Friday December 31, 2010
Goodbye 2010: The old year is over; let's hope that the new one is better.
Personal: I'm still alive and my family is fine - something for which I'm very grateful.
We took only two trips this year - a winter getaway to Southern California and a September driving trip to Northern California. I wore my Miracle Hat on both trips.
While we dined out less often than last year, we welcomed two new neighborhood restaurants: The Hockinson Country Cafe and Paparazzi.
We have no plans for large purchases in 2011. We're perfectly satisfied with our automobiles; they have plenty of life left in them.
In 2011, flying trips will be limited. TSA security has become too much of a hassle, making air travel an unpleasant experience for us.
Car Stuff: The Chevrolet Volt has been selected as Motor Trend Car of the Year for 2011. Honda will discontinue the Element. Bob Lutz retired from GM. Volvo was sold to the Chinese. And Mercury has been killed off.
Toyota rapidly fell from grace in 2010. It began with a spate of safety recalls early in the year and eventually led to its first significant share loss in the U.S. It appears that Ford and Hyundai benefited most from Toyota's misfortunes.
Ford has become the healthiest 'domestic' automaker, with a rise in sales of over 20%. Ford looks ready to overtake Toyota for the number 2 sales position. Ford analyst George Pipas has noted that the automaker "has seen two consecutive years of market share increase for the first time since 1993, going from 14.2% in 2008 to an expected 16.8% for 2010." Ford sales are led by the F-Series, followed far behind by the Fusion, Escape and Focus.
New vehicle sales are expected to hit 11.5 million units in 2010, an increase of 11% over 2009.
When the history of the 21st century automobile is written, all of the above will be small-font footnotes to the biggest auto story of 2010: Google's self-driving car. A Google-owned Prius - tricked out with radar sensors, video cameras and a laser range finder - has driven itself 140,000 miles without an unscheduled meeting with a light pole, rainbow-Spandexed gay bicyclist, fireplug, fat meter maid or pedestrian - not even a small, squirrelly young-un or acrobatic midget.
Google uses it for mapping and street view work and has now demonstrated that real-world driverless technology is logical, efficient and practical. Robot-driven cars have truly arrived.
The Economy: A year ago, the U.S. economy was very sick. It is recovering, albeit very slowly. Consumer spending and capital goods orders have been making steady improvements all year. But unemployment remains stubbornly high and we seem to be witnessing a mostly-jobless recovery.
Locally, Clark County's unemployment rate remained at 13.1% - Washington state's toughest job market. The county's unemployment rate has been above 10% for more than two years. The county's office vacancy rate jumped to 20% in November, the first period this year in which businesses leased less space than they vacated. The real estate market remains moribund.
In 2010, there were 157 bank failures, up from 140 in 2009.
The stock market was up 13% this year. In 2009, it was up 23.5%; in 2008 it was down a whopping 37%. Over the past 80 years or so, the S&P 500 has returned 11% per year on average.
Investment advisor Ken Fisher has written, "Sentiment remains grumpy and cautious, and as a value-oriented investor I am thankful for this, too. Worriers tend to fuel bull markets.
We haven't had a negative stock market return in either the 6 or 12 months following a midterm election since World War II."
Forrester Research Inc. has forecasted that online sales will reach $52 billion nationwide by the end 2010, a 16% increase over 2009.
The financial crises in Greece, Ireland, Spain and elsewhere are serious but have not noticeably affected the U.S. so far.
Politics: In this mid-term election, Republicans gained 63 seats in the House, taking control. The Senate remained in Democratic hands but Republicans have picked up six seats.
People were politically active this year. Many were angry about the economy and disturbed that the rock-'em-sock-'em combo of a Democratic president and Democratic Congress didn't fix it, as promised. Even those who had placed much blame on George Bush for our economic woes said, "Hey, after two years, something good ought to be happening."
Many folks were also upset by the negatives of Obamacare: increased insurance premiums, hospitals closing, companies dropping/reducing coverage, etc. People wanted some kind of health care fix but the massive and intrusive 'change' wasn't what America was looking for.
We still have substantial unemployment, banks are failing at roughly 7 times 2008's rate and people's once-healthy 401-Ks remain anemic 201-K's.
Around my high-unemployment neck of the woods, the cry was 'Vote Jobs'. A metaphor for 'Throw The Bums Out'. And that turncoat politician Arlen Specter is finally gone from the Senate.
Passings: Deaths in 2010 included actor Tom Bosley, best known for his role on 'Happy Days', actress Jill Clayburgh, diminutive actor and model train enthusiast Gary Coleman, 'I Spy' star Robert Culp, 'Some Like It Hot' actor Tony Curtis, country music legend and sausage king Jimmy Dean, 'Pink Panther' creator Blake Edwards, singer Eddie Fisher, legendary auto writer Jerry Flint, 'Charlie's Angels' actor John Forsythe, Fred Foy, announcer for 'The Lone Ranger': "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear", Peter Graves of 'Mission Impossible' and 'Airplane!' fame, former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, local businessman and philanthropist Ray Hickey, singer and actress Lena Horne, General Motors designer Charles M. 'Chuck' Jordan, radio and television talk-show pioneer Art Linkletter, James MacArthur, the original 'Danno' in Hawaii 5-0, suave character actor Kevin McCarthy, record producer Mitch Miller, actress Patricia Neal, newscaster Edwin Newman, versatile and oft-funny actor Leslie Nielsen, 'Davy Crockett' star Fess Parker, actress Dorothy Provine, Phillies legend Robin Roberts, reclusive writer J.D. Salinger, Ted Sorensen, adviser and speechwriter to John F. Kennedy, Microsoft exec and car enthusiast, Craig Watjen, Philadelphia radio and television legend Bill 'Wee Willie' Webber and bass guitarist Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk. Requiescat in Pace to all.
Dr. Edward J. Curley, a Vancouver orthodontist, died unexpectedly in April. Five years ago, he helped save one of my critical molars by designing braces to extrude the root of the tooth so that a crown could be fitted. A very creative and effective solution.
While a competing orthodontist offered vague timelines and uninspiring chances of success - although his 'closer chick' had firm dollar numbers on the contract she thrust in my face, Dr. Curley offered a realistic assessment, a firm timetable and a can-do attitude. And no pressure. What a difference.
Dr. Curley was a gentle, pleasant man - we had some interesting discussions on polymer gluing - and he was well respected by his patients, employees and members of the dental community. RIP
Two more of my St. Joe's Prep classmates, Jack 'Shark' McGuinn, whose love of sports and sense of humor served him well in life, and Tom McCormac have died.
At least twenty-four members of our graduating class of 197 have now left this Earth.
Gerry Hiller, our former next-door neighbor from our first home and a really great guy, died earlier this year.
My good friend, Bob Brudzinski, whom I knew from my work days at both Uniroyal and Rohm & Haas (a young Bob can be seen third from the left, back row in the 1969 PEL group photo), died at 62 after a valiant battle with lung cancer. Bob and his wife are my daughter's godparents.
When he and his future wife were dating in the 1960s, he drove a new Camaro and she drove a new Mustang. We used to jokingly call them The Ponycar Couple.
Bob was a great guy with a love of jokes and great business sense. I last saw him while I was at a car club meet outside Chicago in 1993. Over the years, Bob held various executive positions at large companies. The Brudzinskis later moved to Virginia, where he established his own management consulting firm. We had kept in touch by letters and e-mail.
Rest In Peace, Bob. I hope it's funny up there. (permalink - Brudzinski)
Business and product demises included Battle Ground City Grill, Battle Ground Village chili joint Chililicious, Eric Waiter Associates (also known as EWA Miniature Cars USA Inc.), a mail order and internet retailer with a large offering of scale model vehicles, K-Line O-gauge Trains, Hollywood Video, the chubby Lexus SC 430 two-seater, the Mercury automobile brand, Mr. Goodwrench, the PT Cruiser, Vancouver Mall Cinnabon and Curt Warner Chevrolet of Vancouver, WA.
I guess the once-ubiquitous Waldenbooks is technically still alive somewhere but there are none around here. Parent Borders Group has closed so many locations that a glimpse of a Waldenbooks is as rare as an Annette Funicello sighting. In mid-December, the once-Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company filed for Chapter 11.
In March 2010, the last car rolled off the production lines at California's sole remaining auto plant, the New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI) plant in Fremont.
Global warming apparently died too, as record-setting cold storms brought chaos to Seoul, Bejing, Dublin, Scotland and elsewhere. There was record snowfall in Vermont and cold waves in India and Peru. In February, the Senate's Global Warming Impact Hearing was canceled due to 14 inches of snow.
Then there was the big pre-Christmas storm which wreaked havoc in the UK and much of Europe and the post-Christmas blizzard which did the same to the East Coast, dropping 20 inches of snow in Central Park in a matter of hours.
Columbia, SC had its first Christmas snow since records began in 1887. Al Gore has been strangely silent.
Everything Else: This was a year of surprises and milestones. There were more Islamic terror attempts in U.S., including one in Portland, OR. Local peace activists, bicycle enthusiasts and light rail fans whined, "Why us? We love everybody." The terrorists replied, "We hate everybody, stupid wusses."
Thanks to American technology and know-how, a group of trapped Chilean miners were dramatically rescued. My grandson became a teenager. The Gino Giant is making a comeback. The BP oil spill was a PR disaster for British Petroleum and the Obama administration but the End of The World As We Know It never happened and the area is recovering.
It has been announced that the stuffed corpses of Trigger and Bullet from the old Roy Rogers television and movies will tour the United States in 2011. I guess it'll be kinda like a King Tut exhibition for hillbillies.
The two biggest tech successes were the Apple iPad - the fastest-selling non-phone gizmo in consumer-electronics history - and the Stuxnet worm used to disable Iran's computers and damaged its nuclear program. Conventional wisdom said that the only solution to stop Iran was big bombs. Instead, someone - probably Israel - used cyberwarfare to obtain the same results. Amazing.
On the other hand, I'm still angry because I have neither a flying car nor a personal jetpack. Get to work, people.
2010 was the year of the first face transplant - a remarkable achievement. Spanish doctors transplanted an entire face onto a 31-year-old man.
In Australia, trials of new melanoma drugs have shown promise. In some cases the drugs have shrunk up to 80% of melanomas that had spread to other parts of the body.
The March of Progress continues.
Friday December 24, 2010
Away In A Manger: Every Christmas, we put up a Nativity set which belonged to my parents. I don't know its history; the stable has a date stamp of 1937 on the base. It may have belonged to my dad's family. Or my mom's. Or maybe my dad made it in high school; he was quite good at carpentry. In 1950 or so, my mom painted a Bethlehem scene on the back wall.
I've had to repair the stable several times; the years have taken their toll on the wood, which has dried out, warped and split. But I'll never throw it away because it is part of my family's Christmas tradition.
In addition to its original (presumably Pennsylvania-made) parts, some of the wood components have been replaced using branches from our trees - some from when we lived in Oregon and some from our present Washington location. New straw, bought locally, has replaced portions of the original roof.
My two children had Nativity figures but no structure in which to house them. In 2004, I fabricated two new stables - one for each - and presented them as Christmas gifts. I kept the 1937 model for my wife and me.
St. Francis of Assisi first popularized the Christmas manger in the 13th Century. The use of a manger or feeding trough as a makeshift bassinet inside a barn or stable recalled the Gospel according to Luke, who wrote that Mary gave birth to Jesus, and "laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."
These many centuries later, we still use miniature Nativity scenes to remind us of the real meaning of Christmas.
No one knows what the real stable and manger looked like; in those ancient times, there was no thought given to preservation of historic sites. Like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Colossus of Rhodes, the original Nativity stable no longer exists. Except in the hearts of Christians everywhere.
And it came to pass, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that Mary should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.
The Angel said, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Glory to God in the highest and, on Earth, peace and good will toward men."
Thursday December 23, 2010
"May Your Days Be Merry And Bright": Our Christmas tree is decorated and lit. The tree adds much needed brightness and cheer to the dark, rainy days typical of Pacific Northwest winters.
As I grow older, I find that various tree ornaments - added over the years - bring back pleasant memories. Each one has a story to tell.
The oldest decoration on our tree is an injection molded, ivory-colored, translucent polystyrene cathedral. Mass produced shortly after World War II, it was a dime store purchase. My mom probably bought it. The miniature cathedral has a large rounded slot on the bottom so that if can fit over an old-fashioned tree light and be backlit.
In its early years, the structure could be found on various Christmas train platforms my dad built. It's not on the 1947 one though; the cathedral was probably purchased the following year.
The church itself is a generic design, adapting elements of the great cathedrals of Cologne, Notre Dame, Truro and Washington's National Cathedral. It remains in fine shape - aging gracefully - and has been accorded a place of honor on our tree. (permalink)
Wednesday December 22, 2010
Business Opportunity For Glasspacks? Silent hybrid vehicles may soon be a thing of the past.
Auto safety regulators would be required to set minimum sound levels for hybrid and electric vehicles under a bill approved the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate approved its version and the measure now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Blind pedestrians - the ones too cheap to use Helper Bats - have pushed for the changes, saying the quietude of hybrids can pose risks for them because they use sound cues to travel safely.
I must admit that I had a 'soundless hybrid' experience six years ago. I had parked in a Portland underground garage - the kind that has solid concrete walls, ceiling and pillars. The large monolithic space magnifies all sound, so if someone is starting their car 200 feet away, you can readily hear the engine cranking.
As I was getting my briefcase from the back seat of my car, I was startled by headlights. Turns out it was a Toyota Prius hybrid parking ten feet from me.
It was positively eerie.
Thrush Products, a division of Tenneco, Inc. makes those wonderfully loud Glasspack mufflers. I have them on my Plymouth and in me. If this bill becomes law, hopefully Thrush'll get a sales bump.
Or the government could require that quiet cars be equipped with old Ford starter motors.
Corny Idea: Congress has passed a one-year extension of the useless ethanol subsidy, amounting to a $6 billion boondoggle.
Even paleo-Liberal Senator Diane Feinstein has noted that "the ethanol industry is the only one to ever receive the triple crown of government intervention. Ethanol use is mandated by law, its users receive federal subsidizes and domestic production is protected by tariffs. That policy is not sustainable."
Meanwhile, automakers are suing to stop E15 blends, pointing out that "E-15 has been shown to adversely affect engines in non-road products and later model year vehicles, cause emission failures and increase air pollution due to misfueling."
Ethanol also screws up chainsaws and leaf blowers. Bruce Kasting has experienced this and received an explanation from his repair guy, who pointed out that "when alcohol exceeds 10% of regular gas it dissolves plastic engine parts. Things like fuel-lines or float gaskets in the carburetor. When the mixture is too rich the engine burns hot and wears out the rings.
He explains that the legal limit is 10% but that all the fuel distributors cheat and mix in some extra alcohol so they can make a buck. When the mix gets to 15% it's toxic for two-cycle engines. And that is what killed my machines.
He pulls off the gas line and shows me that it has deteriorated to the point where it has fused shut." (permalink)
This Won't End Well: The Antiplanner has posted a photo of trestle construction on the scandal-plagued Norfolk light rail project. As grade-school kids, my friends and I often built trestles for our toy train layouts.
The ones that looked like Norfolk's always fell over.
Paperwork Hold: Noting that Obama's dog has been quarantined in Hawaii, Jammie Wearing Fool quipped that it "must be a problem with his long-form birth certificate or something."
Audio Edition: I don't produce podcasts or blog radio but if you want to simulate such a broadcast, read all of today's entries while badly slurring your words. I just returned from the dentist and the right side of my mouth is numb. I sound like Foster Brooks.
Goood Lucshk and Merrrryyyy Chrishmash.
Joke Of The Day (courtesy of my son): A guy goes into a restaurant for a Christmas breakfast while in his home town for the holidays. After looking over the menu he says, "I'll just have the eggs Benedict."
His order arrives, served on a big, shiny hubcap. He asks the waiter, "What's with the hubcap?"
The waiter sings, "There's no plate like chrome for the hollandaise!"
Tuesday December 21, 2010
One Fine Merc: It's a shame that the brand is dead but there are some great looking Mercuries out there. Hemmings has posted a photo of a gorgeous 1940 custom.
Shine On: Son-of-a-Gun is made by STP; it is a competitor to ArmorAll. It is less greasy than ArmorAll and, to me, that is its major advantage. I had used ArmorAll for years with no problems, except it tended to turn tires a brownish color and it leaves a slimy residue when it dries.
Several car club people I've met people claim that ArmorAll cracks the rubber on whitewalls. (I'm surprised at this claim as I tested it on Plexiglas 35 years ago and ArmorAll did not cause any crazing or pitting so I'm not sure what might be in it that would cause it to attack rubber.)
I started using 'Son' about 15 years ago and it seems to work great. It keeps the door, window and trim rubber supple. I also use it on the dash and other plasticized (flexible) vinyl items, like trim. It is very good for minimizing the graying of black ABS or PVC exterior trim. I don't use it on leather; I use Lexol instead.
What A Waste: These are just three examples of your tax dollars being sent astray to be used on useless government-funded projects:
• $1.8 million to the Neon Boneyard Park and Museum, which collects and displays discarded neon Las Vegas signs.
• $150,000 to the Vermont town of Monkton to erect signs warning drivers to look out for salamanders crossing the road.
• $47.6 million to Atlanta, Georgia to build a streetcar system - on the exact same route as an existing subway system.
More are listed here.
Get Rich Or Die: Frank J. Fleming has written: "I don't get why people want to raise taxes on being rich to discourage wealth.
Shouldn't we raise taxes on the poor to discourage poverty? If you want to get the economy moving, we need to discourage people from being poor. Doesn't have to be tax; could be criminal penalties.
Of course, if the poor are outlawed, only outlaws will be poor. Which is good; why would we want criminals having lots of money?"
Back in 1992, we gave friends VHS video newsletters at Christmas rather than those insipid dot-matrix printed thingies we used to receive. I ran for president that year and our tape included a five-minute campaign segment, outlining my platform.
One of the items on it was 'Get Rich Or Die', where I proposed to upend the progressive income tax system, putting people who make less than $2,000 per year in the 98% bracket and people earning $500,000 in the 2% bracket.
I guess that makes Frank and yours truly kindred spirits.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "Realize that no one remembers the perfect Christmases. Everyone remembers the ones where the tree caught fire or the dog drank from the stand and coughed up needles through February."
Or, I would add, the one where next-door neighbor Gus - a little too full of Christmas spirits (if ya know what I mean), after drinking a holiday toast at every house on the block - rang my parents' door bell one Christmas morn and threw up all over our front steps.
Bad Pun Of The Day: What do Spanish sheep say when they wish each other a Merry Christmas? "Fleece Navidad!"
Monday December 20, 2010
Thirty-Six Month Report: I've now owned my Lexus LS for three years. I have no regrets about my decision to purchase it. The car has been dead-bang reliable and a joy to drive. It is comfortable, surefooted and nimble. Since I've retired, I am no longer visiting clients every day and, therefore, have racked up only 14,000 miles so far.
We've been getting the car serviced ... (more >>>)
Star Wars Episode II - Attack Of The Cribs: The Consumer Product Safety Commission has outlawed drop-side baby cribs after the deaths of more than 30 infants and toddlers in past decade.
As a child, I almost died in a drop-side wooden crib. I don't remember the event but the story is part of our family lore. At 15 months, I had figured out how to climb out of my crib. This was distressing to my mother and grandmother who decided to solve the problem by installing chicken wire on top. On my next escape attempt, I managed to get my neck caught between the chicken wire and the crib. I was choking to death when I was discovered and rescued.
I was then given a regular bed and a Stern Lecture.
The same crib was used by my brother - sans chicken wire. Later, my parents dragged it out to use as a guest crib for my son but, on his second visit, he jumped up and down vigorously and kicked out the side rail uprights, destroying the crib.
"The Force is strong in that one," said I. (permalink)
New Word: It's "environmental justice," a term coined by clueless Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who has repeatedly discounted or downgraded Islamic terrorist attacks as either mere "man-caused disasters" or "isolated incidents", depending on her mood, while eagerly hyping the threat from American veterans and Tea Party members.
Napolitano announced that her department is creating a new task force to battle the effects of climate change on domestic security operations.
While Islamic militants have been busy trying to destroy us, Napolitano's TSA has been busy hassling old ladies at airports as if they are septuagenarian drug mules or orthopedic shoe bombers. She has also declared that illegally entering America is "not a crime," while doing nothing to stop the illegal traffic and escalating drug violence at our southern border.
Napolitano announced that her department is creating a new task force to battle the effects of climate change on domestic security operations. Like her fellow meddler Dr. Evil, Janet Incompetano thinks she can control the weather.
This woman is wasting money, time, space and oxygen. She needs to go and her department needs to be disbanded and reconstituted as something useful.
Holiday Fact: The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.
Friday December 17, 2010
Unfulfilled Dream: The very first Road & Track I ever bought was the April 1957 issue.
I purchased it with my hard-earned 35¢ when I was in 8th grade, giving me something to read while riding multiple bus lines to take the entrance exam for LaSalle High School in Philadelphia. (I was later accepted but chose another school, St. Joe's Prep, instead.)
That R&T issue featured a cover story on the stillborn Paxton Phoenix sports car. The story was titled 'Is Steam Coming Back?' and was written by the legendary John R. Bond. The Paxton was to be a steam-powered automobile and was designed by Brooks Stevens.
Stevens seemed to be a bi-polar designer; he is responsible for some of the best-looking and worst-looking cars ever made. The Paxton was pretty advanced-looking for the period. It was originally designed in 1952 and looked a bit like the Renault Caravelle of the 1960s.
The Phoenix was conceived ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Decision Points' by George W. Bush.
The former president has written a candid account of the critical decisions that shaped his presidency. Mr. Bush has pointed out that "perceptions are shaped by the clarity of hindsight. In the moment of decision, you don't have that advantage." This is an honest book, rather than a self-serving memoir.
I enjoyed reading it. I did not agree with ... (more >>>)
"Compared To Clouseau, Attila The Hun Was A Red Cross Volunteer." Blake Edwards, the man credited with creating the 'Pink Panther' has died at age 88.
He wrote and directed a slew of successful comedies: 'Victor/Victoria', 'S.O.B.', 'The Great Race' and 'Breakfast At Tiffany's'.
He had been married to Julie Andrews since 1969. RIP.
How To Be Popular: In an obituary for GM designer Chuck Jordan, the New York Times linked to my Aerotrain page, because Jordan designed the ill-fated GM Aerotrain.
My claim to fame is that I actually rode the Aerotrain on the Pennsylvania Railroad from Philly to Pittsburgh and back.
My number of site visitors jumped by 72%. That's the power of the NYT, I suppose.
Bad Pun Of The Day: Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
Thursday December 16, 2010
Civic Duty: Over at The Truth About Cars, Paul Niedermeyer has written nostalgically about the second-generation Honda Civic.
These were very nice cars and, back in the day, a great value. My brother owned a 1983 blue sedan and kept it for 10+ years before passing it on to another relative after 127,000+ miles. It stayed on the road, ticking like a clock for many more years and miles.
I once borrowed it and found it to be a delightful car for a 150 mile day trip. The little 1500 cc., 67 horsepower engine had plenty of pep. The five-speed manual - unusual in those days - mated perfectly and the extra gear well a welcome addition, I'm sure.
Because it was light, it was quite nimble and would have run circles around my daily driver of the day - a wretched 1980 Oldsmobile Omega.
All Civic engines of the period used the then-novel CVCC design, which added a 3rd valve per cylinder and utilized lean-burn swirl technology. The Honda got great gas mileage - 40 mpg was not unheard of. The Civic was small on the outside - about the same length as an air-cooled Beetle - but was surprisingly roomy inside. Good packaging.
Today's Civic has suffered from Mission Creep and is a big, bloaty car, larger than the original Honda Accord. Honda, like many other automakers has lost its way.
There is not as much nimbleness nor cleverness and the car has gone mainstream in search of market share. That's sad. The old Hondas blended technical elegance with practical minimalism. And ... (more >>>)
Loyal & True: Honda buyers tend to be brand-faithful. The top five auto brands for retention rate are Honda, Ford, Hyundai, Lexus and Toyota. All closely bunched in the 59-62% range.
The bottom five ... (more >>>)
Sign Of The Season: From our Christmas tree ...
And We Can Afford This ... How? With Washington state facing a $5 billion-and-growing shortfall, police and firemen being laid off and a stubborn 13.1% unemployment rate in Clark County, the state wasted money on this ridiculous campaign and video.
If you didn't live in the Evergreen State and you watched the video, you would think that 40% of the state is black. It's actually about 3%.
So is the WA State Department of Health video racist because it implies that black people need to wash their hands more often than the rest of us? Or does the program target them because the state thinks blacks never wash their hands? Just askin'.
Quote of the Day is from Victor Borge: "Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year."
Wednesday December 15, 2010
Prominent Proboscis: Dan Neil has weighed in on on the perception problem with Acura - the brand with the nose that makes Jimmy Durante look like a Clairol Girl by comparison: "Twenty-five years after the introduction of the Acura brand as Honda's second channel to sell more-expensive, higher-performing vehicles in the U.S., Acura continues to wander in the wilderness of its own identity."
"A geriatric flagship (the RL), no sports-car halo - the world-beating NSX having been consigned to the dustbin five years ago - and sales buoyed mostly by splendidly tarted-up versions of Honda crossovers, the RDX and MDX. The Americans did manage to convince the Japanese leadership to back the ZDX, the outrageously sleek fastback crossover designed in California that went on sale last year, but that's a spoonful of hot water in a very cold sea.
Acura remains marketing antimatter, nearly impossible to get your head around, bereft of poetry and valance."
Acura was such a promising brand when the Legend was introduced in 1986. When the NSX sports car came out in 1990, it seemed as if Acura was going to be a real contender. Too bad how things have turned out.
The Hardware & Fastener Museum: Like many other guys my age, I have enough assorted screws, bolts, nuts, washers, etc. in assorted jars, cans and Zip-Loc bags to last me for the rest of my life. And my children's lives too.
Last week, I bent a small wood screw. I went to my museum in the garage, grabbed a couple of appropriate jars, brought 'em inside and dumped the contents on newspaper. Rooted around until I found a match. Then I veed-up the paper and poured everything back into the jars.
It took me about 20 minutes - less time that it would take to drive to town and back. No gas, nothing to buy and no sales tax to be paid. Recycle, reuse - why I'm greener than a dead Al Gore floating face down in an algae farm. And my museum still ... (more >>>)
Headline Of The Week - so far - is from The Onion: 'Justin Bieber Found To Be Cleverly Disguised 51-Year-Old Pedophile.'
Q: Why was the elephant standing on the marshmallow?
A: Because he didn't want to fall in the hot chocolate.
Tuesday December 14, 2010
Just One Fin: If a vehicle has the satellite radio option, BMW, Lexus and other cars have a an odd little fin installed just above the back window. I don't like the look of it; it's one of the reasons I ordered my LS 460 without the satellite package.
If I ever buy a car with a fin ... (more >>>)
"From Atlantic To Pacific ..." Troubled retail grocer A&P filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection over the weekend, weighed down by a crushing debt load and competition from low-price rivals.
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company's history goes back to 1859; a century ago it was to America what Wal-Mart Stores is today. Its first store was in New York City where A&P began selling tea, coffee and spices at value prices.
Soon stores sprung up all around the metropolitan area and salesmen took their wares to the road in horse-drawn carriages bound for New England, the mid-west and the south.
A&P eventually extended its operations to the West Coast and became the first national supermarket chain in the United States. Over the years, the company pioneered many innovative, trend-setting concepts. The dark green A&P sign and striped awnings soon became a familiar sight.
By the 1920s, A&P had more than 15,000 stores across the country. As supermarkets took over in the postwar era, these smaller stores disappeared.
The business has now shrunk to less than 400 retail stores in eight eastern states trading as A&P Supermarkets, Waldbaum's, Pathmark, Best Cellars, The Food Emporium, Super Foodmart, SuperFresh and Food Basics. In recent years ... (more >>>)
Third-Party Payers: When somebody else pays for something, it always cost more. If you're dining on the corporate expense account, you'll order a big fat steak at Morton's. If you're funding the meal out of your own pocket ... hello, McDonald's.
When I first began my work career, my company paid for Blue Cross. Hospital stays were mostly covered but you paid for everything else - office visits, appointments, lab tests, etc. - from your own pocket.
"How much is this gonna cost?" was a frequently asked question in doctors' offices in those days. In the mid-70s, things began to change - coverage was extended. Many people didn't even know what an office visit cost. They would go see a doctor at the drop of a hat because it was "free."
If exercise would cure a condition, the response was often, "Forget it. Just gimme some drugs."
Need proof? Just look at all the fat people you see today. Or, take a gander at a graph or chart of U.S. Type II diabetes cases over the last 30 years.
People have become fatter and more diabetes-prone but, hey, there's always a new weight drug to try. (Yes, your Honor, I plead guilty to feeling this way on occasion. But I've started my treadmill regimen again. It has no co-pay requirement and produces no alarming side effects.)
In 1960, consumers paid almost half their health care costs from their own pockets.
Today ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I didn't get a toy train like the other kids, I got a toy subway instead; you couldn't see anything but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by."
Monday December 13, 2010
A Talent Departs: Fabled General Motors designer Charles M. 'Chuck' Jordan has died at age 83.
In the 1950s, Chuck designed a number of GM Motorama cars, including a favorite of mine, the 1956 Buick Centurion. At age 30, he became Cadillac's chief designer; his team was responsible for those iconic '59 Caddy tailfins. He also styled the futuristic but ill-fated GM Aerotrain of the 1950s.
In the late '60s, he was design director at Opel in Germany and created the attractive Manta coupe and legendary Opel GT.
In 1986, Jordan became General Motors' fourth-ever Vice President of Design, a post he held until he retired at age 65 in 1992. Under Chuck's watch, handsome cars like the 1992 Cadillac Seville were styled. RIP. (permalink)
Lilliput World: In a Cars.com posting, Dave Thomas has noted that the new Ford Fiesta subcompact "was the fourth best-seller in the subcompact segment at 3,473 units, behind value leaders like the Nissan Versa (6,724) and Hyundai Accent (4,052) and the well-established Honda Fit (4,052).
Even Chevy's much-forgotten Aveo sold only a few hundred fewer units (3,262) than the Fiesta with less available inventory."
It's important to remember that: ... (more >>>)
It's That Time Of The Year: Mothers Against Drunk Driving may have begun with the best of intentions but I'm no longer tying ribbons on my side mirror to support these bullies.
The holiday season always brings out media stories about drunk driving, featuring crash footage, a somber state trooper talking about alcohol-involved accidents and scenes with a grieving relative next to a framed photo of a dead person.
Radley Balko has written: "MADD's biggest victory on this front was a nationwide blood-alcohol threshold of .08, down from .10. But when two-thirds of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involve blood-alcohol levels of .14 and above, and the average fatal accident occurs at .17, this move doesn't make much sense. It's like lowering the speed limit from 65 to 60 to catch people who drive 100 miles per hour.
In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed all the statistical data and concluded 'the evidence does not conclusively establish that .08 BAC laws by themselves result in reductions in the number and severity of crashes involving alcohol.'"
There was a story in local paper a few years ago about a couple of elderly people who had 15+ DUIs each - one of them was involved in a hit-and-run. They were still driving. Prosecutors and judges need to go after repeat drunken desperados like them. And this bozo.
Yes, 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.
Wet & Wild: The meteorological phenomenon known as the Pineapple Express came to town over the weekend and brought wet, warm Hawaii-inspired weather. It poured rain. Temperatures warmed to 61 degrees on Sunday.
The National Weather Service issued a flood watch to remain in effect through Monday for Southwest Washington state. Just behind our house, Salmon Creek rose quite a bit but didn't crest its banks.
Mudslides halted Amtrak Cascades passenger train service between Seattle and Portland through Monday.
It's Hideous: Jonah Goldberg has written, "This is not a shot at Obama. I thought the trees under Bush were ugly too. For some reason the White House thinks it's a good idea to take a majestic and massive tree and drop a lit-up blanket over it. It doesn't look like a tree, which means it's a waste of a beautiful tree. It looks like some nodule on the way to the CPU in Tron."
He's referring to the outside tree on the Ellipse near the White House. I agree with Jonah.
Irony Alert: Cancun temperatures plunged to 100-year record low during 'global warming' summit.
Which reminds me of that Al Gore joke: "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"
"No, but we have him in a parka in Mexico."
Bad Pun Of The Day: A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off.
"Because", he said, "I can't stand chess-nuts boasting in an open foyer."
Friday December 10, 2010
Dakota Dog: Much is being written about the revival of Chrysler these days. But reliability and quality remain a gamble.
The most recent data from Consumer Reports lists Chrysler as the lowest-ranked manufacturer in the survey. "We can recommend only one of its vehicles, the four wheel-drive Dodge Ram 1500," the magazine report said.
My very good friend and fellow car nut Ray Lukas purchased a new '05 Dodge Dakota ST Club Cab with V6 engine in November 2005. The Dakota had been redesigned for the '05 model year but still shared its platform with the Durango SUV.
An ominous sign of cost-cutters at work within Chrysler was the fact that this "new generation model also reverted the wheels back to five lug wheels from the prior generation's six lug wheels due to cost and assembly time saving measures," according to Edmunds.com.
All went fairly well with Ray's red truck until ... (more >>>)
What's In A Name? General Motors is changing the model name of the Chevrolet small car from Aveo to Sonic. It will commence with the 2012 model year.
Just thinking about it gives me a hankerin' for a drive-in hamburger.
Sometimes, Out Of Evil Comes Good. Or Truth: The WikiLeaks de facto declassification of privileged material makes it case closed: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and intended to restart his program once the heat was off. Publicity hound Joe Wilson and his I'm-a-secret-agent-but-put me-on a magazine-cover-anyway wife Valerie Plame were viciously wrong about the whole no-uranium thing - a mistake with an apparent half life of Strontium-90.
It turns out that George Bush was right about those "weapons of mass destruction" and yellowcake concentrated uranium.
WikiLeaks' newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction.
"Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam's toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict - and may have brewed up their own deadly agents."
In 2008, the U.S. military shipped out of Iraq - on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels - 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake.
Hammered by the insidious "Bush Lied, People Died" mantra (the Left used to scream it louder a pack of howler monkeys with badly infected hemorrhoids), George W. endured one of the most vicious smears against any president in history. He is owed an apology.
Quantitative Easing Explained ... or exposed. Jon Stewart tells all on The Big Bank Theory. In less than four minutes, Stewart completely deconstructs Ben Bernanke.
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Grandma In Hospital Told 'Do Not Resuscitate' Means 'Low-Sodium Diet'.'
Runner-up is from Recoil: 'Pervert keeps sneaking back into airport security line for extra TSA pat downs.'
Quote Of The Day is from Jameson Campaigne: "Christmas is when kids tell Santa what they want, and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want, and their kids pay for it."
Thursday December 9, 2010
Economic Roadblock: Financial advisor Malcolm Berko is not a fan of General Motors and does not recommend the stock.
"I still see the old GM culture under the new GM skin. I see people doing the same old things the same the old way.
And I see efficiencies still being held hostage to abusive union demands. And after Ross Perot quit the GM Board, I recall his comment: 'You can remove management and employees from the old culture, but you can't take the old culture out of management and the employees.'"
And: "Now, if you believe GM can sell plenty of cars in an economy with l8% real unemployment and banks foreclosing on tens of thousands of homes to earn $2 billion again, then I've got a sweet toll bridge in Hoboken I want you to see."
Malcolm concluded, "So, it's the same wine, but in a smaller bottle. GM likes to think it has changed, but you'll do well to remember the old axiom: 'The more things change, the more they stay the same.'"
Come Fly With Me: In 2009, airlines experienced the steepest drop in international passenger traffic in the history of modern aviation.
According to the International Air transport Association, traffic declined 3.5% in 2009, with the average plane flying less than 76% full.
Since the dawn of commercial flight, domestic paying passenger miles have increased every year with occasional light dips during recessions. In recent years, growth has been stagnant and now it's been dropping.
Obviously, the harsh recession is at play but I wonder how much of the drop is due to general suckiness of air travel - stripped down airline services combined with TSA unpleasantness.
In August 2007, 55,681,501 domestic paying passenger miles were flown. By August 2010, that figure had declined ... (more >>>)
Ticket To Ride: A proposed Oregon streetcar will cost taxpayers about $20 per passenger ride - one way.
But hey, it's only money. Your money. (permalink)
Discouraging News: The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, is reportedly suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Typically, this type of cancer has only a 5-10% percent overall survival rate. I hope she beats the odds and lives a long life.
Since 1961, Aretha has scored a total of 45 'Top 40' hits. Rolling Stone magazine has ranked Franklin No. 1 on its list of The Greatest Singers of All Time. Just listen to 'Respect', 'Chain Of Fools', 'Think' or 'Freeway of Love'. Every song is different but her talent just shines through.
Check It Out: For some time now, I've been predicting that the economic recovery graph will not be the historical bounce-back V-shape we're used to seeing but rather an anemic check-mark shaped one. Here's the beginning ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: One of Santa's helpers was sent to a therapist because he seemed depressed. Diagnosis: Low Elf Esteem.
Wednesday December 8, 2010
Super Advertising: Eight auto manufacturers are buying ad time on Super Bowl XLV. Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen will be represented at the highly-watched event.
Damp Remarks: James Lileks recently wrote about using a car wash, paying "a small monthly fee for unlimited washes." And then revealed why he's taking his business elsewhere.
This elicited a stinging rebuke from a blog commenter, "You pedantic lazy sod. Why don't you just get a bucket, sponge, and hose and wash the thing yourself? Then you'll have no reason to complain."
James fired back the next day: "Anonymous and rude: persuasion's winning combo! Well, my friend, our civic leaders discourage us from washing cars in our driveway, because the runoff goes right into the lake. The car wash recycles the water. Why do you hate the planet? Also we have something here called 'winter', which makes driveway washes somewhat untenable, because the water freezes a few inches from the hose and punches holes in the side of the car, and locks the doors shut with a carapace of ice. But thanks for stopping by."
Here are a few thoughts from me ... (more >>>)
Simple & Clever: I've owned a General Tools #68 wire stripper since the 1960s. It does its job well and the design is a uncomplicated yet ingenious. It was unique enough to warrant a patent, issued in 1956 to Ermon F. Ayer, founder of High Precision Inc., a Connecticut contract manufacturer.
His company apparently produced this item for General Tools ... (more >>>)
RIP: Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, has died at age 61 after a long battle with cancer.
Ann Romney, Mitt's wife, offered this eulogy, "She was extremely warm and gracious, both on stage and in private. After the campaign ended, facing a cancer diagnosis myself, Elizabeth was among the first to check in with encouragement and support. I have incredible respect for the courage she showed throughout her own illness. She faced it bravely and without complaint."
In the summer of 2008 - after a year of rumors and tabloid reports, John Edwards admitted to having an affair with a campaign worker Rielle Hunter in 2006. Reilie was a manly-looking angular woman; maybe Edwards thought he was Prince Charles. Or the late Duke of Windsor.
Looking at the timeline, he was apparently running off to the West Coast to get laid while his wife was undergoing cancer treatment. Scumbag.
In early 2010, John Edwards admitted he was the father of Hunter's then 2-year-old daughter and the Edwards announced they were officially separated.
Gerard Van der Leun predicted back in August 2008, that after Elizabeth Edwards' death and "a decent or indecent period of mourning (depending on your own internal clock about these matters), Edwards and Mom of Love Child marry in a quiet, secret, paparazzi free ceremony somewhere on a billionaire's private island. Love Child Mom gets multi-millionaire husband (Her fantasy plan all along come true at last.), love child is made legitimate and an heir, and the new Edwards family lives happily ever after as the Duke and the Duchess of North Carolina."
Gerard had also prognosticated that the John Edwards/Rielle Hunter life story would be "a remake of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor as performed by the Clampetts."
I added that "when both of them are finally dead, Rielle's jewelry will be auctioned off at Sotheby's and Limited Edition copies will be peddled by The Franklin Mint. Yours for Three Easy Payments.
Eventually, there will also be a Bradford Exchange commemorative plate."
Fundamental, Structural Economic Shift: Fritz over at Ace has posited an interesting theory about long-term negative trends in the U.S. economy.
"We here in the U.S. have spent the last 25 years or so talking about our transformation from a manufacturing economy to a "knowledge" economy. In retrospect, we appear to have been trying to make a virtue out of an inevitable trend. The problem is, consumers by and large don't buy "knowledge" - they buy tangible things."
More: "To a large extent, we can consider the last 30 years to have been a "meta-bubble" in which we burned through a lot of different types of "credit" in building a lifestyle and a level of general public wealth at all levels (leftist naysayers notwithstanding) never before seen in the world.
That meta-bubble started deflating 10 years ago, with the tech crash of 2000. We have continued to pump up other ... (more >>>)
Charlie, We Hardly Knew Ye: Now that Frank J. Fleming has returned from his Thanksgiving Texas odyssey, he has resumed his Random Thoughts.
Here's one I particularly liked, "President Logan from '24' now has a higher job approval rating than Obama."
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Not surprisingly, it sank - proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
Tuesday December 7, 2010
Car Sighting: I recently spotted a late 1950s Citroën DS-19 sedan in blue with a white top - a pretty rare find these days.
Introduced in 1955, the DS was known for its aerodynamic, futuristic, quirky body design and innovative technology, including height-adjustable hydropneumatic, self-leveling suspension.
The suspension could be used to jack up the car for tire changes. Wheels were secured with a single lug nut. The DS-19 also had a single spoke steering wheel. It was the first mass-produced car with power front disc brakes. Rear turn signals were mounted in the roof - predating the Mercury XM Turnpike Cruiser dream car by more than a year.
Citroën sold nearly 1.5 million of the revolutionary D-series during the model's 20-year production run. Not many came to the U.S.
Traveling in a herd of American cars on the freeway, the Citroën DS-19 had the same visual effect as a guy with a shaved head and goatee in a crowd: looking like something from another planet. Or an alternate universe. (permalink)
On a somewhat related note ...
Ahead Of His Time: Frank J. Fleming has observed, "Kinda weird how Steven Wright mastered Twitter long before Twitter existed."
Papal Bull: When I started doing volunteer work, I quickly realized that there were two kinds of people: can-dos and pontificators.
Can-do people are action-oriented and want to get stuff done. They are results-driven and not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Those who pontificate want to sit in upholstered chairs or sofas and have endless meetings. They like to "facilitate" things. And they always have great reasons why they can't show up on Saturday to dig, build or paint something.
I've met many suggestion-intensive, work-adverse people in my lifetime. I call them Armchair Popes. They sit in comfy chairs (or thrones) and dispense marching orders and 'expert' advice. Some of the ones at larger organizations write occasional Encyclicals.
Over the past 30 or so years, I've noticed that the ratio of can-doers to pontificators is dropping.
No one wants ... (more >>>)
"A Date Which Will Live In Infamy ..." On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. This event galvanized our nation and made us officially part of the Second World War, even though we had already been involved in assisting England - and other nations - against the Nazis.
Family legend has it that my dad and a couple of his brothers hitchhiked down to a recruiting office the following day and put their names on the enlistment roll. My dad chose the Navy but wasn't called to active duty until 1944. Probable reasons were not enough ships available plus his critical worker status as an experienced freight railroader.
His supply ship, LSM 448, was commissioned in January 1945; he had received special training to be a radar operator. While he didn't talk much about his wartime experiences, I know that he traveled to Guam, the Philippines and to Japan. Just after the atomic bomb was dropped, his ship delivered a company of Marines who were part of the occupying forces. He had a map of Nagasaki, showing the areas to avoid - too radioactive.
LSM 448 usually carried supplies, tanks, half tracks, fuel and other supplies to wherever they were needed.
|The crew of LSM 448 once made a 'boat' out of some scrap gas tanks. That's my dad on the right, holding a cigarette.
One of his shipmates told me of a typhoon the LSM 448 experienced "at Okinawa in October 1945. It was the most violent and destructive storms of the century. When the storm approached the island, we were ordered to put to sea to ride out the storm. The wind was blowing about 200 mph and the rain was so heavy you could not see anything in front or to the side." The LSM came very close to sinking.
I was born in 1943, so I have no memories of World War II or of my dad's absence from home. I still have a pristine 1944 Hawaiian dollar which he brought back for me as a souvenir.
My dad got out of the Navy around May 1946 and, like most vets, quietly returned to normal civilian life.
On this somber anniversary, let us give thanks to all who serve or have served. (permalink)
How High The Moon: Charles G. Hill of Dustbury has posted a PBS video clip of legendary guitarist & hot rod connoisseur Jeff Beck and Dublin rockabilly/blues singer Imelda May performing the classic 1951 gold hit by Les Paul/Mary Ford hit as part of a tribute to Les Paul, who would have turned 95 this year. (He died in 2009.)
Beck and May perform an engaging and credible homage while adding some flavor of their own to the almost 60 year-old song.
Les Paul is not well known by today's public but his musical innovations, like the solid body electric guitar, chording sequences and multitrack-recording techniques, made the sound of rock and roll possible. Paul was mostly a jazz/country guitarist.
1951 was a dead-dull year for music. Top hits included such forgettable ditties as 'Mockin' Bird Hill' by Patti Page, 'The Little White Cloud That Cried', 'On Top Of Old Smoky' and 'Come On-A My House' by Rosemary Clooney. I remember hearing Paul/Ford's 'How High The Moon' on the radio as an eight year-old and having a What the Hellizzat moment. The sound was so different and fascinating. And unbland.
Music changed greatly in coming years, helped by electronics, the ubiquitous reach of television and the increasing monetary buying-power of teenagers. Les Paul's technology revolutionized the industry and shifted its course.
And the world was never the same.
PS: Mark Steyn has provided a history of the song 'How High The Moon', which was written in 1940 and performed by big bands such as Benny Goodman as a fox trot and later performed as a ballad by Ella Fitzgerald. (permalink)
Say It Magnetically: I'm a fan of neither bumper stickers nor magnetic ribbons but, if I ever put one on any of my cars, it will be this.
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a Nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin."
Monday December 6, 2010
Out Of Its Element: Honda is discontinuing its homely small crossover at the end of the 2011 model year. First introduced as a 2003 model, the Rubbermaid-inspired CUV was a surprise hit. In its first year, over 67,000 were sold.
Sales averaged well north of 50,000 units per year during the first four years of its life.
Then things headed straight down. Honda will sell around 14,000 of the little utilities in 2010. In comparison, the stylishly funky Kia Soul outsells the Element almost 5 to 1. Honda's offering is also handly outsold by fellow boxes-on-wheels, the Scion XB and Nissan Cube.
The Element was supposed to ... (more >>>)
It's Always About The Children: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing to expand the required field of view for most vehicles. The net effect of such a regulation would mandate that every car, SUV and truck have a rear-mounted video camera and dashboard visual display adding several hundred bucks to the cost of every vehicle.
Every year, 228 people die as a result of "backover incidents." (As a point of reference, 256 people die from falling out of bed each year.) Proponents of the back-up camera regulation use the well-known Simpsons' Helen Lovejoy defense, "What about the children!?" They point out that 100 or so of the 228 deaths are toddlers.
I love kids but hate it when people play the "children" card. In the scheme of things, it's much more tragic when a family breadwinner is killed. Such an event can throw the remainder of the family into financial and psychological crises. Especially "the children." In the great triage of mortality, working moms and dads count more than kids, singles or geezers.
But I digress.
NHTSA says that small children "can't be trained to listen for backup beeps." No studies have been offered to support this claim. Even if true, the same simple car-mounted speaker could broadcast the voice of Elmo or Cookie Monster yelling, "Get the #$@& out of the way, you little $@#*@&!" That'll get their attention.
In fact, the agency has no idea if its new regulations will reduce deaths at all. This is simply another feel-good mandate with no scientific basis. And it will cost more than ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from P. J. O'Rourke: "Skiing consists of wearing $3,000 worth of clothes and equipment and driving 200 miles in the snow in order to stand around at a bar and drink."
Friday December 3, 2010
Worse Than A Yugo: Greg Gutfeld has called the East German Trabant "possibly the worst car ever made. Legend has it, that there was no such thing as a new Trabant. A dead one was just patched back up and sent out on the road. Like Joan Rivers."
Three What? This week, I received a postcard addressed to Joseph Sherlock III with an invitation to the Discover Porsche Test Drive Event at Sunset Imports in Beaverton, OR on Saturday December 11th.
Technically, III would be my son who has never resided at our current address and lives in another state. And who has neither the interest in nor - I suspect - the spare cash for a brand-new Porsche.
While a test drive sounds interesting, I don't feel like taking an almost three hour-round trip, battling holiday shopping traffic just to sample what P.J. O'Rourke has described as an "ass-engined Nazi slot car." And you only get to drive one model.
I get a lot of high-end vehicle promo mail addressed to III. Must be a list glitch.
Good News But It's Two Years Away: Sporting goods retailer Cabela's has signed a letter of intent to anchor a 125,000 square-foot mall in Oregon City.
Cabela's would be one of two anchor tenants in The Rivers development being built on 66 acres near I-205 and Oregon 213. Construction will begin next summer and the new mall will open in 2013, when a major realignment of Highway 213 is completed.
At last - I can Eat Like A Hunter. ... (more >>>)
If It Walks Like A Duck And Quacks ... Barack Obama, in an interview with Barbara Walters, has blamed cyberspace for why people think he's a Muslim. (I'm surprised he didn't blame George Bush - he seems to blame him for everything else.)
"The internet has a powerful effect these ways," he said. "So the way rumors can take up a life of their own ends up being very powerful."
I don't think it's the internet, Barry. Here's some reasons for ya ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Jimmy Fallon: "What is going on these days? George W. Bush writes a 500-page memoir and Obama publishes a kids coloring book."
Thursday December 2, 2010
Star Car: Recently, I found a photo, taken in early 2008 during my visit to a private car collection. The vehicle is a black 1948 Ford Woody station wagon with the dashboard autographed by ... (more >>>)
Car Sales: All major automakers but Toyota reported fairly strong U.S. sales increases in November. This points to a slow-but-steady return in consumer demand from the depressed levels of a year ago.
Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan, Hyundai and Honda all reported double-digit increases. AutoData estimated the November SAAR at 12.3 million vehicles - the highest sales rate since September 2008, excluding the market-distorting Cash-for-Clunkers program in August 2009.
The Hyundai Group was up a whopping 46%. A good portion of that came from Toyota prospects. You can bet that all those Hyundai and Kia salesmen are lighting cigars and toasting each other with OB Beer.
FoMoCo reported sales increases of 24%. Focus, Fusion, F-series, Edge, Flex, Expedition, Econoline, Transit Connect and Crown Vicky zoomed upward (more than 20% increase) but Taurus transactions were down 11% to 4,172 units. Lincoln sales were up 19% but sales of the flagship MKS dropped 22% to 1,100 units.
Chrysler Corp. was up 17%, helped a great deal by sales of the new Grand Cherokee. With the Chrysler and Dodge brands languishing, the company is evolving toward Ram-Jeep, Inc. (Led by its pickup, Ram sales were up 67%.)
General Motors' performance was in the right direction but less impressive - up 12%. Buick is currently its stellar brand with a jump in deliveries of 36%.
Most import makers were happy: Volkswagen was up 28%, BMW and Nissan increased 27%, Subaru rose 22% and American Honda went up 21%. Sales of the popular CR-V (it outsells the Civic and is closing on the top-selling Accord) were up 25%.
Toyota was down 3%, losing sales in the important Camry and Corolla market segments. Avalon sales were up 12% to 2,186. Lexus LS sales up 20% to 1,270 sedans, although Lexus brand sales were off 1% from November '09. Jaguar sales were down 3%.
Over two years ago, I wrote, "Car and light truck sales fluctuate between about 12 and 17.5 million units per year, averaging 15 mm/yr. I expect that 2009 will set a new low, with sales of well under 12 million vehicles. Because of gradually improving conditions and interesting new product offerings already scheduled, I believe that 2010 sales will revert to the 12-15 mm level."
I think 2011 will be better than 2010. Time will tell.
Cheap Screwing: When I was working on my train layout last month, I pulled out an old thin-bladed screwdriver to do some pry work.
I realized that I had purchased it in 1962 or '63 at a neighborhood hardware store. The place kept a white paper bucket near the cash register full of screwdrivers for sale at 9¢ each ... (more >>>)
Houses, Mortgages and Foreclosures - Oh My! I have posted various housing-related comments/essays on a single page for your convenience.
Through A See-Through Clamshell, Darkly: A White House staffer was conspicuously overweight. President Obama, in an incident that (MSNBC analyst Richard) Wolffe believes proves how caring the Mr. Obama is, took it upon himself to present the aide with a salad for lunch, "then listened to him protest that he could take care of his own health. 'I love you, man,' Obama said. 'I want you to look after yourself. Eat the salad.’"
Gerard Van Der Leun has written, "I love you, man. Eat the salad. That is the Obama presidency in a plastic see-through clamshell. (Hold the ranch dressing!) The president loves us. He knows what's best for us. We should bow to his superior wisdom."
Maybe the staffer suffers from a disease which prevents him from eating salads. (Such things are more common than, say, peanut allergies.) Did Obama ask? No. "Do as I say."
One size will fit all - just like Obamacare.
This also proves my long-held thesis that obese people represent the last bastion of prejudice.
The P.C. police won't let you pick on or discriminate against blacks, gays, trannies, hobos or Muslims. But fatties are always fair game. (permalink)
Global Warming Alert: Heavy snow and subzero temperatures swept across Europe, closing major airports in Britain and Switzerland and causing hundreds of highway accidents.
Up to 16 inches of snow fell in some parts of England in what turned out to be the coldest December 1st on record. Severe weather warnings have been issued for Scotland and the east of England, including London. Eurostar has cancelled half its trains for today and is recommending passengers delay their journeys if possible.
In Ireland, flights from Dublin airport were temporarily suspended yesterday while thick snow and ice was cleared from a main runway. With many schools closed and many minor roads impassable due to snow, drivers were urged to stay home unless absolutely necessary.
Quote Of The Day is from Groucho Marx: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it."
Wednesday December 1, 2010
Rent A Winner: J.D. Power has awarded top spot in its 2010 Rental Car Satisfaction Study to Enterprise Rental Car - for the seventh year in a row.
I'm not surprised. I've had generally good experiences with Enterprise and have rented from them more frequently than anyone else in the last 15 years.
Coping Skills: The tall brick R&H Pelletizing Cooling Tower building at the back right-hand corner of my model train layout was made to cover a triangular wood support brace which connects the back of the structure with the main body.
The fake building was constructed from foam core art board and covered with printed brick paper. The windows and doors are printed paper as well. Ten years of storing, moving and setting up the layout have taken their toll on the building, leaving it with dents and creases near the top.
To cover up some of the damage ... (more >>>)
Diehard Retailer: Sears third-quarter loss nearly doubled, dragged down by weak revenue at its long-suffering Sears chain.
I had forgotten that Sears was still in business.
Once upon a time, Sears & Roebuck was a powerhouse in the retail trade. From its start in the mail order business in the twilight of the 19th Century, Sears developed a reputation for both quality products and customer satisfaction.
The company grew to become the largest retailer in the United States by the 1950s. And remained so until the mid-1980s.
In my opinion, Sears troubles began in the 1980s, when ... (more >>>)
Good Question: Sarah Palin has asked, "What steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months?
Assange is not a "journalist," any more than the "editor" of al Qaeda's new English-language magazine Inspire is a "journalist."
He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."
Here's An Idea ... we already have the bombs. So wouldn't nuking North Korea constitute a "shovel-ready project"?
Quote Of The Day is from Ernest Hemingway: "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."