Random Links from this Week: Bank Robbing Moles and Flying Cars

Essentially, tabs I haven’t closed for about a week because I want to remember to put them here. Even if no one looks at them, at least they will be somewhat better organized than my bookmarks bar, which is hopelessly disorganized. Also, a few gems from my web surfing history  and bookmarks bar (‘the archives’, I should say that, it sounds better).

If you are looking to write a story, remember: truth is stranger than fiction. Unless it’s a novel from Vienna. I wish I had better access to the internet when I was in high school about 20 years ago (Nde! Tanto tiempo!) The internet had just become a ‘thing’ (at least in my world) in that time period. I now work as an English teacher, and although kids now still invent excuses, they are even more ridiculous than before. If you want a writing prompt, it’s hard to do worse than this from Guatemala or this from Germany or this from right here in Asunción. The level of accuracy and truthfulness of the first two can be called into question, but the third is very true. If you don’t speak Spanish, run that last one through Google translate. It has to do with would be bank robbers and a tunnel.
I have heard people say that the would-be thieves were Brazilian – but nothing has been confirmed. However, this leads me to believe that it is VERY possible they were Brazilian. One article said that there were 15 ‘moles’ and the tunnel cost 1 million dollars.

Moving on, what is the difference between ‘mastermind would-be thieves’ and ‘criminals directing the attempted assault’? This. As someone living in a Spanish speaking country, it is difficult to not to fall into what George Orwell considered a serious problem:

“Bad writers—especially scientific, political, and sociological writers—are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones. (From Wikipedia, or any other number of sources of quotes)”

I must admit my English has been affected. Linguistic purism and the invention of words fascinates me. More research is required.

Apal Cars – I don’t remember exactly what led to me finding these vehicles. I think it was the famous method of entering Google images to find one thing, and then finding another, and another, and another, and OK I’ll stop now.

Here are some videos for better posture, from Lifehacker. I plan to watch and put in practice what this video shows. I already stretch my hip flexors every day, and it makes a difference.

I love you Wikipedia, but you seriously have to get your act together. Why are is there so little information about relatively important engineers and a plethora of data with respect to the Kardashians, for example. Last week the focus was on Tom Karen. This weeks example, Tadek Marek. He didn’t do anything interesting only raced cars before WWII, was in the Polish army in exile during WWII, and designed motors for Aston Martin after the war. Oh, and lived a pretty long time. Also, while investigating him, I found another Tadeusz – a war hero. Please compare the information about the three men above with the information about, for example, Kim Kardashian. Excuse me while I go vomit.

We don’t necessarily pay alot of attention to how money is designed. This article from design week talks about what makes money beautiful, but doesn’t actually answer the nuts and bolts question its title proposes. I would like to know more about the composition of the bills, but I guess I will have to go back the university and study more graphic design.

Finally, as the answer to a question that few have asked, the 2016 Ford Pinto. I address this topic starting with how flying cars have almost been here for a very long time, according to an article from Jalopnik. Looking at the comments, one person brings up the example of the AVE Mizar, a Ford Pinto based flying car, which killed its inventor. Yes, Wikipedia has a category of inventions that killed their inventors. This tragedy was not the only time this week the Pinto came to mind.

What component of that car lives on today? The front suspension, which was shared with the Mustang II, lives on today, zombie-like, in hot rods all over the world. At least, the geometry of the suspension does. From the link above, this quote:

“Today there’s no need to search for original parts as these front ends come as complete assemblies and are made entirely from aftermarket components.”

So basically you can buy an aftermarket Pinto/Mustang II front clip new today. Maybe you already knew that. I did, thanks to my reading of Hot Rod magazine and its ilk during my formative years.

And the base engine has a decent limited amount of aftermarket support. It might be difficult to get a new block, although there are probably literally millions of 2.3 L OHC Ford four cylinder motors. From the first link, 250 rear wheel HP and 24 mpg in a light car  – I could live with that. All through the magic of turbocharging. With respect to the V6, not as much aftermarket support, but it’s out there.

With respect to the fuel system problems, Wikipedia presents two conflicting viewpoints – one from the contemporary sources:

“1971-1976 Ford Pintos have experienced moderate speed, rear-end collisions that have resulted in fuel tank damage, fuel leakage, and fire occurrences that have resulted in fatalities and non-fatal burn injuries…The fuel tank design and structural characteristics of the 1975-1976 Mercury Bobcat which render it identical to contemporary Pinto vehicles, also render it subject to like consequences in rear impact collisions.” – from Wikipedia

But later sums up a retrospective view:

“Pintos represented 1.9% of all cars on the road in the 1975-76 period. During that time the car represented 1.9% of all “fatal accidents accompanied by some fire.” Implying the car was average for all cars and slightly above average for its class.[124] When all types of fatalities are considered the Pinto was approximately even with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Datsun 510. It was significantly better than the Datsun 1200/210, Toyota Corolla and VW Beetle.[125] The safety record of the car in terms of fire was average or slightly below average for compacts and all cars respectively. This was considered respectable for a subcompact car. Only when considering the narrow subset of rear-impact, fire fatalities is the car somewhat worse than the average for subcompact cars.” – from Wikipedia

Which leads me to my conclusion: What if Ford had not given up on the Pinto? Or what if they had reached a more accurate conclusion in the ‘Pinto memo’, or even earlier during the design stages, and had equipped the car with a safer fuel system. Could there still be Ford Pintos on the road today? Could they have averted a disaster? Could there have been a 2016 Ford Pinto?

Take away: do it right the first time. And don’t give up. Fix problems. Basically all the stuff my father taught me.

Two days have passed since I published the article above. It’s raining and I’m eating two or three or four day old baklava that I purchased along with other savory treats and then forgot about. While cleaning I pulled it out of my desk, where it was stashed, and began to enjoy it, as I don’t think honey or pastry dough goes bad particularly quickly. It’s hard to stop bachelor habits.

I was/am cleaning because the rain put a halt on my plans for the day. I am physically cleaning our house, and also cleaning my computer. I have a bunch of J. Mays related links open in my browser tabs, and I want to bookmark them and close them. But first, I want to put them here.

Why are they open? This book review, from Hooniverse, included something that I did not know, which is pretty easy, because I don’t know alot. But it was something I didn’t know that also really intrigued me. Quote, from the link above:

For many people Beetle was VW, so drawing inspiration from that icon was a natural choice and pretty much guaranteed popularity for the finished article… In design terms, though, the old and the new cars had virtually nothing in common, not even the basic outline or silhouette… Mays developed the shape of the new car from three intersecting circles, with the wheel centres being bisected by the leading edge of the A-post and the leading edge of the C-post respectively… any external resemblance to the original was more-or-less a coincidence. The circular form was chosen for its non-threatening nature. The design cues which made people think Beetle were added afterwards.

I had never heard of this idea before! That, in itself, is not particularly surprising, but, wow! The author at Hooniverse continues:

I had never realised this. Up until (and a little while after) initially picking this book up I had assumed that The Beetle was arrived at by taking the original, doing a bunch of sketches, looking at some cultural influences and then cranking out a “Beetle For The 21st Century” concept.

My experience exactly. The review of the book is interesting, and possibly more interesting than the book itself. I agree with the reviewer in almost everything, especially the criticism of the design-buff author’s techno-babble. I had to put up with the same thing at the U of M architecture department, and I still am angry about it. I personally would rather have someone say, ‘I did it that way because it looks cool!’ than hear the most complicated explanation of how someone’s design integrates the Mayan calendar glyphs for the month of its conception with a outline of the seasons of some particular location etc etc etc.

The idea that the VW New Beetle’s appearance was not fundamentally linked to the original really surprised me. But did it appear anywhere else on the web? I can’t get the book (easily), given my location, so I turned to google. I examed this and this (not much substance, but the premise about retro-design is dead on) and this (will make reference to this later, the Marc Newson-designed 021-C), and gave a cursory look at some of these and found nothing supporting the premise. Or anything substantially authoritative that denied it. Can anyone find any other information supporting the idea that the New Beetle’s likeness to the original Beetle was an afterthought?

I was an architecture major. I hated it. One of the few things that stuck in my mind in that cesspool of sophistry, was how French architects used space in their design of hotels particuliers.  Wikipedia, of course, has examples, and this site shows some plans that illustrate why they are so interesting. Although the architects were dealing with irregular site plans and were limited by surrounding architecture and the function of the building, they still managed to produce built works that are balanced and almost seem symmetrical, even if they are not. In the class where we learned about this, one author described them as being ‘poured in space’.

This gains new meaning for me as we are about to remodel/redesign our house, and I need to do something similar. If anyone reads this and has more resources about these marvelous buildings, please let me know. In the meantime, I will continue my research.


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