a blog about cars, car blog

The View Through The Windshield
A Blog About Cars ... and Everything Else I See
by Joe Sherlock

Friday June 30, 2006

'Hot' Rod: On Monday, the temperature eventually hit triple digits - so I left early in the morning to run some errands in my Plymouth. After 20 minutes, my feet and legs were roasting. I pulled over and realized that I had not turned off the hot water feed to the car's heater this year.

car blogThe heater is the original 1939 factory model. You always get heat, unless you duck down near the floor and turn off the hot water knob on the metal heater box. There are no temperature controls - just On and Off. The fan has two speeds - Lame and Less Lame. The heat emerges from the box on the passenger's side and eventually works its way over to the driver.

Heaters did not become standard equipment on cars until the late 1950s or early '60s, if memory serves me correctly. Many Florida and Arizona cars were sold without heaters, saving the original purchaser 40 bucks or so.

We take the efficiencies of today's automotive climate control systems for granted but there was a time when heat was regulated by judicious adjustment of knobs and switches mounted in unergonomic places. Cooling was accomplished by careful manipulation of vent window positions and car speed - just enough to get a good breeze but not enough to blow your cigarette ashes back in your face.

The good old days ... often sucked.

Designer Cheerios: Since my heart attack, I've been trying to eat healthier, so I have a small bowl of Cheerios every morning for breakfast. Since we're getting a new kitchen, I decided that a properly-stylish cereal dispenser was called for.

I found the Zevro Indispensable™ Dispenser pleasing to my eye, so I ordered a red one with a chrome (of course) knob. The transparent canister holds 17 ounces, and the portion control system allows me to dispense precisely the amount of little Os my heart desires. And the design looks really cool, too.

Secret Agent Man: Greg Gutfeld writes: "Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese prime minister, has absolutely terrific hair. I always find it interesting when a western-style cut is adopted by an Asian man. It makes him look like an orchestra conductor or someone who plays an orchestra conductor. (By the way: what exactly does an orchestra conductor do? Do you really need to know what you are doing if all you do is wave a stick?)"

I always felt that Koizumi looks like a sidekick in a 1970s James Bond flick. Picture him saying to Roger Moore, "Quick, Bond-san, pry up the grate. It leads to one of my secret tunnels under the Tokyo prefecture."

Junichiro, 64, is also a major Elvis fan who not only shares a January 8 birthday with his idol, but picked out his songs for a 2001 charity album, 'Junichiro Koizumi Presents My Favorite Elvis Songs.' The prime minister appears on the album's cover standing next to Elvis outside Graceland in a composite picture. And, he'll be touring the rock-and-roll legend's home/shrine in Memphis today. Cool.

Quote Of The Day is from Peter Egan of Road & Track on the Fiat 850 Spider: "I know a lot of people who liked these cars and claim that Fiat always gave you a lot of value for the money. Well, so do chorus girls, but they don't rust out."


Wednesday June 28, 2006

Car Character: Andrew Dederer writes, "When people say a car has 'character', they mean one of two things. First and foremost, the word is deployed to praise gross ergonomic errors. We're not talking about minor design quirks: Saab ignitions on the floor, CR-V shifters high on the dash, horns on the wheel spokes. Pistonheads trot out the 'C' word to heap praise upon those interior peculiarities that stand up and demand you notice them when you should be doing something else, like driving. While enthusiasts have been praising these automotive "eccentricities" for years, it's time for carmakers to write this character out of the program."

Yes, well ... in my article last year on Road Test Lingo, I defined 'character' a little differently: "A marque with a storied history but you never know if the car is going to start in the morning. (examples: Jaguar, Citroen, Renault)"

autoblogCheap Oil = Cheap Gas: Larry Kudlow thinks oil will soon be back to $40 to $50 per barrel. Excerpt: "Prince Turki can threaten $200 oil all he wants, but we may instead be looking at a downward correction that will have oil prices dropping more than anyone imagines possible. Supplies are at their highest levels in eight years, while demand appears to be falling, or at least leveling off. Should a significant price correction be in the offing, stock markets and the economy will cheer."

Good news, if Larry's correct.

The Best: People have asked about The Empress Room (mentioned in Monday's posting), where we celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary. It was fine but nothing to write home about. It was a small dining room with few windows and no scenic views.

There was no musical accompaniment - no harpist, pianist, etc. The room decor was posh but a bit stuffy for my taste.

The food and presentation was very good, the servers were attentive.

But it wasn't the best anniversary meal we've ever had. That happened, I think, three years ago in Colorado.

For our 37th wedding anniversary, we dined at the Penrose Room on the top floor of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. With five servers - every one of whom addressed us by name and were properly obsequious. After cocktails, we had Chateaubriand accompanied by a bottle of Robert Strong Merlot. (We could have had Chateau Latour from 1945, but $5,000 for a bottle of Bordeaux seemed a little excessive!)

The carver was an intense, angry-faced, tuxedoed, older man with a bowl haircut - the spitting image of Moe from the Three Stooges. We kept waiting for him to slap the other waiters around - but Moe stuck to his carving and then disappeared into the kitchen never to be seen again.

We were serenaded by a jazz band (The Ken Miller Trio) with blonde female vocalist, Lila Mori - they had a very good sound.

We had great views of the city and the Cheyenne mountains and watched the sun go down as we enjoyed the food and ambiance.

Didja Ever Notice ...? Quizno's pictures of food look about 700 times better than its real food does.

Lazy, Self-Centered Lawyer Blames Bush ... for everything that's wrong in her life.

She "forgot" to use a contraceptive and tried to get a prescription for Plan B, a morning-after pill. After her doctor and her internist refused (as was their right) to write her a prescription, she gave up and trusted to luck, which failed.

She then got pregnant, so she got an abortion, and blamed it on the Bush administration which has "politicized religion" and kept Plan B from becoming an over-the-counter, non-prescription drug.

Excerpt: "When asked why she didn't give the baby up for adoption (after all, she'd mentioned an infertile friend who was desperate to have a baby), she responded by saying that “If society, and people like you weren't so judgmental, I would gladly have borne that child … and given the baby to my friend to raise with all my heart.” She wouldn't have killed her offspring, if it weren't for those who insisted that such killing would be wrong."

Maybe Shakespeare had the right idea.

Who Knew? Queen Elizabeth and Mel Brooks are the same age - they both turned 80 this month.

Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "If you read all the fine print in all the documents you have to sign, you would have no time left to live a life."


Monday June 26, 2006

sherlock car trip blogTrip Report: I am pleased to report that we have returned safe and sound after a restful vacation in Victoria, B.C. On June 14th, we traveled to Port Angeles, WA.

The next morning, we drove our car onto the Coho ferry for the 105 minute trek to Victoria across the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

There were high clouds, but it was generally sunny and the water was calm.

The Coho ferry takes cars; the high-speed Victoria Express does not - its journey is 20 minutes shorter. The sides of the Victoria Express have signs which read, "Powered by Biodiesel Fuel."

car blog

Standing in front of Coho ferry (in Victoria) wearing Miracle Hat

We stayed in the Signature Club at the Delta Ocean Pointe Hotel and Spa in Victoria - a four-star establishment on Victoria's harbor. (It came with pretty good credentials, including One of the World's Best Places to Stay, Condé Nast's Gold List, several Reader's Choice Awards, etc.)

I cannot praise this place enough. The staff was efficient and helpful. We had a complimentary breakfast in the Signature Club every day. And drinks plus free hors d'oeuvres every night. And home-baked cookies at midday. The carpet in each elevator is changed every day and is embroidered with the day of the week so you know exactly what day it is.

There used to be a classic car museum in Vancouver. (I visited it in 1983 and have photos in a shoebox somewhere.) The guy that owned the museum was the original owner of this hotel.

We did all the sights including the very fine Royal B.C. Museum, the stained glass displays in the Parliament building and the disappointing B.C. Wax Museum. We also went to Butchart Gardens, 14 miles north of Victoria on Brentwood Bay. We got there early - there were no crowds; we felt like it was our own private park. Awesome! By the time we left, a million tour buses had arrived and hordes of Japanese tourists were pushing, shoving and snapping endless photos. We left, went on a scenic drive, visited wineries, etc.

Trip photos are posted here.

We also took leisurely drives through parks and glided up the marine/scenic route to Oak Bay. We strolled the shops there and in downtown Victoria.

On our 40th wedding anniversary, we celebrated with cocktails in the Bengal Lounge of The Empress Hotel. Then we had a nice dinner in The Empress Room.

On Sunday morning, we sauntered down to the wharf and watched the "world famous" Victoria Harbour Ferries perform their 'water ballet'. The water taxis 'dance' to the music of the Blue Danube Waltz as the skippers take their jaunty little boats through various routines. It was hokey but amusing. We did take one of the water taxis earlier in the week. It was quite a choppy ride.

On Wednesday (6/21), we drove our car into the hold of the Coho and headed home.

Car Sightings: There was a little burgundy and silver Smart car in the ferry boarding line. This color combo was quite striking and the little car quickly drew a crowd. I spoke with the owner; he said that his was a six-speed diesel model and he claimed that it got 80 mpg. He remarked that the top speed was 85 mph but commented that it was skittish at highway speeds and was "strictly a city car." He also said that "you really have to row the gearshift to keep it going."

We saw a bunch of Smart cars in Victoria. (Smarts have been available in Canada for two years.) I had seen them before in Europe but, observing them sitting at a traffic light next to Jeep Grand Wagoneers, they look truly shrimpy. I don't think they would sell well in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that DaimlerChrysler will "launch its tiny, two-door Smart car in the U.S. in 2007, a bid to turn around the unprofitable small-car unit." Good luck. These expensive ($20K - or so) little two-seaters are cute but frighteningly small to my American eyes. Canadians buy them because gas costs $4.50 per gallon.

Victoria is full of small cars - lots of Toyota Yarises; Minis (old and new) are a common sighting. Half the taxis were Priuses. And non-taxi Toyota Priuses were visible everywhere.

I spotted a new 2007 Jaguar XK convertible in metallic red at our hotel. It is better-looking in person than in photos, although - from some angles - that front end does have a Ford Taurus-like aura. The owner demanded that the car be kept "close at hand", so the valets dropped it in a handicapped space!

Over at 'The Truth About Cars', Jay Shoemaker also feels that "the Jaguar XK8 is a grille-challenged automobile. It's as if Ford sent all their leftover Taurus grilles to the UK and then leaned on Jaguar engineers to find them a home."

We saw a snail-shaped Citroen S-Cargo van gliding down the streets of Sidney. I also spotted a '48 Plymouth sedan and a brilliant red '55 Thunderbird parked at an investment advisory service near Oak Bay. I also came upon a perfect mint-green Jaguar XK-120 drophead with disc wheels and skirts parked at the curb in Oak Bay's shopping district. A block later, we were passed by a red Morgan with wire wheels.

During our stay, I spotted a couple of Austin Healey 3000s, a nice MG-A and a blue MGB. (75% of MGBs seem to be blue and it's not a particularly pretty shade either.)

We also saw flawless 1962 VW Beetle convertible in that characteristic beige-ivory color parked in front of a very expensive home with a water view. The top was down and the interior looked like new. I also spotted a red Mercedes B-Class - I had never seen one before. It's an odd duck kind of minivan - too small for America, especially at the asking prices.

Two spaces up from our car in the hotel's underground parking garage was a yellow '70s-era Porsche 911 - with those large, ugly, black-rubber bumper-snubbers. And a couple of new or nearly-new Corvettes.

sherlock automotive blogVictoria's streets are also populated by Bicycle Terrorists - two-wheeling idiots who bend/ignore all traffic rules to suit their own selfish needs. ("I'm a pedestrian; no - wait - I'm a motorist!" "Get out of my way! I'm bicycling!") You know the type. Jerks. They give all cyclists a bad name.

There were numerous new Camrys running around Victoria Island - far more than I've seen in the states.

The official car of old people in Victoria seemed to be the Nissan Altima. There were also a smattering of Ford Crown Vickies and Mercury Marquis piloted by whiteheads.

I saw very few GM cars - just a few older Buicks driven by geezers. I wonder why no one seems to be buying GM products on Vancouver Island?

Dining: (I've added the establishments mentioned below to my restaurant review page.)

In Port Angeles, we had dinner at Bella Italia - a wonderful restaurant offers excellent Northern Italian cooking. There is also a wine bar and an extensive wine list. On the way back to our hotel, we passed another restaurant with a sign proclaiming "Our seafood is so fresh, it was sleeping in the ocean last night!" I found this mildly disturbing and actually felt sorry for the fish!

car blogIn Victoria, we dined at the Cafe Brio. We were greeted by Greg Hays, co-owner, and were treated like old friends. This restaurant is trendy, upscale and bistro-like but has the feel of a "neighborhood place" where everybody seems to know everyone else. But we never felt left out because the wait staff were very attentive and the food was well prepared and contained an interesting and engaging mix of flavors (oops ... flavours).

Cafe Brio claims to offer West Coast contemporary food with inspiration from Italian and French cuisine. I couldn't tell which was French or Italian - it just tasted good. The bread was flavorful and had an interesting texture. And the house Merlot was tasty and not the dreck one sometime gets when selecting an economy choice from the wine list. Conde Nast Travel Magazine sez, "Cafe Brio tries to satisfy rather than impress and ends up doing both."

We had dinner at Pagliacci's on Bond Street. This place was recommended by two different friends. They gave me good advice - the food was outstanding. Portions were generous and dishes had names like 'Salmon Enchanted Evening' salad, 'The Hot Transvestite' - a sautéed chicken, described as "the Queen of Dishes", 'Feta Fatwah', claimed to be Salmon Rushdie's favorite. I had 'Meat John Doe' - a helping of linguini with four large and delicious meatballs. Go early - Pagliacci's doesn't take reservations and lines quickly form down the block.

When the name of the business has the word 'steak' in it - like Barkley's Steak & Seafood in Victoria, I have high expectations. While the service was good and the decor was fancified, the chateaubriand-for-two fell far short of our expectations. Especially at the posted prices. We won't be back.

We had lunch at the Waddling Dog Pub in Sidney. The place had a great name, zero ambiance but good food.

The much-hyped Penny Farthing Pub in Oak Bay was a disappointment. The service was indifferent and the food - just OK. Meanwhile ... the Irish Times Pub in downtown Victoria was much better - exceptional but authentic pub food, served promptly by friendly staff. Both places are owned by the same people. Go figure.

the view through the windshieldThe Curry House in Victoria was awful. The ads claim that the chef "has a degree in Indian cuisine." I wondered if he graduated at the bottom of his class. And flunked the restaurant management courses. The food was much too spicy, the nan was crudely prepared and served, the wait staff were indifferent and the decor was dumpy. Avoid it like the Black Hole of Calcutta, sir!

Located high in the mountains of Southern Vancouver Island, the Aerie Dining Room in Malahat offers the best view we've ever experienced - a breathtaking 180-degree panorama of sea, mountains and river. The bill for lunch-for-two was also breathtaking - over $150!!! The food was good but unspectacular; the service (from waitpeople and kitchen) was polite but waaaay too slow. No wonder the joint was almost empty.

Our table at the Blue Crab Bar & Grill had a great view of Victoria's inner harbor (that's harbour to the locals) and the food was tasty and cleverly presented on the plate. Frommer's Travel Guide rates it the "Best Seafood Restaurant for Victoria." The best? I dunno, but it's certainly very good. This was our final dinner - a fine meal and a very good culinary ending to our vacation. (permalink)


Friday June 23, 2006

I'm Back: We traveled to Victoria, B.C. for a celebration of our 40th wedding anniversary. And a vacation. We had a great time and I didn't touch a computer for seven full days. It was wonderful.

sherlock auto blogging

I'll have a report on some interesting B.C. car sightings on Monday.

Driving around my neighborhood Thursday, I spotted a rare, full-fendered, pale-yellow Allard K2 model from 1950 or so. It had a pair of cut-down windscreens.

I also saw a new brilliant black Mustang GT fitted with very low-profile tires and 19 or 20" chrome wheels. It probably rode like a truck, but it looked spectacular in the bright sunshine.

Faultless: Jerry Flint writes: "You want to know what's wrong with General Motors and Ford? Why they lost the respect of Americans, why they are sinking under a sea of Toyotas, Hondas, and BMWs? Look at minivans. Right, minivans!

Here's a simple vehicle, invented by Americans. It's a box. They should be big for our families. They should have the right seating so parents can threaten to go back there if the kids keep fighting. And they should have a good engine, because when mom enters the freeway with the kids she wants to move it fast to mix with the traffic.

It's been 17 years since Chrysler's first minivan and GM and Ford haven't been able to figure out how to build a good one yet. And do they care? Has anyone been fired? Has anyone resigned in shame? Do they CEOs of GM or Ford bang their heads against their walls because they can't build a minivan? No. They never say or do anything. They don't care, either."

Flint pinpoints a common problem at many large corporations/institutions/organizations. No one gets blamed for stupid, bad stuff. Frequently, the guilty get promoted.

What idiot green-lighted the Pontiac Aztek? I bet he/she is still working at GM - and has probably gotten a raise. How many Team Ford members were fired when the Thunderbird came out two years late?

The only people who pay the price for corporate stupidity are the customers. And the stockholders.

When things go wrong, it's somebody's fault. When big things go wrong, it's time to attach blame. And make the responsible party/parties suffer the consequences. Stop rewarding bad decisions by highly-paid people.

Brown Goes Green: UPS is testing a hydraulic hybrid delivery truck. The familiar, large UPS step-vans get between 7.5 and 8.5 mpg when fully loaded and around 10 miles per gallon when empty.

The company spends more than $1.4 billion annually on fuel. In laboratory tests, the new vehicle achieved 60 to 70 percent better fuel economy and had a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases.

One Sentence Condemnation: Jeremy Clarkson didn't like the Peugeot 207. He concluded, "If you buy one and are caught doing something naughty with it, simply tell the magistrate that you are a loony. He'll look at your car and be forced to agree."

Irony: Dan Rather despised Richard Nixon, yet ultimately was handed a Nixonian ending to his reign at CBS.

Ha! Good riddance.

Milking The Subject: James Lileks weighs in on 1% milk: "It's like pretend milk from pretend cows, milked by mimes. Two percent isn't light enough? Someone drank a glass of 2 percent and gagged as though they'd chugged congealed buttermilk? Water it down some more! I'm still waiting for 3 percent milk - and no, you can't make 3 percent by adding 1 percent to 2 percent."

Actually, I like the taste of 1% milk. It's skim milk that I can't abide.

Quote Of The Day is from Peter Hitchens: "Given that all the social evidence shows that children from stable homes with two parents are more likely to do well at school, more likely to do productive work when they grow up, less likely to take to crime than those who come from fractured and fatherless homes, why doesn't the state use the sort of efforts it uses to curb smoking, to encourage marriage?"


Wednesday June 14, 2006

Brain Break: The month is not even half over and I've already written a typical month's worth of verbiage. I need to slow down, so I'm giving myself a 7-10 day self-imposed break from blogging.


Tuesday June 13, 2006

Movie Review: We played hooky and saw Pixar's 'Cars' on a rainy Monday afternoon. Fantastic! John Lasseter and his crew have created a fine, timeless flick. I enjoyed the mix of characters, especially Paul Newman as the 1951 Hudson Hornet and George Carlin as the counterculture Fillmore the VW Microbus - in his best hippy-dippy weatherman voice. I don't generally dig Larry The Cable Guy. But he was perfect as the loveable, countrified Mater the tow truck. Luigi, the Fiat 500 tire store owner, and his forklift helper, Guido, are a joy and add many funny moments.

The scenery and background is nothing short of spectacular. There are too many signs and monuments to comprehend all on the first viewing; I guess I'll have to rent the DVD when it comes out and make extensive use of the pause button. I did catch that the covers in the drive in area of Flo's V-8 drive-in are Ford heads topped with flashing neon sparkplugs which - I read - match the firing sequence of a flathead V-8. And the roof of the drive-in's main building is in the shape of an air cleaner. The movie is chock full of other little automotive, NASCAR, Ferrari and Pixar inside jokes - I know I didn't catch even half of them first time around.

The cleverly animated reflections in the paint and chrome of the cars brings them to life. And the movement seems very realistic - except when it's deliberately exaggerated.

It's a good story. You'll smile, laugh and be on the edge of your seat throughout the movie. If you go, don't leave until after the credits roll - there's a humorous surprise at the very end.

PS - I'm not alone in this. My nine year-old grandson saw it Sunday and pronounced 'Cars' as "GREAT!"

Update: I walked the local mall Tuesday and found that The Disney Store and Kay-Bee Toys were chock full of 'Cars' merchandise. No diecast models of Guido, though. Rats!

Brainless Mechanic: A friend sent this to me. I don't know if the story is true or a joke. Or both. The writer is from Mississippi: When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver's side door.

As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "It's open!" To which he replied, "I know - I already got that side."

Battle Ground Bling: Geezer that I am, I drove into town to shop and arrived before the stores were open. I waited along with other greying individuals wearing velcroed footwear. I sat in the car, listening to Patti Page on geezer EZ-listening radio and watched the cars go by while I waited for the store to open. (By the way, it opened a full two-minutes late.)

While waiting, I saw a lot of SUV's carrying heavy chrome. A black Escalade full of shiny trim. A big Navigator with 22" chrome wheels. Lots of expensive, big, mirrored wheels on Tahoes and other huge, hulking vehicles. Who knew that Battle Ground was Blingsville?

Save The Penny: Speaking of bling, Paul Jacobs gives his reasons for preserving the shiny coinage. Here's my reason - what the heck am I supposed to put in my penny loafers? Nickels?

The Future Is Always A Surprise: Pay little attention to pundits writes Philip Tetlock. Excerpt: "Between 1985 and 2005, boomsters made 10-year forecasts that exaggerated the chances of big positive changes in both financial markets (e.g., a Dow Jones Industrial Average of 36,000) and world politics (e.g., tranquility in the Middle East and dynamic growth in sub-Saharan Africa). They assigned probabilities of 65% to rosy scenarios that materialized only 15% of the time.

In the same period, doomsters performed even more poorly, exaggerating the chances of negative changes in all the same places where boomsters accentuated the positive, plus several more (I still await the impending disintegration of Canada, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Belgium, and Sudan). They assigned probabilities of 70% to bleak scenarios that materialized only 12% of the time."

Global Warming Deconstructed ... by a car guy. Neil Winton pens an article worth reading. Excerpt: "The good news is that top climate scientists in Europe and the U.S. say if the world is warming, it is probably down to natural causes. After all, it was warmer in Britain 2,000 years ago when the Romans produced Red Wine in Sussex. Greenland was colonized because the climate was mild enough to support crops. Humans were hardly producing any CO2 then.

Temperatures fell significantly between 1940 and 1975 while CO2 emissions continued to expand, and panicky academics warned us about Global Cooling. Top scientists like Professor Richard Lindzen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Professor Philip Stott of London University now say any action to slow global warming would be futile because the climate changes for reasons beyond our control.

The bad news is that nobody ruling over us seems to believe them."

Unintended Tax Consequences: Steve Antler of Econopundit has an interesting theory.

He wrote, "Once we lived in an America with a bewildering array of corner lunch counters, interesting bookstores, individualistic neighborhood clothiers, tailors, dressmakers, appliance shops each with its own unique spin on what the owner thought you wanted - lots of small individualistic enterprises that, like family farms, got passed down through the family from one generation to the next.

The estate tax replaced all these with McDonalds, Borders, The Gap, the ubiquitous extended warranty and ADM.

So the theory is simple: the basic method of passing business expertise from one generation to the next - the family business enterprise - has been replaced by the franchise operation, all thanks to your friendly neighborhood death tax.

And the next time some smart social reformer demands you watch his heart bleed for all the small local businesses Wal-Mart is killing, just ask him - "so what do you think the inheritance tax is doing?""

I would add that, in the 1950s, there were numerous independent pizzerias in every town, each offering its own style, flavor and ambiance. There were no Dominos or Pizza Huts with their flavorless, red-and-cream-colored cardboard discs.

In those same times, there were thousands of wonderful mom-and-pop Italian eateries, ranging from plain-jane places with linoleum-topped tables to fancier establishments with indirect lighting and wall murals. All offered wonderful Italian food.

Now there are thousands of Olive Gardens, offering ... ummm ... Olive Garden food.

The Good Old Days ... they were really awful. The 'Choak-Pear' was a machine used in 18-19th Century Holland by robbers; it was of iron and shaped like a pear. They forced it into the mouths of good citizens from whom they intended to extort money; and on turning a key, certain interior springs thrust forth a number of points, in all directions, which so enlarged it, that it could not be taken out of the mouth.

The iron, being case-hardened, could not be filed. The only methods of getting rid of it, were either by cutting the mouth, or advertising a reward for the key. These devices were also called 'pears of agony'.

Turning Right: Seth Swirsky writes logically and elequently on why he left the Left.

Excerpt: "After moving to Los Angeles in the early 90s, I watched from the roof of my apartment building as the city burned after the Rodney King verdicts were handed down. I thought what those four cops did to King was shameful. But I didn't hear an uproar from my friends on the Left when rioters rampaged through the city's streets, stealing, looting, and destroying property in the name of "no justice, no peace." And it was impossible not to notice the hypocrisy when prominent Hollywood liberals, who had hosted anti-NRA fundraisers at their homes a week before the riots were standing in line at shooting ranges the week after it."

And: " ... I approached the 2004 primaries with an open mind. I was still a Democrat, still hoping that leaders like Sam Nunn and Scoop Jackson would emerge, still fantasizing that Democrats could constitute a party of truly progressive social thinkers with tough backbones who would reappear after 9/11.

I was wrong. The Left got nuttier, more extreme, less contributory to the public debate, more obsessed with their nemesis Bush - and it drove me further away. What Democrat could support Al Gore's '04 choice for President, Howard Dean, when Dean didn't dismiss the suggestion that George W. Bush had something to do with the 9/11 attacks?"

What? You don't think the left is nutty?

May I present Exhibit A - The World Naked Bike Ride. It was held, ostensibly to protest global warming. But there is a lot of anti-war, anti-Bush rhetoric going on, as exhibited by the slogans painted on nekkid bodies. As well as - ahem, "shrinkage" ... to use a Seinfeldian expression. It must have been a chilly day for the male participants. (As George Constanza once indicated, "It retracts like a frightened turtle.")

The photos are - I think - proof that people shouldn't be naked unless they're "spectacular", buff and in mint-condition. And, on the same subject, I cannot top or even repeat the exquisite, snarky and slightly obscene comments offered by Andrea Harris on the whole matter, especially her speculation about the various odors emanating from bicycle seats.

Can you even imagine conservatives bicycling naked to protest - I dunno - the gold standard? The prime rate? The Death Tax? Or Sarbanes-Oxley? I didn't think so.

But, the Left ... they're crazy. Certified.

As a former Democrat (and having grown up in the '50s and '60s), I find that the Republican Party has become what the old Democratic Party once was - a centrist political organization. The old, conservative Republican party has disappeared, showing up only in the musings of certain columnists. Of course, that doesn't count because they're writers - not elected representatives.

The Democratic Party, formerly a centrist organization, began turning left after the assassination of JFK. And has continued to move further and further away ... from reality.

Many people are dissatisfied by the current Republican Party. But, they can't find a reasonable alternative. Because the Democrats no longer offer one.

Please Kill This Jerk. And his lawyer. A man who was beaten by employees of a store he was trying to rob is now suing them. And the store.

Police say the perp entered an AutoZone store in Rochester, New York, brandishing a semi-automatic pistol and demanding cash. Two employees beat him with a pipe and held him at bay with his own gun.

Now, the criminal is suing for "emotional distress".

Homer Was Right! 'A Prairie Home Companion - The Movie' is a turkey, apparently. I'm not surprised. I thought the radio show was one of the least funny things on National Public Radio - and NPR has a lot of programs that aren't supposed to be funny.

The Simpsons did a Lake Woebegon parody ('Badger Falls') in 1993. "What the hell is this?" asked Homer, during a televised PBS Pledge Week. (Yeah, they call it a 'week'. But it's more like a month, ain't it?) "What are people laughing at? This isn't funny."

The scene ended with Homer pounding on the television as he yelled at the Garrison Keillor character, "Be more funny!"

Another Sign Of End Times: The headline reads, 'Billy Ray Cyrus aims to revive the mullet'.

Quote Of The Day is from Peter Ustinov: "When growing up, I aspired to be an Amilcar."


Monday June 12, 2006

the view through the windshieldFaces: I was driving down a lightly-traveled secondary road last week, I saw a distinctive-looking car. Not an anonymous aeroblob, but one with a face. "Chrysler 300," I thought.

As it got a little closer, I realized that it was an early-'90s Lincoln Town Car. Chrysler 300s sell well. So did Lincoln Town Cars in the early 1990s. Both have 'faces'. The current Town Car doesn't sell well. It looks anonymous. (Or like a Mercury. Which is saying the same thing, isn't it?) It is faceless.

Dear Car Manufacturers, Want to improve your sales? Put a face on your vehicles.

Little Mercedes: When the four-door Honda Accord was introduced in 1980-or-so, Motor Trend tested it and wrote (to the best of my recollection) that it was a "little Mercedes at 1/4th the price."

Last week, I passed a silver 2006 Honda Accord coupe on the freeway. It's a bit anonymous and generic when viewed from the front but from the back it looks like an elegant little Mercedes. Nice.

Soon You'll Be Comfortable With It: I saw one of the new Camrys on the road this weekend. The styling doesn't do anything for me. But, like a girlfriend with a slight club foot, you'll eventually get used to it.

By the way, "comfortable with it" is a verrrrry 1970s American expression, growing out of the 'I'm OK/You're OK' nonsensibly-diplomatic, not-too-judgemental, but-still-hip linguistics of 1972 or thereabouts.

It was unheard of in the 1960s, except when discussing one's Barcolounger or La-Z-Boy recliner.

Nuts Or Jerks? A study funded by the National Institute for Mental Health claims that five to seven percent of the population - perhaps up to 16 million Americans - suffers from Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED), or what could be referred to as Road Rage Syndrome. I guess that would be RRS.

Over the last 50 years, we have made great progress in treating mental disorders. Many are now effectively controlled with medications. Such progress must be a crippling blow to those institutions who get their funding only if there is a rampant problem to solve. I wonder if the NIMH is making up new diseases in order to perpetuate the organization.

Many younger readers of this blog will not remember that the March of Dimes was formed in the 1930s to cure polio. When the disease was essentially conquered by Jonas Salk in the mid-1950s, the March of Dimes didn't declare victory and go out of business. Instead, they reinvented themselves as champions of all childhood afflictions. This is not to imply that the MOD doesn't do good work today; it's just an example of an organization having a driving need to perpetuate itself.

The American Lung Association's original objective was to fight tuberculosis. When that war was won, the organization put itself in charge of lung diseases of every kind. Call it 'institutional morphing'.

Is Road Rage Syndrome really a "new disorder"? Or just bad behavior by self-centered jerks?

Chugging Into History: K-Line Electric Trains - maker of O-gauge toy trains - is no more. Lionel is taking control of the K-Line brand, its tooling, its inventory of unsold products and other assets from Sanda Kan Industrial, the Chinese manufacturer that was K-Line’s principal supplier of trains and related products. Under a licensing agreement, Lionel will market and sell K-Line products as part of the Lionel line.

K-Line filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August, 2005 and dismissed most of its employees in December.

Meanwhile, Lionel itself is still in bankruptcy itself. The O-gauge train industry seems very unhealthy these days.

I have several K-Line items, including a PRR EMD yard diesel, a nice set of K-Line PRR 'Spirit of St. Louis' passenger cars and a Pennsy commuter MU set and some accessories. All can probably still be repaired, if needed, at a local hobby shop. So I hope. (permalink)

It Really Is A 'World War', Dammit: Mark Steyn points out that the incidents in Toronto, London and Iraq are not just local. They're part of a worldwide war being waged by radical Islamists.

Excerpt: "Writing about the collapse of nations such as Somalia, the Atlantic Monthly's Robert D. Kaplan referred to the "citizens" of such "states" as "re-primitivized man." When lifelong Torontonians are hot for decapitation, when Yorkshiremen born and bred and into fish 'n' chips and cricket and lousy English pop music self-detonate on the London Tube, it would seem that the phenomenon of "re-primitivized man" has been successfully exported around the planet. It's reverse globalization: The pathologies of the remotest backwaters now have franchise outlets in every Western city."

Uncompetitive: Salim Mansur, a Muslim columnist for the Toronto Sun writes that Muslims "have inherited a culture of denial, of too often refusing to acknowledge our own responsibility for the widespread malaise that has left most of the Arab-Muslim countries in economic, political and social disrepair.

Statistics and intergovernmental reports over the past several decades have documented a gap, perhaps now unbridgeable, between Muslim countries and the advanced industrial democracies in the West.

In a recent "failed states index" published in the journal Foreign Policy (May/June 2006), Pakistan, for instance, is ranked among the top 10 failed states in the world - ahead of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a Muslim country, a nuclear military power, but it can barely feed, clothe, educate and shelter its population.

The reports on the Arab countries are a dismal catalogue of entrenched tyrannies, failing economies, squandered wealth, gender oppression, persecution of minorities and endemic violence. The cleric-led regime in Iran seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to obliterate Israel, repress domestic opposition, and seek confrontation with the West.

Instead of acknowledging the reality of the Arab-Muslim world as a broken civilization, we Muslims tend to indulge instead in blaming others for our ills."

It is an axiom in business to copy your most successful competitor. For the Islamic world, that would be the much-despised Israel. (You know, that's the little country in the Middle East that has absolutely no oil under it.) Israel has an adult illiteracy rate of 4%. Pakistan is 54%; Yemen - 50%; Egypt - 42%.

As a percent of population, there are 30 times as many internet users in Israel as in Pakistan.

Israel's GDP is more than five times that of neighboring Egypt. It is ten times greater than Pakistan's GDP. And almost 23 times that of Yemen.

Israel has an active manufacturing sector and an aggressive export policy. The sheets on our bed were made in Israel. We bought them at Costco. I can't think of anything we own which was made in Pakistan, Yemen or elsewhere in the Middle East. Despite the $2 billion in foreign aid that the U.S. sends to Egypt each year, it remains a poor, illiterate, uncompetitive nation.

Dear Muslims, Stop trying to destroy Israel. Start working on competing with it.

Specialty Soda-Pop Flavorings: I use the term 'soda-pop' because I have lived in the land where it is "soda" (Philadelphia), and the land where it is "pop" (Oregon). I have also bridged the geographical gap between Jimmies and Sprinkles. But that's a different story.

James Lileks writes: "What are the chemists at Dr. Pepper smoking? Last year they brought out a summer-only flavor called "Cherry Vanilla," which had such a chemical aftertaste that I felt like I'd sprayed my mouth with a full can of Krylon paint."

This, of course, doesn't answer my question, "Is Dr. Pepper himself board-certified?"

Bad Pun Of The Day: In democracy, your vote counts. In feudalism, your count votes.


Friday June 9, 2006

You Can't Be A Car Guy ... without a car hat. I have a miraculous one.

Buh-Bye: That evil SOB Zarqawi is dead. I hope he's doing lunch with Arafat in the lowest depths of Hell while their respective asses fry on a bed of white-hot coals.

(Update: The first report from Zarqawi - his own self - is in! Excerpt: "I always wondered what would be the last thing to go through my head. I'm pretty sure now it was one of Mahmoud's anklebones. And if you're wondering if it was painless? Imagine a full-frontal 800 degree root canal while listening to a Neil Young record.")

Christopher Hitchens writes: "Zarqawi contributed enormously to the wrecking of Iraq's experiment in democratic federalism. He was able to help ensure that the Iraqi people did not have one single day of respite between 35 years of war and fascism, and the last three-and-a-half years of misery and sabotage."

And: "Most fascinating of all is the suggestion that Zarqawi was all along receiving help from the mullahs in Iran. He certainly seems to have been able to transit their territory (Herat is on the Iranian border with Afghanistan) and to replenish his forces by the same route. If this suggestive connection is proved, as Weaver suggests it will be, then we have the Shiite fundamentalists in Iran directly sponsoring the murderer of their co-religionists in Iraq. This in turn would mean that the Iranian mullahs stood convicted of the most brutish and cynical irresponsibility, in front of their own people, even as they try to distract attention from their covert nuclear ambitions."

Summary: Good Riddance. And, to our fine soldiers: Good Job.

No Cheesesteak For You, Señor: An English-only ordering policy has thrust one of Philadelphia's best-known cheesesteak joints, Geno's Steaks, into the national immigration debate.

Situated in a South Philly immigrant neighborhood, Geno's - which together with its chief rival, Pat's King of Steaks, forms the epicenter of an area described as "ground zero for cheesesteaks" - has posted small signs telling customers, "This is America: when ordering 'Speak English'". This is apparently a response to the growing Hispanic population in the area.

By the way, South Philly has always been an immigrant neighborhood. But the ethnicities have ... (more >>>)

How Do I Know? The Bible Tells Me So. Christopher Hitchens, a self-professed unbeliever, makes his children learn the Bible: "You are not educated if you don't know the Bible. You can't read Shakespeare or Milton without it, even if there was nothing else of it. And with the schools now, that's what I hate about secular relativism. They're afraid of insurance liability. They don't even teach it as a document. They stay out of the whole thing to avoid controversy. So kids can't quote the King James Bible. That's terrible. And I quite understand Christian parents who want to protect their children from a nihilistic solution where there's no way of knowing what's been discussed."

And: "I know the King James Bible pretty well. It's a fantastic document. I could not imagine my life without it. You couldn't read Paradise Lost. You couldn't read William Blake. Knowing about it is absolutely vital to me."

Alternate Selection: James Lileks writes that - compared to the DaVinci Code - the book, 'Bison Shaving for Dummies', looks good.

Quote Of The Day is from Stephen Colbert on illegal immigration: "Now I know you're all going to say, "Stephen, Stephen, immigrants built America." Yes, but here's the thing - it's built now. I think it was finished in the mid-70s sometime. At this point it's a touch-up and repair job."


Thursday June 8, 2006

Dream Machine: The Lienerts tested the $180,000 Continental Flying Spur, a four-door companion to the Continental GT coupe. It is described as having a "rich cockpit, which looks like a library for wealthy English gentlemen - all leather and wood and finely crafted materials. The little touches are nice, too, things like those chrome "organ-stop" vent pulls."

Well, I'm not ready to cash in some of my retirement dollars for a $180,000 car but, if I won the lottery ... This is purely a pipe dream since I've only bought lottery tickets twice in my life - averaging out to one every 31 years. So, I'm not expecting a phone call from the State Lottery Commission informing me that my 1993 ticket turned out to be a winner.

That said, if I suddenly came in to, say, $73 million, I'd probably add a Bentley to my automotive shopping list. But it would be the Continental GT coupe which is much sleeker.

Ah, what the hell, I'd probably buy 'em both.

Achilles Heel ... Korean Style: Dan Neil didn't like the Kia Sedona minivan describing it as "a huge steaming pile of who cares .... The whole thing feels as if it were assembled at gunpoint." And: "The Sedona stops, turns and corners with all the eagerness of a DMV employee at 4:56 p.m. on a Friday."

Is this a signal that the kimchi-munching Korean juggernauts have stumbled? I dunno. But ... prosecutors are asking a Seoul Court to reject the bail application from Hyundai's CEO, Chung Mong-Koo, jailed last month embezzlement and breach of trust following a month-old probe into a slush fund scandal.

The Department Of Trivial Information ... brings you this: "Based on their estimates, each fast-food "value" meal would cost an adult 5 cents more in fuel expenses - as heavier passengers reduce a car's fuel efficiency - and about 35 cents in overall food costs, since heavier people need more calories." I mean, who gives a rat's butt?

Search Me?! An ABC News poll indicates that in "the rift between Congress and the Justice Department, Americans side overwhelmingly with law enforcement: Regardless of precedent and the separation of powers, 86 percent say the FBI should be allowed to search a Congress member's office if it has a warrant.

That view is broadly bipartisan ... ranging from 78 percent among Democrats to 94 percent of Republicans." Of course. Why should they have privileges that the rest of us don't have?

The poll also found that sixty-five percent of Americans give a negative rating to the ethics and honesty of members of Congress. No wonder. Everyone I know is disgusted with the ineffectiveness, partisanship and graft they witness - from both parties.

"Things I'm Sick Of Hearing ..." Thanks to columnist Doug Patton, who - like me - is sick and tired of a lot of things. He has written an article venting his complaints and I found myself nodding in agreement as I read it.

car bloggerExcerpt: "I'm sick of hearing Ted Kennedy tell me how unfair it is that the rich have more than the poor. When he redistributes his portfolio among the less fortunate, then I might have a modicum of respect for the old windbag. Until then, he can just shut up and keep his greedy hands off my modest income.

Likewise, I'm sick of hearing John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Arlen Specter and Chuck Hagel blather on about what is fair and decent and right, as if only they have the righteous understanding to know such things.

I'm sick of hearing that everyone has a right to be proud of his or her race, creed, gender, sexual preference, marital status, religion and national origin - everyone except happily married conservative white male heterosexual Christian Americans.

I'm sick of hearing that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a radical few. Of the approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today, it has been estimated that at least 150 million of them are in support of the goals of worldwide terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda. That's a pretty big hijacking. If ten percent of American Christians supported abortion clinic bombers, we would all be under surveillance."

And: "I'm sick of hearing that millions of illegal aliens cannot be removed from our country. Make it a felony to be here and a felony to hire them and watch how quickly they leave.

I'm sick of hearing that requiring people to learn English is discriminatory. You bet it is, and that is a good thing. I was raised to believe that discriminating people were ones with high standards. We have made the word "discriminate" synonymous with "bigotry." That is nonsense." Amen, Doug.

How Republicans Can Prevail: Ben Stein proposes a 'Contract With America II'. Excerpt: "... the Republicans have to stand for something. Right now, they are rudderless, drifting, cringing, completely unable to come up with a meaningful statement of what they believe."

Bad Pun Of The Day: She was engaged to a man with a wooden leg but soon broke it off.


Wednesday June 7, 2006

If The Parts Are Falling Off Your GM Vehicle ... thank a lawyer. Allow me to explain.

GM, the world's largest automaker, still purchases most of its parts from Delphi and has warranty and product recall claims against the company at an estimated $100 million.

Delphi reported that it lost $192 million in April, as part of a monthly filing required by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. The supplier's net sales reached $1.36 billion, with $761 million coming from General Motors. Delphi also reported that, as a result of its contentious bankruptcy filing, it had spent $70 million in legal and professional fees since it filed Chapter 11 last October.

So, the money Delphi could have used to improve quality of its offerings has been spent on attorneys fees so that said attorneys can buy a fleet of S-Class Mercedes. You don't think they're buying GM cars, do you? I don't know of a single attorney who drives a GM product.

joe sherlock car blogHow Now Falling Dow: Gettin' nervous yet? Me, too. I keep my head in the sand and try not to pay attention. I think I'll pull up Larry Kudlow's site for a pep talk.

I saw the guy who wrote 'Dow 36,000' on some financial program recently, saying something like, "Well, it could still happen by 2010 or so." Let's see, to do that, the market has to climb by - oh - 5,000 points each year, every year. Riiiight.

And by 2010 or so, flying monkeys may have dropped a Ferrari Enzo on my driveway.

Tom Crapper Is Spinning In His Grave: Ann Coulter writes about toilets: "Soviet engineers couldn't make Jell-O. They'd show up at the World's Fair and stare at a flush toilet like it was a rocket ship. ... Perennially irritating to environmentalists is mankind's single greatest invention: the flush toilet.

You knew it had to happen. Apostles of 'dry toilets' insist that we "have to get beyond flush-and forget technology," as it was put by Sim Van der Ryn, founder of the Ecological Design Institute. Flush-and-forget abortions are one thing, but this is solid human waste we're talking about! Apparently, we need to spend more time thinking about our excrement. Van der Ryn explained that the goal was "to deal with one's own waste as close to the source as possible" - precisely the opposite of what humans have wanted to do with their excrement since the beginning of time.

Nonflush toilets were first introduced in America - well, originally by the Indians - but then again in the sixties by a Rockefeller scion who promoted a 'dry toilet' called the Clivus Multrum. They pop up again every few years but, oddly enough, never seem to catch on.

Dry toilets are like the metric system of human waste disposal."

The Real Maggie: Jewelry belonging to Britain's late Princess Margaret, from a necklace she wore as a toddler to the tiara she wore at her wedding, drew crowds at Christie's ahead of an auction of her personal collection next week.

the view through the windshieldHelen Molesworth, Christie's jewelry specialist, called the princess "an incredibly important historical figure as the granddaughter, daughter and sister of three English monarchs, as well as an icon "who knew her own style and fashion sense."

Here's some information on Maggie's "style" from the hilariously informative Find-A-Death and Kitty Kelley's book 'Royalty'. Princess Margaret was a well-known tippler, ne'er-do-well and three-pack-a-day smoker.

At functions, she demanded that her favorite brands be available - Famous Grouse whisky, Malvern water and Gordon's gin. She also insisted on Jammy Dodger biscuits with seedless jam, because she didn't like seeds sticking in her teeth.

She often answered the phone, "This is Royalty speaking." At a dinner, '60s supermodel Twiggy sat next to the princess for about two hours, before she finally turned to her. In the best Royal voice, Margaret asked, "And who are you?" "I'm Leslie Hornby m'am, but people call me Twiggy." "Oh. How unfortunate," replied Margaret - and turned her back.

Margaret's ex-husband, Lord Snowdon, is reportedly bisexual. At a society party in New York, a hostess once asked Margaret, "How is the Queen?" Margaret replied "Which one? My sister, my mother or my husband?"

Margaret was very bigoted (it supposedly runs in the family). She walked out of the film 'Schindler's List' because she thought it was anti-German (the royal family are of German descent), remarking it was "a tedious film about Jews." She advised her butler not to see it. Once, discussing India, she said she hated "those little brown people." She called the President of Guyana "loathsome - he's everything I despise. He's black, he married a Jew and furthermore he's American."

In her final months, Margaret reportedly spent much of her time watching re-runs of the 1960s 'Batman' TV show. (permalink)

sherlock auto blogRest In Peace: Billy Preston, exuberant keyboardist extraordinaire who performed with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and enjoyed his own series of hits, including and 'Nothin' From Nothin' Leaves Nothin', has died at age 59.

Billy also penned the multi-platinum standard 'You Are So Beautiful'.

Succinct Recommendation: James Lileks offers advice to would-be talk show callers, "Be brisk and concise. Do not say you're a "first-time caller, longtime listener." No one cares. You might as well begin by announcing your height and cholesterol level.

Believe me, if you had felt a nagging tug of spiritual need all your life, finally knelt in prayer at age 53 and said, "Longtime listener, first-time beseecher," God himself would be tempted to strike you dead on the spot."

Bad Pun Of The Day: I went to buy some camouflage trousers yesterday but they were all so good that I couldn't find any.


Tuesday June 6, 2006

Little Sightings: Saw a burgundy Toyota Yaris sedan the other day. It looked like a squashed Camry - and not in a good way, either. Spotted a Honda Fit on the road last week. Cool car - much better-looking than the Yaris.

Restaurant Reviews: Between our out-of-town travels and lack of a functioning kitchen at home (the remodeling is on schedule but we probably won't get our kitchen back for another month), we've been dining out a lot. Here is a collection of restaurant impressions:

Azteca, Vancouver, WA: This Northwest chain of Mexican restaurants features large, flavorful portions and generally good service. Their salsa is - IMHO - to die for. The biggest problem is that the Vancouver location has more morbidly obese patrons than any establishment I've ever seen. Some enter riding riding those heavy-duty handicapped scooters! Consider this a warning to eat sparingly or dine here infrequently - unless you want to be Rascal-bound.

I once went to a the Sunday Brunch Buffet at the Centralia, WA location and found that I could fit donuts and enchiladas on the same plate. As Homer Simpson once said, "And I'll have a Diet Coke - deep-fried."

Black Bear Diner, Madras, OR (and other locations, including Bend and Beaverton, OR): Prompt, friendly service, good grub, huge portions - would you like your hand-formed burger in the half, three-quarter or one-pound size? Get there early or you'll be waiting in line, drooling.

Black Butte Ranch, near Sisters, OR: Nice view, overpriced wine, forgettable food, poor service. Stand outside and enjoy the view. Then drive away and spend your dining dollars elsewhere.

Blind Onion Pizza, Vancouver, WA: I've read rave reviews about this neighborhood spot near downtown Vancouver. So, we tried it for lunch. The ambiance was near-zero (think McDonalds with low lighting), the pizza was OK, but unspectacular. I think our expectations were too high.

Bronco Billy's, Sisters, OR: Old-timey decor, decent wine, OK-but-unexceptional food, clumsy and sullen server. Overall rating: Meh. You could do worse.

Coyote Cafe, Sisters, OR: The menu was surprisingly extensive; the food was delicious; the wine was fairly-priced and the staff - prompt and courteous. It's the best place in Sisters.

Chevy's Restaurant, Vancouver, WA: Chevy's was once an independent California chain with quirky, faux-dumpy decor and exceptionally-good Mexican food. After several changes in ownership; Chevy's filed for bankruptcy. Our recent visit to Chevy's was the last we'll ever make.

The food quality has diminished markedly. The enchilada sauce tasted like Chef Boyardee mixed with off-brand catsup. Portions are substantially skimpier and dumbed-down, flavor-wise. I understood why when I discovered that Chevy's is now owned by Real Mex Restaurants, the Southern California parent company of El Torito Restaurants.

In the late 70s, El Torito was a pretty hot Mexi-themed establishment. Unfortunately, all the E-Ts I know have never been remodeled and are now dated and run-down. El Toritos are now known primarily for gigantic numbing margaritas and forgettable, lackluster food. This is, apparently, the new business model for Chevy's as well.

Avoid them both.

Irby's, Battle Ground, WA: Sit in a barber chair while you drink! This cool place, hidden away in "Old Town Battle Ground". (That's the dumpy part that the city is trying to revive.)

On Thursdays, Irby's offers a bargain five-buck wine tasting with three selections and free hors d'oeuvres. The prime rib is excellent. The decor is unforgettable and there are many interesting offerings on the menu. Steve Irby is a gracious host and the wine selection is extensive.

My sole gripe is that red wines are served at too warm a temperature for my liking.

Leonardo's, Battle Ground, WA: When the former Dante's was sold, we were concerned that the new owners would ruin everything. Not so. The menu has improved. I especially like the minestrone soup, lasagna, focaccia bread and Leonardo's signature pizza offerings.

My one complaint is about the meatballs. Dante's used to have spectacularly-flavored ones. Leonardo's has been screwing around on-and-off with the recipe and I am classifying its spherical blobs-O-meat as "surprisingly variable".

Salty's, Portland, OR: One of the most consistent restaurants we've ever experienced. The food is always well-prepared and delectable. Salty's specializes in seafood but the steaks are some of the best in town. We've never had bad service - in 20 years. Drinks are generous and the wine list is decent enough. The view of the Columbia River is spectacular. Self-parking is limited, so arrive early unless you want to have a valet to park your car.

On weekends, Salty's often features the Mel Brown Quartet, an exceptional mainstream jazz group with a strong Portland-area fan base - including me.

Skamania Lodge, Skamania, OR: The food and service are generally pretty good but everybody comes here for the view of the Columbia Gorge, not the edibles. Arrive early, grab a window table and linger.

The drive to/from Skamania on Highway 14 varies between scenic, interesting and treacherous, depending on the weather. (more - permalink)

Quote Of The Day is from the late Will Rogers: "Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."


Monday June 5, 2006

Who's More Dangerous - Tom or GM? New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman - who seems reasonable in brief televised sound-bites but often writes over-the-top, loony stuff - blasted General Motors for its 'Fuel Price Protection Program' in which some customers are being reimbursed for the cost of gas above $1.99/gallon for one year.

Friedman asks, "Is there a company more dangerous to America's future than General Motors?" He also compares GM to "a crack dealer looking to keep his addicts on a tight leash."

The Impala That Limps, Not Leaps: Michelle Maynard, author of the fine 2003 book, 'The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market', documents the decline of Detroit by looking at the Chevy Impala over time.

Introduced in the 1958 model year, the Impala became the ne plus ultra of Chevrolets (excluding the Corvette, of course). By the early 1960s, a loaded Impala offered ride and comfort which was uncomfortably close to a Cadillac. In 1965, GM sold more than a million of them. But those days are long gone. In 2006, it expects to make about 275,000 Impalas at a plant in Oshawa, Ontario, the only one where the Impala is built.

Excerpt: "The Impala "comes across as the best that the American companies can do," said Brian Moody, a road test editor at Edmunds. com, a Web site that offers buying advice to consumers. "In a vacuum, it's hard to find anything wrong with it. And then you drive the Camry and the Accord.""

And: "In 2006, (Chevrolet) expects to make about 275,000 Impalas at a plant in Oshawa, Ontario, the only one where the Impala is built.

That leaves it well shy of Toyota, which sold more than 400,000 Camrys in 2005. For the American market, Toyota builds Camrys in Georgetown, Ky., and it imports more from Japan and soon will be able to build another 100,000 a year when it begins production in 2007 at Subaru's plant in Lafayette, Indiana."

According to Edmunds.com, a typical Impala owner will spend 11.3 percent more, or about $4,300, on the car over five years than the owner of a typical Camry, mainly because the car loses its value faster and has higher repair costs. That figure takes into account the $500 rebate that Chevrolet is offering on Impala versus none on the Camry.

Intifada Interruptus: A series of terrorist attacks plotted against unspecified targets in southern Ontario, Canada was stopped when police rounded up 17 terrorists caught with triple the amount of explosives that McVeigh used to blow up Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

These terrorists have first names like Fahim, Zakaria, Asad, Shareef, Qayyum, Mohammed, Yasim, Jahmaal, Amin, Ahmad, Saad were arrested. No one named Tom, Mary, Tony, Kevin, Sue or Jessica seems to be involved. Nor anyone named Bob or Doug.

Canadian Kathy Shaidle writes passionately about the foiled terrorist plot, "Regardless of whether or not immigration built this country, it may now destroy it.

If you persist ... (more >>>)

Cool Idea of the Day: Shredding scissors - a five-bladed model to shred docs at your desk. No electricity required. I wonder if Al Gore has a pair?

Next Time, Just Buy Her Some Flowers: The headline reads 'Man severs penis to prove faithfulness'.

Hit And (The) Runs: While working on a new subdivision in Texas, an unnamed man ducked into a portable toilet outside a home under construction. Within moments, the wide load of a tractor trailer struck the portable toilet and knocked it over.

Send One To Your Representatives In Congress: Hugh Hewitt offers t-shirts with the slogan: 'Win the war, confirm the judges, cut the taxes, control the spending, secure the border'.

Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything in to an empty head."


Friday June 2, 2006

car blogCar Shows: A couple of weeks ago - while out for a Sunday drive, we stopped at a "classic car" show in Washougal, WA. Of course, my definition of "classic" is not the same as theirs.

Nevertheless, there were some interesting vehicles on display but we left after about 10 minutes. The show violated several of my Dos-and-Don'ts rules-of-thumb for running a really good car event:

1. Allow lots of space between cars - that way people car walk around and appreciate the vehicle. And the owner's work. It makes the show feel less crowded.

2. Park the cars according to theme. 1940s cars here, street rods there, customs over there, muscle cars over in the corner, sports cars in the opposite corner, etc.

Haphazard placement of cars takes away from effectiveness of the show's presentation.

3. Establish some entry rules - no half-finished street rods, no cars in primer, no rust buckets, perhaps nothing less than 5, 10 or 15 years old, discouraging those people who just bought a new Viper, Corvette, etc. and just want to show it off. (Those folks can always go to one of those informal show-n-shine meet-ups. Or something.) Make entrants submit a photo of their car with registration form.

No one who has invested a lot of time cleaning up his/her pride ride for a show wants to be parked next to a Pile-O-Crap.

4. Don't mix species - if it's a car show, that means no trucks or motorcycles.

5. If possible, hold the show on a grassy field. It adds a touch of elegance.

6. Not everyone likes loud, raucous rock music. Make the show a relaxing experience.

7. Put the vendors in their own section - a bit removed from the cars themselves.

At this particular show, one of the nicest cars wasn't even entered but was parked on the street - a mint 1959 Corvette in white with the top down. Gorgeously restored - right down to the toothy, orthodontist's-dream chrome grille. (permalink)

sherlock auto blogIt's What I Expected: The headline says it all - 'Honda, Toyota Soar as GM, Ford U.S. Sales Fall in May'. Toyota reported a 17 percent sales increase; Honda gained 16 percent. GM's sales fell 12 percent.

Ford's 1.9 percent sales decline for May included a 6.6 percent drop in trucks. Cars rose 6.4 percent as sales of the Focus, Ford's smallest model, increased 13%. Fusion sales were up substantially over the prior month. Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep products fell by 11%.

Scion sales zoomed but, surprisingly, sales of the Toyota Prius were off by 18%. Odd. And Avalon sales were down 20%.

In general though, fuel-sippers sold well; big herkin' trucks and SUVs are languishing on dealer lots.

My friend, Ray, reports that a friend has just traded in a Hummer H-1 for a BMW X3. The friend finally admitted that his H-1 got 8-9 mpg. "And so many places would not accept his H-1 for parking because of the width."

Suffering From DLE: That would be DeLorenzo Exhaustion. (It's kinda like DeLorean Exhaustion but without the gullwing doors.)

Jalopnik refers to AutoExtremist's latest Anniversary Pat-On-The-Back column, lamenting "the self-aggrandizing nature of this column intro; the continuing republishing of your mission statement; well, it's all getting a little tired, man."

May I add, "Me, too."

Peter, at his best, is like a spectacular Hot Wheels diecast - mint and perfectly-blister-packed. But lately he's been more in the worn, played-over and unboxed mode. With bent wheels. And is sometimes just-too-freaking self-righteous and smug.

Is there any way we can restore the old DeLorenzo, Peter? 'Cause when you're good, you're great.

Speaking Of Which ... AutoExtremist's Peter DeLorenzo writes that: "Lincoln is floundering and flailing about - still trying to market with smoke and mirrors (adapting alphabetical nomenclature just when it is so over - impeccable timing, as always), when what they really need is an all-new, full-sized rear-wheel-drive luxury sedan that says Lincoln from nose to tail. Without that car, it doesn't matter what they do over in Dearborn - they just don't get it."

Yeah, I agree - but I'm tired of writing about Lincoln's problems. I mean, how many ways can one say that they've squandered the marque's heritage and just plain lack good product? I've said it before. Repeatedly. And so has everyone else.

It's important to remember that, in the late '90s, Cadillac was a "doomed" brand, too, but it has resurrected itself nicely. Here's hoping Lincoln can perform something Lazarus-like as well. Soon, please.

A New World's Record: A 22 year-old New York man has been arrested for stealing calves from a farmer.

He is accused of squeezing seven of the young cattle into the back seat and trunk of a 2000 Dodge Neon.

Free Power!!! This could fuel a Prius or something. Just click here and read the headline!

More 'Rights' Than You. Or Me: Thomas Sowell points out that "Illegals who graduate from a high school in California can already attend the University of California, paying lower tuition that an American citizen from neighboring Oregon."

Quote Of The Day is from Dan Neil: "The current Pontiac Solstice is a lovely roadster unless and until you attach a front license plate - required by California law - on its bullet-smooth nose, after which the car looks like it has buckteeth and is pronounced "Pontiac Thol-sthith.""


Thursday June 1, 2006

Excessive Automotive Tartness: Robert Farago reports that BMW's public relations guy, Dave Buchko, banned 'The Truth About Cars' from access to BMW and MINI press vehicles.

"Mr. Buchko wanted to be clear: the company was not responding to TTAC’s criticisms of its products. The decision represented "a general concern about the tone and tenor of the site.""

Well, TTAC does offer biting commentary; that's why I read it regularly. But I don't agree with every article written and TTAC is just one of a variety of car sites I visit.

Robert should be grateful; at least he's still getting cars to test from some manufacturers. I did my last press-car-supplied road test about six years ago.

Since BMW will now have more press cars available for testing, I am forwarding this posting to Mr. Buchko and requesting that he supply me a new 3-Series for evaluation. I promise to do a thorough and fair test.

If You Think That Many Of Today's Cars Are Ugly ... inside and out, you should read this article. It will explain much.

Excerpt: "When an auto designer tells me he's striving for a 'boudoir' effect, it always stops me in my tracks. But that's what Michael Burton, General Motors director for interior design, said recently when I asked him where luxury design was headed for Cadillac and Buick."

And: "Camilo Pardo, the chief designer of the macho Ford GT, has been busy creating not just the vehicles we'll see on the road in 2012 – but a disposable wedding gown and floppy hat stamped out of highly polished aluminum.

The 43-year-old manager of the advanced studio at the Dearborn automaker has a passion for sewing, it turns out. He's got several Singer sewing machines at home and is not ashamed to stop in fabric stores to buy Simplicity patterns that he can alter to fit what he calls his 'sarcastic' style.

His fashion and automotive design came together earlier this month during Miami Fashion Week, when Pardo showed off his Mercury Milan Voga (Spanish for 'vogue') concept sedan, as well as a line of women's wear."

A Win-Win Situation: Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border. Take the dirt from there and raise the levies in New Orleans. Then put the Florida alligators in the Mexican border moat. (Thanks to my friend, Ed G., who sent this idea to me.)

Why We Need Less Government: I read this in the local newspaper: "The VHA (Vancouver Housing Authority), established during World War II to provide housing for Vancouver shipyard workers, owns more than 1,000 public housing units in Clark County (WA) and provides subsidies for low-income people living in an additional 2,100 private-market units. Its assets are valued at $166 million."

So, a quasi-government agency, set up to provide emergency services during a war that ended more than 60 years ago for a wartime shipyard which has been gone for many decades is still around and spending money.

Why should you care? Because it's your money being spent - much of the funding for this operation comes from Federal HUD 'grants'. ... (more >>>)

sherlock auto blogRest In Peace: Veteran actor who appeared in almost everything, Paul Gleason has died at 67 of lung cancer. Many will remember him as grouchy Principal Richard Vernon in 'The Breakfast Club'. I remember him as the sleazy Clarence Beeks in 'Trading Places'.

A versatile actor, Gleason often portrayed cops, sheriffs principals and other authority figures, such as Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in 'Die Hard'. Surprisingly (to me), he was friends with Jack Kerouac and was known for his humor and many stories.

Fifteen Minutes Of Fame: "The average number of weeks that a new No. 1 bestseller stayed top of the hardback fiction section of the New York Times Bestseller List has fallen from 5.5 in the 1990s, 14 in the 1970s and 22 in the 1960s to two weeks in 2005.

In the 1960s, fewer than three novels reached No. 1 in an average year; last year, 23 did."

Headline Of The Week ... is from The Onion: "Heavily Starched Shirt Only Thing Keeping Larry King Upright."

Quote Of The Day is from Doug Flint: "In the crazy Jac Nasser years at Ford I kept hearing rumors of Ford attempting to buy up large numbers of junkyards. ... People speculated that Ford wanted cradle-to-grave control of their product. I have a different theory. He probably figured that by delivering the new Ford products directly to the junkyard, they cut out the costly dealer network and distribution system. He could also avoid dealing with those pain-in-the-neck old guys who actually bought Ford products and complained when they didn't perform right."



copyright 2006 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
Disclaimer

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 U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of giving me free cars to try and change my mind.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this car blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

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

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