Monday May 31, 2004
Today, in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. Initiated in 1868 and originally called Decoration Day, it is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. We honor those who gave their all so that our country might live and that democracy and liberty would continue to flourish.
|We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
Saturday May 29, 2004
Bad Timing? Ford is developing a gigantic 6.2-liter (378 cubic-inch) V-8 engine for its top-selling F-150 pickup line - to be offered sometime in 2005.
In light of ever-increasing gas prices, isn't this a dumb move?
Is Gas Too Cheap?! Just in time for Memorial Day weekend, Minnesota is cracking down on service stations that sell gas at low prices! Including several Wal-Mart stations.
Fiat Coffin? Fiat Chairman Umberto Agnelli died at age 69. I wonder if Fiat is making his casket? If so, I'd worry about the handles falling off and the metal rusting out on the way to the cemetery.
Boom! Economic guru Larry Kudlow writes: "The tax-cut-driven Bush boom has legs. It is no onetime event. It will maintain strong growth at low inflation for years to come. And it will send an important signal to our terrorist adversaries: We'll have ample resources to guarantee your defeat. Reagan sent the same message to the former Soviet Union when he cut taxes in the Cold War 1980s. It's exactly the right message. Bush is sending it loud and clear."
Pushy Galore is the moniker given by the Brits to über-rude Princess Michael of Kent, who told a table of boisterous black diners in New York this week that they should "go back to the colonies."
David Letterman quips: "John Kerry raised all that money and he bought himself an airplane, a campaign plane for $10 million ... Ralph Nader, not to be outdone, is having himself shipped across country in a crate."
Friday May 28, 2004:
Huge Hybrid: General Motors' advanced hybrid technology will be used on transit buses in the Seattle area beginning next month, eventually creating the nation's largest fleet of diesel-electric hybrid buses.
The buses are by New Flyer of Winnipeg, Manitoba and cost $645,000 each - $200,000 more than a standard bus. The 60-foot mass-transit vehicles deliver up to 60 percent greater fuel economy and can reduce emissions by as much as 90 percent, GM said. Orange County, Calif., and Philadelphia are among the places using GM hybrid technology on transit buses. GM said more orders are pending.
Slightly-Used Slogan: Starting this summer, all Volkswagen advertising, both in the UK and abroad, will carry the slogan 'Aus Liebe zum Automobil.' In VW’s words: "The new phrase will capture the spirit of excellence and passionate attention to detail at Volkswagen because, literally translated, it means 'For the love of cars'."
That slogan was used last year by Ron Tonkin, a multi-brand, multi-location car dealer in Portland, OR. We visited their Honda store in October; their sales people were so slimy that my wife and I had to bathe ourselves in Purell afterwards.
Keep On Truckin': A campaigner for Ralph Nader knows where to find registered voters willing to put their names on a 'Get Nader on the Ballot' petition - Truck pulls. "People think they're doing George Bush a favor if they sign these. I've had some of my best luck at truck pulls."
Boom: Gross domestic product in the US rose at a stronger pace than first estimated, with GDP in the first quarter revised up from 4.2 per cent to 4.4 per cent.
Iraq Facts: Peter Robinson writes in National Review Online: "Food in Iraq is everywhere available, clean water is flowing, electricity is being produced at levels higher than those before the war, hundreds of schools have been rebuilt and some 30,000 teachers trained - and whereas before the war Iraqi civilians were dying untimely deaths at the rate of 36,000 a year (24,000 of them children under the age of 5), now even an anti-war group estimates that in the last 14 months the number of Iraqi civilians to die unnatural deaths numbers at most about 11,000. This represents a record of which George W. Bush is supposed to be ashamed?"
More Iraq: Caspar Weinberger writes in Forbes magazine: "The short, easy and wrong solution to the problems in Iraq is to turn them all over to the United Nations and urge other countries to help. This basically is Senator John Kerry's response to any "What would you do?" questions. He and others who criticize President Bush for going to war without the UN's permission and the support of the international community offer only this egregiously useless solution. The ignorance, misconceptions and faulty judgment displayed in such thinking are appalling."
Jay Leno quips: "John Kerry said today that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George Bush, and today Bush said, I'm voting for Ralph Nader."
Advice given to a friend in Pennsylvania who was being dragged to a 'function' with his wife: "Any restaurant with a too-cutesy name (The Heavenly Pastoria) and which doesn't serve alcohol is a Chick Nest. My advice - sneak in some booze. In a cough syrup bottle. Tell them it's your medicine."
Thursday May 27, 2004:
Where the hell is this 'Arab Street' I keep reading about? I can't seem to find it on MapQuest but it is, apparently, located in a neighborhood that's very angry. And very anti-U.S. And chock full of Muslims. You'd think that people who pray five times a day would be a little more ... ahem ... serene. ... (more >>>)
Oh No! Say it isn't so, K-Lo! "Kerry can keep spending, but the nomination is for the taking in July, and the it will be taken ... by Hillary-McCain 2004," predicts National Review contributor, Kathryn Jean Lopez.
On Wednesday, Al Gore said that George Bush is "the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon." This is an interesting charge - coming from the man who claims to have "invented the Internet" and whose romance with wife, Tipper, was "the inspiration for the (schmaltzy) movie, Love Story." Or, so he says.
Personally, I think Ali McGraw is better-looking than Tipper. Not that there's any connection but, in Britain, 'Tipper' is the word for 'dump truck.'
Andrew Sullivan writes: "I have yet to read any cogent criticism that offers any better future plan than the one president Bush outlined Monday night. John Kerry's plaintive cries to 'internationalize' the transition are so vacuous they barely merit attention." Amen.
AutoExtremist.com: "GM is relocating its Saab headquarters from suburban Atlanta to 'The Tubes' by Sept. 7. Can the relocation of the ignition key to the dashboard be far behind?"
Probably not. Saab has a band of loyalists. The problem is that band is very small. Saab has to gain broader appeal or it will die. It also needs to make money. This is why there are now badge-engineered Saabs: Subaru-Saabs and Chevy TrailBlazer-Saabs. Of course, they're not really Saabs. Just like Elvis impersonators aren't really Elvis.
To us purists, the last real Elvis was the pre-Army rocker, belting out 'Heartbreak Hotel' on the Dorsey Brothers TV show. And the last real Saab was a 93B two-stroker with suicide front doors, backing up a snow-covered New Hampshire hill in January.
Don't buy a hot car unless you know how to drive. On the way to Bacchus - a very nice restaurant in Vancouver, Washington, we were traveling behind a new $120,000-plus, yellow Porsche GT-3. The guy was struggling to drive it - having trouble doing the gas pedal-clutch interaction thing. ("Snicker, snicker, heh-heh," said I to my wife.)
We went to Bacchus for dinner; they only stopped in for drinks, according to our buddy, Lloyd-the-proprietor. Probably couldn't afford dinner what with the car payments and such.
German auto magazine, Men's Car, reports that Porsche drivers are less faithful than any other group of car owners, "with 49 percent admitting infidelity, followed by BMW drivers at 46 percent. Among women, Audi drivers were the least reliable, 41 percent admitting to affairs."
So, if you meet a German woman with an Audi, say "Howdy."
A $200,000 diamond affixed to the nose of a Jaguar Formula One car (as part of a sponsorship deal) was lost when the team's rookie driver crashed into a guardrail during the Monaco Grand Prix last Sunday. They still haven't found the gem.
General Motors is discussing the sale of its 84-year-old locomotive business to Caterpillar. Electro-Motive has a long railroading history; in the 1930s, E-M produced some of the first diesel locomotives. The famous Santa Fe locos with the 'war bonnet' paint scheme were made by Electo-Motive. The company also produced the famous/infamous Aerotrain of the 1950s.
Electro-Motive has about 3,000 employees.
A phone book typo has caused a business owner great distress, reports the Syracuse Post-Standard. Instead of listing the woman's salon as a "Day Spa", the listing refers to it as a "Gay Spa." Oops.
Wednesday May 26, 2004:
I'm catching up on last week's AutoWeek: "So when a company, which itself has striven to join Europe's elite carmakers, raises the notion of 'commodity luxury,' as has Audi, it invites comparisons. According to Audi, 'commodity luxury' is practiced by Japanese automakers. Infiniti, Lexus and Acura build great cars in great quantities and load them with gadgets, dress them in leather and sound-deadening materials, and sell them for a discount compared to European rivals. The commodity luxury equation reads something like high-line attributes plus low price equals great value."
Sounds to me like a great reason to buy Japanese instead of an Audi. Especially when the mid-sized, all-wheel-drive Audi A-6 is priced well north of $50K. And has a less-than-stellar reputation for reliability.
AutoWeek also reports that the Pontiac GTO, a pet project of General Motors product czar Robert Lutz, is off to a slow start. "So far this year, Pontiac has sold just 2,451 units. Discounting seasonal differences, that amounts to an annualized rate of 7,300 units - well below Pontiac's 16,000-unit target. GM has a 168-day supply of GTOs, well above the 60-day supply that is considered ideal. Dealers say the GTO - touted as a halo car for Pontiac - suffers from bland styling, a high sticker price and no incentives."
Don't worry ... if sales don't pick up, there will be incentives galore.
In late March, a Fox News Special featured a day in the life of Donald Rumsfeld. While it was interesting, I wanted to know more about his gummint-issue vehicle. It was a first-generation (1998-2002) Lincoln Navigator. Painted black with darkened glass and lots of antennas sprouting from the roof. It had some special scoop/vents in the rear-side glazing - I bet it was armored.
The engine seemed to really wind up before shifting and I swear I could hear the whine of a supercharger as it revved through the gears.
Remember when the liberals were laughing about WMDs? AP headline: "Tests Confirm Sarin Gas in Baghdad Bomb." Not a laughing matter. Never was.
Headline from Scrappleface: "Bush Vows to Raze Abu Ghraib, Build Sam's Club."
See, I told ya so ... Reuters reports: "Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. reported its first quarterly net loss since going public four years ago and cut the number of planned new stores as the low-carb diet craze stifles appetites for doughnuts."
The FBI has apologized to Brandon Mayfield, a Portland, Ore., attorney and Muslim convert, for connecting him with the Madrid train bombing. Mayfield was arrested as a material witness and jailed for two weeks.
Good. They owe him an apology. And compensation for two weeks worth of lost income. And maybe throw in a free weekend at the Oregon Coast for Mayfield and his family. But nothing more. Apparently, the mistaken arrest first sprang from an error by the FBI’s supercomputer for matching fingerprints and then was compounded by the FBI’s own analysts.
One agent quipped: "If the match was from some little old grandmother in Ohio, we would have handled it differently." But Mayfield had provided legal assistance to a man later convicted of terrorism. Alarm bells went off. And they took him in custody. Profiling? No, a logical move - given the info they had at the time. Turns out the information was wrong. Not planted, not massaged. Just wrong. An honest mistake.
Get over it, Brandon. Get on with your life. And take whatever paid speaking gigs and book deals come your way.
Good quote from Jay Leno: "Did you see that (the movie) Shrek made $104 million this weekend? That is more money taken in one weekend since John Kerry's honeymoon."
Another from David Letterman: "Kerry fell off a bike and Bush fell off a bike. And you know, the only thing Bill Clinton ever fell off of was an intern."
My rant of the day is about school buses at railroad crossings. Coming home from Portland, I must cross the tracks of the Columbia Basin Railroad at least three times. This small railroad runs one lone train per week and the train travels at 5-10 miles-per-hour. Five years ago, every one of the three crossings had drop gates installed to meet a newly-enacted federal requirement. Yet every #%&* school bus still stops at every #%&* crossing because of some stupid-ass law passed in 1912 or thereabouts. And, empty or not, they remain stopped for 10-15 seconds as traffic piles up and frustrations mount.
It is a waste of time and it is not saving any lives or doing any good whatsoever. It just pisses off the poor souls stuck behind those huge yellow diesel smoke-spewing tortoises. I'm sick and tired of this crap and I'm thinking of running for President in 2004 with one lone item on my platform - the elimination of this moronic school bus law. I think there are enough other people who are pissed off about the tyranny of school buses that I might actually get elected.
This concludes my rant. Thank you.
Tuesday May 25, 2004:
I watched Bush's speech Monday night. Good ... but not a home run. I miss Ronald Reagan's speaking style. And his speechwriters.
Memorial Day is coming. I read a trivia piece in AutoWeek last year about the Indianapolis 500. Here are some strange facts: A total of 680 different drivers have started at Indy since 1911 ... eight by the name of Jones but none named Smith.
The last driver to win the Indy 500 wearing a t-shirt and slacks was Pat Flaherty in 1956. Gasoline hasn't been used in Gasoline Alley during May since 1964. The Pat Clancy Special in 1948 and '49 had six wheels. The manager for the 1935 Miller team was Preston Tucker (later of Tucker automobile fame).
Googlemania: David S. Evans and Peter Passell have written an excellent article analyzing Google's business success. The article is posted at Tech Central Station and is worth a read.
Real Life Mundane Adventures: There's a very large concrete turnaround area in front of our house. Whenever it rained heavily, it used to flood as the water had nowhere to go but the side lawn which quickly became saturated. Eight years ago, we had a drain system put in with a ground level gutter at the lawn-concrete interface. The gutter feeds a length of piping that directs the water elsewhere.
The gutter eventually gets clogged with silt and has to be cleaned. The gutter is topped by slotted black drain covers which, at first glance, look like cast iron but are actually injection-molded structural foam plastic. When the gutter doesn't drain properly, it overflows and the buoyant plastic covers float away.
We had several intervals of pounding rain last Saturday night and I awoke to a driveway full of displaced covers. I spent some Quality Time on Sunday scooping out silt from the gutter and disposing of it. Cast iron covers wouldn't float away but the plastic ones act as an Early Warning System indicating problems beneath.
Is this Thoughtful Progressive Technology at work or just an Unintended Consequence/Benefit? Just wondering.
Quote of the Day is by Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times: "The best bulwark against tyranny is a population that knows the benefits of freedom, as the Iraqi Kurds do. Don't make the mistake of turning Iraq into a dysfunctional American public school, where the smart guys get held down to the low standards of the misfits and in the end they all get the same social promotion anyway. Let's get on with giving the Kurdish and Shia areas elected governors and practical sovereignty, province by province." Read the whole thing.
My recent book review mentioning the Pennsylvania Railroad (posted 5/22) prompted comments bemoaning the decline of 'old-time railroading'. Unfortunately, America is a land of change and, when changes happen, industrial icons sometimes can't adapt - they wither and disappear.
The Pennsylvania Railroad suffered from ... (more >>>)
More on the PRR 'Crossroads' book: A friend of mine tried to buy this book online. He uses a seven year-old computer and cannot do any further browser upgrades. He was unable to transact at Overstock.com and A-1 Books. I recommended Amazon.com; it always worked when I had an older computer. Success.
I've criticized some aspects of Amazon's business model, but ... (more >>>)
Monday May 24, 2004:
Obituary: Waddle's, a Portland drive-in which opened its doors in 1945 (when the minimum wage was 43¢ per hour), was operated by three generations of the Waddle family and became a regional landmark/legend, closed forever on Sunday.
Waddle's was easily recognized by their sign - a giant neon clock located a few feet from the Interstate 5 freeway - just south of the Washington state line. Over the years, it has probably been seen by tens of millions of people. Maybe hundreds of millions.
The letters on the sign are huge and order you to 'Eat Now'. The clock's hands are a giant knife and fork. Pietro Belluschi, who designed the Portland Art Museum as well as countless other local landmarks (including the world's first modern office building) and would later collaborate on New York's Pan Am Building, also designed Waddle's. The site will be used to construct a Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop.
Speaking of which, allow me to deflate the Krispy Kreme hype/legend a bit. In the 1960s, there was a KK store near Philadelphia on U.S. 1, near the old Lincoln Drive-In. It went out of business - couldn't compete with with the quality of product from local mom-and-pop bakeries.
The wonderful TastyKake product line is familiar to many who grew up in and around Philly. They added donuts to their offerings sometime in the 1980s. Initially, Tasty contracted out all production to Krispy Kreme but KK couldn't meet their standards.
So, Tasty Baking Co. dumped Krispy Kreme and built their own donut plant. (Mmmmm. Sounds like something to have in our backyard garden - a donut plant! Water it regularly and, every morning, pick a couple of crullers off the vine. Make mine chocolate cake ones.)
During our once-in-a-lifetime trip to Graceland (you only need to go there once in your lifetime) many years ago, we patronized the Krispy Kreme shop five blocks down the road, where Elvis his-own-self used to get ‘em. He probably bought 100 dozen at a time - sent a fleet of Caddys and drawled, "Put 'em in the trunk, boys. Thank yew. Thank yew vurrah much."
The Associated Press reports that the song 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' might not have quite the same ring at Yankee Stadium anymore. "The ballpark is bagging Cracker Jack in favor of Crunch 'n Munch, a competing caramel popcorn."
Reuters claims that over 80 British students "threw caution and their clothes to the wind Friday to set a world record for the number of nudes riding on a roller coaster."
I wonder where they put their ticket stubs? Ewwww.
From a road test by USA Today of the cheap and lame Chevrolet Aveo: "A wise car guy once noted that it's a lot more satisfying to drive an underpowered car hard than it is to drive a powerful car gingerly."
President Bush fell off his mountain bike on Saturday at his Texas ranch and suffered minor injuries. A mean-spirited John Kerry asked (in front of cameras), "Did the training wheels fall off?" Drudge reported that - amazingly - reporters are debating whether to treat the remark is as 'on or off the record'.
Would they have given Bush the same courtesy? Of course not. Who says the press isn't biased?
Opinion Dynamics Corporation just completed a poll for Fox News. Asked, "On the situation in Iraq today, where do you think most of the problems are being created?" More than any other reason (27%), respondents replied, "In the news media."
When asked, "Which of the following news stories upset you more?", an astounding 60% chose "the beheading of an American civilian by Muslim terrorists," compared with only 8% selecting "the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers." View complete results here.
Why I sometimes feel ancient: Merriam-Webster has removed the following words from the latest edition of their dictionary: record changer, pocket-handkerchief, long play and ten-cent store.
Recently, we purchased a new washer and dryer. Our faithful, almond-hued, 20-year-old Maytag duo were exhibiting end-stage behavior - operating erratically, leaking, making bearing-noises, etc. A couple of brand-new, sterile-white Maytags have replaced them.
Reflecting upon the Consumer Reports appliance-life charts and the Life Insurance Institute human mortality tables, these may be the last such appliances we ever purchase.
Gives one pause.
Quote of the Day is from Martin Short (as Jiminy Glick) on aging: "I have a friend who once saw the Face of God. And he told me that God has a comb-over. But it looks pretty good on Him. Took four million years off His age!"
Stupid technology is showcased in this PhotoShop contest. Products I liked best were the alive-or-dead Lifemeter, Pez machine gun, off-road crutches and the Stupid Calculator.
Saturday May 22, 2004:
Well, the gas crisis finally hit home. I tanked up my car with Plus today. While Plus grade is 20¢ cheaper than Premium and gives a consistent one mpg improvement in gas mileage, a tankful cost me almost $35. I have never paid more than $30 before (usually $20 to $25) so this was quite a shock. Leaving me pissed-off at oil companies, OPEC and Arabs. And China which, earlier this year, surpassed Japan as the world's second-largest oil consumer. Some experts say China may outstrip the United States in energy consumption in a decade and a half. Unless China's overheated economy collapses. Which is 50/50 in my opinion.
Reuters News Service reported that "a third of German motorists fantasize about sex when stuck in traffic while only 10 percent think of finding an alternate route." These days, I fantasize about ways to improve my gas mileage.
Car sightings: On Interstate 84, I was behind two Portland taxis - both were pre-1998 Lincoln Town Cars painted day-glo green. Despite the hideous color, the cars had nice lines - a tribute to the folks who styled the 1990-97 body. (I don't remember exactly who did but they were Brits.) As we passed a new 2004 Town Car, I couldn't help but think that despite its far-more-pleasant maroon color, it was uglier by comparison. Looked like a fat Mercury with a water retention problem.
Spotted a new Mazda RX-8 in dark silver - a striking design. Love those over-the-top front fender flares. Cool.
General Motors Corporation will cut 872 jobs at its Delaware Saturn plant. The cuts total about three-quarters of its assembly line work force. The layoffs come as GM moves to discontinue the Saturn L-series sedan and wagon this summer, a year earlier than planned.
Last December, USA Today had an article about how dismal things were at Saturn. The oversupply of cars at dealership is frightening: 177 days worth of L-series Ion -144 days, Vue SUV - 101 days. (Anything over 60 days is considered too much.) Today, Saturn sells less with three models than it did in its peak year, 1994, when it had just one car to offer. Meanwhile, General Motors has invested over $5 billion in the Saturn plant in Tennessee. Add in all of the product development and marketing expenses for Saturn and the total investment-to-date figure is probably closer to $10 billion. GM continues to throw money at Saturn. Yet, this 14-year-old GM brand has never earned a profit.
One has to wonder what would have happened if GM had invested all that money in Oldsmobile instead of Saturn. With proper design, serious quality control upgrades and a return to its 'position' as a stylish, technically-innovative performance car, Oldsmobile might well have stemmed the tide of luxury and near-luxury imports, offering a serious alternative to Acura, Audi and BMW. And made a profit for General Motors.
But, now that GM has euthanized the Oldsmobile brand, we'll never know.
Book Report: I just finished 'Crosswords of Commerce - The Pennsylvania Railroad Calendar Art of Grif Teller' by Dan Cupper. Description: "Each year, starting in 1925, the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) commissioned a striking oil painting of a PRR engine in a dramatic setting, which was featured on a large wall calendar that the company distributed by the hundreds of thousands to customers and the public. Grif Teller painted 27 of the 33 scenes. This book reproduces his paintings in full color and recounts his life and career."
Teller also ... (more >>>)
Jay Leno quips: "John Kerry met with Howard Dean this week to get strategic advice. That make sense? Shouldn't he get strategic advice from someone who actually won a primary? Isn't that like getting public relations advice from Donald Rumsfeld?"
Friday May 21, 2004:
I visited a Chevy dealer recently - he had two yellow Chevy SSRs on display, one out front and another (with top down) in the showroom. The SSR is the new, retro-look 'pickup truck' with the retractable hardtop roof. I gave the pair a good looking over. I was surprised that all exterior bright trim - full-width grille bar, door handles, etc. are brushed aluminum rather than chrome. The alloy wheels are dull silver as well. I would have preferred lots of chrome, myself.
The build quality seemed surprisingly good - no wavy panels, smooth paint and good fit-and-finish. Interesting surprise touches like ... the drain hole in the rubber door gasket isn't round; it's in the shape of the Chevy bowtie emblem.
The salesman told me that the SSR lists in the mid-$40,000 range but that "dealers in Seattle were asking $60,000." Ouch. 'The Gouge' at work.
'Driving Miss Sting Ray' - Academy Award-nominated actor Morgan Freeman will drive a red, white and blue 2004 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible Pace Car to lead the field to the start of the 88th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on Sunday, May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Freeman, as you will recall, played the long-suffering chauffeur in 'Driving Miss Daisy.'
Alien Insects: Automotive Design & Production reports that an upcoming gathering of VW Beetle enthusiasts in Roswell, New Mexico, famous for a purported UFO crash in 1947. "The event will feature an alien costume contest, alien picnic, etc."
AutoWeek says that Honda will add a low-priced minicar to their American lineup within a year. The four-passenger five-door hatch-wagon, smaller than the Civic, will be priced at around $12,000, said a Honda spokesman. It will be similar to the Honda Jazz, sold in Europe. The Jazz has gotten rave reviews from the Brit press.
Today's Factoid: In Britain, 74 percent of the price of gas is due to taxes.
Joe's Wine Rant: Humorist James Lileks claims: "Home wine-making deprives you of the pleasure of studying interesting labels designed by professionals." I was reminded of his quote when sampling some recently-purchased Mondavi Merlot. I usually find anything by Mondavi to be really satisfying but the latest bottle was a surprise. The wine was flavorful but had a rougher afterbite than I expect from the Mondavi folks. I inspected the label more closely and noticed that the front label had a deckled edge; rougher than the normal Mondavi label. Printed in the upper left-hand corner was the term 'Unfiltered' in faint, barely-visible type. The back of the label explained that "to capture the full flavor profile, we bottled the wine without filtration."
They also talked about "complex oak nuances." This sounded very John Kerry-like. I never have heard the word 'nuance' used so often since Kerry entered the Presidential campaign. I am prepared to vote against Kerry simply to get the word 'nuance' out of the public vocabulary. I'm sick of it. It is the 'mesquite' of the 21st Century.
Back to Mondavi - why the hell won't marketing types Leave Well Enough Alone. 'Unfiltered premium wine' is in the same class as 'Luxury Trucks.' The Oxymoron Market. Trucks should be simple vehicles with washable interiors and rubber floormats that can be hosed out to get rid of the bull, cow or cattle crap tracked into them. Anything else is not a truck, in my opinion. And wine without the crap filtered out of it is not Premium Wine.
Breaking news from BrokenNewz: "Each Copy of Clinton Book to Include Condom and Penicillin Shot." Full story here. Ha!
Alan Greenspan is to be appointed to a fifth term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. The longest-serving Fed chairman in history was William McChesney Martin, who was appointed by President Harry Truman and held the job for nearly 19 years, until 1970.
Never a sucker for wasting money on the latest styles, McChesney Martin could still be seen gently piloting his 1949 Cadillac convertible around Washington in the late 1960s.
A website called CatholicShopper.com is offering 'Shoes of the Fisherman sandals' for $19.95 per pair. Description: "If you plan on walking in the sand, this is a great way to evangelize! As you walk, you will leave an imprint of: JESUS LOVES YOU, for others to see!!!!" The sandals are "hand-finished in Thailand by adult Christian workers."
This raised some questions in my mind - to wit:
1. Are the 'adult Christian workers' former Pagan Babies?
2. Since these products are made of injection-molded vinyl and the adult Christian workers only do the hand-finishing, who is operating the injection molding machine? Atheists? Muslims? Buddhists? Confucians?
3. Since all of us Catholics want to leave a long-lasting impression on Unbelievers, why doesn't the product description mention other, more-permanent things to walk on besides sand? Wet concrete? Hot asphalt? Uncured epoxy?
4. If this were a real Catholic site, it would clearly state: "One size fits all - or else you're excommunicated. Unless you're a Kennedy." Right? (permalink)
Michelle Malkin's latest column begins thusly: "Two politicians in Maryland are now in trouble for stating the obvious: People who work in customer service should speak English."
My take - isn't it ironic that, in the most ethnic of business establishments - small businesses - Chinese restaurants, Mexican cantinas and shoe repair shops (in our neighborhood, operated by Russian or Cambodian immigrants), every person who has contact with the public speaks understandable, if accented, English. And they are polite and friendly, too.
Writer/columnist Peggy Noonan has some thoughtful advice for George Bush.
Obscure Obituary: Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi, a Hawaii-born actor and comedian (also known as Zulu or Zoulou), died on May 3rd of complications from diabetes. He was 66. He is best known for playing Kono, the burly Hawaiian sidekick on the television series, 'Hawaii Five-O.' He continued in the part for four seasons.
Thursday May 20, 2004:
Car sightings: Saw a new, red VW Beetle convertible on the Freeway. Top up. The lines look very good, especially from the rear. The little chrome beltline just below the top is a nice touch. Also saw a silver Jaguar S-Type. It is a unique, eye-catching design but something about the proportions is 'off'. And the grille needs to be bolder and better defined.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a white S-Type coming toward me - all I could see was a shiny oval surrounded by white. It reminded me of a urinal. The old Jaguar grilles had relatively thick-walled vertical ribs which were visible from far away. From a hundred feet feet away, the new S-Type has much thinner ribs which visually disappear.
The old XK-140 oval and rib grille (from the 1950s) was a one-piece die casting with thicker ribs and was probably cheaper to produce than today's multi-piece assemblies. Too bad they don't go back to the classic design and construction. Sometimes the old stuff is best.
Congratulations to conservative weblog Lucianne.com ... now getting 2,000,000 hits a day.
Words of wisdom from columnist Walter E. Williams, who writes: "While teacher ineptitude is neither flattering nor comfortable to confront, confront it we must if we're to do anything about our sorry state of education." Good article.
Jerry Seinfeld is now Master of his (Internet) Domain. Says Jerry in an interview with The Wall Street Journal: "I'm definitely watching less TV these days." He's spending more time on the Internet at night, "because the Internet is, you know, so personal. I can see things that are of interest only to me, whereas TV is a mass medium. They are trying to get a lot of people, so the general quality of TV has deteriorated so much. ... So if I'm doing it, other people must be doing it."
From TheOnion.com: "At a press conference Monday, drug giant Pfizer formally introduced Hoagizine, a pharmaceutical-grade Turkey-Bacon-Guacamole Melt so delicious, it's only available by prescription." Read the entire parody.
According to the Associated Press, "Kmart Corp. is recalling 588 boxes of Martha Stewart Everyday safety matches because they may ignite upon impact and could pose a fire hazard." But, if you strike them the right way, you'll get 'special prices' on certain securities.
Investment advice: If you're saving up for new shrubbery for your home, tell people you're investing in a Hedge Fund. It sounds more impressive.
Good quote from Bill Cosby: "There are three ways you graduate from college: magna cum laude, cum laude and thank you laude."
Wednesday May 19, 2004:
"Big Bird flies high at 'Nova graduation," the Delaware County Times headline trumpeted. "Thirty years from now, Villanova University’s Class of 2004 might not remember who its commencement speaker was. Graduates will, however, remember that Oscar the Grouch made a cameo appearance. That, and several other quips from 'Sesame Street' performer Carroll Spinney, brought loud laughter and cheers from the graduates and guests at Villanova Stadium Sunday morning. Spinney, the voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch and one of two remaining original performers from the long-running public television show, was warmly received, with the controversy that swirled last month around his selection as the university’s commencement speaker seemingly forgotten."
"Villanova University President Rev. Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., drew a laugh when he reminded the crowd of the importance of Sesame Street. "This ceremony has been brought to you by the letters ‘V’ and ‘U’ and the number 2004," he said."
First some disclaimers/disclosures ... (more >>>)
Emmy award-winning actor Tony Randall, best known for his comic role as the lovable but fussy and obsessed Felix Unger in 'The Odd Couple,' has died at age 84. June Taylor, of the June Taylor Dancers (on the Jackie Gleason Show), died at age 86. Requiescat In Pace.
Columnist Thomas Sowell says it all: "While politicians were expressing their shock to the media over the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, the Iraqi terrorists gave us a bitter lesson in what real shock is all about." Good article.
My clients know that 'outsourcing' has been a great concern of mine for the last couple of years. Bruce Bartlett believes that "India's voters may unwittingly have solved the outsourcing problem here in a way that America's protectionists never could."
Frightening words from Jack Kelly: "In a speech that received little attention in our country (and in his) Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin told 700 academics and business leaders in Montreal May 11 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that now are in the possession of terrorists. "The fact is that there is now, we know well, a proliferation of nuclear weapons, and that many weapons that Saddam Hussein had, we don't know where they are," Martin said. "That means terrorists have access to all of that." ... Syrian technicians associated with Syria's WMD program were killed in the massive explosion on a North Korean train in Ryonchon April 22."
Read the whole thing.
Car sightings: A new Chrysler 300 sedan seen on the Freeway - it looks much better on the road than in photos although the beltline is too high (windows too small) and the grille would look even better if it were recessed a little - like the 1957 300C. But I hear it's a hot seller - flying out of showrooms across America.
Also saw a Mini Cooper with oversize (19 or 20 inch) aftermarket wheels and ultra low profile tires. Looked silly - like a cartoon car. The original factory wheels look just right on this car. It was cloudy but not raining and I spotted a mid-1960s Datsun SP-310 Fairlady roadster in red tooling down the road with the top-down. A pleasant-looking little sports car for its time.
Warm weather always brings out nice old cars.
Recently, I was inspecting a new Honda CR-V and was unable to hear the engine at idle - even when standing at the front of the car. Only when the hood was opened could I detect faint whirring sounds. I have never experienced such a quiet motor.
The moron car salesman claimed that it was due to the chain-driven overhead camshaft. This is utter baloney because chains are inherently more noisy than timing belts. Honda switched to chains because they last longer than timing belts - a sad commentary on the state of today's timing belt.
My first post-college job was with Uniroyal's Timing Belt Division in Philadelphia. Uniroyal held all of the patents on the timing belt; made their belts from ... (more >>>)
Tuesday May 18, 2004:
Exactly twenty-four years ago today, Mount St. Helens blew its top. Impossible to describe unless you personally saw it. Trees knocked over like toothpicks. Mud and ash everywhere. Gray 'snow' on the ground. I had an incredible view of things, since I was staying at a motel overlooking the Columbia Gorge in Hood River, Oregon. (Had a ringside seat with a large picture window facing north.)
The clearcoat on my '76 Volkswagen Scirocco was shot (so much for VW 'quality'); the day before, I had repainted the car using cans of silver spray paint. I was letting the paint 'set' for a week before polishing.
I didn't need to ... the #%@!&* ash did the polishing for me! Everybody in the Pacific Northwest has a Mount St. Helens story ... this one's mine.
Fox News reports: "A roadside bomb containing sarin nerve agent recently exploded near a U.S. military convoy, the U.S. military said."
I wonder if it fell out of the trunk of Hans Blix's car?
According to Ananova: "A German couple who went to a fertility clinic after eight years of marriage have found out why they are still childless - they weren't having sex. ... The 30-year-old wife and her 36-year-old husband are now being given sex therapy lessons ..."
Alas, there were no instructions on these matters in their Audi Owner's Manual.
John Kerry came to Portland, Oregon on Monday afternoon. To give another sonorous speech - although he seemed a more lively than usual. Maybe the presence of Howard Dean sharing the stage inspired him.
Jay Leno says that John Kerry is so boring that "his Secret Service code name is 'Al Gore'."
Most of the audience looked like Regular Citizens. And were enthusiastic but well-behaved. Absent were all of the scruffy, loud-mouthed fanatics who yell and scream at George Bush whenever he comes to town. You know - the ones with 'creative' signage, odd costumes, flute solos, scuffed Birkenstocks and obscure puppetry. Rumor has it that the Bushes refer to Portland as 'Little Beruit.'
Why is it that most Conservative protesters always have neat-but-uninspired-looking signs, usually red, white and blue in a stolid, rectilinear format with a clear, succinct message, like 'Support Our President' or 'Drill Alaska Now', While many Liberal protesters sport 'unique' but amateurish signs - on something like ecru board stock cut into the shape of a penguin - with letters painted with terra cotta-colored gouache in a calligraphic font so small that it is unreadable from more than a foot away?
Signs full of wordy ramblings beginning with "When in the course of human events ...." Or "Sixty-seven reasons why Esperanto will, in the future, be the language of world peace ...."
In any case, the crazies were absent today. Sleeping in, perhaps. Or sleeping it off.
When I was in high school, I thought 'rectilinear' was a fancy way of saying 'straight up your ass.' So, I peppered my invectives with things like: "Rectilinear to you, jerk!" I also thought that 'incontinent' meant going to Europe. I told people, "I can't wait 'till I get older and get incontinent."
Of course, I couldn't go to Europe back then. Because, in those days before airline deregulation, airfares were absolutely rectilinear!
Another sign that the recession is over - Ananova reports: "An omelette costing $1,000 has gone on sale at a hotel in New York ... the Le Parker Meridien hotel on West 57th St. in Manhattan. The so-called Zillion Dollar Frittata is a mix of six eggs, one whole lobster and 10 ounces of caviar. The New York Daily News says it's so exclusive, nobody's ordered one yet."
I've heard that eggs are good for a dog's coat. Memo to Donald Trump: this omelette might be just the thing for your hair.
Last week, columnist James Lileks took some time off. Part of his 'vacation' was spent with his young daughter "amusing ourselves with her Cross-Dressing Mr. Potato Head kit. True: It comes with both male and female attributes, as if to suggest that gender identity among the Spud-American community is a rather fluid concept."
The Associated Press reports: "Cherokee Nation officials are scrambling to clarify their marriage laws after a lesbian couple obtained an application for marriage. Gay-rights activists hoped the tribe's sovereign status would force recognition of gay marriages in Oklahoma, which bans same-sex weddings but honors Cherokee marriage applications. But tribal leaders said they have no intention of allowing such marriages."
Message: No squaw-on-squaw action on this reservation, kemosabe.
Roger Friedman of Fox News asks: "Is Barbra Streisand getting sleepy? I'm told that indeed she's been having so much trouble sleeping that she's enlisted one of Hollywood's top hypnotists to help her nod off."
Maybe she's worried about the Kerry campaign. Or her mattress is uncomfortably overstuffed with too much money. Those crisp, new hundred-dollar bills have sharp edges, Babs.
As usual, I watched 'CSI Miami' Monday night. I honestly believe that David Caruso is channeling the ghost of Jack Lord from 'Hawaii Five-O'.
Gwyneth Paltrow has named her new baby 'Apple.' I guess the next one will be iPod.
Best dialogue from The Simpsons on Sunday - realizing that Homer and Marge are being too nice, Bart exclaims, "That's it! They're selling us to be crash test dummies!" Lisa implores, "Oh please, let it be Volvo!"
Monday May 17, 2004:
Here's a good quote from Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun Times: "The American people, no thanks to their media, still understand what's real and what's just cheesy Beltway dinner-theater." Good article ... read the whole thing.
Reuters reports: "If you are thinking about speeding on Italian highways this year, think twice. You might find yourself being chased by a Lamborghini. Italian police took possession Friday of a sleek, 500 horsepower, two-seater Lamborghini Gallardo, which can hit a top speed of 185 miles per hour. The sports car, painted in the police's distinctive blue and white colors, comes complete with a flashing blue light on the roof and will initially patrol the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway - a road notorious in Italy for wild driving. The Lamborghini will also be used to transport human organs for emergency operations."
The Detroit News reports that automobile manufacturers are using web ads on selected sites "to target specific groups of buyers. In 2003, the world’s 15 largest automakers spent $160.3 million on Internet advertising, a 70 percent increase over just two years earlier, according to a report by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR ... Toyota Motor Co spent $15.8 million on Yahoo! Sports, while Porsche AG pursued investors at TheStreet.com and Volkswagen AG sought good-humored drivers at ComedyCentral.com. ... Toyota and the Big Three now spend millions of dollars each year on sites frequented by minority groups, including BlackVoices.com, Gay.com and MSN Latino, as well as so-called lifestyle sites like CollegeClub.com and Excite Music. ... DaimlerChrysler poured nearly $1 million into Gay.com, which has 3.5 million active members. The site's autos section is sponsored by Jeep."
Jeeeeez. I always thought Jeep was a macho-hetero brand.
On Saturday, I was driving on Highway 14 in Vancouver, Washington which parallels the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks. There was a 5-plus mile back-up of freight trains waiting to cross the Columbia River. The single track bridge handles all east-west BNSF freight as well as all north-south freight and passenger. I wonder if this back-up was another sign that the economy is picking up steam.
More: "Manufacturing, which stumbled for more than a year after the U.S. recession ended ... is hitting its stride, two Federal Reserve banks are expected to report this week. The New York Fed's index of manufacturing in the state will probably register 34.50 in May, the 13th straight month of growth, based on the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey."
Michael Barone writes in U.S. News & World Report: "John Kerry's hope of riding to the presidency by denouncing the 'jobless recovery' is fading as the Bureau of Labor Statistics' employers' survey results come in: 288,000 jobs in April, on top of a revised 337,000 for March and an 867,000 total for the first four months of this year. If job creation continues at the pace of March and April, there will be a net gain in jobs during President Bush's term."
According to the Los Angeles Times: "Former Walt Disney Co. President Michael Ovitz testified in a court deposition that the man who inherited his job, Bob Iger, once wanted to quit in frustration because he bristled under Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner's 'micromanaging'."
In 2001, I opined about Eisner and other 'executives' in a published article, Internal Rot. My comments are still valid today.
Eisner should go: "Dear Michael, Thanks for saving the company in the early '80s after Tron ... you've been unbelievably well-paid ever since. Now get out."
Saturday May 15, 2004:
From the New Scientist: "Minuscule shapes sculpted on metal surfaces could have a profound impact in many fields of engineering. By training intense electron beams on the surface of metals, Bruce Dance and his team have found a way to fashion delicate metal projections that will act like ultra-strong Velcro to form much tougher joints between metals and lightweight composite materials in aircraft and cars."
Wow. Soon you'll be able to use Velcro-ed body parts and change your car's design monthly. A Honda Accord in May; a Ferrari in June.
The Birmingham (Alabama) News reports: "Presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche said he represents the nation's only hope for halting an economic depression that will be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s." What planet is he from, please?
Quote of the Week is from David Letterman: "You know, Bill Clinton - how many of you remember Bill Clinton? - he has a brand new book coming out in the next couple of months and the Democrats are worried that the Clinton book might upstage the Kerry campaign and I'm thinking 'Hell! A day-old meatloaf might upstage that campaign."
Runner-up from Billy Crystal: "John Kerry - you're the presumptive nominee. You should be happy. Tell your face!!"
Friday May 14, 2004:
Today, I paid $2.399 for Plus at a Chevron station. Yikes. And gas is going higher still. When I fill up, I'm no longer just gassing up my car ... I'm investing in the commodity futures market.
Thursday May 13, 2004:
Beautiful day today - 71 degrees and sunny. I saw lots of convertibles on the road with their tops down, including an ancient Jeepster and a Mercedes SLK in a God-awful taxicab yellow (with that dash of orange tint - typical of taxicabs everywhere). It was quite ugly ... and I generally like yellow cars ... but more like canary yellow.
This month (so far) all of my business clients are feeling very happy - business is booming. The recovery is on!
When we were in London in 2001 and getting around by hoofing it, I picked up a product for my rubbed-raw toes at Boots Chemists - Savlon antiseptic cream. Great stuff. Smells nice, too. I've used it for various scrapes and burns since then.
But, alas, the 30-gram tube is nearly empty. Google to the rescue. I searched and found it at britstore.com.uk and ordered two tubes.
Alan King has died at age 76. I always thought he was a funny guy - I enjoyed his observational humor and his 'rants' against airlines, department stores, phone companies, etc. In 1976, my wife and I went to the Casket Manufacturers Convention at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. (Don't ask why.)
Alan was the headliner at Caesar's that week. For the last day of the convention, there was a banquet followed by seating in the main room (along with regular customers) to see Alan King. He appeared ... but, instead of doing his regular routine, he announced, "Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have - in the audience - a bunch of people from the Casket Manufacturers Association. I've been waiting all week for you sons of bitches to show up!"
He then launched into a hilarious 'angry man tirade' about caskets, funerals, cemeteries and the like. And then went on to discuss dead relatives he hated, etc.
Alan was magnificent and I was amazed that he had produced all this new material ... just for one show. What a guy! Rest in Peace.