Thursday May 29, 2008
Farewell To Mercury: Rumors of Mercury's death have migrated from the automotive buff publications to the mainstream media. I've read news stories which begin by reminiscing about the Jimmy Dean Merc in 'Rebel Without a Cause'. And Steve McGarrett's various black Mercuries. (I especially liked the '67 Monterey coupe used in the pilot episode.)
I wonder if any car buyers in the prime 30-45 age bracket even know what a Jimmy Dean Mercury looks like? Or remember the late Jack Lord playing McGarrett in 'Hawaii Five-O'? (Or that David Caruso in 'CSI Miami' is channeling Lord's ghost?)
Mercury sales peaked/plateaued in the late 1970s. And began to seriously decline around the dawn of this century. Sales last year were about 168,000 units, down over 70% from peak. Mercury's sales have dropped more than 30 percent since April 2006 and show no sign of improving.
These days ... (more >>>)
And, While You're Contemplating Mercury's Demise ... think about this: In 2009, Pontiac will introduce the G3. It's a Korean-made Chevy (Daewoo) Aveo with different badges. Why? Because some Pontiac dealers are pissed because they don't have an economy car to sell.
This forget-the-brand-mission, just-keep-the-dealers-happy mentality is why GM's products are dying in the marketplace. Pontiac is The General's Monday-Wednesday-Friday Mercury. Buick is the Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday version. And Saturn is the Sunday-and-every-other-day-of-the year Merc. (Although their sales people are polite and well-intentioned.)
Get it? Thought so. Too bad General Motors doesn't.
Time To Go To Quizno's: Subway is running an essay contest. But they've banned homeschooled kids from entering it, prompting an instant boycott by outraged parents.
Ned Barnett wrote: "Homeschoolers, offended by the ban, spontaneously - and almost literally overnight - organized a national Subway boycott that already has Subway's corporate spokesman hunkering down. All this happened over a holiday weekend, a time when people usually have better things to do. Imagine the impact today when millions of homeschooling parents are back in front of their computers and discover what Subway has done to them."
"America currently has something on the order of three million children being homeschooled; those children represent an adult purchasing population - including parents and grandparents - of well over five million often affluent people. Homeschooling parents are frequently supported by their local churches and many other potential Subway customers - who are not themselves homeschoolers - still admire the self-reliant spirit reflected by these parents. These Americans might willingly join in a boycott against firms that show disrespect for homeschoolers."
Give A Sh Care What Other Countries Think. Barack Obama preaches: "We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That's not leadership. That's not going to happen."
Presidential leadership has nothing to do with making other countries happy (most of whom seem to hate us regardless of what we do). It has to do with pursuing America's goals for the good of Americans. Including a solid proposal to eliminate our dependence on Middle East oil.
Obama is Jimmah Carter without the cardigan sweater.
In a somewhat related story from The Onion, the headline reads, 'Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose'. "The senator spends six hours a day gazing resolutely off into the distance," said chief political strategist David Axelrod, who regularly analyzes video of the pose with Obama, pinpoints areas that need improvement, and makes necessary tweaks.
Theology: People waste too much time arguing about Limbo. I believe that Limbo is much like a doctor's waiting room in January - a lot of hacking coughs and old issues of Time magazine strewn about.
In fact, that's probably Time's major market these days - waiting rooms of one sort or another.
Theology II: Gerard Van der Leun has written "... know that small batch, by hand, and home-made chocolate chip cookies are the only chocolate chip cookies that may even begin to aspire to the realm of the Sacred and the Holy. A realm in which, like wives, many are cold but none are frozen. Indeed, if Nestles, dairy farms and refrigeration had existed at the time of the Last Supper the entire menu of Holy Communion would be different today."
Geezer Joke: An elderly gent was invited to an old friends' home for dinner one evening. He was impressed by the way his buddy preceded every request to his wife with endearing terms such as: Honey, My Love, Darling, Sweetheart, Pumpkin, etc. The couple had been married almost 60 years and clearly, they were still very much in love.
While the wife was in the kitchen, the man leaned over and said to his host, "I think it's wonderful that, after all these years, you still call your wife those loving pet names."
The old man hung his head. "I have to tell you the truth," he said, "Her name slipped my mind about 10 years ago and I'm scared to death to ask her what it is!"
Thought For Today: Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
Tuesday May 27, 2008
Bum Ticker: I spent part of last week in the hospital with more heart trouble. I'm recovering from the surgery ... but slowly. No pep. Getting old is hell; you just don't bounce back the way you used to.
Idea Difettosa (Bad Idea): Italian carmaker Fiat has held talks with Chrysler to build Alfas in one of Chrysler's U.S. plants. The Alfa Romeo brand was withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1995 because the iconic car had such a bad reputation for quality. Soooo ... this time around, Fiat is apparently choosing the crappiest American car company to be its subcontractor. Idioti.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips: Billionaire J.R. Simplot, who made his money from potato chips and computer chips, has died at age 99.
Simplot was truly Mr. Potato - during World War II, he used spray-drying technology to produce much of the dried potatoes and vegetables consumed by U.S. troops.
Simplot later developed the frozen French fry and became a primary supplier to McDonald's and other fast food establishments.
In the late 1980s, J.R. drove a Lincoln Mark VII coupe with Idaho vanity plates - 'SPUDS'. Rest in peace.
A Good Question ... from Phil Aver: "Why is it that when the 76-year-old, hard-living dissolute Democrat Ted Kennedy is diagnosed with a brain tumor, it is of course a human and national tragedy ... but when the 67-year-old, clean-living Republican Dick Cheney repeatedly goes into the hospital for heart/pacemaker problems, it's a huge media-political laugh, with endless variations of "what's the prob, he doesn't HAVE a heart!, yuk, yuk" going over the airwaves non-stop for a week?"
I Struggle To Even Imagine This: In Zimbabwe, runaway inflation means that a loaf of bread now costs what 12 new cars did a decade ago. Annual inflation rose this month to 1,063,572 percent based on prices of a basket of basic foodstuffs. Economic analysts say unless the rate of inflation is slowed, annual inflation will likely reach about 5 million percent by October.
During My Lifetime, I Think I've Worked For A Few Of These: A newly-discovered New Zealand jellyfish, of the family Coeloplana, has its mouth on its underside and its anus wrapped around its brain.
Memorable Eulogy: A young priest in Alabama was asked by a funeral director to hold a grave-side service for a homeless man with no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a new paupers' cemetery way out in the country; this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.
Unfamiliar with the farm country area, the priest became lost and, being a typical male, did not stop for directions. After driving around for an hour, he saw the backhoe and the workers, who were eating lunch, but the hearse was nowhere in sight.
He apologized to the crew for his tardiness and stepped to the side of the open grave, where he saw the vault lid already in place. He assured the workers I would not hold them up for long, but this was the proper thing to do. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. The priest earnestly poured out his heart and soul. As he preached, the workers began to say 'Amen', 'Praise the Lord' and 'Glory'!
He closed the service with a prayer and walked to his car. As he was opening the door, the priest overheard one of the workers remarking to another, "Lord In Heaven, I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for over twenty years." (hat tip - George Pradel)
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken, offering a definition of an idealist: "One who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup."
Wednesday May 21, 2008
Dream For Sale: The 1958 Chrysler Diablo concept car built by Ghia will be auctioned at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in August.
Scenic Mountain: On Sunday (the 28th anniversary of Mt. St. Helens' eruption), I was working on a mountain ... on my train layout. I've never been happy with the grass and the rocky lower ledges on it. The 'grass' was green paint with some old green table-salt-like fake-n-shake stuff left over from my 1970 HO platform.
After I applied the proper adhesive mixture (Elmers Glue and water), I used the shaker to put a nice coat of Alpine Mix, Summer Lawn and Forest Floor Conifer flocking materials. I also spruced up areas around the tunnel portals and added foliage and lichen.
More photos here.
Not What You'd Expect: Doesn't it seem odd that a singer named Jackson Browne is a white dude?
Change Is Coming: William Katz writes, "A flight attendant has been arrested for trying to set a fire in an airliner in flight because he didn't like the route. Look, it's the Obama era. Don't be judgmental. This could be a matter of culture. Let's wait for the facts and understand that certain cultures just don't want to fly to certain places. When we get real change on election day, this man will be given the route of his choice."
Workin' For Yourself: Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Malone points out that, while we still have companies and corporations, "now they are virtualized, with online work teams handing off assignments to each other 24/7 around the world. Men and women go to work, but the office is increasingly likely to be in the den. In 2005, an Intel survey of its employees found that nearly 20% of its professionals had never met their boss face-to-face. Half of them never expected to. Last summer, when the Media X institute at Stanford extended that survey to IBM, Sun, HP, Microsoft and Cisco, the percentages turned out to be even greater."
Malone continues: "Half of all new college graduates now believe that self-employment is more secure than a full-time job. Today, 80% of the colleges and universities in the U.S. now offer courses on entrepreneurship; 60% of Gen Y business owners consider themselves to be serial entrepreneurs ... An upcoming wave of new workers in our society will never work for an established company if they can help it. To them, having a traditional job is one of the biggest career failures they can imagine."
The 21st Century will be titled by some: The Return of the Entrepreneur
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'San Diego Zoo, Prison Merge'.
Excerpt: "From southern white rhinos to repeat offenders serving 20 years for drug trafficking - you'll find them all here at our amazing new facility. This is, without a doubt, the only facility of its kind," said warden Jeff Thurston, noting the zoo-prison's authentic natural environments and thick bullet-proof glass. "At any given time, visitors may be able to spot as many as three parole violators and up to five adult black bears in the same holding cell. During scheduled feedings, that number may be even higher.""
"Despite a positive opening day, officials admitted that the San Diego facility has experienced a number of setbacks. On Tuesday, a scuffle in the shared cafeteria forced officials to fire a series of elephant-tranquilizer shots, leaving three inmates unconscious for days. In addition, a red-tailed Indonesian peacock was found stabbed to death on Thursday, after a group of prisoners accused the three-foot-tall bird of flashing colors of a rival gang in their direction."
"According to officials, the institution has also suffered from three recent breakout attempts, including an ill-fated effort last Friday by Enrique Gonzalez, 36, to scale a reticulated giraffe up and over the compound's barbed-wire perimeter fencing. In addition, a 280-pound Bengal tiger was accidentally granted parole after its file was confused with that of mail-fraud convict Cole Bucholz, 47."
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Benchley: "When I was a child I was of an affectionate disposition, but not enough to get arrested."
Monday May 19, 2008
My Newest Word: Procrastitard (noun) - Someone who employs turn signals when the maneuver indicated is already 90% complete.
Hot Cruise: On Friday, I took nice ride in the Plymouth around 10:00 am. It was 70 degrees and sunny. By 5:00 pm, the mercury hit 96, breaking a record for the date - 93 degrees set in 1956. Yet the snowpack on the mountains is bigger than ever; one campground near Mt. Hood, which usually opens for Memorial Day, still has 14 feet of snow on the ground. It is not expected to open until July 4th.
It was nice to see the snowy white Cascades through the Plymouth's windshield during my travels.
Why Dan Neil Has A Pulitzer Hood Medallion: He drove the 2009 Challenger, noting that the Dodge ponycar "is very close to the last thing the world needs right now, as instantly ludicrous as a campaign to repeal the 22nd Amendment (presidential term limits) or a health-and-beauty book by Amy Winehouse."
Another Sign Of End Times: A Philadelphia restaurant is offering a $100 cheesesteak, made with Kobe beef, butter poached lobster, shaved truffles and $17/pound cheese. Chef James Locascio, of Barclay Prime, claims to sell six to seven per night at his tony Rittenhouse Square restaurant. Some are ordered as appetizers.
When I was in high school, you could get a cheesesteak for 65¢. Even in the Rittenhouse Square area.
In Search Of ... tinkerers: John Derbyshire bemoans the general loss of interest in creating and fixing stuff. "The other evening Bill O'Reilly had a segment on the old Cheers! sitcom of the 1980s. He brought in John Ratzenberger (Cheers' Cliff Clavin and host of 'Made In America') as a guest. As well as being an actor, John is founder of the Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs Foundation, dedicated to raising awareness of skilled trades and engineering disciplines among young people." John says, "Skilled trades form the backbone of America!"
Derbyshire continues: "To anyone under forty, a garage is a place to keep your car, and a basement is a rumpus room for the kids. Yet the U.S.A. sprang up out of garage and basement tinkerers, small workshops, teen boys fixing up their cars on a Saturday morning. Everything from the aeroplane to the personal computer started in someone's garage."
"Take a walk down your street on a Saturday morning. See any young guys fixing up their cars? No, they're all indoors playing Grand Theft Auto and texting each other."
He concludes, "If we give up tinkering, we might survive but only as a bureaucratic empire of paper-pushers and lotus-eaters."
Shop class seems headed toward becoming a thing of the past, as educators prepare students to become "knowledge workers" - clerks and bureaucrats. Or diversity consultants. Or life coaches. Or community organizers.
I believe that tinkering skills should be encouraged and nurtured. I offer the following unscientific observations:
• College was a good idea until everyone started matriculating. Universities have dumbed-down their educational programs ("Don't Flunk The Customer!") to the point where a sheepskin is meaningless. Too many college grads are morons. Employers know this and discount the value of a degree to the point where the cost of a BA - even from a low-cost state institution - will often never pay off.
• People in skilled trades - electricians, plumbers, cabinetmakers, machinists, etc. - now make far better wages than most college grads.
• Most of the unhappy people I've met are college graduates. My theory is that they were fed high expectations at the university (You're special!) which have been largely unmet in the workplace. (No, you're not.)
• I've met very few depressed carpenters. Why? Because there is something especially fulfilling about creating with your hands. Something physical - more than just a CAD rendering. Getting paid good money for it helps with that happiness thing - someone 'values' your accomplishment.
• While most cars, toasters and other appliances can no longer be repaired at home, there are still opportunities for manual creativity, whether it be modification of ordinary devices, making furniture or building a model train layout.
As someone who acquired woodworking skills later in life, I now have an appreciation of intricate, detailed wood creations. Acrylic fabrication was great training for woodworking; many of the same tools and techniques are used for both. In my Plexiglas display manufacturing business, some of my original employees were cabinet makers. They gave me a lot of tips for bringing out the best in wood.
An old wooden transit fare booth from the Philadelphia subway system offers a plethora of eye-catching detail if one takes the time to examine it. These humble, token-vending, change-making structures were, in their original form, little works of art. The photo, dating from the 1920s or '30s, illustrates fare booth artistry at its peak. By the time that I was a teenager and regular user of the subway, the booth's fine details were obscured by countless coats of thick paint, heavy soot, careless repairs and modifications. But, as presented by their original craftsmen, these lowly cubicles are full of interesting embellishments and have a certain boxy, utilitarian elegance.
Learn a skill. Give your hands something to do. Someday, you may be able to make a living from it. And your creations may very well outlive you, providing joy and fascination for generations yet unborn.
Something which will never happen with, say, data processing. Or diversity consulting. (permalink)
Who Knew? 'You'll Never Know' (by Dick Haymes) was the number one musical hit on the day I was born. Find your top song here.
Bye, Bob: You probably already know that Robert Mondavi, the pioneering winemaker who helped create an international brand out of California wine, died Friday at the age of 94. On Saturday, I cooked on the grill and enjoyed a 2001 Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir with my filet mignon.
My wife and I toasted ol' Bob. We toured his winery in the early 1980s and were very impressed with the facility, philosophy and the product.
In the 1980s and early 90s, Mondavi was our vino of choice for special occasions. But the proliferation of great boutique wines from Oregon, Washington and elsewhere changed all that. Nevertheless, we still keep a few bottles of Bob Wine in our cellar.
Rest in peace, Mr. Mondavi. (permalink)
What Can Brown Do For You? Gerard Van der Leun writes: "For when it comes to making propaganda for the political arena in 2008, the Republicans are running so far behind the Democrats that they are faced with a critical - perhaps lethal - Bullshit Gap."
"The strategic Bullshit Gap in our politics is most obvious when contrasting the small flakes of bullshit drifting down from the John McCain camp these days with the radiant rays of luminous bullshit currently bedazzling millions when projected through the lens of the greatest JFK impersonator since Vaughn Meader, Barack H. Obama."
Bad Pun Of The Day: A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down but they would not.
He returned and begged them to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop.
Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.
Thursday May 15, 2008
I Have A Dream: Do you ever think about engine swaps in your sleep? If you don't, you're not a real car guy. The other night, I had a vision of a Prius powertrain in an AMC Pacer. Righteous. And bizarre.
Don't Worry ... my Lexus LS traveled from Japan to the Port of Portland (Oregon) in the hull of a ship.
Sir Paul McCartney is said to be "horrified" that his new eco-friendly car was flown 7,000 miles from Japan. The '08 Lexus LS600H, which costs $163,500 in the UK, was a gift from Lexus to the 65-year-old former Beatle, who helped promote the hybrid vehicle. But instead of arriving by boat as expected, the car was flown to Britain on a Korean Air flight, creating a carbon footprint almost 100 times bigger than if it had come by sea.
Carbon offsetting firm CO2balance.com said the plane journey would have caused a carbon footprint of over 83,000 pounds, compared to less than 875 pounds for a three-week boat journey. Director Mike Rigby said: "That is the equivalent of driving the car around the world six times." (Hmmmm ... I wonder if he's related to Eleanor Rigby?)
McCartney, who is also a vegan, had previously lauded Lexus for their commitment to making hybrid vehicles. Lexus sponsored the singer's 2005 US tour.
Fifty Years Ago: Roth Edsel was located on Pratt Street in Philadelphia. Roth is long gone, of course. Along with most other Edsel dealers. But a small one lives on - Philadelphia's Edsel-Town Motors, a 1:43 scale dealership on my train layout.
Parked in front of the dealership is a 1:43 scale blue '58 Edsel Pacer two-door hardtop coupe. This resin-bodied model was made by Zaug in 1984 or so.
Inside the showroom are two current-production Road Champ '58 diecast convertibles - one turquoise (with white side panels) and one black (with red side panels). The pink Edsel Citation (partly visible at the side of the building) is a Brooklin model in the original-issue color from 1986.
Wa-Wa: Kyle Smith provides a take on Barbara Walters: "Ms. Walters has interviewed many frightening individuals (Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gadhafi, Tom Cruise) and every U.S. president from Nixon on. She is an eyewitness to history, but then so was Forrest Gump."
Ancient Illumination: A lightbulb in a California firehouse has been burning continuously since 1901. Manufactured by the Shelby Electric Co. of Shelby, Ohio, the bulb has certainly outlived its maker, which closed in 1914.
Quote Of The Day is from P. J. O'Rourke: "The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then gets elected and proves it."
Tuesday May 13, 2008
Happy Birthday: This blog was born on May 13, 2004. Just in time to make quips about the 2004 presidential campaign. The Democratic candidate, John Kerry, had already been chosen. Minnesota was cracking down on service stations that sold gas at too-low prices. Around here, Premium was going for about two bucks per gallon.
Four years later: Gas prices have doubled; I paid $4.099 per gallon yesterday. And, there's another presidential campaign - a too-long and too-boring one with no Democratic candidate yet anointed ... ummmm ... well ... not officially, anyway. I haven't written very much about it. Apathy from long-term political campaign overexposure, I guess.
This blog's content will remain primarily about cars. I will continue to season the mix with things political, social and nostalgic - stuff I find to be either important, interesting and/or amusing.
In 2004, I blogged six days per week. Now its more like 2-3 days per week. And that's fine with me.
While I'm a mere Baco-Bit in the great salad bar of cyberspace, my micro-condiment will continue to plod along - at least for the time being.
Or, until my anti-ennui medication stops working.
Complete blog archives here.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
Friday May 9, 2008
Time Machine II: Three years ago, I selected a car to take if I could somehow time-travel back to 1950. I had wanted something to impress the locals. The vehicle I selected was a low-slung sports car.
Now it's 2008, and I've decided what car I'd bring if I could travel back 50 years. This time I'd really impress them. I'd arrive in ... (more >>>)
Things Could Be Worse: Regular gas in the Netherlands is currently $9.39/gallon.
Improved Dining: I spent some time last week creating and installing replacement glazing for the 'Mayfair Diner' on my train layout. The diner formerly had plain translucent white windows. I replaced them with windows having blinds and silhouette figures - a little Photoshop artistry. It looks much better now.
Other diner photos can be seen here. I plan to make several other detail changes to the layout over the summer.
Me, Too. Gerard Van der Leun is fed up with flying commercial: "Don't even get me started on Homeland Security which is just biding its time until you will be required to fly naked after an anal probe by uniformed dwarf.
I know I am far from alone when I say that after years of flying many times a year, often on a whim, I am now at the point where only the most powerful forces in life - love and death - can get me on a plane."
Gerard enumerates the many indignities of AirTravel v.2008 including "the endless loop of warnings and instructions as you watch old women in walkers get wanded so that nobody can possibly say "Profiling is afoot!""
"Put them all together along with the ever-present though distant chance that the plane will indeed fall out of the air, and you have a vague replay of kindly SS officers in the 1940s murmuring in dulcet tones, "This way to the showers, ladies and gentlemen.""
Like Gerard, I'd fly much more frequently if I were treated like a paying customer. Or a human being.
Quote Of The Day: Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician. (hat tip: Dustbury)
Wednesday May 7, 2008
Gas Pain: Premium is now $4.119/gallon at the nearest gas station.
If I Don't Nitpick, Who Will? The color scheme on the wheels of Max, the VW talk show host in those commercials, is incorrect. The correct factory wheels colors for a black Volkswagen of that vintage are a gray center with a cream-colored surround. For more on Max, see my April 25th posting.
The Big Picture: When I first put up my '39 Plymouth site, most people were surfing with dial-up. So I posted fairly small images. I've now cleaned up and rescanned some photos so that they are larger and show more detail.
Murse Musings: A good friend of mine just announced, "I bought myself a 'male purse' - a black leather carry device with detachable straps, two large and two small zippered pockets and a cell phone carrier with a snap. I'm tired of carrying my wallet, keys, and cell phone in my pants pockets. And fumbling for them when driving. Now I'll carry a male purse and look cool about it."
"Cool" is, I suppose, in the eye of the beholder. And why isn't it called a 'murse'?
Back in the '90s, there was a Seinfeld episode where Jerry got a small black leather 'men's carryall'. "It's not a purse. It's European!" he proclaimed to his friends. Then someone did a snatch and grab:
Jerry: "Hey! Officer! Someone took my European carryall!"
Cop: "Your what?"
Jerry: "The ... black leather ... thing with a strap."
Cop: "You mean a purse?"
Jerry: "Yes, a purse. I carry a purse!"
I'm told that you can still buy such things, including ones from Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. I don't know if they sell them with more ... ummmm ... manly branding, like WWF, The Rock or Hopalong Cassidy.
I just know that John Wayne never carried a pocketbook.
As for me, I prefer to simplify my life and carry less stuff. About 25 years ago, I got sick of carrying a gigantic ring of keys. They were always wearing out my pockets, so I made changes. I put my car key and house key on a fob. All other keys went in the car's center console. Or my briefcase. I had different fobs for each of our cars. I've continued this basic practice to this day.
My cell phone is kept in the car. I never take it on my person because I do not use it to receive calls - only to make calls. I average one cell phone call every two months. My general 'conversational' cell phone rule: "No need to talk unless the conversation involves a tow truck, ambulance, fire engine or hearse." No Blackberry, no texting either.
I do not carry a checkbook - not even a spare check. I pay by credit card or cash when I'm out and about. The only thing we pay by check are monthly bills which come to the house. My wallet is a compact Taxi wallet. It holds money, ID and two credit cards. No photos.
Life is simple. Just like John Wayne's was, pilgrim.
Dead Tree Update: During the last six months, newspapers had a record drop in sales - down 3.5% daily and 4.5 for Sunday. The New York Times ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "When Ronald Reagan said that the government was spending money like a drunken sailor, he apologized to the sailors, who were after all spending their own money."
Monday May 5, 2008
Déjà Vu: NHTSA is investigating "complaints of rust producing "fist-sized holes" in the subframe on Hyundai Sonatas, resulting in suspension failure" and wheels collapsing or separating from the vehicle.
Hmmm ... that brought back an unpleasant memory. In 1961, I was driving my dad's '56 Ford at about 60 mph, when the light ahead changed to red. When I braked, the steering wheel was almost ripped out of my hands as the car pulled violently to the left, jumping across three lanes. Luckily, I didn't wipe out. The cause of the odd behavior was rust-out, resulting in the lower A-frame detaching itself from the car's chassis.
The Ford Mainline - the first new car my dad had ever purchased - was replaced by a new Volkswagen Beetle. It was the first furrin' car in our neighborhood.
My dad never bought another American-made car.
Everything You Need To Know ... about April's auto sales and the effect of gas prices on same: Toyota Prius sales up 53.8%; Hummer sales down 49.8%.
Wine Report: Last week, I took delivery of a full case from Amavi Cellars of Walla Walla - four Cabs and eight bottles of rosé. Amavi's rosé is made with Cabernet Franc grapes and is dry but very flavorful. My wife and I sampled the rosé Friday night. Having quaffed a coupe of bottles of 2006 vintage last year, I am pleased to report that the 2007 vintage met all my expectations. I highly recommend it.
Amavi Cellars Rosé is very popular and sells out quickly as we found out during our Walla Walla trip last Fall - see my trip report posted 10/8/07.
On Saturday evening, I cooked a steak on the grill and opened a bottle of Amavi 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.
Here are the 'notes' on the wine from Jean-François Pellet, Winemaker: "The Amavi Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon is beautifully structured and complex yet softly layered and appealing throughout. The wine is pleasantly aromatic with the essence of ripe berries and a light earthiness, and the flavors are well integrated. Dark fruit and cassis flavors are followed by hints of dry herbs, chocolate and spice."
"This year's vintage is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 9% Syrah and 1% Malbec. The Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone of the blend, adding structure and body, while the Merlot adds flavor and depth. The small amount of Syrah increases the overall softness while the Malbec adds a nice touch of earth."
"The 2005 vintage started off as a big challenge because the previous year has been a freeze year with very little fruit to harvest. I was somewhat anxious and worried about how the vines would come back. We spent extra effort pruning, shoot thinning and crop thinning to make sure the fruit came back evenly."
"We are very grateful that Mother Nature provided us with a fantastic wine-growing season. Bud break started around the third week in April, and very warm, sunny days filled the summer. We had plenty of heat units to fully ripen the grapes. Then the weather cooled off a little earlier than usual, dropping into the 80s around the end of August. This cooling-down period maximized flavor development. The wines from the 2005 vintage have terrific fruit intensity, show great natural acidity and are beautifully balanced."
In any case, it is one damn fine, flavorful wine and the Cab went perfectly with my filet.
Life is good.
Happy Cinco de Mayo! (It commemorates the defeat of the French army by the Mexicans at the Battle Of Puebla in 1862.) It's not much of a holiday back East but here in the West, Cinco de Mayo is a Big Deal. I will do two things to celebrate:
1. Take my wife to Azteca for lunch.
2. Repeat the same tiresome joke I tell every year ... Q: "What to you call four Mexicans in quicksand?" A: "Cuatro Cinco!"
Definition Of The Day is for 'Adult': A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.
Thursday May 1, 2008
And You Thought GM & Chrysler Were Doing Poorly: According to the latest issue of Model Auto Review, legendary diecast toy car maker Corgi International, whose shares were valued at over $50 in 2003 and $6.63 a year ago, have dropped even more precipitously of late.
The stock was trading at $1.10 yesterday.
You can read more about the troubled history of the model car biz here.
Stormy Weather: Full-size truck and big SUV sales are tanking like barometric pressure during a hurricane, as consumers react viscerally to the will-it-ever-end increases in gas prices. Now that the market for these formerly big-profit beasts is evaporating, the Big 2.8's financial situation is even more precarious. Edmunds reports that new Dodge Ram pickups are selling at a discount of over $8,200. If you wait another month, I'd bet that the deals will get even better. (4/5/08 update: It's already up to $13,000.)
General Motors is slashing production of large pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles by 138,000 vehicles at four plants in the U.S. and Canada. About 3,550 workers will be out of jobs. GM has noted that the full-size pickup truck and large SUV segments are down 15 and 26 percent respectively for the first quarter of 2008. The General has 40 percent of the full-size truck market and more than 63 percent of the large SUV segment.
Back in October 2006, I wrote about Detroit's Perfect Storm: "You'd think that the Big 2.5 would have learned after the oil crises of 1973 and 1980. But they didn't. Instead of offering a balanced portfolio of automobiles, they continually reacted to the fad-of-the-moment, developing vehicles which were no longer desirable by the time they were introduced. Unlike their Asian competitors, Detroit never developed true flexible manufacturing facilities, investing instead in a 'truck plant' or a 'Cadillac factory' or a 'Lincoln facility' or a location that could only produce Taurus/Sable sedans."
Batten down the hatches.
Gas Up Your Car; Kill A Third-World Urchin: Mark Steyn has weighed in on the unintended consequences of biofuel production leading to tortilla riots: "Unlike "global warming," food rioting is a planetwide phenomenon, from Indonesia to Pakistan to Ivory Coast to the tortilla rampages in Mexico and even pasta protests in Italy."
"So what happened?"
"Well, Western governments listened to the ecowarriors and introduced some of the "wartime measures" they've been urging. The EU decreed that 5.75 percent of petrol and diesel must come from "biofuels" by 2010, rising to 10 percent by 2020. The United States added to its 51 cent-per-gallon ethanol subsidy by mandating a fivefold increase in "biofuels" production by 2022."
"The result is that big government accomplished at a stroke what the free market could never have done: They turned the food supply into a subsidiary of the energy industry. When you divert 28 percent of U.S. grain into fuel production, and when you artificially make its value as fuel higher than its value as food, why be surprised that you've suddenly got less to eat? Or, to be more precise, it's not "you" who's got less to eat but those starving peasants in distant lands you claim to care so much about."
Steyn adds: "The biofuels debacle is global warm-mongering in a nutshell: The first victims of poseur environmentalism will always be developing countries. In order for you to put biofuel in your Prius and feel good about yourself for no reason, real actual people in faraway places have to starve to death."
The Geezer State: I watched The McLaughlin Group last week and learned that Pennsylvania has the second oldest population of all U.S. states. Florida is first. I was surprised; I don't think of Pennsylvania as a retirement destination. Geezer meccas like the Carolinas, Arizona, Oregon, southern California and New Mexico come first to my mind.
I wonder if part of the reason Pennsylvania ranks so high is that people just don't move away - they tend to live their entire lives in the area. There's the old stereotyped tale of the South Philly Italian baby who grows up, gets married and moves down the street into an identical brick row house.
The same week, I received a report from my old high school, St. Joseph's Prep - a Philadelphia private Catholic institution founded in the 1850s, noting that 52% of its alumni still live in the Philadelphia area. 82% live in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Only 0.55% live in what the school calls "The Northwest" (WA, OR, ID, MT, WY). In fact, more alumni live abroad than in that five-state designated wilderness where I reside.
When I was in high school, most of the school's students lived in Philly and used public transit to commute. Today, only 18% live within the city limits. 58% commute from the Philadelphia suburbs and a surprising 24% travel from New Jersey. The school now provides bus service to outlying areas.
Advice For The Lovelorn: Barack Obama provides relationship recommendations, channeled through Iowahawk. Excerpt: "Dear Barry: I've been married to the same wonderful man - Let's call him "Jeremiah" - for 20 years. ..."
Kudos, Iowahawk. Well done!
It's Hard When People Live Up To Stereotypes: On Tuesday, the 'Reverend' Al Sharpton emerged from a meeting in Queens NY with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and found his 2007 Jaguar had been towed away. The car had been tagged for some $900 in unpaid tickets.
As is the case with all of The Rev's 'possessions', it was not clear who 'owns' the Jag.
Somewhere up in Heaven, The Kingfish is grinning.
Cultural Decline: William Katz looks at the rite of 'goin' to the movies'. Excerpt: "We used to have movie palaces. Now the multiplexes are more like mobile homes with screens. You do get a bargain, though. You can usually hear six movies at the same time, and all for the price of one ticket. Imagine - four-letter words from six directions. Is that what they call surround-sound?"
Definition Of The Day is for 'Beauty Parlor': A place where women curl up and dye.