Friday September 30, 2005
50 Years Later: On September 30, 1955, actor James Dean died in a horrific car accident with his silver Porsche Spyder 550. While some questions remain, the fact that he was killed can probably be largely attributed to the basic design of the Spyder.
In those days, race cars were designed with low weight as the ultimate objective. Crash-worthiness wasn't much of a consideration. If at all.
Fifty years ago, most cars offered little protection to occupants.
Commenting on his 1955 Buick, Jay Leno once quipped, "If you have an accident in this car, your heirs can just hose the gore off the dashboard and sell it to the next guy."
Returning To Childhood: All parents make jokes about stuff their kids did when they were little. Trouble is, the now-grown-up kids don't remember it.
My parents used to joke that I had a 78 rpm record which I played over and over which drove them nuts. It was called 'Wilbur The Whistling Whale'. I had only a vague recollection of it.
We live in an age where everything is available online. I Googled 'Wilbur The Whistling Whale' and found an establishment that would provide me with a CD copy. Of course, I ordered it. 'Wilbur' is a ... (more >>>)
Further Thoughts About The Philly Priest Scandal: There were 169 priests named in the Philadelphia grand jury investigation which I mentioned in my 9/27/05 posting. These were Diocesan priests, priests from religious orders (Jesuits, Franciscans, etc.) were not included. In 1966, the Philadelphia Archdiocese had 1,075 priests; in 2003 - 769.
What percentage of Philadelphia priests were named? The total number ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Peter King, (R-NY) to Chris Matthews: "Just because the president doesn't watch you on television, it doesn't mean he's not doing his job."
Thursday September 29, 2005
Everything Old Is New Again: An article in the Detroit News proclaims: 'For show cars, split hoods can score points'. "It's an open and shut case: Aftermarket kits give regular rides the aesthetics of (Lamborghini-style) doors are cool, but, like, doesn't everyone parking on display at the custom car show have them already?
Now, to really score points with the judges - and the viewing public - what you might need is a split hood kit."
Gee, my '39 Plymouth coupe already has that feature - factory installed, too. Sixty-seven years ago. For the record, the photo is of my first Plymouth and was taken in 1959. (permalink)
Dinosaur Extinction Alert: Jerry Flint has seen the new General Motors 2007 sport utility vehicles. He writes that "all I could think of when I saw them in front of me was, "Welcome to Jurassic Park."
They are prettier, faster and more efficient than their predecessors are, but they still are dinosaurs. Some consumers will always need big SUVs to pull trailers or carry lots of cargo and passengers, but alas, GM is previewing these vastly improved big SUVs in the midst of this year's horrendous hurricane season and sharply escalating gasoline prices."
I have seen people ringing up bills of $75.00 just to tank up big SUVs. $75 is a wake-up call. Sales of big SUVs are tanking. Just as muscle cars sales dived after the gas crisis of 1973. Just as everyone snapped up those God-awful GM X-cars and Chevettes during the gas crisis of 1980.
People make purchase decisions based on the 'pain' they're feeling - in their wallets.
Quote Of The Day is from Michelle Krebs, on the soon-to-be introduced Hyundai Azera: "More recently, I got a closer sneak peek (and a ride) in the Azera. Interestingly, I just hopped out of a Mercury Milan, one of Ford's new critical mid-size cars, which I was test driving. I was extremely impressed with the Milan.
Its exterior styling is appealing, its interior is attractive, and, since it comes from the hearty stock of the Mazda 6 platform, its ride and handling are quite good. And then I checked out the Azera more closely. Mercury: You are in trouble. So are you, Buick, with your LaCrosse. Even the venerable Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are threatened."
Wednesday September 28, 2005
Update: I took my '39 Plymouth for a ride into town since the weather was sunny and 60 or so degrees.
It was very enjoyable; I'm trying to get more seat time in the Plymouth before I put it away for winter.
I also spent some time yesterday working on the Plymouth website to improve aesthetics and make it easier to navigate. The result is here.
Packard Pork: I love old cars and Packard is one of my favorite marques but $3 million grants for the National Packard Museum and $1.5 million for the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan is just plain wrong. The federal government should not be funding car museums. The Packard Museum is only 6 years old and now they want $2,750,000 for "renovation and expansion of the National Packard Museum and adjacent historic Packard facilities."
As Truth Laid Bear writes, "The National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio has dues-paying members, charges admission for non-members and has a museum store. Evidently not enough people are going to it to sustain it. So naturally, taxpayers in Wyoming and Arizona should foot the bill!"
Nor should this taxpayer in Washington state.
Is This Real? Or A Polish Joke? An 18-month-old child started the family car and ran over three family members in a southern Polish village. Which reminds me of the old Henny Youngman joke: "Have you seen the new Polish jigsaw puzzle? One piece."
And: "A Polish terrorist was sent to blow up a car. He burned his mouth on the exhaust pipe!"
And: "How do Polish people spell farm? E-I-E-I-O."
And: "A Polish guy locked his keys in the car. It took an hour to get his wife out."
Salmon Boy Update: On Monday, I linked to a story from New Sisyphus about one of Portland's many resident moonbats. But wait, now there's more.
Train Pix: I've posted more photos of the Union Pacific Challenger steam locomotive here.
P.C. Insanity: An English hospital has banned visitors from cooing at new-born babies over fears their "human rights are being breached". A statement from Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax said staff had held an advice session to highlight the need for respect and dignity for patients.
On one ward there is a doll featuring the message: "What makes you think I want to be looked at?" The neo-natal manager at the hospital's special care baby unit said: "Cooing should be a thing of the past because these are little people with the same rights as you or me."
Hmmm. I wonder if this hospital does abortions? If so, what about the "rights" of those little people.
Hurricane Money: The Daily Demarche feels that the recent weather damage represents a "chance to show the world what democracy can do, what people who are empowered and encouraged to be in charge of their own government can accomplish. There will be a price to pay, of course. I have seen estimates in the hundreds of billions of dollars to repair the damage done by Katrina."
Demarche writes that $37,000,000,000 can come from "restraining foreign aid". And he provides an itemized list of subsidies to be cut.
The Truth Is Out There: A Pocatello Idaho TV weatherman has quit his job to pursue his weather theories on a full-time basis.
He blames the Japanese Mafia for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Quote Of The Day is from Harry Truman: "Men make history, and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better."
Tuesday September 27, 2005
Devil Or Angel? Daniel Howes of the Detroit News has written an article about Bob Lutz. Excerpt: "The simple response would be to give the 73-year-old Lutz - yes, the top product guy for the world's largest automaker was born during the Hoover administration - all the credit or, if you're in the vocal anti-Lutz camp, all the blame."
My take is that the blame for GM's problems gets distributed to all top managers for the past 30+ years.
GM's offerings do seem to be getting better. But so are the vehicles of GM's competition. Lutz can't turn this colossus around overnight. The question remains - can he do it at all or before the money runs out.
Paying The Piper: Jerry Flint predicts that low times are coming for Detroit - poor sales for up to four months. I call it the 'Employee Discount Hangover'.
Car Crushed ... by billboard muffin.
Energy Independence In 15 Years? Steve Antler offers a simple plan.
The Greatest Evil: A three-year grand jury investigation of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, the longest known inquiry in the national clergy sex abuse crisis, has ended with scathing allegations that cardinals and other churchmen had conspired to protect offenders.
Even more disturbing ... (more >>>)
King Butt: An early corporate mascot shown here.
Quote Of The Day is from Mark Steyn: "If you watch the TV news, you'd still think Cindy Sheehan was an emblematic bereaved army mom, rather than a pitiful crackpot calling for Bush to pull his troops out of "occupied New Orleans."
Her Million-Moan March washed up in Washington on Thursday to besiege the White House. As the Associated Press put it, "Sheehan, Supporters Descend On The Capital." There were 29 supporters. Can two-and-a-half dozen people "descend" on any capital city bigger than the South Sandwich Islands'? Surely her media boosters were cringing with embarrassment at their own impotence.
Since its star columnist Maureen Dowd got the hots for Mrs. Sheehan's "moral authority," the New York Times has run some 70 stories on Cindy - and every story they ran attracted another 0.4142857 of a supporter to her march on the capital."
Monday September 26, 2005
Too Smart For Me: Los Angeles is installing new "smart" parking meters. They will send a text message to motorists whose parking time is about to expire and allow them to pay for extra time over the phone. The solar-powered meters automatically reset themselves to zero when a car leaves a space.
I guess the meters aren't "smart" enough to credit one's account for those unused minutes. Or, maybe it's just another example of government greed.
Nosuzu: Isuzu has pulled out of the 2006 Detroit Auto Show. In a posting earlier this month (9/6/05), I wondered how Isuzu could stay in business in the U.S. Isuzu's sales fell by more than half in the first eight months of this year to a total of 9,166. That's one-tenth of a percent of the 6.5 million trucks and SUVs sold in that period.
On the other hand, it's still outselling Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin Ferrari and Lamborghini by a wide margin.
Coconut With Techron? A man in the Vanuatu Islands of the South Pacific (about 500 miles west of Fiji) has adapted his fleet of rental cars to run on coconut oil, a plentiful local commodity.
He runs most of his vehicles on a mixture of 85% coconut oil and 15% kerosene but has demonstrated that modified diesel engines run filtered coconut oil quite happily.
In Case You Were Wondering: This is why I try to stay out of Oregon. And avoid mass transit in Portland. (The MAX light-rail line has a fare-free zone downtown. All the bums ride it to keep warm or cool off depending on the weather. I call it the Tuberculosis Trolley.)
P.S. I enjoyed the remark from one Mike Donley in the 'comments' section that such people "used to just hang out, living harmlessly in Volkswagen buses in the woods around Veneta, smoking dope and making wooden toys to sell at the Saturday market in Eugene!"
And, I would add, visiting my plastics manufacturing business (then located in that other Oregon hippie mecca - Corvallis) and trying to buy large-diameter Plexiglas cast tubing to make giant bongs.
These moonbats always smelled bad, too. And wore ponchos year round.
Robots Rule! The Auto Prophet thinks we should abandon the $100 billion (that's $100,000 million, folks) NASA program to send astronauts back to the moon. He sez send robots instead.
Makes sense to me. We sent men last time and found neither green cheese nor moon women. So, why send 'em back?
Quote Of The Day is from Jamie May (Top Gear), on the staid Rover P-5 saloon of the '50s: "It's as English as an oven glove with cats on it."
Friday September 23, 2005
Volvo's Short Story: A Swedish court fined automaker Volvo over $5,000 in damages for refusing a woman an assembly-line job because the company deemed her too short at 5 ft. 2 in.
Car Sightings: Yesterday, I parked next to a Mercury Montego rental car. It towered over my Jaguar sedan - the Merc was almost 9 inches taller.
The renter had only driven it a few miles and didn't have much to report except that it was roomy inside and had a big trunk. He showed me the trunk which was, indeed, huge but was covered in a cheesy fuzzy material that looked like sprayed-on charcoal flocking.
The car had push buttons on the window pillar for keyless entry. It seemed very 1980s - the rest of the industry has moved on to key fobs and proximity devices.
Later, I was passed on the freeway by a bright yellow Dodge Viper coupe. I've not seen a coupe on the road before. The Viper coupe always looked good in photos but this one sure looked butt-ugly in person - the proportions seemed cartoonish. (It was the previous-generation Viper - from 2001 or so.)
And that V-10 engine just sounds ... umm ... flatulent.
In the late afternoon, I spotted an open T-bucket street-rod with a Chevy V-8, making the appropriate exhaust rumble/burble. Now that was cool.
Steamin': Fall is in the air. Seriously. When I went out to get the paper at 5:20 am, it was 38 freakin' degrees. But - the sky was clear and brightly lit with an almost-full moon.
My wife and I left the house a little after 6:00 and drove to Portland. There is a surprising amount of traffic at that ungodly hour of the morning. We headed to the Portland Union Pacific Railroad yard to see the Challenger steam loco take off. We got to the yard a little after 7:00. There were at least 200 train buffs present.
We waited. Finally, there was movement. Two switch locos coupled up a consist of classic UP streamliner 40s-era passenger cars. The coupling was done with the engineer's compartments empty.
The "operator" stood next to the cars being coupled and moved the yard diesels using a box on his chest, secured with a neck strap. This box contained switches and joysticks and that is how the diesel engines were driven - like a radio-controlled race car. It was very effective - I've never seen a smoother couple-up.
Then the cars were backed up, the mighty articulated Challenger was coupled to the head end and the train took off - 50 minutes late. The Challenger bellowed gigantic quantities of steam and smoke but was surprisingly quiet. It had a commanding whistle, though.
We had driven the Jaguar off the UP lot and re-parked just off the Widemer Brewery so that we were poised for a quick getaway while the rest of the crowd jockeyed for position at multiple stop signs and traffic lights. After photographing the Challenger as it departed the yard (we were standing on Interstate Ave. about 30 feet above the train but only 100 feet or so away), we jumped in the Jaguar, zoomed up Interstate Avenue and made our way onto I-5 where we raced north to Lombard St., which parallels the railroad tracks. We headed east and found a nice spot on the highway near 33rd with a clear view along a straight stretch, pulled a high-speed U-ee and parked.
Soon enough, we saw smoke in the distance and a large form barreling toward us. It was the Challenger at full steam. I stared in awe as the almost two-million pound behemoth thundered by - ten feet away from me.
My brain formed a single word: "Wow!"
Quote Of The Day is from Rita Rudner: "I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult."
Thursday September 22, 2005
Gas History: I gassed up the Plymouth last week.
The anal-retentive engineer in me keeps a record of all fuel purchases in a spiral notebook. (I have one in each car.) I've owned the Plymouth since 1994; here's what Premium gas cost in September of each year:
|1994 - $1.259
||2000 - $1.839
||2006 - $3.099
||2012 - $4.339
|1995 - $1.179
||2001 - $1.759
||2007 - $3.179
||2013 - $4.009
|1996 - $1.399
||2002 - $1.639
||2008 - $4.019
||2014 - $4.189
|1997 - $1.399
||2003 - $1.939
||2009 - $3.189
||2015 - $2.949
|1998 - $1.359
||2004 - $2.099
||2010 - $3.239
||2016 - $2.979
|1999 - $1.669
||2005 - $2.999
||2011 - $4.109
Paying For New Orleans: Let's get the money from our foreign aid budget. The U.S. sends $2 billion of our tax dollars to Egypt every year. You remember Egypt, right? The place where folks were dancing in the street with joy after 9/11? The country in the U.N. votes against U.S. interests 66% of the time? Send that money to N.O.
Mexico continues to receive some $15 million in foreign aid from the United States. Yet Mexico votes against our interests in the United Nations 62% of the time. No more foreign aid for you, señor! We're sending those pesos to Louisiana.
India steals our jobs and votes against our interests 80% of the time in the U.N. gets $144 million from America. Why?
Jordan, with all their corrupt oil money and a similar anti-U.S. voting record, gets $192 million. Cut 'em off immediately! Let Queen Noor buy her designer clothes with her own damn money. And can you believe that we actually give Cuba two million per year in foreign aid? Enough.
It's time to pay for performance, based on U.N. voting records, contributions to the War On Terror and the like. And since North Korea is right next door to China, let's revoke China's Most Favored Nation status until they "eliminate" Kim Jong Il. (And you just know China could topple that little cretin in ... I dunno ... about two hours.) Make North Korea their problem to solve.
More on China here.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Paone, guitarist of the thrash metal band Candy Striper Death Orgy and operator of a string of adult bookstores, about why he supports George Bush: "You know, I'm all for screwing or whatever, but I like that Bush has always been with Laura and is kind of boring. Clinton was a party animal who worked in as many ladies as he could, and look what that got us: A nuclear North Korea, Saddam spitting in our faces and Osama bin Laden having plenty of time to do whatever he wanted. Thanks, anyway. I'll take boring any day."
Wednesday September 21, 2005
Car Sighting: I spotted a gleaming red Chrysler Crossfire - a distinctive and (around here) rare machine. This one was a coupe. Sweet.
Love 'em or not, Chrysler designs cars that look like nothing else on the road.
Boo-Freakin'-Hoo: The Detroit News reported this week that many autoworkers are filing for personal bankruptcy: "Oscar Gray achieved the good life during 28 years of hard work at Delphi Corporation - a six-figure income, a nice home in Holly and two vehicles. But as Michigan's auto industry tanked in recent years, the forklift operator lost huge amounts of overtime pay and gradually sank into financial ruin. Saddled with $469,000 in debt, he declared bankruptcy last month.
Gray didn't lose his job. His health isn't failing, and he is not going through a divorce - the typical reasons many declare bankruptcy. Gray has been losing overtime. His gross pay was cut $16,000 one year, sliding to $87,000, and may dip again because Delphi is considering a Chapter 11 filing.
"You count on something your whole life and then it gets jerked around," Gray said."
Loss of overtime is one of the top reasons autoworkers have sought bankruptcy protection the past four years, say attorneys for UAW Legal Service Plan.
We live in a time when people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama have lost nearly everything. Good people get horrible and expensive-to-treat diseases. Families are stricken when one of their children is born with a heartbreaking disability or deformity.
In a world with such real problems, it's hard to feel sorry for some highly-paid jerk who can't manage his own money.
French Whine: The French wine industry is very upset because the number of French people drinking vino has dwindled to a new low, with nearly 40% of those of drinking age saying they never touch the stuff. Only 21% of people aged 15 and over in the country regularly drink it.
Wine consumption by French imbibers has also halved over the past four decades, going from 160 liters a person a year to around 67 liters today. The industry is also suffering from increased competition in export markets from wineries in Australia, Chile, South Africa and the U.S. Meanwhile, California producers exported 28% more wine last year than the year before.
Quote Of The Day is from The Simpsons' Selma Bouvier (Marge's sister): "I have plenty of money. I bought a lot of stock in a mace company just before society collapsed."
Tuesday September 20, 2005
Oh, No! It's All Coming True. A recent Associated Press story notes that OnStar plans to add a feature that will let drivers know how their vehicles are doing every month.
The new service, called OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics will automatically perform hundreds of diagnostic checks on key operating systems: the engine and transmission, antilock brakes, air bags and OnStar itself. The vehicle is automatically programmed to send the results through e-mail, along with maintenance reminders based on the vehicle's odometer reading and remaining engine oil life.
In September, 1999, I wrote an article for the Continental Connector, titled 'Automotive Predictions For The Next 100 Years'. Excerpt: "2006 - The self-diagnosing automobile is unveiled. Every morning at 2:00 am, your car will run complete mechanical diagnostics on itself, including tire pressure as well as tire and brake wear. If there's a problem, your car will send you e-mail and tell you where it hurts."
I also predicted that Lincolns would be produced in Mexico in 2069. But that's already happening - the 2006 Lincoln Zephyr is being produced there. Read the rest of my predictions here and be frightened. Or amused.
Locomotive Pix: Last week, I saw the Union Pacific's "Challenger" - a giant, articulated steam locomotive. This huge machine was built in 1943.
The engine with single tender weighs 1,760,000 pounds. I took photos and have posted them here.
Pray With 'Im? Or Eat 'Im? Tough Decision. A stray dog in South Korea has learned to sit, stay and perform Buddhist prayer rituals alongside monks.
Quote Of The Day is from John Rutledge: "Americans are tougher now than we were in 2001. In the past 4 years we have supped on chaos - 9/11, anthrax, Dot.coms, SARS, Iran, Iraq, Tyco, Enron, MCI, Arthur Andersen, Martha Stewart, Mad Cow (no, this is not a redundant reference to the prior item), scandal, Bird Flu, Russian school hostages, London bombings, Sudan, steroids, and $3/gallon gas."
Monday September 19, 2005
Jaguar XK: Some of my friends have asked me what I think of the new XK. I'm hedging. It won't hit the streets until next Spring and it's hard to judge a vehicle without seeing it in person. It's taller than the outgoing model - not a good sign. From the photos, the design is pleasant but no gotta-have-it home run. Even if it were a home run, it is not the Savior of Jaguar, any more than the Solstice is the Savior of Pontiac.
By the way, around here the newer Jaguars I see are almost all S-Types. I've only spotted a few of the little X-Type sedans, only one of the new aluminum XJs and, in the past 5 years, only a single XK. Not counting models in the showroom, of course.
Even without the soon-to-disappear X-Type, XK models represent only 20% or so of Jaguar production. Sedan sales make or break the company. It is disturbing that the relatively-new XJ sedan has been slipping in sales.
Jaguar continues to be a money-loser and one has to wonder how long Ford will continue to support it.
Car Sightings: I spotted two Pontiac Azteks last week. My wife was with me when we saw a freshly-washed one in an orange-rust color. She wondered how a design studio could produce such an ugly car. All I could say was, "Me, too."
The 'Sons of Danger' is a group of gearheads and car-magazine people and described as a "non-club that exists only for the purpose of existing." The Sons believe that "our highways are now clogged with golfers driving sport utility vehicles, with women occupying the fast lane with no awareness of what of what is happening around them as they gab on cell phones. The cars we are being fed look like they were designed by someone's feet. ... Bob Lutz will be considered for membership when GM produces one great car. The guy that designed the Aztec (if he would identify himself) could become a member for scamming the entire GM organization into believing that the Aztec was a surefire hit."
Congrats to my wife and my daughter who did the 5K 'Race For The Cure' in Portland yesterday.
Seventy Percent Of Americans Are Idiots: Almost seven in 10 Americans want the government to establish price controls on gasoline, according to the aptly-named, Pew poll.
Debate: On Saturday evening (fortified with some 2001 vintage Fetzer Vineyards Five Rivers Ranch Merlot), I watched the Christopher Hitchens - George Galloway debate on C-Span2.
I thought Hitchens won handily, although Saddam-apologist Galloway was better dressed. (Maybe he got his suit with some oil-for-food money.)
Hitchens writes about the debate here.
Inspired By A Simpsons Episode: Residents of Viganella, a small hamlet in the Italian Alps (80 miles from Milan), have more reason than most to dread the imminent arrival of winter. From November to February, they lose the sun behind a mountain ridge that towers over the village.
Now there are plans to erect a giant mirror, powered by an electric motor, sited to the north of the village.
Montgomery Burns did the opposite of this several years ago, blocking out the sun so that Springfield residents would use more electricity for light and heat, enriching the fortunes of his nuclear power plant.
Quote Of The Day is from former Congressman Billy Tauzin, who once said of his state: "One half of Louisiana is under water and the other half is under indictment."
Friday September 16, 2005
Auction Madness: I just got around to reading last week's AutoWeek. At the Pebble Beach car auctions, a off-white 1967 Ferrari 275 GTS/4 NART Spyder, piloted by Steve McQueen in 'The Thomas Crown Affair' was sold for $3,960,000.
A '57 Jaguar XKSS went for $1,925,000.
And a 1966 VW Westfalia camper fetched $99,000! Jeeeeez. And here I was feeling good because, 10 years ago, I sold my '67 Beetle sedan for more than I paid for it brand-new.
Once You Climb On A Tiger's Back ... it's hard to get off. Robert Farago explores GM's decision to subcontract to China (and GM's arm-twisting of all its vendors to do the same).
Excerpt: "Imagine that President Hu Jintao and his mates suddenly decide that all China-based automakers should be owned and operated by The People's Republic, to create vehicles exclusively for the domestic market. Who's going to stop them? I'm sure GM's high-priced international analysts have officially discounted the possibility, but I wonder if they could name one communist/socialist country that hasn't nationalized a key industry .... In countries where the armed forces have a say in, um, everything, business conditions can change very, very quickly."
Another Reason To Dump The UN And Start Over: Taiwan - with a population of more than 23 million people and one of the world's largest economies - has failed for the 13th consecutive year to win a seat at the United Nations, a move that has been blocked annually since 1993 by China and its allies. But they keep those hellholes run by murderous dictators on the UN roster, don't they?
This is a 'club' from which we Americans should resign. And start our own club.
Forecasting The Future: What will James Lileks look like and what will The Bleat evolve into twenty years from now? Answer here. (hat tip - K-Lo of The Corner)
Quote Of The Day is from Jonathan David Carson on the Political Correctness Police: "In short, they run a sort of moral protection racket. They make people feel guilty, and then they offer them absolution. They are our only protection against hellish shame and humiliation. Join them, and your sins are washed away. Refuse, and bear on top of your own sins, which were already too heavy to carry, the burden of the sins of the whole world."
Thursday September 15, 2005
I Hate To Judge It By Photos Alone ... but I think the bulging wheel arches on the new Mercedes S-Class cheapen its looks.
'What A Luxury Car Should Be'? The Citroen C-6 - just unveiled at Frankfurt - is a daring and exciting design for a luxury car. It really looks good in the photos.
I wonder how it might sell here in the U.S.?
Finally - Another Use For Dead Cats: A German man claims that his organic diesel fuel - a home-made blend of garbage, run-over cats, and other ingredients - is a proven alternative to normal consumer diesel. "I drive my normal diesel-powered car with this mixture," he said. "I have gone 170,000 km (106,000 miles) without a problem."
Around 20 dead cats added into the mix could help produce enough fuel to fill up a 50-litre (11 gallon) tank.
Now I know why diesel exhaust smells so bad.
I Thought This Headline Was About A Rich Girl I Used To Date .... a long time ago. 'Virgin plans oil refinery'. But it's just mega-entrepreneur Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic Airways fame.
Some Assembly Required: Northwest Airlines has filed for bankruptcy protection and wants to lay off two-thirds of its mechanics.
If you're planning to fly Northwest, I recommend you bring along a set of Allen wrenches and a rivet gun. (permalink)
More Newspaper Stuff: On Monday, I wrote about the trend in the newspaper business to use nationally syndicated pieces in place of local/regional writers. I am convinced that this has accelerated the decline in readership.
Recently, I was involved in promoting ... (more >>>)
I Now Know What Hell Is. Last week, I had to ferry two grumpy, whiny 80-somethings. I never heard such Doom Talk in my life - the most intense game of Ain't It Awful I've ever witnessed.
"You know, everyone you used to know in your old neighborhood is dead."
"I used to travel but now, every time I take a step, it's OW, OW, OW!"
I'm going to try to be a better person. I don't want to go to Hell when I die. Because, I know it will involve driving a busload of crabby seniors for all Eternity.
Headline Of The Day is from The Onion: 'Elf Finger Found In Box Of Keebler Cookies'.
Quote Of The Day is from the late Gracie Allen: "This used to be a government of checks and balances. Now it's all checks and no balances."
Wednesday September 14, 2005
Ford And Who?!?!?! The Ford-Fiat partnership to build small cars violates one of my basic rules of business: Never Team Up With A Loser.
During the 1990s, one of the buzzwords-du-jour was Strategic Alliance. When asked to define it, I once told a business client that it was "two losers getting together and hoping for a miracle." I stand by my definition.
There Are A Million Stories ... about evacuees. This is just one. A 20-year-old transgendered Hurricane Katrina evacuee remained in the Brazos County Jail on Thursday, five days after being arrested for showering inside a women's bathroom at Reed Arena.
Arpollo Vicks of New Orleans and her 16-year-old cousin were arrested Sunday night for criminal trespass after Texas A&M University Police noticed the two exiting a women's shower facility at the shelter. The two were born male but live as women and consider themselves female, Vicks said Thursday in an interview from the jail.
Don't mess with Texas.
'The Blame Begins With Louisiana': Rick Martinez writes that "no doubt the feds made mistakes responding to Hurricane Katrina. But their errors shouldn't mask the ineptitude of Louisiana officials, particularly Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, whose lack of leadership left the state and the Big Easy largely defenseless."
He notes that Louisiana's "failure is even starker compared to another unprecedented disaster - the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center four years ago. Federal response then was also confused and lacking. Yet, at no time did New York Gov. George Pataki stand before a microphone on the verge of tears, as Blanco did. Mayor Rudy Giuliani didn't lash out in an expletive-laced radio tirade, like Nagin. Unlike Sen. Mary Landrieu, Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton refrained from threatening to punch people, including the president, in the mouth.
Most telling, New York City cops didn't desert their citizens, as a sizable portion of the New Orleans police force has."
Speaking Of Blame: The generally-brilliant Charles Krauthammer has his own take on Katrina, beginning with the attention-getting first paragraph: "In less enlightened times, there was no catastrophe independent of human agency. When the plague or some other natural disaster struck, witches were burned, Jews were massacred and all felt better (except the witches and Jews)."
Throwing Money Around: Louisiana has a long history of wasted money and corruption. Touring the area several years ago, we came upon a huge suspension bridge in the middle of nowhere. It's named 'The Sunshine Bridge', because it was commissioned by Jimmie Davis, known as 'The Singing Governor.'
In 1940, self-taught musician Jimmie penned and performed 'You Are My Sunshine', a big hit record of the day. He was elected governor twice - in 1944 and 1960. Critics called Jimmie's bridge "The Bridge to Nowhere" but it was later credited (by some) with fostering industrial growth in Donaldsonville, LA. Most of the industries there are chemical plants and refineries; the area is known locally as 'Cancer Alley', for obvious reasons.
Another former pol, Edwin Edwards - aka The Cajun King, served four terms as governor of Louisiana until he was convicted of corruption charges by the FBI.
Jim Geraghty has some additional thoughts on corruption (and more) here. Ben Stein offers additional thoughts on Katrina and its aftermath.
Quote Of The Day is from the Daily Demarche: "We have been told repeatedly that Islam is not the enemy - it is only that the enemy is Islamic. Fine. And of course the Germans living outside the camps six decades ago had no idea what that awful smell was, either. We, the Allies, heaped generations of shame on the Germans - with the result that it is highly unlikely that the fringe anti-Semitic German political groups will ever gain power again.
Today, however, we tiptoe around the idea that all Muslims share the responsibility to put an end to the ideals of hatred that lead to terrorist attacks. Muslims in New York, Washington, Madrid, London, Bali and on and on - are quick to assure us that none of them have any idea where that horrible smell is coming from today, and they do not seem too interested in finding out." (permalink)
Tuesday September 13, 2005
Eight Americas: It's inevitable. Whenever reporters and pundits run out of things to write about, they seek the cover of a good ol' 'us and them' story. Rich vs. poor. Black vs. white. Haves vs. have-nots. And the headline is always the same: 'There Are Two Americas'.
Baloney. There are many Americas. I've come up with eight - here.
Lamination: I didn't know that laminated glass was being used on things other than windshields. The glass | polyvinyl butyral | glass laminate adds security and cuts highway noise, according to an article by Anita Lienert. It's being used on side windows of the 2006 Dodge Ram Mega Cab pickup and Cadillac DTS.
New Auto Business: Grant Repsher of Grant's Auto Rants has started Servassist Online, a "web-based customer relationship management tool designed to facilitate the automotive service and repair process and make the customer service experience much smoother and less frustrating for consumers."
Dealerships can walk consumers through the service and repair process using an easy to follow web site that features customized service schedule information, pricing, and illustrations or diagrams.
Grant says, "It's useful for both the automotive savvy, who now have a platform via which to discuss service matters on equal ground, and the "automotive-challenged," who will have more information at their disposal and can become more knowledgeable about what's being done to their vehicles." Interesting.
Toot-Toot, Chug-Chug: On Monday, my wife and I drove to Portland to see the Union Pacific Railroad's "Challenger" No. 3985. It's on a 2,800-mile tour to celebrate railroad heritage.
UP once owned 105 of these 4-6-6-4 articulated monsters. This huge steam locomotive was built in 1943 for fast freight service and was retired in 1959. It was restored in 1981 to running condition by Union Pacific employee volunteers for special service. This one is pulling a number of UP streamlined passenger cars, including the domed 'City of Portland' car.
The engine is also pulling three 14-wheel tenders - it must be thirsty. (It used to be a coal-burner but was converted to use #5 fuel oil in 1990. Two of the tenders carry water.) The engine with single tender weighs 1,760,000 pounds and has a top speed of 70 mph.
If you're in or around Portland, go see it - even if you're not a train buff. It is a sterling example of America's Industrial Age. The Challenger is at the Union Pacific Yard at 1135 N. Knott St. (east side of the Willamette River, in the shadow of the Fremont Bridge) and will be on display from 9 am to 6 pm daily through Sept. 21. Then it begins the journey back home to Cheyenne, Wyoming. (photos here)
To the best of my knowledge, neither the Oregonian nor Columbian has given this event any mention. Which (again) begs the question, "Who the hell needs newspapers?"
Out-Of-Control Medicine: It began last year with Lori Mill had a 30-second procedure on her toenail and was billed $1,133 from Virginia Mason Medical Center. Mill complained about a $418 charge for "miscellaneous hospital charges."
When Virginia Mason responded that it routinely adds such a "facilities charge" when patients go to its downtown clinic instead of its other clinics, she got a lawyer and sued.
A doctor had a procedure on his own toe at the downtown clinic and then e-mailed Virginia Mason's CEO, Dr. Gary Kaplan, after he got the bill last year. The total bill was $1,200, the doctor wrote. And $1,138 of that was the facilities charge. "I call it obscene," the doctor wrote Kaplan. "There has to be some sense of appropriateness/fairness/reasonableness to our charges."
Crusade: The ACLU has been on a tear over the past few years making local governments remove any crosses or other symbols of Christianity.
So, with public funds involved in constructing what will become one of the largest religious symbols (an Islam crescent) ever on display in the United States, Econopundit asks, "Where is the ACLU?"
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks on service windows/counters/stations at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles: "They should never, ever build more windows than they need. Or rather they should hide the ones not in service, because you sit there looking at the empty windows, imagining public servants in the back working on a box of Krispy Kremes like vultures on a dead water buffalo, and you begin to fume."
Monday September 12, 2005
Irritable Blog Syndrome: I'm grumpy. I have a lot of stuff going on right now, including deadlines - some real; some self-imposed.
I am also dealing with bureaucratic morons who don't do what they're supposed to. (If you agree to do something - do it, damn it. People are depending on you.)
So ... if my foul mood offends thy delicate senses, it's best to skip this blog for a couple of days.
Ditto: Tom Utley writes, "With every week that passes, my list of irritations grows longer."
He includes things like: 'Your call is important to us', silicone implants, 'thank you for not smoking', cold callers, 'celebrity' anything, 'am I alone in thinking?' (what a vacuous phrase!), 'web page not found', media studies, 'prestigious', 'so I was, like, 'whaddayamean?', oversized jeans that expose their wearers' underpants, the Animal Liberation Front, 'in a very real sense', Hillary Clinton, very fat people who walk, very slowly, three abreast, along the narrowest pavements, happy-clappies, opening credits that keep flashing up on the screen, 20 minutes after the start of the film and silly surveys. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
Car Sightings: I saw a gorgeous white and yellow 1955 Pontiac Star Chief convertible with the top down and two happy people on board cruising south on Interstate 5 last week. Cool car. Even though I was driving my freshly-washed car which was also gleaming in the afternoon sunshine, I was - for a microsecond - insanely jealous.
Sometimes, I suffer from an irrational desire to own every cool car I see.
On Saturday, I spotted a 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible headed north on the same Interstate. The day was overcast and drizzly; the Chevy's black canvas top was up and billowing badly at 70 mph.
This car looked good but had a single-color paint scheme - turquoise. This is the first time I've seen a '56 Chevrolet convertible without a two-tone paint job.
Truth Trouble: I've always enjoyed Robert Farago's road tests and opinions over at The Truth About Cars. Last week, Car Pundit offered condolences to Robert over the S.F. Chronicle dropping his road test column. I wanted to write something too, but held back until I picked up Friday's copy of our local newspaper. (I'll explain shortly.)
Now, I don't agree with Robert about everything he writes but I'll read his stuff because:
1. he has an opinion, and
2. he expresses it with intelligence and forethought.
Apparently, what set off the Chronicle was his negative review of the Subaru B9 Tribeca. You know, that ugly one. (He characterized the Subie's front end as a "flying vagina".)
Farago writes: "I believe the media in general, and newspapers in particular, have an obligation to tell the truth about cars. You know all those puff pieces that fill up the odd blank spot in every single automotive section in this great country of ours? Does it ever occur to the propagators of these gutless "reviews" that a car is the average consumer's second most expensive purchase? To operate under the principle that all cars are wonderful in their own special way is to sacrifice readers' direct financial interests for the paper's short term monetary gain."
Amen, brother. The Columbian (Vancouver, WA) used to have an on-staff writer, Tom Ryll, do car reviews. His articles were thought-provoking, engaging and often funny. A few years ago, the paper switched to a useless Friday automotive section, with the silly appellation, 'Cruise Control'. (The section is so forgettable, I had to wait until this week's edition came out on Friday to get the name right.)
In between state-the-obvious fluff filler ('Don't Forget Your Tire Pressure', 'Winter's Coming! How's Your Antifreeze?', 'Has Your Car Insurance Expired?', etc.), the paper now features 'Auto Reviews' provided by Motor News Media Corp. a soulless flack house out of Iowa. MNM has never met a vehicle it didn't like. ("Inside the cabin, the driver enjoys a commanding view ...")
These "road tests" appear to be pieced together from company press releases. Ken Chester, Jr., the author of most of this drivel, is president of Motor News Media.
Mr. Chester claims to personally review 120 cars each year. Since he must take some time off to go to automotive press briefings and newspaper conferences (to promote his column) as well as Christmas, vacations, etc., I would guess that he's got to do four a week just to meet his annual quota. What if it's raining? Or snowing? Or there's a tornado? (I mean, it's Iowa, for Pete's sake.) Well, I guess Ken can sit in the vehicle in his driveway and write about that "commanding view." Of the twister.
As an opinionated car enthusiast, I've often thought of contacting Ken and asking him how he sleeps at night. But, I'm afraid he'd counter with that famous answer from an old Simpsons episode, "On a very large pile of money!"
He probably swims in it, too.
Then there's my own experience as a columnist. I wrote a business column for nine years, as a freelancer. For a long time, my editor left me alone. She did reject one column - a Father's Day piece about dads in business - for vague reasons. Then she left. The following year, I submitted it to her replacement, who enthusiastically ran it.
Later, my old editor Julia returned and began nitpicking my columns. She rejected my 'An Open Letter To Detroit' out of hand, referring to it as "too general, too angry." I posted the column on my website. Within a week, a Motor City insider wrote me: "That may very well have been the most insightful article I have ever read. Congratulations."
So, I quit writing columns for the paper. (I've posted another tale about my former editor here.)
A couple of months later, it found another business consultant to write a column. She was gone in less than a year. I don't know why; she was a good writer. The paper now uses an inoffensive, syndicated piece in its business section.
Meanwhile, I continue to enjoy writing the censored-only-by-me View Through The Windshield. It's the world as I see it.
I hope Robert will continue to write the censored-only-by-him Truth About Cars. He's passionate and entertaining. And I enjoy every word. (permalink)
Mall Signage Update: Ten days ago (see 9/2/05 posting), I reported that the local mall had signs over the soda pop vending machines proclaiming the location as the 'Westfield Refreshment Center'.
All the signs have now been changed to 'Westfield Thirst Quencher'. M'kay.
Nickname: During disasters, bottlers often produce drinking water for survivors. An Anheuser-Busch brewery in Texas is distributing cans of drinking water with the A-B logo.
People are calling the product 'Floodweiser'.
Corpse Photo Ops: Many in the media world are angry because the government tried to block reporters from taking photos of the bloated dead bodies in New Orleans. Yelling about "freedom of the press", blah, blah, etc. This makes me - and Mark Tapscott - irritated.
This issue is not about 'freedom'. It's about 'taste' and 'decorum'. Many media people don't seem to care a rat's patootie about the ethics of publishing photos of decomposing corpses - as long as it's that of an ordinary Joe or Jane and not one of "their people."
I wish to point out the following ... (more >>>)
Quick! Resign Before You're Fired. And ... Good Riddance. "Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts."
It's a shame he'll be gone before Blanco, though. She's ten times worse. Get rid of Nagin, too.
RIP - L.J.K. Setright: He wasn't well-known to most of America but Setright was one of the finest automotive writers in the world. He wrote for CAR, a British magazine.
Reading his obituary, I was surprised to learn that he wasn't an engineer. His technical prowess was such that "he was able to discuss technology with engineers at the highest levels in the industry, and his knowledge of tire design made tire industry executives hold him in awe." His writing style was described as "erudite and sometimes wordy."
I would add 'entertaining'.
L.J.K. was also a rabbinical scholar, a lawyer, and a musician. And a big fan of the original Mini. He stopped writing for CAR several years ago. I've missed him. I'm sure many others have too. (permalink)
Today's Darwin Award goes to the man killed (and his cohort given a large electric shock) while trying to steal a power line. They thought the line was a low-voltage wire, but it was actually a high-voltage line. "Roughly 12,500 volts," said a police officer at the scene. They were likely hoping to sell parts of the cable as scrap metal. Idiots.
This happened in Fife, WA - home of the legendary Poodle Dog Cafe. Lots of local car clubs meet there. (hat tip - Obscure Store)
Quote of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "Bob Denver died. Damn. Now who is going to play Cindy Sheehan in the movie? Paul Hogan?"
Friday September 9, 2005
Well, Duh: Consumer Reports magazine says gas mileage in its tests of 303 cars and trucks was lower than U.S. government ratings for 90% of the vehicles, including gasoline-electric hybrids touted for fuel efficiency. And this is news?!?! I've known this for 25 years.
Here's the Joe Sherlock formula: Take the U.S. gov. city mileage figure and add 10%. That's what you'll get for most driving, except long Interstate trips. For those trips, take the highway mileage figure and deduct 12% - that's your real-world highway mileage. (Why? Because the gum-mint test is based on driving at 55 mph. Everybody drives at 70 or above.)
For crawling, bumper-to-bumper traffic, stop trying to calculate your mileage. It will only make you crazy. (If you're in a big SUV, you may be getting gpm not mpg.) Play soothing music instead and crank up the A/C if it's hot outside. When you get home, have a drink. A large one.
When Gas Prices Get Too High: Fifteen ways to beat the high cost of fuel here. Profusely illustrated.
Book Review: 'Argomania - A Look At Argus Cameras And The Company That Made Them'. Allow me to begin by admitting that I'm not a camera guy. To me, they're just something to point and shoot.
Nevertheless, I found this book about cameras surprisingly interesting. It is a story well-told by Henry J. Gambino, a prolific author and camera buff. He brings drama to the repeated rises and falls of Argus, yet he never neglects facts and statistics for the person who wants a deeper look. Read my entire review here.
Sniping & Griping: Mark Steyn is at his best here. Excerpt: "In the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago, Robert D. Kaplan went to Liberia, Sierra Leone and other failed jurisdictions of west Africa and concluded many "citizens" of these "states," roaming the streets raping and killing, belonged to a phenomenon called "reprimitivized man."
Anyone watching TV in recent days will have seen plenty of "reprimitivized man," not in Liberia or Somalia but in Louisiana. Cops smashing the Wal-Mart DVD cabinet so they can get their share of the booty along with the rest of the looters, gangs firing on a children's hospital and on rescue helicopters, hurricane victims raped in the New Orleans Convention Center."
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "I know I'm drinking myself to a slow death, but then I'm in no hurry."
Thursday September 8, 2005
'Saturn - Positioned Somewhere Below Buick And Above Suzuki': Jerry Flint writes about the 'new' Saturn and the death of the once-promising 'old' Saturn.
Excerpt: "Saturn offered us a new dream, and for a while the whole country seemed to believe in it. It really was different. What we didn't realize was that GM executives, and even the union, hated the dream and would work to destroy it."
Truckin': Jay Leno bought a pickup truck. A big one - a 14,500 pound International CXT. Excerpt: "My dream would be to take this truck to England and drive around the Cotswolds and stop the most English-looking person and say: "Excuse me, we're Americans. Is there a McDonald's near here?"" (hat tip - just-auto)
The Return Of The 15: The Route 15 trolley has returned to Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia. The trolleys, which will run from 63rd and Girard to Richmond and Westmoreland, have been rebuilt and now have air conditioning and heating.
The cars are also now equipped with wheelchair lifts and restraints. Trolley service on the 15 line had been stopped in 1992.
I'm not generally a fan of mass transit - especially out here where population density is low. But, in high-density areas like urban Philadelphia... (more >>>)
Bush Must Answer For This: Gilligan has died. He was stranded on an island. No one rescued him. Where the heck was FEMA?! It was supposed to be a three-hour tour, for Pete's sake!
Such blatantly false advertising is a violation of every consumer protection law ever enacted. If rescued, Gilligan might have lived a much longer, happier life. It is reasonable to assume that the stress of abandonment hastened his death.
This human tragedy represents a failure of our government at the highest levels. Let the congressional hearings begin.
Piegate: The Pampered Chef catalog sells the Pie Gate - a device for pies which "keeps your filling inside the crust where it belongs." In other words, a clever, adjustable pie levee. Perhaps, when New Orleans is rebuilt, a giant pie gate design should be used to protect the city from future floods.
The name could be changed from 'The Big Easy' to 'The Big Slice'. And, if the usual cost overruns, payoffs and general corruption - so common on these large projects - occurs, the resultant expose can be called ... (drum roll, please) ... Piegate!
Food Review: James Lileks examines Poore Brothers Steak & Onion potato chips. "The problem isn't that they're not steak-flavored. The problem is that they are. I do not believe that there is such a thing as "steak flavoring" - otherwise, we would have a variety of nice steaky foodstuffs. Steak bread. Steak Merlot. (Goes good with steak.) Steak-flavored steak sauce, for those days when you want to feel like you've just crawled inside a big dark box made of steak with the objective of eating your way out. There would be Steakios cereal - now with the frosted goodness of steak! There would be steak-flavored beer, complete with lawyer-mandated warnings not to put it on the grill."
About 15 years ago - in an act of promotional desperation (or, perhaps it had just run out of ideas) - Pizza Hut offered barbecue steak pizza. I like barbecue. I like steak. I like pizza. But I found the combination inedible.
Some things just don't belong together. I recall a Simpson's episode with a commercial for 'Nuts 'n Gum'. Slogan: "Together At Last!" No thanks.
Quote Of The Day: Relapsed Catholic quotes interesting statistics from former Clinton advisor William Galston: "You need only do three things in this country to avoid poverty - finish high school, marry before having a child, and marry after the age of 20. Only 8 percent of the families who do this are poor; 79 percent of those who fail to do this are poor."
Wednesday September 7, 2005
Fuel Options: James Lileks sums up our energy situation: "We could drill more, build more domestic refineries, build new nuke plants and slash government taxes on gas. Or we could have federal mandates on fuel economy and carpooling, so you're forced to sit in a tiny box arguing about the radio with a stranger who applies Brut with a hose. Sure, you lose some freedom, but ANWR remains pristine, and Malibu beach houses don't have their sunsets spoiled. The owners will wave thanks as they pass overhead in their private jets."
'Finger-Pointin' Time': Long ago - in the early 1960s, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth - Chubby Checker had a hit song, 'Finger-Popin' Time'. I'm waiting for some clever blogger with too much time on his/her hands to rewrite the lyrics, making it a song about New Orleans and the post-hurricane finger-pointing.
Wesley Pruden, Editor-in-Chief of The Washington Times offers a good sum-up of the present KBG**: "The vultures of the venomous left are attacking on two fronts, first that the president didn't do what the incompetent mayor of New Orleans and the pouty governor of Louisiana should have done, and didn't, in the early hours after Katrina loosed the deluge on the city that care and good judgment forgot. Ray Nagin, the mayor, ordered a "mandatory" evacuation a day late, but kept the city's 2,000 school buses parked and locked in neat rows when there was still time to take the refugees to higher ground. The bright-yellow buses sit ruined now in four feet of dirty water.
Then the governor, Kathleen Blanco, resisted early pleas to declare martial law, and her dithering opened the way for looters, rapists and killers to make New Orleans an unholy hell. Gov. Haley Barbour did not hesitate in neighboring Mississippi, and looters, rapists and killers have not turned the streets of Gulfport and Biloxi into killing fields.
The drumbeat of partisan ingratitude continues even after the president flooded the city with National Guardsmen from a dozen states, paratroopers from Fort Bragg and Marines from the Atlantic and the Pacific. The flutter and chatter of the helicopters above the ghostly abandoned city, some of them from as far away as Singapore and averaging 240 missions a day, is eerily reminiscent of the last days of Saigon. Nevertheless, Sen. Mary Landrieu, who seems to think she's cute when she's mad, even threatened on national television to punch out the president - a felony, by the way, even as a threat.
Mayor Nagin, who you might think would be looking for a place to hide, and Gov. Blanco, nursing a bigtime snit, can't find the right word of thanks to a nation pouring out its heart and emptying its pockets. Maybe the senator should consider punching out the governor, only a misdemeanor." (hat tip - Power Line)
And: "The race hustlers waited for three days to inflame a tense situation, but then set to work with their usual dedication. The Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, our self-appointed twin ambassadors of ill will, made the scene as soon as they could, taking up the coded cry that Katrina was the work of white folks, that a shortage of white looters and snipers made looting and sniping look like black crime, that calling the refugees "refugees" was an act of linguistic racism." I love Wesley's phrase, "self-appointed twin ambassadors of ill will", and plan to incorporate it into my phrasebank.
** KGB = Katrina Blame Game - slogan: 'Anyone Can Play!'
Just Wondering? One would think that BET (Black Entertainment Network) would be at the forefront of Katrina aid since so many blacks are affected. Yet its on-air fund-raiser won't take place until Friday September 9 - almost a full week after NBC's effort.
'S.O.S (Saving Ourselves): The BET Relief Telethon' will air on Friday and includes National Urban League and Hip-Hop Summit Action Network as co-sponsors. Kanye West will appear; he's the chap who claimed that "George Bush hates black people" in his complaint about the perceived slow response to Katrina in New Orleans.
I wonder if he'll charge the even-slower BET of race-hatred as well?
Take No Guff: Lieutenant General Russel Honore lashed out at questions from journalists at the Baton Rouge emergency operations center concerning the security situation in New Orleans. "You need to get on the streets of New Orleans, you can't sit back here and say what you hear from someone else. It is secure, we walk around without any issues. Why the hell are you trying to make that the issue, if you can help, get there and help."
He said that people were being scared away by reports of violence and blasted complaints that red tape or poor security were snarling relief efforts as 'BS'.
Tooth Tale: In mid-November of last year, I broke a crowned molar while eating lunch. My dentist suggested several options - the one I chose was "root extrusion."
This involved going to an orthodontist and getting wired up with braces for several months to pull the remaining tooth root upward so that a new crown could be fitted.
I didn't like the first orthodontist I consulted - indecisive, unsure of solutions to 'problems' he raised, offered double the timeline my dentist had predicted, insensitive to pain management questions, etc. - although his 'closer chick' had firm dollar numbers on the contract she thrust in my face. So, I interviewed another ortho-dude.
Dr. Edward J. Curley, a Vancouver orthodontist, offered a realistic assessment, a firm timetable and a can-do attitude. And no pressure. What a difference. (Sadly, Ed died unexpectedly in April 2010.)
Dr. Curley was a gentle, pleasant man - we had some interesting discussions on polymer gluing - and he was well respected by his patients, employees and members of the dental community.
It was strange being the in the orthodontist's waiting room; I was the only person over 11 years old, it seemed. I had never worn braces before, so it felt weird having "hardware" in my mouth.
Things went less smoothly that we had hoped. Because the surface area available for attaching the tooth bracket on the problem tooth was small, the bracket broke off a few times. Finally, the Ed solved the problem by grinding an undercut on the remaining tooth stump. Problem solved.
Once the tooth was raised (several months later), it was time to go to a periodontist for gum removal. He found some excess bone matter that needed to be chiseled away. But the surgery went well and, after a month of gum healing, it was time to get braces off and a temporary crown installed.
Unfortunately, my dentist was - by then - in the hospital for double hernia surgery, so I had to wait until he was back in the saddle - so to speak.
In mid-June I got a temporary crown but the dentist and orthodontist wanted me to wait a month before making impressions for a permanent crown - just to make sure that the extruded tooth didn't do any backsliding. It didn't and, on August 29th, I got my new permanent crown.
I had some trouble afterwards because - while driving home with a numb mouth - I inadvertently bit and punctured the inside of my lip and bruised my tongue. But it's healing up.
I'm very pleased that this lengthy dental journey is over. I'm not a good patient; I had a couple of bad experiences in the dentist chair as a kid. Nevertheless, I was in the hands of competent, understanding professionals - as well as good ol' Dr. Valium - and had a good outcome.
Now I'm off to Albertson's to see if the Meat Dept. has any large, chewy Panda Filets.
Quote Of The Day is from P. J O'Rourke: "I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a "learning experience." Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I've done as a "learning experience." It makes me feel less stupid."
Tuesday September 6, 2005
August Vehicle Sales: There are numerous news sites providing complete data on August's car and truck sales for those who are interested in the details for each manufacturer/brand/model. The big picture is big truck/SUV sales are down; Asian brands are up.
Here are a few gems from the sea of statistics: Ford car sales in August - 80,878 vs. 62,040 last year, up 25 percent led by increases in the Focus, Mustang and, surprisingly, the Crown Vicky. (Yet its cousin, the Mercury Grand Marquis, fell by 20% in August. Odd. I wonder why?) Ford sold over 12,000 Five Hundreds in August, but Ford has become a truck brand, selling 2.3 trucks & SUVs for every passenger car.
Ford vehicle sales out pace Lincoln-Mercury by almost 9 to 1, yet within 30 miles of my house there are 10 Ford dealers and 4 L-M dealerships. Seems like Lincoln-Mercury needs to drastically increase sales or cut dealers. The Lincoln LS is a disaster - sales are down by almost 50%. But Land Rover sales are up 71 percent. Jaguar sales are down by 34 percent, pulled down by the X-Type - less than 900 Xs were sold in August.
Isuzu only sold 722 vehicles total, down 75 percent from last year. How does it stay in business?
Surprisingly (to me), Volvo sales were down over 14% in August. (GoLive's spell-check keeps wanting to change 'Volvo' to 'Vulva'. Maybe it thinks Volvo's a chick car.)
Toyota passenger car sales were up 18.2 percent. The Avalon sedan recorded monthly sales of 9,020, up 200.7 percent. Toyota sold 15,382 hybrids last month (Prius and the two SUVs) - that's a record. The Prius enjoyed the best-ever August sales of 9,850, an increase of 115.6 percent. A new blue one just showed up in our neighborhood last week. First hybrid in the 'hood! (Their other car is a white Camry.)
Double Shot: Automotive Design and Production has an article about coinjected plastics - it used to be called two-shot molding in my plastics days. Inject one plastic into a mold then inject a second plastic into a second area of the mold. Both plastics must be chemically compatible (it's called melt compatibility) but can be different colors, different densities (one solid, one foam) or different aesthetics (ugly and strong overlaid with beautiful and glossy).
This process has been around for ages. The phone company used it for making characters on telephones so that you couldn't wear the numbers and letters off like painted ones. Ford used this process at its Saline, MI plastics plant to double-shot mold red and clear acrylic to make red taillight lenses with clear integral backup lights for the 1968 big Fords. (I was a consultant on the project.) The resultant lens was stronger and more leakproof than those produced by other methods.
Lear Corp. now plans to use this technology to produce large interior (instrument panels, door panels) and large exterior panels. There are numerous benefits, including such things as the elimination of the need to do outside the press assembly of two separate pieces, superior craftsmanship (better grain definition, sharper radii, softer touch), the ability to "dial-in" the sort of characteristics attained when using TPE plastics (soft, slick, silky), excellent performance and durability due to the consistency of wall thicknesses, consistency of gloss across the surface of the part, and the elimination of buzz-squeak-rattle problems that can occur due to the interface of mechanically-attached separate plastic pieces.
Everything old is new again.
Tribes: Bill Whittle has written an excellent, compelling piece about people, the world, politics, attitudes, good, evil and pretty much everything else. It is long - almost 7,000 words. But, every single word is important and I urge you to read 'Tribes' in its entirety. I wish I could write this well. (hat tip - Pugs of War)
If you have some extra time, read Mark Steyn's piece in The Telegraph, referring to the whiny mayor of New Orleans as "Mayor Culpa".
"Like Bob Hope In World War II ..." writes Instapundit, Sean Penn is able to take a devastated nation and make it laugh: "Movie star and political activist Penn, 45, was in the collapsing city to aid stranded victims of flooding sparked by Hurricane Katrina, but the small boat he was piloting to launch a rescue attempt sprang a leak.
The outspoken actor had planned to rescue children waylaid by the deadly waters, but apparently forgot to plug a hole in the bottom of the vessel, which began taking water within seconds of its launch. ... Asked what he had hoped to achieve in the waterlogged city, the actor replied: "Whatever I can do to help."
But with the boat loaded with members of the Oscar-winner's entourage, including his personal photographer, one bystander taunted: "How are you going to get any people in that thing?""
Hollywood - still America's best source of entertainment.
Lileks! You Old Dog, You! James Lileks visited the Minnesota State Fair and snapped this priceless photo.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?"
Sunday September 4, 2005
Hurricane Roundup: The suffering is enormous for many of the Gulf Coast inhabitants. I'm encouraged that substantial progress is being made - relief, evacuation, etc. God bless the soldiers and volunteers. Here are ten postings - thoughts and observations:
1. David Oreck - Bald Man Of Action! This AP report was filed Friday morning: "The Oreck vacuum cleaner company expects to reopen its New Orleans-area plant within the ten days as it temporarily relocates its headquarters to Dallas. Family-run Oreck Corporation is a big part of the Gulf Coast business fabric with headquarters on the shores of the Mississippi and a big factory in nearby Long Beach, Mississippi. Its headquarters is expected to be inaccessible for weeks, so the company is setting up a home office for now in Dallas and is trucking in temporary housing for staff. Shelter is also being provided for workers at the company's Long Beach factory, which appears to have escaped major damage. The company has also resumed processing orders after shifting its call center to Denver and determining that most of its inventory was undamaged. Oreck employs about a thousand people."
Wow! I'm impressed.
David Oreck for President in 2008!
He certainly has good name/face recognition from all those vacuum cleaner commercials. He's more trustworthy than Hillary and has a stronger heart than Dick Cheney. And hasn't employed the ol' comb-over like Rudy Giuliani or Pat Buchanan have.
Slogan: "Vote Oreck - He'll Clean Up America!"
2. Delivery And Support: James Jay Carafano, of the Heritage Foundation penned an interesting article. Excerpt: "The problem is not a lack of resources, will, or the organization to provide assistance. The problem is how to get it to the tens of thousands of people who need it. Additionally, every aircraft, vehicle, and team sent into the disaster has to come with its own support package, increasing the logistical burden further. The notion that under these impossible conditions the dire needs of the city could be efficiently addressed in a few days is simply ludicrous." It would be nice if we could do everything right away. We can't. Although some people set a World Land Speed Record for Finger-Pointing at George Bush last week.
3. 'Get Off His Back' is the title of a thoughtful article by Ben Stein in the American Spectator. It's about New Orleans and the blame game. Excerpt: "If the energy the news media puts into blaming Bush for an Act of God worsened by stupendous incompetence by the New Orleans city authorities and the malevolence of the criminals of the city were directed to helping the morale of the nation, we would all be a lot better off." Amen.
4. 'Volunteering at the Astrodome': This 'at the scene' report is worth reading - it offers a good counterpoint to Geraldo, Brian Williams, et al. I trust the words of an unpaid volunteer who is down at the center of things - talking with real people, rather than the professional reporters who tend to seek out the most outrageous sound bite in the room. Excerpt: "As you might imagine, I wanted to hear what it was like being in the Superdome. One teenage girl told me that it was terrifying when the shooting started. "It was the gangs," she said. Her mother said, "The people found the guy who was shooting and beat his ass and his ass needed beating."
I found over and over again that people were as disgusted with the behavior of the thugs as the rest of us. I asked them if they were angry at the government. Not one I spoke to said they were. They were angry at the people who behaved badly. They were angry at the thugs with guns. They were angry with the people who threw trash everywhere and went to bathroom in public places.
In other words, they were mad at the right people, unlike our friends on the left." Read the whole thing. (hat tip - Relapsed Catholic)
5. Shocking: "I was shocked at how the nets, and even some newspapers, were trying to blame the Bush Administration for the slowness in which help was reaching the damaged cities." Me, too.
6. Empty Buses: The photos of empty school and transit buses in New Orleans is testament to the failure of Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco to implement the already-proscribed emergency plan. Their incompetence cost constituents countless (yet-to-be-counted) lives. (hat tip - Jonah Goldberg)
7. Follow The Money: Mark Steyn wonders what happened to all of the federal funds New Orleans received for emergency preparedness: "The assumption was that after 9/11, big towns and small took stock and identified their weak points. That's what they told us they were doing, and that's what they were getting big bucks to do. But in New Orleans no one had a plan that addressed levee failure, and no one had a plan for the large percentage of vehicleless citizens who'd be unable to evacuate, and no one had a plan to deal with widespread looting. Given that all these local factors are widely known - New Orleans is a below-sea-level city with high crime and a low rate of automobile ownership - it makes you wonder how the city would cope with something truly surprising - like, say, a biological attack."
8. It's Not 9/11: Jonah Goldberg has noted that the "disaster zone after 9/11 was less than 40 square blocks. Rescue vehicles shot straight down Broadway, Fifth Avenue, the West Side Highway etc. The (current) disaster zone, as the President mentioned, is the size of Great Britain." I would add that, on 9/11, no one was shooting at the rescuers.
9. Feed The 'Gators: Andrea Harris over at Spleenville writes: "Thousands of people within one day have been moved from a drowned city to Texas, the next state over. This is remarkable. Frankly I expected that it would take weeks just to get the people out of there; it looks like it will take days instead, despite the criminal freaks in New Orleans, who should be eaten by alligators." I hope they don't give the 'gators indigestion.
10. Generosity: Honda is donating $5,000,000 to the American Red Cross. In addition, Honda will dip into its various endeavors to provide generators, water pumps, all-terrain vehicles, personal watercraft, outboard motors and additional vehicles for the relief efforts. Toyota has also donated $5,000,000. Numerous other corporations have stepped up to the plate as well.
Today, at our church, a special collection was taken up for Katrina victims. I'm sure such things are going on at houses of worship all over the U.S. Three months from now, we'll all be dismayed when they've finished tallying up the dead. But we'll be comforted when the generosity of our fellow Americans - in dollars and volunteer hours - is tallied up as well.
Friday September 2, 2005
Stamp Act: The Motor Trend headline reads: ''50s Sporty Cars' Postage Stamps Roll Out Of Detroit'. A new postage stamp series - 'America on the Move: '50s Sporty Cars' - features five different car models. They are identified as "1952 Nash Healy (sic), 1953 Chevrolet Corvette, 1953 Studebaker Starliner, 1954 Kaiser Darrin and 1955 Ford Thunderbird."
MT also referred to these as "classic cars". I don't want to get too nuts here - it is, after all, just a fun stamp series - but regular readers know that I have strong feelings about the term "classic" as applied to cars.
I'm also puzzled by the car choices - the Studebaker, Corvette and Thunderbird are, of course, givens. In the 1950s, I never saw a Kaiser Darrin or Nash-Healey on the road.
Since the Nash-Healey was a foreign car - built in England - why not choose the MG-TD and Jaguar XK 120? I used to see both of these models on the road occasionally in the 1950s.
Random Thoughts About New Orleans: Roger Simon is visiting Japan and ate breakfast at New Orleans' legendary Cafe du Monde, which has a branch in the Kyoto Railroad Station! I've been to N.O. two or three times and made it a point to visit the Cafe du Monde for chicory coffee and beignets. Good memories.
I hope the idiot(s) who fired on military helicopters - halting the evacuation of several thousand exhausted, destitute people - is/are found and shot on the spot. Same for the snipers shooting at hospitals. I also hope that the two cops looting Wal-Mart on (shown on MSNBC) are sent to jail for a very long time. It's important to remember that the vast majority of New Orleans citizens are not criminals. Just disaster victims. They (and everyone else in Katrina's path of destruction) deserve our profound sympathy. And help.
This, however, boils my blood: Managers at the Covenant Home nursing center were prepared to cope with power outages and supply shortages following Hurricane Katrina. They weren't ready for looters. The nursing home lost its bus after the driver surrendered it to carjackers. Groups of people then drove by the center, shouting to residents, "Get out!" On Wednesday, 80 residents, most of them in wheelchairs, were evacuated to other nursing homes in the state. "We had excellent plans. We had enough food for 10 days," said Peggy Hoffman, the home's executive director. "Now we'll have to equip our department heads with guns and teach them how to shoot."
Instapundit has posted a list of charities accepting donations. I'd add Northwest Medical Teams - they have an excellent track record in disaster response and are preparing to head to N.O.
About the lack of aid from France, James Lileks quipped: "Last time I checked the French weren't helping much ... odd. The one place in the country where their guys could read the signs, and they don't bother to pitch in."
I have no predictions/opinions about gas prices, the effect on the U.S. economy, how long it will take to restore the affected areas, how to rebuild New Orleans, etc. This is a natural disaster of extraordinary magnitude. But I am generally optimistic that we will - as always - "get 'er done."
Never underestimate the American spirit. And American generosity to those in need.
Scenes From A Mall: Don't look for research and stats here; these are just observations. In the last few weeks, I visited the local mall a couple of times.
It used to be called the Vancouver Mall but has been renamed Westfield Shoppingtown. I don't know anyone who calls it that; everyone says, "I'll meet you at the Vancouver Mall." Or "the mall." It's located on Van Mall Drive, by the way. 'Westfield Shoppingtown Drive' wouldn't fit on the street sign. Or would require a signboard so long that it might break the pole, fall and kill someone.
I was surprised by the increased number of ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ann Coulter: "Sen. Teddy Kennedy has demanded that the Bush administration waive attorney-client privilege and release internal memos John Roberts worked on while in the solicitor general's office 15 years ago, all of which were supposed to be held in the deepest confidence. Apparently, Kennedy thinks public officials have no right to keep even their attorney-client communications secret. ... I demand that Kennedy immediately waive all attorney-client privilege relating to his communications with his lawyer after he drove Mary Jo Kopechne off the bridge at Chappaquiddick. It's time to clear up, once and for all, the many questions that have swirled around Kennedy since Chappaquiddick.
Oops "swirled" may have been a poor choice of words there. How about "floated"? Nope. "Surfaced"? Oooh even worse, in terms of irony. "Come to light"? OK, now I'm just being obtuse. "Beset"? Yes, that's better."
Thursday September 1, 2005
Car Sighting: I spotted a Chevrolet Equinox on the road last week. I'm not a big fan of SUVs but it looked pretty good in dark blue.
Learning Chinese: Chris Sawyer of Automotive Design and Production offers some thoughts on the coming Chinese auto invasion.
It's What The Lincoln Zephyr Should Have Been: Ford introduces a swoopy concept sedan in Europe - the Iosis. AutoBlog has numerous photos.
'Big' Lease Deal: A German court has ruled that Mercedes must release a 37 year-old man from a car lease deal after a dispute over whether he was too heavy - at 352 pounds - to drive the S-Class luxury vehicle. (I wonder if he was the father of Uder, the little butterball German exchange student from 'The Simpsons'? "Tomorrow we are serving Uder-bratten!")
The guy switched to a Volkswagen - model unknown but probably not a Polo.
Octogenarian Wows 'Em At Mud Drags: Though many people his age (84) are living out their final days in nursing homes, Rudy Kraege's getting knocked around in his truck and barreling across the mud against 19 and 20-year-olds. The cane he uses to get around gets tossed to the side when he races. (hat tip - The Obscure Store)
This story reminded me that Ed Poole, a man in his 70s - who also used a cane, drove cross-country in 1994 to attend a Lincoln Club National Meet.
Ed piloted his beautiful 1953 Lincoln Capri coupe from Lockport, NY to Silverdale, WA. Even though the Capri was jet black - a color that shows every scratch, chip and bug mark, Ed captured a top trophy for his fine, gleaming machine. Then he drove it back home again to NY.
What a guy.
Back To School: It's that time of year again. The Beloit College Mindset List illustrates the worldview of today's entering freshmen. Here are just a few features of the world as this year's freshmen have known it in their conscious lifetime:
• They don't remember when "cut and paste" involved scissors.
• Boston has been working on the Big Dig all their lives.
• American Motors has never existed.
• Miss Piggy and Kermit have always dwelt in Disneyland.
• There has always been a pyramid in front of the Louvre in Paris.
View the complete list here.
And You Think Bush Gets Bad Press? "Two doves freed - as a sign of peace - at the launch of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse's presidential election campaign Friday were killed instantly when they flew into a ceiling fan."
It's probably Karl Rove's fault.
Headline Of The Day is from The Onion: 'Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can't Index'.
Quote Of The Day is from an article in the Detroit News: "In China, auto workers earn roughly 40 cents to 50 cents an hour, with little or no benefits. By comparison, United Auto Workers are paid about $130,000 a year in salary and benefits."