a blog about cars, auto blog

The View
Through The Windshield

About Cars ... and Everything Else I See
by Joe Sherlock

Friday April 29, 2005

Time Machine: James Lileks asked his readers what objects they might take with them on a trip back to 1950.

One replied: "1950? I'd take a laptop, since you could plug it in. And I'd take a Mac, since Windows' susceptibility to viruses would probably mean my PC laptop would catch polio."

I'd take a car with me. What kind? Get the full story and answer here.

Quote of the Day is from Brent Bozell: "Chris Matthews really needs to retire the name 'Hardball' for his talk show on MSNBC. When it comes to liberal or radical guests, he ought to rename the show 'Cuddles with Chris.'"

Your Weekend Assignment: Saab is a Birkenstock shoe; Saturn is a wheat grass smoothie. Discuss.

Thursday April 28, 2005

Chinese Rolls Royce Knockoff: I think the Hongqi HQD looks better than the real Rolls. And those '54 Lincoln taillights look spectacular.

Keymobile: It's a car covered in keyboard keys - photos here.

Making It Stick: I use epoxy for lots of repair jobs. But epoxy is a rigid adhesive and doesn't always lend itself to flexible items or dissimilar materials exposed to temperature cycling. For those applications, I used to use Hob-E-Tak - available at most hobby shops. It was sticky, smelly and flexible; it cured in less than an hour.

Recently, Hob-E-Tak got reformulated and the new version is a shadow of its former self. It doesn't stink and it doesn't stick very well either.

I've now switched to Amazing Goop and am very pleased with it. It has good holding power and a mild-but-genuine glue odor. I get mine from the Church of Lowe's. (On an early Sunday morning, there are more cars in Lowe's lot than at most churches.)

Last week, I repaired the plastic tray on our 15 year-old Canon copier. I had tried using clear packing tape to mend it but to no avail.

Time to bring out the heavy artillery. I filled the cracks with an old tube of Weld-On 16, a pungent industrial clear plastic glue from my plastics manufacturing days. The odor permeated the house. It is probably either off the market or has been heavily reformulated as EDC and MDC (dichlorides) have now been banned. But, boy, does it bond.

Then I took a few tongue depressors, trimmed them to size on my bandsaw and epoxied them to the bottom of the tray as reinforcements. I used so much epoxy I practically embedded them. Success. I hope the tray holds another 15 years.

Many old-standby glues have been reformulated in recent times because the ingredients that made them bond were found to be carcinogenic. The new formulations are virtually odorless and have poor bonding power.

Plastic model cement now smells like oranges and won't hold worth a damn. Good ol' Barge Cement would glue almost anything to anything. It stunk like a poorly-ventilated shoe repair shop and rightfully so, as many cobblers used Barge Cement to apply half soles to leather.

Glue safety is a philosophical thing: do you really want to live in a cancer-free world where everything comes loose?

Of course, if something falls on your head from a great height, you'll die instantly, which - to some - is a better way to go than the Big C.

Me? I think I'll choose a tight, odiferous, stuck-together world where my tombstone will carry the inscription:

Synergy & Bad Pop Culture! From Page Six (NY Post): "The A&E network is attempting some reality-show synergy by getting the gel-haired Gotti boys to appear on 'Dog the Bounty Hunter.'"

Hey, here's an idea: Why not have the obnoxious Gotti brats appear on A&E's 'Family Plots' and we can all watch the dysfunctional crew of the Poway Mortuary embalm and bury them.

What Holiday Is It? I like to read David Frum at National Review Online. But he doesn't post on Canadian or Jewish holidays and I can't keep track of them all.

Keeping track of such dates can drive one nuts. Ten years ago, I was on a committee to pick future show/meet dates for a national car club. We began by crossing off all national, Christian and Jewish holidays. Then we eliminated the 'bad weather months' - when snow or rain might be a consideration. Then we eliminated those dates which conflicted with other car-related events (Pebble Beach, etc.). We ended up with a narrow window of time between mid-May and early-October.

I later received an angry letter from a Muslim fellow who complained that we had scheduled a major event during a Muslim holy day. I replied, asking him to provide us with dates of Muslim significance for the next four years so we could avoid future conflicts. (Muslim holidays are not listed in those 'Future Planner' sections of DayRunners, etc.) I also invited him to join our planning committee. He never responded - just liked to write angry letters, I guess.

I think of him every time I read about CAIR - the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). That organization also seems to revel in whining rather than accomplishing anything.

Bad Pun Of The Day: The first attempt to build the Channel Tunnel was in France in the 1890s. It would have been the longest steam train tunnel in the world, but they stopped when they realized they'd Britain off more than they could choo.

Wednesday April 27, 2005

Market Adjustment Factor: Buyers hate it when car dealers sell most desirable models above list price, using that dreaded window sticker addition known as the 'Market Adjustment Factor', also known as 'The Gouge.' But, in a free market, such a surcharge will change behavior (capitulate, wait till things get better, buy something/somewhere else), give the surcharger a better standard of living (more money in the dealer's pocket) and encourage the overall market to return to normal. (If The Gouge is too high, people won't buy - forcing prices back down again).

I believe that China needs a dose of the MAF. The value of goods imported from China exceeds the value of U.S. goods exported to China by a factor of more than six to one. The trade deficit with China comprises 20 percent of the total U.S. trade deficit and is the largest trade deficit the United States has with any single nation. ... (more >>>)

Make Fire! What separates man from lesser species - aside from our skill at recording television programs for later viewing - is our ability to create fire. Now you can do it with using only a can of Coke and a Hershey bar.

Works With Merlot, Too. Here's a bit of wisdom from Cliff Claven of 'Cheers' fame: "A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members.

In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But, naturally it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That's why you always feel smarter after a few beers."

Quote of the Week is from Jay Leno: "The U.S. has announced a plan tighten all borders by 2008. Unfortunately, Mexico announced a plan to have all their people here by 2007."

Tuesday April 26, 2005

Rare Rave Review: Dennis Pittsenbarger of the Portland Tribune tested the Jaguar X-Type in Vanden Plas trim offered praise: "The X-Type VDP looks well conceived and integrated, and far more lavish than one might expect at the price. For those who want the numbers, the VDP engine-transmission combination will race from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.6 seconds. ....  The new VDP version of Jaguar's entry sedan is going to be a winner, and should set tough new standards, not only for the competition, but also for future vehicles to come from Jaguar."

I'm So Tired Of Seeing Headlines Like This: 'GM recalls 2 million vehicles.' No wonder sales are tanking; people are afraid to buy GM cars. And buried in a Detroit News article is this gem of a quote: "Detroit's automakers also have scaled back recruitment efforts at local schools for all but the top engineering students, while Asian automakers have grown more active. ... For Asian automakers, "it's a good time to recruit. We've had great success recruiting outstanding engineers," said John Krafcik (ex-Ford, now Hyundai), a high-profile defector from the Big Three."

Makes you wonder if the these two stories aren't related - quality is going to hell because there is a shortage of good engineers at GM.

Connect the dots, folks.

Looks Like An Aztek; Smells Like Roast Dog: Korean automaker SsangYong is makes the super-ugly Rodius MPV. It exports the beast to many countries but, thankfully, not the U.S.

For The Pizza Lover Who Has Everything: Pizza cutters inspired by chopper motorcycles.

Better Than A Cold Shower: The Hyundai XG 350 features a "Climax Control System." (hat tip - George Pradel)

The Oldsmobile Daily Gazette: George Will reports that "Americans ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 6 hours and 21 minutes a day with media of all sorts but just 43 minutes with print media. The circulation of daily U.S. newspapers is 55.2 million, down from 62.3 million in 1990. The percentages of adults who say they read a paper "yesterday" are ominous: 65 and older - 60 percent. 50-64 - 52 percent. 30-49 - 39 percent. 18-29 - 23 percent."

Will ends with this quote: "The future of the big media that the young have abandoned is not certain. But do you remember when an automobile manufacturer, desperately seeking young customers, plaintively promised that its cars were "not your father's Oldsmobile"? Do you remember Oldsmobiles?"

Neither of my grown children subscribes to a newspaper. And they don't drive Oldsmobiles, either. (permalink)

Loser Alert: "Kerry - and his outspoken wife Teresa Heinz Kerry - are increasingly claiming he was robbed last November and should have won."

car blog

Sooooo ... despite their extensive educations at fancy private schools, this bitter, spoiled, rich couple never heard of "graciousness in defeat." (hat tip - Power Line)

No More Food Pyramid: Not even that new gay rainbow one. It has now become a trapezoid. Despite the many 'Keep Off' signs placed around it, too many fat-assed people have sat upon it and the tip has been crushed and permanently flattened.

Different Viewpoint: If you're tired of those insipid motivational posters on the walls of fellow cube-dwellers, put one like this in your space.

Monday April 25, 2005

I Gotta Disagree: Walt Keegan of AutoBlog writes that the Changfeng Cheetah SUV reminds him of the Infiniti FX45.

Not me. I think the face of the Chinese SUV looks like South Park's Mr. Kim, owner of City Wok, City Airlines ("Oooh, Canada. Okay, that's - uh - pretty far. Gonna cost ya a rot of money."), and builder of the South Park Great Wall.

"I hate you Mongorians!"

Mind The Gap: British-made Range Rovers sold in the U.S. come equipped with voice navigation systems that use British terms.

To wit: "Driving near the Santa Ana Freeway, my nephew heard the gizmo say, "In three-quarters of a mile, merge onto the motorway." I've heard the Santa Ana Freeway called a lot of things, but never that."

Hey, Manny. Check My Air, Will Ya? The Pep Boys - Manny, Moe & Jack - will partner with the Rubber Manufacturers Association to promote National Tire Safety Week (April 24-30). Betcha didn't know it's now Tire Safety Week, did ya? So, go do something nice for your tires. I think I'll spray mine with No Touch tire dressing. Or buy four Hallmark cards.

Whenever I think of Pep Boys, I recall .... (more >>>)

Unwanted Cat: Slumping U.S. sales of Jaguar X-Type cars are cutting the number of days employees at the company's British plant are working. Total Jaguar sales in the United States fell 21.5 percent the first three months of the year.

Doing The Pope's Bidding: German car manufacturers like Volkswagen, Audi and BMW are already lining up at the Vatican in order to secure contracts to build the vehicle that will be used by Benedict XVI during his international trips: the famous Popemobile. Mercedes supplied the most-recent Popemobile (based on the ML 430 SUV), but other companies are stepping up with their own models for the new pope.

Following Sunday's Papal Inaugural Mass, Benedict XVI rode among the crowds waving from the original open Popemobile - a late-'70s era white Fiat jeep, the same one in which John Paul II was riding when he was shot in 1981.

For more on papal conveyances, go here.

I Feel A Schism Coming On. A news article reports that Pope Benedict XVI is well-known for his love of cats. This is a serious moral issue. The Catholic Church has always been about dogma, not catma.

Anyone want to join me in forming a new church - a return to a more traditional, Dogcentric form of Catholicism?

Friday April 22, 2005

How Many Chinese Protestors Does It Take To Overturn A Nissan at the Shanghai Auto Show? Twelve, I'd guess. Six to flip the car, four to scream unintelligible anti-Japan and anti-U.S. slogans and two to run around whispering in everyone's ears: "Please, buy our stuff. We give goodee deal. Slave labor makee ex'lent job for you. Workee cheap, too." Story here via AutoBlog.

Why Your Chevy Suburban Is A Pile-O-Crap: From Mickey Kaus: "Would you buy a Three-Beer SUV from this Company? The WSJ's Lee Hawkins Jr. visits Zachow's tavern in Janesville, Wis.: On an early afternoon in mid-March, GM workers who build big Chevrolet Suburban sport-utility vehicles sat elbow-to-elbow on bar stools, smoking cigarettes and drinking Milwaukee-brewed Miller beers and shots of scotch. Zachow's sells deep-fried pork rinds and 24 beers for $24. A sign in the corner reads: 'Finish your beer. There are sober kids in India.'"

The bartender remarked that workers "don't get drunk when they hit his bar during breaks. They only have less than a half-hour for their breaks. If they can get two or three beers down, that's about it."

Kaus quips: "Two or three beers in half an hour? That does not seem conducive to precision assembly."

But, Judge, It's My Religion! A former Costco Wholesale worker who was fired for refusing to remove her eyebrow ring has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She has accused Costco of religious discrimination. She claims membership in the Church of Body Modification.

While you're at it, Your Honor, leave me alone, too. I'm a member of the Church of Exceeding The Speed Limit.

Triple Whammy? For over 30 years, Triple-A has been my Gold Standard for picking lodging and restaurants. Now, I no longer trust them.

In the past few years, we've had some disappointing hotel experiences - three-diamond ratings given to properties that didn't deserve even a single diamond. ... (more >>>)

Losing Focus: Ever wonder why theater movies look so crappy these days? Martha Bayles explains.

Mind Control: A researcher had his subjects take the Pepsi Challenge while he watched their neural activity with a functional MRI machine, which tracks blood flow to different regions of the brain. Without knowing what they were drinking, about half of them said they preferred Pepsi. But when told that the samples were Coke, three-fourths said that drink tasted better and their brain activity changed too.

Coke "lit up" the medial prefrontal cortex - a part of the brain that controls higher thinking.

The researcher posits that "the brain was recalling images and ideas from commercials, and the brand was overriding the actual quality of the product. For years, in the face of failed brands and laughably bad ad campaigns, marketers had argued that they could influence consumers' choices. Now, there appears to be solid neurological proof."

Sue For Success: Viacom and Infinity Broadcasting were ordered to pay $614,000 to a former salesman for the Philadelphia Eagles Radio Network for discrimination. The case involved Shawn Brooks (described as "mixed race"), who charged that he was given a book, 'Dress for Success' (by John T. Molloy), that advised blacks selling to whites not to wear Afros or African-style clothing.

Molloy's book is The Resource for corporate dress advice (although even the latest edition is getting a little long in the tooth) and is in no way bigoted. It's a good read; the book's recommendations work. In fact, I made 'Dress For Success' mandatory reading for each of my salespeople. It seems to me that this lawsuit was just another Play-The-Race-Card rip-off. I hope that the verdict is appealed and overturned.

Ironically, in the world of 'South Park', no one follows Molloy's sartorial advice (especially Mr./Ms. Garrison and Professor Mephisto) ... except Token's dad who is, of course, black!

Never Mind. On this Earth Day, I am fondly reminded of Gilda Radner's Emily Latella (on SNL) - who might say: "What's all this I hear about 'greenhouse gas'? Can't people just hold it in until they go back outside?"

Thursday April 21, 2005

sherlock automobile bloggingCar Sightings: First, a shiny new Porsche Carrera convertible in red. I like the way the back deck recalls the Porsche lines of yore. It really looked like a Porsche rather than a whale-tailed monstrosity.

Spotted a mid-90s Alfa Romeo 164L - in red, of course - heading up Route 503. Interesting and clean lines but the sharp/wedgy styling made it look really dated.

Passed a parked Chrysler Crossfire black coupe with polished silver wheels. Wow! Black really brings out the muscular style of the car, especially from the back. Also saw a well-preserved 1956 snow-white Thunderbird convertible - sporting the obligatory Continental kit - with the black canvas soft top in the 'up' position. The chrome really sparkled in the afternoon sun but I don't why the guy didn't drop the top in the wonderful 70 degree sunshine.

And You Thought GM Was In Bad Shape: "Fiat hits all-time low." And, considering how low Fiat was to begin with ... well ... that's Mariana Trench-low. Just above Rover. And DeLorean.

Mercy Killing? A 64 year-old Florida man shot-up his 1994 LeBaron with handgun, stating, "I'm putting my car out of its misery."

sherlock auto blogOh, I Wish ... George Molchan, who died at 82, portrayed the Oscar Meyer's spokesman, Little Oscar, for more than three decades, traveling from town to town in the company's Wienermobile.

Mourners sang, "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener" at his funeral and the 27-foot-long Wienermobile accompanied the funeral cortege to the cemetery.

Off The Track: The sad state of the American passenger railroad and the failure of the Acela train is chronicled by John Tierney in the New York Times.

Joe Sherlock auto blogLast October, we had a good Acela ride from Boston to Washington. The rail upgrades were still in progress, so the train had to go slow in spots and the ride was not nearly as smooth as the Eurostar, but the staff were friendly and the service was very prompt.

It was a thrill to go up and over the old Hellgate Bridge into New York City.

The four-track section of the old Pennsylvania Railroad line has been mostly upgraded and we flew through New Jersey. I got jolts of nostalgia from seeing the familiar Philly railscape roll past - Holmesburg Station, Frankford Junction, the Zoo, the stately Art Museum and the spectacular 30th Street Station. The beautifully restored Union Station in D.C. was a sight to behold. And to wander around in.

So What? AFP headline: "San Francisco gays dismayed by choice of new pope." Who cares what "San Francisco gays" think? About anything.

Of course, Andrew Sullivan is pitching one of his hissy fits but he's been properly nailed for his wobbly postings by the Ace of Spades. Heh-heh.

More Papal Ankle-Biting: Gerard Baker of The Times (UK) writes about "the stunned reaction of the bulk of the media to the election of Pope Benedict XVI" Gerard quips: "Did the likes of The Guardian, the BBC or The New York Times think there was someone in the Church’s leadership who was going to pop up out on the balcony of St Peter’s and with a cheery wave, tell the faithful that everything they’d heard for the past 26 - no, make that 726 - years was rubbish and that they should all rush out and load up with condoms and abortifacients like teenagers off for a smutty weekend?"

As I wrote last week, "Catholicism is a religion - not a focus group."

Begone Satan: If you're a parent, you know about the visceral heart-thump you experience when you read about an innocent child murdered by some sicko. It is every parent's worst nightmare. You think: "That could have been my kid." Then, perhaps, you go and hug your kids for - in their view - no reason which makes them add the inexplicable experience to their 'My Parents Are Unpredictable Nutcases' file.

A repeat sex offender confessed to killing 13-year-old Sarah Lunde who disappeared a week ago, saying he broke into her house and choked her to death. Among the mourners at a church service for Sarah were Mark Lunsford, whose daughter Jessica was found dead last month after she was kidnapped, raped, bound and buried alive by a convicted sex offender, and Roy Brown, whose daughter Amanda was murdered in 1997 by a convicted child molester.

It is time to admit that repeat child molesters cannot be 'cured' or 'reformed' and they deserve no mercy. Such vile beings do not belong in the Christian "the least of my brothers" category but rather, in the Christian "demons who prowl the Earth" category.

Devils are to be extinguished, not paroled. Kill them all. Or put all repeat offenders on a deserted island and let them kill each other.

Time Travel: Not possible, explains James Lileks. "If time travel were possible, someone would have already shown up in a jump suit, a Moscow accent and a superpowerful prosthetic arm attached just so he could materialize in Bill Gates' office and beat the tar out of him for Windows."

"Are - are you finished?" Gates gasped, raising himself off the floor. "No, my friend," Sergei said sadly. "That was just for Windows 95. We have yet to atone for the security flaws in Internet Explorer."

A Caste Of Thousands: Headline from this week's issue of The Onion: 'New Tech-Support Caste Arises In India.'

"Thanks to widespread outsourcing of telephone-service jobs, a sixth caste has blossomed in India: the Khidakayas, a mid-level jati made up of technical-support workers. "I am happy to be a Khidakaya," said technical-support agent Ranji Prasat, who speaks English with a flawless American accent and goes by the name "Ron" at work. "While we rank below members of the reigning order, those of us responsible for helping Americans track their online purchases and change their account PINs share many privileges not enjoyed by the merchant class below us."

Prasat said he expects to marry another tech-support worker."

For The Man Who Has Everything (Except Taste): A sinking Titanic and Iceberg water slide.

Wednesday April 20, 2005

Jaguar SUV: The rumor of a Jaguar sport utility vehicle is rearing its ugly head again.

Memo to Ford: In America, Jaguar's biggest single market, Land Rover is the Jaguar SUV. What you 'should' do is start combining Jag and LR dealerships here. More dealers for each brand ... more cross-selling opportunities. More sales.

A bloody good thing for both brands, old chaps.

Market Saturation: Harley-Davidson shares plummeted after the company cut its earnings outlook and production schedule for the year. Waddya expect? I mean, how many gray-haired, aging men with ponytails are there, anyhow?

Avalon Optimists: Last year, Toyota South (Richmond, KY) sold one Avalon - in a good month. This year, almost a dozen 2005 Avalons have been sold in two months. Over in Lexington, KY, there's an 8 to 12-week wait for Avalons at Green's Toyota. The Georgetown, KY plant plans to build more than 100,000 Avalons this year, because it is confident they will be sold.

automobile blogging

I'm surprised. Living in the Pacific Northwest - the land of Asian-brand vehicles (making up about 50% of the sedans and coupes I see on the road) - I've yet to spot another new Avalon. That said, it's hard to dispute Toyota - a firm not known for exaggerating its sales projections.

I Long For The Old Days When The Rat Pack Drove Dual Ghias: The Toyota Prius has become the "hot" item for Hollywood stars.

I Guess Those Things Aren't As Useless As I Thought: An elderly British woman stopped a burglar by hitting him with a garden gnome. "I grabbed the first thing that came to hand - one of my garden gnomes - and hurled it at him, and hit him," she said. "He lay there and I began to scream. I went back into the kitchen and found a rolling pin ... I didn't want to break another gnome."

Congrats To Pope Benedict XVI! Although I doubt that he reads this blog. And how come all the media are sneering about "Cafeteria Catholics" but never mention those "Buffet Baptists" or "Luau Lutherans"?

The Third World: This well-written article underscores the seemingly unsolvable problems in poor countries. They want our cash but not our skills in eliminating root causes of their problems.

Significant quote: "White SUVs owned by nongovernmental organizations, such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme and Save the Children were a common sight on Malawi's roads. The democratically-elected government was known to be primarily supported by foreign aid. And because I am white, the people I met considered me a donor. In fact, as far as many Malawians were concerned, that was why I was there. So they asked me for help - not for the medical help I had come to offer, but for money."

Bleak Outlook: Roger Simon refers to a couple of well-known California Congressionettes as "the bleakness twins - Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer. Those Sisters of Mean can put a downer on everything, know what I'm sayin'?"

Count Chocula May Look Pale ... but he's probably cancer-free. Georgetown University scientists report that an ingredient in chocolate seems to have anti-cancer properties. Found in cocoa, pentameric procyandin turns off proteins that likely spur the out-of-control division of cancer cells.

the view through the windshield

The research is funded by Mars Inc., makers of M&Ms and Snickers.

Tuesday April 19, 2005

Troubling Statistic: The New York Times claims that about a third of Ford and GM sales go to their own employees, their family and friends or to rental companies and corporate fleets, at razor-thin margins.

Joe Sherlock auto bloggingT-Bird Trivia: Among the 5,000 suggested names for the 1955 Ford Thunderbird were Hep Cat, Beaver, Detroiter, Runabout, Arcturus, Savile, El Tigre and Coronado. One serious suggestion was Whizzer.

Finally, a Ford stylist submitted 'Thunderbird' and the rest is history. He was supposed to win a $250 suit. Instead he settled for a $95 suit and an extra pair of trousers from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Pimp My Wheels! This week's edition of MTV's 'Pimp My Ride' had Alex (the wheel & tire dude at West Coast Customs) making an interesting wheel choice. 'Q' - the shop foreman - explained it to the young lady whose ride was being pimped, "We hit ya with the 17-inch Alba Impulses."

Admiring the chrome wheels, the comely pimpee exclaimed joyously, "Damn! That's tight!"

Sherlock automobile blog

I laughed because these are the exact same wheels I put on my wife's Avalon. Bitchin'! Yo - dat's sick, dog!

Shape Shifting: Newly-developed plastic materials change shape when struck by light at certain wavelengths and return to their original shapes when exposed to light of specific different wavelengths.

This could revolutionize the auto business. Imagine driving a speeding Lamborghini that, when lit up with the blue lights of a pursuing police car, instantly turns into a Buick Regal.

I Thought It Had To Do With Scotch: The Black Label Company is a low-fare chauffeured executive sedan service offering daily service at Los Angeles International Airport at an industry-first booking rate of $29.95 per half hour with no minimum. The company operates a fleet of black 2005 Lincoln Town Car L (long-wheelbase) models.

Get Well Soon: Say a prayer for television personality Tom Snyder who is battling leukemia.

the view through the windshield blog

I haven't always agreed with Tom but he's a toy train nut and somewhat of a car buff and usually has something interesting to say. His fine late night show had some great - and wacky - guests and I enjoyed his news anchor performances at KYW-TV in Philadelphia on the 1960s.

Some Tom-quotes: "GM and Ford have lost the way when it comes to designing and building sexy cars that make us wanna buy them."

And: "Donald Trump spends a lot of time telling people how to get rich. But I haven't heard him mention how helpful it is to have a father who kicks in 45 million as seed money!"

Then there's: "The worst Italian restaurant in New York (if there is such a thing) is better than the best Italian restaurant in most other American cities."

Well, I dunno. I've always found awesome Italian food in the Boston area, especially North Boston. And Providence, RI. And Philadelphia ... gosh, Tom, didn't you ever dine at the late, great Gaetano's - just a few blocks from KYW's studio?

And The Award Goes To ..... Master Blogs gives awards to worthy blogs. Less than 7% of all blogs visited make the cut and are considered as "outstanding" blogs - based on content and web design.

I'm pleased to announce that this blog has just been selected for inclusion in the Guide to Outstanding Blogs. Cool. Thanks. Master Blogs dudes.

Deus Ex Machina: Both Nostradamus and Saint Malachy have predicted that the next pope will be next to the last. Some say this foretells the dissolution of the Catholic Church.

I prefer to believe that it will be the end of the human papacy and the beginning of the Robot Popes - possibly beginning with Pope Alloy I. Or Pope Bender.

Machines can be easily programed to be dogmatic and have no human failings. You'll just have to wait to see if I'm right. Meanwhile, lots of non-robot information about Papal candidates here.

Pope Dies; Employees Profit: As the world mourns the death of Pope John Paul II, Vatican bureaucrats have a reason to smile - a bonus in their next pay packet. Church custom is to pay Vatican employees a bonus of a month's salary whenever a pope dies. "Apparently it dates back to medieval times when the workers would go looting because they were worried they'd be out of a job," said a spokesperson.

This creepy practice should be banished immediately.

Little-Known AARP Factoid: Andrea Dworkin, militant femiNazi and man-hating, bib overall-wearing wacko, died last week. Charlotte Allen writes that Dworkin was, in some respects, "a few pages short of a manifesto." But wait - there's more. Dworkin's "husband" was John Stoltenberg. "Stoltenberg, by his own proclamation, is gay, and Dworkin used to call him a "nongenital man," which was apparently how she liked them. Stoltenberg is the author of two books, "Refusing to Be a Man" (1990) and "The End of Manhood" (1993)."

Allen continues: "And - get this - he's also the managing editor of the AARP magazine - you know, the mag with the photos on the cover of the chirpy middle-American seniors playing golf and skiing the Jungfrau. I dunno if I want that man - or rather, non-man - lobbying to bankrupt my Social Security system when I'm an old lady."

Bad Pun of the Day: A radical segment of the Woodworkers Union broke off and formed a splinter group.

Monday April 18, 2005

Quick! Change The Channel! I love TV programs about cars, but Boyd Coddington stars in the most boring and contrived one on earth - the Discovery Channel's 'American Hot Rod.'

Now, it turns out he's a crook, too. What a jerk. (hat tip - AutoBlog)

Skatin' Along: Jim Mateja of the Chicago Tribune tested the Chevy Aveo. My take ... if you've always wanted roller skates but you're too clumsy or your feet are too big, shoehorn yourself into this little conveyance. Or, better yet, buy a pair!

More Proof That GM Is Comatose: It has hired John Tesh to narrate a 30 minute OnStar infomercial. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

Trivia question: Which is more 1980s - John Tesh or a front-wheel drive Olds Omega Brougham with red velour interior, padded vinyl roof and The Go-Gos playing on the eight-track?

Lexus - No Bargain: AutoBlog is testing the new Lexus GS300 AWD. It stickers at $44,850 (base price) but the following are extra-cost options: rain sensing wipers - $525, rear sunshade - $210, one-touch moonroof - $1,000, ventilated seats - $200.

Those same four items are standard in the Toyota Avalon Limited which costs about $11,000 less. And has more horsepower. And uses the exact same pushbutton starter. But the Avalon doesn't have AWD. And no Lexus badges.

I haven't tried the latest GS but drove a 2004 model last summer (see August 31, 2004 posting) and was underwhelmed.

Backing Away From Bangle: BMWs are starting to look like BMWs again, as this photo of a 2006 5-Series illustrates. As Martha Stewart might say (in between stock trades and abusing underlings), "That's a good thing."

Decline of Print News, Chapter 873: The other day, as their latest contribution to the death spiral of American journalism, the Associated Press announced that it would now be supplying newspapers across the country with alternate versions of important stories – in order to "enhance the value of the AP news report to your newspaper." My translation: Pap now delivered in your choice of flavors. (permalink)

The Church of Legos must be seen to be appreciated. Many photos, including this shot of the congregation. (Check out the rack on Princess Stephanie.)

Friday April 15, 2005

Gas Hogs: General Motors is shutting down its Arlington, Texas assembly line for 3 more weeks this year. The Arlington plant builds the GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe and Cadillac Escalade but soaring gasoline prices have softened SUV sales.

Nobody To Blame But .... Families of workers at Britain's MG Rover marched on the residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday to protest over the possible closure of the bankrupt carmaker. Let's see - the Rover Sterling was a poorly-built Acura, proving that Rover's workers were so stupid/lazy that they could even turn a Honda into a steaming Pile-O-Crap.

In its heyday, MG got almost half its sales from the U.S. The latest model, the MGF, was so problem-prone there was no thought given to importing it to its major market.

The blame belongs to the workers, not Tony Blair.

Bus Ridership Down ... despite increasing gas costs.

Yeah, I'll ride a bus. When gas hits $19.00 per gallon. And hell freezes over.

Another Sign of the End Times ... You can now buy Hello Kitty insect repellent. Testimonial in Japlish: "... a barbecue party is a part of American standard life. It is good feeling to have a food outside. But, it is bad if unpleasant bugs come. So, now a handy bug repellent with no smell gets popular."

Hey! Maybe You're Collectible! Or so says Real Life Adventures.

Onion Headline: "Cost Of Living Now Outweighs Benefits." Story here.

Bad Pun of the Day: A farmer now claims to have 200 head of cattle. He thought there were only 196 until he rounded them up.

Thursday April 14, 2005

More Ponies; Fewer Pile-ups: Progressive Insurance finds that cars with more horsepower have fewer auto insurance claims than are those with less horsepower.

Lutz Uses C-Word ... and Chevy buffs moan in feral ecstasy as they fantasize passionately over vaguely-possible Camaro rebirth. "Ooooooohhhhhhhh. Do it again, Bob. This time with even more power and thrust. Ooooooohhhhhh."

Queen's New Ride: Watching the news coverage of Prince Charles' wedding last weekend, I caught a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth's new limousine. I had not seen it before. It's a Bentley and was presented to her in May 2002. It is derived from the big Bentley Arnage. The car's front-end styling is a bit odd, with a general shape similar to the new Continental plus a chromed almost-Rolls-like grille shell.

Previously, the Queen rode in a 1987 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI. The switch was made to Bentley because Rolls Royces are made almost - in their entirety - in Germany these days. Bentleys are still assembled in Crewe, Great Britain. The limo is 249 inches long with a 154-inch wheelbase and a weight of 7,474 lbs.

The Bentley State Limousine is powered by a modified version of Bentley's 400 hp, twin-turbo, 6.75-liter V8. It can also run on liquid natural gas, if needed. The new limousine is scheduled to stay in service until the year 2027.

Changing Catholicism? John Derbyshire at National Review writes: "The debate among devout Catholics about this calamity, so far as I can follow it, is not very enlightening. Conservatives blame it all on the reforms of the Vatican II Council (1962-5); liberals blame it on John Paul II himself, saying that his firm traditionalist approach to core doctrines turned off the more open-minded Catholic laity. Both surely know in their hearts that the real culprit is the irresistible appeal of secular hedonism to healthy, busy, well-educated populations."

I think he's right. People are busy - with work, hobbies, etc. - and no longer consider church as a "social outlet" as in the past. Reality television and the internet have become the new social outlets.

Writing in the New York Times, funeral director Thomas Lynch notes that "times formerly spent in worship or communion are now spent shopping or Web-browsing or otherwise passing time. Many Americans are now spiritual tourists without home places or core beliefs to return to." ... (more >>>)

Bad Pun of the Day: Asked why he was moving to France, a man said he had nothing Toulouse.

Wednesday April 13, 2005

Avalon Update: Several folks have asked me for updates on our new Toyota Avalon, which now has almost 900 miles on the odometer. Unfortunately, I've had only limited opportunity to drive the Avalon recently. My wife's been doing most of the driving. (Well, it is her car, after all.)

But the more I drive it, the more I like it. It is fast and nimble; it handles surprisingly well. I keep finding little thoughtful touches that make me wonder, "Why don't other car companies do that?"

Sherlock car blog

The car gets 28-plus mpg on the highway; 24 mpg in mixed use driving. When I hop in my Jaguar (which I dearly love), I feel like I'm taking a step downward. The Avalon has more luxury features, although the Jag's seats are a tad more comfortable for me.

This Avalon is definitely a keeper.

Untimely: On Tuesday, I received a mailing from Toyota containing 'Time Sensitive Material.' Inside was the Avalon brochure I had requested in January. I guess Toyota outsources their literature fulfillment to a bunch of ex-plumbers.

Good Idea! George Will writes: "The idea ... is to require that 65 percent of every school district's education operational budget be spent on classroom instruction. On, that is, teachers and pupils, not bureaucracy. Nationally, 61.5 percent of education operational budgets reach the classrooms. Why make a fuss about 3.5 percent? Because it amounts to $13 billion."

Bad Pun of the Day: A vampire walks into a bar and asks for a large glass of A-positive blood. The bartender says, "I'm sorry, but we don't serve your type here."

Tuesday April 12, 2005

How To Fix GM: General Motors does not have too many brands. It has too many vehicles that are the same. Wearing different badges. GM needs to differentiate its various nameplates. Like it did in the 1930s-60s.

Like Honda versus Acura is now. And Lexus vs. Toyota vs. Scion. And BMW vs. Mini vs. Rolls Royce. Here's how to do it - nameplate by nameplate ... (more >>>)

Blogging Lite: I had some heavy-duty dental surgery Monday and am drugged and feeling 'under the weather.' It hurts to blog. Hell, it hurts to Google. But I'm taking these wonderful pain pills ... at first glance, they look like Flintstone Vitamins but, upon closer inspection, I've found they're actually in the shape of Courtney Love.

I may be posting less for a few days.

With Equality For All: I searched Google and found 3,460,000 results for 'atheist' and 3,300,000 results for 'foot fetish'. Soooo .... if we have to remove "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance to satisfy atheists, shouldn't we be removing our shoes to keep an equally large minority - foot fetishists - happy?

Worst Buy? Best Buy had a customer arrested for paying with $2 bills. This story supports my observation that Best Buy is OK if you know exactly what you want and can carry it out with you. But if you have questions or problems, they're idiots.

Bad Pun of the Day: The big news from the Bicycle Wheel Manufacturers Association is that they've appointed a new spokes-person.

Monday April 11, 2005

Popemobiles Through The Ages - A Brief History of Papal Conveyances. I've researched the subject of popes and the vehicles that transported them and have posted an essay here.

the view through the windshieldNew Vehicle Shopping Statistics: 46% of all shoppers plan to pay $15-25K for a new car; 38% are prepared to pay $25-40K. The cheapie/entry-level market (less than $15K) is small - sought by only 7% of prospects. And only 9% are willing to pay more than $40,000 for a vehicle.

It makes me wonder why companies seem to spend so much time on low-buck entries. It's gotta be a low-margin market. And conversely, why the other end of the field - the $40K-and-up luxury segment - is becoming so crowded. Maybe Lincoln has the right idea - repositioning the brand as a $30-$40 'near-luxury' marque. Lots of interesting data here.

'I'm Taking My Football And Going Home' Department: On Friday, General Motors pulled all advertising from the LA Times, a day after the Times' automotive columnist Dan Neil, a 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner, called on the company to "dump" Chairman and CEO Richard Wagoner.

I seem to recall that GM did the same thing to Motor Trend in the early 1990s after MT criticized a problem-ridden Buick Riviera test car. "No more test cars for you," exclaimed the General, hysterically. That lasted - oh - about a week. You can't fight the press. Or the truth.

Result: It's 2005 and Motor Trend is still around. The Buick Riviera isn't. And GM is still as panicked as Liza Minnelli rifling through a liquor cabinet full of empty bottles.

Wasted Trip: A man drove his car into a wall of the Division of Motor Vehicles in Anchorage, Alaska, then walked inside and renewed his driver's license. Police charged him with DWI and suspended his license.

Gimme That Old Time Religion: The Anchoress writes that Pope John Paul II's funeral "made me long to hear more (or, any) Gregorian Chant at mass. I really hunger for it. Enough of the feel-good campfire-type songs, please!"

I couldn't agree more. I am sick and tired of 'Kumbuya' folk music, "invented" ceremonies (I'm waiting for someone to introduce The Blessing of the Dandruff.), turning every low Mass into a time-wasting crap-songfest, excessive hand-holding, hugging and other creepy, Touching To Symbolize Our Shared Faith detritus. Actually, it's more like Touching To Share Germs Just Before Communion. (Isn't this how the Black Plague spread during the Middle Ages?) Maybe we should have a Slather Your Hands And Arms In Purell ceremony. ... (more >>>)

Death By Laser: Those wacky Arabs are at it again! The Palestinian Authority's ambassador to Sri Lanka claims that Yassir Arafat was killed by Israeli agents using a laser.

Hey, this makes sense to me. The good nuns in my 1950s Catholic grade school told us, "Be careful of impure thoughts ... and Jews with lasers." At least, I think that's what they said. Or maybe it was "Jews with potatoes." Or "stewed tomatoes." Or ... maybe it was a prescient Star Trek reference: "crew with phasers." Well, they said something ... I'm sure of that. (hat tip - George Pradel)

LegoDisney: Lego enthusiasts have built a selective scale model of Disneyland out of Legos.

Friday April 8, 2005

There's No Accounting For Taste: The Sacramento Bee held a "Fantasy Island" contest, asking readers to tell them what kind of car they would want on a fictional island with a winding road course and free gasoline, where speeding tickets did not exist. One reader voted for a Pontiac Aztek!

This Stinks of Desperation: "... to jump start sagging sales of three of its most important new products, General Motors is offering lease customers in some parts of the country the chance to return the cars if they're not satisfied. Customers who lease a Chevrolet Cobalt, Pontiac G6 or Buick LaCrosse can return the car with no further obligation if they do so before they've driven 12,000 miles."

the view through the windshield car blog

There currently is a 95-day supply of LaCrosses and 92 day supply of Cobalts. I'm not surprised. When equipped with suitable options, both are overpriced compared with their competition. Prospects know this and are staying away in droves. Both cars are better than the models they replaced but "We're better than we used to be" isn't good enough anymore.

Dodge seems to have the right idea, pricing the new Charger at a low base of $22,995 - outfitted with a 3.5-liter V-6, five-speed automatic, stability control, power windows and locks, cruise control, and tire-pressure monitors. The $29,995 R/T version includes the 340-hp Hemi V-8, 18-inch wheels and leather seats. That's 100 horses more than the LaCrosse CSX.

Redefining Lame: The usually-funny Lewis Black of 'Back In Black' fame, gave an exceptionally weak performance at Wednesday's Radio and Television Correspondents dinner (which I watched on C-Span). The only thing worse was this week's episode of 'South Park.' I fear SP may have jumped the shark.

Contenders: This may seem an inappropriate subject since (as I write this) John Paul II isn't even buried yet, but a new pope will soon be among us. Cardinals are forbidden to campaign for the Papacy but that's not stopping bookmakers from taking odds. The two favorites - at the moment - are Dionigi Cardinal Tettamanzi and Cardinal Francis Arinze.

Arinze is a Vatican insider with the title 'Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments'. He is 73 years-old and was born in Eziowelle, Nigeria. Tettamanzi is the Archbishop of Milan. He's a 68 year-old Italian and looks like a cross between Pope John XXIII and Clemenza from 'The Godfather.'

Of course, most of the time, the "leading contenders" don't get the Papacy. May the best man win! (Whoever he may be!)

Job Titles: The ones for the most powerful jobs are a single word. Pope. President. Owner. Dictator. King. God. Lowly jobs have long titles. On 'Seinfeld', perennial loser George Costanza was 'Assistant to the Traveling Secretary for The New York Yankees.' I can't quantify the importance of Cardinal Arinze's work but - with a title like 'Prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments' - it sounds suspiciously Costanza-like.

TV Guide - Papal Tribute Edition is a very funny, 'special' TV Guide. And, as for the entry, "Tim Russert discusses his childhood obsession with masturbation - and how Catholic school helped cure him of his addiction.", I must point out that Russert does mostly book author inteviews these days on his CNBC show.

He should have tenor Andrea Boccelli as a guest to promote his new autobiography: "They Told Me To Stop When I Got Nearsighted."

Papal Focus Groups: Over at Midwest Conservative Journal, Chris Johnson pokes fun at media articles about What The Catholic Church Should Do. Complete with survey results and man-on-the-street interviews. (Or agnostic-on-the-street interviews.) "Don't forget universal health care. What's the point of having a new pope at all without universal health care?" And: "The new pope should also come up with an anti-steroid plan for major league baseball with some teeth." And, finally: "A solid majority of Americans also felt that the new pope should pick a vice-pope from the South in order to balance the ticket."

Gee, I was going to write something about how to fix Catholicism, too, but I'm busy working on a piece about how to fix General Motors. (More on that subject next week. Stay tuned.)

Bad Pun of the Day: When a glassblower inhaled he got a pane in the stomach.

Thursday April 7, 2005

A Perfect 10. Bob Schulties at Cars! Cars! Cars! likes the Toyota Avalon: "Avalon is a 10. It's near perfect. It is going to take sales away from every maker of large cars. If you like large cars, there is nothing else to look at. The dudes at Lexus gotta be saying, "What the...!?" But don't mind them, they have no soul. Watch Toyota go into double overtime trying to make enough of these Avalons."

This is a good segue to my announcement: I finally posted pictures of my wife's new Avalon on the web.

Automotive Design and Production has an interesting article about Toyota and information about the development of the 2005 Avalon. "The all-new third generation Avalon was styled at Toyota's Calty design studio in Newport Beach, California, and will be built at our Georgetown, Kentucky, production facility. And for the first time ever, its engineering development was the responsibility for the U.S.-based Toyota Technical Center." Money quote: "Avalon is Toyota's best domestic-conquest vehicle. More than half - 51.6% - of all Avalon sales come from buyers replacing a domestic vehicle. Not surprisingly, Buicks make up three of the top five."

Free IKEA Meatballs? The headline reads: "Volvo Cars to Bring Swedish Culture as Well as Cars to Dallas Auto Show." But, alas, no meatballs are mentioned.

Darwin Award Nominees: In Iowa, two men ended up in jail because the hood of their car popped open while driving on Interstate 380. Instead of pulling over to fix the problem, the men stuck their heads out the windows so they could see the road and kept going at about 55 mph.

Pomp and Circumstance: I've been enjoying the traditions, choreographed ceremonies and Latin chants emanating from Vatican City.

It is wonderful that video technology can distribute these majestic, timeless images across the globe. And you don't have to go to Rome and mingle with four million other people, wait in line (20 people across) for 6-8 hours and make periodic runs to an overflowing Port-a-Potty in order to experience it.

"Be Not Afraid": Larry Kudlow shares how Pope John Paul II influenced his life during a time of personal crisis.

sherlock auto blogBad Dreams: The probable cancellation of the TV series, American Dreams, is being bemoaned by Rachel DiCarlo of The Weekly Standard. I won't miss it; I could never get into it.

In 2002, I watched the first episode. It was full of errors, which I gleefully pointed out - as they happened - to my wife and daughter. Finally, I quit because I was becoming an annoyance.

The show was set in early November of 1963 and begins with a snowstorm raging. Wrong! In the 1960s, there was never snow on the ground in Philadelphia before Thanksgiving. Then, a PTC bus pulls up to take on passengers - a correct 1950s GM 4502 Transit Coach but in the wrong colors with an incorrect logo. Wrong. And things continued downhill from there.

My kids bring me a lot of videos to watch, because they get a big kick out of watching me go nuts finding historical inaccuracies. "This movie is supposed to be set in 1958. What’s that 1960 Falcon doing in the driveway?" Or, "Hey, this TV show is supposed to be from 1953, but they’re playing a 1959 Bobby Rydell song on the jukebox."

It has been suggested that, in this age of specialized TV channels, I start my own - NPN (The Nitpick Network).

Congress Awards Itself Congressional Medal of Honor: "We've done a very good job this past year, says Congress" - according to The Onion.

Chrome Dome Revenge: A man can disparage a hair-restoration company on a website using the company's name without violating copyright law, an appeals court ruled Monday.

Bosley Medical Institute in Seattle sued former client Michael Kremer after he created a website in 2000 in a "bald-faced effort to get even" with the company, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said.

Quote of the Week is from James Lileks: "Finally, there's one new technology that truly shows some promise. It's called the Internet. Visit sites whose opinions you like. Bookmark them. Ignore the rest! Remember, on the Internet no one knows you're a dog - so feel free to sniff the same fire hydrant, day after day after day."

Wednesday April 6, 2005

Watering Down The Brand: When you go to a class reunion, someone always asks: "Whadda ya drivin'?" If you have a car with unmuddled brand identity, you should be able to provide a one-word answer. Ferrari. Porsche. Bentley.

The Volkswagen Phaeton was doomed to fail from the get-go because no one wants to say, "I drive a Volkswagen but it's a $70,000 Phaeton - not one of the cheap-ass smaller ones." People say, "Corvette." (Never Chevy Corvette. The 'Vette owner doesn't want to connect himself with owners of lowly Cobalts and Aveos.) "Navigator." ('Lincoln' is never mentioned as it creates visions of old geezers mindlessly piloting Town Cars.) "I drive an Escalade." (No mention of Cadillac. But this may change as Caddy's offerings become more hip.) "Jaguar." (Well, that used to work but now XJ and XK owners must now find a way to distance themselves from lesser Jags ... without sounding lame like a Phaeton owner.)

Savvy car companies will resist the urge to establish 'entry-level' luxury cars. Never lower the bar too much or you'll never be able to raise it again. Porsche understands this. You may not like all of the company's offerings but, there is no such thing as a 'cheap' Porsche.

The Jaguar S-Type is a smaller Jaguar but is not cheap. The X-Type comes across as a 'cheap' Jaguar and hurts the brand. General Motors is one of the worst offenders with Pontiacs, Chevies and Buicks priced alike. An entry-level Buick should be a Pontiac. And an entry-level Pontiac should be a Chevrolet. (That's the way it used to be when GM had 50% market share.)

Rode In Mercedes But Liked Our Cars: Adolph Hitler: "In the economic field, we can learn much from the United States. The motor industry of the United States, by standardization of types and mass production, has reduced the cost of a motor car to such an extent that every workman over there can afford to keep and run a car.

Our own procedure has been exactly the reverse. We are constantly bringing out new models and modifying and improving existing ones. The result is that we have to produce an immense number and variety of spare parts, for the parts of a different model of the same make of car are never interchangeable. Nothing like this occurs in America."

In America, We Love Car Chases: Yesterday morning, a car chase in L.A. booted Vatican City coverage ("As you can see, there are many people standing in line ...") from Fox News and CNN Headline News for 90 minutes. The car was a white '97 Honda Accord traveling at speeds up to 100 mph. At one point, the driver was sitting on the seatback with his head and upper body sticking through the sunroof - steering with his feet! On the freeway!

Finally, he got hungry and stopped for munchies at Donut World. And was promptly handcuffed. (No link to a news story because - I'm ashamed to admit - I actually watched much of it.)

Holy Stink! Here's some Papal History you probably won't learn from those television commentators covering John Paul II's funeral:

auto blogAfter Pius XII became Pope in 1939, he appointed Riccardo Galeazzi-Lisi, a medical oddball, as his personal physician. In the 1950s, Ricardo introduced Pius to a Swiss doctor who claimed that his 'cellular therapy' could reverse aging. The treatment required the injection of live cells from sheep embryos.

When the Pope died in 1958, Galeazzi-Lisi prevented the body from being conventionally embalmed. Instead, he used his own preservation system - "based on ancient formulas" and claimed that it was "superior to modern methods and would ensure that Pope Pius' body would resist contamination for at least 100 years."

The Galeazzi-Lisi miracle system involved ... (more >>>)

Valuable New Car Option: If you have to leave your car outside in a neighborhood full of roaming dogs.

Geek Test: If a fly lands on your computer screen and you try to shoo it away with the pointer, you're spending too much time at your computer.

If a fly lands on your computer and you start writing a program to have the pointer shoo it away automatically, you're spending waaaaaaay to much time at your computer.

Tuesday April 5, 2005

Kitty Praise: It seems like all the recent news I read about Jaguar is bad. Here's some good news - a nice, positive review of the XJ in the Sacramento Bee.

Car Sales Data: For the first quarter of 2005, Buick sold 61,167 units (down 21.6% from 2004), Pontiac - 99,734 (down 17.1%) - now you know why these brands are described as "in trouble." Mustang sales were robust - 42,261 cars were sold (up 16.3%). Lincoln sales were 31,662 (down 8.3%), Jaguar - 8,707 (down 22.5%) - sales of the X-Type were off a whopping 36.9%.

Quarterly postings aren't yet available for the new Toyota Avalon (it's been on sale for less than two months) but March 2005 sales were a healthy 8,625 units, up 117% in March over the previous year.

John 23Papal Viewing: Touring Rome in 2002, my wife and I visited St. Peter's Basilica. The Vatican had exhumed Pope John XXIII in 2001 and was displaying him in a glass case, since he is being considered for sainthood.

It's one thing to see bodies of long-dead people you don't know but ... (more >>>)

Popeless = Hopeless: Last week, Democratic minority leaders, Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, refused to adapt the party's weekly radio address to the breaking news that Pope John Paul II was on his death bed.

"We had a plan in place for a national radio address that would have highlighted the Pope's stand on social justice and equality for all," says a Democratic National Committee staffer. "They wouldn't do it. ... This was just being stupid and stubborn. It's another example of where we are going wrong as a party."

Hey! Maybe We're All Gay! The first openly gay Anglican bishop has suggested "that Jesus might have been homosexual." The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, said that Jesus was an unmarried, "non-traditional man" who did not uphold family values, "traveled with a bunch of men" and enjoyed an especially close relationship with one of his disciples."

Here's an idea - let the Reverend show some real courage by proclaiming that the Prophet Mohammed was probably gay, too. Then, we'd surely be rid of ol' Gene. Quickly. Real soon. Heh-heh.

But Wait ... There's More: Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson presided over the final worship service at the Church of the Redeemer in NH.

"Though it had been open for 100 years, the church had been hampered for years by financial difficulties. The difficulties worsened when the majority of parishioners decided to leave the church rather than accept the leadership of Robinson, who is openly gay."

Headline I Never Thought I'd See: "Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin stripped of crown after caught standing." A newspaper photo showed her standing in her classroom.

"I've been made to feel as if I can't represent the disabled citizens of Wisconsin because I'm not disabled enough," she said.

Just Wondering: Do oncologists in New Zealand talk about removing tumors the size of kiwis?

Amish Airlines: Only known photo of maiden flight here.

Monday April 4, 2005

Happy Meal-mobiles: Dave Leggett writes: "How seriously are people taking Chery in the West? Ah, the Chinese I hear some say, cheap and quite possibly a little bit nasty on the quality front. No brand equity. Inferior and untried products, of course. ... Bottom of the market, bargain basement material. Blatant copycats like the Chery 'Matiz' QQ. Plants that churn out toys for Happy Meals and white goods suddenly turned over to car parts and snap together cars. Plastic fantastic. Lawn mowers for engines? Pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap. Cars for the kids no less. Yugos from the Far East. Another flash in the pan before they are rumbled by the market. Remember how Hyundai got bounced out of the US in the 1980s on quality? But they'll try, bless 'em."

car blogFifties Ugly: A bizarre car from the 1950s that has been dubbed the 'ugliest automobile in the world' is back on the road.

The unique Aurora, built by an eccentric New York priest as the ultimate safety vehicle, is now turning heads again. Father Alfred Juliano bankrupted himself creating the prototype.

I remember reading about this car Motor Trend issue purchased in 1956 with my hard-earned, pre-teen, grass-cutting money. I had wondered what became of it.

More photos and a description here. (permalink)

Appalling: When the pope died Saturday, every station with a news department (cable, network and independent) broke into regular programming for special coverage. Except CBS News which continued a pre-game basketball 'special' with not even a 'breaking news' crawl at the bottom. And, if I recall, the same network interrupted prime-time programming to run live coverage of Arafat's death.

That faint, dry hum you're hearing is Edward R. Murrow spinning in his grave at 6,000 rpm.

Ave Atque Vale: My wife and I cooked filets on the grill Saturday night and gave a final toast to John Paul II with our last bottle of wine from the Papal vineyards in France. The glass bottle is embossed with the Papal Coat of Arms. Inside was a robust red from 1990 - Chateauneuf Du Pape.

Two Chrisses: Chris Jansing is doing quite a bit of MSNBC's Vatican coverage from Rome. Her reports are professional yet interesting and she offers a wealth of background information about the Papacy and the Vatican. She has obviously done her homework.

In contrast, Chris Matthews has been a total jerk in Rome. He even argued with a young theologian priest about clerical celibacy. This is not an appropriate time for such debates - sobriety and reflection should be the order of the day.

At one point, his demeanor made me wonder if he was - um - not sober. (Too much Chateauneuf Du Pape, perhaps?)

Matthews seems to think he's on a vacation, rather than covering a funeral. And ... he's a Catholic, too. Shame on you, Chris M. To its credit, MSNBC's Newsweek site has a comprehensive and well-written article about Pope John Paul II.

John Podhoretz also wrote a thoughtful piece about the late pontiff in the New York Post. (permalink)

A Great Sendoff: I spent Saturday afternoon at a memorial service for Jim Fowler. (For his obituary, see March 4, 2005 posting). Jim lived a wonderful, interesting life and had a great love of the traveling circus, spending a summer with one when he was 17. Jim built the 'Fowler Bros. Circus,' a scale replica of the 1950 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, over a period of 40 years. It contained over 60,000 pieces.

Jim's service was held in a large meeting room at a hotel. The event had a circus theme. Several of Jim's scratch-built circus models were on display. The room was decorated in red, yellow and blue balloons. Circus brass band music played as the cermony began.

Several speakers recalled humorous events in Jim's life - from a podium located at the front of a circus tent. On side tables, there were baskets full of peanuts-in-the shell in red, blue and yellow cellophane bags. And Cracker Jacks! We were encouraged to take 'em home and enjoy. A good time was had by all!

Die and Pay Up! Funny sign from the Newcastle Tramway Authority.

Saturday April 2, 2005

Requiescat In Pace: Pope John Paul II has died. Catholics - a billion strong - are in mourning. He was the fifth Pope in my lifetime. His 26-year pontificate was one of the longest in history.

There is no doubt that he was both a holy man and a decisive pontiff who imposed his will and direction upon the Catholic Church. ... (more >>>)

Friday April 1, 2005

Time's Running Out: Scientists at MIT's Media Lab in the United States have invented an alarm clock named Clocky to make even the doziest sleepers, who repeatedly hit the snooze button, leap out of bed.

After the snooze button is pressed, the clock, which is equipped with a set of wheels, rolls off the table to another part of the room. Sounds like something Professor Frink would invent.

Shipwrecked: Professor Frink, the nutty inventor on The Simpsons, finally decided to take a vacation. He booked himself on a Caribbean cruise and proceeded to have the time of his life - at least for a while. A hurricane came unexpectedly. The ship went down and was lost instantly. Professor Frink found himself swept up on the shore of an island with no other people and no supplies. Only bananas and coconuts.

car bloggingAccustomed to four-star hotels, poor Professor Frink had no idea what to do, so for the next four months he ate bananas, drank coconut juice, longed for his laboratory of inventions, and fixed his gaze on the sea, hoping to spot a rescue ship. One day, as he was lying on the beach, he spotted movement out of the corner of his eye. It was a rowboat, and in it was the most gorgeous woman he had ever seen.

She rowed up to him. In disbelief, Professor Frink asked her: "Say ... where did you come from? How did you get here?" "I rowed from the other side of the island," she said. "I landed here when my cruise ship sank."

"Amazing," he said, "I didn't know anyone else had survived. How many of you are there? You were really lucky to have a rowboat wash up with you." "It's only me," she said, "And the rowboat didn't wash up; nothing did."

Professor Frink was confused, "Then how did you get the rowboat?" "Oh, simple," replied the woman. "I made it out of raw material that I found on the island. The oars were whittled from gum-tree branches, I wove the bottom from palm branches, and the sides and stern came from a eucalyptus tree."

"But ... but ... that's impossible," stuttered Professor Frink. "You had no tools or hardware or robots - how did you manage?" "Oh, that was no problem," the woman said. "On the south side of the island, there is a very unusual strata of exposed alluvial rock. I found that if I fired it to a certain temperature in my kiln, it melted into forgeable ductile iron. I used that for tools, and used the tools to make the hardware. But enough of that. Where do you live?"

Sheepishly, Professor Frink confessed that he had been sleeping on the beach the whole time. "Well, let's row over to my place, then," she said. After a few minutes of rowing, she docked the boat at a small wharf. As Professor Frinklooked onto shore, he nearly fell out of the boat. Before him was a stone walk leading to an exquisite bungalow painted in blue and white. While the woman tied up the rowboat with an expertly woven hemp rope.

Professor Frink could only stare ahead, dumbstruck. As they walked into the house, she said casually, "It's not much, but I call it home. Sit down, please; would you like to have a drink?"

"No, no, thank you," Professor Frink said, still dazed. "I can't take any more coconut juice." "It's not coconut juice," the woman replied. "I have a distillery. How about a Pina-Colada?" Trying to hide his continued amazement, Professor Frink accepted and they sat down on her couch to talk. After they had exchanged their stories, the woman announced, "I'm going to slip into something more comfortable. Would you like to take a shower and shave? There is a razor upstairs in the cabinet in the bathroom." No longer questioning anything, Professor Frink went into the bathroom. There in the cabinet was a razor made from a bone handle. Two shells honed to a hollow-ground edge were fastened to its tip, inside a swivel mechanism. "This woman is amazing," he mused. "What next?"

When he returned, the woman greeted him wearing nothing but vines - strategically positioned - and smelling faintly of gardenias. She beckoned for him to sit down next to her. "Tell me," she began suggestively, slithering closer to him, "We've been out here for a very long time. We've been lonely. There's something I'm sure you really feel like doing right now, something you've been longing for all these months? You know .... " She stared into his eyes.

Professor Frink couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You ... you mean," he stammered, I can check my e-mail from here?!?"

Happy April Fool's Day!

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The facts presented in this car blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the Constitution. Probably.

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Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.