Land Rover Zen

Mr. Wolf has had the truck for less than a week but has already logged 200 km and spotted (and fixed?) a problem with the brakes. It was a little chilly in the Bay Area today so he had the heater on.

“How cold does it get in your area in the winter? The heater in the truck is working properly, and it is keeping me toasty in the oh-so-cold 40 degree California winter, but a blowtorch it is not. The defrost function is especially wimpy, but I think of my Westfalia: the defroster in the Westy doesn’t even have a blower motor, it just sort of wafts vaguely warm air in the general direction of the windshield, and you know what? It kind of works! Would it be acceptable if you were a punctual business man on an icy morning, and you needed your windshield defrosted RIGHT NOW? Absolutely not. But if you’re living life at Westfalia/Series Rover pace… Yeah, sure, it’ll do.”

“So… How hearty do you feel? Do you want to stick with the stock heater, don gloves and a hat, squeegee in hand for the drive to the coffee shop, or have you gone soft on me?”

Mr. Wolf said he could replace my heater with a better after-market heater for about $1,000 and I was considering it until he questioned my manhood. I’m sticking with heater we got.

I’ve struggled to explain the appeal this old (1979) Land Rover has for me, given that I’ve only driven one once, for about 5 minutes. Mr. Wolf clearly understands the zen-like pull I feel but cannot articulate.

“I love fast cars, but slow ones are good for the soul sometimes. Driving the Rover is like driving my Volkswagen Westfalia: you will get there when you get there, you have time to look at the scenery and the sky, lots of waves, smiles, and thumbs up, and you never get stuck behind that slow asshole when you are in a hurry because you are that slow asshole! It is relaxing in a way.”

YES! I am that slow asshole. Exactly!

UPDATE: “Transmission very good, clutch needs adjustment. Engine running good but still hard to start when cold and very smoky. Both could just be it needing lots of break in miles, diesels tend to take a while to break in.”

GoPro test

I’ve been watching videos shot with GoPro cameras for years but always thought of these rugged little cameras as being for skydivers and snowboarders. Then I noticed a lot of the “let’s go for a ride in my Land Rover” videos were shot with GoPro cameras so I bought one. It’s the entry-level camera (Hero Session). A small black cube about 1.5 inches on each side. I’ll post some more on this once I know what I’m doing but right out of the box (as they say) I’m impressed with the video and quality.

Meacum Auto Auction – Kansas City, MO

This was my first auto auction so I didn’t know what to expect. I really enjoyed looking at all of the cars but was surprised by how entertaining I found the bidding. It was a hell of a production, carried live on one of the NBC cable channels (and online, of course). This video runs less than 2 minutes. Here are some stills.

Land Rover back in Bay Area

We’ve entered the penultimate phase of The Great Land Rover Project. The final phase being me driving it back and forth to the coffee shop every day. The restoration phase (parts 1 and 2) are done and now Mr. Wolf drives the truck until he’s found and fixed all those little things that show up after a frame-off restoration. While this is underway I plan to go out to SF for a weekend to finally meet Mr. Wolf and discuss care and feeding. Then its one final trip from the Left Coast to Hooterville. To be continued.

Realistic-sounding speech

Just over a year ago Google presented WaveNet, a new deep neural network for generating raw audio waveforms that is capable of producing better and more realistic-sounding speech than existing techniques. It’s gotten a LOT better and is now capable of producing natural sounding human voices.

Google is using it for Google Assistant but hard for an old radio guy like me not to imagine this tech replacing radio announcers (are there still radio announcers?)

The smart phone and teen mental health

From an article by Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, and author of a book on psychological changes across generations (Generation Me) and apparently has just published another (iGen).

“Around 2012, something started going wrong in the lives of teens. In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of US teens who felt useless and joyless — classic symptoms of depression — surged 33 percent in large national surveys. Teen suicide attempts increased 23 percent. Even more troubling, the number of 13- to 18-year-olds who committed suicide jumped 31 percent.”

“In a new paper published in Clinical Psychological Science, my colleagues and I found that the increases in depression, suicide attempts and suicide appeared among teens from every background — more privileged and less privileged, across all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country. All told, our analysis found that the generation of teens I call ‘iGen’ — those born after 1995 — is much more likely to experience mental health issues than their millennial predecessors.”

“What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone. All signs point to the screen.”

The truck as performance art

It’s been a few weeks since I got my first look at what I’ve started thinking of as “the Eldon truck.” It’s sitting outside the garage of a local mechanic who one day hopes to find the time to bring it back to life. In a bizarre example of cosmic coincidence, it’s the same year (’79) and model (Series III) as my Land Rover. While I’ve yet to get my hands on my truck, I have been allowed to poke around inside the Eldon truck.

The the owner of the truck (now deceased) reportedly bought it new in 1979 and wasn’t bashful about “enhancing” it over the years, the flyswatter and fan being to of my favorite mods.

As a general rule I tend to be clutter-averse. I like things tidy. But sitting in the driver’s seat of this old truck, it’s hard not to get a sense of performance art. There’s a Rube Goldberg Machine quality to all his little tweaks.

In the photo above, note the Mystery Knob. I don’t think this was merely decorative. It had some purpose but the old man took that with him when he went.

My truck will arrive in pristine condition. Seems unlikely I’ll live long enough to give it the character of this beauty. I’ll do my best.