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Posts from November 2013

Reviews: 2014 Lexus IS250 and IS350
I spent back-to-back weeks with two luxury compact sport sedans from Lexus, starting with the IS350, followed by its feisty little brother, the IS250. Both are available with rear-wheel drive, but my test models came with all-wheel-drive.

I knew that the brands had been redesigned for 2014, but I didn't appreciate those minor changes until I got my first glimpses. Both cars are beautiful to look at, although I'll give more of a nod to the 250; its lines are of the eye-catching variety, with a swept-back look that's appealing to (ahem) seasoned guys like me.

But make no mistake: Lexus has always - and probably WILL always - put the emphasis on the luxury end of the "luxury sport sedan" equation. Yes, the cars have some oomph, but they don't beat out some of their comparable rivals in the sports-handling department. For comparison sake, I would recommend looking at the vaunted BMW 3-series (the reigning champ in most enthusiasts' minds), as well as the Audi A4 and the Mercedes C-Class.Don't get me wrong, the IS250 and IS350 are terrific cars, with plenty of thrills to offer.

For this year's redesign, the engineers worked a bit on the ride (which is improved) and the interior space (which has expanded). Powered by 2.5-liter V6, the 250 will leave the starting blocks with a little over 200 horses, while the bigger sib 350 sports a 3.5-liter V6 with 306 horsepower. Both cars offer smooth and powerful acceleration and fine handling. Personally (and perhaps it was because of the overall feel in the cockpit), I enjoyed the ride of the IS250 a little more.

Both cars not only look good at the curb, but have upgraded their interiors. Materials quality is excellent (c'mon, we're talking Lexus), but the layout has been altered, too. Although I'm never a fan of the mouse, it seemed a bit more squirrely in these two; I found the cursor slipping too easily past my intended destination. I swear, car manufacturers are killing us with these distraction tools. Back to buttons, please! (He says to the wall.)

The climate controls for the IS sport sedans do have an interesting touch-sensitive control panel. You'll find a vertical temperature control that you merely tap with your finger to adjust, and that worked fine. Again, perhaps more high-tech than really is necessary, but apparently we will never go back to the early days of knobs. (I know that I sound like an old grouch, but I think I honestly speak for the majority of consumers when it comes to audio/climate controls. Just sayin'.)

The increased room for rear passengers isn't massive, but it's a bit better than in previous models. The design of the front seats accents that rear space, too.

Lexus provides nice standard features in both cars, from power tilt/slide moonroofs to push-button start/stop, along with 60/40 split reclining back seats. Also standard are the usual power-seat adjustments, auto-dimming rear-view mirrors, and a plethora of audio choices. Move up to options and you'll be able to add the much-loved backup camera, intuitive parking assist, and things like all-weather packages and luxury/technology packages.

The IS250 brings home about 23 mpg in combined city/highway driving; the larger IS350 drinks a little more, averaging about 21. Starting MSRP are about $38k on the 250, and just under $42k on the 350. As tested, with multiple options, the IS250 stickered at about $47k, the bigger brother at around $50k.

It's an impressive class of cars, when you factor in the BMW, Audi, Infiniti, and Mercedes. But Lexus holds its own with its foray into the compact sport sedan market. And with AWD options, they make a great fit in Colorado.


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Locations: Colorado

News For Nerds: The Restful Weekend Edition

We've always thought that a quiet, relaxing weekend was the best thing for us. Well, not so. In fact, the more you can do on a weekend, the better. At least as far as your brain (and your attitude) is concerned. I have details this week in the link.

And you might've heard about sleep apnea, but it's possible that you suffer from Email Apnea. In fact, I think it just happened to me while I was typing this . . .

Plus, high school students build an actual satellite, and a new animated video explains the mystery behind "silent but deadly" flatulence. (See, not everything on News For Nerds is highbrow.)

All of this is waiting for you right here, so I hope you enjoy and share. And thanks for getting your nerd on with me!



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Topics: Human Interest

The Jane Report

A new toxicology report ordered by the family of “Clueless” actress Brittany Murphy says rat poison may have been the cause of her death.  Murphy’s mother found her dead at home on December 20, 2009 and the Los Angeles Coroner ruled her death was due to pneumonia and anemia. Strangely, Brittany’s husband Simon Monjack died from the same causes a five months later.  But an independent report ordered by her father Angelo Bertolotti found that the actress did not die of natural causes. The report even suggests that Brittany and Simon could have been murdered by a third party.  Following years of litigation Bertolotti was able to obtain samples of her hair, blood and tissue for testing. The Examiner reports that “based on the symptoms” exhibited by Brittany and Simon before their deaths, he ordered testing for heavy metals and toxins. According to the report the Los Angeles Coroner did not test for heavy metals.  The web site quotes the lab report, “Ten (10) of the heavy metals evaluated were detected at levels higher that the WHO [The World Health Organization] high levels … Heavy metals are found in many rat poisons and insecticides. At the time of her death, Brittany displayed the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning including: headaches, dizziness, abdominal cramps, coughing, sweating, disorientation, wheezing, congestion and pneumonia.

We've got some details on Justin Bieber's weekend party, and it sounds like it was pretty wild.  A source says the booze was flowing and there was plenty of weed to go around.  And Snoop Dogg wasn't the only celebrity in attendance.  The guests also included Floyd Mayweather Jr., Chris Brown, T.I. and Trey Songz.  There were also naked girls everywhere.  Justin hired 20, quote, "big booty strippers" . . . and the other girls at the party were so "inspired" by them that THEY took their clothes off, too.  Bieber had fat stacks, and was making it rain all night. He reportedly dropped $10,000 on the girls.  One of them claimed she walked away with $1,300.  Here's the thing, though... whoever blabbed about this party could end up in serious financial trouble.  Justin made everyone, from the guests to the employees, sign a strict confidentiality agreement.

David Letterman did a great Top Ten list last night, on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.  The top ten words used to describe him, including "Crack-nadian" and "neckless." 

Barbara Walters was on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last night, and Jimmy tried to get her to tell him her LEAST favorite co-host on "The View".  But she wouldn't give up the name.  At first she says she doesn't like any of them.  Jimmy tells her he's narrowed it down to either Rosie O'Donnell or Star Jones, and that cracks Barbara up.  But finally she shuts him down. 

In an interview yesterday Kanye West was talking about how he's a genius again.  He said it's just a plain FACT that he is one, even though he doesn't know how to SPELL the word "genius."  He says he understands that people get offended when he calls himself a genius, but it doesn't change the fact that he is one.  He says he'd write "creative genius" on customs forms at the airport, except that it takes too long and he sometimes spells the word wrong.  He also admits that he's not a good musician, or even a good rapper . . . he just thinks he can be a genius anyway.

Demi Lovato does an interview on today's episode of "Katie", and she talks about Miley Cyrus and all her crazy stunts from the past year.  She says Miley knows what she's doing, and that's just her way of moving into the next stage of her career.  Demi went on to defend Miley by saying that all those child stars are grown up now, and they all found their own ways to get there.  She says people need to forget about Hannah Montana and just let Miley move on.  Demi says her own path was different, she went straight from being a child star into drug rehab. 

Conan O'Brien joked last night about a new line of underwear that's supposed to make a woman's rear end look bigger.  He says you should never ask your girlfriend if she's wearing them. 

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Review: 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid
It wasn’t all that long ago that hybrids were new and different, which often brought on a polarizing effect. Early believers heard snickers - or worse - about them, and for a while there was an “us against them” feel about the whole segment.

That seems to be rapidly disappearing. Hybrids not only have gained a toehold in the market, they’re picking up traction in upscale models. But the successful early players continue to shine, including Toyota, whose Prius line acted as the advance foot soldier in the assault on market share.

Benefitting from those early forays into the technology is the Camry, an already hugely popular vehicle - in fact, second only to Ford’s F-150 in 2012 sales. The new Camry hybrid doesn’t change much after last year’s redesign, but it didn’t need to. Instead, Toyota added a few convenience features.

Let’s get down to the question I’m asked the most about hybrids: Does it have any power? In case you’ve never been behind the wheel of one of these cars, let me set the record straight by telling you that they have almost as much - if not more - oomph than standard gas-engine models. The Camry delivers strong acceleration with its Hybrid Synergy Drive System, built around a 4-cylinder engine.

The drive itself is smooth and comfortable, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has tooled around in a Toyota. The switch from all-electric mode to gas is barely noticeable - which can’t be said for other hybrids. You’ll run on that all-electric mode at low speeds, which explains the outstanding fuel economy - an average of around 40mpg.

When they gave the Camry hybrid a makeover last year they polished its look a bit. The 2013 model is easy on the eyes, without the need to scream “hybrid” with Jetsonian lines.

Inside the cockpit you’ll find quality materials and a great engineering design. The seats are comfortable and visibility is excellent. Even the back seat has well-above-average room and comfort.

Standard features are aplenty, including folding heated exterior mirrors, chrome-tipped exhaust, dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping wheel, and Smart Key push-button start.

Two trim sizes are available, the LE and XLE - I drove the latter. Options on the tested car included the Convenience Package (which adds the much-coveted backup camera), the Leather Package (leather-trimmed ultrasuede seats and leather door trim), as well as the Premium Nav package. This last option upgrades the audio and bluetooth technology.

The tested 2013 Camry hybrid came with an MSRP of about $27,600; with options that number jumped to $35k. This is where the fuel savings may entice you; based on a comparison with similar new cars, your gas charges could be literally thousands of dollars less each year.

It’s a much more competitive hybrid market than it was a few years ago, with just about every player jumping into the game. Ford’s Fusion hybrid can boast some better fuel economy numbers - and is a great choice - but the Camry is right up there. It’s a proven family sedan, both practical and reliable, and Toyota’s hybrid track record is second to none.

Strongly recommended.

Reviewed by Dom Testa
Test vehicle provided by manufacturer
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Thank You Pies!

We got a thank you set of pies from Steve at Child's Pastry for the efforts during the Dom and Jane Charity marathon for the FBR! No no, Steve. We thank YOU.
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The Man Behind the Curtain

Kevin is the brains behind the heart behind the magic that is the Food Bank of the Rockies. He runs one of the tightest non-profits in the country, and we couldn't be more proud to be partnered with them.
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Stephen is Steve now

He goes by Steve now, but he'll always be lil Stephen to us... Generous lil Stephen! He's been donating since 2005, and this year is no different. He's a freshman at CU now, and gathered $1200 from fellow Buffs!
We heart you, lil Stephen.
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Gettin' It Done

, the ones who get it done, are really gettin' it done for the FBR. Randy stopped by with a $30,000 donation, which equals 120,000 meals for hungry Coloradans. We thank you, Grainger!
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William Crow Still Giving

William Crow Jew
elers provides gorgeous jewelry AND multiple meals for those who utilize the FBR. Kelly came by to donate $2,500, and that amount will only grow as they are donating a portion of all November sales to the Dom and Jane Charity Marathon! Accessorizing never felt so good. 
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People: William Crow Jewlers

Rave Reviews Indeed

Another spectacular Colorado company came out to support the FBR. Mucho thanks to Sharon from
Rave Reviews for their super $15,000 donation to the Dom and Jane Charity Marathon! Bravo!
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Locations: Colorado
People: Sharon