as quickly as a quiet one.

    So what makes the squeal, then? Modern brakes use a cast-iron disc squeezed between two brake pads lined with friction material. Under the right conditions, the disc, the pads and the caliper they’re mounted in can start to vibrate—in exactly the same way a violin’s string vibrates when stroked by the horsehairs on the bow. The violin’s pitch is controlled by the position of the violinist’s finger on the string, not by how hard or fast the bow is stroked. Similarly, most brake squeals occur at a single discrete frequency. The speed of the vehicle and how hard you press down on the left pedal will only change the volume of noise, because the pitch is controlled by the stiffness and mass of the pad and disc.

    Inadequate development at the manufacturer that leaves brake systems prone to noise can usually be overcome by a Saturday mechanic without totally re-engineering the caliper/mount/pad/disc system. We can try to damp out the noise, or simply change the resonant frequency of the whole arrangement until it stops singing in any audible frequency. Here’s how.

    Normal Pad Noises

    Many brake pad compositions will make a swishing or grinding noise for the first few stops in the morning until the pads warm up and drive off any moisture they’ve accumulated overnight. Ever notice a hissing or grinding noise on some rainy or dewy mornings? It’s the pads sweeping a thin film of rust that’s formed on the iron discs, and it’s perfectly normal.

    In the past, brake pad friction material relied heavily on asbestos. Unfortunately, asbestos tended to give asbestos workers and brake mechanics lung cancer, so the industry has almost completely changed over to less dangerous alternatives. Kevlar is one material that’s seen a lot of use, but it tends to be dusty. Improved brake performance is more important nowadays because of increased safety requirements and equipment—and the extra road-hugging weight that comes along with these. That leads to the increased use of metallics and ceramics in the brake pad friction material. And this stuff can make the brakes hiss or even grind a little as you slow down. It’s a small price to pay for increased performance. So all pad noise is fine, right? Hold up there, Sparky, there’s one brake noise you need to pay attention to right away. Many brake pads have a small finger of spring steel that will scrape on the disc as the pad reaches its wear limit. This tells you that it’s time to change pads for fresh, thicker ones before the friction material wears completely away, and you’re trying to slow down on the metal backing plates. It’s a sound not easily confused with brake squeal—it’s more of a ripping-sheet-metal noise, not a single, high-pitched note.

    Silence, Please

    Okay, let’s dig in and silence our brake noise. One fix is to simply change pads to a different type of friction material. It’s usually hard to beat the original-equipment pads for a good compromise of pad life, noise, grip, dust creation and price, but changing to an aftermarket premium metallic or ceramic pad just might change the interaction that affects the resonant frequency of the pad and disc and, literally, change its tune.

    Go into any auto parts store and you’ll see a shelf full of potions and widgets claiming to cure squeaks. One class of products I’m leery of is simple aerosols that you spray onto the pad’s friction material. I have no idea if they actually make the squeak go away, because I’m unwilling to try anything that changes the friction characteristics of the pad. Let’s not forget, the first reason your brake system exists is, in fact, to make your car slow down. Anything that could reduce that system’s effectiveness in any way is probably not a good idea.

    Still got noise? Or still have plenty of pad material remaining and don’t want to drop fifty or a hundred bucks on a fresh set? You may be able to decouple the piston acoustically from the pad by purchasing shims made of Teflon, which are intended to go between the pad and the caliper’s hydraulic piston. I’ve tried those shims with middling success—sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. Warning: Some calipers will not have enough extra travel in the piston bore to allow any shimming without making the brakes drag, at least with fresh, unworn pads.

    You can achieve a similar decoupling without Teflon shims by simply coating the back face of the pad’s backing plates with high-temp brake grease or even antiseize compound. Unlike shims, this tweak won’t last forever, as water and road dirt will wash it away eventually.

    We chose high-end ceramic-based pads for our brake job, hoping the different friction characteristics would cure the squeal. Surprise, the new pads came out of the box fitted with Teflon-coated shims already installed.

    Sticky Solution

    Our favorite tweak for squeaks relies on a different principle: Instead of using shims or lubricants to decouple the pad from the caliper, stick the backing plate to the piston or caliper housing, effectively making its mass far larger. That will move the system’s resonant frequency out of the range that squeals. A smear of Super Glue won’t do it: You need something that will withstand the water, salt, filth and especially the heat that cars see in hard everyday use. How hot do brake systems get? I’ve seen brake discs glowing bright orange at the bottom of Pikes Peak, and flames shooting out of the brake drums of trucks descending Donner Pass. I’ve seen the brakes on my own race car visibly glow right after a few hot laps.

    I’ve used several products over the years, but they’re all basically anaerobic adhesives, applied as either a lipstick-style film or a toothpaste-style goo. The application of this product is simple: Remove and clean up the old pads, or use new pads. Clean the area on the piston and caliper where the pad backing plate touches. Apply the antisqueal adhesive, reinstall the pads and button up. These anaerobic products will stay gummy until you apply the brakes and squeeze out the oxygen. Then they stick like, well, glue.

    Whenever you’re installing any brake parts, be sure you remove any corrosion or road dirt from the mating parts—the brake pad or caliper housing needs to be able to slide in and out to compensate for wear. Clean up any sliding parts, which may require a wire brush or a file, until you can push the pads in and out with your bare hands. I prefer to replace any brake hardware (especially on drum brakes) that isn’t in perfect condition—hey, it’s cheap insurance. Apply a thin film of high-temp brake grease to any sliding surfaces. Obviously, avoid getting anything like grease or antiseize on the pad or disc, and clean any greasy handprints off the disc surface before you hang the wheel on too.

    Brake Hardware Nitty Gritty

    Brake hardware

    1. This is one product we’ve tried that usually works to bond brake pads to the caliper and reduce or eliminate squeal.

    2. This sheet-metal finger is just long enough to contact the disc when the pads are mostly worn out. The noise is calculated to make you replace the pads.

    3. Here are two different compositions of brake pads. The one on the left is the stock pad installed by the factory, with a high concentration of organic fibers and brass particles. The aftermarket pad uses less brass and more ceramics for longer wear and improved braking.

    high-temp brake grease
    4. When installing new or old pads, sparingly coat all of the sliding surfaces on the pads, pins and hardware with high-temp brake grease. Use sparingly, and—duh—don’t get any on the pads or discs.

    File, sandpaper or grind any burrs, extra paint, rust or high spots off the pads
    5. File, sandpaper or grind any burrs, extra paint, rust or high spots off the pads, new or old, to be sure the pad will slide easily in and out as the brakes are applied and released.

    Check out the raised areas—leftovers from the manufacturing process
    6. Check out the raised areas—leftovers from the manufacturing process. We had to file down the steel backing plate on this aftermarket pad.

    Original here

    CEO Promises GM Has New Vehicles That Will Blow You Away

    Posted in: Next Generation

    Facing a fast approaching deadline of June 1st by which GM either restructures or enters bankruptcy, GM CEO Fritz Henderson took to he web to field questions from the public. There are more Q and As on the Fastlane site, but the following exchanges were particularly interesting.

    Henderson was asked by one consumer who needs to replace his first generation Prius, why he should “wait” for the Volt.

    Henderson responded “I would love to take you out of your prius! so why wait for the volt? the car will be beautiful, a great driving experience, and if you commute less than 40 miles per day, the car should deliver a totally electric experience to the owner without using any gas at all.”

    Next he was asked what GM has planned for its next green initiative beyond the Volt and 2-mode plugin. Henderson wrote “the volt needs to be launched by year end 2010, which means we still have work in front of us. we have a separate team looking at gen II erev technologies while looking at other potential vehicle applications. alongside the volt we have a host of other technology initiatives underway, from second gen biofuels, to hybrids, etc.”

    Finally Henderson was asked about how GM will flesh out its new lower number of brands and what each brand’s flagships might be.

    He replied “We have big product and technology plans for all our brands. Chevrolet is already loaded with great cars, crossovers and trucks with a lot more coming like the Cruze, Spark and Orlando - and of course, the Volt. And we’ve got some great new Cadillacs, as well as Buicks and GMC cars in trucks in the works. Each week I join our Design chief Ed Welburn, the head of GM Product Development Tom Stephens and a few others to tour GM design and look at future cars and trucks. It’s great to be reminded what this business is all about, and it fills me with optimism about the new GM. I promise you that we have new vehicles that will blow you away.”

    Source (GM)

    The Last of the Power Rangers?


    SINCE the automobile got its first taste of gasoline, drivers’ need for speed has often trumped other considerations, including money, safety and common sense. Over just five years from 1895 to 1900, ingenious racecar builders tripled top speeds from 15 miles an hour to a maniacal 50 m.p.h.

    From top, the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Jaguar XF Supercharged, Lexus IS-F and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. More Photos »

    Today, safety is paramount. But money and sense can still get blown into the weeds by street-going supersedans that can exceed 180 or even 190 m.p.h. Such speeds are legal only on racetracks, of course.

    With 400 or 500 horsepower — and more — these cars aren’t just fast by four-door standards. Some rank among the most formidable production cars in history.

    With a four-decade edge in technology, these four-doors could embarrass any muscle car of the 1960s and ’70s. But like the fast cars of the previous golden era of speed, the latest versions could be rendered extinct by volatile fuel prices and tougher emissions controls — not to mention an economic climate in which frugality seems on the upswing. Certainly, it’s hard to imagine mainstream cars becoming much stronger unless they are driven by electricity, hydrogen or other gas alternatives.

    These amped-up versions of everyday luxury sedans — with models from BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and others — speak powerfully in English, German and Japanese. Audi’s entry, the S4, has been on hiatus this year, though a new version arrives this fall as a 2010 model.

    Many historians trace the sport sedan’s roots to BMW, which at the urging of its American importer, Max Hoffman, brought over its tiny, squarish 2002 model — with a powerful 2-liter 4-cylinder engine — in 1968. By 1971, the 2002tii was producing 130 horsepower, and BMW began building its image as the king of performance sedans.

    In 1986, BMW introduced the first M3, a 195-horsepower version of its 3 Series model. That 4-cylinder car breezed from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 7.5 seconds and reached a top speed of 146 m.p.h. The M3 became a street and road-racing legend, and painted a bull’s-eye on BMW’s back at which rivals still take aim.

    Today, after escalating bouts of one-upmanship, 400 horsepower is the new minimum for membership in the club.

    The Mercedes C63 AMG, with 451 horsepower, rockets to 60 m.p.h. in less than 4 seconds — roughly half the time of the original M3. To keep pace, even BMW has abandoned its three-decade-long reliance on in-line 6-cylinder engines; for the latest M3, it developed its own V-8.

    Suffice to say when driven on public roads, these sedans push the limits of sanity with performance that scoffs at speed limits and social conventions — though some owners do explore the cars’ full performance potential by taking them to racetracks.

    These cars also gobble as much fuel as two typical family sedans. In my testing of five performance sedans, the Cadillac CTS-V proved the thirstiest at 11 m.p.g., with the Mercedes just behind at 12 m.p.g. Among these cars, only the Jaguar XF Supercharged and Lexus IS-F avoid the federal gas-guzzler penalty.

    Not only do they drink heavily, but each model demands premium fuel that, for a time last year, was selling for close to $5 a gallon.

    Even with a respite in fuel prices, skeptics might ask why these sedans’ creators are partying as if it’s 1999.

    First, these cars’ designs were set in motion years ago, before the current economic storms. Second, automakers and dealers still find a small but profitable niche in hopped-up sedans that command premiums of $20,000 to $40,000 over the price of mainstream versions of the same cars. (The exclusive $72,000 Audi RS4, not currently offered in the United States, was perhaps the most dubiously priced at more than double the A4’s base ticket.)

    To the added benefit of dealers, many early buyers happily fork over $5,000 or much more above the sticker price to be the first on their block with a limited-production model.

    Pressed on green responsibility, automakers respond that since they sell only a few thousand of each model, these cars’ environmental footprint is negligible. Yet it’s easy to see these g-force carnival rides being marginalized or legislated out of existence.

    Affluent owners may not fret over fuel bills, but demands for higher mileage and lower carbon-dioxide emissions could spell the end anyway. (In recent years, automakers with a heavy concentration of high-performance models have countered corporate average fuel economy requirements by paying millions of dollars in penalties to the government.)

    Looking ahead, if gas prices spike and the market continues to slump, these cars could become steals in the used market. Even in flush times, some of Mercedes’s high-performance AMG models have become notorious for their weak resale values. The market for used — and sometimes abused — luxury supersedans is limited. (And it is largely confined to men; sales data suggest that many women scoff at such over-the-top machines.)

    But for those who can still afford the payments, it’s possible to live fast even in a slowing economy. Owners of these powerful sedans can scribble the checks, fill ’em up and duke it out. Our own tests of the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Jaguar XF Supercharged, Lexus IS-F and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG were like a bacchanal in Las Vegas: when you’re having so much fun, guilt and consequences seem a million miles away.

    Original here

    Stand Back for the Exploded View!

    by Phil Patton

    At the new Porsche Museum, outside Stuttgart, there are many clever displays, such as the overlapped silhouettes of iconic 911 models through the years, the empty fiberglass shell of a 356 America hung from wires to show its lightness and the racecar attached to the ceiling. But my favorite mode of display is the exploded view, used for the most powerful Porsche engine ever—the 12-cylinder racing engine. Its parts, though suspended manually, seem to hover in air.

    Decontructed V12 engine at the Porsche Museum

    The exploded Porsche 12-cylinder racing engine at the Porsche Museum, in Stuttgart.

    Porsche’s engine put me in mind of another “exploded diagram” I had seen recently, this one at the Harley-Davidson Museum, in Milwaukee. Abbott Miller designed the museum’s installations to complement the architecture of his fellow Pentagram partner James Biber. As one part of the display, he “cut up” a motorcycle into seven pieces. Seen head on, the pieces appear to be a single, solid bike. But seen from the side, they break up the frame, engine and other pieces. “As visitors enter the gallery,” Harley-Davidson’s publicity materials explain, “they see a motorcycle in profile, and as they move further into the space, the motorcycle is revealed as a series of ‘slices’ that coalesce into a unified image, with the V-twin engine at its center.” In other words, “A mechanical drawing brought to life.”

    Exploded motorcycle parts at the Harley-Davidson Museum

    An exploded motorcycle on display at the Harley-Davidson Museum, in Milwaukee.

    I thought of the vinyl layers in the Encyclopedia Britannicas of my childhood, with skin, muscles, organs and skeleton printed on overlaying sheets. And of course I thought of instructions and diagrams. These days one is as likely to find a working mechanic’s exploded diagram for a Harley part as a more playful interpretation of the idea, such as an illustration for the menu of a Brooklyn burger joint. The exploded drawing suggests the desire graphic designers feel to move into three dimensions.

    My own fascination with exploded diagrams on paper goes back to childhood and years spent playing with Erector sets or assembling plastic model airplanes and automobiles. (I think I fell in love with the idea of them following while assembling Hellcats and Flying Fortresses. Or maybe it was the glue...) Wonderful exploded views still show up Lego instructions.

    Lego instructions (left) and 67 Burger illustration (right)

    Building instructions for Brickster’s Trike by Lego (at left) and for 67 Burger, Brooklyn (right, designed by Heather Jones).

    Those instructions teach a wider lesson. The process of model-making leads you to focus on each part and their relation to the whole. It teaches you to concentrate on one step at a time, to have faith in the order to the steps and the result that would eventually emerge. (It was always hard not to simply start with the most interesting part of the assembly.) They taught not just patience but process.

    Car companies are good at slicing and breaking up their wares at car shows and museums, to show the internal power and mystery of their technology. I recall the Visible V8 model kit of my childhood—almost as fascinating as the Visible Woman! Since an engine’s basic job is to contain explosions and harvest their energy to make motion, there is a particular rightness to depicting one in exploded form.

    Rudolph de Harak's Exploded Diesel sculpture

    Exploded Diesel, by Rudolph de Harak (1985).

    The first example of an exploded engine in 3-D that I know of dates to 1985, when Rudolph de Harak created Exploded Diesel, what he called a sculpture, for the museum of the Cummins Engine Company, the maker of industrial machinery known for its enlightened patronage of architecture in its hometown of Columbus, Indiana.

    It is significant that it was a designer who first ventured into three dimensions, through exhibition design, to illustrate the exploded engine idea. The exploded diagram is a place where the graphic artist meets the sculptor. Citing de Harak’s achievements, Steve Heller wrote: “His exploded diesel engine, the centerpiece of the Cummins Engine Museum in Columbus, Indiana, in which almost every nut and bolt is deconstructed in midair, is evidence of the designer’s keen ability for extracting accessible information from even the most minute detail.”

    But the exploded diagrams speak of things beyond the mere parts. The Cummins engine appears to function as a social symbol as well—Heller notes the design of the museum was built on hours of interviews with employees. It is a morale-building model of the organization, a celebration of teamwork in which every part is shown and has its critical role to play. It was a positive representation of the worker who feels, “I am just a cog in the machine.”

    Not merely an engine or motorcycle but an entire vehicle was exploded by the artist Damián Ortega in Cosmic Thing, his 2002 sculpture in which the parts of a disassembled Volkswagen Beetle hang in space. London’s White Cube Gallery describes it as being “re-composed piece by piece, suspended from wire in midair, in the manner of a mechanic’s instruction manual.” (Cosmic Thing was shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and later at the 50th Venice Biennale, in 2003.) “The result was both a diagram and a fragmented object that offered a new way of seeing the ‘people’s car’ first developed in Nazi Germany but now produced in Ortega’s native Mexico,” curators declared.

    Damian Ortega's exploded sculptures Cosmic Thing and Materialista

    (From left) Damián Ortega’s Cosmic Thing (2002) and Materialista (2009).

    In a show now on display at the Galeria Fortes Vilaça, in Sao Paulo, Ortega applied a similar technique to the chrome trim of a transfer truck. Trucks have become a subject of debate in relations between Mexico and the United States since NAFTA first allowed them to cross borders. The piece is called Materialista, which in Mexican Spanish means a truck that carries construction materials, but which also explores issues of how ideas achieve embodiment in materials.

    Honda took a page from Ortega’s book in 2006, when it hired Dutch artist Paul Veroude to create an exploded view of a Honda Formula One racecar for the British Motor Show, with all 3,200 bits and bolts hovering. This 3-D exploded diagram was designed to get spectators “closer than ever to the engineering secrets of the world’s most technically advanced sport.”

    While the floating parts in these works suggest a freeze frame of an explosion, the work of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang uses a time-lapse approach to render the explosion itself. For his 2004 piece Inopportune: Stage One, displayed last year at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he hung Chevrolets so they seemed to tumble through the spiraling atrium. All the cars are identical to suggest the flight of single vehicle, captured like sequential snap shots of a car bombing.

    Hermes print ad featuring an exploded watch

    A recent print ad for Hermès watches.

    Luxury brands have also used 3-D exploded diagrams to assert their technological power and boast of value hidden inside. Take for instance a recent advertisement for Hermès watches that reveals all the gears, escapements and jewels to convey the product’s importance and the preciousness of its complexity.

    In today’s world, the news is often punctuated by explosions, and increasingly there is a sense of the center losing grip and of things flying apart. The exploded diagram might make real life seem menacing. But dissection is also teaching, and showing the parts is a fundamental element of learning and study. The verb ‘articulate’ can mean identifying the bones of a skeleton or the segmented parts of something, as well as to make meaning clear. Exploded diagrams, whether on paper or in space, do something similar. They offer an exposition of a subject. Maybe a better word for the exploded view should be a hybrid—I propose explosition.

    About the Author: Phil Patton is the author of Dreamland: Inside the Secret World of Roswell and Area 51, Made in USA, Open Road and other books. He writes regularly for the “Design Notebook,” “Public Eye,” and the New York Times’ automotive columns, and is a contributing editor of I.D. magazine, Wired and Esquire, for which he writes on design and automobiles.

    So maybe the slackers had it right after all

    By David Scharfenberg

    WE MOVED to San Francisco and Brooklyn and Mission Hill. We jumped from job to job. Put off marriage. Never bought a place. And we never heard the end of it. We were drifters, they said. Layabouts. No respect for work and real estate or the value of a good pair of cufflinks.

    But now, in the cold glare of a recession, everything looks different: We've got no house to lose, no career to dash, no school-aged children in need of pricey Wii gaming systems.

    Not recession-proof, exactly, but recession-resistant, at least.

    Of course, it's not like we saw the crash coming. We didn't plan for this, didn't time the market. And we made some bad choices along the way: The persistent neglect of our 401(k)s, battered stock market notwithstanding, will catch up to us someday.

    But in retrospect, it's clear that we did something right. We lived a smaller life, a life we could afford. And as the country rebuilds the economy, as it tries to replace it with something more sustainable than a leaning tower of subprime mortgages and consumer binging, it is time to reevaluate that much-maligned Gen X archetype: the American Slacker.

    "Slacker," like most labels, has always been a crude and misleading shorthand. We were a bit aimless, us urban, liberal-arts types. We were a little too enamored of irony, perhaps. A little too frivolous.

    But there was something to be said for a life in the moment; for a dalliance in California, for concerts and failed screenplays, for a little fun before the fall. And the truth is, we were always more purposeful - more responsible - than our fathers and uncles and grandmothers realized.

    Those of us who took low-wage jobs were not just marking time. Not all of us, anyway. We were doing work we cared about, as journalists and teachers and social workers.

    All that job-hopping and freelancing? We were dilettantes, on some level, it's true. But we also understood, before most, that something had shifted - that we were moving to an economy of telecommuters and independent contractors and less-than-loyal employers.

    And while the best minds on Wall Street cooked up the real estate mess that destroyed a global economy, we were sensible enough to steer clear of that overpriced condo and move into a dingy, three-bedroom rental with a few of our meathead friends.

    You see, while Alan Greenspan and Countrywide Financial were creating a capitalism of disastrous excess, we were busy working on a more workable model. Not without its indulgences, of course. The exuberance of the dot-com bubble was undoubtedly irrational. But we did pretty well, this little slice of Generation X.

    We brought you the Internet, worked on green technology, and filled the ranks of Teach for America. We crossed the color line, ate local produce, and bought secondhand clothing. We lived in smaller spaces, drove smaller cars, and took the subway to work.

    It all seemed like a quaint liberal fantasy at the time. And on some level it was. But now, with a creaking economy and an overheated planet, it reads more like a survival manual: a guide to multicultural living in an increasingly diverse society, an incubator for the technology that might save the American auto industry, an antidote to our awful adventures in sprawl.

    Of course, we could abandon this life as we get older, I suppose. We could grow impatient with our little apartments and cramped hatchbacks. We could set our sights on the kind of suburban existence we've forsaken. But I'd like to think we're smarter than that.

    We created something worthwhile - a sustainable neighborhood, a tech future, a life we can manage. And we won't let it go too easily.

    At least I hope not. As the nation rebuilds a crumbling capitalism, it could use a little perspective, a little wisdom. Bet you didn't think you'd get it from us.

    Original here

    Saturday, May 16, 2009

    So Long, Coach: Get an Upgrade at the Airport

    The unfortunate reality of business travel today involves cramped economy seats, rental cars, and second-tier hotels. These treasured tips for bagging an upgrade on your ticket class at the airport may be just what you need to say so long to coach.

    • Turn on the charm and ask nicely. If the agent at the ticket counter seems open and friendly, turn on your award-winning smile and ask politely if there is any chance for an upgrade today. While the chance of this working may be slim, it has worked for us in the past. Things to keep in mind: upgrading wholly depends on the authority of who you are speaking with, the open capacity of seats, and your status with the airline.
    • Look the part. We can all spot the difference between the well-traveled business exec and the casual traveler in sweatpants. Dress and act like a first-class passenger and your chances of getting upgraded are greatly enhanced.
    • Let the ticket agent know if you are traveling for a special occasion-a honeymoon or anniversary-and they may honor you with an unexpected upgrade.
    • Ask the ticket agent if they will add a code to your ticket, which will indicate to the gate agent that you are eligible for an upgrade. Do your research beforehand on which codes your airlines uses and when. Each airline has their own way of coding passengers and upgrades.
    • Ask the ticket agent about the cost of buying an upgrade. Depending on the flight, upgrades can cost as little as $150, which may be worth it for your cross-country trip.
    • Be willing to use your miles and upgrade certificates. For a flight of more than three hours, it can be a worthwhile use, especially on a packed plane.
    • When you board the plane, if you see an empty first class seat ask the flight attendant if it is available. Flight attendants will generally consider an upgrade if you are having an issue with your seat (seatbelt issues, broken seat) or problems with your neighbors (an upset small child, a smelly or oversized passenger).

    • When booking, try to add an OSI (Other Significant Information) to your ticket. This can be done when booking directly with an airline or with a travel agent. From the airlines perspective, an attractive OSI may be if you are a VIP, CEO, travel agent, magazine writer or event planner.
    Originally published on NicoleWilliams

    How to Use Twitter To Bypass The Endless Taxi Line At McCarren

    by markj

    Did you hear the news? Conferences and tourists are returning to Vegas. Well, they never really left, however as the economy begins to improve you can bet that the trade shows and tourists will make sure your arrival into McCarren International Airport is crowded and chaotic.

    Once you have dealt with the monorail, and once you have made it to the bottom of the escalator and retrieved your bag you must deal with the dreaded Vegas cab line. During midweek, and for that matter during this down economy, the cab line has not been much of an issue, but on Friday nights and during conventions that line can be over half an hour long. How do you beat it? Easy.

    Find a Skycap. Let them know they can help you with your luggage. Give the guy a nice tip and tell him you want to go to Yellow #1. Here cab drivers will get pulled out of the long cab line servicing the regular folks in order to pick you up at Yellow #1. No waiting.

    Now during super crowded times even this Yellow #1 tip can have a line behind it. What do you do then, or for that matter if you want to take no chances on waiting in line? When your plane lands and the pilot allows you to turn on your cell phone, Twitter Vegas Cabbie (he is the one who gave us the above tip in the first place) and tell him your flight just landed and you will gather your luggage and meet him at Yellow #1.

    He, or someone will @ reply you and by the time you get your luggage and head out to Yellow #1 your chariot will await you.

    Ah the joys of social webbing in Vegas.

    Original here

    220MPH Solar-Powered Bullet Train on Arizona Horizon

    by Jorge Chapa

    sustainable design, solar bullet train, green design, alternative transportation, renewable energy, solar powered train, high speed rail

    Travelers going from Tucson to Phoenix may soon be blazing across the desert in speeding solar bullet trains propelled by the sun’s rays. Hot on the heels of President Obama’s plan for High Speed Rail in the US comes the news that Arizona-based Solar Bullet LLC is proposing a new 220mph bullet train that will be entirely powered by the sun and will make the trip in 30 minutes flat.

    sustainable design, solar bullet train, green design, alternative transportation, renewable energy, solar powered train, high speed rail

    The adoption of high speed rail in the states stands to greatly curb greenhouse emissions while cutting down on our reliance on carbon-spewing cars and airplanes. Needless to say it’s one of our favorite transportation topics here at Inhabitat, so to say that this one caught our eye would be an understatement.

    The system is being proposed by Solar Bullet LLC, founded by Bill Gaither and Raymond Wright. Their plan is to create a series of tracks that would serve stations including Chandler, Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy, Red Rock and Marana, and may one day stretch as far as Mexico City. The train would require 110 megawatts of electricity, which would be generated by solar panels mounted above the tracks.

    Although the project is still in its early stages of development and the estimated cost is a whopping 28 billion dollars, the idea that someday in the future we could all be riding on solar powered bullet trains is simply too cool to resist.

    Original here

    Ten Ways to Stay On Top Of Your Work

    by Ali Hale

    Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in work? Your inbox is overflowing, you have to move two stacks of papers to get to your keyboard, you have a constant nagging feeling that you’ve forgotten about something vital, and that major project you want to start work on still remains a pipe dream.

    Some people say they “work well under stress”, but most of us are happier, healthier and more productive when we feel that we’re on top of things. With that in mind, here are ten tips to help you stay on top of your work.

    1. Don’t Take On Too Much
      If you’re overworked, is it because you’re not very efficient and waste time (be honest) or is it because you simply have too much work?

      All the time management tips in the world won’t give you more than twenty-four hours in a day. When you’re offered an exciting new project to be part of, when a colleague asks for a favor, or when you’re thinking about sticking up your hand and volunteering in a meeting ... stop and think about your other priorities. Remember that if your day is currently full and you take on new work, something else is going to have to go.

    2. Minimize Meetings
      Many time-management writers, from Tim Ferriss to Mark Forster, advocate avoiding meetings if at all possible. How often have you sat in a meeting, bored out of your skull, wishing you could be getting on with your actual work?

      If you’re obliged to be in regular meetings, try cutting the frequency (perhaps a team meeting every fortnight, not every week, would be just as effective) or the duration (it’s surprising how much can be accomplished in half-an-hour).

      If you can possibly avoid meetings, do. That goes doubly for meetings which are off-site – there’s a lot of wasted time involved in getting there and back.

    3. Make A To-Do List The Day Before
      If you normally work on whatever catches your attention, you’re working ineffectively, and you’re likely to end up feeling overwhelmed. Each evening before you stop work for the day, make a “to do” list for the following day. This should cover the crucial things that you want to get done. Make sure that at least one of them is advancing a long-term project.

      The next morning, start on your to-do list before doing anything else (checking email, gossiping round the water cooler, making a round of coffee).

    4. “Big Rocks First”
      There’s an oft-cited time management adage “Big Rocks First”. The analogy goes like this: if you had to fill a jar with sand and rocks, it’s hard (almost impossible) to do it by pouring in the sand first then trying to fit in the rocks. But if you fit all the rocks first, the sand can simply flow into the gaps.

      Fit your “big rocks” – the major things you want to work on – into your day first. All the little jobs like checking email, tidying your desk and making phone calls can fit into small time-gaps in between the bigger tasks.

    5. Work In Timed Bursts
      No one can sustain their concentration for hours at a time. And all of us find that we can speed up and focus well when it’s three thirty on Friday, or when we’re off on vacation for a fortnight. Take advantage of this effect by working in timed bursts: for example, work on that big report that’s been hanging over you for thirty solid minutes (no checking emails, Twitter, Facebook...) You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in a short space of time.

      It’s often useful to use this to do “big rocks” and then to relax your attention by attending to the “sand” tasks like answering emails.

    6. Develop Good Systems
      We often work inefficiently because we just haven’t taken the time to develop a good system for something. If a particular aspect of your job is always causing you headaches, chances are that you need to fix the system you use for dealing with it. (In many cases, this means consciously implementing a system!)

      For example, if you find that you’re always forgetting to follow up on action points for meetings, develop a framework to help you do this. That might mean that you schedule yourself fifteen minutes after the meeting to go through your notes and put your action points onto your to-do list.

    7. Limit Email Checking
      Most of us spend far too much time on email – some companies have even started introducing “no email days”, where workers are encouraged to phone or talk face-to-face rather than use emails. Reading and replying to emails can often be a distraction from getting on with more important work.

      Try “batching” your emails: instead of replying as soon as one arrives, set certain times of day (ideally, not before 10am) when you’ll read and reply to all your emails.

    8. Set Your Own Deadlines
      Wouldn’t it be nice if you could set your own deadlines? Well, you can, of course: just make your deadline before the one that management (or your client) has given you.

      If you aim to get each project finished a few days in advance of the “real” deadline, you’ll feel considerably less stressed (you’re working to your own time, not to someone else’s) and you’ll also be able to cope with any genuine emergencies that crop up, without blowing the deadline.

    9. Delegate
      One great way to stay on top of your work is to pass on low-level tasks to someone else. If you’re in management, you’re wasting your time and your company’s time when you perform tasks that a junior colleague could have carried out.

      (If, like many people, you’re not confident about delegating work, read Accomplish More Each Day: Four Steps To Easy Delegation)

      If you’re self-employed, can you pay someone else to do tasks for you? For example, you might find a student willing to do some administrative tasks, and you could pay an accountant to help with your taxes.

    10. Ask For Less
      Depending on your job, you might be unable to delegate anything – in fact, you may be overwhelmed with other people delegating work to you!

      If this is the problem, don’t be afraid to say that you're being given too much to do. Your line manager may not realise that you’re feeling swamped. Don’t moan about having too much work, but mention your concerns that some aspects of your work aren’t getting done (or are being rushed) because you have too much else on.

    Original here

    GM to Cut 1100 Dealers

    Posted in: Dealers, Financial

    GM has 15 days to meet a government deadline to successfully restructure or else enter bankruptcy restructuring proceedings. Chrysler has already been in bankruptcy court since May 1st.

    A major element of restructuring for both companies is the ability to eliminate excess dealerships. Maintaining too many dealers in a much smaller market than it used to be is a major expense.

    Yesterday Chrysler announced a cut of 789 dealers, leading to shock and sadness across the country. Not only because of loss of jobs and revenue, but car dealers are often important community members and sponsors of local activities.

    Starting today 1124 GM dealers will get their pink slips. This represents 18% of the total GM dealerships. Those getting letters will be told their contracts which expire in October 2010 shall not be renewed. They are ones considered to be underperformers.

    GM actually plans to eliminate 42% of total dealerships to a goal of 3605 by the end of next year. As GM is not currently in bankruptcy they do not have to publicly announce which dealerships will be receiving letters. Chrysler’s list is published below.

    “We have said from the beginning that our dealers are not a problem but an asset for General Motors,” said Mark LaNeve, GM Vice President of Sales Service and Marketing. “However it is imperative that a healthy, viable GM have a healthy, viable dealer body that can not only survive but prosper during cyclical downturns. It is obvious that almost all parts of GM, including the dealer body, must get smaller and more efficient.”

    Most recently GM CEO Fritz Henderson has said GM bankruptcy is probable. However it is expected the bankruptcy process will allow GM to successfully restructure its debt and expenses and survive as a lean green reinvention of itself.

    Either way Volt will survive, only the dealer you might be hoping to get it from right now may not be there in November 2010.

    List of Chrysler Dealers

    Source (Detroit Free Press)

    Wisconsin court upholds GPS tracking by police

    MADISON, Wis. -

    Wisconsin police can attach GPS to cars to secretly track anybody’s movements without obtaining search warrants, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

    However, the District 4 Court of Appeals said it was “more than a little troubled” by that conclusion and asked Wisconsin lawmakers to regulate GPS use to protect against abuse by police and private individuals.

    As the law currently stands, the court said police can mount GPS on cars to track people without violating their constitutional rights – even if the drivers aren’t suspects.

    Officers do not need to get warrants beforehand because GPS tracking does not involve a search or a seizure, Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel based in Madison.

    That means “police are seemingly free to secretly track anyone’s public movements with a GPS device,” he wrote.

    One privacy advocate said the decision opened the door for greater government surveillance of citizens. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials called the decision a victory for public safety because tracking devices are an increasingly important tool in investigating criminal behavior.

    The ruling came in a 2003 case involving Michael Sveum, a Madison man who was under investigation for stalking. Police got a warrant to put a GPS on his car and secretly attached it while the vehicle was parked in Sveum’s driveway. The device recorded his car’s movements for five weeks before police retrieved it and downloaded the information.

    The information suggested Sveum was stalking the woman, who had gone to police earlier with suspicions. Police got a second warrant to search his car and home, found more evidence and arrested him. He was convicted of stalking and sentenced to prison.

    Sveum, 41, argued the tracking violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure. He argued the device followed him into areas out of public view, such as his garage.

    The court disagreed. The tracking did not violate constitutional protections because the device only gave police information that could have been obtained through visual surveillance, Lundsten wrote.

    Even though the device followed Sveum’s car to private places, an officer tracking Sveum could have seen when his car entered or exited a garage, Lundsten reasoned. Attaching the device was not a violation, he wrote, because Sveum’s driveway is a public place.

    We discern no privacy interest protected by the Fourth Amendment that is invaded when police attach a device to the outside of a vehicle, as long as the information obtained is the same as could be gained by the use of other techniques that do not require a warrant,” he wrote.

    Although police obtained a warrant in this case, it wasn’t needed, he added.

    Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, said using GPS to track someone’s car goes beyond observing them in public and should require a warrant.

    The idea that you can go and attach anything you want to somebody else’s property without any court supervision, that’s wrong,” he said. “Without a warrant, they can do this on anybody they want.”

    Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s office, which argued in favor of the warrantless GPS tracking, praised the ruling but would not elaborate on its use in Wisconsin.

    David Banaszynski, president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, said his department in the Milwaukee suburb of Shorewood does not use GPS. But other departments might use it to track drug dealers, burglars and stalkers, he said.

    A state law already requires the Department of Corrections to track the state’s most dangerous sex offenders using GPS. The author of that law, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the decision shows “GPS tracking is an effective means of protecting public safety.”

    Original here

    Ford Engineer Builds 125 MPG 3-Wheeler, Puts It On Ebay

    In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars

    Martin Specht for The New York Times
    Biking and walking are the principal means of transport within the suburb of Vauban, Germany.


    VAUBAN, Germany — Residents of this upscale community are suburban pioneers, going where few soccer moms or commuting executives have ever gone before: they have given up their cars.

    Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community. Car ownership is allowed, but there are only two places to park — large garages at the edge of the development, where a car-owner buys a space, for $40,000, along with a home.

    As a result, 70 percent of Vauban’s families do not own cars, and 57 percent sold a car to move here. “When I had a car I was always tense. I’m much happier this way,” said Heidrun Walter, a media trainer and mother of two, as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.

    Vauban, completed in 2006, is an example of a growing trend in Europe, the United States and elsewhere to separate suburban life from auto use, as a component of a movement called “smart planning.”

    Automobiles are the linchpin of suburbs, where middle-class families from Chicago to Shanghai tend to make their homes. And that, experts say, is a huge impediment to current efforts to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes, and thus to reduce global warming. Passenger cars are responsible for 12 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe — a proportion that is growing, according to the European Environment Agency — and up to 50 percent in some car-intensive areas in the United States.

    While there have been efforts in the past two decades to make cities denser, and better for walking, planners are now taking the concept to the suburbs and focusing specifically on environmental benefits like reducing emissions. Vauban, home to 5,500 residents within a rectangular square mile, may be the most advanced experiment in low-car suburban life. But its basic precepts are being adopted around the world in attempts to make suburbs more compact and more accessible to public transportation, with less space for parking. In this new approach, stores are placed a walk away, on a main street, rather than in malls along some distant highway.

    “All of our development since World War II has been centered on the car, and that will have to change,” said David Goldberg, an official of Transportation for America, a fast-growing coalition of hundreds of groups in the United States — including environmental groups, mayors’ offices and the American Association of Retired People — who are promoting new communities that are less dependent on cars. Mr. Goldberg added: “How much you drive is as important as whether you have a hybrid.”

    Levittown and Scarsdale, New York suburbs with spread-out homes and private garages, were the dream towns of the 1950s and still exert a strong appeal. But some new suburbs may well look more Vauban-like, not only in developed countries but also in the developing world, where emissions from an increasing number of private cars owned by the burgeoning middle class are choking cities.

    In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency is promoting “car reduced” communities, and legislators are starting to act, if cautiously. Many experts expect public transport serving suburbs to play a much larger role in a new six-year federal transportation bill to be approved this year, Mr. Goldberg said. In previous bills, 80 percent of appropriations have by law gone to highways and only 20 percent to other transport.

    In California, the Hayward Area Planning Association is developing a Vauban-like community called Quarry Village on the outskirts of Oakland, accessible without a car to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system and to the California State University’s campus in Hayward.

    Sherman Lewis, a professor emeritus at Cal State and a leader of the association, says he “can’t wait to move in” and hopes that Quarry Village will allow his family to reduce its car ownership from two to one, and potentially to zero. But the current system is still stacked against the project, he said, noting that mortgage lenders worry about resale value of half-million-dollar homes that have no place for cars, and most zoning laws in the United States still require two parking spaces per residential unit. Quarry Village has obtained an exception from Hayward.

    Besides, convincing people to give up their cars is often an uphill run. “People in the U.S. are incredibly suspicious of any idea where people are not going to own cars, or are going to own fewer,” said David Ceaser, co-founder of CarFree City USA, who said no car-free suburban project the size of Vauban had been successful in the United States.

    In Europe, some governments are thinking on a national scale. In 2000, Britain began a comprehensive effort to reform planning, to discourage car use by requiring that new development be accessible by public transit.

    “Development comprising jobs, shopping, leisure and services should not be designed and located on the assumption that the car will represent the only realistic means of access for the vast majority of people,” said PPG 13, the British government’s revolutionary 2001 planning document. Dozens of shopping malls, fast-food restaurants and housing compounds have been refused planning permits based on the new British regulations.

    In Germany, a country that is home to Mercedes-Benz and the autobahn, life in a car-reduced place like Vauban has its own unusual gestalt. The town is long and relatively narrow, so that the tram into Freiburg is an easy walk from every home. Stores, restaurants, banks and schools are more interspersed among homes than they are in a typical suburb. Most residents, like Ms. Walter, have carts that they haul behind bicycles for shopping trips or children’s play dates.

    For trips to stores like IKEA or the ski slopes, families buy cars together or use communal cars rented out by Vauban’s car-sharing club. Ms. Walter had previously lived — with a private car — in Freiburg as well as the United States.

    “If you have one, you tend to use it,” she said. “Some people move in here and move out rather quickly — they miss the car next door.”

    Vauban, the site of a former Nazi army base, was occupied by the French Army from the end of World War II until the reunification of Germany two decades ago. Because it was planned as a base, the grid was never meant to accommodate private car use: the “roads” were narrow passageways between barracks.

    The original buildings have long since been torn down. The stylish row houses that replaced them are buildings of four or five stories, designed to reduce heat loss and maximize energy efficiency, and trimmed with exotic woods and elaborate balconies; free-standing homes are forbidden.

    By nature, people who buy homes in Vauban are inclined to be green guinea pigs — indeed, more than half vote for the German Green Party. Still, many say it is the quality of life that keeps them here.

    Henk Schulz, a scientist who on one afternoon last month was watching his three young children wander around Vauban, remembers his excitement at buying his first car. Now, he said, he is glad to be raising his children away from cars; he does not worry much about their safety in the street.

    In the past few years, Vauban has become a well-known niche community, even if it has spawned few imitators in Germany. But whether the concept will work in California is an open question.

    More than 100 would-be owners have signed up to buy in the Bay Area’s “car-reduced” Quarry Village, and Mr. Lewis is still looking for about $2 million in seed financing to get the project off the ground.

    But if it doesn’t work, his backup proposal is to build a development on the same plot that permits unfettered car use. It would be called Village d’Italia.

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