Rental Car Review – Pontiac G8 GT

For this last trip to Boston, I tried out National Car Rental. National’s Emerald Club let’s you pick your own car from anything on the lot when you reserve a midsize. So when I arrived, I got to check out the lot and decided to take the new Pontiac G8 GT they had waiting.
The G8 is Pontiac’s full size sedan, and the GT comes with a 6.0L V8 generating 360 hp through a 6-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels. As you might expect, this car gets full marks for power! The interior is nicely appointed, and very comfortable.
However, there were a few things that bugged me in this car.

  1. The handling really isn’t that great. Unfortunately, this is par for the course in my experience with domestic cars. While it was light-years above the Mustang, it still feels a little skittish in the corners under speed.
  2. The window and mirror controls are all in the center console. While this gives the car a certain cleanness of lines around the door, it also makes it very inconvenient to try to roll down your window while holding something – like toll money or an id badge.
  3. The large LCD display is set low in the center dash. While this isn’t automatically a bad thing, there is a large low-res LCD that display battery voltage and oil pressure in the top of the center dash. I’d much prefer my radio and clock displays be higher up so I don’t have to lose sight of the road to check the time.
  4. The car I drove only had 3000 miles on it, but the tire pressure sensor in the right front wheel was faulty. It would read fluctuating values between 90 psi and 1 psi, and contantly beep to alert me… very annoying! Unfortunately, this is another incident of “Pontiacs break down a lot” stereotype appearing true.

So, overall, I thought the G8 was an excellent rental car, and I won’t hesitate to take one again if given the chance… But it still falls short of a car I’d be willing to buy. Which is really too bad, because Pontiac has all the elements of a great sedan in this car, if they could just follow through on the little things.

Eagle Eyes

Cindy has an enviable track record of spotting birds that I miss. (She says it’s because she has to look up at the sky to look at me.) Today we pulled up to a red light and she spotted a hawk perched on a telephone pole eating it’s latest quarry. So we pulled into a nearby McDonald’s for some sweet tea and watched the hawk.
It turned out to be a red tail hawk, although we never established exactly what it was eating. But it was amazing to watch other birds pester the hawk while he tried to eat his meal. At first there was a crow, which at least comes across as a fair match-up in size. But then two grackles started mercilessly hounding the hawk – swooping back and forth around him, and even pecking or grabbing his back during fly-bys! They managed to drive the hawk off, meal in talon, in about 10 minutes.
It was really entertaining to see all this drama unfold, but it was all the more amazing because no one else seemed to notice. This was taking place on one of the main streets in Quincy (outside Boston) and despite the rush hour traffic and heavy pedestrian traffic from the train station, I didn’t see a single other person stop and look up. I always feel lucky when Cindy and I get to enjoy a spectacle like this that for all intents and purposes must be invisible to everyone around us.

Yucca Mountain

Ars Technica has an interesting synopsis of a recent article in Science. The point of the article is that we should stop pussy-footing around at Yucca Mountain and start storing nuclear waste there. Based on the synopsis, the authors are making a few excellent points.

  1. Waiting indefinitely before using Yucca Mountain isn’t the safest course of action. The current network of 72 storage sites for nuclear waste is far more dangerous than activating Yucca Mountain and starting pilot programs to store waste there.
  2. The nature of Yucca Mountain – a facility which hopes to store waste material for a duration longer than the entirety of human civilization – means that we will most likely never have definite answers to some of the questions we all have about the facility. It’s hard to predict how a structure of that scope and subject to radioactive forces will react over a 100,000 year period when we’ve really only known about radiation for less than 100 years.
  3. Scientists need to start educating the public on what science can accomplish and what it can’t. Science isn’t a tool for establishing certainty – it is a tool for refining “best guesses” to ever higher quality. It’s important that the public understand that an undertaking like Yucca Mountain will always have a large level of uncertainty about it. They argue that the best case scenario is to start pilot programs at Yucca Mountain and begin developing real world experiences that can be used to refine our understanding of how Yucca Mountain will perform over the long haul.

Overall, I’d have to say I agree with their arguments. If we’re serious about decreasing our environmental impact, we’ll have to face the fact that an increased use of nuclear power is a logical part of the solution. The sooner we take steps to find a way to store nuclear wastes, the better.