A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Tuesday January 31, 2012
Cars In My Life - Livin' the Dream: Here's how it starts - you're a kid. You use your grass cutting money to buy car magazines. You dream about automobiles you'd like to own. You argue with your young car buddies about which car would be the best to drive and/or own, even though none of you have ever driven an actual car. Much less owned one.
I bought my first car magazine - Motor Trend - in 1955. I now realize that If I had taken all the money I've spent on pulpy auto mags over the past 57 years and invested it in a good no-load mutual fund, I'd probably have enough money to buy a Bentley Continental GT. Or maybe two.
As a 12 year-old, I spent my days pouring over various car publications, becoming an expert on which vehicle was best suited to fulfill my dreams. And getting ammunition to win debates with my pre-teen car buddies.
I especially liked the annual-type publications. These little 6.5" by 9.5" pulp softcovers were published by people like Motor Trend and Popular Mechanics and cost 75¢. They had all the basics on every car made that year, including photos and specifications.
While there were a lot of technically-interesting cars in the world by the mid-1950s, such as the Panhard Dyna and Citroen DS 19, most European cars were small, underpowered and unsuited to America's roads and speeds. Europe was still reeling from World War II, infrastructure was still not completely rebuilt, some factories were never reopened, people were short of money and, in England, food rationing was still in place. Many of the everyday cars in showrooms were still warmed-over uninspiring prewar models, like the Ford Popular in England.
To the French, the futuristic and quirky DS 19 was a fine luxury automobile but its engine offered only 75 hp, due to the unusual French method of taxing cars based on rated horsepower.
Many foreign cars weren't geared for the prolonged high speeds of U.S. turnpikes and freeways of the period. These little cars did just fine puttering around town or driving along country roads at 40-45 mph. Or passing through English hamlets or Bavarian villages, traveling the German Clock Road through the Black Forest, rambling along parallel to a Norwegian fjord or leisurely climbing a narrow Sicilian mountain road. But, in America at sustained highway speeds, their engines often experienced short lives because they revved too high and either blew up or wore out quickly. The Volkswagen Beetle was an exception and became a U.S. success story in part because its fourth gear was an overdrive, designed so it could cruise all day at top speed - Autobahn-style - without overrevving and wrecking its miniscule air-cooled motor.
Italian cars were cute but buzzy little things. Nardi, Moretti, OSCA (Officine Specializzate Costruzioni Automobili) and Stanguellini - all were miniature dynamos with pint-sized powerplants. Even Maseratis of the period also had small four-cylinder engines, ranging in size from 1.5 to 3 liters. The Ferrari Monza was also powered by a four-cylinder motor.
Many car magazines, especially the sports car-oriented ones, made fun of American autos, which they deemed unsophisticated. Their engines couldn't be revved to high rpm like their European counterparts because flathead and overhead valve motors were prone to 'valve-float', where the valve train - pushrods, springs etc. - couldn't remain in contact with the camshaft at higher rpms.
The overhead cam designs found on some of the more exotic European offerings raised the limit a couple of thousand rpm. Then there were desmodromic valves - found on the Mercedes 300 SLR and OSCA Barchetta - which eliminated valve springs and raised achievable rpms as high as five figures. (Until they blew up - usually in a spectacular fashion.) The problem was that most Euro engines of the era - which were tuned to get maximum horsepower at high rpms - had fairly lousy low-end grunt. Their horsepower and torque curves looked anemic at low-rpms. (It was the Japanese in the 1980s, who figured out how to develop high-revving, production-worthy OHC motors which also produced decent pull at lower rpm ranges.)
Unlike 12 year-old boys, American car manufacturers knew ... (more >>>)
Risky Business: A reader wrote the following to investment advisor Malcolm Berko, "I'm 59. My 401(k) is down 40% from 2007 and I'm trying to be smartly aggressive to make up this loss."
I don't think that "smartly aggressive" is a good strategy for someone within 5-10 years of retirement. Actually, I suspect he's already got too much risk in his investments. To still be down by 40% from 2007's losses, is - in itself - very telling.
The S&P 500 fell a whopping 37% in 2008 - one of the worst yearly performances in U.S. history - but has now regained most of those losses. Right now, it's down about 2% (with dividends invested) from the end of 2007. I'm faring a little better; my IRA is up 6.3% over the same period.
The rule is that as you get older and approach retirement age, you need to shift your nest egg into a more conservative mode - going for preservation of capital as opposed to 'betting the farm' on speculative stuff.
This guy better be careful or he'll end up dining on a can of Alpo while siting on the stoop of a decrepit mobile home in a run-down trailer court.
Bad Pun Of The Day: If you take your laptop for a run, you could jog your memory.
Friday January 27, 2012
Topper's Car Revisited: The 1937 movie, 'Topper', which starred Cary Grant, Constance Bennett, Billie Burke (later to be immortalized as The Good Witch in 'The Wizard of Oz') and Roland Young as Cosmo Topper, the bemused recipient of his dead friends' good deeds.
The biggest star of the movie was the Topper car - a 1936 Buick customized by Bohman & Schwartz and fitted with special controls including a second steering wheel, so as a stuntman drove the car, on screen it would appear as if it was being driven by a ghost.
I've written about this car before but have recently added more photos.
Ever Been To Grants Pass? I have - several times. It's a nice, if somewhat isolated little city (population 30,500 or so) in southern Oregon on Interstate 5. I never knew that it had a transit system but it does and, according to The Antiplanner, it's quite a boondoggle ... (more >>>)
Your Tax Dollars At Waste: Ener1, which received a $118 million federal Energy Department grant to make electric-car batteries, has filed for bankruptcy protection. The company makes lithium-ion batteries for plug-in electric cars.
The 2010 DOE grant was part of the president's stimulus package.
"Ener1 is not the first energy storage technology company to file for Chapter 11 after receiving significant stimulus support. Beacon Power, which manufactures flywheel energy storage technology, received a $43 million loan guarantee from the same stimulus program that funded Solyndra. Despite having used $3 million marked for loan repayment to continue funding its daily operations, Beacon filed for Chapter 11 in November."
If that's not enough, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced his second bio-fuels loan guarantee in a week, revealing that the Agriculture Department (USDA) is slated to loan an Oregon biorefinery $232.5 million for a project expected to create 65 jobs and support 38 others.
"Last week, USDA appoved a conditional $25 million loan guarantee for an Iowa project expected to create 38 jobs. Combined, the two projects create 103 new jobs at a cost of $257.5 million - or, $2.5 million per job."
Finally, there's solor panel maker Amonix - a recipient of $6 mm in Obama stimulus funds - which cut 200 jobs (two-thirds of its wokforce) this week.
Geezer Observation: I'm old enough to remember when there was only one Burlington Coat Factory - in Burlington, NJ. When I got my first promotion, moving from the laboratory to corporate headquarters, my wife took me to Burlington and I got a couple of new suits, several pairs of pants and a navy blue sport coat.
Burlington Coat Factory now has over 450 stores and is owned by Bain Capital. I wonder if Mitt Romney has ever purchased a suit there.
"To The Moon, Alice!" I watched the Jacksonville Florida Republican Debate tonight or, as CNN called it, the 'Sucking Up To Latinos' gathering. Newt has become tiresome and boring. He wants to establish a moon colony and, from certain angles, he looks as big as the moon.
While Mitt keeps his offshore money in the Caymans, Newt keeps his near the Sea of Tranquility. And will there be a Tiffany's near the Kepler Crater? There was waaaay much too much lunar discussion in this debate - pandering to laid-off NASA workers, I suppose.
Charles Krauthammer later said Newt's moon base idea "could have been his Dukakis in the tank moment."
Candidates were asked about famous Hispanics they'd consider for cabinet-level positions. I was impressed with everyone's answers because the only one I could think of was Gloria Estefan from back in the '80s when she was a hot little chica and Ronald Reagan was president. I don't think it was my fault; the candidates talked about Reagan so much that I thought I was stuck in the 1980s. I even pushed the sleeves of my sports jacket up to my elbows. And hummed 'Footloose'.
Mitt Romney won hands down. He actually got pissed at Newt and showed passion. Rick Santorum was very good and I hereby award him second-place. Despite being the youngest candidate on stage, Rick was the most adult, admonishing Mitt and Newt to "set aside petty politics and focus on issues." And Mama Santorum, a Florida resident, looked pretty spry for a 93 year-old.
What Recovery? Clark County (WA) has made no real progress in shrinking its unemployment. December's preliminary unemployment rate is 9.2% and it "could climb to 11.4% after unemployed county residents who work in Oregon are added into the count, said state regional economist Scott Bailey."
A Mountain Of Debt: Steven Rattner has written, "With little fanfare, a dangerous notion has taken hold in progressive policy circles: that the amount of money borrowed by the federal government from Americans to finance its mammoth deficits doesn't matter."
"In 1975, government debt per household was roughly equal to half of a typical household's annual income. Today, it's 1.7 times. Add entitlements, and the obligations would take a mind-boggling nine years of family income to pay off."
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "I know a man who is a diamond cutter. He mows the lawn at Yankee Stadium."
Wednesday January 25, 2012
Just Wondering: Do you think any of the people who bought '70s cars with opera lights ever actually went to an opera? (permalink)
The Revenge Of Black Bess: Despite Americans being forced to shell out an additional $7,500 worth of tax and 'clean-car' incentives for every Volt purchased, in spite of perfectly timed hype from Motor Trend naming the government-subsidized Chevy Volt as 'Car of the Year' before a single Volt was ever sold, the car is bombing in the marketplace.
Chevrolet dealers are outright rejecting shipments of the Chevrolet Volt. Automotive News has reported that while 104 Volts were allocated to 14 New York City area dealerships, dealers only took 31 cars. Other eligible vehicles have a take rate among dealers of over 90%, making the Volt the least popular car among dealers in the NYC region.
Despite GM President Mark Reuss' insistence that "we haven't satisfied demand," Volt sales have been well short of initial target.
It's a desperation-marketing misfile as bad as the Packardbaker, hence the reference to Black Bess.
Book Review: '11/22/63' by Stephen King
What if you could go back in time and change history? Time travel has been a popular subject for books and movies and not just for the sci-fi crowd. 'A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court' was written in 1889 by Mark Twain.
The excellent 1987 novel, 'Replay' by Ken Grimwood, covers an almost-identical subject matter as King but does so with more interest and much more succinctly. The 1989 movie, 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' ("Party On, Dudes!"), was a lot more fun than most time-travel tales.
In the 2002 film 'Timequest', a time-traveler prevents Kennedy's assassination and history takes an alternate course, including the birth of a second son, James Kennedy, who was conceived on the night of November 22, 1963 when Kennedy and his wife return from Dallas.
Then there's 'Time After Time' by Karl Alexander. And, of course, Robert Heinlein's classic, 'The Door into Summer'.
King's primary character is Jake Epping, a Maine high school English teacher. Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on a mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. I got a kick out of the fact that whenever Al went back in time ... (more >>>)
Food Stamp Nation: "Food stamp use has exploded during the Obama administration, reaching an all-time high of 45.8 million in August. This chart, prepared by Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee, depicts the extraordinary growth in the program that began when Barack Obama took office in 2009."
Federal spending on food stamps has doubled since George W. Bush left office. In large part, this is due to fraud another emblem of the Obama administration. "There is little if any oversight of the program, resulting in the extraordinary waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars. … In some cases, the only thing you need to become food-stamp eligible is have a brochure from the federal government be sent to you in the mail."
"Records released last month show a couple in Washington State living in a $1.2 million home but still receiving benefits; a Michigan lottery winner was allowed to continue receiving benefits after receiving a $2 million payout (that state also discovered 30,000 ineligible college students its food stamp rolls, later taking action to remove them); and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Wisconsin food stamp recipients routinely sell their benefit cards on Facebook."
State Of The Union Rebuttal: A simple chart shows the folly of Obama's economic policies ... (more >>>)
Retooling Romney: If Mitt Romney becomes president, I hope he applies the ruthless efficiency techniques he is accused of using at Bain to the various federal bureaucratic agencies.
Mark Steyn has observed that Romney is "not a natural campaigner, and on the stump he instinctively recoils from any personal connection with the voters. So, in compensation, he's bought himself a bunch of A-list advisors and a lavish campaign."
Consider the triteness of the basic Mitt sump speech: "I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." Steyn guesses that Romney "paid some guy to write this insipid pap. And he paid others to approve it. Not only is it bland and generic, its lethal to him in a way that it wouldn't be to Gingrich or Perry or Bachmann or Paul because it plays to his caricature as a synthetic, stage-managed hollow man of no fixed beliefs."
I noticed that on 'Fox News Sunday', Romney did his nervous 'heh-heh' laugh several times during an interview. Sorry, but this quirky tic was a big turn-off for me. In my many years in the business world, I have heard this same heh-heh from numerous phony corporate shills.
I think Romney's probably better than my perception but, if he doesn't change advisers, we'll never know. We're tired of clubby, Milquetoast candidates - who want to be collegial, professional and waffle in the face of opposing attacks. We want a dose of Howard Beale - that's why everyone loves Newt when he goes bombastic: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" We want to see a passionate Romney who appears hotly engaged with issues.
Mark Steyn concluded, "Mitt needs to get good real fast: A real speech, real plan, real responses, and real fire in the belly."
Sound Of Silence: At Monday's Republican debate in Florida, NBC admonished the audience to be still - no cheering, applause or booing. It was boring - like watching a sit-com without a laugh track. The consensus seemed to be that Romney won.
Quote Of The Day: "We've gone from a country whose population instinctively knew there was no free lunch to one who's population has convinced itself that the consumption of free lunches is somehow a revenue-generating activity."
Monday January 23, 2012
Here's a selection of prices paid:
Then came the really big bucks for some very special vehicles:
Paper Or Plastic? Oh, that's so last century. Besides, the answer in this century is: reusable bags.
The question for 2012 is: Burma or Myanmar? Some news organizations use one while others use ... well .. the other.
I vote for Burma. The Myanmar crowd were too ... (more >>>)
E-Mailed JPEGS Predicted: In 1900, engineer John E Watkins forecast that - by the year 2000 - photographs "will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence, snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later ... photographs will reproduce all of nature's colors."
About The National Debt Limit: If you can keep on increasing it, it's not really a debt 'limit', is it?
Just Wondering: Do oncologists in New Zealand talk about removing tumors the size of kiwis? (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "Social Security is a government program with a constituency made up of the old, the near old and those who hope or fear to grow old. After 215 years of trying, we have finally discovered a special interest that includes 100% of the population. Now we can vote ourselves rich."
Friday January 20, 2012
BFD: North Korea has claimed that Kim Jong Eun, the scion of the late dictator Kim Jong Il, was driving a car at age 3.
What's the fuss all about? I was driving at that age myself:
Bad Ride: General Motors and Disney are renewing their long-term business relationship with a new multi-year alliance that includes a modernization of the interactive Test Track thrill ride at Walt Disney World Resort.
Chevrolet will be the presenting sponsor while GM will work with Walt Disney Imagineering to develop a re-imagined, design-centric remake of the 13-year-old attraction. General Motors continues as the official vehicle sponsor of Walt Disney World Resort.
Hmmmm - I wonder if they'll also build the Test Track ride at Disneyland India.
When I rode this Florida 'attraction' in 2000, it broke down, stranding us on the high-speed test track. Our GM vehicle finally limped home at 1 mph or so. Some thrill.
Our Plymouth Neon rental car - obtained from Orlando's Dollar Rent-A-Car for a mere $22.99 per day - was far more reliable.
What Will Happen To Rochester? For a large city, the New York burg was sort-of a company town, even in the late 1960s. Kodak seemed to be everywhere. I once interviewed for a job at a Rochester injection-molder. Kodak was one of its big customers. But the idea of moving to Rochester, NY - where there seems to be two seasons: Winter and July 4th - was unappealing, so I didn't take the job.
Eastman Kodak ruled the world of film photography for over a century. Kodak has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as the world has moved from film to digital images.
"Kodak played a role in pretty much everyone's life in the 20th century because it was the company we entrusted our most treasured possession to - our memories," said Robert Burley, a photography professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Our family photo albums are full of Kodak prints, including the one of me driving my Steelcraft pedal car in 1946. It was taken with my family's 1930s-era Kodak Brownie box camera. We also have many reels of old 8mm and Super 8 home movies. But they're as relevant in today's world as floppy discs, typewriters and eight-track tapes.
Book Review: 'December 1941: 31 Days that Changed America and Saved the World' by Craig Shirley
This is a fascinating book - each day of December gets its own chapter. The reader learns - from newspapers and other sources - about American life immediately before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It revels a great deal about the attitudes and actions of American citizens during that period.
Unfortunately, there are few photos in the book. There is an interesting one of a young and beautiful ... (more >>>)
"I Know A Cat Named Way-Out Willie ..." Johnny Otis, who wrote and recorded the 1958 hit 'Willie and the Hand Jive', has died at age 90.
His most famous composition was 'Every Beat of My Heart', which became a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1961. Otis was also given a writing credit for 'Hound Dog'. Johnny was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Rest In Peace.
As Dan Ackroyd's SNL Character Might Have Said ... "Debbie, you ignorant slut."
At press conference, Congresswoman and the Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, blamed the Tea Party for creating the climate which led to last year's shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona. She said that the Tea Party regards political opponents as "the enemy", has enhanced divisiveness in Congress and had something to do with the shooting, at least indirectly.
"It's obvious that Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz is exploiting the Tuscon tragedy, in which several innocent civilians were killed and several more injured, for purely partisan political gain," said Independence Hall Tea Party Association President, Teri Adams. "Wasserman Schultz and the Democrats know very well that the perpetrator of the Tucson shooting was an unstable individual with left wing sympathies, someone whose world views were more like 'Occupy' than 'Tea Party'."
Thursday's Republican Debate: At South Carolina's forum last night, Newt handed John King, CNN, ABC and the rest of the media their respective asses in the first five minutes. It was notable that the other three candidates with unsullied personal lives and long-term marriages - declined to step into this tar pit - supporting Newt's contention that it is offensive for a TV network to start a presidential debate with such an inappropriate question.
And, by the way, if CNN can ask Newt Gingrich if he believes in open marriage, when will they ask Barack Obama if he's gay? There have been rumors ... and he doesn't seem to wear the pants in the family, does he?
And what was the deal with CNN's John King is wandering around like the stage like a panhandler looking for 'coffee' money?
All the candidates all spent time piling on Obama during this debate. Newt called him "the most dangerous president of our lifetime," noted the very high "level of radicalism" permeating the administration and referred to Barry O. as "frightening" and "incompetent."
Worst lines uttered during the debate: "I think grandiose thoughts," said the Newtster. No kidding. Romney, when asked about releasing 12 years of tax returns as his dad did in '68, replied, "Maybe."
Newt, Santorum and Romney did pretty well last night. Ron Paul rambled too much.
Headline Of The Week is from The Rumsford Meteor: 'Local Feminists Afraid Lego Sets Don't Teach Young Girls How To Glare At Everyone Properly'.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken, offering a definition of an idealist: "One who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup."
Wednesday January 18, 2012
Good Reason Not To Buy A Merc: The top act at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas featured Mercedes Benz Chairman Dieter Zetsche peddling his firm's new gadgetry under a huge picture of Che Guevara, who sported the Mercedes logo on his beret along with 'Viva la Revolucion!'.
"In other words: to sell cars in the U.S., Mercedes Benz is relying on the mass appeal in the U.S. of the mass-murdering Stalinist who craved to destroy the U.S."
At least it wasn't Hitler. But maybe it should have been ... just input 'invade Poland' and watch what the Merc's navi system does.
Now You Can Waste Both Time And Energy! Mass transit - it there anything it can't do?
From The Antiplanner: " ... the average car uses about 3,500 BTUs per passenger mile. By comparison, the average transit vehicle used about 3,440 BTUs per passenger mile. Getting people into cars like the Prius (1,700 BTUs per passenger mile) will do more to save energy and reduce pollution than expanding transit systems."
"When taken as a whole ... (more >>>)
Obama On Wheels: "Everything about the Chevy Volt is a metaphor for the Obama presidency. A product that everyone thought was great until they tried it out, now no-one wants it. It costs way too much. The performance reviews are horrible. It was overpromised and profoundly under-delivered." Priceless.
Sudsy Posting: James Lileks has recently written about motel soaps.
Several years ago, after reading one of his Daddy-Daughter tales, I sent him this note: "When my daughter was about your daughter's age, she particularly liked motel soaps. They were a perfect size for her small hands.
Her 'collection' eventually took up a full dresser drawer. Whenever I'd come home from a trip, she'd hug me and ask ... (more >>>)
Dead Start: Oh, if only it were dead. After 50 years of existence (thank you LBJ and your atrocious Great Society monster), the $7 billion-per-year Head Start program has apparently done nothing for the children it was supposed to help.
Instead, it's about "the jobs it creates in poor neighborhoods. This is blue liberal thinking at its most self-parodic: we can't develop social programs that will accomplish something worthwhile, but we can at least use the illusion that such programs work to create jobs for people who will then vote for the politicians who give them make-work jobs."
What Else Do You Need To Know? 88% of all ObamaCare waivers have gone to labor unions.
The Truth About Bain: Last week, Barack Obama's campaign fired off a biting attack on Mitt Romney, branding the US president's likely election foe as a corporate raider who made money "hand over fist" by destroying jobs. Joining Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, I guess.
What an unholy alliance - Ronald Reagan must be turning over in his grave.
Dave Rogoway has written, "Mitt Romney's challengers have put all their focus on a company that was formed in 1984 and became a wild success story. Romney and his colleagues raised $37 million and today Bain manages $66 billion in companies they have turned around. The arrogant and sore loser, Gingrich and the Texas idiot, Perry are painting a picture that Bain bought struggling companies and busted them in pieces for their personal gain. Far from the truth.
Staples was in the gutter when Romney worked to save it. Today Staples employs 90,000 people. Bain also nurtured Bright Horizons back to life, these child care centers now have 700 locations. Bain turned Sports Authority and a tech research outfit Gartner Inc. which is now a public company worth more than $3 billion.
When medical equipment maker Dade International was in the tank, Romney's crew saved it and today it's a billion dollar company. Romney has a great story to tell, a world apart from the rest who have never written a major payroll and this includes Obama. Romney has his faults like they all do, but at this juncture in the game, I will gamble on a turn-around guy."
This country needs a turn-around guy.
Many of the assertions in Gingrich's attack video are just plain false. In creating more than 100,000 jobs at just 3 of the 77 companies Bain Capital was involved in during his tenure as CEO, Bain had to pull the plug on a factory or two. That's the way capitalism works.
Will The Debates Ever End? I wasted another couple of hours of my life watching the South Carolina Republican Debate Monday night and felt that every candidate did well - except Ron Paul with his crazy foreign policy ideas. The consensus seems to be that Newt won this one.
Consider this exchange with Juan Williams, who apparently was assigned the role of race card player: "Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also say poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can't you see that this is viewed as at a minimum as insulting to all Americans but particularly to black Americans?" At this point, there were lous boos from the audience.
Newt Gingrich: "No, I don't see that. ... The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history. Now, I know among the politically correct you are not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable." The audience applauded.
"... the area on I-73 was called by Barack Obama a corridor of shame because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven't built the road, they haven't helped the people, they haven't done anything."
"I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their Creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I'm going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn some day to own the job." Loud applause.
Bad Pun Of The Day: When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
Monday January 16, 2012
Customer Loyalty: J.D. Power and Associates has released its annual Customer Retention Study. Hyundai is ranked the highest among auto brands in retaining buyers. Hyundai's retention rate is up four percentage points to 64% in 2012.
Twenty years ago, no one would have guessed that joke-brand Hyundai would achieve such a high repute among car buyers. Ford and Honda tied for second place at 60%.
Looking at customer retention among luxury marques, BMW scored 59%, Mercedes-Benz - 57%, Lexus - 54%, Cadillac - 52%, Infiniti - 46%, Acura - 45%, Lincoln - 40% with Jaguar garnering a mere 31% in the repeat buyer arena.
What Recovery? Forbes contributor Peter Ferrara has written that the "record shows is that President Obama, with his throwback, old-fashioned, 1970s Keynesian economics, has put America through the worst recovery from a recession since the Great Depression."
"Supposedly a forward looking progressive, Obama proved to be America's first backward looking regressive. His first act was to increase federal borrowing, the national debt and the deficit by nearly a trillion dollars to finance a supposed “stimulus” package, based on the discredited Keynesian theory left for dead 30 years ago holding that increased government spending, deficits and debt are what promote economic growth and recovery. That theory arose in the 1930s as the answer to the Great Depression, which, of course, never worked."
"Instead of a recovery, America has suffered the longest period of unemployment near 9% or above since the Great Depression, under President Obama's public policy malpractice. Even today, 49 months after the recession started, the U6 unemployment rate counting the unemployed, underemployed and discouraged workers is still 15.2%. And that doesn't include all the workers who have fled the workforce under Obama's economic oppression. The unemployment rate with the full measure of discouraged workers is reported ... as about 23%, which is depression level unemployment.
Today, over 4 years since the recession started, there are still almost 25 million Americans unemployed or underemployed. That includes 5.6 million who are long-term unemployed for 27 weeks, or more than 6 months. Under President Obama, America has suffered the longest period with so many in such long-term unemployment since the Great Depression."
Ferrara has observed that "exactly none of President Obama's policies have been well designed to restore economic recovery and traditional American prosperity. They have consistently been the opposite of everything that Reagan did to end the American decline of the 1970s, and restore booming growth for 25 years."
Let's hope Obama is voted out in 2012 before he can do four more years of damage.
P-Ethics: Can someone please explain why pissing on dead enemy soldiers is considered an outrage while exhibiting an image of a crucified Jesus Christ in a glass of piss was financially supported by the taxpayer-funded National Endowment of the Arts?
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), a former Army lieutenant colonel, summed it up best. "I have sat back and assessed the incident with the video of our Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu. Neither do I recall media outrage and condemnation of our Blackwater security contractors being killed, their bodies burned, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. ... Unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell."
Parental Advice: Following a shooting last week in the Juniata section of Philadelphia that left three teens dead, mayor Michael Nutter had strong words for the shooter, calling him "a dog." The angry mayor also had strong words for the parents of Philadelphia's youth, telling them "not to act like idiots and assholes."
He was enraged that the victims were out on a school night apparently looking for trouble. And he blames their parents.
"Seven young people, somewhere between 14 and 16 years old, on a Tuesday night, a school night, are out in a car going to somewhere to have a fight with some other teenager. That is completely insane, it is irresponsible. Parents have to know where their children are and what they are doing," the mayor said.
"Their little butts should have either been in bed, getting ready for bed, or doing some homework. Not out in a car, not in some other neighborhood, and not up to this kind of nonsense. I'm not your mom and I'm not your dad. We cannot completely legislate, or by policy, make people responsible for their children."
"The least you can do is know where the hell your kids are, in the daytime, in the nighttime, or at any time during the week or on the weekends. That's the minimum we should ask and expect from our parents. You want to have kids? Take care of them."
When I was growing up, Juniata was a 15 minute bike ride away and had a nice park and neighborhood golf course. (The golf course still exists.) When dating, I used to take my wife-to-be to dinner at the Villa Napoli, small and delightful Italian restaurant in the Juniata neighborhood which was not far from where she worked. How times have changed.
Definition Of The Day is for 'Transvestite': A guy who likes to eat, drink and be Mary.
Friday January 13, 2012
The Tower Of Audio Babel: Automakers are planning to get rid of CD players in cars.
With content and computing power migrating to smartphones, which can now channel music, navigation and other applications to relatively simple and low-cost onboard infotainment systems, CD players are becoming increasingly irrelevant in cars. Automakers also want to get rid of optical drives - CD or DVD players - because they are expensive and "appeal mainly to older motorists."
"The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS has no CD player, just an optional MyLink infotainment system that lets motorists make hands-free phone calls, listen to MP3 music and get route guidance by linking their Smartphones to the vehicle's infotainment system."
John Canali, an analyst with research firm Stratacom, has estimated that North American sales of CD-less infotainment systems in North America will rise from 331,000 units this year to 12.1 million units in 2018. As the baby boomer generation dies off, CD players also will die. But that will take a while, Canali says.
As one of those older motorists, I guess I'll eventually have to buy a voltage converter so I can play old 45s in my cars via my ancient record player. Or buy a wind-up Victrola.
Buffet Behavior: A study may explain why people are so fat these days. Brian Wansink and colleagues at the Food and Brand Laboratory at Cornell University noticed that people with a high body mass index a measure of obesity sit on average 16 feet closer to a buffet than those with an average BMI.
"They also found that 71% of overweight people sit facing the food, compared to around 26% of people of average weight."
In Related News ... this is why Goliath Casket's XXXXXL boxes are selling like .... ummm ... hotcakes.
Coincidence Or What??!! Michelle Obama has been on a healthy eating crusade (for everyone else but not necessarily herself) and Hostess just filed for bankruptcy.
Thanks to another Obama for trying to destroy the U.S. economy.
In Literary News ... Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart have written an impressive new book. It's called 'Ministers Do More Than Lay People'.
Joke Of The Day: I was behind a very large woman at the Safeway checkout. She had on a pair of jeans that said, 'Guess.' I said, "I don't know ... maybe 320 pounds."
Wednesday January 11, 2012
Detroit Auto Show: Gee, where does one start? I'll pick concept cars for $200, Alex.
The Lexus LF-CL concept 2+2 coupe has a face only a mother could love but looks decent otherwise.
That's OK - Lexus will probably never put it into production. But the pince-nez grille is apparently the new face of Lexus. It will certainly displace Acura as the Brand With The Most Hideous Front End.
Speaking of Acura, a new NSX 'concept' was unveiled. The car is pretty slick-looking except for that Acura shield on the front end.
Power, as with the original, will come from a V6 mounted behind the two occupants that sends its power to the rear wheels. But this time around, it will be augmented by an electric motor - a hybrid, ya see, reflecting the fad of the era. Kinda like the Charleston and flagpole sitting did in the 1920s. Or big tailfins in the '50s.
This new Ohio-built NSX is supposed to reach showrooms in three years. Why so long?
The sleek Chevrolet Tru 140S concept coupe looks cool but then GM's concepts usually do. Unfortunately, the production versions - if they ever arrive - always get seriously dumbed down.
Even in concept form, I didn't think much of the Chevrolet Code 130R. It looks too much like a Chev-ized BMW 1-series.
Toyota's NS4 concept cuts a striking profile and its styling is supposed to portend that of future Prii. The NS4 packs a similar plug-in hybrid system as the current Prius PHEV. But the show car contains a basketful of other technologies, like a Smartphone-style interface to monitor and control everything from the air conditioning to the battery charge.
The unexciting Honda Accord "concept" supposedly previews the next-generation Accord that will be on sale later this year, just in time to compete with a bunch of redesigned mid-size competitors. Sadly, the Honda looks bland, dated and uninspiring, even with chrome wheels and other bling. Maybe it looks better in person.
It's hard to tell from photos alone but the new 2013 Dodge Dart looks interesting.
The 2013 Ford Fusion looks gorgeous - totally different than the model it replaces - and has a little Aston Martin mixed in around the grille area - a good thing. A winner.
The small rear-wheel drive 2013 Cadillac ATS is supposed to be "a BMW 3-Series fighter." How come every car maker seems to be obsessed the 3-series? The Bimmer has its merits but it's hardly legendary or iconic in my mind. The little Caddy features a four-cylinder engine and, later, a diesel option. This is disconcerting to me - the four-cylinder reminding me of the odious Cimarron, while the words 'diesel Cadillac' bring back memories of noisy, clattering, slow Caddys from 1979 or thereabouts.
Meanwhile, a new iteration of the oft-imitated BMW 3-series will be in showrooms next month. To me, the new BMW looks a lot like the last generation model, which brings to mind The Simpsons episode featuring Malibu Stacy: "Now with new hat!"
When Toyota's slightly-shrunken Prius C reaches showrooms this spring, it will have a sticker price under $19,000. The hybrid boasts a 53 mpg city rating - the highest of any vehicle that isn't a plug-in. The C reportedly gets 46 mpg on the highway, for a combined 50 mpg score.
The 2013 Buick Encore, a Mini-sized crossover, is being pitched as "smaller than other vehicles in its class." I never realized that was something to brag about. The little Buick is only 168 inches long (only eight inches longer than an old air-cooled VW Beetle). The Buick crossover rides on a 104-inch wheelbase. It will be sold in Europe as an Opel/Vauxhall Mokka.
Buick execs have said that it "will carve out a new market niche: the small luxury crossover." Really? How does this fit in the Buick model line-up? Why does it exist? Certainly not for most Americans. It's basically a tall, gussied-up Pontiac Vibe, another failed GM offering that never found a viable market.
Would You Buy Any Of These Vehicles? This online banner ad dramatically illustrates how unappealing the current Lincoln line-up is:
I'm sure such a visual message was not the intent of the ad creator but - hey - ya gotta work with what ya got.
Yes, the MKZ concept, introduced at the Detroit Auto Show, is an improvement but I'll remain skeptical until I personally examine the production version.
Meanwhile, Lincoln has cut its dealers in U.S. metropolitan markets to 325, from more than 500. There is no longer a Lincoln dealer in Clark County (WA), where I live - which will make it more difficult for me to inspect the new model. (permalink)
Why The Euro Is In Trouble: Malcolm Berko has provided one reason: "There are about 500 million people living in the 17 European Union nations, and together they're responsible for a 2011 gross domestic product (GDP) of $16.8 trillion. The population of the U.S. is about 350 million and our 2011 GDP will be (give or take a few million) $16.2 trillion.
So, basically, the U.S. worker is 50% more productive than the working population of the EU."
High Minimum: Washington State's minimum wage is now $9.04 per hour - the highest in the nation, $1.79 above the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr.
Washington is one of 10 states that adjusts its minimum wage based on inflation. The others are: Vermont, Ohio, Nevada, Montana, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, Arizona and Oregon. California's minimum wage is $8 per hour; Oregon's is $8.80. In Idaho, minimum-wage workers are paid the federal minimum wage.
Green Power! "When Michelle Obama worked in Mayor Daley's City Hall in the early 1990s, she was "distressed" by how a small group of "white Irish Catholic" families ... "locked up" power in Illinois," according to a new book.
She's probably mad because - on St. Patrick's Day - they dye the Chicago River green. But I would point out that - on overcast days - it looks black.
How come the mainstream press never points out the racism implied in Michelle Obama's comments? Imagine how they'd react if a white first lady had described an American city as having too many Black Muslims in power. (permalink)
Headline Of The Week ... so far, is from The Onion: 'Dead Werewolf Apparently Allergic To Peanuts'.
Quote Of The Day is from P.J. O'Rourke: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
Monday January 9, 2012
Inflated Bentley: This Bentley Type R Continental with body by Carrosserie Franay, a French coachbuilder was modeled by Yat Ming, a diecast firm located in Dong Guan, China. The little Bentley is metallic gray with a tan interior. I received it as a Christmas gift.
Yat Ming used to make relatively low cost model automobiles - five years ago, all of their 1:43 offerings were priced at under $5. In 2009, prices had risen to around $7. This new Bentley cost $14.95, an indication of price inflation seen recently ... (more >>>)
Dem Bones: A man stopped for aggressive driving in a carpool lane had a seat-belted, plastic skeleton as his "passenger." A Washington State Patrol trooper had stopped the man on Interstate 5 in the Seattle area after clocking his speed at 82 mph and watched the silver Mazda make some dangerous lane changes.
"At first, the trooper thought he had a passenger. Then he realized it was a propped-up, plastic skeleton, draped in a white hoodie, with some kind of metal cookie tin between its thighs."
Rats! 'The Car Show', starring Adam Corolla, has been canceled.
Impressive Number: The Drudge Report was viewed over 10 billion times in 2011.
Book Review: 'Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography' by Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller as told to David Ritz
Published in 2009, this book is about Leiber & Stoller the prolific song-writing duo whose music and lyrics defined the music of the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. Lively and ... (more >>>)
Speaking Of 'Hound Dog' ... let's not forget that Elvis would have turned 77 on Sunday.
Dave Rogoway has written, "When the family opened the mansion to the public many consultants believed it would be short-lived. Graceland draws 600,000 visitors a year with an average ticket price of $36 that works out to $21.6 million a year. Elvis is always in the top 5 annual Forbes list of top earning dead celebrities."
I visited Graceland 20 years ago. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience which is why I've never been back.
More on The King here.
RIP: Tony Blankley, noted conservative commentator and former editorial page editor of The Washington Times, press secretary and general adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, frequent guest on 'The McLaughlin Group' and dapper dresser has died at 63 of stomach cancer.
"Born in London, he became a naturalized American citizen after his parents moved to California after World War II. As a child, he acted in such television shows as 'Lassie', 'Highway Patrol' and 'Make Room for Daddy'."
Closing Time: The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced last week that it will be closing four of its high schools and 44 (out of 156) elementary schools, shocking the local Catholic community.
Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast, West Catholic (my dad, many of my uncles and cousins and friends graduated from there), St. Hubert and Conwell Egan high schools will be closing at the end of the school year in June. St. Hubert High School for Girls opened back in 1941. I dated several young ladies from St. Hubie's in the early 1960s.
Officials also confirmed that ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?"
Thursday January 5, 2012
A Model Christmas: One of the 1:43 scale model cars I received for Christmas was a 1933 Duesenberg SSJ roadster, with a cream and black exterior paint job and a red interior.
This scale model was manufactured by Ixo as was part of a special edition for Edison Giocattoli, a large Italian toy manufacturer/distributor. (permalink)
December Auto Sales: U.S. consumers, who are more confident than they have been in eight months, were lured to auto showrooms by holiday discounts and may have pushed car sales to the second fastest pace in more than two years. Vehicle sales reached 13.6 million SAAR in December, up 9% from 2010.
Chrysler Group posted a 37% jump in December U.S. sales today and joined General Motors in predicting that the industry will finish the year stronger than analysts had predicted. GM sales were up 5%. FoMoCo reported a 10% jump in sales. Lexus brand sales were down 8% - apparently not many of those as-seen-on-TV vehicular Christmas presents with big red bows were sold in December.
Nissan came in at 8%, Toyota was flat and Honda experienced a 19% sales drop. Volkswagen brand sales increased 36% in December, reflecting strong demand for the new Passat and Jetta sedans.
Chevy dealers sold only 1,529 of the Volt plug-in hybrids last month. Toyota sold 17,000 Prius models during the same period. (GM is recalling 8,000 Chevy Volts to strengthen the structure around the batteries in an attempt keep them safer during crashes.)
Final Score: 2011 was a good year for car sales: 12,778,885 vehicles - up 10% from last year. Chrysler Group took the role of the comeback kid with a sales jump of 26% over 2010. GM experienced a 14% jump ad Ford received an 11% boost. Over 2 million Ford-branded vehicles were sold in 2011.
Toyota and Honda were down 7% each, while Nissan experienced a sales increase of 15%. Hyundai/Kia sales broke the million mark for the first time at 1,131,183, surpassing Nissan and almost beating Honda. This represented a yearly increase of 26% for the South Korean automotive juggernaut. Volkswagen sales were also up 26% for the year.
Top-selling luxury brand in the U.S. was BMW (247,907 units), followed by Mercedes (245,192 vehicles). Lexus - after 11-years on top was a distant third with only 198,552 units sold.
Cadillac outsold Lincoln by 78% in 2010. In 2011, Toyota sold 3,230 Avalon models an increase of 20% over 2010. Lexus LS sedan sales declined by 30% to 1,056 units sold last year.
Despite being spun off to Chinese ownership, Volvo sales in the U.S. were up by 25% to 67,240 units.
Ford has said that it expected the U.S. economy to expand 2-3% in 2012 and industry sales to be in the range of 13.5 to 14.5 million units.
Dropping Faster Than An Escalade Off A Cliff: Bank of America was the worst performing Dow stock of 2011. Share prices declined by 58.1% in a year. Why so poorly? Well, in my opinion, part of the reason is its spectacularly lousy customer service.
Recently, B of A froze my annual fee credit card because they "detected fraudulent activity." The "activity" consisted of two one-dollar charges by firms I've never heard of. The representative admitted that these firms had attempted to charge tens of thousands of cardholders and that the charges were uniformly refused. Including on my card.
Nevertheless, my airline-affiliated credit card was now no good and a new one "would arrive within 10 days to two weeks." I was told that I could get it faster if I wanted to pay extra. I refused, of course.
My wife and I have already begun using other no-fee credit cards. Our 'new' Bank of America cards have arrived but they won't be experiencing much activity, suspicious or otherwise.
You see ... (more >>>)
In Somewhat Related News ... General Motors was the worst-performing auto-industry stock of 2011 with a 46.1% drop in price.
"Game On." I was touched and impressed by Rick Santorum's closing speech to supporters in Iowa on Tuesday night. He painted a vision of an America of which I want to be a part.
A good friend of mine in New Hamposhire had a one-on-one lunch with Rick about six months ago and was quite impressed.
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."
Tuesday January 3, 2012
The Pyongyang Hillbillies: The idea of strapping a coffin to the roof of a 35 year-old Lincoln and parading it through town seems a bit redneck, no? There were several old '70s Lincolns in Kim Jong Il's funeral procession, including a 1975 or '76 black stretch limo which carried Kim's casket on its roof.
Check out ... (more >>>)
Familiar Faces: Mitsubishi will replace its aggressive "jet-fighter" grille with a more "friendly" face as its tries to recast itself as a green-car specialist. It is difficult to be a successful car brand when you change your 'face' every few years. Consumers get confused when they don't know who you are.
Cadillac, Mercedes, BMW, Jeep and, to a lesser extent, Volkswagen and Lexus have offered familiar 'faces' with a styling theme that has evolved over decades, rather than years.
One Sailed Right By Me Yesterday: General Motors is recalling 4,873 of its new small, made-in-Ohio Chevrolet Sonics - the replacement for the Korean-made Aveo - because of a potential braking defect.
"It's not that a few of the cars brake pads might malfunction. It's that they forgot to put them on!"
The Ghosts Of Department Stores Past: Recently, I was re-reading 'Willow Grove Park', a book about the famous Philadelphia-area amusement park.
One of the photo captions noted that, "a Snellenburg's store was opened in October 1953. Additional shops later opened along the remainder of the block. ... The row of stores was known as the Willow Grove Shopping Center." I hadn't thought of Snellenburg's in years.
Once upon a time ... (more >>>)
Go Ducks! The University of Oregon football team won its first Rose Bowl since 1917, defeating Wisconsin 45-38 in a very lively game.
ESPN/ABC did a lousy job of covering the Rose Parade, editing out the U of O float as well as most other floats that didn't have big corporate sponsors, failing to identify any of the antique cars in the parade and not showing the 100 Palomino horses which preceded the Roy Rogers float.
Roy would have been 100 this year and RFD-TV commissioned a special huge float to celebrate this milestone. On the float were Trigger and Bullet - not floral interpretations but the real (stuffed) deals.
I also enjoyed seeing Tillman, the surfing dog, and his canine pals on the humongous, 119-foot-long, 100,000+ pound Natural Balance Pet Foods float in the parade.
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.
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