2012 Econo-'Stang

So as many of you know I recently had occasion to go to California, rent a sport(y) car, and tackle the Pacific Coast Highway. I ended up with an automatic, 6-cylander 2012 convertible Mustang which turned out to be pretty fun. Here's my account of the trip and lay-review of the Mustang. So yeah, if you don't like geeking out about cars, well, this post might not be for you.


The idea was a good one: rent a sports car to drive up California's Pacific Coast Highway to enjoy the weather and a few curves that wont get you in (too much) trouble with the lady. It largely worked out well, too. The weather was indeed perfect - mid to high 60's - and I got a good deal on the 'sports car class' rental from Alamo.

That Car?
I was fretting a tad more than was warranted about what car they'd give me. Alamo couldn't say for sure what they'd have when I arrived, and I was afraid of them trying to stick me with a convertible Sebring (how that 'car' is in the same class as a Mustang, I'm really not sure) I'd probably have given them my fiercest glower and walked out. Luckily this wasn't necessary as I was pleasantly surprised by being handed the keys to a brandy-new Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. Thing had rubber-band tires and a growl to make a grown man giddy. It was a pretty sweet car, and the perfect thing for a California cruise through the twisties of Big Sur. That is, except for the fact that as soon as we left, a piercingly loud warning buzzer informed us that the top wasn't properly closed. After fiddling with it for a while, I was reluctant to admit that we had to trade it in.
So we ended up with a black 2012, V6 convertible Mustang. Not terrible, and certainly far better than that evil Sebring, quietly eyeing me from the parking lot... So off we went to see what this recently retooled, modern Mustang could do.
The Road.
When I first encountered the Pacific Coast Highway it was well passed sun-down (hey, there was a lot to do in SoCal!). In retrospect, this was both a good and bad thing. Good because I could push the car and test it's limits on the curviest road I've ever seen, and very bad because I couldn't see how very, very dangerous and close to launching myself into the air, 300 feet above the very dark, silent and brooding Pacific ocean. The next morning, I was able to actually see the danger, and my speed was thus reduced accordingly. For a little while, anyway. 'Safe Danger' was the name of the game - knowing your own abilities, and driving to them takes quite a bit of restraint, and that's exactly what I forced myself to do. Blind corners, of which there were very many, saw serious slow downs. I never used the left lane for cornering. Oncoming traffic was deserving of a little slowing down, particularly if the driver's demographic warranted it (if I had a dollar for every Porche-driving snow-head I encountered just meandering along for a Sunday drive, I'd be able to buy one myself along with the appropriately youthful, skirt-wearing cup-holder).
I'm not sure what civil engineer designed that road, but I'd seriously like to shake their hand, if not kiss their feet. Nearly every turn is appropriately banked for it's sharpness, and this is no small feat of road design. I've been lucky enough to spend a little time on some tracks out east, and honestly, this was every bit as good, save for all the other pesky traffic and 300 foot cliffs. Despite the danger, night time was great for this - nearly no one else out there, and if they were, you could nearly always see their headlights literally miles away. Heck, most of them were out there doing the same thing I was: speeding with impunity.

Now, you take this modern marvel of roadway mastery and put it in the hands of a speed-hating, safety-Nazi, and it'll only be a matter of time before they find a way to mess it up. Well, that's just what happened: about two or three inches to either side of the double-yellow line are nifty little, eye-catching, safety reflectors that stick up about a half an inch! The damned things are like little stones just begging for an opportunity to make your car lose traction and meet the guardrail or mountainside. They simply don't let you use the whole track... er, road, and it's obnoxious. Embedded every two feet, you can't avoid them if you come close to the double yellow line. So yeah; not a fan. We have the technology to make them flush with the road and safe, but no. We take a beautiful, smooth stretch of road, otherwise impeccably designed for spirited driving, and install a string of warts that amplify danger even for the Sunday-driving snow-head.

The 2012 Econo-'Stang
As you can imagine, such a road is quite demanding of a car. But unfortunately, my Mustang's 300 ponies of fury were kept well in check by the uncooperative 4-speed slush-pump, designed to ace the EPA's fuel-efficiency tests. They say it should get about 30mpg, what with it's high efficiency tires and geared-up rear end. I did get a solid 25 MPG through the trip - but it was costly. Not of the wallet so much, but in diminishing some of the awesomeness that could have been were it not so econo-ized. Perhaps I'm used to the torque immediately available in my heavily upgraded Diesel Jetta (over 300 ft-lbs of torque right at your toe-tips! That'll push you into your seat), but you seriously had to get your permission slip in ahead if time if you wanted to crank up the speed. Once all your paperwork checked out, however, and the engine is allowed out to play, it proved a pretty spirited, and almost always had revs to spare.

The Handling.
In short: It was a predictable boat that traveled straight pretty quickly. I understand it was a rental, so it's 'luxuried out' for people who want to be insulated from the experience of driving, but still. I'd really like to test out the sport package. I fully suspect that the Eclipse would have been a tad more aggressive and nimble. The Mustang's tire sidewalls were tall and cushy, or maybe it just needed a better rear swaybar, I'm not sure. But it was more interested in absorbing any information the road was trying to give, and very slow about informing the road of course corrections. To the credit of the tires, they were actually pretty sticky once the tire wall reached it's maximum flex. But I hate the inaccuracy.

Predictably, it was really front-heavy, and wanted little to do with oversteer, though with the help of some curves and inclines, it did finally give me a little tail spin. I'd be interested in taking it to an autocross to really test it's traction breaking points.

I did chance upon a neat little feature I refer to as 'downhill' mode, the button for which is deftly hidden just below the transmission-lever's release button. When activated, a small amber icon illuminates on the dashboard telling you it's ready to use engine breaking to help you slow down during descents. It was a noticeable change and did actually help. One of my chief complaints about automatics is that they coast entirely too easily when you completely let off the accelerator - the slight drag a manual produces affords quite a bit of control, dramatically reducing the need to apply the brakes during highway maneuvers. Truthfully, if you use your brakes on the highway it's because of bumper to bumper traffic, or you did something wrong. I consider it a veritable, yet little-known, automotive sin for a commuter.

But the big plus to the down-hill mode was that it helped keep the transmission in a lower gear, thereby making the formidable power of the V6 much more accessible. It was too 'smart' to keep it in the lower gears for long after braking would stop, however, so it didn't help much on normal roads.

Overall the Mustang was quite a fun car to drive and I fully recognize that it's rather unfair of me to hold it to the standard of a car with a sports package - but hey, maybe I'll take a look. Aside from a new-found appreciation for convertibles (I've traditionally been luke-warm on them because of the extra weight and potential for failure), I must say that the Mustang I drove did not live up to the famous name it bears. I thus dub it The "Econo 'Stang."


Your Welcome

I just thanked a colleague for something, and her response was, "Your [sic] welcome."


Taking a tip from Hyperbole and a Half, I decided to take a different tack from my usual vitriolic indignation and tell myself that she was simply asserting that the 'welcome' to which she was referring in her email was, in fact, simply *mine*.

I imagine a more verbose email (if there weren't this terrible shortage on letters) would be something like this:

"Hello - I would like to present you with this shiny and deserved Welcome. It is your welcome, so don't let anyone tell you otherwise, but be careful as they are apparently quite rare these days.

I can now sleep at night.


Highway Heckling

This morning I had the honor of being heckled by another driver due to my bumper stickers.

It's rare that I get any sort of response at all, and oddly enough, this is the first time I've ever received anything but a positive response. It went something like this:

I became aware of a dark blue Saab hatchback passing me on the left - a rare thing in general that I'm passed at all, I happened to look at the driver who was, as it were, looking directly back at me with a purpose. A young man, likely in his twenties or early thirties (it being difficult to judge based on the 80's style sunglasses he wore) made it a point to show me that he was shaking his head at me.

At first I had no idea why, but he did happen to have a plethora of bumper stickers on the back of his hatchback which I assumed (correctly) might shed some light the act. Most of them were ski-related, which gave me no insight on his disapproval. But then I saw it: a blue sticker rather at the top of all the others with the tell-tale stars and bold name "McCain." This kid was a proud Republican.

I'm honestly not sure, though, what it was about my stickers that he disapproved, as usually the idea that "foreign fuel is Un-American" is entirely compatible with those on the right. It might have been the "Got Biodiesel" sticker adjacent to it, however, to which he reacted, but I can't be sure.

Whatever the case, someone on the highway making it a point to shake their head at me is not allowed to get the last word. Or at least, I need to be able to respond. So using my considerable driving prowess, I managed (with relative ease, actually, despite his attempts to stop it) to place myself in front of him, and while doing said maneuvering, was able to issue the kind of half-cocked, slightly condescending, wry smile one produces at the hearing of a toddler's first expletive (provided it's not *your* toddler) along with a cute, finger-fluttering wave as I passed by.

He was not amused.

I seriously considered smoking him (one of the benefits of a diesel is that it can, if properly modded, produce a nice, dark and thick plume of smoke from the tail-pipe if you lay on the accelerator (hey, it's still biodiesel!)

but figured a shaking of one's head, though vociferously done for my benefit (he *really* wanted me to now he disapproved) didn't *really* warrant my smiting.

I was, however, shown to be wrong a bit later on. As he turned off to an exit before mine, he goosed it so as to allow us to view each other through our side windows again and issued a middle finger.

Very creative.

And yeah, I should have smoked him.


For the Love of Wine

Ah, sophistication. Today has the dubiously good fortune of being endowed with one of my few, and oft fool-hearty, attempts at becoming a sophisticated thirty-something. I am going to start a new habit of drinking wine – the sophisticated alcohol – every night. I came to this decision for two reasons: I recently read (yet again) that red wine is good for your heart. Secondly, I guess I’m trying to grow up a bit - since sophistry comes rather easily to me, I figured that’d be as good a vehicle as any to force myself to stick to it by telling others. So here I am telling you.

Thus far it’s been a rather daunting experience, honestly. Corks and their tools for removal are, at best, archaic (both literally and figuratively). My refrigerator was not designed to accommodate such a tall, slender carafe; in fact, one currently resides diagonally on the top shelf, bearing its weight on an unfortunate loaf of organic bread for support. I bet there are special fridges for such things, as I know there to exist automatic cork-screws, vacuum-sealing, re-corking systems, and all manner of slightly useful technology designed to alleviate the harsh realities of wine-drinking.
(chewing on these thoughts, I raise my glass in an austere, begrudging manner to consider the bits of cork I must now painstakingly fish out of my wine. Honestly, is it all really worth it?)

But slightly more seriously, as for the taste, here is what the label says:
“Sterling Vinter’s Collection fresh, bright, fruit-forward wines express the true varietal character of California’s Central Coast. This Pinot Noir is silky and elegant with opulent cherry flavors enhanced by hints of toasty oak and a complex, lingering finish.”
“Wow,” I thought. “‘Opulent.’ That sounds great!”

Note to self: Do not trust wine labels.
Additional note to self: mail winery a better thesaurus.

To be fair, though, this may not be the wine’s fault. I’m sure a wine connoisseur could select the perfect seven-course meal to call out or accentuate the proper flavors of the wine, and orchestrate the perfect atmosphere for the occasion by presenting it on a beautiful, solid oak table beneath a dazzling and sparkly, candle-lit chandelier. Unfortunately, since I’m presently feeling quite uninspired to cook up such a feast (never mind the fact that I completely lack a beautiful, solid oak table beneath a dazzling and sparkly, candle-lit chandelier), this wine played accompaniment only to a rather stale bowl of raisin bran (with less than two scoops, dammit) atop my solid particle-board computer desk, and lit by the aluminum trouble-light I keep for such ‘romantic’ occasions. To share this fine dining experience, I did have a guest – my cat, who, occupying my lap, made the whole task of wine-pouring just a tad more challenging.

Note to self: Computer desks, wine, and quadrupeds do not mix well. Bring copious napkins.
I digress. The taste as described by one unqualified, inexperienced and unsophisticated palate: Bitter and alcoholic. Go figure. I had once imagined that the taste of wine was an inescapable and torturous aspect of adult life. Were I to base my judgment solely on today’s first taste, I’d be entirely correct. My mouth puckered; I found it quite repugnant. Thankfully, that's not the end of the story.

In my defense, it was a young, $14 bottle of red wine from Hannaford. What can really be asked of it? As it sat, blood-red and brooding, no doubt for being dressed in a wildly inappropriate brandy glass (I was out of Dixie cups), it occurred to me that perhaps, like coffee, wine might be an acquired taste, and it might take a bit more doing before I ‘get the hang of it.’ Thus I persevered.

The obvious next question, my muddled mind met, of course, was why one ought acquire it in the first place, particularly given its premium?

Ah yes, that’s right - sophistication…

It seems I’m attempting to enjoy something for some tangential virtue, not the thing itself. How maddeningly pretentious is that? (doubtful much more so than the heavy sophistry penned in this haughty writ). Though I must admit – the closer to the bottom of the glass I drank, the easier, and more smoothly went the wine. It was certainly no cup of tea (shoot me now), but the fact is that it became much easier, and dare I say enjoyable as I neared the bottom. And in the end, glass empty, adjacent to the wine-spilling feline atop my particle-board computer desk, I must admit, I was quite disappointed that there was no more.

Note to self: It can be no coincidence that sophistication and sophistry bear the same root – both largely lack endearing qualities in their nature. Then again, both can clearly lead to a more entertaining life.


Pringle Technology

Much to my amazement, it's been brought to my attention that there exist are a great number of folks wholly unfamiliar with the proper method of eating Pringles chips, even though they've been around since, what? The 70's? (take a look at their 70's hairstyle logo, recently updated to be more 'hip.')

Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way of doing this - assuming, of course, that your purpose for eating the nutritionally useless 'food' is nothing other than satisfying your taste buds. Hunger and boredom do not count.

It's a poorly kept secret that snack companies are cheap bastards, and, as a result, they tend to skimp on anything they can (don't be a hater - you would, too). If you carefully examine any chip-like snack, you'll likely notice that the flavoring on most are not distributed equally.

In fact, quite frequently only one side is covered with the flavoring at all, requiring chip-like snack aficionados to examine both sides of each chip-like snack prior to eating. This allows one to place the well-coated side face down on the tongue and maximize the chip-like snack's tasty sensations.

Luckily, Pringles take care of this problem for us: They have readily distinguishable sides, and always have the flavor-coating on one. Their choice of sides, however, is ergonomically unfortunate. For some S&M-like reason, they felt it necessary to put the flavoring on the side of the chip that is the most difficult for one's tongue to access.

So if you want to get the benefit of the flavoring (and taste something other than "Original Flavor" which is a waste of space), then you have to flip the thing to it's least convenient entry arrangement, and try not to stab the roof of your mouth with the sharp edges as it cracks into a million little shards of yummy. This, combined with the already hazardous packaging, leads some to believe they employed Al Qaeda in their QC department.

Such are the sacrifices we must make for our taste buds.



Hi everyone - the Greenland games are this Saturday! I hope you're all as excited as I am, because it's going to be awesome! Here's why:
  1. We're slated to have at least five clans of four Scott-people each for some serious Scottish competition (but likely 8 or 10 clans!).
  2. We have an awesome venue at the Little Harbor School in Portsmouth - rain or shine because of the school's gym!
  3. We've got some new games this year including ultimate frisbee, a t-shirt making contest (make 'em before you get there! See below), and the constant ability to earn more points for your clan by showing Clan Spirit, thinking out of the box, showing your Scottish enthusiasm, or just plain making people laugh!
  4. An official-looking website: www.greenlandgames.org! How cool is that?
  5. Awards! I'm not sure what they are, just yet, but they'll be cool and you'll want them. Trust me.
  6. You get to throw a caber! It's a smallish one, so it's feasible, but still really cool!
So I hope you all can make it. Let me know if you have any questions, and be sure to read The Rules below, and what you should bring!
  • Time: 10am, June 27th
  • Place: Little Harbor School, Portsmouth, NH
  • Lunch: 1pm-ish - Bring $5 to pitch in! We'll probably do pizza or something! Or you can walk 5 minutes to the center of Portsmouth and get some culture.
  • Awards Ceremony: 6pm-ish
  • After-Party: Portsmouth is a stone's throw away, and Pints await!
  • Morning After-Party - I want Waffles. Any one else want to go?

The Rules:

  • No Alcohol (until afterwards - see below)
  • Scottish Garb: Definitely Wear anything stereotypically (or authentically) Scottish to pay homage to our inspiration (points!).
  • Be respectful of the venue - we're really lucky to be able to hold the games at Little Harbor School!
  • Be awesome - I mean, you'll be attending, so it's difficult not to be. But I'm just sayin'
  • All disputes: Will be settled by me. Period.
Points, Clans and the like:
  • Winner - 3 points
  • Runner Up - 1 point
  • Points can be awarded for a good number of reasons. The only ones you can count on being doled out are those winnable through the games. More will be given for things like clan spirit, thinking out of the box, showing your Scottish enthusiasm, or just plain making people laugh! These points will be
  • Clans will be assembled randomly (or by William The Great - You don't get to choose your actual siblings, do you?)
  • Clans will come up with their own names, however
  • Clans will select a tartan (or you can bring your own)
  • List of Games can be found at www.greenlandgames.org

To Bring

  • Sun Screen
  • Water
  • $5 for lunch
  • Scottish Garb if ya Got It
  • Your 'A-Game'
  • A T-Shirt of your own creation - You'll earn big points for this! We'll all be voting on them for the following categories: Coolest; Scottish-ness; Most Usable as a design for next year.
See you there! And throw me an email or call if you have any questions!



Photo Exhibit - Call for submissions from non-professionals!

Hey all, 

If you've taken any pictures that you think represent the Seacoast area well, you should submit them to the Seacoast Local Festival's Photo Exhibit. You can do that right here: 

It's intended for anyone and everyone to contribute, so even if you don't think you're all professional, it doesn't matter - submit what you got that you think is cool! You get a free entry into the Seacoast Local Festival Raffle, too, with your submission! Don't know what the prizes are yet, but I'm sure they'll be pretty cool. 

The festival itself is on June 6th! If you're looking for something to do for a little while in downtown Portsmouth that day, it's free and supports your local community! And please feel free to forward this to anyone you think might be interested!

Hope to see you there, or at least your photos!


William Sprecher Hurd III

Greenland Games 2009 - June 27th at Little Harbor School in Portsmouth, NH

Hey all, 

So The Greenland Games are upon us once again, and I hope you can make it. If you didn't catch the date from the subject line, it's 

June 27th, 2009, 10am  at the Little Harbor School in Portsmouth, NH. 

This new location will afford us a great many advantages over Raymond including access to downtown Portsmouth for eats and after-parties. 

There will, once again, be ribbons for placing in events, and actual prizes! I'll be updating the website (still http://www.9green.us) with the events we'll have and other important info, so stay tuned, and feel free to email me with questions. I'll probably send out one more email as the date approaches. Oh, and please feel free to bring (non-psycho) friends and forward this on to those folks I've somehow omitted. 

Can't wait to see you all there!


William Sprecher Hurd III