Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Hooptyrides, Inc.

Machine Shop - Hooptyrides, Inc.

Everybody is asking, what is the big secret project? Why no updating to Hooptyrides? What could be so complex and exhausting as to command all available attention? A shop!

Old hot rods and speed equipment are too expensive. Admittedly, I am a cheap and easy hustler, but by any measure, Ardun heads and 32 Fords are expensive. But, it makes sense. Hot rodding was not a SEMA megabusiness and enough speed equipment was never cast. And, increasing speed is advancing technology. Old technology was thrown away just as it is now. And the demand is huge because we all want it. And it is worth it, at some level. Hot rodding's place in history is cemented and the best old stuff is damned near blue chip. Hot rodding is too great, too striking, too fantastic to not be a classic and the stuff of provenence is destined for museums. But I still don't buy much. It is just too expensive. A Mercedes SSK is pretty expensive. Bugattis. Pre-war custom bodied American coupes are pricey.

But it ain't like buying a hot rod shop! That is value! That is stupid! An absolutely sensible decision! Sober and calculated! Not like a $500 gauge or a $1000 manifold, this is folly on a grand scale!

Located in Los Angeles, I bought a shop that I have been watching for 10 years. Over many a breakfast, I told Coop that all I needed was that dusty shop. One day he called and said there was a sign out front. The purchase, naturally, was byzantine. The owner had been operating a performance auto shop for over 40 years and closing that sort of chapter adds a dimension of complexity to the most simple deals. But, that is over, all parties are happy and it is mine. The Sun distributor machine, the Clayton Dyno, plumbed for air, the Hein Werner jacks, the two hydraulic lifts, the drill press, the band saw, the vises, the grinders, the TIG welder, the welding tanks, the trash can of fan belts, the Sun tune-up machine and a barrel of distributors. It already feels like home. Wait til I spend 1000 hours there.

1964 Chevelle Wagon - Hooptyrides, Inc

So, what happens next? Everything. Just everything.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Investment Rolls Royce? Please reconsider!

In today's Wall Street Journal, there was a great letter to the auto editor asking for the worst case scenario if buying a mid-80s Rolls-Royce.

Q: I have observed during the past year that one can purchase a used Rolls-Royce with relatively low mileage for a low price on eBay. Today's offerings are a good example. Three different sellers are offering mid-1980s Silver Spurs with around 35,000 miles at about $28,000. I'm thinking that this may be a good investment. If I bought this to tool around town (it would be a third car for my wife and I) and use about 400 miles a month, how much of a financial problem would maintenance cost be? I don't want to lay out $5000 every three years. Any reason why I couldn't own this for ten or fifteen years and not incur any really big problems?
A: Please reconsider!
Jonathan Walsh goes on to explain, in a restrained tone befitting the WSJ, as to why this would not be a good investment. If it were in any other publication, the writer would have responded with "Bwahahhahaha! Are you fucking high?! Investment?! $5000 every three years? Try $5000 every time you go to the mechanic!"

I have never owned a Rolls-Royce, but I have owned enough Mercedes' to know that the initial purchase price is but a rounding error in the total cost of ownership. Not that I haven't been tempted, as the photo above is of June Carter Cash's Rolls-Royce that was sold at the big (and relentlessly depressing for some of us) Sotheby's Cash auction. Though you will need to register to view the auction results, the Cash Rolls does not seem to have sold. Perhaps it is still parked under a shade tree at the House of Cash.

$8,500 Stump! 1936 Ford at No Extra Charge!

This 1936 Ford truck is a little pricey at $8,500 but it sure is cool. I dream of finding barn cars like this, though in my pea brain I generally don't envision a mature tree stuck to the engine.

Now that I have closed that awfully ugly Complete New Yorker chapter (1,2,3,4), I am back to considering bad ideas with full faculties of thought! What would it take to drive this truck? Not cross country, but what would it take to drive it to the corner tavern?

My approach:

- Carve wood 'bowls' around the pulleys, crank, etc
- Carve access to the engine block water inlet/outlets
- Run radiator hoses to the truck bed
- Leave original radiator in place, but not working
- Install new radiator and distributor in truck bed
- Ignore generator as we aren't going far
- Carve a tunnel for the carb and distributor - like peeking inside a sugar easter egg at the bunny inside!
- Bore holes for spark plug access - like a Hemi!

Ignoring the fact that the engine is probably seized steadfast, think it would run and drive? This is the sort of thing I would buy immediately for $1000.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Protected Digital Assets Inspire Pirates

To the exclusion of other real work, I have spent an awful lot of time on the New Yorker DVD's - explicitly getting them on to a hard drive to minimize the disk swapping. Lots of Hooptyreaders have offered options and opinions on how to do it and some of them almost work.

As near as I can tell, there is no way to copy the DVD-ROMS on a Macintosh. The best tool for Macrovision protected DVDs seems to be Mac The Ripper, but it does not work with DVD ROMs. This is a common problem with lots of the tools out there, as a DVD ROM does not contain the video files that such applications are looking for, such as VIDEO_TS and the like.

So, I started in on the PC. Much better tools there. Hooptyreader Keith pointed me to Alcohol 120% and may I just say, that is a kick ass piece of software. Mac users would be lucky to have something similar. It handles all the peculiarities of DVD-ROMs without issue, as it is able to just perform an ISO copy of the files, as files. And Macrovision is defeated handily.

But, it still doesn't work. I was able to create images of the DVDs and mount them as accessible drives, but The Complete New Yorker viewer will not mount multiple disks. I believe, even if you had multiple physical drives, you will not be able to mount multiples. New Yorker technical support says that it will always look to the drive that it was installed from, and it may look to the original installation drive first, but I was able to mount an image from a virtual drive G:. You just can't mount two images or physical discs.

So, the copy protection was beaten quite easily - I could sell copies all day long. Maybe in a fake Kate Spade bag. But the protection lives and prevents legal, sensible use.

Ed Klaris is general counsel for the New Yorker and, also, the project director for The Complete New Yorker. So that makes sense. The role of the media company attorney seems to be, lock it. Without due consideration to the impact. So, I read a bit more about The Complete New Yorker and found this radio interview with Mr. Klaris. It is so stunningly offensive that I made a donation to EFF today.

A listener calls in and asks if he can copy the Complete New Yorker to his hard drive! And to think I was the only one crazy enough to desire such rich abundance!

Mr Klaris: "For now, sir, we have just the discs, we're not able to put it on the hard drive and copy them over, it's pretty, it's a lot of data there..."

The listener interjects, that with hard drive capacities having soared, that this is no longer an issue.

Mr. Klaris agrees, hard drives are big. And the listener asks, "Is that a mechanical issue or a legal issue? As to why you haven't done it as a convenience sake..." - At this point, I wanted to pump the listener's hand in appreciation.

Mr. Klaris: "Mechanical or legal... Well, it's definitely not legal. Although, there is no legal requirement for why we did it, no. And mechanical... it was a decision... based on the product we decided to come out with, which was DVD's. We wanted people to have similar experiences, instead of... and the experience we wanted them to have was this one, although I know it can be frustrating to go disc to disc, the way I viewed it is, when you are in a disc you can set your program to look just within that disc and there's 500 issues in there. Oftentimes, you can spend an eternity just on a single disc."

It turns my stomach.

An attorney for the New Yorker determines how we should read the archives. If you wish to read about a single subject, like Chinatown, Rockefeller Center, the advertising industry, Coco Chanel, the Ford Motor Company, forensic science, concubines, railroad travel, Russia or diamond mining, that will stretch over all 8 discs.

I have spent ten hours on this. I looked forward to having the Complete New Yorker on my laptop. Airplanes trips would never be the same. But I have reached the limits of my technical expertise and I have some other big fish to fry. Along the way, I learned a lot about pirating - including how to copy the Complete New Yorker - but I'm stuck.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Complete New Yorker Hobbled by Macrovision

When I bought the Complete New Yorker, I knew that I wanted to transfer it to a hard drive and bought an external drive a couple days later. And I love having all those old New Yorkers. Previously, I was buying bound copies on eBay and would soon have to buy an off-site warehouse to store my half million pages.

But, you can't copy it to a hard drive. I tried everything (with lots of help from Hooptyreaders! Thanks Bruce! Myke! Dean! Frank! Thomas!) and it really looked like the Toast option was going to work. It correctly mounted the disc image and appeared to have all the necessary attributes, sizes, dates and icons. But, it didn't work because it is copy protected with Macrovision.

I am so profoundly disappointed. The New Yorker is in the business of selling magazines. Certainly, they make a few dollars off the Cartoon Bank and their various editorial compilations, but I would bet, that the overwhelming money comes from ad space. Perhaps I am wrong, but I doubt it. What are they afraid of? The 8 DVD's are going to be on P2P sites? The New Yorker is concerned that people will be downloading 60 GBs to read old Talk of the Town snippets? That high school kids are going to be trading them in the parking lot? They will be sold on street corners along with Harry Potter? Wouldn't this huge black market of Complete New Yorker piracy just create more demand for the magazine and more ad space dollars? It is fitting of a New Yorker cartoon!

I would be downloading all 60GBs, I am that devoted. But I don't have to because The Complete New Yorker is cheap, beautifully packaged and comes with a great highlights book. The scans are good, the software adequate, the extracts are decent so the searching really works, but I do revoke my recommendation that it is worth buying. You buy it, but you don't own it. Conde Nast still owns it. You can't use it in a fair, legal and sensible manner and you don't know that until you own it, as it doesn't have a sticker reading 'This DVD is Fucked.' It is not unreasonable to expect that consumers would choose to archive and eliminate the onerous disc swapping that is caused by being spread over 8 DVDs.

What next? Well, it was a mission, now it is an epic battle. There are lots of DVD copy programs that disable Macrovision, but I have not found one that will create a mountable disk image. Anybody know of one? If I have to, I will buy a DVD writer tommorrow and copy them, then mount the Macrovision-stripped disc images with Toast. Why go to all this trouble? I like to fix broken stuff and I don't like being told that I can't.

And, for any Hooptyreader that wishes to draw an original New Yorker style cartoon making fun of the feared New Yorker black market, I will send you, in recognition, a Super Mega Heavy Metal Robot that walks, spins, flashes LEDs and SPEAKS SPANISH!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Help! Is the New Yorker copy protected? Or just lame?

There are a million reasons to put the Complete New Yorker onto a harddrive - speed, limit disk swapping, protect original disks and, more than anything, the ability to have the entire New Yorker run on your airplane tray table, in bed, in the backyard or to read when you are stuck at a drive through window. It is just not practical to be swapping the disks if you are jumping out of an airplane or drag racing.

A friendly Hooptyreader (Thanks Thomas!) suggested making disk images and mounting them on the desktop. A brilliant idea. It seemed like I was almost there. But it didn't work.
Ya see, the New Yorker application did not recognize the mounted disk. It seems it is only interested in removable media.
Same problem. Despite the glory of the New Yorker contents, this is a screen you get pretty tired of looking at. And this screen popped up even with the disk image mounted, named correctly, etc.

My main man Dean (Hi Dean!) suggested that I create a Linux virtual server. If I was feeling Linuxy. Well, not that I have anything against Linux, I think it is swell. For other people. I get why it is great - totally. I just can barely operate my Mac with the Mac OS. And I have been using Macs for, gasp, 20 years.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Complete New Yorker

My feelings for the New Yorker are completely unambiguous. It is the finest magazine ever published. It has an Eustace Tilly, erudite, fussy reputation that may be undeserved. Or maybe it is deserved. At times, they take underhanded, cruel pot shots at the less clever wipes, but that is not what makes it a great magazine. The New Yorker tells compelling stories effortlessly.

I also read the Wall Street Journal everyday. Or, I should say, the WSJ arrives everyday and gets read many days. I am always on the lookout for a new angle, a marketing scheme, a tulip ponzi, a cachepot of rubes or a new dodgy scheme. Be assured, the schemes are very dodgy in the WSJ. Perhaps the dodgiest. Like the New Yorker, the WSJ is well written and reading the two in combination sets a high bar. Really ruins Hot Rod magazine.

A few weeks ago, the WSJ skewered The Complete New Yorker. Fairly and unfairly. The Complete NY'r comes on a whopping 8 DVDs, which means the disk swapping is truly gruesome. Memories of Mac Plus - and you thought you would never go back. Each DVD covers about 8-9 years, so if you are reading issues from a narrow time period, the swaps are minimal. But, if you are searching for a broad topic, it is pretty awful. Search for Chinatown tongs and the articles/cartoons are scattered all over 8 DVDs. But, you get there. That is the key. And that is exhilarating.

From August 3, 1929 - Niven Busch, Jr. --
Chinatown is controlled by the Hip Sings and the On Leongs, the two tongs. They are usually friendly, but when there is trouble, Chinatown is barred to visitors by the police. The real Chinatown is the triangle formed by the intersection of Mott and Doyers Streets with the Bowery. Tells about tongs. Chinatown is becoming Americanized. The first Chinese store opened in New York is still there, Wo Kee's Gift Shop, at 8 Mott Street. The Chinese are good at making money, but are secretive about what they have. Social superiority depends on culture. There is little gambling now and no public opium dens.
Which brings us to the next complaint. Clearly, that extract is not an article from the magazine and in fact, appears to have been written by a drunk 12 year old on a crosstown bus. You can not search the full text of the articles. Understandly, the OCRing would be a terrific undertaking. And proofreading a half million pages would exceed the available intern labor of the five boroughs.
Ideally, it would be great to have a yellowed scan of every page with some sort of click-to-open full text window. Given the choice between full text and scanned pages, I would pick the scanned pages everytime. It is more immediate and it feels like you are reading the magazine when it is in context - full of ads, the yellowed paper and the correct fonts. Overall the scanning is of a very high quality. Some halftoning problems and pages are sometimes crooked but in comparison to the $130 CD-ROM Mercedes Manuals, this is a near perfect reproduction. The Mercedes manuals are an abomination.

But then there is the copyright issue. Can the text be re-printed in a new format? Can it even be scanned for that matter? How could you possibly clear a half million pages?

My big gripe - then I will get back to the praise heaping - is that the whole thing can't be transferred to a harddrive. I have tried everything (put the djvu issue files in the Application Support Library, tried with alias', copied everything into a single directory, etc.) but I can not overcome the indexing that tells the application where to look for what. Has anybody figured this out?

All that aside, I am just extremely grateful that it exists. Whatever the limitations, it can not diminish how magnificent it is. Type anything. Here is an entry on hot rodding...

...almost all of them draped over their cars, the fence and each other in various attitudes of adolescent languor. There seemed to be as many girls as boys, and I notices a striking number of incendiary little blondes, slim as saplings, in toreador pants. The apparel of the rest of the group was decidely eclectic, and even verged on the burlesque of the garb favored by the sports-car crowd. Silk shirts with vertical stripes and narrow-visored caps, also striped, were much in evidence among the boys, but these, as likely as not, were worn with black leather jackets and dungarees, or even Army fatigue pants. Male headgear, above long sideburns, also ran to Confederate caps and outsize checked clown hats. Many of the youngsters - girls as well as boys - wore jackets with names like Bay Buggies, Piston Poppers, Throttle Jockeys, Hi-Way Men, Queens Rods, Drag-Ons, Clutch Busters and Asphalt Angels enbroidered on the back.
Adolescent langour! Striking number of indendiary little blondes, slim as saplings! Outsize checked clown hats! I have looked at 1000 old hot rod photos and have never seen as technicolor a vision as that paragraph. And it is even more compelling when it is adjacent to that ridiculous Fuller Fabrics ad. Makes me want to immediately buy a silk shirt with vertical stripes and a narrow visored cap. Clutch Busters!Anything you are passionate about, it has been in the New Yorker. Beautifully told, well illustrated, wonderfully photographed and, often, available nowhere else.

Search for 'Annals of Crime' and you get 133 results, including, of course, the first appearance of In Cold Blood. See why I haven't been blogging much lately? There is only one entry from the Annals of Habardashery and a single entry for the Annals of Intrigue but there are 131 entries for burlesque. Sure, J.D. Salinger, Dorothy Parker, EB White, Woody Allen, Raymond Carver, Prohibition, Mafia, Marshall Fields, Manson, Burroughs, Radiohead, Billie Holiday, Charles Addams, Race Cars, Pauline Kael on the Godfather, and all the stuff that any sensible person would search for, but the real jewels are the things you find by accident.
ANNALS OF IMPOSTURE: about Stephen Jacob Weinberg, alia Stanley Clifford Weyman, a dedicated impostor. He was in addition to being a lieutenant in the French Navy, several doctors of medicine, two phychiatrists, a number of officers in the U.S. Navy-ranking from lieutenant to admiral, five or six U.S. Army officers, a couple of lawyers, the State Dept. Naval Liaison Officer, an aviator, a sanitation expert, many consuls general, and a U.S. expert on Balkan and Asian affairs. He was sent to state & federal penitentiaries on 13 recorded times after his 21st birthday, & spent more than a third of his life inside them. He became Pola Negri's personal physician during the funeral of Rudolph Valentino, in '26, and acting out the role of public-relations adviser to Valentine's manager, he pretty much ran the whole fantastic funeral. Among his escapades was that of posing as "the State Department Naval Liaison Officer" he introduced Princess Fatima of Afghanistan, to President and Mrs. Harding at the White House. At that time Britain had no formal diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, a peace treaty by the two countries were pending, and Afghanistan had a mission visiting Washington. Tells about his capture by a State Dept. special agent, and his trial. For this exploit he was given a sentence of two years in a Federal penitentiary.

EB White on the death of JFK

With a half a million pages of the New Yorker in your laptop, why write another word?

UPDATE: I no longer recommend the Complete New Yorker. The content is not worth the packaging. And that is saying something.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Even Bad Days Garage Saling Are Pretty Good

Despite inclimate weather and proximity to the holidays, we still managed to get out to the garage sales. Not the epic battles waged during the summer when garage sales are in such great quantity that it is nearly impossible to hit them all, but it is still garage saling. The pure pursuit as the great bargain theorists call it.

Charles Dickens - The Haunted House - Looks promising but a little weird as it appears to have been written by some sort of committee.

Kirk - Exploring Death Valley - I have about 15 books about Death Valley and do not tire of reading about the limited services at Stovepipe Wells and the Keane Wonder Mine.

Thor Heyerdahl - Aku-Aku - Coop found this one for me as he already has a copy. The dust jacket is in uncommonly sound condition which is good news as the Easter Island illustration is hard to beat.

Alistair Cooke's America - I read the forward this afternoon and am already sucked in. Nothing better than history well told.

Diving for Sunken Treasure by Jacques Yves Cousteau - Just as I will never understand the soda fountain poodle skirt pink Cadillac's of the generation before me, I would not expect another generation to understand the awesome net impact of Jacques Yves Cousteau on kids of the 70s. I feared this book would be a dated relic but it is just superb. It reads easily, the story unfolds with great drama and the whole thing is told in that delightful 'science by way of the brandy sniffer.' Wes Andersen did such a spectacular job of coloring in what kids still hope it is like.Forget scuba gear - just give me my pipe and a sledgehammer. If the pictures are indicative of the wardrobe expectations aboard the Calypso, it appears that the only requirements were a trim pair of short pants and a pipe. I often bemoan the lack of great diagrams and illustrations in books. Sure, it is time consuming and less sexy than photographs, but a great diagram tells a story in a page that can not be told any better. Granted I can't even scan this page straight, much less draw such a compelling work.
So, in this superduper electronic age where everybody is more clever than everybody else, what kid still reads Diving for Sunken Treasure? Glen! Glen that drew this wonderful map of Glen's Shadowy Motocrossers Course and left it between the pages. Click this picture and click it again. Get it as big as you can. It is worth it. In addition to a legend and the robust accuracy, Glen offers quite a bit of narrative ("Neil Ate it Here Twice (2)! Ha Ha!"), guidance ("Uphill Sandy (Watch It!)") and commentary ("Dropaway with Ruts Underneath (ugh!)").

It is a great map.

Allen - Entering Space
- Of the many things that I love about the Apollo space program, probably the most compelling aspect is the fact that they brought their own car. They have a rocket and a lunar lander, which speaks to a very limited amount of space, but they forgo all sorts of little comforts to bring an entire car! I would love to learn how to library bulletproof books like this volume. With the stamped title on the spine. Seems labor intensive.

Audsley and Audsley - Victorian Floral Cut & Use Stencils - What can I say? When you need a Victorian stencil, you need it!

Herge - Tintin The Red Sea Sharks & Tintin in Tibet - So gooood. Clean, clear beautiful and Herge knows a thing or two about http://mapage.noos.fr/dardelf3/tintin/.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Holy Baguettes!

Though I have nothing against Camaros, Mustangs, Barracudas and Corvettes, I must admit I get a little tired of a strict American Muscle diet. I own a Chevelle wagon, so clearly I am not anti-American, but jeepers this is a nice looking automobile. Sure, $20,000 is a lot of money. Plenty of money. It won't buy you toot at Barrett Jackson but you can sure get a lot of croissants for the money!

Two-wheel brakes might give you pause, but when you consider this fine automobile is powered by an extremely modest 1925-era 4 cylinder engine, you are in more danger from daily exposure to peashooters and staple removers. To worry about stopping would mean you traveling at something north of 30 mph. And at 1400 French flathead cc's, I suspect that you would have bigger issues than worrying about stopping - like making sure you aren't run over by a speeding bicycle. And what a color combination. Pure class. Considering a new S-Class? Feh. Buy an E-Class, a International Harvester COE, a Model A roadster hotrod, a VW Diesel Caddy pickup truck, a Honda Helix scooter and two of these Peugeot Bread Wagons and give me one for saving you from having blown all your money on a luxury automobile when you could have owned a whole damn museum.

Hemmings ads are bad idea magnets. One minute, you never even knew Peugeot offered a Bread Delivery Wagon in 1925... two starry-eyed minutes later, you start considering door-to-door delivery of napoleans and petit fours. Seriously, say you are relaxing at home with the newspaper, hear a toot-toot from a brass horn and rush out to meet the Froggy Boulangerie Wagon. Still in your robe, you step outside to consider the baked goods of the day and have your mug filled with that superlative European hot chocolate. Money exchanged (frankly, whatever it would cost) and the Peugeot putts away in a cloud of it's own smoke.