Tuesday October 30, 2007
Does 'M-B' Stand For Miserably-Built? Reviewing the new C-Class, Dan Neil wrote, "On average, the angriest e-mails I get are from former Mercedes-Benz owners on the occasion of my saying something nice about the company's products. I imagine an irate reader pounding away at his keyboard in the wee hours of the morning, with a shiny Lexus in the driveway and a Stuttgart-made knife still quivering in his back."
Mercedes claims that its quality is improving. Dan noted, "In the last decade, it's been kind of a slum. Last year, Mercedes and Consumer Reports went all pistols-at-dawn when the magazine listed many MB models as least reliable in their respective categories. And the company has fared no better with J.D. Power's pivotal dependability ratings. All of this, I'm sure, has occasioned a calm and orderly procession of engineers and executives off the rooftops at Untertürkheim."
The problem is that every car company accused of making shoddy vehicles issues press releases stating that "its quality is improving." No one ever says, "Yup, we're still making crap cars." So carmaker's PR statements about improved quality have zero credibility.
Especially since the firms making high-quality cars never issue press releases about "improved quality."
Pity The Volvo Dealer: Jeremy Clarkson claims that, if you own a Volvo dealership, "You bathe in the milk from a honey badger. You pour Cristal on your cornflakes and ... have golf clubs made from an alloy of titanium, magnesium and mink. But you have to go to work every day in a ho-hum slab of Swedish ironmongery that has the pizzazz of a dead dog. Oh sure, you've got the top of the range S80 with seats made from the bosom of a fin whale and an electric drinks dispenser. But it's still a Volvo. And you are still being laughed at by Nozzer and Ozzer at the 19th hole every Saturday afternoon."
Yeah, but it's less embarrassing than owning a Kia dealership.
Who Knew? Rod Stewart is a model railway enthusiast. He has "a spectacular model railway set. Laid out at his mansion in Beverley Hills, it is a perfect HO scale model of New York's Grand Central Station in the 1940s. It comprises 100 ft. of track, scores of period locomotives and passenger coaches with a backdrop of skyscrapers, streets, railroad buildings and hundreds of tiny passengers." The layout is featured in the current issue of Model Railroader, the world’s biggest HO enthusiast magazine.
Recreating Grand Central Station ain't easy. "The largest train station in the world, it has 44 platforms, 67 tracks, a cavernous concourse with clock faces made from opal and a clock on the front of the station that is the largest example of Tiffany glass in the world."
Eric Clapton and Phil Collins are fellow model railroad enthusiasts. Neil Young is part-owner of Lionel, LLC. Frank Sinatra used to have an elaborate O-gauge set up. The late talk show host Tom Snyder had a very nice Standard Gauge tinplate layout.
Thank God The Truth Has Finally Come Out: Maxim has named Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker as the No. 1 Unsexiest Woman Alive. The magazine said Parker was the ''least sexy woman in a group of very unsexy women'' that ironically starred in a show with the word "sex" in the title."
Summary: no ass (no one would ever nickname her 'sweet cheeks'), eyes too close together, horse face, nose like a sundial, lanky, emaciated-cowboy legs. Looking at her typically meretricious attire, I'm betting she's high maintenance, too.
How does one succinctly describe her degree of unappeal? I dunno ... what's the opposite of a boner?
World's Thinnest Book: Britney Spear's mother is writing a parenting book. Less pages I bet than 'Great Irish Temperance Figures'. Or 'Courtney Love's Guide To The Social Graces'.
Headline Of The Week is from Unconfirmed Sources: 'Larry Craig to Play Dumbledore in Final Two Harry Potter Movies'.
Thought For Today: Inside every older person is a younger person wondering, "What the hell happened?"
Friday October 26, 2007
Sun Run: Yesterday, I fired up the Plymouth and took a nice country ride on a chilly but sunny afternoon.
The leaves were a little past peak and many were down after the recent rain and wind, but the yellows, fiery reds, maroons, browns, tans were still to be seen against bright blue skies and small white puffy clouds.
I gotta get these drives in before the weather turns. (Added: Took a ride on Saturday, too.)
Advice For Car Clubs: The purpose of any car club is to have fun, inspire member camaraderie and exchange technical information. Recently, I received a club magazine which contained three blatant examples of what not to do:
• In the 'Message From The President', the Fearless Leader spun a tale about some folks who wanted to form a new region within the car club. He turned them down and now they're pissed. And he's indignant. Every club has occasional spats and some dirty laundry; airing them in the club magazine is just plain stupid. Wise up, FL.
• Ironically, the same issue of the publication contained a letter from someone who seceded from the club a decade or so ago. He hijacked his entire region and did so very publicly for the purpose of embarrassing the organization. Many region members did not want to secede; they quickly rejoined the club and formed a new region, dumping the automotive Jefferson Davis and his (few) buddies. So, who let this troublemaker back in the club, I wonder? And why?
• Reporting on the club's national meet, the editor devoted precious space to whining and complaining about a specific airline which lost his luggage ... ten years ago. Note to editor: No one cares. Stick to writing about car stuff. And publishing car photos. That's what people are interested in.
No wonder this club's membership is dropping.
Social/fraternal groups need to remember that members/readers/supporters are customers. Such organizations need to present a positive, customer-oriented face. Navel-gazing, whining and public bickering do groups no good. (permalink)
A Bunch Of Uglists: Greg Gutfeld is dismayed by the universal discrimination against the ugly. He writes that "to march in protest against ugly discrimination is akin to admitting you're ugly. Every great movement had a leader - Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, Martin Luther King. But who will represent the ugly people? Where, I ask, is Ernest Borgnine when you need him?"
Geezer Joke: A little old man shuffled slowly into an ice cream parlor and pulled himself slowly, painfully, up onto a stool. After catching his breath, he ordered a banana split.
The waitress asked kindly, "Crushed nuts?"
"No," he replied, "Arthritis."
Quote Of The Day is from Dan Sparacino: "Those who live by the sword get shot by those who don't." (hat tip - Tom McMahon)
Wednesday October 24, 2007
Guessing Game: Which one will die first? Mercury or Fidel Castro?
How's This For Acceleration? The Space Shuttle Discovery did 0-10,000 mph in less than 6 minutes yesterday!
Dog Story: Last Saturday night, we had penne pasta and meatballs along with a nice bottle of Dunham Cellars 2005 Three Legged Red (a blend of Cab, Merlot, and Syrah). We bought this wine at the Walla Walla winery during our recent visit. On the label is a photo of Port, the three legged dog.
Here is Port's story, as related by winemaker Eric Dunham: "It was a sunny day in the summer of '94 when I met Port. Outside I heard the distinct sound of a dog in distress. It took only moments to realize what was happening across the field from my house - a very small animal had fallen into harm's way and was being attacked by a Pit Bull. I ran to the scene, broke up the fight and found that the small animal was a puppy that was very badly injured. Instinctively, I wrapped him up and took him to the veterinarian. I agreed to pay for the emergency surgery and recovery."
"The puppy had lost a leg but found a home. With only three legs - and two on the port side - I named him Port and he is my best friend."
On the day of our visit to the winery, Port was relaxing on the grass, sunning himself.
Get Plastered; Get Healthy: A recent report from researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia points to a discovery made that shows that red wine, beyond the numerous current known health benefits, probably can work to protect humans from a number of common food-borne diseases. The researchers have found that, "red wines - Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot in particular - have anti-microbial properties that defend against food-borne pathogens and don't harm naturally useful bacteria like probiotic bacteria."
This Answers All Your Questions: David Copperfield is responsible for making Ellen's dogs disappear.
From The Land Of Transformers: A Japanese designer posits that a woman could elude muggers or rapists by running around the corner and quickly disguising herself as a vending machine, using a special reversible skirt with a large printed panel. The photo of the "Coke machine" with white shoes is pretty hilarious.
When The Gummint's In Charge Of Health Care: In Canada, it takes an average of 18.3 weeks from the time a patient is referred to a specialist until the completion of the procedure, according to a report from The Fraser Institute.
Don't Make Me Take Off My Belt: Greg Gutfeld discusses childrearing: "Research shows that criminals have the highest level of self-esteem - defined as entitlement without achievement. Sound familiar? That's a kid. They want ice cream and ponies - without having to work for either. Is it no surprise that when you stop saying no to kids, what you're left with is Charles Manson in OshKosh B'Gosh."
Definition Of The Day is for 'Secret': Something you tell to one person at a time.
Monday October 22, 2007
BlogDrive: Last week, I received an invitation from Chevrolet to do a ride and drive of its new Malibu sedan in Malibu, CA. It was a one-day event with presentations followed by a chance to drive the car. Chevrolet offered to cover airfare, lodging, meals and transfers. This generous offer was extended to at least 50 fellow car bloggers.
While it was a nice gesture, I will be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict. Nevertheless ... this is, I believe, a recognition that bloggers do have a following of sorts and, therefore, contribute to the general buzz about a new model, positively or negatively. It also indicates that Chevrolet believes that its new Malibu is good enough to stand up to a blogger's scrutiny.
I wish I could have attended. It would have given me a chance to apply my Road Test Lingo skills. I have asked Chevy to provide me with a new Malibu to test locally, so I can do a comprehensive road report for this blog. I'll let you know if they accept my offer.
Get A Move On: Jeremy Clarkson advises old people to drive faster, noting "if we delivered your meals on wheels at the speed you drive, you'd end up with botulism."
Crash! On the 20th anniversary of Black Monday (10/19/87, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 22% in a single day), the stock market slid 367 points ... about a 2.7% decline. Don Luskin relates a fascinating story from 20 years ago: "... after the market closed, hedge fund mega-manager George Soros became convinced that the world stood on the brink of a global depression. He felt sure that the downward spiral begun on Monday would continue, and he resolved to get out of stocks as quickly as possible. An hour or so after the market opened on Tuesday morning, he placed an order to sell about $1.6 billion in stock index futures. It was a market order, which means he didn't specify a price - just sell, no matter what."
That would be lefty, anti-American George Soros, primary underwriter of MoveOn.org. Unlike George, I believed in America then and still do. After the market closed on Black Monday 1987, I called my broker and placed order for 100 shares of IBM for Tuesday's market opening. Made decent money on it, too; the stock has increased more than sixfold in value since then.
Delitude: That is my word for the 'attitude' you get at certain supermarket delis. "Sliced very thin" means different things to different people. Therefore, it would make sense for a deli clerk to show an approval sample before merrily slicing away creating pounds of unwanted product. "But noooooo ..." in the immortal words of the late John Belushi. We all know that slicing to weight is an inexact process but, when a customer requests a half-pound of white cheese, trying to foist .93 pounds of curd on him/her represents a ridiculously high overage of 86%. And giving 'the look', a deep sigh and remarking "whatever" does not resolve the problem. Or satisfy the customer.
Chinese Cappuccino: James Lileks bought a new coffee maker and prepared it for use: "Cleaned out the lead no doubt sprayed over every surface by the Chinese Lethal Goods Promotion Council ("Misunderstanding the American Idiom 'Get The Lead Out' for over 30 years!")"
Headline Of The Week is from Unconfirmed Sources: 'Senator Craig Creates International Washroom Incident with Dalai Lama'.
Quote Of The Century is from Jim Treacher, reacting to the story about Hillary Clinton, mysteriously getting over $380,000 in campaign donations from impoverished Chinese waiters and dishwashers in New York (each one contributing $1,000-2,000!): "I don't see what the big deal is. Of course they support her; she's the only candidate who's married to a prominent wang."
Friday October 19, 2007
First Class: As regular readers know, I am car shopping, paring the list of candidates to replace my 12 year-old Jaguar Vanden Plas sedan.
When I say, "I'm replacing the Jaguar with a _____", I don't want people to snicker. Yes, I know that's vain and shallow but I don't care. I want to drive a flagship brand, not some also-ran.
With that in mind, I started thinking about what products are 'first class' versus also-rans and wannabes. I'm not talking 'private jet' here: Bentley, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Maybach, Rolls, etc. cost waaay too much money. My conscience, sense of value and wife would prevent me from writing such a large check.
For me, automotive first class would include brands such as Mercedes, BMW, Porsche and Lexus. Jaguar too, I suppose, although I'm not going to buy another one. The present offerings - including the forthcoming XF - don't excite me and I had a falling out with the only dealership (Monte Shelton, Portland, OR) within 150 miles.
Fifty years ago, Cadillac and Lincoln were ... (more >>>)
I Understand Completely: Fed up with lousy service, 75 year-old Mona Shaw grabbed a claw hammer and headed to the local Comcast office. She walked past a line of people waiting for service and started hammering on phones, asking, "Have I got your attention now!?"
She completely destroyed a computer and phone before cops arrived.
Sounds Filthy But Isn't: When John Derbyshire wrote about steeping his conkers "in rubbing alcohol - much more efficacious than the traditional vinegar", it sent me running to the dictionary. Conkers turns out to be a traditional, if obscure English game.
Thought For Today: Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
Wednesday October 17, 2007
Last Ride: Bud Elkins, the famous stuntman who drove Steve McQueen's Mustang in 'Bullitt' and also laid a motorcycle down on the blacktop during the unforgettable chase sequence has died at age 77.
Ekins also worked on other super-stunt films such as 'The Blues Brothers', including the famous car chase inside the shopping mall, and 'Diamonds are Forever', where he put that red Mustang up on two wheels and drove through a narrow alley. He also did some of the car stunts in 'Animal House'.
Elkins was best known for the over-the-fence motorbike jump in 'The Great Escape', possibly the most famous motorcycle stunt ever performed in a movie. Requiescat In Pace.
Damaged Goods: Toyota's solid reputation for reliability is getting dented. In Consumer Reports' 2007 Annual Car Reliability Survey, the Toyota Camry V6, Tundra V8 4WD and Lexus GS AWD were all bumped from the magazine's vaunted 'Recommended' list for receiving below average ratings.
Despite these problems, Toyota (including Lexus and Scion) still ranks third in reliability among all automakers, behind Honda and Subaru. CR's 2007 survey also shows that the odds of getting a reliable new vehicle from Ford are the best in years. Forty-one of 44 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models in the survey scored average or better in predicted reliability. The Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan are among the most reliable cars.
U.S. brands account for almost half the models (20 of 44) on Consumer's list of Least Reliable models. Thirteen are from General Motors, 6 from Chrysler, and 1 from Ford. European makes account for 17 models, including six each from Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen/Audi. Not all models carrying Asian nameplates are reliable, either. The Hyundai Entourage, Infiniti QX56, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Armada (4WD), Quest, and Titan (4WD), and Toyota Tundra (V8, 4WD) are all on the Least Reliable list.
Besides the three Toyota-built models, other notable models with declining reliability include the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and VW Passat (V6). The worst vehicle is the Pontiac Solstice (234% less reliable that average), just "beating" the Cadillac Escalade EXT pickup (220%). Hummer and Land Rover are the least reliable brands.
Box Trade: I've read a lot of arguments in favor of free trade but seeing it in practice often gives me a bad feeling. As I was unpacking the wine purchases from our recent Walla Walla trip, I noticed that two of the corrugated cases came from container firms in California. The third was from Empaques De Carton Titan, S.A. of Monterrey, Mexico. Instead of "Recycle", the box contained an "Encore!" imprint.
Even the box biz has headed south. It made me wonder where the wine bottles came from.
Tax The Rich: Yeah ... well, we already do. Larry Kudlow points out that "while the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earned 21.2 percent of all incomes in 2005, they now pay nearly 40 percent of all taxes."
"In 1980, before the Reagan supply-side tax-cut revolution was launched, the top 1 percent earned 8.5 percent of all income and paid 19.1 percent of all taxes. So while the rich are getting richer, the rich are also paying the lion's share of the taxes."
"As others have pointed out, the top 5 percent of income earners pay 60 percent of the taxes. The top 25 percent pay 86 percent of taxes. And the top 50 percent pay 97 percent of all taxes."
'Call Me Irresponsible': Ten days ago, the weekly Democratic radio address featured the plea of Graeme Frost, a 12 year-old who was injured in an auto accident. He was pimping for the Democratic S-CHIP health care plan - the one vetoed by President Bush. Of millions of families in America, the Democrats picked the Frost family as its poster child.
So, let's look at the "impoverished" Frost Family:
They own a nice new Volvo SUV, a Suburban and a F250 Ford pickup. All four kids go to private school. They also own a nice large home and commercial property worth at least $400,000.
The mom and dad could have bought health insurance for less than $400 per month (according to Michelle Malkin) but chose to "self-insure."
Then there was a tragic, single-vehicle auto accident. The mother was driving, hit black ice, lost control of the vehicle and slammed into a tree. Reports of the accident say that the daughter suffered her injuries from hitting a window and the son hit his head on the tree. Sounds like the kids weren't wearing seat belts.
These 'parents', who didn't have the foresight or sense of responsibility to purchase insurance, gambled and lost and now they want the government (i.e.- us taxpayers) to foot their bills.
And they willingly let their son appear in the media to shill for taxpayer handouts. Have the Frosts no shame?
The well-off grandparents of Graeme are apparently able to help out. Dan Riehl asks why not get grandpa "to cash in on the vintage 1956 T-Bird, '56 being the year he graduated from Princeton? Doesn't he care enough about his grandkids? I mean, that question's fair game, right? After all, you weren't too ashamed to put it to us by allowing your child to be used by a liberal political machine, right?"
Fair question, Dan, although I'm inclined to cut grandpa some slack. Maybe he has helped out and is mortified by his loser son's quest for publicity/money/fame/ego-boost by using his own child as a Democrat stooge.
Dan continues, "That's the car that recently won him third place in an antique car show. He has money to help send the Princeton Band on the road - how about calling Dad next time you need some help instead of trying to reach into the collective pocket of the American taxpayers, you irresponsible, simpering wimp."
A neighbor has written about the Frosts: "They're good people. Terribly misguided, pathetically leftist buffoons, but still good people. It was a terrible accident and (wife) Bonnie is quite beat up with guilt over the events. Lots of neighbors pitched in to cook meals and help out … Bonnie works half time doing freelance editorial work and Halsey, an incredibly disorganized lovable goofball, just can't seem to hold down a proper job or, when he's tried, to run a proper company. He's a millwork carpenter and does great work installing custom interior and exterior trimwork and cabinetry. He should be making great money but can't get out of his (own) way."
The Democrats seem to think that we should take care of the Frosts because they're Good People who made Bad Decisions. I beg to differ. They're bad parents. In an earlier age, they would have been shunned as 'riff-raff' and their children would have been taken from them and placed in an orphanage. (If Ayn Rand had anything to say about it, the parents would probably have been sterilized, too.)
It is not good government to reward bad behavior. Or bad parenting. In the darkest hours of my first business' start-up days, my family always had health insurance. As the family breadwinner, I had a disability policy, too. And, in the one car we had with rear seat belts, my children were taught to buckle-up. That's what parenting is about - being responsible. And teaching responsibility to your offspring. My advice to the Frosts - stop whining and grow up.
If, as the left Demos imply, the gummint should be responsible for everything, then no one else will be responsible and chaos will reign. This is why I - a former JFK Democrat - find today's Democrats so scary.
America is about self-reliance, hard work and taking responsibility. That's what made us a great nation. But freedom comes with a price; it necessitates individual responsibility/accountablity for one's self and family. The Dems need to relearn this simple fact. So do the Frosts. (hat tip - Kathy Shaidle)
This Should Be Fun: Don Imus is coming back to radio. And he's very pissed at Hillary for the nasty things she said about him. Imus is said to be particularly incensed by Senator Clinton's "shameless exploitation" of the Rutgers situation.
The senator, whom Imus has called "satan" and the "devil", traveled to Rutgers in April to praise the women's basketball team for its response to the controversy. In a campaign e-mail, Hillary called Imus' comments "small-minded bigotry and coarse sexism."
"Hillary, prepare to meet your maker!" a source close to the host joked. A studio rep says, "Don is rested, humbled, and ready for war!"
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Conceptual Terrorists Encase Sears Tower In Jell-O'.
Quote Of The Day is from Ernest Hemingway: "My attitude toward punctuation is that it ought to be as conventional as possible. The game of golf would lose a good deal if croquet mallets and billiard cues were allowed on the putting green."
Monday October 15, 2007
The Juggernaut Called Toyota: A recent article about the $12.5 million expansion at the local Toyota dealer shows what a powerhouse the Toyota brand is. The popularity of Toyota hybrid cars has helped boost sales at the Vancouver dealership, said the dealer, who sold about 900 new Toyotas in 2001 and nearly 1,820 new Toyotas in 2006. "This year we're on track to sell between 2,300 and 2,400 new Toyotas and that does not include used cars and RVs," he added.
Vancouver Toyota presently employs 130. It is the only Toyota dealership in Clark County Washington, although it competes with about nine other Toyota dealers in the Vancouver-Portland metro area from Longview, WA to Wilsonville, OR.
Sta-Bilized: On Sunday, it was sunny with blue skies after morning fog, so I fired up the Plymouth, drove to the farm supply store and bought some Sta-Bil. I added it to the gas tank right in the parking lot and took a scenic drive in the countryside to give it a good mixing.
Fall colors were truly at peak - yellows, fiery reds, various shades of brown and some greens mixed in. Gorgeous. I also ran the A/C a little, just enough to lubricate the seals. The '39 is now ready to hibernate.
There's supposed to be a big Pacific storm arriving Monday afternoon and bringing eternal rain. Of course, the weather people said the same thing last week and nothing happened. So, who knows?
The Truth About Nobel: Al Gore has won the Nobel Peace Prize, joining such notables as the poofy terrorist, Yasser Arafat, and that incompetent anti-American busybody, Jimmah Carter.
Nobel, Schmobel ... big deal. It's a little-known fact that, in 1983, I won the Nobel Prize for Acrylic Fabrication. Well deserved, I might add. In my day, I did a helluva job of making almost bubble-free glue joints on Plexiglas, despite being located in rainy Oregon.
It's really hard to produce great, yet bubbleless, solvent-based seams unless you're in a desert clime. I won't reveal my secret method except to say that, in addition to the usual ethylene dichloride solvent (EDC), it involved the use of isopropyl alcohol and wicked voluminous flatulence. (It's been rumored that Gore sometimes employs these in his fields of endeavor as well.)
The Nobel Prize wasn't such a big deal back in the 1980s; there was no money awarded, just some gift certificates from Koala Blue, Casual Male, Chipwich Cookies and the Pennsauken Mart. Disappointingly, the medal itself was only a piece of foil-covered chocolate. (It did look good in photographs, though.) Not very good chocolate, either. Arafat was seen at the awards banquet eagerly chomping on his 'medal' with brown drool running down his stubbled chin. Disgusting.
I didn't have a very good time in Oslo. The days were very short, people seemed sullen and every elevator played an instrumental pan flute version of The Beatles' 'Norwegian Wood'. It made my teeth hurt. Candy stores sold gummy Swedish Fish, except they were called 'Norwegian Fish'. And they actually smelled and tasted like fish, too. Yecchh. I was happy to return home so I could get back to eating anchovy-free pizza. And watching 'Flashdance' repeats on Showtime. What a feeling ...
Ooops, I almost forgot to mention that prize-winners also received a cellophane-wrapped gift basket containing ten kilos of explosives, courtesy of the good folks at Dynamit Nobel GMBH. I still have mine. Arafat put his to use right away, I was told.
If you're interested in winning your very own Nobel Peace Prize, Jesse Walker tells you how to do it here.
Important Announcement: On November 30, 2007, my toy/model car website will close down and all sales will cease. I am retiring. Anything unsold will be returned to my private collection.
So ... if you see something you want to purchase, don't delay. Buy before it's too late.
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "Generating hysteria over an idea is worse than doing nothing at all. This is why doctors came up with the term and why Al Gore will die of frostbite."
Friday October 12, 2007
The Real Batmobile: You'll find the story of the Lincoln Futura, which was the basis for the 1960s television series Batmobile, posted here.
Zero Service: Angela Trotta Thomas is a artist, specializing in scenes with model Lionel trains and old cars. In late August, I ordered some Christmas cards from her website. Got an autorespond with an invoice number.
In mid-September, I realized that the cards had not arrived, so I sent an e-mail. No response.
On October 2nd, I was preparing a cancellation e-mail when the cards arrived by post. No explanation enclosed. No apology. No thank you. Not even a credit card receipt. Nada.
Guess who's never ordering from Angela again.
Where The Fake Poor And The Loony Left Intersect: I've written about fraudulent beggars before. And have made the occasional comment on the vitriolic left-wing in this country. But Kathy Shaidle tackles both problems head on.
Kathy, a Canadian, is someone who was once poor but worked hard to lift herself up. She is a former liberal who changed her mind. As someone who often speaks candidly, she is frequently the target of obscene e-mails from liberals. Go to Five Feet Of Fury and scroll down to the 10/9 and 10/10 postings to see what I mean.
Bad Idea #694: If you create a magazine, be careful what name you choose. One travel magazine, Welcome To Finland, decided to shorten its name to WTF. The cover photo is unintentionally hilarious.
Fish Story: Even though I said on Wednesday that I don't like fish, my wife claims I was a "quite a catch."
Thought For Today: Eagles may soar but weasels never get sucked into jet engines.
Wednesday October 10, 2007
Race To The Gas Pump: By November 1st, all gasoline sold around here must be Winter Mix, with the dreaded addition of alcohol/ethanol and/or some kind of evil, rubber-dissolving liquid. The refineries are already beginning to switch over and some gas stations will probably get delivery of WM in the next couple of weeks.
My old Plymouth doesn't like Winter Mix, so I've wanted to tank it up before putting it away for the winter. The problem is that it's been raining cats and dogs and rain is forecast for the next 7-10 days. Spotting a break - an actual sighting of blue skies - on Monday morning, I fired her up and filled 'er with Hi Test. I also took a nice ride through the countryside. Got another one in Tuesday morning under darkening clouds.
Hopefully, there will be some Indian Summer later in the month, so I can get a couple of additional rides before hibernation time.
Incidentally, Winter Mix decreases fuel mileage on the Toyota and Jaguar by 2-3 mpg.
The Train Has Left The Station: Mountain Trains and Hobbies of Manchester, NH, a landmark city hobby store popular with model train enthusiasts, closed its doors after more than a quarter century in business. The rise of video games and related electronic pursuits, along with less interest in model-building, have all made the industry a tough go. Lack of parking and a crime-ridden downtown have also been mentioned as possible contributors.
It's a shame; this was a wonderful place staffed by friendly, helpful folks. They had a large and fascinating operational train layout in the front window.
I visited in 2004 and bought an O-gauge Bonomo's Turkish Taffy boxcar. (Bonomo's was a staple in the candy rack when I was growing up.) In fact, I have the boxcar on my floor layout freight consist right now. (permalink)
Problem Solved: We hare told that global warming will cause the oceans to rise and flood our coastal cities. Jeremy Clarkson asks, "Why don't we just call NASA and ask it to take some of it into space? Space is only 75 miles from the surface of the Earth, so why not make a giant hosepipe, dip one end in the sea and take the other end out into the void, where, of course, there is a vacuum. That means the water will be sucked up the pipe without the need for any energy-absorbing pumps."
Where's The Beef? Greg Gutfeld is like me in at least one way - he doesn't like fish: "I don't eat seafood. Never have. Never will. I have my reasons. First, people say fish is good if it doesn't smell "fishy." I don't say that about steak. "Hey, at least it doesn't smell steaky." Fish stink because they come from the sea - which is a giant toilet. People pee in it. No one pees on cows, unless the cow has requested as much in a Craigslist ad. And shellfish are oversized insects. If they were smaller, they would be roaches. However, a tiny cow is basically a meat ball. And meat balls are delicious, because they're essentially meat, in ball form."
As for me, I'm on a Seefood Diet. I see food; I eat it.
Scary Statistic: 12 U.S. citizens are murdered by illegal aliens each day. 13 Americans are killed each day by uninsured drunk driving illegals. Build that #$@!% fence. Now.
Quote Of The Day is from Calvin Trillin: "Health food makes me sick."
Monday October 8, 2007
Fall Tour: Last week, we drove to Walla Walla ("The town so nice they named it twice!") in eastern Washington for a Fall getaway. We put over 800 miles on our car.
Walla Walla, WA has been called little Napa of the North; this former farming town is now home to over 100 wineries and more than 1,500 acres of vineyards have become part of the agricultural landscape. The Blue Mountains provide a scenic backdrop. Leaves were turning and there were some nice Fall colors to be seen.
We visited 15-20 different area wineries and came home with three cases of product. I'm not sure how things will work out - I had a cold and everything tasted vaguely of oak and spices with a hint of Vicks 44 and Hall's cherry-flavored cough drops.
Downtown Walla Walla is like a journey back to 1935 - wide brick-edged sidewalks with carefully sited, restored Beaux Arts buildings, trees and benches create a feeling of an earlier, quieter era. The buildings house cafes, art galleries and wine-tasting rooms. And a very special toy store.
The Inland Octopus features toys, games and hobbies you won't find in KayBee or Wal-Mart. The store even had an HO model train layout with scenery that owner Bob Catsiff made himself "out of Styrofoam and a steak knife." Staff are knowledgeable, service is friendly and purchases are cheerfully gift-wrapped upon request. No trip to Walla Walla would be complete without a visit to this establishment.
The city spent $53-million restoring its once-dying downtown and it shows. In 2001, Walla Walla won a Great American Main Street award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Even the atmosphere is old time; people we encountered were friendly and helpful. No hip, postmodern, condescending sourpusses here.
Speaking of old buildings, a converted 1915 two-room schoolhouse just west of Walla Walla houses L'Ecole No. 41, where the original chalkboards hang in the wine tasting room. The winery's name comes from District No. 41 - the sign over the school. The wines are good, too.
We had some exceptional meals during our stay.
Whitehouse-Crawford was the name of a turn of the century planing mill and manufacturer of furniture and store fixtures. Today, the name graces a fine restaurant in the old plant. This establishment features an exhibition-style open kitchen with working brick oven, rafter ceilings and a treasury of historic photos. The food was exceptional; the service was impeccable. A glass wall permits diners to check out the winemaking activity at the Seven Hills Winery next door. The bread is made to spec in Seattle and arrives every day by bus.
T. Maccarone's menu features tasty Italian cuisine. The wine list is extensive and the atmosphere is trendy but warm and inviting. All pasta is made in-house; the meatballs are to die for. Tom Maccarone is the owner and an affable host.
Our sole disappointment was dinner at the Marcus Whitman Hotel, a nicely-restored 1928 Walla Walla landmark. The service was slow and indifferent.
All in all, it was a most pleasant trip, although it was far. Nevertheless, as soon as we've finished all the wine, we'll go back for more.
Follow The Money: Jerry Flint weighs in on GM's health care trust fund deal with the UAW: "Money needed for new vehicles is still diverted into what wiseacres call the 'GM Funeral Society'. Don't kid yourself. GM doesn't have enough money to really improve its products. Look at the new Chevy Malibu, on which so much GM hope is laid, and compare it with the new Honda Accord. The Accord is bigger, more powerful and more fuel-efficient. Honda has the money to spend developing such a car."
Not To His Taste, Obviously: After describing London's Natural History Museum as "more gaudy than Paris Hilton's knicker drawer," Jeremy Clarkson goes on to describe the BMW 3-Series as "as boring as a bucket of wallpaper paste." He continues: "This is a car you would buy like you would curtain material - by the foot. "Yes, I'd like 15 ft. of car please." "Certainly, sir. How about a 3-series?" It is a magnolia bathroom suite. It is beige paint. It is biscuit carpeting. And worst of all, from the back it looks like a Kia."
Headline Of The Week: 'Archbishop closes convent after nuns come to blows'. A convent in southern Italy is being shut down after a quarrel among its last three remaining nuns ended in blows. Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista, reportedly upset about their mother superior's authoritarian ways, scratched her in the face and threw her to the ground.
Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri tried to reconcile the nuns but finally decided in late August that they had "clearly lost their religious vocation" and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent. Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista moved to another convent, but Sister Liliana barricaded herself inside, refusing to leave.
Thought For Today: Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
Wednesday October 3, 2007
Cars That Changed Everything: I have compiled a list of ten automobiles which have had the most impact on the auto industry (and, in many cases, society). These aren't necessarily my favorite cars (they're probably not all your favorites either) and many weren't automotive best sellers.
That's OK, because this isn't a popularity contest; rather, it is a recognition of those cars which had the most profound impact.
And the winners are ... (more>>>)
The Black Hole Of Dining: Sometimes I think its mass center is in Vancouver Washington. So many chain restaurants have their very worst examples sited there. We'll never go back to Chevy's Mexican Restaurant off Route 500, although the one in Beaverton, OR is apparently OK. The Vancouver Olive Garden provided us with one of the worst dining experiences ever. Ruby Tuesday's is on our never goin' back list, too.
Stuart Anderson's Black Angus downtown isn't bad but the ones nearer Seattle are several notches higher in both food quality and service. Same for Red Robin and TGI Friday's - we don't bother patronizing the ones in Vancouver anymore, although both chains are just fine for convenient, out-of-town lunch breaks. Outback Steakhouse (in the Vancouver Mall) seems to be slipping noticeably.
The Applebee's in Vancouver is so bad (triple ptui!), that I've never dared to eat at one when traveling. Elmer's Restaurants, headquartered in Portland, offers a pretty decent local alternative but the best Elmer's meal I ever had was in Palm Springs, CA. Go figure.
Last Saturday, we dined at German-themed Gustav's on 164th. The service was atrociously slow; it took well over two hours at this casual dining spot. I've been there once before; it took twice as long as a business lunch elsewhere. I have been told that the Gustav's in Oregon operate at much closer to normal speed.
A genuine exception: Azteca (part of a northwest Mexican restaurant chain) is just as good as the ones we've tried elsewhere. Great food; prompt service. (permalink)
Geezer Joke: An older man bragged to his neighbor, "I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars but it's state of the art. It's perfect." "Really," answered the neighbor, "What kind is it?"
"Twelve-thirty," the man replied.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two banks with different rates have a conflict of interest.
Monday October 1, 2007
Broken Promises: While the concept car and the original Camaro were both hardtops, the production version of the 2010 Camaro will gain a B-pillar, making it a two-door coupe.
Nice step backwards, GM. What's next? Replacing every automatic transmission with a Barker's Mill?
Car Quote From The Past ... is from Edgar F. Kaiser, President of Kaiser Frazer Motors (March, 1952): "We are in the auto business to stay."
Toot-Toot! On Saturday, we did the Fall Foliage Excursion on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, departing from Yacolt - a small town about a half-hour from home. The colors were pretty decent although we don't get as much around here as, say, New England. The train was pulled by a huffing, puffing Alco 2-8-2 Mikado tank engine (an oil burner with saddle tank).
The locomotive weighs 80 tons and has a fuel tank capacity of 1,000 gallons. My grandson really enjoyed the ride. The railroad dates to 1903 and was a former logging line though the woods - very scenic. (A selection of nice photos of the train can be found here.)
Poignant Sign ... referencing President Ahmamentaljob's appearance at Columbia University last week - it read: "My name is Shiri Negari and I would like to speak at Columbia too, but I was murdered when Iran gave money to Hamas to blow up the bus I was on."
Meth Epidemic: In a news article in the local paper, Clark County Sheriff Garry Lucas was quoted as saying that over 90% of the placements in foster homes are kids coming from families with meth problems. A horrific statistic.
I Bet She Has Cold Hands, Too: 'Bend over for Nurse Hillary' is the title of Mark Steyn's well-written article on aspects of HillaryCare. Ms. Clinton may well be The Most Dangerous Person In America.
Advice Of The Day is from P. J. O'Rourke: "Never fight an inanimate object."