Monday May 30, 2011
Please Note: This blog will be inactive for the entire month of June. Blogging will resume July 1st.
In The Original Box: Here's a sneak peek at one of my Father's Day gifts.
It's a 1:43 model of a 1941 Ford Tudor in Pennsylvania Railroad Tuscan red with PRR decals on the doors and trunk.
The lettering reads ... (more >>>)
Zooooom: Dan Neil has described cornering in the new $400,000 Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 thusly: "I'm tightly belted into the recumbent driver's seat, but the escalating lateral g-forces are sloshing my organs around like squid in a cooler."
The Lamborghini is powered by a 700 horsepower 6.5-liter, naturally aspirated, dry-sump lubricated, 48-valve V12. Neil has noted, "The Aventador can accelerate from a dead stop to 186 mph in 24 seconds." Zero-to-60 mph happens in under 2.8 seconds. Wow.
Remembrance: Today, in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. Initiated in 1868 and originally called Decoration Day, it is a day to remember those who have died in our nation's service.
We honor those who gave their all so that our country might live and that democracy and liberty would continue to flourish.
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
Moina Michael - 1915
Dead Ivy: When I was in college (and dinosaurs roamed the earth), four years of tuition - not including room and board - at a private college cost roughly the same as a new Corvette. Four years at a state institution was priced at the level of a new air-cooled Beetle.
Few people had student loans. Those who did were able to pay them off within a few years.
Today, four year tuition at a state college may cost as much as ... (more >>>)
Retirement Solution: Frank J. Fleming has proposed: "The plan to keep Social Security solvent by the time I retire is to find an alien civilization and embezzle all their space money."
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met."
Friday May 27, 2011
California - Now Even Bigger: The Great California Adventure was an early 2002 meet-up between me and my good friend and fellow car nut, Ray, to check out every car, train and model train attraction in Southern California. A trip report is posted here.
When I first posted photos of our trip, the image sizes were small ... because almost everyone still had dial-up. The other day, I rescanned and resized some of the photos. I have reposted them in larger format here.
Breaker, Breaker One-Nine: Am I the only one who thinks that this whole 'social media' thing may collapse like an orange-red giant star in the constellation Libra? Or like the CB radio fad in 1979?
Small-Minded Small Business Morons: Last year I wrote, "Sometimes it's hard to be sympathetic to the plight of small business when so many owners are idiots."
James Lileks recently had an exasperating experience with a neighborhood bike store, and commented, "Any nation whose industry resembles the standard neighborhood bike shop is Doomed To Ruin." The story begins here.
But wait - it gets worse.
The ending is here. Speaking of bikes ...
Misplaced Adjective: Jack Bojack has written, "A Portland City Hall glossary alert: They're no longer bicyclists, they're 'vulnerable road users'."
Portland's whack job mayor, Sam Adams, "wants to make progress on the 2030 Portland Bicycle Plan, which promises to build nearly 700 miles of new bikeways as part of a bigger plan to reduce greenhouse gases. He wants to get it done now, before the city needs to shift $8 million a year into construction of a new Sellwood Bridge."
This is ... (more >>>)
Unrequited Love: Columnist Charles Krauthammer has written: "The world hates us for our wealth, our success, our power. They hate us into incoherence.
The Europeans disdain us for our excessive religiosity while the Arab world despises us as purveyors of secularism. We are widely reviled as enemies of Islam, yet in the 1990s, we engaged three times in combat - in the Persian Gulf and in the Balkans to rescue Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo - Muslim peoples all. And in the last two cases, there was nothing in it for the U.S.; it was humanitarianism and good international citizenship of the highest order.
The search for logic in anti-Americanism is fruitless. It is in the air the world breathes. Its roots are envy and self-loathing."
Quote Of The Day is from Norman R. Augustine: "The best way to make a silk purse from a sow's ear is to begin with a silk sow. The same is true of money."
Thursday May 26, 2011
Photo Op: Tuesday morning was a bit cloudy but the sun shone brightly by afternoon. Taking advantage of the weather, I took a photo of the Lexus and posted it here (scroll down to last photo).
I awoke Wednesday morning to rain. After running errands all morning, the LS no longer looks so pristine. Oh well.
Unlike Kyle Bush, I wasn't caught doing 128 mph in my Lexus - too wet.
Truth In Reporting: Regarding John Edwards, how come no media outlet has posted this headline: 'Megawealthy ambulance-chaser, grieving widower and serial fornicator to be indicted'?
If this had been a Republican politician, you know they would have.
CINO Alert: Villanova University's 2011 commencement speaker was U.S. Senator Bob Casey, who "voted against the 'Mexico City Policy', thereby allowing the U.S. government to pay for abortions overseas, and against the de-fund Planned Parenthood amendment to the 2011 budget."
Another CINO: Catholic In Name Only.
Villanova is not the only college ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Known and Unknown: A Memoir' by Donald Rumsfeld
This a thorough book. Too thorough. It is full of details from the author's 'personal archive' and is truly mind-numbing. At 350-400 pages, with a good editor deftly wielding a finely-honed scalpel, this could have been an damn good read.
At 700-plus pages, not including ... (more >>>)
Corny Politics: Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, threw his hat in the ring in a bid for the Republican Party presidential nomination, while giving a speech in Iowa.
He called for the end of ethanol subsidies to a crowd of Iowans, which grabbed their attention like a loud fart in a Trappist monastery. I'm surprised that the masses didn't chant, "Burn the heretic! Burn him!"
The Corn Palace may be in South Dakota but corn is a Big Deal in Iowa - more corn is grown in the state than most countries. Iowa supplies 25% of the total U.S. ethanol production.
Iowa even has an official corn song.
Pawlenty said, "The truth about federal energy subsidies, including federal subsidies for ethanol, is that they have to be phased out. We need to do it gradually. We need to do it fairly. But we need to do it. ... It's not only ethanol. We need to change our approach to subsidies in all industries."
Even though it's a little early for me to get excited about the 2012 Presidential Sweepstakes - we're still in the Anything Can Happen phase, I'm impressed that Mr. Pawlenty wants to end the Great Ethanol Scam which I discussed here. And here. And here.
Tim is distancing himself from the rest of the field. That's an impressive move.
Quote Of The Day is from Grandpa Simpson: "The metric system is the tool of the devil. My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it."
Wednesday May 25, 2011
The Future Has Arrived: Toyota has announced plans to create Toyota Friend, a private social networking service that will let cars "tweet" their drivers when they need servicing.
In September, 1999, I wrote that, in 2006, "Every morning at 2:00 am, your car will run complete mechanical diagnostics on itself, including tire pressure as well as tire and brake wear. If there's a problem, your car will send you e-mail and tell you where it hurts."
Not all my predictions come true. In the same article ... (more >>>)
Speaking Of Coffee ... here's a Starbucks-related, liquid aggravation incident posted at Stumptown Blogger: "Imagine this ... a young man, maybe 16 stands in line and when he gets up to the counter he asks for a sip of water to take a pill. The devil pig acting as a Starbucks employee tells him that he will have to pay for a sip of water.
The kid says "Really, I just need this much of water" ... She sent him walking.
For my good deed of the day I bought the kid a bottle of water and gave it to the devil good. My next mission is calling Starbucks corporate and making their day too." Good for him.
This is why ... (more >>>)
Killing Me Softly: In a recent New York Daily News editorial, Andrea Tantaros wrote, "There is a dirty secret about health care that President Obama hopes will escape the headlines. In his newly released plan to "reform" Medicare as part of overall deficit reduction, Obama has punted actual cost-cutting and instead proposed a panel - the Independent Payment Advisory Board - to recommend savings for the financially doomed program. Translation: Welcome to the world of rationing.
The board, which was an original part of Obamacare (remember the death panel debate?), consists of 15 unelected bureaucrats who will have unchecked, binding power in the interest of supposedly greater efficiency and lower costs."
Donald Berwick, the President's controversial Medicare administrator, already stated that the "decision is not whether or not we will ration care - the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open."
Andrea concluded, "Although Obama and many congressional Democrats are hoping the complexity of the Independent Payment Advisory Board will keep people from paying attention, our eyes must be open, too. The fate of the elderly, the sick and the disabled depends on it."
Last year, when a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over "death panels" ... (more >>>)
Stayin' Alive: A recent article in The Reflector newspaper profiled the Hockinson Market, an establishment that I pass whenever I take my Plymouth on the Hockinson loop drive. The little market is part convenience store and part grocery store.
The construction business in the Portland/Vancouver metro area remains abysmal; unemployment in the building trades is estimated to exceed 30%. What does this have to do with a little corner market? Read on ... (more >>>)
Not An Avalanche ... but not bad. The article in Philadelphia's Northeast Times has driven about 350 additional visitors to the initial Philly page on my web site, according to my server logs.
Buh-Bye: The legendary and exclusive New York eatery, Elaine's, is closing. Owner and owner and hostess Elaine Kauffman had died last December.
Dan Cirucci has written that if "you weren't a 'name' personality, getting into Elaine's could be next to impossible. And even if you gained admittance, it was still harder to score a good table."
A New York Times reader offered this comment, "I have long marveled at the fact that liberals love to talk about equality. But they revere restaurants and clubs that pamper the elite and treat unknowns as trash."
Quote Of The Day is from Miss Piggy, on eating Chinese food: "You don't knit with forks, so I see no reason to eat with knitting needles."
Monday May 23, 2011
Shiny Assignment: Last Friday, I finished my five-day project - a little each day - of cleaning and waxing my '39 Plymouth. I probably hadn't waxed it in seven years or so. The paint and chrome now gleam.
I shot some fresh photos and posted them here.
We've been having great weather the past few days - sunny and warmer (65-75 degrees) - so, after a final buffing, I took the coupe for an enjoyable drive on nearby rural roads.
Good thing I did - it rained Saturday and Sunday.
A Very Old Debate: In Tennessee, a man stabbed his friend after the two men got into a weekend argument over whether Ford or Chevrolet vehicles were better.
One man was taken to the hospital with serious injuries; the other was taken to the county jail. The report didn't state whether Ford or Chevy won the argument.
So Many Tracks; So Few Passengers: The Cascade Policy Institute has questioned whether costly-to-build mass transit options in Portland, Oregon are really being used by the public.
That didn't stop Head Moron, chronic liar and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray 'Stop Driving Your Toyotas Immediately' LaHood from singling out the city's "priorities" for praise: "By adding innovative transit opportunities, Portland has become a model livable community, a city where public transportation brings housing closer to jobs, schools, and essential services."
Cascade President John Charles, Jr. said in a statement, "Light rail is actually a low-capacity system and the (Portland) streetcar is simply irrelevant. TriMet's buses carries two-thirds of all regional transit trips on a daily basis, and that's the service that should be recognized as high-capacity transit. Unfortunately, bus service is being sacrificed by TriMet in order to build costly new rail lines that carry relatively few people."
Streetcars? What streetcars!? I've seen the tracks for them, but no cars in Portland. And, the primary riders of the Max light rail line seem to be students, hobos and gang members.
Portland's Tri-Met transit overlords love social engineering ... (more >>>)
Malls Are Dead ... and office buildings aren't feeling so good either. Once upon a time, Mall Walking was a leisure activity, especially in the rainy Pacific Northwest.
People strolled malls to be dazzled and see what was new and trendy. And make impulse purchases. And buy a Cinnabon or two for "carbo-loading purposes."
You may want to cue up some mid-1980s music, because that's when mall retailing peaked. I would suggest The Bangles' 'Walk like an Egyptian' or 'These Dreams' by Heart.
We rarely go to malls anymore, even when we travel. The few times we do so, they look deserted - a shadow of the shopping meccas of their glory days.
Last week ... (more >>>)
Lights Out: Joseph Brooks, who wrote the schmaltzy Academy Award-winning 1977 song, 'You Light Up My Life', and was recently charged with sexually assaulting more than a dozen women who were lured to his apartment for 'acting auditions', has committed suicide at age 73.
In related news, Brooks' son is awaiting trial for murdering his girlfriend.
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: Guy goes to a doctor. Doc sez, "You'll live to be 60!" Patient: "I am 60!" Doc responds, "See! What did I tell you?"
Thursday May 19, 2011
Sunny ... With A Chance Of Jerks: The weather was so good on Wednesday, that I took a drive in the Plymouth. Yes, I saw Mt. St. Helens - it was snow-covered and blessedly quiet.
The sky was a light Spring blue with only a few wispy clouds here and there. Early afternoon temperatures were in the mid-60s.
I had just read an Autoblog post about VW-driving idiots in New York City and, on my drive, encountered one - piloting a black Jetta or Passat southbound on 182nd Ave just north of Hockinson. I was doing the speed limit (50) on this country road. The moron behind me decided that wasn't fast enough, so he crossed the double line and passed me at 60, just as the road narrowed over an old bridge - creating a very dangerous situation.
He was middle-aged and, I could tell by his driving position, short. With a bald spot. I have encountered his type before - driving VWs, too. Listen, bozo, if you feel that inadequate, buy shoe lifts and get prescriptions for Viagra and Rogaine.
Aside from the VW dolt, I had a very enjoyable drive. (permalink)
Cranking It: Last week, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was embarrassed when he visited the Autovaz car plant and sampled the new Lada Granta, marketed as Europe's "cheapest car."
At this press event, the Lada wouldn't start for Putin until the fifth try. I guess some plant inspector will soon be breaking rocks with a pickaxe in a Siberian mine.
Restaurant Review: McCormick & Schmick's Grill, Tigard, OR.
We've been to this Bridgeport Village restaurant a couple of times but regardless of location, we've never, never had a bad meal at any M&S during past 30+ years. That includes Jake's Grill - the excellent steak joint - at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.
In the early 1970s, Bill McCormick purchased Jake's Famous Crawfish, a 100-plus year-old restaurant in Portland. He later hired Douglas Schmick to manage the restaurant and the rest is history.
The duo's reputation for dining excellence allowed the company to quickly expand. M&S is now a national chain with about 90 locations.
Sadly ... (more >>>)
Supporting Small Business: There is a new program at the Vancouver Branch of Washington State University that "links business students with small-business owners."
Groups of seniors act as consultants to small business owners, providing outside, objective recommendations for solving problems and improving the business.
The goal of the program is to give a boost to businesses that have the most potential to create more jobs in Clark County, while ... (more >>>)
Another Reason Why Schools Are Failing: School playground supervision has now been outsourced to "recess coaches."
Playworks, a national non-profit that dispatches recess coaches to mostly inner-city schools, says its job is to "put the play back on playgrounds." It costs ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from the late David Brinkley: "A successful person is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at him or her."
Wednesday May 18, 2011
Most Famous: 1939 Plymouths of one sort or another have appeared in many movies, but the best known of all is the blue business coupe seen in the movie 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'.
I've posted a couple of color stills on this page.
Obligatory Ash & Destruction Post: Thirty-one years ago today, Mount St. Helens blew its top. I was in the neighborhood and wrote about my memories in detail last year.
The mountain is blessedly quiet these days but there is still ash on our property as a reminder of its presence.
Thanks For Nothing: Or less than nothing. Remember Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka The Great Stimulus)? As many of us suspected, it didn't work. In fact, it actually made things worse.
"Our benchmark results suggest that the ARRA created/saved approximately 450 thousand state and local government jobs and destroyed/forestalled roughly one million private sector jobs. State and local government jobs were saved because ARRA funds were largely used to offset state revenue shortfalls and Medicaid increases rather than boost private sector employment.
The majority of destroyed/forestalled jobs were in growth industries including health, education, professional and business services."
You've Probably Heard Him ... but you may not have heard of him. Cornell Dupree, an American jazz and R&B guitarist, has died at age 68.
As a studio musician, Dupree played guitar on Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' and Brook Benton's 'Rainy Night in Georgia'. Rest in peace.
In somewhat related news, former Minnesota Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew has died at age 74. He is 11th on baseball's all-time home run list with 573 homers to his credit.
Regular readers know that I'm not a sports guy, but I remember Harmon because, some 40 years ago, he promoted Plexiglas 70 (a high-impact acrylic sheet, later discontinued) on behalf of its maker, Rohm & Haas Co.
Harmon appeared in print ads for the ill-fated product, swinging a bat at the breakage-resistant sheet. RIP.
Why I Just Ordered His Latest Book: I had read and thoroughly enjoyed Erik Larson's 'Devil In The White City' and reviewed it here.
'In the Garden of Beasts' is Larson's latest and, based of this review, seems worth a read as well. Here's the clincher quote/summary: "While her diplomat father courted Hitler, Martha Dodd (at least half of the book is taken up with a record of this young woman's carryings-on) courted Thomas Wolfe, who likened her to 'a butterfly hovering around my penis'."
Lame Joke Of The Day: What do they use frozen band-aids for? A: Cold cuts.
Tuesday May 17, 2011
For That Kind Of Money, You Could Buy 320 Brand-new Hyundai Accents: Recently, a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda was offered on Hemmings.com for $3,200,000.
Low Voltage: Mark Tapscott, Editorial Page Editor of the Washington Examiner and a knowledgeable car enthusiast, has written about the folly of the General Motors bailout. And how the Chevrolet Volt is a symbol of its failure.
Mark quotes Daniel Ikenson of the Cato Institute: "The auto industry wasn't rescued with the GM bailout. GM was 'rescued.' By rescuing GM, the government overrode market forces, and there are significant costs to assign for that. Witness the stagnant economy with 9.6% unemployment."
"Is it not plausible that businesses are sitting on their cash and not investing or hiring because of the fear inspired by the government interventions starting with the bank and auto bailouts? It's more than plausible. The regime uncertainty that persists to this day was spawned by the GM bailout and other interventions."
End Of The Line For This Dude: A 20-year-old
graffiti artist vandal was struck and killed by a subway train in Brooklyn yesterday. He was hit by a Manhattan-bound 'D' train at the 59th St. station while creating his "art." Transit officials said the motorman tried to stop the train but couldn't bring it to a halt in time.
And the artist became One with his Art. Splat! (permalink)
Stock Market Gurus: I've been doing some personal financial reviews and came across some old forecasts in my files.
In November 2003, Larry Kudlow wrote: "No one seems to have hit on it yet, but there are many reasons why the current economic recovery could easily develop into an eight or ten-year boom, much like the prosperity cycles of 1982-1990 and 1992-2000." He forecasted a stock rise of "over three-fold, which would translate to a whopping 28,000 Dow Jones Average by 2010!"
Then I found an article from 1998 ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Bone's Steak & Chop House; Battle Ground, WA.
I had reviewed this restaurant shortly after it opened in 2009. For the record, my wife and I were its very first paying customers and had our photo taken on opening day.
Since then, the restaurant has had its ups and downs, probably because it's been hard to make money in the depressed area known as North Clark County. Good staff departed, replaced by affable but clueless waitpeople. Offerings shrunk, as did the wine list. Once weekly customers, we stopped patronizing Bone's over a year ago.
A recent visit ... (more >>>)
Dress Code: Andrew Ferguson has written an entertaining profile of director David Mamet, the accomplished playwright, screenwriter, novelist, author and filmmaker. He wrote for movies like 'The Verdict', 'The Untouchables' and 'Wag the Dog'. Mamet won a Pulitzer Prize for 'Glengarry Glen Ross'.
One of the best descriptions in the article was Ferguson's take on the audience at Mamet's Stanford University talk: "About half the audience were students. The rest were aging faculty out on a cheap date with their wives or husbands.
You could identify the male profs by the wispy beards and sandals-'n'-socks footwear. The wives were in wraparound skirts and had hair shorter than their husbands'."
Quote Of The Day is from Oscar Wilde: "The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything."
Monday May 16, 2011
Change In The Weather: May has been a month of rain - not just proverbial showers but serious downpours.
When the sun finally made a belated appearance on Friday, I hopped in the Plymouth and took a nice long drive. Two of them actually. The morning run included a trip to the gas station. The second was just because it was still sunny - and 67 degrees - at 1:00 pm. So, why not?
Skies were blue but there was still plenty of snow on the mountains.
I took another trip to Hockinson and back on Saturday afternoon. Got a big wave from a guy going in the opposite direction in a Model A pickup truck.
The day was overcast and a bit cool - 60 degrees at 2:00 pm. By 4:30, it was pouring rain. Again. It poured Sunday, too.
Gas Pains: Chevron Supreme was priced at $4.239/gallon Friday - a dollar more than when I last filled up my '39 coupe on September 30, 2010.
When I first purchased the Plymouth, hi-test gas was a mere $1.259 per gallon. I keep notebooks in my cars and record gas prices at each fill-up. Probably too obsessively. I've posted a history of Plymouth fueling prices here.
Travel Advisory: This website has gotten big enough that I sometimes have trouble locating information about trips we've taken over the past dozen years. It's especially problematic when I can't recall the exact year. Or time of year.
So I created an index with links to all posted trips and travel photos here. In doing so, I updated and added more photos to some of the early travel pages.
Book Review: 'The Thank You Economy' by Gary Vaynerchuk
The author, a self-described "serial entrepreneur," is co-owner and director of operations of the Wine Library in Springfield, NJ - a spirits retailing operation started by his father - and an advocate of using social media to promote products and grow a business.
Gary Vaynerchuk has claimed that because of his customer service efforts, Wine Library grew from a $4 million dollar business to a $45 million business within five years.
Customer service is something that smart businesses have been practicing for thousands of years. But Vaynerchuk claims that we are "living through the biggest culture shift of our time. The internet, itself, is 17-years-old. It's just hitting the social part of its life." He posits that social networking, such as Twitter and Facebook represent new vital opportunities for customer service. And implies that old-fashioned ideas of customer care are dead.
His book contains much cheerleading on behalf of social media. But when he eventually gets around to case studies, each one is a "gee whiz" tale, unsupported by factual data - numbers - documenting the claimed success. Increased sales? Increased profitability? Improved return on investment? Not in the book.
Never mind, proclaims Gary. Numbers are irrelevant. Return on Investment? Who cares. "There is enormous ROI in social media. It's like my famous saying though, "What's the ROI of your mother?" The data isn't as black and white like it has been in the past. I firmly believe that the brands that have a soul and a heart and understand how to scale this will win."
Hmmmm. If you you're reporting 'heart and soul' rather than financial results, maybe the whole idea is bogus. Sounds like unicorn flatulence and rainbows to me.
You want data-backed results? Here's a real story ... (more >>>)
Old Meat: I recently found an old Philadelphia area newspaper clipping from August, 1969. The prices for meat were astoundingly low ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Ground beef? I'm not eating beef that's been on the ground."
Friday May 13, 2011
Happy Birthday: This blog is now seven years old. The View Through The Windshield debuted without fanfare on May 13, 2004. (You can view the first post here.)
While traffic to website is up almost 6% over last year, traffic to the main blog page has decreased by 10%. I'm not alone in seeing a decline in blog visitors. According to an article in The Economist last year, "Earlier in the decade, rates of growth for both the numbers of blogs and those visiting them approached the vertical. Now traffic to two of the most popular blog-hosting sites, Blogger and WordPress, is stagnating, according to Nielsen, a media-research firm. By contrast, Facebook's traffic grew by 66% last year and Twitter's by 47%."
People are reading blogs less. Several, which used to be a daily read for me, now get only a weekly visit. The proprietors are blogging less; many just do short Tweets instead. Folks have only so much time to read. When new online media comes along, old stuff declines. Just ask most newspapers. Or MySpace.
Since I don't sell ads, traffic changes have no impact on my life. I've never blogged for money and I have no intentions of making The View Through The Windshield a commercial venture. It is strictly a one-man voluntary operation; I don't have co-writers or a comments section. This blog's my journal, not a collaborative or a community forum. That's how it's going to stay. (If you're interested in more details, I wrote this for my blog's fifth birthday.)
There are no plans to expand my online presence. No Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds or podcasts. I want to enjoy my life rather than chain myself to a computing device day and night. Unless someone can present me with a compelling business case for doing so: "Show me the money." And it better be serious money - not just Pennies From Paypal. (I'm not holding my breath.)
Nevertheless, it's always gratifying when readers compliment me about something I wrote. While I'm a mere loose thread in the mighty woven warp and woof of the web, my micro-fiber will continue to cling to the fabric of the internet for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, here's to the beginning of another year: Cheers!
Thursday May 12, 2011
Ultimate What? To mark the 125th anniversary of the automobile, Auto News Europe is hosting a poll to determine which car represents the Ultimate Legend on Wheels.
The Citroën DS is apparently a major contender. The list is populated with entries from each of the last 13 decades, and includes names like the Jaguar E-type, Mercedes-Benz 300SL, Ford Mustang, BMW 2002 and Porsche 911.
Back in 2007, I compiled a list of 'Ten Cars That Changed Everything' - automobiles which have had the most impact on the auto industry and, in many cases, society. The winners weren't necessarily my favorite cars (they're probably not all your favorites either) and many weren't automotive best sellers.
That's OK, because my list wasn't a popularity contest; rather, it was a recognition of those cars which had the most profound impact.
Driving Away Prospective Customers: U.S. Senator Charles 'Chuck-the-Loudmouth-Idiot' Schumer has called for "the creation of an Amtrak no ride list. That would take the secure flight program and apply it to Amtrak trains."
Mitch Berg has written, "Of course, except for the tiny fragment of America living in the congested mid-Atlantic strip, Amtrak is largely on Amerca's 'do not ride' list. Amtrak is an epic money pit.
In vast swathes of the U.S., terrorists would be the only person on an Amtrak train."
On the West Coast, Amtrak trains usually run so late, how would terrorists know when to blow them up?
Dennis Miller has said that we should build a cross-country wall along the Mexican border and put a high-speed rail line on top of the wall, so that TSA has to patrol and protect it. That may be the best use of high-speed rail yet. (permalink)
Made-Up Words: James Lileks recently wrote that a Minnesota weather advisory called for "tornadic activity, as we used to call tornadoes. (Ketchup is now referred to as "tomatic activity," as well.)"
Rose Close: Rose's Restaurant and Bakery of West Linn, Oregon closed in April, apparently due to poor business conditions. I drove by there yesterday - the space was empty and 'For Lease' signs were plastered on the windows.
The iconic Portland deli chain has been around since 1956. At its best, Rose's is an OK place to eat. At its worst, it is a pale, lifeless imitation of an East Coast Jewish deli. At one point, Rose's had 8 or 9 locations in the area. Now it's down to three stores, although the original NW 23rd St. deli - in the artsy/gay district - is still around.
Update: In early June, Rose's Deli & Bakery on NW 23rd closed after 55 years in business.
Shuttered History: I just found out that the King George II Inn in Bristol, PA closed its doors last year.
The Inn was an institution in the town for 329 years and said to be the oldest operating business in the country. George Washington is reputed ... (more >>>)
Postage Due: The US Postal Service has lost $2.2 billion during the most recent quarter and has warned that it will be insolvent by September.
No wonder it's in trouble ... the Postal Service has yet to implement any of my recommendations.
Bad Pun Of The Day: When fish are in schools, they sometimes take debate.
Wednesday May 11, 2011
Toyota Encounter: Last week, we took my wife's Avalon to the Vancouver Toyota dealer for the 40,000 mile service and have a brake seal recall item dealt with.
McCord's Vancouver Toyota has recently moved into a brand-new building - part of a $12.5 million expansion.
It's really a nice facility - a big fireplace in the customer waiting lounge, flat-screen televisions, leather recliner chairs and a free gourmet coffee bar. It is actually a better place than the three Pacific Northwest Lexus dealers I've visited.
Vancouver Toyota employs about 130. It is the only Toyota store in Clark County Washington, although it competes with about nine other Toyota dealers in the Vancouver-Portland metro area from Longview, WA to Wilsonville, OR.
The service writers have changed and the new people seem more customer-friendly and less harried.
Unfortunately, the sales staff still seem to have the product knowledge of a brick, based on the one who approached us. We were looking at a 2011 Avalon, so I asked him how many trim levels were available. "Just this one." What about the Limited model? "Oh, yeah, right. It runs about $39K." I later went to the Toyota site and priced a loaded Limited. It came in at less than $38,000 list; Edmunds.com says I can easily negotiate the price down to $35K or so. Jeez. No sale for that sales bozo. Not that I'm buying - our old one is holding up just fine.
When we bought our 2005 model, there were four Avalon trim levels. Now there are only two: Avalon and Avalon Limited.
Strangely, there was only one vehicle inside the showroom - a Sienna, I think. All the other Toyota models were parked outside under a covered portico. But the surface of the black Avalon in the outside paddock was filthy with accumulated dirt - not very inviting.
We picked up our Avalon at 2:00 pm. Everything was fine - no surprises.
Book Review: 'The Bible Of Unspeakable Truths' by Greg Gutfeld.
Greg Gutfeld is a brilliantly funny social commentator. His middle-of-the-night cult show, 'Red Eye', is fast-paced and interesting.
'The Bible of Unspeakable Truths' is pure, unadulterated Gutfeld. Before there was 'Red Eye', there was 'The Daily Gut', Greg's blog. Many of the mini-chapters in the book were former Gut postings and/or 'Gregalogues', the awesome ranting editorials delivered on 'Red Eye.'
The book is ... (more >>>)
Wayback Machine: Kathy Shaidle has provided fairly-detailed instructions on how to relive the awfulness of the 1970s.
Actually, there's an easier way to capture the era. Just play Stealers Wheel's 'Stuck in the Middle With You' through a tinny VW Beetle speaker. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. Yecccch.
Quote of the Day from Voting American: "If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you're not a racist, you'll have to vote for someone else in 2012 to prove you're not an idiot."
Monday May 9, 2011
A Touch Of Fame: Last week, the Northeast Times, a weekly Philadelphia newspaper with a circulation of 110,000 or so, did a profile of me. Writer John Loftus was fun to chat with and wrote a very nice piece. (In case the link doesn't work, I've reposted John's article here.)
I wanted to clarify one thing I apparently said in the interview: "Sherlock calls himself a 'car guy,' which obviates any real interest in pro sports. "Car guys are never sports guys," he said."
This was during a two-hour phone discussion. If I said that, what I really meant to say was, "Hard-core car guys are never hard-core sports guys."
From my experience in car clubs and real life, people who have extensive historical knowledge of cars and can spout various automotive data at the drop of a hat will have no room left in their brains for sports history or statistics. In my lifetime, I've never met a serious car guy who was a major-league sports enthusiast.
Anyone who can tell you the horsepower rating of a 1963 VW (40), the number of wires on the typical classic Boranni wire wheel (88) or the wheelbase of a Continental Mark II (125 inches), are almost never knowledgeable about the win/loss record of the Phillies in 1959, nor will they know Richie Ashburn's career home run record. (By the way, I didn't look up any of the car stats quoted; they're in my head.)
Once your brain is full, if you try to cram more stuff in, you'll lose other, valuable information.
Most everyone knows who Joe Namath is and most will also recognize Dale Earnhardt as well. But as you dig into more obscure names, the differences become apparent. Few staunch basketball fans know of Zora Arkus-Duntov and most dyed-in-the-wool car guys won't remember Elgin Baylor. That said - there are lots of people who are casual car guys and also semi-sports fans. And vice versa.
Last month, I posted a new photo of myself at the top of my bio page. My wife took it. It's the same photo the newspaper used in the print version of the NE Times article.
Wine Report: Last week, after a busy day of outlet mall shopping in Woodburn, Oregon - a sales tax-free haven 75 minutes from our house, my wife and I toasted our purchases with a bottle of cheap 'n' cheerful 2006 Twin Fin Sunset Rosé, a nice offering from Twin Fin Wines of Woodbride, CA.
It's the one with the rendering of the stylized 1965 pink Plymouth Valiant convertible on the label.
Twin Fin is a division of Constellation Wines which sounds like a conglomerate firm which would own both Ronco and a porn studio. It turns out that it is a huge U.S. company which owns famous brands of beverages like Robert Mondavi, Clos du Bois, Blackstone, Black Velvet, Corona, Ruffino, Franciscan and others.
Anyway, the aromatic, crisp TF wine is not too dry and is made from Sangiovese. It's soft, sweet and simple, with sugary cherry-berry flavors.
It was the perfect casual screw-top accompaniment to quickly-prepared, appetizer-based dinner. We drank it cold and had a good time, reminiscing about the day's chase for bargains.
Outsource Teaching To China? Michigan's governor has appointed Roy Roberts, a former General Motors executive, as the new manager for Detroit Public Schools.
The school district that has battled financial problems arising in part because of declining enrollment. Detroit has lost about 100,000 students since 1997, when enrollment stood at over 175,000. It now has about 74,000 students.
Ol' Roy should be pretty familiar with declining customers. And sending work offshore.
Bad Advice: I enjoy the Costco Connection magazine and there's usually good advice to be had inside, But the article in the May issue about alternatives to websites is just wrong.
If you're a drywall contractor who only does local commercial work and you only have eight potential customers, you don't need a website. You can build your business based on dinners, drinks and golf games with prospects and clients.
For the rest of us ... (more >>>)
So, How's That 72 Virgins Thing Workin' Out For Ya? The late Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi offered an explanation, as channeled through Dave Burge (aka Iowahawk). For Abu, the afterlife "is worse than the Ramadi Inn during Taliban convention week."
Now that we've seen what a run-down piece of crap bin Laden's Pakistan "mansion" was, the Islamist standard of "Paradise" is apparently pretty low. Osama's hideaway is a real dump, worse even than the Value Motel crack-house/whorehouse/shooter's emporium in Hazel Dell - identified by Clark County Sheriff's Office as one of the most frequent destinations of police calls in the Vancouver, WA area.
Since Osama never left the premises and had no job, you wonder why he couldn't have put on some painters overalls and spruced up the place with a little whitewash and TLC. And maybe some landscaping - like fur bark, native plants and a water feature. Since, he's recently been living off other people's money, I guess bin Laden just suffered from Welfare Mentality.
In his final years, Elvis was pretty reclusive too. But he always kept Graceland looking nice. I wonder if Osama's neighbors had a nickname for his estate - perhaps Disgraceland.
And bin Laden's office - well, what a crappy work space. It was shabby with a tiny television perched atop a rickety old desk cluttered with wires, where he watched newscasts of himself. And reruns of 'The Jerry Springer Show' and 'Dog the Bounty Hunter'.
Al-Zarqawi, the former head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in '06 when a couple of U.S. F-16s dropped two 500-pound guided bombs on his safehouse near Baqubah.
He recently commented, "So yeah, I guess you could say this paradise shit has not really lived up to expectations. The worst thing is the stankass overcrowding. You'd think shitty word of mouth might slow down business, but every day there's a new dump truck full of fresh shaheeds showing up, courtesy the Great Satan's crusader travel agents. It's the entertainment high point of my day, watching all them headshot horny dumbass noobs asking for their free cooch, right before the resort counselors march them to the flaming cesspit for their orientation session. And that's another thing. Come on Allah - flaming cesspits in paradise? Srsly?"
According to Iowahawk, Al-Zarqawi now has Osama as a roommate in Hell. He calls him Mumbles. "Maybe because half his face was shot off. Big tall muthafucker with a ZZ-Top beard full of seaweed and shit, and a swordfish spike through his head. So I'm like, "what you looking at, no-face?" and laid him out with another dick punch.
"You in the top bunk, bitch," I said. Yeah, even in paradise the Zarkman keeps his pimp hand strong."
The fun begins.
Quote of the Day is from Sam Goldwyn: "Never prophesy - especially about the future."
Friday May 6, 2011
Happy Mother's Day: In 1999, I wrote a newspaper article about fathers and, in particular, my dad. But I have never written about my mom before because, frankly, it's been difficult. I've always struggled to translate my deep love for her and my feelings into mere words.
She was a talented artist, prolific writer of letters, school teacher, full-time mother and beloved wife. Born in Philadelphia, PA, she lived there all of her of her life, except for three years in Ireland from age 10 to 13.
She drew in pencil, pen & ink and painted in oils. At age 18 ... (more >>>)
Thursday May 5, 2011
Taxi! Nissan's NV200-based entrant into New York City's 'Taxi of Tomorrow' has been awarded the contract - an order reportedly worth over a billion dollars. Nissan beat out two other finalists, one based on Ford's Transit Connect, the other from Turkey's Karsan Otomotiv.
I've posted more about the 'contest' here.
The Nissan NV200 taxi will be produced at Nissan's facility in Cuernavaca, Mexico. It is expected to begin arriving on the job in early 2013. The Ford Transit Connect has won taxi contracts in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago.
Mid-Year Surprise: The Onion has reported on the introduction of a new Chrysler model, the Reside, a midsized, five-passenger sedan "designed exclusively for in-home driving." A Chrysler executive has noted, "It's perfect for hauling that big load of laundry, shuttling the kids off to bed, and bringing the whole family to the dinner table each night."
Starting at $17,595, the Reside boasts standard side curtain air bags; a five-star furniture-impact safety rating; a 3.5-liter, 239-horsepower V-6 engine capable of accelerating from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds; an integrated GPS turn-by-turn navigation system; and heated seats.
"This is the perfect car for an active family," said 36-year-old Anna Cavallo of Towson, MD, who test drove a Reside prototype for six months in her duplex townhouse. "I just pull right into my kids' rooms in the morning, honk them awake, and drive them over to get breakfast in the kitchen."
"After that, it's a quick drive to the garage where we can hop right into the minivan and head to school," Cavallo added.
According to EPA estimates, the Reside averages 28 miles to the gallon in hallway driving and 19 in a cluttered pantry or messy teenager's room.
Sad Ending For A Once-Hot Babe: The mummified body of former Playboy Playmate Yvette Vickers was discovered in her L.A. area home.
Investigators believe the 82 year-old may have been dead for almost a year. But then, people have said that Hugh Hefner looks like he's been dead for almost a year, too.
Poor Yvette - she was one hot number in her prime. Kathy Shaidle has referred to and posted the 1959 "iconic shot" of Yvette mostly naked on a couch with a bottle of booze, a record player and her fine heinie in the air in a come-hither kinda way. Sigh.
Ms. Vickers also starred in the movie, 'Attack of the 50-Foot Woman'. RIP
And ... a Requiescat In Pace to Jackie Cooper, who has died at age 88. The former child actor was the youngest performer to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role - in 1931 - but managed to transition to an adult career as an actor, television director, TV producer and executive.
My wife and I once saw him in Las Vegas, directing a scene shoot inside Caesar's Palace in 1976 or so. He found renewed acting fame in the late 1970s and early '80s as Daily Planet editor Perry White in the 'Superman' film series starring Christopher Reeve.
A car guy, Cooper owned one of the first four Austin-Healey 100S race cars brought into the United States. He raced it at Sebring in 1955.
Glad Someone Brought This Up: Shannen Coffin has written that the head of Egypt's prestigious seat of Sunni Muslim learning, al-Azhar, said that Osama bin Laden's sea burial "contradicts all the religious values and human norms."
Coffin observed, "It may be that these stories are searching for outraged Muslims, so perhaps they don't represent mainstream sentiment. But the question that occurs to me is whether these outraged clerics are admitting that, in their view, Osama bin Laden represents Islam. Were OBL a self-described Catholic, the proper response to his death as an unrepentant terrorist would be to deny him the rite of Christian burial, and I suspect most Christian religions would reach the same result."
"But my question is: Why should faithful Muslims be upset about how a mass murderer's remains are disposed of? Is it disrespectful to Islam to afford a less-than-Islamic burial to a man that, according to President Obama, 'distorts Islam?'"
Based on 35+ years of reading and watching press coverage, it seems to me that Muslims are always "outraged."
In Related News ... Mark Alger has suggested a new drink, The Osama. Ingredients: Two shots and a splash. (hat tip: Charles G. Hill)
And Furthermore ... Dennis Miller has weighed in on Osama's burial at sea: "Hey, I heard that Al Jazeera has a new cartoon series - 'Spongebomb Squarepants'."
Today's Thought: A person who smiles in the face of adversity probably has a scapegoat.
Wednesday May 4, 2011
The Last Hurrah? April was probably the last month of auto sales unfettered by the supply-chain effects of the Japan tsunami. In the upcoming months, we'll probably experience supply shortages which will negatively distort sales and prompt supply/demand-based price increases. Edmunds.com has reported that incentives on vehicles sold in April hit their lowest level since 2005, an indicator of firming/rising real-transaction pricing.
Vehicle sales showed a 17% increase for April - a 13.2 million Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate (SAAR). Product inventory has been tight, especially for small, fuel-efficient cars that are becoming particularly popular as gas prices soar. "As inventories rapidly deteriorate, April could be the last month that we'll see strong sales numbers until late summer or early fall," said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell.
FoMoCo sales were up 16% in April with a resounding pop in Explorer (+138%), Mustang sales (+59%) and Lincoln MKZ sales (+40%). Overall Lincoln brand sales were down slightly to 7,236 units.
General Motors reported 232,538 total sales, a 27% increase. Dealers delivered 169,794 Chevrolets were delivered in April - a 25% jump. Cadillac reported total sales of 13,127, 16% higher than last year, while 18,413 Buicks were moved off lots - a whopping 51% more than last April.
Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 117,225, a 22% increase over last year, and the best April sales since 2008. Chrysler brand sales were down but Sebring/200 sales almost doubled. Jeep sales were up 65% overall; Ram brand increased 29%.
Chrysler had previously indicated that it needed 95-100,000 in monthly sales to break even. The latest 'return to profitability' announcement (the company had said that it made a $116 million first-quarter profit - first since 2009) seems credible based on April's sales numbers.
Toyota's sales went up slightly - 1%. Avalon sales were down by 5% to 2,680. (Compare this with the 6,262 units for Ford's Taurus model for April '11.) Lexus sales were down 4%; only 776 LS sedans were delivered - a drop of 34%. Meanwhile, BMW and Mercedes each saw sales increases of 9% and 5%, respectively.
American Honda sold 124,799 vehicles, an bump of 10%. CR-V sales were 21,683, up 30%. Nissan experienced a sales increase of 12% overall; Subaru was up a modest 7%. Hyundai soared 40%; Kia surpassed it with a 57% jump. Mini sales leaped by a surprising (to me, anyway) 68% to 6,446 little cars. Porsche sales increased by 82% to 3,172 vehicles in April.
It was not an electric month - only 573 Nissan Leafs and 493 Chevrolet Volts were sold, compared with 12,477 Toyota Prius hybrids.
Limited Promotion: I've recently learned that the 1:25 scale plastic promotional models for the 2011 Corvette are now available and selling for $36 or so. Sadly, the Corvette is the last American brand to be offered as a promo. The miniature Corvettes were injection-molded, assembled and finished in China.
Once upon a time, it was believed that little cars helped sell big cars. Starting in the 1920s, Citroën actively assisted toy manufacturers, freely supplying technical details to toymakers and acting as a distributor, selling little cars in its dealerships. The theory was that young children would bond to the brand of auto and, as adults, would be more prone to purchase the full-size namesake. Or persuade their fathers to buy the full-size model. It was just one more way to build brand loyalty in the marketplace.
Not A Good Sign: "Wal-Mart's core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried," CEO Mike Duke said. "There's no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact."
Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck-to-paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in.
Lately, they're "running out of money" at a faster clip, he said. "Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year," Duke said. "This end-of-month (purchases) cycle is growing to be a concern."
Perhaps this is an early indicator of the insidious effects of inflation.
Results Count: Quite a few conservative writers, opinion makers and bloggers have been Monday-morning quarterbacking the Abbottabad attack which killed Osama bin Laden. They have whined that President Obama took 16 hours to make up his mind before giving the go ahead: "Not exactly the gutsy, snap decision it was made out to be. Military left hanging while he 'slept on it'."
So what? This attack was years in the making. After Obama carefully made his decision, the mission went ahead and was successful, thank God. (If it had failed, you can it would have been hung around Barack's neck like the proverbial albatross.)
When Iran ... (more >>>)
Famous Last Words: According to a commenter on American Digest, the last thing Osama bin Laden said to his wife was, "You feed the goats, and I'll feed the fishes."
Skip This If You're Younger Than Sixty: I guess you could say that all the Osama bin Laden impersonators have been Vaughn Meadered.
Nothing Says 'I'm A Whack Job' ... more than the monkey-tail beard, described as "the first major new beard of the twenty-first century and represents a profound innovation in the bearding industry."
I never knew there was a "bearding industry."
PS: You may have other, less-polite descriptions than 'Whack Job'. I know I do.
Lame Joke Of The Day: What do you get when you cross a poisonous snake with a horse? A: I dunno, but if it bites ya, you can ride it to the hospital.
Tuesday May 3, 2011
Why They Name Their Fat Kids 'Tundra': An R.L. Polk study showed that Toyota accounted for "15% of all new car sales to African-American car buyers last year. Ford came in second at 11.7%, followed by Chevrolet, Honda and Nissan."
I remember when blacks were big GM buyers, particularly the Pontiac and Buick brands. Especially the Electra 225.
"Got me a Deuce and a Quarter, baby."
As Fat Albert used to say, "Hey, Hey, Hey." (permalink)
"He Sleeps With The Fishes." Burial at sea - a great euphemism. Ha! They dumped Osama bin Laden's bullet-riddled, stinking corpse in the ocean.
He used to be a hated man. Now he's our chum.
There will be no pilgrimages to a martyr's grave for this evil scumbag - undoubtedly a big disappointment for Osama's fans and followers and an economic blow to every terrorist travel agency in the region.
And it seems like a Muslim-compliant disposal method - as he spirals around in the water, he'll be facing Mecca quite a few times. It cracks me up to think that next week, some lame terrorist wannabee will be enjoying a nice dish of fishy Makboos samak with tea at an outdoor cafe in Islamabad but will be actually having a bite of digested Osama. Ha! How's it taste, jerkface?
As we learn more about the swift, violent and effective operation, it's kinda like Vito Corleone and Jack Bauer - an-All American combo - together at last. They roared in on helicopters and shot bin Laden right in the eye - just like Moe Green. USA! USA!
The Navy SEALS snatched a trove of computer drives and disks that a U.S. official called "the mother lode of intelligence." Great news! Thank you to a decisive President Barack Obama. Thanks also every government official - past and present - whose efforts helped make this mission possible. And even more thanks to the brave soldiers who carried out this resoundingly successful action.
God bless America.
Memorable Date: Fifty-one years ago, May 3rd was drilled into my brain during my Junior year at St. Joe's Prep.
For six months, Father Pichla kept reminding us that he was taking on us on a field trip to see a steel mill on that date. Except, with his accent, he pronounced it May Turd. Then three weeks before the trip he got pissed off at the class for some minor infraction and canceled it.
"Dat's it! No May Turd trip for youse," he yelled. Therefore, I've never toured a steel mill. I don't think I missed anything.
Bessemer converter, my ass.
Here's More Proof that the 'stimulus' was a collossal waste of dollars. Scott Grannis has written that "the economy's level of output has been about 10% below its long-term "potential" output for more than two years. This is the biggest growth shortfall since the Depression and it has persisted for more than two years despite unprecedented levels of fiscal and monetary stimulus."
His graph illustrates the point quite dramatically. The world's biggest lie has always been, "We're the government and we're here to help."
Quote Of The Day is from Adam Carolla, of the late, great 'The Man Show' and of the soon-to-premiere 'The Car Show' on SPEED: "Obama looks like the guy you throw your keys to when you pull up to a restaurant in Malibu."
Monday May 2, 2011
Your Tax Dollars At Work: Forbes is out with its list of worst cars. The two auto companies that got big federal bailouts, General Motors and Chrysler, dominate the list.
David Freddoso has written, "GM and Chrysler account for nine of the cars among the bottom eleven. In other news, the UAW is grateful for your generosity in keeping their union from disappearing. It appears you've achieved little else with your donation.
It is worth noting that all cars on this list except the Mercedes Benz S550 failed safety and/or reliability tests, in addition to being failures in such areas as value and gas mileage."
Who Will Die First? Saab or Zsa Zsa Gabor? The Little Swedish Car Company That Couldn't lost $107 million during the first quarter of 2011 and is currently shuttered due to lack of money.
The automaker sold only 9,674 vehicles worldwide during the first quarter of 2011 and is now in "discussions with Chinese car manufacturers." Good luck with that.
Update: A privately-owned Chinese automaker, Hawtai Motor Group, has apparently come to the rescue of Saab, paving the way for the Swedish marque's new model to be made in China.
Blame Game: Gasoline prices are zooming upward and people are angry. President Obama has ordered an investigation to look for possible culprits. Big, mean oil companies. Evil speculators. Greedy Middle East potentates. Et al.
Well, I've looked at several graphs which show the price of oil in ounces of gold. The graphs are remarkably flat. Over the longer term, oil isn't what's fluctuating. It's the dollar that's fluctuating. And right now, the dollar is in decline because the confidence in America's financial situation is falling.
Since the beginning of 2009, the average dollar retail price of gas has increased 80%. During the same period, the dollar price of gold has increased 71%. The price of gold in U.S. dollars has been increasing steadily since early 2002.
Adam Hamilton has written, "It is fascinating to realize that the Ancient Metal of Kings, gold, has a very strong positive correlation with the King of Commodities, oil, throughout modern history. When oil is strong, gold tends to be strong as well. In fact, the prices of these two commodities are so intertwined over the long term that they seem almost incapable of heading in separate directions over longer strategic timeframes."
Gasoline is not the only retail item on the rise. Over the last year lettuce, bacon, beef, veal, pork, potatoes, tomatoes, milk and coffee have experiences double-digit price increases.
If you're angry about rising gasoline prices, which are going up because the dollar is going down, whom do you blame? ... (more >>>)
Properly Attired: The headline reads, 'Man Dressed as Cow Steals 26 Gallons of Milk'.
Maybe next week, he'll be dressing up as a gas pump.
Elevation: On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI beatified the late Pope John Paul II before a crowd of 1.5 million. Beatification is the first major milestone on the path to possible sainthood, one of the Catholic Church's highest honors.
This is the first time a pope has beatified his immediate predecessor. It was also the fastest beatification on record, coming just six years after John Paul died and beating out the beatification of Mother Teresa by a few days.
He is now designated as Blessed John Paul II. His coffin has been removed from the below-altar papal crypt in St. Peter's Basilica and will be placed in a new crypt, near Michelangelo's Pietà statue.
I've posted more on John Paul II here. (permalink)
Good Riddance: Osama bin Laden, hunted as the mastermind behind the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil, has been killed in an by a small team of Americans in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He had been living in a million-dollar "mansion" (surrounded by high walls) a mere 40 miles from the Pakistani capital. Next-door to Pakistan's equivalent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Two U.S. helicopters swept into the compound at early Sunday morning. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy SEALS under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged bin Laden and his men in a firefight, killed bin Laden and all those with him, oncluding one of Osama Bin Laden's sons. No one from the U.S. team was hurt during this operation.
Burn in Hell, you terrorist bastard. Meanwhile, let's all celebrate with a beer and a pulled-pork sandwich.
As Dr. Bones McCoy used to say on 'Star Trek', ''He's dead, Jim.''
"Justice has been done," President Obama declared as crowds formed outside the White House to celebrate, singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' and 'We Are the Champions', NBC News reported.
In our neighborhood, someone set off fireworks which lit up the sky shortly after Obama's televised announcement.
Pops In The Freezer: Thanks to James Lileks, who gave me a good laugh.
Question Of The Day: Why are you in a movie, but you're on television?