Friday April 27, 2007
Changing Car Culture: I received a nice note from David Traver Adolphus from Hemmings Motor News regarding my article about car magazines. On my comments about Special Interest Autos, Dave pointed out that "we didn't run out of old cars to cover, but we had to respond to the evolution of the hobby."
I understand this position completely; if I were in Hemmings' shoes, I would have done the same thing - expanding the auto eras covered in order to appeal to those new enthusiasts entering the hobby.
My piece was written from a purely personal point of view. I have little interest in cars made after 1970. Legendary writer Ken Purdy once penned ... (more >>>)
All Things Must End: The world's oldest business is closing after a 1,428-year run. Kongo Gumi, a Japanese temple-building company founded in the year 578 is out of business. Changing market conditions and excessive borrowing appear to be the primary causes. The company's assets have been acquired by Takamatsu, a large Japanese construction company, and it was absorbed into a subsidiary.
How Low Can You Go: The Pope says there's no Limbo. What does he know? He doesn't get out much. His predecessor, John Paul II, traveled a lot - and he seemed to believe in Limbo.
If there's a Limbo Airport, Delta probably flies there. And arrives late. (Flight routes to Hell are probably shared by United and US Air.)
Ate Is Enough: Answering the 'whatever happened to' question, 78 year-old Dick Van Patten is marketing Hobo Chili dog food than can be shared by man and/or beast.
I may be the only person who remembers this, but he played Nels Hansen - the son - in the early-1950s television program 'I Remember Mama'. He was also King Roland in 'Spaceballs', which featured Pizza the Hut.
Incredible Statistics: I haven't yet been able to verify these but, according to Grassfire.org, only 2% of illegal aliens are actually picking fruit and vegetables but 41% are on welfare. One in 10 babies born in the U.S. are to illegal aliens. 60% of Housing and Urban Development funds go to illegal aliens. 13 Americans are killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals.
Frightening if accurate. (permalink)
Ever Wonder How He Got That Nickname? Over at 'Four Right Wing Wackos' (an almost daily read for me), Raging Dave wrote, "Harry Reid should be tried for treason, for aiding and comforting the enemy. And when he's found guilty, he should be hung from the neck until dead."
Bananas? Don't Even Ask! Al-Qaida has warned street vendors not to place tomatoes beside cucumbers because the vegetables are different genders.
Thought For Today: The trouble with bucket seats is that not everybody has the same size bucket.
Wednesday April 25, 2007
Fleeting Sale-A-Thon: Chrysler got its inventory under control by dumping vehicles into the fleet market at rock-bottom prices. Between September and February, 48.5% of Chrysler's sales were sold in quantities of ten or more.
Most vehicles were minivans and Sebrings. Almost 80% were bought up by rental car companies, versus GM and Ford whose rental sales are closer to half of their total fleet sales.
During that same period, Pontiac fleet sales were 44.9 percent. (Those G6s never got an Oprah Bump, did they?) Don't be surprised if your next rental is a Chrysler, Dodge or Pontiac.
19th Century Meets 21st Century: Disneyland's 4-6-0 steam locomotives now heat their steam boilers with biodiesel fuel. The switch to biodiesel will save as much as 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year, while potentially reducing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 percent.
Requiescat In Pace: David Halberstam, a prolific and talented author, was killed in a car crash Monday. He was 73. At the age of 30, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the Vietnam war.
I read and thoroughly enjoyed two of his books. 'The Reckoning', an insightful work about the American automobile industry and the rise of the Japanese, was published in 1986. His superb tome, 'The Fifties', was published in '93.
Best Political Quote about last Saturday's White House Correspondents Dinner dustup is from Lucianne.com: "Considering Sheryl Crow's position on toilet paper use, is it any wonder Karl Rove resisted her touch?"
Meanwhile, Lucianne's son, Jonah Goldberg, asks about dining at Sheryl's place, "Who's up for some hand-rolled sushi and then some steak tartare? I hear she makes it all herself."
My take - if you're a rich as Sheryl Crow, you don't need toilet paper at all. $100 bills will do very nicely, thank you. (In Hollywood, they're known as Benjie Buttwipes.)
I Wonder If His Pay Was Docked? Last week, San Francisco celebrated 101st anniversary of the earthquake and fire that nearly destroyed the city in 1906.
One survivor was present - Herbert Hamrol, who is 104-years-old. "Hamrol said he took a day off work and got up at 2:30 a.m. to be on for the pre-dawn ceremony."
Stumping For Attention: Heather Mills performed an impromptu mid-air dance act in a failed attempt to entertain fellow passengers. During a flight from LA to London, the literally captive audience were subjected to the routine after Virgin Atlantic's in-flight entertainment system failed to work. Heather took to the aisle with her 'Dancing with the Stars' partner Jonathan Roberts. But after a 10 hour flight, fellow passengers proved difficult to impress, with her performance failing to even rouse a round of applause.
I predict that, in eight months or so, Family Guy's Peter Griffin will say (accompanied by a hilarious cartoon flashback B-roll), "That's just like the time Heather Mills' leg flew off and impaled itself in the forehead of that old lady in the audience. Ehhhhhh ... ehhhhh ... ehhhhh."
Little Known Fact: She keeps a lot of Paul McCartney's stock certificates in that hollow leg.
Vaginas - Is There Anything They Can't Do? Doctors in New York removed a woman's gallbladder with instruments passed through her vagina, a technique they hope will cause less pain and scarring than the usual operation and allow a quicker recovery.
The technique can eliminate the need to cut through abdominal muscles, a major source of pain after surgery.
Hair Today: In an article, 'Edwards & the Arrogance of the Entitled', Richard Reeves writes, "Three weeks after I wrote that I thought John Edwards might be going someplace in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, I found out where he was heading: to the barber shop. The candidate ... in defining 'Two Americas' ... came up with a wonderful device to show us all what he meant. ... He travels the country asking concerned citizens for money so he can get haircuts and body polishing."
Two Americas? There are Eight Americas.
Headline Of The Week comes from Scrappleface: 'Edwards Campaigns on Universal Hair Care'. John Edwards' "universal hair care proposal would not boost the federal deficit, or result in real tax increases, Mr. Edwards said, because the government would negotiate favorable pricing from hair care providers, and thanks to the savings wealthy Americans could subsidize the styling of the poor."
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "You have the Midas touch. Everything you touch turns into a muffler."
Monday April 23, 2007
Wasting Money: The current issue of AutoWeek has a two-page spread (inside front cover and facing page) touting the 'will-it-ever-be-built?' Chevrolet Volt concept car. This was paid for by a corporation which is going broke.
The money would have been better spent improving that cheap interior in the Chevy Cobalt (see my posting of 2/1/07). That might increase non-fleet sales and improve overall profitability of the Chevy brand - a first step towards saving the company.
CIA Checks Out Tanks: That would be gas tanks, not armored ones. According to a series of unclassified Central Intelligence Agency reports, the spy agency has managed to enhance significantly the fuel efficiency of the vehicles used by its operatives. "It has been avidly working to decrease the amount of gasoline the agency's LDVs consume. An LDV is the CIA acronym for 'light-duty vehicle', or in non-spyspeak, a car."
You've been deluded into thinking that your precious tax dollars are being used to gather intelligence to help win the War On Terror. It turns out, your money's being spent to finance some government version of the Mobilgas Economy Run.
Undoubtedly Osama bin Laden and his minions are sleeping well tonight.
Trashing The Trend: From a poster on Motor Trend's blog (I didn't even know they had one) to MT contributor Matt Stone: "Occasionally my dad will send me one of your magazines, or another car magazine when he thinks there's something in there I might find interesting. Whenever I receive those in the mail I start to think I might like to subscribe once again. Your blog post was a shocking reminder of why I don't. The big car magazines are gold chain wearing chest pounding ego maniacs who think they've got a beat on something nobody else does. You guys are the Corvette drivers of the automotive journalism industry.
The auto blogs push news out multiple times a day, with a fresher spin and are not a slave to their advertisers; you and your cohorts at the big mags can't say the same, and the blogs are free too!"
Ouch. But the poster makes a good point. Blogs like AutoBlog and Jalopnik run circles around MT's blog. And magazine. I have some additional thoughts on car mags posted here.
More Meaty Fun: Friday's posting about the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile brought an e-mail from Doug Klassen who has a collection of toy ones. Neat-o.
Cigarette Saves Life: A woman in South Carolina finished doing the dishes, then stepped outside to enjoy a cigarette. At that moment, an 80-foot-tall oak tree crashed through her roof and landed near the sink where she had been washing dishes.
I bet she inhaled with relief.
Politics: Rudy Giuliani now has a double digit lead in the Republican polls. I watched him on C-Span over the weekend, discussing 9-11. He was logical, decisive and compassionate. He also sounded reasonable.
Mitt Romney may look good on paper but, when I watched him give a speech a couple of weeks ago, he came off as a superficial, cliché-spouting phony to me.
Hillary Clinton has an almost double-digit lead in the Democratic polls. Hillary is not a good speaker; she doesn't sound reasonable. She sounds ... well ... strident. I think she's on top because of 'Clinton' name recognition. Over the past two months, she's held a fairly steady 10-point or so lead over Obama.
Everybody has their own theory about this, but I believe that Bill Clinton got elected in 1992 because he "sounded reasonable". And that convinced 'undecideds' to vote for him. Even though another Clinton is running, I think Rudy may be the Bill Clinton of the 2008 campaign.
Who Watches CNN? According to Mark Steyn: "As always, when you're at the gate for hours on end, there's nothing to do but watch CNN. I gather air traffic delays now account for 87 percent of CNN's audience. If it's just a routine holdup of two or three hours because the gate agent hasn't shown up, you know you'll be out of there before Wolf Blitzer's said goodnight. But, if it's something serious, like a light breeze at O'Hare, you know you'll be watching Larry King right through to the plug for tomorrow night's full hour with Tina Louise."
Definition Of The Day is for 'Mosquito': An insect that makes you like flies better.
Friday April 20, 2007
Keyless: At the New York International Auto Show, 55 different models have push button starters. These cars are controlled by keyless proximity devices. Push-button starters have also become standard on hybrid-electric vehicles, like the Toyota Prius. My wife's Toyota Avalon is also equipped with such a system.
This is a very convenient when it's pouring rain - no fumbling for a key of push button fob - just approach the car and it 'recognizes' you. If the car is locked, it will not only unlock it but will also set your seat and side-view mirror preferences.
But our Avalon's batteries died without warning and then it was get thee to a Toyota dealer - posthaste. New batteries are about $15 installed.
Meaty Fun: A group of veteran marketers in Chicago said newly-independent Kraft Foods absolutely must make better use of its trademark Wienermobile. Chicago author Bill Zehme suggested that Kraft create a line of mini-Wienermobiles, package Oscar Mayer hot dogs in them and sell them in the meat case as collectibles. He asked - apparently breathlessly and rhetorically, "What's more fun than meat on wheels?"
The Wienermobile appeared in a Simpsons episode with Ned Flanders driving it. He exclaimed, "The steering wheel's a giant onion ring!"
As a kid, I witnessed an early postwar Wienermobile cruise slowly down our street. It had '49 Chevy taillights.
The sighting made my day. Heck, it made my week. Life was duller back then.
Green = Money: Jerry Flint writes about the Toyota Prius. "Competitors like to sneer and say, "Toyota loses money on each one." I do not think so. They get $26,000 for a Prius versus $16,000 for a Corolla, a Toyota that has about the same load capacity as the Prius. That is a $10,000 premium for an attractive design and fuel economy. I think this spread also covers the cost of the Prius batteries."
Political Comment Of The Day ... is from Dennis Miller on Al Gore's presidential prospects: "At some point, he'll come riding over the hill like he's the cavalry. But it won't take long for everyone to figure out he's not Forrest Tucker. He's Larry Storch, and he's got his hat on sideways."
Lawsuits Have Consequences: The foster care program run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago is shutting down after 90 years, a move that is sending shock waves through the child welfare system. Catholic Charities and state officials confirmed that the program, responsible for more than 900 children, will close June 30 after a $12 million lawsuit payout prompted the agency's insurer to drop its coverage.
So ... will Christopher T. Hurley, the lawyer who sued Catholic Charities rather than the foster parents who actually abused the three children, now step forward and assume the burden of caring for those 900 remaining children? At the moment, he seems more interested in helping people in Guatemala.
OK, I've Now Seen The Photo ... of Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia mass murderer. It just shows that, if you get your hair done at SuperCuts, you'll eventually go f**king nuts. A government-funded study has shown that 87.8% of all spree-killers from the period 1947-2004 had bad haircuts.
That's probably why John Edwards pays $400 for his: Edwards + cheap haircut + Brazilian MAC-10 submachine gun = Bloody mayhem at North Carolina mansion.
Speaking of nuts, many of the readers of this blog don't have blogs of their own. They are blissfully unaware that sometimes bloggers receive e-mails which are sooooooo absolutely batshit f**king crazy, that you furiously and nervously slam the 'Delete' button so fast that it seems like time is moving slightly backward. 94.3% of them come from hotmail addresses.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "One of the scariest aspects of our times is how easy it is for glib loudmouths to turn us against each other, weakening the whole framework of society, on which we all depend."
Wednesday April 18, 2007
Shiver Me Timbers: Jeremy Clarkson weighs in on the Cadillac SRX: "This is a very ugly car. So ugly in fact that you'll want to get inside it and shut the door as quickly as possible. But sadly when you are inside it's even worse."
"Cadillac has gone for a half-timbered look with bits of wood nailed to every flat surface, and some that aren't flat at all - the steering wheel, for instance. Now this kind of thing worked in Elizabethan times. Team it with some wattle, some daub and a hint of thatch and all is well. But polish your wood until it gleams and then team it with plastic and I'm afraid the end result will be, and is, absolutely revolting."
"It's marketed as a seven-seater, but it isn't really. To fit into the rear seats you'd have to be so badly deformed that you'd need all manner of specialist equipment to keep you alive. An iron lung, for instance, and that isn't going to fit."
Of the Audi TT, Clarkson writes, "'I could have one of these,' I thought as I pulled into my yard. But of course I can't, because I am a man and the Audi TT is so completely girlie that I'm surprised it isn't supplied with a bra and high heels. It really is Jane Austen with windscreen wipers." Or, when the car is in Britain, would that be 'Jane Austin'?
Finally, discussing aggressive females in the wild, Jeremy mentions the praying mantis: "As we all know, the female celebrates a successful impregnation by biting the head off its lover. Other examples (of aggressive females) include the Mills-McCartney, a curious one-legged animal that infests the male's nest for a short period of time and then leaves with most of its contents."
There Ought To be A Law: The massacre of 32 innocent people at Virginia Tech University in the Shenandoah Valley is a horrible tragedy. As a knee-jerk reaction, many writers and politicians are - predictably - calling for stricter gun control legislation.
I'm not a gun guy. I don't own one and have no desire to do so. I have no problem with an armed citizenry but, philosophically, I'm fine with registering guns and licensing gun owners. What the hell, we already do it for vehicles. And drivers. I don't remember Charlton Heston saying anything about "pry my steering wheel from my cold dead hands." He should have. I believe that, had there been cars in the 18th Century, Ben Franklin (and you just know that horny rascal would have owned a Corvette) would have advised that something be put in that Second Amendment about the right to drive, too. Well, unless you abuse that right. Same for guns, too, in my view.
That said ... as a practical matter, I am opposed to any new gun laws. Or other kinds of laws.
New laws are useless because too many of the existing ones are unenforced. There are drunk driving laws but anyone with $1,000 in their pocket can hire a good attorney and get off, especially if it's a first offense. Chronic drunk drivers (even those with no money) still drink, drive, maim and kill. They have neither a driver's license nor insurance but they remain on the road because nobody has the guts to put them in prison for a lengthy, alcohol-free stretch. Instead, the 'solution' offered is to keep lowering the legal limit - which does no good (the vast majority of alcohol-related injury accidents occur when the driver has a blood alcohol levels above .15). Meanwhile, personal responsibility is diminished by society accepting excuses like "it's a disease." (Hey, your alcoholism may be a disease but it's your personal responsibility to manage it.)
We have lots of laws about illegal immigration but we have 12 million people who break that law without consequences. And we diminish personal responsibility by allowing church groups and even cities to create "sanctuaries." (There are also laws on the books about "harboring criminals".)
There are laws governing aspects of personal behavior but, when someone acts really weird - stalking others, setting fires, refusing to sign in for classes, scaring teachers and fellow students, institutions (Virginia Tech isn't the only one) look the other way and diminish personal responsibility by wailing about the "infringement of individual freedom." And so, a troubled mental case (who never should have remained a student at VT) became a mass murderer.
Rudy Giuliani has often said that he cleaned up New York by focusing on small offenses like panhandling and public urination in order to restore a sense of civic order that would discourage larger crimes. "Murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes," he explained. "But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other."
Giuliani linked Mayor Dinkins era's permissive climate, which tolerated the squeegee men (street-corner windshield cleaners who coerced drivers into giving them money at the entrances to Manhattan), to the rise of more serious crime. "The police started ignoring all kinds of offenses," Giuliani later recounted of the Dinkins years. "They became highly skilled observers of crime."
Rudy G. preached the need to reestablish a 'civil society', where citizens adhered to a 'social contract'. "If you have a right," he observed, "There is a duty that goes along with that right."
In New York's 34th Precinct (covering the largely Hispanic Washington Heights section of Manhattan), murders dropped from 76 in 1993, Dinkins' last year, to only seven by Giuliani's last year, a decline of more than 90 percent. Times Square went from being a seedy shame-case to a showcase.
We don't need new laws - we just need to enforce the ones already on the books.
And, in a related matter ...
Lock 'Em Up: The Rev. John Schwiebert, 68, and his wife, Pat, 62, are conscientious objectors to war. As such, they have refused to support the U.S. military by withholding all or part of their federal income tax since 1977. Last December, the Internal Revenue Service asked the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits for the United Methodist Church to pay an income tax levy against the pension that Schwiebert receives as a retired, but still active, Methodist minister.
When you don't pay taxes, you are cheating the rest of us. These two criminals should be locked up right now for their 30-year crime spree.
If you don't like what America does with your tax dollars, have the gumption to take action. Pay your back taxes, pack up your stuff, renounce your citizenship and move to another country with your heads held high. Let's see some "courage of one's convictions."
Not leaving, eh? Aha! Then, these people are not only criminals, they're cowards. Jail would probably be good for 'em - instill a little 'courage', perhaps.
Chinatown: "As China's modernization continues to pull hundreds of millions of people from farms to cities and suburbs, a construction boom has given rise to a vast landscape of foreign-looking settlements. These real-estate developments are the latest manifestation of the technique that has fueled China's economic boom: making copies."
"In Nanjing, there are Balinese retreats and Italian villas. In the southeastern city of Hangzhou, there are Venice (complete with canals) and Zurich. In downtown Beijing, everything is about Manhattan, with Soho, Central Park and Park Avenue. Shanghai's Thames Town is not an exact replica of anything in Britain but features a mishmash of hundreds of years of architecture, from Gothic to Tudor."
"At the beginning we were afraid to build such a classic project," Ho said. "So we paid a lot of attention to detail."
"Workers took three trips to Britain to learn different roof tiling, stone molding and other techniques. In the end, they were so skilled at old techniques, Ho said, that the team was asked to help work on a new Thames Town-like development - in Britain."
Hmmmm. Thirty-five years ago, people laughed when Americans moved the London Bridge to Arizona.
Standing Tall: John Kerry's stature has increased a little in my eyes. Yesterday, referring to the Imus affair, Kerry said, "To me, it was in the hands of the young women. They made the judgment that they thought he was genuine and they felt they could forgive him. And I think it was appropriate to pay a price on the airwaves but I'm not sure that it was appropriate to say you're off forever." Kerry said he'd go back on Imus' show when he returns to the air.
Good for him. Kerry stands far above so many other pols, press and pundits - that bunch of fair-weather friends, who gladly appeared on Imus when they needed the publicity but abandoned the I-man when he got in hot water.
Mark Steyn Is Right. In his book, 'America Alone', Steyn bemoans the downfall of Christianity in Europe. Now there's even more data to support his argument.
Russell Shorto, a contributor to the New York Times Magazine has reported that the "landscape of the church in Europe - and not just the Catholic Church but nearly all forms of organized Christianity - is changing at a lightning pace. As precipitous as the decline in parishioners is, the drop-off in seminarians is even greater - in Ireland, there are only 3.6 seminarians per 100 priests, as compared with 10 per 100 in the U.S. and 22.5 per 100 in still-faithful Poland - so that with fewer new priests every year, the church in Western Europe is forced to import. It's not uncommon to find African priests saying Mass in Tuscany."
And: "A 2005 survey found that 34% of Irish Catholics attend Mass weekly, one of the higher percentages in Europe. But in 1973 the figure was 91%, so the decline is actually among the steepest in Europe." (permalink)
I Learned A New Word Today: Work-shy. As in: "The phenomenon of NEETs (young people "not in education, employment or training") is on the rise. More than 1.2 million 16- to 24-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales - almost a fifth of the age group - are spending their time doing literally nothing, according to a study published last week. Among their ranks are the troubled, the badly educated, and the feckless and work-shy. In the 16 to 19 age bracket, 11 per cent are classed as Neets - double the proportion in Germany and France."
Work-shy. It's the new Lazy.
Quote Of The Day is from Conan O'Brien on Italy: "The newspapers are reporting a miracle. Apparently, a statue of Mary moved her hand and said, 'I just worked harder than 80% of your workforce.'"
Monday April 16, 2007
Can't Make Up Your Mind? Sometimes you have a hankerin' for a vintage Bentley. At other times, a Cadillac Eldorado. Or a Mustang. Or something almost no one else has. If so, maybe the Mitsuoka Galue convertible is just right for you. For a few dollars (or yen) more, they can probably flame paint it for you so it's even more 'unique'.
Another Sign Of End Times: The Buick Riviera is now a Chinese car.
Still Another Sign Of End Times: MTV has announced that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will appear on a special episode of 'Pimp My Ride' next Sunday (Earth Day, April 22 at 1:00 pm ET/PT), as Xzibit, Mad Mike and the rest of the Galpin Auto Sports crew take a 1965 Chevrolet Impala and give it a "one-of-a-kind ecological alteration" - an 800 horsepower diesel engine that runs on biodiesel.
Speaking Of Fuel ... on Sunday, regular gas was $3.159 at the local Chevron station.
Sensitivity Nation: Unless you spent the last several days in a hyperbaric oxygenation chamber, a cave without WiFi or a tomb, you'll know that last week's Subject of the Week was racial slurs. And sensitivity. Things got so bad that the governor of New Jersey almost died because of his involvement in the matter. (I wish him a speedy and full recovery.) The dollar fell to an all-time low against the Euro and a prune-faced New York cowboy lost his job. Sales of rap tunes plummeted as did sales of Dove Dark chocolates - I guess hypersensitive whites became too fearful of giving offense.
Commenting on the racial sensitivity hullapalooza, Steve Sailer wrote: "You'll notice that The Simpsons are totally terrified of anything having to say about blacks. The show has a completely stereotypical Asian Indian, Apu, but no continuing characters who act recognizably black. The upper-middle class Dr. Hibbert is a parody of Bill Cosby's Dr. Huxtable character, not of a real black. Meanwhile, the show's creators telegraph to viewers that they are avoiding joking about blacks by creating two black characters who behave indistinguishably from their white partners. There are Homer's co-workers Lenny and Carl; and there are the cops Lou and Eddie. After 15 years of watching, I still have no idea whether it's Lenny who is black, or if it's Carl. The same goes for Lou and Eddie."
In my opinion, the only real black guy on The Simpsons is Disco Stu. He's the worst of stereotypes - always boppin' and dancin', struts when he walks, does a lot of rhyming ("Disco Stu ... has nothin' to do."), wears groovy clothes and shades, has no job and hits on Marge. I think Stu used to have darker skin but got that skin disease Michael Jackson claims to have. I'm pretty sure that, in the 1970s, Stu was one of the Ohio Players.
Last week, every news channel featured that professional grievance-monger duo, Jesse Jackson and the "Reverend" Al Sharpton. (Jonah Goldberg refers to the pair as "bottom-feeding opportunists.") Ben Stein reported that, when the Central Park Jogger rape case was in court, Al Sharpton picketed outside the office of the New York sex crimes prosecutor, Linda Alice Fairstein, in Manhattan. Day after day, he would yell "Jew bitch!" at her.
Stein wrote, "For this man to be sitting in moral judgment on anyone at all is incomprehensible. For the media to take Sharpton seriously is unbelievable."
And this is the guy who 'orchestrated' Imus' on-air apology? Sharpton should be making some apologies of is own. The fact that Imus lost his radio show and that Sharpton still has one is Injustice Personified.
Whenever I see Sharpton, I am reminded of The Kingfish in the early '50s television show, 'Amos n' Andy'. The Kingfish was a smooth-talking ... (more >>>)
'Tiny Bubbles': On second thought, maybe Imus was referring to Don Ho (who died over the weekend - RIP).
Fear Of Flying: James Lileks offers this calming technique: "If you hit turbulence, just think of it as "light chop."
Of course, they used the same term to prepare Marie Antoinette as she went up the steps."
The View From The Throne: Rich countries bent on power and profit have mercilessly "plundered and sacked" Africa and other poor regions and exported to them the "cynicism of a world without God," Pope Benedict has written in his first book. In 'Jesus of Nazareth', the Pope offers a modern application of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan, who stopped to help a man who had been robbed by thieves when others, including a priest, had not. "The current relevance of the parable is obvious," the Pope writes.
Those "rich countries" would be Westerners, I'd guess, particularly the U.S. Yet, when you think of all the aid given to Africa from private charitable entities (both religious and secular), the Western world stands out in its generosity, particularly the U.S. It is America which takes the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart, asking nothing in return for our contributions to Ethiopia and other African countries which have nothing to offer us in return. ... (more>>>)
Thought For Today: Money can't buy happiness - but somehow it's more comfortable to cry in a new Corvette than in a ten year-old Taurus.
Friday April 13, 2007
Smear Campaign: Man, I got a slew of "I have the same problem" e-mails as well as some suggestions about my Wednesday posting on the difficulty of cleaning a vehicle's interior windows without smears and streaks.
When I think really hard until my brain hurts and write something profound and thought-provoking (to me, anyway) about some critically important social issue (immigration, the Middle East, mass transit, Donald Trump, China, public education, Rosie, global warming, Cuba, Paris Hilton, religion, Imus, the homeless, etc.), I never hear from anybody.
But, the window thing sure struck a nerve. And I didn't even do much - James Lileks wrote most of it.
It's obvious to me that there's a real need for a product which can clean without streaking. Perhaps something automated and robotic.
How about a Windshield Roomba? Set it up at night and by morning - Viola! - clean windows. And, you could use it on all your cars.
I know that I'd pay $300 bucks for one - in a heartbeat.
Which clever entrepreneur will be the first to develop it and become a multimillionaire?
Contesting Corvette: I don't often enter contests, but one in a model car magazine caught my attention.
There were five questions. The final one was, "Which 'fishy' Corvette with retractable headlamps appeared in 1964?"
The answer is the Corvette Sting Ray. Actually, the C-2 series Corvette, which featured retractable headlamps, was introduced in the Fall of 1962 as a '63 model. (I bought a '63 convertible three months after I got out of college.)
At first, I thought this was a trick question, referring to some one-off GM Corvette concept from 1964. But the Corvette Mako Shark concept (with retractable headlights) was from 1961, while the Mako Shark II (also with retractables) was unveiled at the New York Auto Show in April of 1965. (I was there and saw it in person. I saw it again at the New York World's Fair later in the summer.)
Bill Mitchell's SCCA racer from 1959 was designated as Stingray (one word). All 1963-67 C-2 production models were designated as Sting Ray (two words).
I'd like to point out that the Corvette's retractable headlights were activated by a dash-mounted switch (a stock GM chrome up-down power window switch) and the lights could be positioned anywhere between full-open and closed. Pointed slightly downward, they made fantastic fog lights. A great feature, by the way.
Extensive New York Times Investigation Reveals ... that some cars are gay.
Movie Review: Recently, I rented the DVD of 'Casino Royale'. This was one action-packed flick. It was very enjoyable, except it was such a break from the usual Bond movie that I found myself missing the usual accouterments.
There was no Q, no Miss Moneypenny, a distinct lack of droll quips, etc. Gadgets were few. Bond drove (and wrecked) a gorgeous Aston Martin DBS. But I expect Bond's cars to have rockets and flame throwers; this one had none. Oddly, it did have an onboard defibrillator.
There were lots of other Ford products in the film - in parking lots, on streets, etc. Bond drove a rental Ford Mondeo in Bahamas; this is a car you can't buy in the U.S. Too bad - it is a cool-looking car with taut, crisp lines. Why can't the Ford 500 look like this?
The bad guys drove dark-colored Jaguar XJ sedans - not a good placement for this Ford product. Ford should have put the evildoers in Chrysler 300s or black Citroëns or something. Bond also wrecks a Range Rover, slamming it backward at speed into a row of parked cars, in order to set off their alarms.
Industry rumors claim Ford paid $25 million for product placement. If true, this is an astounding waste of money from a company that can ill-afford such expenditures. What did they sell as a result of the film? A couple of Astons? From what I'm told, the new Mondeo is already selling well. The film's Range Rover owner is a dolt and the Jaguar drivers are villains so I doubt that those marques experienced any sales boost from this flick.
I never really got why the intro was black and white, but the film featured Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre - Bond's protagonist, who weeps tears of blood and is a properly sinister villain.
Then there's Bond himself, played by Daniel Craig - the new guy. I think of James Bond as polished and sophisticated - Pierce Brosnan and Sean Connery come to mind. Craig's Bond is intense and rough-hewn Bond with a beater face and ice-blue eyes. And what's with his hair? It looks like it was combed (badly) with a towel. That mildly spiky, unkempt look favored, at one time or another, by Sting, Elvis Costello (when he had a decent amount of hair, that is) and pre-Sir Richard Branson.
This latest Bond dresses sloppily, too - at first. As the film progresses, his sartorial tastes improve. The movie ends with Daniel Craig wearing a decently fitted dark-blue three-piece suit whilst toting a machine gun. His hair's still a mess, though. I always assumed that MI-6 taught proper attire and grooming at Secret Agent School, not afterwards like some kind of post-grad correspondence course.
All misgivings aside, I can't wait for the next Bond flick.
I'm Still Laughing At This: It's a photo from the Muslim Mardi Gras: "Show us your wrists!"
Bad Pun Of The Day: A man's home is his castle, in a Manor of speaking.
Wednesday April 11, 2007
The Hardest Part .... of car washing is getting the windows clean. Particularly the #$%@! inside windows. That's my opinion, anyway.
James Lileks commented on the frustration of trying to clean windows of all kinds: "You clean the window, and it looks great, and then the sun hits it just right and it looks like you washed the window with used bathwater and wiped it off with moist drier lint. If the cleaning fluid label says "Streak Free," I now believe this means "Streaks provided free of charge.""
Bread Good; Fire Bad: I don't watch The View, but I've read the press reports about fat Rosie O'Fatenstein's remarks that 9-11 is a big gummint conspiracy and the buildings didn't collapse because of fire because "fire never melts steel." Hmmmm. How does Rosie think steel is made molten? Some kind of Frankenscience? Or magic? She thinks that fire is bad but, looking at her size, it's obvious that Rosie thinks bread is good.
The View should do some factory tours like the ones Mr. Rogers used to take. The first one should be a steel mill. A large one - the walk would do Rosie good.
So What? "Bill Cosby drinks a triple tall nonfat extra hot no foam latte. He can't be bothered to come get it himself, he sends the event coordinator for our local venue who calls ahead of time to make sure it takes no longer than necessary. He instructs her not to tip."
Since when did we start tipping order-takers at counters? Am I now supposed to tip the NAPA guy when I buy taillight bulbs? How about the helpful folks at Radio Shack? Or at the paint store?
People at McDonalds don't expect a tip - they stand behind a counter and you wait in a line. Just like you do at Starbucks. This is not my idea of 'service'.
I've never tipped soda jerks for a soda-to-go. So, why should I tip the jerks at Starbucks? (Particularly some self-styled 'barista' with a soul patch and an attitude.) As regular readers know, I try not to patronize Starbucks. They're on The List - for numerous offences.
Legal Burden: America's tort system imposes a total cost on the U.S. economy of $865 billion per year. Tort costs include damage awards, plaintiff attorneys' fees, defense costs, administrative costs and deadweight costs from torts such as product liability cases, medical malpractice litigation and class action lawsuits.
This constitutes an annual "tort tax" of $9,827 on a family of four. It is equivalent to the total annual output of all six New England states, or the yearly sales of the entire U.S. restaurant industry.
Headline Of The Week: 'Deaf, Black Lesbian Accused Of Chainsaw Murder'. I guess Imus won't have anything to say about this.
Speaking of Imus ... I would like to clarify the expression "nappy-headed ho's". Lest any African-American readers think that all white people are walking around endlessly mouthing this phrase, let me set the record straight. I have never used the term 'nappy-headed' in a sentence, question, command or curse. Never.
Even though I grew up in the Allegedly Ultra-Racist 1950s, I never even heard the expression until 1976, when I listened to 'I Wish' by Stevie Wonder in the 'Songs In The Key Of Life' record album. I wouldn't have recognized the lyrics except that the album came with a booklet with all song verses conveniently printed. I guess it was included so that we could all Sing Along With The Happy Bouncing Blind Negro. Yes, I know that the term 'Negro' has fallen into disfavor but my use of it is a historical nod to the 1970s when PC meant 'Polyester Clad'.
Prior to 1976, the term 'nappy' was, in my mind, Episcopalian for 'diaper'. 'Ho' is a term I only hear on MTV, BET and WB. (I generally don't watch those networks but I see clips from them on 'Talk Soup'.) None of my friends use the H-word, except in gardening conversations.
For the record, I stopped listening to Imus about three years ago. He's a boring, whining old geezer. He used to make me laugh a lot in the 1970s but so did Freddie Prinze. And, if you dug him up, Freddie would probably look healthier today than Imus does. Nevertheless, if the I-man gets canned over this "racial" incident, the irony will be that the biggest proponent of terminating his employment will have been Al Sharpton, a well-known racist.
Returning to the subject of gardening, for the benefit of those under 40, I must point out that the phrase is not "tough road to ho". It is "tough row to hoe", referring to a row of crops to be planted which must first be turned/plowed/prepared with a hoe. FYI: This activity was something 1950s white suburbanites did in their backyard gardens. And 1850s black slaves did on Southern plantations.
This concludes today's Public Service Announcement and History Lesson.
Global Warming Update: "April is currently tracking as the coldest April in 113 years - a dramatic change from last years #1 warmest ever. Even after some late month moderation, April 2007 will likely keep the month in the top 7 coldest in history. The Southwest is the one exception, but even here temperatures will cool dramatically late in the week. And, the snow is not over! Short range computer models hint at the possibility of a stronger snow storm from Colorado to Wisconsin late in the week into the weekend."
Tramp Nation (Kinda Rhymes With Damnation): Florida is "considering a proposal that would make it a hate crime to assault a homeless person in Florida. If the measure is approved, Florida would become the first state in the country to include the homeless among the groups protected under the state's existing hate-crime law."
Ummmmm, how do you tell if someone's homeless? By the smell?
A 2006 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless (if you're homeless, how can you afford the #$%@! membership dues?) found 142 attacks last year against homeless people, up from 86 the year before.
142 people? More than 142 people fall off toilets every day. Maybe we should ... (more >>>)
Warp Speed: The remains of actor James Doohan, who played the starship Enterprise's chief engineer Scotty on 'Star Trek', will be blasted into space on April 28.
Today's Inspirational Thought: When all you have is a hammer, every problem can be solved by beating somebody with a hammer.
Monday April 9, 2007
Carping And Whining: General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has said that a Bush administration proposal to sharply increase fuel economy mandates could "add between $5,000 and $6,000 to the price of a new car."
President Bush wants to raise corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) mandates for passenger cars beginning in September 2009 and for light trucks in 2011 by an average annual increase of 4%.
To meet those mandates, it could require hybridizing nearly every vehicle and a number of other expensive steps, Lutz told The Detroit News at the New York Auto Show. "This technology does not come for free," he said, calling Bush's proposal an "unaffordable solution."
$5,000 to $6,000 per car? What a load of crap. The Chevrolet Cobalt is basically the same size as a Honda Civic but the Civic gets EPA mileage numbers which are 25% better (!) than the Cobalt's. The Cobalt has a four-speed automatic; the Honda has five speeds. The Civic is also lighter than the Cobalt.
While I chose Honda for my comparison, the same would hold for true if Nissan or Toyota were used. Even the now-ancient Ford Focus gets better gas mileage than the small Chevy.
I also recall a MotorWeek test of minicars where the Korean-made Chevrolet Aveo was rated poorly overall and got mediocre mileage compared with its peers. In fact, when equipped with an auto tranny, the tiny Aveo is more thirsty than the larger Civic, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sentra.
GM can attain much better CAFE numbers simply by making class-competitive vehicles and equipping them with up-to-date transmissions. Lutz the engineer knows this and is being disingenuous by stating otherwise.
The nice thing about CAFE is that it's a great equalizer - every auto company has to meet the same standards. Every time CAFE is raised, Detroit execs carp, bitch and whine. Meanwhile Honda and Toyota quietly develop innovative solutions to meet changing regulations.
Detroit sang the same tiresome songs in the 1970s about pollution controls. Lee Iacocca and Hank-the-Deuce used to perform sad, self-pitying duets at every press conference they held. Meanwhile, Honda hummed quietly to itself as it developed the efficient, low-emission and innovative CVCC engine which was so clean, it didn't require a catalytic converter.
In 2007, GM has (again) staked its future on cheap gas, squandering precious development money on redesigning its big pickups and SUVs. It has lost this bad bet and is now stuck with a product mix weighted to the fuel-sucking side. And, amazingly, GM introduced a new, ready-for-sale V-8 engined Buick at the New York Auto Show (and a more powerful Hummer model) while cynically displaying three tiny, fuel-sipping 'concept cars' which are far from production-ready and will probably never be made. Shades of the Chevy Volt at the Detroit Show, no?
Meanwhile, gas is now over $3.00/gallon around here (my wife paid $3.099 for Regular last week at Chevron) and too much of the U.S. fuel supply is still coming from the Middle East. CAFE is only part of the solution but it is an effective mandate which will help lessen our ever-increasing appetite for oil from terrorist-supporting nations.
Don't worry about high-priced gas, though. Ol' Maximum Bob is taking all this into consideration - spending GM development money to make a V-12 Cadillac engine instead of that V-16 he was contemplating (which environmentalists estimated got about 21 miles to the polar bear).
I think Bob Lutz has jumped the shark. I always thought he was overrated. His business book, 'Guts', was one of the worst I have ever read. (And I've read hundreds of business books.) Lutz's was so abominable, I couldn't even finish it.
Last week, Lutz also opined that Buick and Pontiac are no longer "damaged" brands. What the hell is this guy smokin'? Ummmm, probably the same weed as when he wrote that book.
Memories ... And Investment Advice ... from Roy Weitz at Fund Alarm: "The S&P 500 index celebrated its 50th birthday last month and, as is customary for 50th birthday parties, there was a lot of reminiscing: "Hey, remember when the S&P had its worst one-day loss?" (October 19, 1987, down 20.5%) "Hey, remember when the S&P had its biggest one-day gain?" (That would be two days later, October 21, 1987, up 9.1%)"
"Along with the memories came a couple of interesting observations and anecdotes. For example, when Wells Fargo Bank was creating the first major S&P 500 index fund, back in the 1970s, the Bank's investment committee reportedly balked at buying 19 of the 500 S&P stocks, because those companies appeared to be in serious financial trouble. The first S&P 500 index was actually created with 481 stocks - and the excluded 19 stocks, as a group, went on to consistently and decisively outperform the S&P 481! The moral of this story: It's really, really tough to outguess the market, even if you think you couldn't possibly be wrong.*"
"Here's another interesting tidbit: All of the companies in the S&P 500 are based in the U.S., but about 45% of their revenue comes from outside the U.S., and that percentage is climbing rapidly. If you own an S&P 500 index fund, you might want to keep this statistic in mind when fine-tuning your allocation to foreign-stock funds."
* 'Hidden lessons in the S&P 500's 50th birthday,' Mark Hulbert, marketwatch.com, March 3, 2007
Four Reasons Why ... I don't 'get' the whole gay thing:
1. Responding to complaints from gay groups, Disney has changed its policy to allow same-sex couples to participate in a popular Fairy Tale Wedding program. But if you refer to gays as 'Fairies', they get very pissed.
2. "We are updating our Fairy Tale Wedding guidelines to include commitment ceremonies," Disney Parks and Resorts spokesman Donn Walker said. Gays also get very pissed if you imply that gayness is a mental disorder, yet they have "commitment ceremonies", which sounds like a series of welcome parties at some mental institution. (Of course, one could make the argument that anyone - gay or straight - who pays $8,000+ for a brief ride in a glass coach with a mouse is nuts.)
3. Gays are supposed to be exceptionally creative as a group yet they can't come up with better and more clever names than "commitment ceremony" or "marriage".
4. The vast majority of gays are liberal Democrats yet its the Republicans that are known as the 'Grand Old Party', which sounds like something fabulous that Truman Capote might have hosted.
Why The British Have Bad Teeth: A London dentist has been found guilty of urinating in his surgery sink and "using dental tools meant for patients to clean his fingernails and ears."
Quote Of The Day is from Justin Berkowitz of TTAC: "The Jaguar CX-F is a drop-dead gorgeous concept car for a Ford subsidiary on the brink of dropping dead."
Friday April 6, 2007
Buick Portholes ... were introduced in 1949. At that time, only the Roadmaster models had four portholes; all lesser Buicks carried three on each fender. By 1955, every Buick model, except the low-buck Special, had four portholes per side. I don't know why they changed it.
You would think that the über-expensive, limited-production Skylark of 1953-54 would have five or even six portholes per fender. Instead, they had none. Go figure.
I often complain about how cavalier car companies are about traditions and how they change designations, logos and symbols at the drop of a hat these days. Looks like they were doing exactly that back in the 1950s as well.
Incidentally, J.C. Whitney used to offer a strobe light set for those Buick portholes. Each light was connected to each spark plug wire at the distributor and, at lower rpms, the lights winked on and off sequentially as the spark plugs fired.
Official Ford Death-Watchmobile: The Ford Flex has been unveiled. Painted black, it will make a nice hearse. Peter D. of AutoExtremist thinks "it has 'hit' written all over it."
Hmmmm. Maybe 'mob hit'.
Spring Is Officially Here: It was sunny and warm on Thursday, so I de-mothballed the Plymouth and took it for a nice ride - the first one of 2007. Most enjoyable. By afternoon, the temperature almost reached 80 degrees.
Koreans Show The Way: Hyundai is telling its 50 worst performing dealers to Get Better or Get Out. Automotive News reported that Hyundai's COO Steve Wilhite sent a "strongly worded" letter to 50 'chronic underachievers.' Poor sales and customer service is at the heart of Wilhite's threats: "We're giving them six months to correct the mistakes. If they can, we're thrilled to have them. If they can't, we want them to turn in their franchises."
Damn. Ford, GM and Chrysler (and Nissan) should have done this years ago. And I can think of a few Honda and Toyota dealers who should get the boot as well.
When I worked for a large corporation in the 1970s, we had a product line which was sold through industrial distributors. I recommended pulling the distributorships from our five worst ones. It would have eliminated five big problems and sent a message to several other distributors. Management was horrified at the idea, refused to carry it out and later paid the price.
In the 1980s, I had my own business and was selling through a network of distributors. Periodically, I reviewed distributor performance and axed the ones that didn't meet standards. My 'good' distributors applauded such actions.
Exclusive: You'll find special New York Auto Show coverage and pix here.
Seriously Disturbed: That would be a low-life by the name of Eliot Stein. As for me, I'm outraged by his actions. You see, just before Cathy Seipp's death last month, "cybersquatter Stein posted a fake column where 'Cathy Seipp' suddenly repudiated all of her life's work. In what came off as more bizarre rant than heartfelt apology, her supposed "very last blog entry" called her years of journalism a "shoddy," "despicable" and "irresponsible" career as a "fourth-rate hack."" Her political stance? "All a mistake."
It turns out that Stein taught Cathy's daughter Maia in a high-school journalism class for a brief period in 2004 and blamed Maia and her mom for his "departure from the school after only five weeks. On his last day, Stein came to school dressed in a tuxedo and, class by class, told all of his students that his leaving was the fault of one particular 10th-grade girl. By all accounts, Maia became an outcast at school."
When a teacher is asked to leave after only five weeks, you can suspect there's a lot more to the story - and, whatever the back story is, you can bet it's not favorable to this creep. Anyone who would take revenge on a 10th grader by going from class to class to denounce her has no business working with kids. Or being anywhere near kids.
As one Daily Gut poster wrote, "Any man who would pick on or bully a woman with terminal cancer is a pussy."
The same goes for those various mean-spirited internet trolls who mock Tony Snow's battle with cancer. Or that of Elizabeth Edwards. Even though I'm a big fan of Snow and not so of Edwards, I wish both of them long and healthy lives.
Sharpest Knife Of The Week Award goes to John Podhoretz for this: "Being called a hack by Jonathan Chait is like being called ugly by the Elephant Man."
A Pointed Idea: Artist Nadine Jarvis can fabricate pencils from carbon left over by incinerating human remains. She says that "240 pencils can be made from an average body of ash - a lifetime supply of pencils for those left behind."
Speaking of behind, I'll become more interested in this product when Nadine can add erasers made from the deceased's ass fat.
Question Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Why do we drive on the parkway and park on the driveway?"
Wednesday April 4, 2007
Truth Is Stranger Than ... If you enjoyed the April Fool's Chuffley Waite story, you'll probably enjoy the strange-but-true story of the 1950s Docker Daimlers. ... (more>>>)
Well Said: From a succinct commenter at The Truth About Cars: "Toyota has done a brilliant job of designing an excellent transportation unit which attracts a large segment of U.S. buyers by simply doing what it is supposed to do without drama and with high quality finishes."
There is, indeed, much truth in this statement. My wife's Toyota Avalon is now two years old. We have not had a single problem with it - no rattles, squeaks, electrical gremlins or mechanical issues.
The Avalon has great fit-and-finish and is dead-bang reliable. It is also a pleasant car to drive. It is not a driver's car like my Jaguar sedan - the handling is not as crisp and/or sporty and, on long trips, the seats are not as comfortable. The exterior styling is unexceptional, although the interior is very nice. But the Toyota is a fine car nonetheless and we are very satisfied. We average 23-25 mpg in mixed driving and close to 30 mpg on the highway - all on regular gas.
There are a lot of things I really like about my Jaguar. The styling is sleek - much better than the newer models. I like the chrome touches on the exterior. The inside looks very luxurious and the seats are most comfortable. (My main complaints are that it doesn't have the optional traction control or optional heated seats. And safety features like stability control and side airbags which were not available on 1996 models.) But it is now almost 12 years-old and has almost 100,000 miles on it. It's probably worth $5,000 or less.
At some point, I'm going to have to make a decision: Do I keep it and spend $4,000-6,000 on a 'renewal' - replacing a couple of slightly-ratty minor trim pieces, applying a high-end paint job (the paint's not bad but there are a lot of front-end chips and some deep scratches on the body) and have the worn leather on the driver's seat renewed repaired? Or do I replace it with Something Else? Frankly, there's nothing out there that particularly excites me at the moment.
I'm still thinking about it - and procrastinating. And continuing to enjoy driving it.
Detail Oriented: A Frenchman has spent 12 years and 20,000 hours building a 1:3 scale model of a Ferrari 312PB. It has a working 12-cylinder engine; the suspension is exact and the hydraulically controlled brakes from the brake pedal have quick-change brake pads just as on the real car.
Good Guy Award Of The Month ... goes to IBM. "To honor an employee's son who was badly wounded in Iraq, IBM Corp. plans to give the U.S. military $45 million worth of Arabic-English translation technology that the Pentagon had been testing for possible purchase."
According to other IBM executives, Chairman and CEO Samuel Palmisano had heard from several IBM employees who have returned from active duty in Iraq that a shortage of Arabic translators has severely hampered U.S. forces' efforts to communicate. Palmisano called and wrote Bush, offering to make IBM's Multilingual Automatic Speech Translator software, known as MASTOR, "immediately available for use by our forces in Iraq." Palmisano offered 10,000 copies of the MASTOR software and 1,000 devices equipped with it, plus training and technical support.
"Hopefully this will be helpful to our efforts," he wrote.
The offer is so unusual that Defense Department and IBM lawyers have been scouring federal laws to make sure the government can accept the donation.
It's nice to know than an American-based international company still remembers the 'American' part.
Go Big Blue.
Tales From The Avenue: My wife found a very interesting booklet among her possessions. It was a giveaway from Third Federal Savings and Loan of Philadelphia (located - at the time - on Frankford Avenue under the El) where she kept her savings account. The 16-page book, from 1961, is titled 'Main Street - Frankford, A History'. It's all about Frankford Avenue, which was once called the Kings Road or Kings Highway and, later, Main Street. When I was growing up, locals referred to it as The Avenue.
The road originally followed an old Indian trail ... (more >>>)
It's Not One World, Is It? Two Arabs involved in the sale of a Hebron building to the Jewish community have been placed under arrest, one by the Palestinian Authority, the other by Jordan. The arrested Arabs now face capital punishment, as Palestinian Authority law dictates the death sentence for anyone found guilty of selling property to a Jew.
The Beit HaShalom, Peace House, located amongst Arab buildings between the Jewish enclave in Hebron and the neighboring large Jewish neighborhood of Kiryat Arba, was purchased two weeks ago for the sum of $700,000.
Homeland Security? Ben Stein asks the question no one else seems to be asking. "On September 11, 2001, about 3,000 fine human beings were killed in New York City, Virginia, and Pennsylvania by Moslem fanatics. So far, there have been no other large-scale attacks by Moslem terrorists on American soil."
"However, in the five and a half years since September 11, 2001, there have been roughly 40,000 killings by gangs and gang members in this United States of America, mostly in the African-American and Hispanic sections of large cities. Huge swaths of major American cities ... are "no-go" zones for law-abiding people from outside the neighborhoods and even police go into them reluctantly."
"It's just not true that there has been no terrorism in America since 9/11. There is terrorism every day and every hour. It's just not coming from Moslems from countries that hate us so it doesn't get counted. It's coming from our own young people of color and it is simply ignored."
"Why don't the leaders of this country ever address this problem? ... This is a disaster that is happening right now, right in front of our eyes ... if we ever dared open them."
Optimism Defined: 102 year old man takes out a 25 year mortgage.
Quote Of The Day is from Conan O'Brien on Spain: "Five hundred years ago, you were a global superpower and now you're not. Hmmm, that's strange. Oh well, time for another four-hour nap!"
Tuesday April 3, 2007
Zhongguo Buicks: I've just had a chat with an acquaintance who recently returned from China. The Chinese government underwrote part of his trip to give business people from America the chance to see China's potential. His impressions: the cities are unbelievably smoggy, there is much construction in all the cities he visited and they are filled with look-alike high rises. He also said that the streets are full of Buicks: "I saw more Buicks on my China trip than I've seen in the U.S. lately."
Buick is a popular brand in China; GM has a 13% market share in that country. Shanghai General Motors Co., Ltd. (Shanghai GM) is a 50-50 joint venture with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. Group (SAIC), a leading passenger car manufacturer in China. It builds and sells a comprehensive range of products, which include the Buick Royaum premium sedan, Buick LaCrosse premium sedan, Buick Regal upper-medium sedan, Buick Excelle lower-medium sedan, hatchback and station wagon, Buick GL8 and FirstLand executive wagons, Chevrolet Epica intermediate sedan, Chevrolet Lova small car, Chevrolet Aveo hatchback and the Chevrolet Sail small car.
"Well, Isn't That Special." Robert Farago at TTAC bemoans those Ford 'special edition' vehicles such as the "Chip Foose Edition F-150 (450-horsepower 5.8-liter V-8 and Overhaulin' stylin'), the Shelby GT-500KR (yet more horses for an overpowered death car) and the Funkmaster Expedition." Farago also considers the upcoming Ford Flex (neither-wagon-nor-SUV be it, we're told - something in between - I can hardly wait) and asks, "Why not the Funkmaster Flex Flex?" Indeed.
All too many overhyped special edition vehicles (from Ford and others) are pretty much paint-and-decal jobs. They may add a few sales numbers but do little to enhance the brand.
I think Ford gets their marketing cues from The Simpsons. Anyone remember "Malibu Stacy - Now With New Hat!"?
Maybe that's why the Ford Family is in full panic mode: "Worried heirs have been talking with investment banks about their options," Fortune magazine has reported.
Toot-Toot: On Saturday, we took a last close-up look at the steam locomotive in Battle Ground, WA. It was sitting on flat cars ready to be moved. It will depart this week and will pass within sight of our house as it heads south over the Salmon Creek trestle.
The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway #539, a 2-8-2 Mikado, was decommissioned and moved to Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver in 1957, where it remained for 40 years. Until it was moved to Battle Ground. I had videoed this loco being towed over the Salmon Creek trestle (by a yard diesel) near our house in 1997. I simply placed my camera on a tripod on our back deck, recording its passage.
The SP&S Railway was owned jointly by the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern and was never permitted to build steam locomotives of its own design. Instead, it received most of its motive power used, as hand-me-downs from its parents. The SP&S once operated 26 'Mikados' - all used. Eleven came from the NP and the others arrived from the GN.
There is only one surviving NP 'Mikado' locomotive - 'ol 539. This locomotive was, until recently, displayed at Battle Ground's Fairgrounds Park. It is now going to Arizona where it will be part of the Grand Canyon Railway.
I Bet Her Mom (Or Some Self-Esteem Coach) Once Said ... "Don't be timid, sweetie. Why, you can do anything!"
Work-Related Injury: Porn star Jenna Jameson allegedly has had plastic surgery on her coochie. A source says, "She underwent a vaginoplasty at a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, and she is very unhappy" - adding (in an unfortunate choice of words) that "she has decided to hole up and not speak to anybody."
My friend Steve said, "I guess they 'muffed' the operation."
Jim Treacher is sympathetic: "A high-traffic area like that is gonna take a lot of wear and tear, and every once in a while you need to renovate. And you want it done right. If this movie doesn't pan out, maybe she could pitch a show to PBS: This Old Trench!"
Meanwhile, in a somewhat related story ...
Prostitute Lectures On Chastity: John Travolta urges his fans to "do their bit" to tackle global warming. This utterance is from a man who owns five private jets (a Boeing 707, three Gulfstreams and a Lear) along with his own private runway.
Quote Of The Day is from Homer Simpson: "The problem in the world today is communication. Too much communication."
Sunday April 1, 2007
Chuffley-Waite: I first wrote this story as a totally-fictitious contribution to a local car club's April newsletter in 1989. It begins thusly:
Since its founding in 1903, the Chuffley-Waite Motorcar Company, Ltd. of Bumpford-on-Thames, England had been known for the very powerful motorcars which it produced. The sheer might of these cars was symbolised in the radiator ornament used - a nickel-plated locomotive.
For many decades, these automobiles were purchased by men of power who could be seen roaring up and down the motorways forcing lesser cars off to the roadside, much like medieval times, when indentured serfs would throw themselves off the footpath, anxiously tugging their forelocks as royalty approached and passed ... (more >>>)