The subprime auto-lending business -- writing car-loans to people who can't afford them -- is fuelled by GPS-enabled immobilizers that let lenders track and shut down cars whose drivers violate terms of service, from missing payments to fleeing the tri-county area in order to move into a shelter for abused women.
The Haynes Build Your Own V8 Engine ($65.62) sounds fantastic -- the lengthy selection of positive reviews confirm the manufacturer's claim that a "talented 10 year old" could assemble it, and it can be disassembled and reassembled, which makes it great for classrooms, camps and studios. (via Red Ferret)
Dream Cars, an exhibition at Atlanta's High Museum, features the most amazing, doomed, gorgeous automotive designs of the automotive age. Streamlined or blobby, three-wheeled or magnificently finned, these are the cars that leapt off the cover of popular science pulps and into the showrooms, where they died an obscure death. The museum's site has some beautiful photos and curatorial notes on each of the cars in the exhibition, which runs to Sept 7.
Rural counties across Indiana have been purchasing Afghanistan-surplus tanks with gunner turrets and heavy armour; most recently, it was Johnson County, whose Sheriff, Doug Cox, justified the purchase by saying, "The United States of America has become a war zone."
The 55,000lb "mine resistant ambush protected" tank (MRAP) was a steal at $5,000 (original price: $733,000), part of a bizarro-world peace dividend from the Afghanistan and Iraq drawdown, which sees the toolsuite of a military occupying force being flogged at knock-down rates to macho shithead sheriffs across the American heartland for deployment against American civilians.
For example, Johnson County SWAT used their MRAP to break up a fight between two drunks, and in Morgan County, the requisition for their MRAP said it was to be used for a variety of purposes, including "drug search warrants and felony arrest warrants." By and large, counties acquiring these tanks have no formal policy about when and how they can be used.
National treasure John "Pink Flamingos" Waters just published Carsick, a book about his adventures hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco (readers will remember that he got picked up by an indie band on the road). The Baltimore Sun interview with him about the book is a mix of heartwarming tales about how good Americans are to weirdo hitchhikers, depressing ruminations on why he won't be making any more movies anytime soon (Hollywood only wants $300M "tentpole movies" with a lot of explosions), and hilarity from the road. This looks like a hell of a book.
Here's a highlight reel of the adventures of a Moscow youth-group whose members physically place their bodies in the path of cars whose drivers insist on driving on sidewalks to beat Moscow's epic traffic. It's an inspiring couple of minutes of semi-suicidal bravery in the service of pedestrianism. (via Reddit)
A new mobile app called Monkeyparking allows people in San Francisco with good parking spots to auction them off when they're ready to leave, permitting circling rich people to engage in excitingly dangerous class warfare by bidding on spaces with their phones while they drive. The app's creators defend it as providing an "incentive" to leave your space for others to use.
Junopower is advertising presales of a portable device-charging USB battery called the "Jumpr" that can discharge its stored power at 300 amps, which is sufficient to jumpstart many automobile engines. They're billing it as a pocket-sized, 7 oz alternative to the trunk-sized emergency jumpstart kits that also recharges your phones and tablets. Pre-orders are $70 and they're promising shipments some time in May.