Monday July 31, 2006
Car Sighting: On Sunday, I saw a stock, like-new 1956 Chevrolet 210 two-door sedan - white and light blue - coming toward me on E. Main Street in Battle Ground.
Move Over, Kofi: David Frum writes, "If a drunken Mel Gibson did indeed call out, "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," then there can be only one possible place for a man who believes such things: as the next Secretary General of the United Nations."
Joke Of The Day: Sitting on the side of the road waiting to catch speeding drivers, a state trooper sees a car puttering along at 22 mph.
He thinks to himself, "This driver is as dangerous as speeder!" So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over. Approaching the car, he notices that there are five elderly ladies - two in the front seat and three in the back, wide-eyed and white as ghosts.
The driver, obviously confused, says to him, "Officer, I don't understand. I was going the exact speed limit. What seems to be the problem?" The trooper, trying to contain a chuckle, explains to her that 22 was the route number, not the speed limit.
A bit embarrassed, the woman grins and thanks the officer for pointing out her error.
"But before you go, Ma'am, I have to ask, is everyone in this car OK? These women seem awfully shaken."
"Oh, they'll be all right in a minute, officer. We just got off Route 127." (hat tip - George Pradel)
Saturday July 29, 2006
Jihad In Seattle: By now, you've read about the shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on Third Avenue in the Emerald City's downtown. The gunman a 30 year-old Pakistani Muslim, Naveed Afzal Haq, who was upset about "what was going on in Israel." So, he calmly walked into the Jewish Center and shot six unarmed women with his semi-automatic 9-mm handgun. One has died. All others were hospitalized; three arrived in critical condition.
Terrorists always seem to go after women, children and the elderly, don't they? Especially if they think the victims are unarmed and unprepared. So, Haq joins the list of evil cowards, who will be portrayed - at some point - as a poor misguided fellow who has had a tough life and is, himself, a victim. The catch phrase "mental problems" was uttered less than two hours after the shooting.
Lest anyone think that Haq was some impoverished unfortunate, I would point out he was driving a late-model ... (more >>>)
Friday July 28, 2006
Auto Barf: Kit cars ... many of them just want to make you throw up. Now, there's a kit car for the Smart. No kidding.
The Michalak C7 is described as "a Smart car in a new suit." For $10,000 or so, you can convert your tired, rolled, dented or trash-compacted Smart City Coupe into this abomination.
In my opinion, this execrable fiberglass cowpie is the ugliest creation since the Merc Cougar-based Classic Tiffany. Or the Zimmer Golden Spirit. Or the Natalia SLS 2 Sport Luxury Sedan.
Pardon me while I reach for the mouthwash.
But I Only Did It One Time: Yesterday, The Car Connection ran this headline: 'GM Loses $3.2 Billion - But It's Good.'
General Motors Corp. claims that its finances took a turn for the "better" in the second quarter despite a huge loss, because the loss is caused by a one-time charge related to moving thousands of GM employees into early retirement and off the company's payroll. The General wishes to point out to all stockholders, analysts and bankers that - excluding those special items - GM posted a profit of $1.2 billion.
Robert Farago quipped: "Sure, if GM hadn't bought out 34,410 UAW workers' contracts, it might've made a $1.2b profit. And if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be one of those trolley cars that GM removed from city streets in the 40s."
Ah, those damnable 'Special Items' and 'One-time Charges'. This is the kind of accounting crap that only big public companies try to get away with. (It only fools the dumbest stockholders, a surprising number of televised talking heads and the most superficial analysts, but not the banks.)
Life is full of One-time Charges. So is business.
If you own your own business, you know that unexpected stuff happens. Markets shift, obsoleting inventory, which must be written-off to zero. Machinery breaks and can't be fixed - so a new, expensive machine must suddenly be purchased. New product/service offerings require that all company literature be redone - a costly proposition. Each of these is a rare event. But rare events keep happening.
As Roseanne Roseannadana used to say, "It's always something."
If, as a small business owner, you went to your bank and attempted to get a loan by showing financial statements sans those one-time charges, the loan officers would laugh you right out of their ornate marble lobby.
Bank managers understand the wisdom of Ms. Roseannadana.
As for the Sherlocks, we live frugally ... except for a continuing series of expensive 'Special Items'. In 2002, we had a new cedar shake roof put on our dwelling. In 2003, we had our rotting deck replaced with a new 1,100 square-foot clear cedar one and added appropriate landscaping around it. In 2004, we added two new 400 lineal-foot stone retaining walls to the rear of our property. In 2005, we bought a new car. In 2006, we replaced the entire kitchen and installed all new appliances therein.
But, we really do live frugally because these are all just One-time Charges, you see.
A Crack In Toyota's Armor? Toyota made its bones in the U.S. by offering good-value vehicles with bulletproof quality. Now, there are questions being raised about the build-quality of new Toyotas.
Recently, Sajeev Mehta did a drive report on the new Toyota Camry. He wrote: "Look a little closer, feel around a bit, and the quality subsides. The passenger side dash and window switchgear flaunt inconsistent, Hyundai Excel-ish gaps. The dash-to-console trim needs a good automotive orthodontist. The petrochemicals' unyielding character speaks of factories even GM would fear to frequent.
Rounding out the Camry LE's shit list: chintzy door handles attached to tin-can portals that shut with all the reassurance of an Enron 401k. ... On uneven pavement, our test whip produced a deep-seated dash squeak only remedied by the stereo's extra wattage. Keep in mind, this hallmark of Toyota quality had all of 3000 miles on its odometer.
Given the current mechanical problems with the Avalon, massive worldwide recalls and our tester's quality shortcomings, the question must be raised: is Toyota cutting too many corners?"
Veteran auto testers Anita and Paul Lienert wrote: "Moreover, we were startled, and disappointed, by the less-than-sterling assembly quality on our test Camry, which was actually built in Japan, and not in Toyota's huge assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky. Regardless of location, there is no excuse for the poor trim fits we encountered inside our test vehicle - especially not in a segment that's as competitive as this, and certainly not with the golden reputation for quality that Toyota has enjoyed for so many years."
Reports have also appeared questioning the quality of the Toyota Avalon as well. I can only report that we have experienced no problems with our 2005 model which now has 15,000 miles on it.
While I have no inside info or insight to offer, it is my hope that Toyota will respond quickly to improve any fit-and-finish and/or reliability issues. It would be a shame if Toyota repeated GM's mistakes and headed downhill to the crossroads of arrogance and indifference.
Meanwhile, the negative quality reports do not seem to be dampening people's enthusiasm for the brand. At least, not in my Neck-O-Dewoods. I am seeing a plethora of new Camrys on the road. As for the Avalon, I spot six of them for every Ford 500/Mercury Montego I see.
On A Related Note: From this day forward, it is 'Ford 500' at The View Through The Windshield. Until Ford decides to pay me for taking the time to spell out '500' in pretentious script form, like some affectation on a lower-middle class wedding invitation or a pompously lettered house number on a gussied-up '73 BelleView mobile home in a seedy trailer park.
I might feel differently if the vehicle was the caliber of a 1956 Mercedes-Benz Three Hundred Essss Ellll Gullwing.
But, the 500's nothin' but a freakin' rental car, for Pete's sake.
Car Sightings: Spotted a gorgeous black '40 Ford coupe with a truly-fabulous flame-painted front end (like a 'Hot Rod' cover car from 1962) zooming south on I-5 toward Portland. The windows were up on this 85-degree afternoon, so the Forty must have had air-conditioning.
Also saw a purple '51 Chevy pick-up headed in the same direction. Windows down. No air.
I took the Plymouth out for a spin later and spotted a black '53 Packard sedan parked outside a repair garage in Hockinson.
Pithiness and Truthiness: Here's John Podhoretz on Kofi Annan: "He's an anti-Semite who sucks up to Arab dictators and presides over an organization choking on its own immoral filth."
Justice Interruptus: The death row inmate who kidnapped and murdered 12-year-old Polly Klaas has survived an self-induced opiate overdose in his cell.
Better luck next time, scumbag.
Question Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "Why do real estate agents have pictures on their cards, but the rest of us don't? This seems racist. Or, at the very least, "cardist"."
Quote Of The Day is from Jeremy Clarkson: "For those who think that BMW's 5-Series looks as weird as Liza Minnelli's ex-husband, there's always the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. You know where you are with a Merc."
Wednesday July 26, 2006
Buyin' Furrin': New statistics, compiled by R.L. Polk - which counts new car registrations and excludes sales to rental car agencies and other fleet customers, show foreign brands commanded 52.9% of the retail auto market in the first five months of 2006, while domestic automakers fell to 47.1%.
Why? Well, here's part of the reason ... foreign cars offer fully-developed, user-friendly amenities that domestic automakers still struggle with. Phil Reed, consumer advice editor of Edmunds.com says, "With American cars, you say 'This is nice and this is nice but why couldn't they have done this?'
The Ford Escape Hybrid, for example, has an optional navigation system, but the screen that displays maps and approaching roads is too small, Reed said. In addition, a disc has to be inserted to operate the system, but there is no additional slot to play music CDs meaning the driver has to choose between listening to tunes and navigating streets."
What?! You can't play a music CD while you navigate?! How nuts is that?! Of course, Bill Ford doesn't worry about crap like this. 'Cause his chauffeur already knows the route to the office.
Zoom-Zoom! Glug! A cargo ship carrying 4,800 Mazdas that is sinking near the Aleutian Islands had been scheduled to arrive in Tacoma, WA.
Port of Tacoma spokesman Mike Wasem said the ship was scheduled to unload 1,376 vehicles there.
Tacoma was to be the second West Coast stop. The first was Vancouver, B.C. All 22 crew members have been rescued, thankfully.
Let Israel Finish: David Frum, author of coauthor of the very good book, 'An End To Evil: How To Win the War on Terror', writes: "We know that the missile that wrecked an IDF warship and killed four sailors on July 15 was manufactured in Iran to a Chinese design. We know that Hezbollah's longer-range weapons are commanded by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. We know that Hezbollah's fighting forces were equipped and trained by Iranian officers. And we know above all that Hezbollah is financed, equipped, and trained by the Iranian secret service. It carries out terror missions on behalf of Iran. For all practical purposes, Hezbollah is an arm of the Iranian state.
And when Hezbollah goaded Israel into war, the war it triggered was not a war between Israel and Lebanon.
The war Hezbollah provoked is a war between Israel and Iran, with Hezbollah as Iran's proxy - and the people of Lebanon as Iran's victims. The Lebanese have been kidnapped by Iran as surely as those two Israeli soldiers abducted on the northern border."
Frum points out: "Through the years of negotiating with Iran over its nuclear bomb program, the Iranians have repeatedly threatened: "If you should dare ever to strike our nuclear facilities, we will unleash a global Hezbollah terror campaign against oil in the Persian Gulf, against Israel, against Europe, against the United States!" No more Hezbollah means no more such terror threats.
When negotiations over the nuclear program resume, they will resume with the West powerfully strengthened and Iran visibly weakened by the failure of Iran's own reckless aggression. This will be Israel's achievement - and Israel's latest gift to the peace of the world.
To achieve this positive result, however, Israel must be allowed to finish the job. Israel must be allowed to shatter Hezbollah as a military force and put an end to its state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon."
Damn. David has said it all, hasn't he? And succinctly, too. I can't think of anything to add.
How It Used To Be: Thomas Sowell writes: "Those of us old enough to remember World War II face many painful reminders of how things have changed in Americans' behavior during a war. Back then, the president's defeated opponent in the 1940 election - Wendell Wilkie - not only supported the war, he became a personal envoy from President Roosevelt to Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill. We were all in it together - and we knew it."
How It Is Now: John Kerry, failed presidential candidate and U.S. Senator, has said, "If I was president, this wouldn't have happened." He was referring to the current conflict between Israel Defense Forces and Hezbollah terrorists.
My first thought was, "This is something only a Real Loser would say."
My memory drifted back to 1983 when I entered my old Volkswagen Beetle in the OSU Concours d'Elegance. My freshly-restored Bug won First in Class. (The class was 'imported cars with original POE price of less than $3,000'.)
As I was waiting in line with my car to receive a trophy, a glum guy came up to me and said, "That car's not so great. I've got a Beetle at home that's much better than yours." I replied, "Too bad you didn't participate in this show. But I'll be back next year. Why don't you bring your car and compete with me for first place?" He turned away without a word.
I returned the following year. Mr. Grim-face and his (alleged) Volkswagen were nowhere to be found.
Come to think of it, he was kind of a tall fellow. Does anyone know if John Kerry ever owned a VW?
Ironic Drudge Headline Of The Week: "Nobel Peace Prize winner to schoolchildren: 'I would love to kill George Bush'..."
The Nobel Peace Prize - more odiferous than the Nobel Fart Prize.
Stick To What You Know: The Bishop of London has declared it sinful for people to contribute to climate change by flying on holiday, driving a "gas-guzzling" car or failing to use energy-saving measures in the home.
Greg Gutfeld quips, "The Church of England should stay out of politics and stick to doing what it does best (choir boys)."
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks, on Swiss Army knives: "The scissors are especially good for cutting small items out of the newspaper and mailing them to the author and the flat blade is good for smearing feces on the front of the envelope, too."
Tuesday July 25, 2006
Car Sightings: Some very shiny vehicles were spotted through the window while dining at Irby's in Battle Ground last week. These drive-bys included a '64 Chevy Impala 4-door hardtop low-rider, a stock-looking '60 Chevy Impala sport coupe and a nice turquoise '66 Pontiac Grand Prix two-door hardtop.
All were driven with windows down in the 100 degree heat - they represented an era when most cars didn't have A/C. (I didn't own an A/C-equipped car until 1976.)
There was also an old primered '50-'51 Chevy sedan in Irby's parking lot.
Your Tax Dollars At Work: A State Department worker cruising down 34th Street in New York City accompanied by three scantily clad women in a government Buick LeSabre with flashing lights collided with a yellow cab after running a red light.
The unnamed but armed fed was shouting at other motorists. ("Stay to the right, stay to the right.") Witnesses spotted the three young women in the car - as well as a cooler in the backseat and a case of Heineken in the trunk. (hat tip - Jalopnik)
A Pearly Adventure: On Monday, we drove over to Portland's Pearl District. This mini-city in the northwest section of town is full of condos, apartments and many loft conversions. It is described as an "art district"; there are certainly many galleries within its loose boundaries. What's amazing is that, five-to-ten years ago, this was a fairly dumpy industrial area - full of ancient brick warehouses, printing plants and a big, old brewery. It is a true urban transformation with many tony specialty stores now lining the streets.
We visited Whole Foods Market - a fascinating experience because I had never been to one before. Whole Foods has everything from locally-grown, organic foods to housewares. It was all very impressive, especially the produce department which stacks vegetables artfully and creatively for display. There was an extensive wine selection and we purchased several bottles. The clerks were well-informed and helpful. There were two (count 'em - two!) soup bars.
Later, my wife bought some food-prep supplies at Sur La Table. We also picked up a boule of tasty, crusty sourdough at The Pearl Bakery and had a delightful lunch at Bluehour, which offers fine French and Italian cuisine. It is a trendy, upscale place, although the 20-foot ceilings and loading dock patio are a confession of its warehouse origins.
At Rich's Cigars, I purchased a couple of car magazines, Car and Top Gear. But, no visit to the Pearl would be complete without a visit to Powell's City of Books, the legendary independent bookstore. Powell's is an entire city block-plus of used and new books. And, it has an extensive automotive section. A great place to browse.
I spent a lot of time people-watching. I saw folks of all ages but everyone had that casual-moneyed look in their mode of dress. Loft living ain't cheap but apparently appeals to newly-marrieds as well as older, empty nesters. But I suspect that most aren't car people. Living in such a dense urban environment means single-car ownership at best. And your sole vehicle should be a small one - parking spaces are tight. You shouldn't be afraid to get it dented. If I lived there, I'd probably buy an economy ex-rental car - a Corolla, small Buick or the like. In white - it's easy to match for touch-ups. (You can use Wite-Out in a pinch - can you still buy that stuff?) Or a white '81 Escort. With dents.
Of course, The Pearl's promo materials tout the use of the city-run Portland Streetcar for getting around. (The colorful 66-foot long streetcars vehicles were manufactured by Skoda in the Czech Republic.)
While hoofing the district, we crisscrossed the trolley tracks several times and never, never saw a street car, despite a 4-5 block line-of-sight in either direction.
Mass transit - only good if you don't value your time.
It was really hot outside, although after three days of 100+ readings, 91 degrees seemed ... ummm ... almost comfortable. (After we left, the temperature eventually rose to a less comfortable 97 degrees.) Everyone in the Pearl was dressed sensibly in light clothing. The only people I observed wearing heavyweight dark trousers were a gaggle of construction workers (there's still a lot of rehabbing going on), a telephone lineman and a dozen or so chunky, window-shopping Lesbians. (permalink)
Toot-Toot: Normally, when my Christmas train layout comes down, I run two loops of trains on the living room floor, ostensibly to entertain my grandson (but just as much to entertain me).
This year, the floor trains were delayed, because of the kitchen remodeling (which entailed moving much kitchen stuff into the living room) and because we had the rugs cleaned. Last Friday, I finally laid down some track and am now running an O-gauge PRR Mallet (2-8-8-2) steam loco and freight set on the outer loop and Pennsy MU cars on the inner loop. I'll change what's running on each loop monthly to give each piece of equipment a good workout.
O-gauge Pennsylvania Railroad MU commuter train
Fake Bravado: A Muslim cleric who fled Britain last year, tried to board a British ship full of women and children in Beirut but was turned away by sharp-eyed officials. Omar Bakri begged the Royal Navy to rescue him from war-torn Beirut.
Earlier this year, he boasted: "When I left England I bought a one-way ticket out. I never want to see the place again."
The coward changed his tune as soon as bombs started dropping. Heh.
Strike Up The Band: Greg Gutfeld rants about "indigents": "In England, people don't use the word "homeless." They call them "tramps," which is a great word, in my humble opinion. I think it makes our unhoused brethren sound more interesting, more exciting, and possibly even entertaining.
Remember the funk band, the Trampps? With two P's! They were great! Disco Inferno!!!! I love that song. And I suppose the homeless - I mean indigent - would love it too.
After all, they do enjoy setting garbage cans on fire. Which brings up my next question: Do you think the homeless would enjoy house music? Or would they find it insulting?"
And: "But if you're socially aware and desire the immediate buzz from pseudo-compassion by handing a burger to a tramp - then you should go whole hog and turn all the parks into a Indigent Petting and Feeding Zoo. Why not? Families can come with their bags of food and amble over to open pens and grottoes and actually feed the unwashed by hand! Vendors could sell little protein pellets in ice cream cones - perfect nourishment for the unstable crackhead!
It would make for a delightful Saturday. And that's all that really matters."
Bad Joke Of The Day is from John Derbyshire: "Did you hear about the dyslexic insomniac agnostic? He used to lie awake all night wondering if there really was a dog."
Friday July 21, 2006
Jaguai? Hyundar? The current issue of AutoWeek reports the rumor that Hyundai is trying to buy Jaguar from Ford. This is an interesting development.
Jaguar sales are in serious decline - down 32% so far this year. And they've been falling for several years. The new XJ flagship sedan is a disaster in the marketplace. The aging S-Type has lost its appeal - it needs a serious refresh and the X-Type has become the Jaguar That Dare Not Speak Its Name. (Or, when it does, whispers, "Ford Mondeo.") The new XK8 has been panned for its Taurus-like front end.
Jaguar offers four models, each on a totally distinct platform, with U.S. sales of each model in the 500-600 per month range. I've read that Jaguar sells almost 50% of its output in the U.S. Four platforms for such miniscule volumes?! No wonder it's losing money!
Ford has owned Jaguar for over 15 years and has been unable to turn the brand around and make it profitable. Perhaps Hyundai thinks it can do better.
At the right price, the purchase could be a good deal for Hyundai. They'd get a recognized luxury brand, a worldwide network of dealers, a British specialty manufacturing operation (to make the highest-priced models) and the ability to slap some Jaguar badges on Korean-made stuff, as disgusting as that may sound to Jaguar purists.
Ford would get some much-needed money, after losing $123 million in the most recent quarter. It could use it to fund future product development and try to resuscitate its Lincoln and Mercury brands. (Good luck with that.)
I have additional thoughts on Jaguar here.
Clock Update: The Vampire Clock (see Wednesday's posting) has now been fixed by covering its sensor eye with a small black patch. It will henceforth be known as The Pirate Clock.
Yarrrr! Avast ye, matey! What time be it?
Other Important News: Maybe not to you, but it's important to me. The remodeling of the kitchen is done.
Retooling Plastic: Sales of Mattel's Barbie dolls are dropping (little girls apparently now favor interactive toys), so the folks over at Independent Sources have proposed some new Specialty Barbies (with photos of prototypes), including Goth Barbie, Exotic Dancer Barbie, Celebrity Slut Barbie and Transgender Barbie.
In the last 47 years, I bet that Mattel has consumed ten million pounds of high-impact polystyrene just molding the unrealistic pointy-tits part of Barbie.
Illegal Charges: Speaking of Independent Sources, Chad has an informative post about Washington State: "Requesting that the federal government pay for upkeep or take custody of 995 illegal aliens held in Washington state prisons, Christine Gregoire, Governor of Washington state, sent an invoice for $50,000,000 to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales yesterday.
Governor Gregoire accuses the federal government of passing off costs to the states by not properly reimbursing for the true cost of incarcerating an illegal alien, and she justifies her demand for reimbursement by noting that the Constitution makes the federal government responsible for preventing illegal immigration."
This is the same Christine Gregoire who, as Attorney General, stole my utility refund two years ago (go here and scroll down to see my 9/21/04 post on this matter). By the way, she no longer wants to be known as 'Christine'; she apparently thinks 'Chris' is more voter-endearing and has instructed the press to use the new moniker. (Sure, Christine, as soon as you send me my #$%!@* money.)
Ironically, Washington is one of a small number of states where illegal immigrants can actually get a driver's license. As a resident, I should be outraged at this, but I figure that someday it might come in handy. If I get so decrepit that I can't pass the eye or driving exams, I'll just tell them in broken Spanish that I'm José from Guadalajara. "No tests required, Señor."
Chad writes, "If I was Alberto Gonzales I would respond with criminal charges for malfeasance of office against Gregoire and the Mayor and City Council of Seattle and any other Washington city that has instituted a sanctuary policy or voted to accept Matricula Consular cards as legal IDs."
School Daze: Via Don Luskin, here's a comment from John Tierney on the shameless spinning by the public education lobby - declaring victory in a new federal study that suggests that public school students score almost as well on tests as private school students.
"According to federal surveys, the typical private school's tuition is only about half what a public school spends per pupil. ...
General Motors would not celebrate the news that its $40,000 Cadillac performed almost as well as a $20,000 Honda. It would not have its dealers put up signs reading: "Why Pay Less? Our Cars Are Nearly As Good." But that's the logic of the teachers' union leaders who want to prevent students from getting vouchers and taxpayers from saving money."
I've written more about the dismal state of the U.S. educational system here.
Who Cares? Many ancient organizations with a noble history descend into irrelevance.
The NAACP has urged blacks to "stay out of Target stores" until further notice, in a dispute over the retail giant's ignoring the NAACP's diversity survey.
A Target spokesperson replied that the company opted out of the survey "because Target views diversity as being inclusive of all people from all different backgrounds, not just one group." The NAACP survey asks only about blacks.
Minorities make up 40 percent of Target employees and 23 percent of all officials and managers.
Yea! Shop Target.
On A Related Note ... President Bush gave a speech at the NAACP convention yesterday. Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online remarked: "I was just talking to a crowd watcher about the president's speech today who noticed and noted:
Whenever the President mentioned policies that could actually provide long-term benefits for blacks (school choice, home ownership initiatives, asset accumulation and protection) - silence or unenthusiastic applause. When he talked about the government spending money - louder applause. And when he talked about reauthorization of the VRA, which many in the crowd incorrectly think is necessary otherwise blacks won't be permitted to vote - wild applause.
Conclusion: a reaffirmation that the NAACP remains stuck in the 1960s.
Any wonder why younger blacks ignore it?"
From The Onion: "Amid clamor from thousands of cuckolded husbands nationwide, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has drafted legislation designed to safeguard the institution of marriage, the moral cornerstone of American society, from the greatest threat to its sanctity: suave master-seducer Reginald St. Croix, Esq. ...
Tax records and divorce statistics, as well as hundreds of signed affidavits, demonstrate that the charismatic roué has been the cause of over 1,300 American divorces since January 2001."
Best Headline This Week: 'Queen Angry At Dead Lawn, People Faint'.
And the runner-up is ... 'Police Arrest Naked Man After He Flails Car With Stolen Pigeon'.
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous."
Wednesday July 19, 2006
Mergers: Will GM merge with Nissan-Renault? Ford with Honda? Don't bet on it.
Noises made by various car execs are mere posturings to pacify angry shareholders. Such things are widely reported in the press and analyzed to death by pundits because it's the slow time of year for car news.
When the fog of hype clears, expect some joint development work or shared distribution. That's about all you'll see, in my opinion.
Oh ... and about that proposal for a Ford/GM merger, the best comment was made by Tucker Goodrich: "There's a phrase in the merger business to describe deals like this: 'Tie two rocks together and hope they float.'"
Spotted ... next to me at a traffic light in Vancouver - a light blue Citroën 2-CV with round sealed-beam headlamps on stalks. Looked in excellent condition. And looked as weird to me as it did 50 years ago.
At The Drive-In: Kirk Demarais has written a great report about watching the movie 'Cars' at a vintage drive-in theater. He's posted lots of pictures, too.
Kirk writes, "Pixar did so well at giving human characteristics to the onscreen cars that as I looked around the lot it felt as if the vehicles themselves were the ones being entertained by the movie. At one point I noted that the cars at the drive-in were watching a movie depicting cars at a drive-in watching movies about cars."
From the photos and description, it sounds like a it was a fun evening.
Swan Dive: During the first six months of 2006, Ford's sales of mid-size SUVs fell 24.7 percent and sales of large SUVs declined by 32.1 percent.
How Pink Flamingos Happened: Jeremy Clarkson says that the Aston Martin DB9 "has rear seats but no mammal yet created, not even when God was on the LSD trip that gave us the pink flamingo, could fit into them."
Hmmm. It's not Darwinism. It's not Creationism. It must be Clarksonism.
Price Gouging By Foreigners: James Lileks notes that root beer costs "almost $4 a gallon, which is more expensive than gasoline. Understandable; they have to pump the crude Root from the ground, ship it across the sea, refine it, pay for the pipelines and the rest of the distribution network. If we broke our dependence on foreign Root, or perhaps generated the froth with windmills, we'd see cheap Root Beer again."
Vampire Clock: I have a Bose Wave radio alarm clock. I bought it about 15 years ago (after our old alarm clock gave up the ghost) because it was the only model I could find that has a beeping alarm which - when you push the snooze button - switches to music until it's time for a reminder alarm. Every other alarm/radio clock required you to choose either radio or alarm.
The clock has a light sensor in its face which adjusts the brightness of the digital display depending on ambient light conditions. This has apparently gone flooey because the face only displays things correctly when it's dark. In bright daylight, it gives nutso readings - like 16:8E am. It comes alive at night and displays everything properly if the room's very dark. The clock does keep proper time and wakes me up on time, so I'm going to keep it.
Besides, I'm hoping for a miracle. The digital clock on my Jaguar did weird things for a year or two but has apparently healed itself.
Minimal: Don Luskin has written a thoughtful article on the minimum wage. Excerpt: "If a law forces employers to pay no less than, say, $10 an hour, then employers will simply not hire anyone for jobs that are really worth less than that. And they'll fire anyone who was doing those jobs at a lower wage, before the law was passed.
Which leaves the low-wage earner with a rather stark choice: Would he rather be employed at $9 an hour, or unemployed at $10 an hour?
Don't kid yourself that employers will just bite the bullet and pay up for jobs that aren't worth the legal minimum. They won't.
Consider what happened in France, where there is a minimum wage roughly twice that mandated in the United States. Go to a grocery store or a toy store there. There are hardly any clerks to help you. No baggers to pack up your stuff when you check out. Merchants simply can't afford to pay the too-high minimum wage for this kind of work."
When I owned a manufacturing business, I quickly found that you can't get and keep good employees by paying minimum wage. We always paid more and, eventually, developed bonus systems based on individual productivity.
Low-paying jobs work well for students, part-timers or people just entering the workforce. That said, any employer who offers miniscule compensation can expect high turnover. Which is why you always see new faces behind the counters of fast food joints. Studies show that those former employees are moving up the monetary food chain - capitalism and freedom-of-choice, you know.
It would be a hoot, though, to raise the minimum wage to $40 per hour (for a few days) ... just to see the look on UAW members' faces, when they realize that burger flippers are making as much as they are.
Not So Fast: If you've ever had to fast for a medical procedure, you know what it involves. No food. Nada. Nothing but water.
But, if you're Cindy Sheehan and are Fasting For Peace, you can imbibe smoothies, coffee, vanilla ice cream, blended juice drinks with protein powder and anything sold at a Jamba Juice stand.
Oooooohhh. How 'bout some lasagna - run through a blender?
Bad Pun Of The Day: Definition of a will - a dead give-away.
Monday July 18, 2006
Summer Sun: We're having very nice weather, so I washed all three cars this weekend. The '39 Plymouth took the longest. It's a big car in terms of surface area. And the body doesn't drain well - not like today's aero-blob cars.
I used Bleach-White on the whitewalls and waxed all the chrome. The ol' coupe now sparkles.
"Thank Yew Vurrah Much": Scuderia Gianni writes, "I've seen a few Toyota FJ Cruisers lately. When I first saw one, I kind of liked it. Brought back memories of a neighbor down the street who had a red one when I was a kid. Now that I've seen quite a few, I'm beginning to think of them as Elvis. The new one is the old fat Elvis who was a parody, and the original is the young skinny Elvis." Well said.
I Said It Last Week. Now Newt Gingrich is saying it, too - World War III has started. Excerpt: "... Gingrich said Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.
"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city,' " Gingrich said. He talks about the need to recognize World War III as important for military strategy and political strategy."
These extremists want to get rid of everyone except themselves. Israel is merely the first step. America is next.
Go Israel! Ben Stein has written a compelling piece on the Middle East conflict. He opines that "Hezbollah are the most vicious killers imaginable. ... They are not like anyone you know, unless you knew Eichmann or Dr. Mengele or Himmler. ... They cannot be rehabilitated."
Excerpt: "It is clear that Iran is the main funding- and weapons-supplying entity fueling Hezbollah against Israel. Isn't Israel entitled now to bomb the Iranian nuclear sites? Shouldn't the U.S. supply Israel with the weapons needed to do the job? Isn't the time now?" I hope we already are ... very quietly.
Learning From History: Salim Mansur, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario and a syndicated columnist in Canada, writes, "Following the London bombings a year ago, I asked in this space how long the civilized world would continue to deny the reality of a war declared on it by modern day al-Qaida bandits and their global affiliates? ...
Islamists have succeeded this far in turning the strength of democracies to their advantage. They have exploited the restraint of modern civilization that opts in criminal justice for proportionality, restitution and rehabilitation as evidence of guilt and weakness.
Islamists declared war on the modern world much before September 11, 2001. But the modern world - despite President George Bush's leadership and effort since 9/11 - opted instead to study the neuroses of Islamists, discover root causes of their depravity, offer palliatives by acknowledging their grievances as legitimate, and view the warfare launched by them merely as a problem of domestic law and order."
Salim offers a solution ... (more >>>)
Tell It Like It Is: Mark Steyn says Palestine is populated by "unemployed, uneducated teenage boys raised by a death cult".
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "What I like are those change counting machines you see at supermarkets. But I fear that they take money away from people who could use the money: meaning those men and women who live on the streets. I think it would be far better to hand all of our change to the homeless, and let them count it. Then when they're done, they can give us a receipt to be redeemed at a supermarket, while they get to keep 15 percent of the total.
It's not a hard job, and i think it's something you can do while you're sitting on the street outside a grocery store begging for change. (I also think the homeless should be enlisted to give us regular weather updates as well as the correct time - but that debate is for another time and place)."
Friday July 14, 2006
Interstate Musings: In the July 3 issue of AutoWeek, Kevin Wilson wrote about the 50th Anniversary of the Federal-Aid Highway Act which gave birth to the Interstate Highway.
It's a good article overall but, in my view, has a few flaws. Wilson writes that the interstate system brought "unpleasant and unintended consequences. ... Among those were the deterioration of the railroads, which lost passenger and freight traffic to the highways, and the erosion of public transit systems."
Let's start with public transportation. In the beginning of the 20th Century, ridership grew steadily until the Great Depression. Between 1929 and 1939, people took fewer work trips and often could not afford to take leisure trips. World War II fuel rationing forced many to use public transport. Patronage peaked in 1946, when Americans took 23.4 billion trips on trains, buses and trolleys.
After the war ... (more >>>)
Yes, I Follow You: Greg Gutfeld offers the "real truth about stalkers: if they're really attractive, they aren't called stalkers, but "admirers." But if you happen to be fat, bald or have any kind of personal hygiene problem, then suddenly you're labeled a "stalker."
This is an outrageously intolerant view targeted at the unglamorous. If anything, people who are fat or unattractive have to try harder to gain the affections of the world's most alluring celebrities - and to hinder them with pesky restraining orders seems to be a targeted act of bigotry. I believe that these so-called "stalkers" shouldn't be restrained at all. In fact, they should be encouraged to pursue their romantic quest for acceptance and love. And they should also be armed with tasers and duct tape in case the object of their affection resists."
This reminds me of the old Rodney Dangerfield joke, "Women! They complain that you don't pay enough attention to them. So you try to be more attentive and, the next thing you know, they get a restraining order against you."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: ""We are a nation of immigrants," we are constantly reminded. We are also a nation of people with ten fingers and ten toes. Does that mean that anyone who has ten fingers and ten toes should be welcomed and given American citizenship?"
Thursday July 13, 2006
How To Get Locked Up In A Mental Institution: Time travel back to - say, 1956 - and start proclaiming that, someday, they'll be making MGs in Oklahoma.
D'jevver Notice ... that the 2007 GM Acadia appears to have stolen the Toyota Avalon's headlights?
It's World War III: If you didn't believe that it started on 9/11/01, if you didn't believe in it after the Bali bombing, the Madrid train bombing, the London Underground bombing or the Bombay train bombing, start believing it now. The escalating war between Israel and terrorists in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon is a key indicator.
Israeli jets have bombed the highway linking Beirut to the Syrian capital of Damascus. And, if Hezbollah transfers the kidnapped IDF soldiers to Iran, I would expect Israel to bomb Iran - possibly with nuclear bombs ... with the tacit support of the U.S. World War III is happening, whether you acknowledge it or not.
It Depends On Your Age: James Lileks comments on June Allyson who died this week: "I remember her as the spokeswoman for Depends - a fate that will someday befall Sharon Stone, probably. "You know, when I was in 'Basic Instinct', I raised eyebrows when I didn't wear any panties. But that was then, and now I like the security and peace of mind of the new Depends Thong for active, glamorous seniors.""
Wednesday July 12, 2006
Garage Project: I've spent the last several days working on the inside of my garage. I began by giving it a thorough cleaning. I then spackled various dents and scrapes along the walls, sanded the repaired areas and repainted all the interior walls with two coats of Olympic Satin White, replacing a hideous yellowish eggshell color. Prior to painting, I caulked and sealed the open spaces at the bottom of the drywall.
Many of the dings and dents ... (more >>>)
Biofuel Fallacy/Fantasy: Producing biofuels such as ethanol from food crops isn't worth the effort. That's the conclusion of a new study published by the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers should instead concentrate either on producing ethanol from indigestible plant material such as cellulose, or on synthetic hydrocarbon fuels.
The comprehensive study finds that if all the corn produced in the United States last year were removed from food supplies and turned into ethanol, only 12% of gasoline demand would be satisfied.
Yes, But Will It Laugh At My Jokes? Presenting Robobar, the robotic bartender.
Big, Strong America: Larry Kudlow asks, "Did you know that just over the past 11 quarters, dating back to the June 2003 Bush tax cuts, America has increased the size of its entire economy by 20 percent? In less than three years, the U.S. economic pie has expanded by $2.2 trillion, an output add-on that is roughly the same size as the total Chinese economy, and much larger than the total economic size of nations like India, Mexico, Ireland and Belgium."
Protecting Friends: Ben Stein wonders, "How can it be that the Supreme Court is worried about the rights of Osama bin Laden's driver in court, but no one is raising a finger about the rights of Marines who offer their lives to fight for us and then get held in leg irons when there is an accusation against them? How can this be?
How can it be that in the mainstream media, you will never see a soldier's photo on the front page unless he's charged with a crime ...? Glorious America, time to figure out who your friends are."
It's OK With Me: From Ralph Peters via Powerline: "Violent Islamist extremists must be killed on the battlefield. Only in the rarest cases should they be taken prisoner. Few have serious intelligence value. And, once captured, there's no way to dispose of them. ...
Isn't it time we gave our critics what they're asking for? Let's solve the "unjust" imprisonment problem, once and for all. No more Guantanamos! Every terrorist mission should be a suicide mission. With our help."
As Comic Book Guy Would Say, "Worst Ever!" John Podhoretz calls Maureen Dowd's column "the worst op-ed column ever written" and says she's "Erma Bombeck for metrosexual imbeciles."
The Dowd column in question is a dumb story about a man changing his name to 'Rachael' and why he did so.
Poor Erma Bombeck - she must be rolling in her grave! I enjoyed her writing and find this comparrison disturbing.
You already know how I feel about Maureen Dowd. (permalink)
Political Question: From Jim Geraghty, "How could I entrust a Democratic lawmaker to stand up to al-Qaeda, Iran, North Korea or some other angry extremist, if he or she won't stand up to Daily Kos?"
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "When your world view is made up entirely of round holes, your mind is a lathe that can turn everything into a cylinder."
Tuesday July 11, 2006
Style Critic: The Buick Lucerne actually looks good in person. The Pontiac Torrent - I saw a bunch of them in Victoria, B.C. - looks ugly. Not Aztek-ugly but generically unpleasant.
Seven Facts About Books: These are courtesy of Dan Poynter. Many are distressing. (hat tip - Boing Boing)
1. There are 1.5+ million titles in print (currently available in the U.S.).
2. In 2001, consumers purchased 1.6 billion books.
3. Women buy 68% of all books.
4. Customers 55 and older account for more than one-third of all books bought.
5. 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school. 42% of college graduates never read another book. 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
6. 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years. Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.
7. 57% of new books are not read to completion. Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
Indian Convenience Is Not Just Apu Any More: Val MacQueen provides an update on India with some surprising facts for those of us who haven't been there lately. Excerpt: "Twenty-five years ago, they had a choice of one car and one color: the Hindustan Ambassador (top speed 35 mph); it was black and you had to order it years in advance. Today, the consumer chooses from among 40 models produced by 13 companies.
When Gandhi's thinking still prevailed, Indians expected poor quality consumer goods (Gandhi's beloved "import substitution") and expected a dismissive attitude to complaints. Thus the more prudent held off buying. Today, reliability and competitive after-sales service are taken for granted."
Back in the 1970s, a business acquaintance was married to an Indian physician. Every four years, she insisted on returning to India to visit her parents and assorted relatives. Ralph got dragged along, too, but brought his own food - a hard-shell Samsonite suitcase chock-full of Clark Bars and Zag Nut bars. He lived on nothing but candy bars and boiled water for the three weeks duration.
Ralph was a mild-mannered fellow but became very excited and vocal when it came to India. He used to exclaim, "You can't imagine how bad it smells." He related the tale of seeing a large billboard-style painting on a wall which showed a cartoon figure squatting and proclaimed, "It is considered a lower caste act to shit on the pavement!"
India has apparently come a long way in 30 years. I wonder what Ralph would think of it now?
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld on roadside memorials: "Since I've been home and driving around town, I've seen a few of those homemade memorials placed where fatal freeway accidents have occurred. As usual, they trouble me. I am positive that when other drivers see these memorials, they slow down to a safer speed as a natural response to their own fear of death. This, over time, may reduce the incidence of car accidents.
The reduction of car accidents, however, will inevitably lead to the reduction of homemade memorials placed on locations where a traffic fatality might occur. Reducing the number of these homemade memorials, sadly, will then lull drivers into a false sense of complacency, thus increasing risk for more accidents. This vicious cycle will only stop once we replace cars with llamas."
Monday July 10, 2006
Go Away, Dieter. It's only been a week and I'm already sick and tired of those DaimlerChrysler "Ask Dr. Z" commercials. I'm suffering from FTE. Freakin' Teutonic Exhaustion. Gehen Sie weg. Schnell!
Such A Difficult Life. Jeremy Clarkson says it's tough choosing a super luxury ride. About the Porsche 911, he writes, "It really is a car you can use every day. But it earned a reputation in about 1986 as a car for onanists, and even today some of that image still lingers."
More: "If you buy an Aston Martin, you will not be spat at, you will not be given the bird, and you will have a very pretty car. Something you will have many hours to contemplate because, as a general rule, Aston Martins have a habit of not starting if you leave them alone for more than a couple of minutes.
Your correspondent and an Aston Martin Vantage
Palm Desert, California
I've lost count now of the number of people I know who bought a DB9 and then, having spent a few months watching it being ferried back and forth from the dealership, sold it again and rang to ask what they should buy instead."
And: "Bentley? Well yes, sort of, but each time I drive a Continental GT or a Flying Stirrup I can never quite get it out of my head that I'm in a Volkswagen Phaeton. It's like having a Bang & Olufsen stereo. You know that behind the Danish exterior beats a Philips heart. And that sort of spoils the moment."
All of this was a prelude to Clarkson's Maserati road test report. He states, "Now, in the past there was a very good reason why Maseratis were exclusive. Because they fell apart long before they ever reached the door of the factory. They were handmade, and handmade is just another way of saying the door will fall off."
Wishing That Airport Security Was More ... ummmm ... Mickey Mouse: Cliff May writes, "I was at Disney World last week. Why am I sharing this with you? Because to get into the park I had not only to use an identification card - I also was required to insert two fingers into a little machine. The machine read my finger prints - instantly confirming that I was who I claimed to be, ensuring that I wasn't using grandma's card.
Interesting, is it not, that we have such biometric indicators at Disney World but not yet at airports?"
Best Headline Of The Day: 'Lazy Eye Hardly Noticeable On Equally Lazy Employee'.
No Wait .. This Is The Best Headline Of The Day: 'Ken Lay's Ashes to Be Hidden in Offshore Bank'.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
Friday July 7, 2006
Car Sightings: I'm seeing a lot of Lincoln LSs with aftermarket wheels running around the area. I think that people realize that these cars are great bargains. They depreciate like a stone but - at the right price - are performance car bargains. I think that the Chrysler Crossfire will share the same fate. 2 to 3 year old examples of either can be had for $20K or less. That's a lot of car for the money.
The Lincoln LS makes a fast, good-handling ride. It failed because Lincoln never fixed its flaws and never understood how to promote it.
Lookin' At Numbers: When I owned a manufacturing business, we looked at our sales numbers every day. But, when it came to spotting long-term trends, I studied and compared sales figures in six-month increments. Those were my 'reliable' indicators.
Therefore, it was interesting to look at the first six months of 2006 car sales. I'm not offering an extensive overview here, just some general observations ...
Six months sales at General Motors are down 12% versus the first 6 months of 2005. That's even more than troubled Mitsubishi - off 11.2%. But Jaguar sales are down over 32%; this makes me continue to wonder about the viability of that brand. Porsche - with a seemingly far narrower product line - outsells Jaguar by more than 50%. And Porsche sales for the half-year are up by over 15%. Porsche sells more cars in the U.S. than Saab.
Hyundai now outpaces Mazda's sales by 66%. Volkswagen is now outsold by BMW - a glaring statistic, demonstrating how much VW has fallen over the years. Remember when Volkswagen used to "own" the import market? Today, Toyota outsells VW tenfold.
Despite a wide variety of product offerings over a wide price range, Audi is outsold by Volvo by almost 50%. And, for every Maybach sale, there are 200 (!!!!) Bentley sales.
With all the hand-wringing about Ford, you'd think their sales are disastrous. Yet, in the first six months of 2006, Ford's sales fell much less than Nissan's. Nevertheless, the Nissan PR machine continues to trumpet Carlos Ghosn's "miracle turnaround." Maybe now it should be changed to "turndown." And this guy wants to run GM? Forget it!
Land Rover offers nothin' but SUVs - a dying vehicle type according to some people - yet its six-month sales are up almost 28%! Land Rover outsells Mini.
Golden Arches: Rolf Potts writes that "despite its vaunted reputation as a juggernaut of American culture, McDonald's has come to function as an ecumenical refuge for travelers of all stripes. This is not because McDonald's creates an American sense of place and culture, but because it creates a smoothly standardized absence of place and culture - a neutral environment that allows travelers to take a psychic time-out from the din of their real surroundings."
I remember when McDonald's first arrived in Philadelphia in 1961 or so, it was considered an interloper. For fast food, we all went to Gino's Hamburgers (a chain out of Maryland - featuring the slogan "Everybody Goes To Gino's") or Steer Inn.
We tried to avoid Burger Chef - the food was pretty crappy and the company (strangely and illogically) spelled their burger names with an 'S' (Big Shef, Super Shef, etc.). Perhaps because of the 'S' emphasis and surely because of its lousy food, 'Burger Chef' was bestowed with the nickname, 'Burger Shit'. After several years, Burger Chefs in the area either closed or were converted to Hardee's - a logical move, since Hardee's also offered in crap food.
McDonald's outlasted these and other chains and became known as a place where you could get innocuous and reasonably good food anywhere in the world. And McDonald's wouldn't give you food poisoning - pretty important when you're traveling.
We've dined at McDonald's in London, Paris and Rome. By the way, if you want to supersize your order in Italy, just yell, "Gustalo Maxi!"
Taking Multi-Tasking To A New Level: A baser one. An NBA player is accused of watching porn and (ahem) pleasuring himself while driving drunk. He also crashed into another vehicle.
The Headline Says It All: 'Little Mr. Apricot Flips Off Crowd, Loses Title'. He's only four years-old! (I don't think I flipped off anybody until I was fourteen or so.)
Grab Your Coat ... One of my favorite songs is the 1945 recording 'On The Sunny Side Of The Street' by Tommy Dorsey. I used to play a shellac recording of this on an ancient wind-up Victrola while playing along on my uncle's drum set in the 1950s.
Ann Clark Terry, sang with her three sisters under the name The Sentimentalists with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra (1943-1946) and provided the vocals for 'Sunny Side Of The Street'.
They were also known as The Clark Sisters.
Sign Of End Times: Fans of numerical Sudoku puzzles could be spending more time sitting in the bathroom now that toilet paper with individual puzzles on each sheet is available.
Rest In Peace: Lennie Weinrib, who did the voice of H.R. Pufnstuf, has died at 71. He was also the voice of Mr. Pringle as well as Scooby-Doo's annoying nephew, Scrappy-Doo.
Quote Of The Day is from Rita Rudner: "Men love watches with multiple functions. My husband has one that is a combination address book, telescope and piano."
Thursday July 6, 2006
Stop Talking And Start Drinking: "Drivers who talk on cell phones may be just as dangerous as those who drink. That's the sobering conclusion of a study published yesterday by University of Utah researchers who monitored 40 men and women on a driving simulator. Drivers using hands-free phones were no better than those with the handheld variety, confirming previous studies. ...
By one key measure, cell-phone users were even worse than drunken drivers."
No Savior Here: Paul and Anita Lienert - of the Detroit News - didn't think much of the $32,000 Pontiac G6 retractable hardtop they tested. They didn't care for the interior's "unsightly gaps." And cheap-looking "fake wood that looks really fake. This stuff belongs in a museum, along with that ancient four-speed trans."
Paul reported that the "lack of drip rails was another problem. Condensation from the roof poured all over the front seats - and my pants - when we rolled down the windows one morning."
Don't forget, the G6 is supposed to be one of the high-volume, Toyota-fighting success stories which will "save" GM.
With A Wrinkled Sidewall: Sofia Loren, who will celebrate her 72nd birthday in September, will appear nude in next year's Pirelli calendar. Hmmm. I guess she'll be posing behind a very old tire.
Riding On Air: When he moved our new refrigerator into place last week, our contractor used an Air Sled. I had never seen one before. It lifts heavy objects about an inch off the ground and they hover on a thin film of air, making them easy to move and maneuver.
Air Sled offers both standard and custom moving systems. The one I saw had two "air beams" - lift forks made from thin aluminum plate stock with a neoprene fabric perforated on the underside. A blower inflates the air beams forcing air through the holes underneath and lifting the load. The standard unit can handle up to 1,400 pounds and costs about $700. What a clever device!
My friend Ray tells me that custom Air Sleds are used to move heavy classic cars, like the Duesenberg Twenty Grand, across the marble floors at the fabulous Nethercutt Collection in California.
I wish these things were around when I worked my way through college delivering refrigerators, but Air Sled wasn't founded until 1982 - twenty years too late for my now-aching back.
By the way, our new kitchen became operational last Friday afternoon. While some tile work and minor trim work still needs to be done, we have moved our stuff back into the kitchen area and my wife can now prepare regular meals there.
Stock Market Predictions: Excerpted from The Vanguard Advisor, a financial newsletter: Mellon Capital Management's team says its computers continue to see stocks as relatively good values when compared to both bonds and cash. At the end of March their long-range projections were for stocks to return better than 10% per annum over the next decade.
The managers at Primecap Management say that the relative valuations of growth and value stocks, as measured by p-e ratios, is close to a 15-year low. John Cone, Franklin portfolio manager, says that the "underpricing" of large growth stocks compared to mid-cap and small-cap stocks is "striking."
Factoid: I heard this on Neil Cavuto last week. "85% of regular Wal-Mart shoppers voted for George Bush in 2004."
Getting High: The Bejing-Lhasa Express, China's first train from Beijing to Tibet has made its initial run, carrying business travelers and thrill-seekers on the world's highest railway, which critics fear could devastate the Himalayan region's unique Buddhist culture.
The $4.2 billion railway is an engineering marvel that crosses mountain passes up to 16,7000 feet high. The specially designed train cars are equipped with double-paned windows to protect against high-altitude ultraviolet radiation, There are outlets for oxygen masks beside every seat, for passengers who need help coping with the thin air.
"I'm So Ronery": Bridget Johnson pens several 'You Know Your Missile Sucks' lines especially for Kim Jong-Il (aka - Lil' Kim). Best one: "You know your missile sucks when ... it stays airborne for only slightly longer than an Oscar thank-you speech."
Feeling Youthful (And Immature): I'm almost 63 years old, but this made me snicker like a pimply-faced adolescent ...
Commenting on an article where Lance Armstrong supposedly threatened Former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, Greg Gutfeld wrote this headline: 'Lance Armstrong Has Ball Of Steel.'
Quote Of The Day is from Kathy Shaidle: "Pacifists are easy to spot. Note the slightly raised chin, and the blank stare of resignation and superiority, something they may have picked up from watching, say, Anthony Perkins in 'Friendly Persuasion'. They tend to carry themselves with a kind of statuesque faux dignity, as if they're posing for a stained glass window."
Wednesday July 5, 2006
"Ramming Speed!": Last week, I was stopped at a light on Vancouver's Fourth Plain Blvd. and saw a strange vehicle approaching in my rear view mirror. It was the Deathmobile from Animal House - and it stopped right behind me! It had dull black paint and the correct turret top (although with a fairly-large Plexiglas windshield) and a sign with 'Deathmobile' in large crude letters out front. It also had a bronze-toned, Faber-like mannequin head as a hood ornament. The vehicle was based on a '76-'79 Lincoln Town Car rather than the early '60s slabside Lincoln Continental sedan of the movie version.
I would have pulled over to get a better look but the noontime traffic was to heavy and intense. The light changed and I had to turn left. I couldn't tell if 'Eat Me' was painted on the sides.
I wonder if it was driven by its creator, D-Day: "Hey, quit your blubberin'. When I get through with this baby you won't even recognize it. ... There you go now, just leave everything to me."
Very Low Caliber: Dan Neil doesn't think much of the new, much-hyped Dodge Caliber. He calls it "a chunky, mallet-faced tall wagon", pointing out that "when Dodge introduced the Caliber at the Detroit auto show in January, it hired Zen sneer-master David Spade to dis the outgoing Neon, which sold more than 2 million units worldwide. Of the Caliber he said, "Dude, anything looks better when you compare it to the Neon."
Dude, really? Because from the seat of my finely calibrated pants, the old Neon would absolutely crush the new Caliber, a car that does for driving fun what Ryan Seacrest does for international monetary theory."
Dan concludes: "Then again, there's the painfully indifferent interior trim quality. The trim cutouts around the various moldings don't match up. The interior door panels flex. The whole thing looks like a trade-show presentation from the Rubbermaid Corp." Ouch.
But the Caliber is apparently selling very well. Dodge dealers can't keep them in stock.
Ann Coulter Weighs In ... on Dan Rather: "He's a good example of someone who's a pompous blowhard without much intellectual firepower, who gets pushed into taking positions to suck up to power. I mean, if Dan Rather were in a world by himself, I don't think he could come up with an idea on his own. But it shows you the cultural influence of liberalism. That's just what he goes along with. I'm sure if he lived during the Crusades, he'd be a leading crusader."
Irrelevant Times: I don't read the New York Times. I occasionally glance at the oft well-done Auto Section of the Sunday Times but the rest ... bah.
James Lileks writes: "It seems like the New York Times is revealing all our national security secrets, but relax: they have their limits. If the Times learned that US troops were force-feeding Gitmo detainees with Coca-cola, they wouldn't publish Coke's secret formula. They might get sued. If there's a CIA program that uses offensive cartoons of Mohammed to communicate with agents, they'll keep mum, lest they have to publish the images. They might get stabbed."
Speaking of The Times, Peggy Noonan notes: "Frank Rich is running around with his antiwar screeds as if it's 1968 and he's an idealist with a beard, as opposed to what he is, a guy who, if he pierced his ears, gravy would come out." And don't forget that Maureen Dowd also writes for the New York Times.
Ugly Politics: Carol Herman writes: "Once upon a time, in America, there were newspapers in every nook and cranny. Every town, no matter how small, probably had one. Just like it had the town barber. And, the town tailor. And, the town saloon. It came from the human habit to "group." And, the groupings had certain characteristics. Including English as a spoken tongue, no matter how far afield were the immigrants who came to populate these outposts. ...
The word 'team' also carried a different meaning. In that it's old fashioned now, but 'team' meant the whole body of activity that came after a general election. And, everyone rallied round our newly elected president.
This is what's changed. It's obvious that now we have 'teams' who never stop fighting each other. And, the perfidy is what keeps getting exposed."
Probably Just An Urban Legend: Greg Gutfeld claims that once, at a open casket funeral, Paris Hilton told the corpse to "call me."
Question Of The Day is from William F. Buckley: "If a liberal Catholic is dying, does he ask the priest to give him Moderate Unction?"