A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Friday August 31, 2012
AutoSketch: 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III
The Mark III was a car made up of parts and ideas taken from somewhere else. The engine, chassis and front cowl came from the Ford Thunderbird, the massive upright grille was "inspired" by Rolls Royce, the Continental "hump" on the trunk lid was from the 1956-57 Mark II and the long nose/short deck styling was derived from a '61 Plymouth. The name was stolen from the 1958 Continental Mark III, which Ford Motor Company had conveniently forgotten.
When you read the previous paragraph you realize what a cobbled-up car this is. But when it was all put together, it worked. It should. It was the brainchild of Lee Iacocca, the same guy who took a bunch of Ford Falcon parts ... (more >>>)
Overnight Adventures: James Lileks writes wonderful stuff on his blog, The Bleat. He also posts tons of scanned archival material. I'm particularly taken with many of his motel postcards because they bring back memories.
I began traveling on business in the late 1960s. In those days, if you were traveling to an unfamiliar city, you'd choose one based on the Hotel Redbook (which tended to favor large downtown hotels and didn't usually list motels near the airport) or those 'Take One' paperback directories found in the lobbies of large chain hotels/motels - Holiday Inn, Marriott, Hilton, Ramada Inns, Hyatt, etc.
I tried not to stay at Holiday Inns; many were badly run with broken televisions, poorly-cleaned rooms, glacially slow and overpriced breakfast service, etc.
Anytime I got screwed over by a Holiday Inn ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'I Am John Galt' by Donald L. Luskin and Andrew Greta
The premise of this book seems, at first glance, silly: Well-known contemporary icons portray real-life versions of Ayn Rand's fictional characters - heroes and villains. Surprisingly, authors Luskin and Greta do a pretty good job delivering the goods.
Steve Jobs does fit the character of Howard Rourk - a man who invented stuff because it was so cool. As you read the chapter, the authors make a most convincing case that Barney Frank is the evil meddler and government central planner, Wesley Mouch. Except that Frank is perhaps the more sinister of the two.
Angelo Mozilo, the crooked head of Countrywide Financial, fits Rand character James Taggart, the corrupt businessman who nearly wrecked the U.S. economy. Mozilo is described by coauthor Greta as having "a gleaming extra-white Guy Smiley grin," referring to the toothy Sesame Street Muppet who hosts various game shows.
Don Luskin is somewhat puzzled .... (more >>>)
Republican Convention Sum-Up: The final day is done. The balloons have been released, people filed out to go have a stiff drink somewhere with James Brown's 'Living In America' was blasting through the speakers as they climbed the stairs to the exits. Here are some observations on Thursday's events:
This was a great convention. God bless America. Let's bring the good times back by electing Romney/Rubio.
Bad Pun of the Day: I was enrolled in an origami class ... until it folded.
Thursday August 30, 2012
Many current Mazda models have that ugly, happy-face look. This one seems like a big improvement.
Inexplicable: After 50 years, Avis car rentals dropping its iconic 'We Try Harder' slogan in favor of ... are you ready? ... 'It's Your Space'. WTF?
This May Be A New Record: Yesterday, the Swiss Colony catalog arrived. The little booklet is chock full of Christmas edible goodies including a torte with a winking Santa face. But ... holy cow ... it's still August, already.
I have more thoughts on the Swiss Colony posted here.
Republican National Convention, Day Two: It did not begin well.
Indeed, Paul, we can. God willing.
Quote Of The Day: During an interview with Chris Wallace, Ann Romney revealed that she shops at Costco. "We love Costco," she said, pointing out that her husband was currently wearing a Kirkland-brand dress shirt. "He ironed it this morning."
Wednesday August 29, 2012
It's Still Summer: By 11:00 am Tuesday, it was 70 degrees and sunny with bright but deep blue skies, so I decided to go for a drive in my '39 Plymouth. It was very pleasant with light traffic and no school buses. But that won't last.
I also spent time cleaning the bugs off the front end of the Plymouth and wiping the black dust off the whitewalls. If you don't own an old car, you probably have forgotten what a pain-in-the-ass wide whitewall tires can be. But they sure look nice when they're cleaned up.
The forecast calls for good weather through the weekend and I hope to get in more drives.
"'Tis But A Flesh Wound." General Motors is planning to stop production for about four weeks in September and October at the factory that makes Chevrolet Volt. Sales of the plug-in hybrid sedan haven't met Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson's projections this year. "Through July, GM sold 10,666 Volts in the U.S. Akerson had aimed for sales of 60,000 globally, of which 45,000 would be delivered in the U.S."
Monty Python's Black Knight quote seemed fitting because I spotted a Black Volt heading south toward Vancouver on Monday. (permalink)
Remember When Hertz Was Number One? Hertz is buying Dollar-Thrifty in order to secure its place as the No. 2 player in the U.S. market.
Enterprise has about 38% of the $30.5 billion market in the U.S. Hertz has 18.9%, followed by Avis with 18.5%.
Enterprise operates National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car, as well as its flagship Enterprise Rent-A-Car brand. Avis has both Avis and Budget Car Rental.
My heaviest travel era was in the 1970s and four rental companies competed for my business travel dollar: Hertz, Avis, National and Budget. I had corporate discount accounts for all but preferred National - shorter lines, nicer folks and a more diverse selection of cars. In the 1980s, I switched to Budget because they offered good deals on Lincoln Town Cars.
While Enterprise was founded in 1957, the firm operated mostly in the Midwest in the 1970s and rented to consumers who need a replacement car as the result of an accident. Enterprise moved into the airport rental car biz in the 1990s.
Nothing Beats A Good Screw: When I attach the fabricated steel semi-circular rockers to my wood train platform, I use eight #12 stainless steel, 1.25-inch long pan head, Phillips sheet-metal screws. Sheet metal screws seem better at handling misaligned pieces and have a deeper thread for better holding power compared with conventional tapered wood screws. I like stainless because it's a little stronger and doesn't corrode.
A continuing problem ... (more >>>)
Republican National Convention, Day One: Much of the first day was devoted to a takedown of Obama's "You Didn't Build That" meme. There were a lot of small business owners introduced and their stories presented, including those politicians who were former entrepreneurs.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), whose family owns a business (Peachcrest Fruit Basket Orchard and Fruit Stand in Kettle Falls, WA), would have my vote - except she's not in my district. Cathy wore a shortish dress that showcased her very attractive legs. Not that that's necessarily important in a politician but she does much have nicer gams than, say, Bob Dole. Or Hillary Clinton.
I also liked the speech by Sher Valenzuela, business owner (70 employees at her upholstery and clothing manufacturing business) and candidate for Lt. Governor in Delaware. And Bev Gray, owner of a trade show exhibit firm in Virginia. Here are some other observations:
The first night was optimistic and hopeful - offering a return to American greatness. And change - reclaiming fiscal sanity and eliminating of the loony, obstructionist policies of the present administration. This time Hope and Change are Republican values - whoda thunk?
Book Review: 'Hollywood Hypocrites' by Jason Mattera
The author attacks the entertainment industry - politically-active actors, directors, producers, musicians and others - who scold us plebeians to increase our socially-consciousness and environmental awareness while they practice quite the opposite. Most of the people mentioned are Friends of Obama. Are you surprised?
The takedowns of the über-annoying Arianna Huffington and the eternally-sanctimonious ... (more >>>)
I'll Be Looking At The Moon But I'll Be Seeing Me: To "honor" the late Neil Armstrong, Barack Obama posted a short generic tribute along with a photo of himself looking upwards at the moon.
The same photo was shown on Lucianne.com with the caption: The Ego Has Landed.
PS: Iowahawk has a pretty hilarious take on it as well.
Just About A Year Ago ... my daughter got married. At the wedding reception, there was a short Powerpoint slide show - put together by my son and set to music - with photos of Kathy and Dave when they were kids. It is now posted on YouTube.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "When I was in boy scouts, I slipped on the ice and hurt my ankle. A little old lady had to help me across the street."
Monday August 27, 2012
Into The Wild Blue Yonder: Friday morning was very sunny and a quite-chilly 42 degrees on our 7:00 am golf course walk.
By noon, temperatures had warmed up to the mid-60s, so I took a ride in my '39 Plymouth. The skies were blue, blue, blue. I saw only one very small puffy white cloud ... to the east. It was slightly mushroom in shape, indicating that perhaps a group of extremist mountain goats had detonated a suppository-sized nuclear device. But I didn't see anything on the news about it.
The roads were surprisingly clear of traffic and I had a most enjoyable drive on my seven-mile rural loop. On another drive, I spotted an old 1960s-era Austin-Healey 3000 coming toward me in that iconic and attractive AH silver blue color. Or, since it's British, 'colour'. It's officially known as 'Healey Blue'.
There must have been some kind of car event near downtown Vancouver on Saturday. While dining at Vinnie's, I saw a 1970s MGB, a red Alfa Romeo Spider and a swoopy BMW 850i coupe pass by the window.
At 7:45 am Sunday, I drove to Battle Ground and gassed up the Plymouth. Premium was a whopping $4.339. Then I took a long, agreeable drive on almost-empty roads under partly cloudy skies with temperatures just below 60 degrees.
The Unbearable Lightness Of Being A Distributor: Once upon a time, my plastics company was an authorized factory distributor for Acrylite acrylic sheet.
Acrylite was American Cyanamid's version of Plexiglas. As with many famous brands, the Acrylite business is no longer owned by a U.S.-based corporation. Evonik, a German manufacturer of plastics and specialty chemicals, now owns the biz. Plexiglas - once the flagship offering of Philadelphia-based Rohm & Haas - is now made by Arkema, a French company. Lucite acrylic, a former DuPont product, is now produced by a division of Mitsubishi Rayon.
A recent issue of Plastics Distributor & Fabricator magazine carried an ad for Evonik's Acrylite Online Shop, which sells acrylic sheet, rod and tube direct to anyone, bypassing the normal distribution channel.
If you're one of the remaining ... (more >>>)
Ghost Town: Last week, I had lunch with a friend in downtown Vancouver, WA. Parking was absolutely no problem - lots of available spaces. I found one just across the street from the restaurant on Main Street.
I was surprised at how empty the streets were at noontime. When I had my office downtown 15 years ago, the place was always mobbed and it was not uncommon to have to park two to three blocks from one's destination. Now there are a lot of 'For Lease' signs on office buildings, quite a few empty storefronts and not many pedestrians on the sidewalks.
It's difficult ... (more >>>)
"That's One Small Step For A Man ..." American astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, has died at age 82.
Who can forget July 20, 1969, when the Armstrong-commanded Apollo 11 lunar landing mission was successful and the quiet, unassuming Armstrong set foot on the desolate orb? Everyone huddled in front of televisions, mesmerized by what they were witnessing. Farmers abandoned their nightly milking duties and motorists pulled off the highway and checked into motels just to see the moonwalk.
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent nearly three hours walking on the lunar surface, collecting samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs. "The sights were simply magnificent, beyond any visual experience that I had ever been exposed to," Armstrong once said.
The now-bittersweet "one giant leap for mankind" recalls a time when America aspired to greatness in all things, including space exploration. Godspeed, sir.
In somewhat-related news, Jerry Grant, who was the first driver to go faster than 200 miles per hour in an Indy-style race car, has died at age 77. Grant raced in the Indianapolis 500 ten times. RIP.
Book Review: 'How The Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll' by Elijah Wald
This is a very good book with a very misleading title. Forget the title; it's just a marketing ploy to help promote the book - something no different than the many marketing schemes cited within this book that helped get dance bands booked or get air time for records.
The subtitle is 'An Alternative History of American Popular Music'. That's a bit off, too. I didn't perceive the contents as 'alternative' but rather a well-though out and documented history of popular music from the 1890s to present day.
Wald is a folk-blues musician and author of several books on music and musicians. Much of the book is devoted to the origins and influence of jazz and blues on popular music and how various technologies (records, radio, jukeboxes, amplifiers, the development of 45s and LP recordings, television) and events (the revised economics of band-touring caused by the Depression, the shortage of musicians during World War II, various industry strikes and royalty disputes) changed the direction of music in the U.S.
The author artfully stitches things together cleverly and interestingly, comparing - for example - Paul Whiteman's musical development to that of Elvis Presley. Who knew that they had so much in common? Unlike some ... (more >>>)
Cue Up 'The Omen' Music: We now live in a world where Snooki is someone's mother.
Unstoppable: Howie Carr of the Boston Herald will be at the RNC convention in Tampa come hell or high water. Or hurricane: "Damn the computer models, Gridley, full speed ahead. I have not yet begun to tweet.
So what if even the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is washed away by Isaac's flood tides? If Ted Kennedy could swim to safety in the raging waters from his sinking '67 Oldsmobile Delmont, then I can make it to dry land from my '12 Camry rental from Avis."
That's the spirit, Howie.
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "Well, let's see, they're now worried the tropical storm Isaac could hit Florida during this week's Republican convention, but Florida is ready for it. Thanks to President Obama's economic policies, many of the businesses down there are already boarded up."
Friday August 24, 2012
GM Death Watch II? Writing in Forbes, Louis Woodhill believes that General Motors is on the road to bankruptcy - again.
He noted that "For the first 7 months of 2012, their market share was 18%, down from 20% for the same period in 2011. With a loss of market share comes a loss of relative cost-competitiveness. There is only so much market share that GM can lose before it would no longer have the resources to attempt to recover."
General Motors peaked in 1965, when it commanded almost 51% of the U.S. vehicle market, and made a whopping $2.1 billion dollars in after-tax profits. "Adjusted by the GDP deflator to 2011 dollars, GM made $12.1 billion in after-tax profits on $117.9 billion in revenue."
The mid-size (D-segment) family sedan market (think Camry and Accord) is the most important U.S. market, accounting for 21.3% of the total U.S. vehicle market these days.
Woodhill picks apart GM's all-new 2013 Chevrolet Malibu; it seems to be a disaster. "Car and Driver published another D-Segment comparison test, pitting the 2013 Chevy Malibu Eco against five competing vehicles." The Malibu came in dead last.
This is a heaping bucket of Not Good for the General and for us reluctant taxpayer/stockholders.
'Endless Summer': Unfortunately, that old Beach Boys album name is a lie. On Wednesday, when we took our 7:00 am walk, it was a chilly 47 degrees. My wife said, "Fall is in the air."
Rats. I don't want summer to end. But the days are getting noticeably shorter. Nevertheless, by 11:00 am, temperatures had risen to the mid-60s and while it appeared sunny, there were still a lot of hefty clouds in the sky.
Knowing that the amount of nice weather is dwindling down, I fired up the '39 Plymouth and took a drive. I had the windows down so I could listen to the Glasspacks purr.
At a rural stop sign, I accelerated too quickly and actually burned rubber. Geezer delinquent. (permalink)
Game-Changing Houses: As the U.S. economy has shifted away from manufacturing, I always thought that building trades were a relatively safe place to be. There have been many attempts to automate home construction with kits, prefabs and factory-built homes. None have gained a substantial market share nor generated much mainstream interest. But that may change ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'What The (Bleep) Just Happened?' by Monica Crowley
Monica Crowley is an author, Fox News contributor, nationally-syndicated radio show host and hot-looking blonde. Her fast-paced book answers the question posed in the title, arguing that Barack Obama and his minions are rapidly destroying America and that the country needs a 'Happy Warrior' leader in the mold of Ronald Reagan to save it.
The writing is brisk, often humorous and the subject strongly-argued. Crowley opines that the title question has "been driving us bananas ever since November 4, 2008, when a newly-elected president and Democratic Congress went full-steam ahead with a radical plan to transform the United States into Absurdistan." Some other excerpts ... (more >>>)
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "Doctor, my leg hurts. What can I do?" The doctor replies, "Limp!"
Wednesday August 22, 2012
Total Recall: Have you ever looked at a photo and found seemingly unrelated memories flooding your brain? It happened to me when I was looking at Hemmings blog and saw a photo of a gorgeous white 1957 Cadillac. The '57 was a handsome vehicle featuring a leaner look than its predecessor. It had none of the bulbous fussiness of the 1956 Caddy and lacked the Harley Earl-mandated troweled-on chrome of the garish 1958 model.
The '57 Cadillacs featured all-new bodies on a new X-frame chassis. Series 62 models rode on a 129.5 wheelbase and featured a 300 horsepower Cadillac V8 engine. The 62 two-door hardtop coupe sold for $4,677; the convertible was priced at $5,293.
Most 1957 Caddy photos are of the more-expensive Eldorado models with their unique, stuck-on rear fins. But the Series 62 model shown in the photo is, in my opinion, a better-looking car - it has cleaner lines and is just gorgeous.
While the vehicle in Hemmings is a convertible, my newly-triggered memory was of an almost identical white hardtop coupe. It was driven by an Atlantic City entertainer. (I think he played piano and was MC at one of AC's many show bars of the era.) He was a regular patron ... (more >>>)
Cruisin' 1957: On Monday, the clouds finally dissipated at noon, so I took my '39 Plymouth for a little spin in the pleasant, upper-60 degree weather.
I had the 1957 Joe Niagara Show pumping through the speakers: "Spin those records, here we go. Here comes Niagara. Here comes that Joe ..."
Hot Fan: Following the most recent example of Fisker spontaneous combustion, the federally-subsidized electric vehicle manufacturer is recalling all of its Karma sedans after the second car-destroying burn was traced to a faulty cooling fan.
How can a fan be faulty enough to immolate a vehicle? This is not new technology. Thermostatically-controlled electric cooling fans have been around for ages. My wife's 1987 Honda Accord had one. So did her '96 Lincoln Continental. I seem to recall that my '96 Jaguar had two of them. So does my '39 Plymouth which tends to overheat in really hot weather plus stop-and-go traffic when the A/C is on. (A big, modern V8 engine combined with a small narrow radiator will do that.) The Plymouth has had the same auxiliary electric fan since 1986, when the coupe was rebuilt and modified. It has never given me any trouble.
After many year/miles, both the Honda and Lincoln developed thermostat control failures, which simply made the fans run all the time. But the fan motors never overheated during the life of either car.
The Fisker Karma has only been available for a short time - months. Such a failure of a new component is unacceptable. A failure with such catastrophic consequences is positively scary.
Still want to buy a Karma?
Bridge Too Far ... width-wise, that is. The Sellwood Bridge is a truss bridge that spans the Willamette River in south Portland. Built in 1925, it was the first fixed-span bridge on Oregon's lower Willamette River. The steel and concrete structure is 1,092 feet long and about 28 feet wide. The bridge has those kinda-charming cast concrete railings seen on many period bridges throughout the U.S. I've modeled such railings on my O-gauge model train layout.
The view south from the bridge is very nice, almost rural. Looking north at night, you can see the lights of downtown Portland. The sidewalks on each side are functional but narrow by today's accomodating-the-morbidly-obese standards.
In the 1920s, most XXXXL people were ... (more >>>)
Chill Out: Recently, James Lileks wrote about today's tense society: "The amount of stress expands to fill the amount of space freed up by convenience and progress.
The emotions of someone trying to get to the bottom of their e-mail on Friday are probably identical to the emotions of a caveperson trying to convert that wooly mammoth to grub and garb before it rots completely. Our definition of what matters constantly gets easier, but it doesn't mean we discount the things that matter appropriately."
Adrenaline was supposed to be used for fleeing saber-toothed tigers. Now we pump it when we're silently raging at the DMV. Or a slow-loading website.
'Political Animals': I watched the season finale Sunday. Here's the summary: Air Force One crashes in the Atlantic, just off the coast of France, killing the white Itialian-American Barack Obama character. Joe Biden (but a smarter and clever unctuous version) becomes president to the dismay of Democrats.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the much better-looking Sigourney Weaver version), who had a deal with Barack to replace Biden as the next VP, is thinking about challenging Biden in the upcoming election but is conflicted. Smarmy Bill C. sidles up to her and says, "You can do it, sugar. You've got to."
But remember - it's only a television show. Will there be a season two?
Book Review: 'The Family Corleone' by Ed Falco
In late 1970, I was stuck at a hotel near Boston's Logan Airport, my last stop before a return flight home the next morning. After dinner, I returned to my room and began reading a paperback, titled 'The Godfather'. I was sucked into ... (more >>>)
Diller got her start playing small dumpy nightclubs which she affectionately called 'sewers'. In the 1960s, she broke into national television with appearances on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and 'The Tonight Show'.
Here are a few of her one-liners:
Rest in peace, Ms. Diller. (permalink)
Question Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?"
Monday August 20, 2012
Pricey Iron: Over the weekend, several notable auctions were held as part of Monterey Week. The grand finale of the week was the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
Some interesting cars crossed the block including ... (more - with photos >>>)
Number Crunching: When I did volunteer small business counseling, I used to hear the same tale of woe from small retailers: "I can't seem to make any money."
I'd ask for their sales data then look at the number of full-time employees and would often find that the sales per employee was around or under $100,000. No wonder they weren't making any money. Sales/employee is a good preliminary indicator of a business' viability and profitability. Back in the day, my retailing bogie was $150K per full-time employee or above.
These business owners who weren't hitting that goal needed ... (more >>>)
Recovery Summer II: July unemployment is up in 44 states. With a degree of payback not seen since those Charles Bronson 'Death Wish' movies, states with the highest rates - Nevada, Rhode Island (10.8%), California (10.7%), New Jersey and North Carolina all voted for Obama in 2008.
On the other hand, the four states with the lowest jobless rates are solidly GOP: North Dakota (3%), Nebraska (4%), South Dakota (4%) and Oklahoma (5%).
Hmmmm. Maybe that should be your guide as to how you vote in November.
In Somewhat Related News ... 'The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House' by journalist Ed Klein, a stinging portrayal of President Barack Obama's leadership, ratcheted up to the New York Times No. 2 bestsellers slot.
My review of 'The Amateur' is posted here.
Photomania: Since I was in the garage working on the train layout, adding a few more lights and signs, I decided to take a couple of new pix of the train platform in its storage position. I've added them to the layout & storage page. I have now completed all the wiring and soldering work/rework.
Book Review: '1920: The Year of the Six Presidents' by David Pietrusza
Anything author Pietrusza writes about politics goes on my must-read list. I have previously written favorable reviews of '1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America' and '1960 - LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies'.
Published in late 2006, this well-paced book chronicles the fight for the 1920 presidency. Six once-and-future presidents plotted and planned to win the White House: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Theodore Roosevelt. It was the first election to garner extensive newsreel coverage. It was also the first election in which women could vote.
There is much to tell ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Frank J. Fleming: "Anyone who, when hearing the name "Obama," thinks of the word "black" before he thinks of the word "incompetent" is a racist."
Friday August 17, 2012
Striking Model: In the most recent issue of Model Auto Review, a British scale model car magazine, there was a brief description and a small black & white photo of an interesting-looking, pricey and rare 1:43 scale model by Ukrainian modelmaker EMC Models.
The model was of a 1935 Mercedes 540K Sports Cabriolet with custom coachwork by the German firm Erdmann & Rossi. The car was originally owned by King Ghazi of Iraq. The full-sized car is quite striking with pontoon fenders somewhat reminiscent of the work done by Figoni & Fallaci during the same period.
Ghazi was quite the car enthusiast and was killed in 1939 at age twenty-seven when his sports car crashed into ... (more >>>)
Hot Stuff: It was sizzling on Thursday. Temperatures peaked at over 100 and, even at 8:55 am, it was already 75 degrees. So, I hopped in my '39 Plymouth and took a ride before things got scorching.
Yeah, there was some traffic - I caught the end of rush hour, if you can call it that in this rural area. But there was plenty of driving space for me and I had an enjoyable ride under light blue cloudless skies.
Weekend forecast: sunny and torrid.
Maybad: It's officially official - Maybach is dead. 2012 is the last model year for the overpriced flagship brand that always looked a lot like a lesser Mercedes-Benz. Daimler ended production of its Maybach überluxury brand in June.
Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche has said, "Daimler hasn't made a profit on the Maybach since it decided to reintroduce the 1930s-era marque in 2002."
Though the plush ride and its $375,250 starting price turned heads at auto shows - especially ones in the Middle East or at hip-hop conventions, its sales have steadily faltered, shrinking to fewer than 200 Maybachs world-wide last year. In contrast, Daimler currently sells close to 80,000 S-Class models - which start at $91,850 - each year.
I've only seen one Maybach in person - in California, of course. It was a 12-cylinder Maybach 57 parked in front of the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort.
If a Maybach falls in the forest ... etc.
From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Death Panels: Velociman has written about Britain's Great Folly, noting that the "National Health Service is the most murderous organization Western civilization has ever produced outside of the Nazi Party. It is completely corrupted, venal, insensitive, uncaring, and ineffectual. And those are only its passive traits.
The active traits are not unlike Mengele's regime, except for the fact that Mengele's horrors were at least in the service of some perverse knowledge. All the NHS wants to do is kill the next patient as quickly as possible so that they might take tea, and collect their stipend.
The only good thing the NHS ever did was produce a jaundiced physician to supply John Lennon with some excellent psychotropic drugs. And even that led, inevitably, to Yoko Ono."
RomneyLogic: I like it. "When the kid comes home and says "I made the honor roll," and we know how hard they worked, we celebrate that child's achievement. We say "Way to go, you made that happen."
Now, I know that for them to make the honor role he or she had to ride a bus to get to school, and there was a bus driver. But if the kid (makes) the honor role, he or she gets the credit, not the bus driver."
Diminished Capacity: Rudy Giuliani has weighed-in on the recent number of Joe Biden gaffes. "Well, I think if it came from somebody serious maybe we'd get all excited about it. But ... I think the vice president of the United States has become a laugh line on late night television.
I mean ... I've never seen a vice president that has made as many mistakes, said as many stupid things. I mean, there's a real fear if, God forbid, he ever had to be entrusted with the presidency, whether he really has the mental capacity to handle it. I mean, this guy just isn't bright. He's never been bright. He isn't bright. And people think, 'Well, he just talks a little too much.' Actually he's not very smart."
Charles Krauthammer has called Biden the "crazy uncle in the attic."
In recent days, there has been much rumor/speculation/wishful-thinking around the Beltway that ol' Joe will get the heave-ho and be replaced by Hillary C., which begs the question, "If Joe Biden falls in the forest and no one is around to hear, does anyone give a rat's patootie?"
Book Review: 'Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul' by Gary Weiss
Everybody over the age of 30 knows that, while Ayn Rand's novels inspired people to become self-sufficient and, in some ways, led to a resurgence of political conservatism, Rand herself was a flawed individual. She was a libertarian-to-the max and a fierce advocate of unfettered laissez faire capitalism. An idealist, Ayn Rand often rejected conservative politicians.
Flawed also is Weiss' book. He focuses on Rand's imperfections especially that Rand, a Jew turned atheist, has failed to live up to his own Jewish expectations. And she has pissed him off in other ways. I found the 'Hidden Struggle' to be less about Rand than about Weiss and his own internal rage, personal issues and his attempts to connect dots where there are none.
This is neither a biography, nor objective nonfiction. It is a mean-spirited and ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
Wednesday August 15, 2012
Bookmobile: On Monday, I had three reserved books to claim at the Battle Ground Library. You've probably noticed the increased number of book reviews of late. That's because there are a lot of interesting new books to read. I also picked up an ordered book on behalf of my wife.
Since the weather was Summer Awesome, I took my '39 Plymouth coupe and had a short back roads drive afterwards.
At 10:00 am, it was sunny and 72 degrees. Forecasts call for sunshine all week with afternoon highs between 90 and 100 degrees, with nighttime lows in the upper 50s to low 60s.
Welcome to August in the Pacific Northwest - a great time of the year.
Crushing The Competition: You can tell it's a slow auto news month when The Truth About Cars' Murilee Martin asks, "What car would you drive in the Year of Your Birth Rally?"
This is a very ageist contest. Young 'uns get to pick later model vehicles, which gives them an advantage in acceleration and handling.
I don't have a lot of choices and they weren't making cars the year I was born.
So, I guess I'll have to choose a 1943 M-4 Sherman Tank with standard rotating turret and 75 mm gun.
Hey, rally boy, try to get ahead of me and - Boom! - you're dead. Then flattened. (permalink)
Bailouts = Job Creation .... For China: An interesting statistic was presented on FoxNews' 'Bulls & Bears' last Saturday. Since the bailout, General Motors has added 15,000 jobs in China.
During the same period, GM has eliminated 31,000 jobs in the U.S.
Some Screwed; Some Not: The Daily Caller has e-mails showing that "the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Timothy Geithner, was the driving force behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees at the Delphi auto parts manufacturing company."
"Delphi, a General Motors company, is one of the world's largest automotive parts manufacturers. Twenty thousand of its workers lost nearly their entire pensions when the government bailed out GM. At the same time, Delphi employees who were members of the United Auto Workers union saw their pensions topped off and made whole."
This is just one more example of the selectiveness of the Obama bailout/bankruptcy scheme. His administration decided that GM and the UAW were "too big to fail" and made sure that they were taken care of. Everyone else - including taxpayers - got screwed.
By the way, the Treasury Department just announced in a new report the government expects to lose more than $25 billion on the $85 billion auto bailout. That's 15% higher than its previous forecast.
This is the most dishonest presidency I've ever experienced. The current administration is owned by the unions. Remember those Obama-centric SEIU thugs beating up tea-partiers? What we have these days is Chicago-style corruption on a grand scale. It's almost as if Jimmy Hoffa is our president.
Wood Added: On my 'Famous-and-Not-So-Famous' 1939 Plymouth page, I've added a photo of a '39 woody station wagon obtained from an unlikely source.
Need More Work: Clark County's preliminary unemployment rate in June was 9.1%. A month or two from now it will be adjusted upward. It always is. Usually be 2% or thereabouts. Assume the final unemployment number will be 11% or so. That's no improvement over January.
'Underemployment' in the county is over 20% and is a more comprehensive measure of labor market inertia and woes than unemployment.
Most of the underemployed are "involuntary part-time workers - those who want full-time work but can't find it. The category also includes discouraged workers, those who've given up looking for work but who still want a job." The national underemployment rate of 14.9%.
Nationally, 51% of those who graduated from college since 2006 don't have a full-time job. That's a ... (more >>>)
Cheesehead Camelot: An article in the LA Times refers to Paul Ryan and his family as "the Kennedys of Wisconsin."
This reminds me of the scene in the 1996 movie,'Mrs. Winterbourne', where Ricki Lake's character, being shown a shiny Rolls Royce, exclaims, "Wow, that's like the Cadillac of automobiles, huh?"
Do the Ryans get drunk or do drugs? How about womanizing, smuggling, corruption or political vote buying?
Oh, wait ... the article was referring to the fact that the Ryans are "dark-haired and athletic, Irish Catholic and connected. Youthful, successful, sophisticated and large." An unfortunate comparison.
In related news, Teddy Kennedy will soon be celebrating three years of sobriety.
Not counting the embalming fluid.
Book Review: '100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People' by Susan M. Weinschenk, Ph.D.
This otiose pile-o-pulp was one of the most useless books I've ever read. Here's a short explanation why.
RIP: Helen Gurley Brown, who wrote the best-selling book 'Sex and the Single Girl' and was the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, shocked early-1960s America with the news that unmarried women not only had sex but thoroughly enjoyed it.
She also said that women should be assertive, dominate relationships and spend a lot of money on clothes, especially the ones featured in Cosmo. Thanks to her, there are a lot of bitter, divorced, delusional but chic older women in America. Most of them own cats. Sometimes dozens of them.
Brown has died in Manhattan at age 90, although parts of her were considerably younger ... or older. Stylishly skeletal, she was always a fragile-looking woman. In her later years, many fashionista secretly referred to her as a well-coiffed mummy.
Sarah Jessica Parker, your future is staring back at you. (permalink)
First Morons: The stress of the political campaign is bringing out the worst in the Obamas. Or perhaps they're just reverting to their normal selves.
16 year-old Gabby Douglas is the first African-American gymnast and first woman of color in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion. She is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. For those accomplishments, she deserves the praise of all Americans, especially African-Americans.
But Michelle Obama publicly berated Ms. Douglas when Gabby told 'The Tonight Show's' Jay Leno that she celebrated her two gold medals by splurging "on an Egg McMuffin at McDonald's." This didn't fit the First Lady's Food Police Agenda, so - on national television - she criticized the petite young athlete who probably weighs less than Mooschelle's ass.
Meanwhile, her president husband was in Iowa, screwing up activities at the Iowa State Fair, including ... (more >>>)
Old Things Need Fixing: In this case, it was my November 2006 archive page which was in great need of better photos, a bit of clarified sentence structure and a few spelling corrections.
I also spent a few minutes spraying the pixels with Endust. It is now much better - significant because it is one of the most visited of my archived pages.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "The food on the plane was fit for a king. "Here, King!""
Monday August 13, 2012
Drive-By Economics: On Friday at noontime, I drove to the library to pick up a reserved book. Since the sun had finally come out and the temperature was a pleasant 71 degrees, I took my '39 Plymouth coupe.
I did a short drive afterwards and was surprised at the lack of business at three restaurants I passed. In the old days, Friday was the busiest day of the week at lunchtime. People celebrated the end of the work week and, for some, payday, too. Not now, though. These dining establishments were near-dead - just a few cars parked out front.
During my micro-economic tour, I passed several retail establishments and looked in the windows. No customers inside. Nada. Just bored shopkeepers sitting by (or slumped over) cash registers. Sales are so low that their Quickbooks 'Sales Ledger' pages have been retitled 'Mariana Trench'.
Financial advisor Malcolm Berko recently wrote, "Steve L. is a second-generation owner of a four-store appliance/furniture business in Ohio. Steve is 54. Two years ago, he came within nine inches of declaring Chapter 11. Steve notes that his middle-class customers, who accounted for 70% of revenues, are disappearing and that those who remain standing have lower incomes and higher debt than they did five years ago. His ticket size is lower; his (customers) can't get credit; and good jobs are scarce. ... Steve tells me he knows many small-business owners in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati who are treading fearfully in the same bouillabaisse. And because merchandise and operating costs have risen by more than 20% and because his vendors won't floor-plan as generously as they have in the past, Steve will close two stores this January."
I read all kinds of reports stating that the economy is ... (more >>>)
More Miles, More Observations: On Saturday, it was gorgeous (71 degrees at 11:30 am, blue, slightly hazy skies) so I took another old car drive. This time, I focused on the scenery and happy thoughts. Last year at this time, I wasn't driving much - I just didn't feel very well. What a difference a year makes. As that old '70s Geritol commercial used to proclaim, "When you've got your health, you've got just about everything."
I spotted two interesting vehicles on my travels. The first was a black Lincoln MKZ, with that Billy Big Mouth Bass grille. I haven't seen a recent-vintage Lincoln on the road in months. Lincolns were never popular around these parts but the brand is almost nonexistent now. The second vehicle I spotted was a newish white Mercedes SLK. I really liked the looks of it. There really is such a thing as Mercedes Elegance.
Aging Appliances: A study from the AutoMD reports that 60% of survey respondents say their primary vehicle has over 100,000 miles on the odometer. And 78% say they'll keep their cars 10-plus years or until it dies.
Part of the problem is cars are now better made. And they don't look old.
In 1959, a new Chevrolet parked next to a '54 Bel Air made that five year-old Chevy look ancient. Park a 2012 Impala next to a 2007 one and you can barely see the difference.
Of course, those who lease will still be in the 'new car every 2-4 years' cycle. But, a many buyer is now looking at a vehicle in the same way as a washing machine - an appliance.
Would you like White or Harvest Gold?
Diecast Delights: For my birthday, I received two 1:43 scale Ixo diecast models: a blue 1934 Packard V12 LeBaron speedster and a black and silver 1933 Auburn boattail roadster ... (more >>>)
There's A Thin Line Between Just-Kidding & Blasphemy: I hope I haven't crossed it with this item which my brother gave me several years ago, knowing that I'm an Elvis fan ...While God probably has a sense of humor, I doubt he cut Teddy Kennedy any slack ... (more >>>)
Fixing America: It sounds like a futuristic action movie: 'The Fixers Versus The Destroyers'. But it's not. It's the 2012 election.
This is no Tweedle-Dee versus Tweedle-Dum presidential contest. The lines and differences are clearly drawn. Will Americans choose the continuing path to European-style socialism with spiraling deficits, elevated unemployment levels, a highly-regulated and restrictive business environment, state-metered health care and increased government welfare dependency? Or will they chose to repair the damage done and return to fiscal conservatism and lessened government intrusion/interference?
In accepting the VP slot, Paul Ryan said, "I'm proud to stand with a man who understands what it takes to foster job creation in our economy, someone who knows from experience, that if you have a small business - you did build that."
"We Americans look at one another's success with pride, not resentment, because we know, as more Americans work hard, take risks and succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit and individual lives will be improved and uplifted."
"But America is more than just a place ... it's an idea. It's the only country founded on an idea. Our rights come from nature and God, not government. We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes."
Live From The CBS Nursing Home: Anyone else watch the '60 Minutes' interview of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan?
After a mostly incomprehensible, slurred introduction by 81 year-old Morley Safer (Denture problem? Too much Lorazepam? Too many shots of Old Grand-Dad?), 75 year-old Bob Shieffer kicked things off with, "So, what have you youngsters been up to lately?"
Ryan presented him with a gift and said, "Look, gramps, we bought you a HurryCane!"
I Won't Miss It: According to a story in Willamette Week, the alternative Portland tabloid weekly that does actual reporting as opposed to clipping and pasting AP stories, the Oregonian is facing a final deadline as a daily newspaper.
The WW writer predicts that the Oregonian will soon publish a print version only three days a week, fire nearly half the staff and leave the remaining reporters and editors to focus on publishing news on its deplorable, counterintuitive website.
That doesn't bother me. The Oregonian remains ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Abundance - the Future is Better Than You Think' by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler
There is a tendency among all of us to be pessimists. We worry about the future because it is an unknown. We are concerned for our children's and grandchildren's future. We have seen entropy first hand and know that downward trajectories are natural phenomena. People get old, frail and sickly. Wood rots. Plastic embrittles, crazes and discolors. Steel rusts. Buildings and bridges crumble. The Roman Empire fell. We eventually return to dust.
Those of us of a certain age were once told of a wonderful future that never came about - a nation of monorails and flying cars, smoking Lucky Strikes outside a cafe on Mars, elevators to the moon, a pill which fixed all ailments and underwater cities enclosed in giant Plexiglas domes.
The authors of 'Abundance' offer a bright future, extrapolating current technological developments to improve everything and bring prosperity to all peoples and nations. They examine ... (more >>>)
We Know Who He Means: Baltimore archbishop William E. Lori has said, "For Catholic voters in November, the question to ask is this: Are any of the candidates of either party, or independents, standing for something that is intrinsically evil - evil no matter what the circumstances? If that's the case, a Catholic, regardless of his party affiliation, shouldn't be voting for such a person."
This sounds like ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.
Friday August 10, 2012
What The Hay? Yesterday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth, drove to downtown Battle Ground and gassed up. Premium was over $4.00 per gallon. Again. Then I took a longish country drive past Tukes Mountain, through Hockinson, Brush Prairie, NE Vancouver and various unincorporated areas.
Since my last ride, the hay in the field just off Brush Prairie's 170th Avenue has been harvested. The result is a bunch of circular bales enrobed in white shrink wrap, looking like giant albino Hostess Ding Dongs.
There's almost no snow on Mt. St. Helens these days.
The temperature was in the mid 60s at 10:30 am and was partly sunny - enough to require sunglasses.
Blowin' In The Wind: I will no longer buy products advertised on television where the commercial has happy whistling as background music. It's a sure sign of a scam.
One such ad is being run by Nationwide Insurance, implying that - aw, schucks - they're just friendly small-town folks who happily operate on the second-floor of an old brick building just above ol' Doc Feebly's Pharmacy & Soda Fountain, instead of residing in a huge freakin' skyscraper at One Nationwide Plaza in Columbus, Ohio.
Nationwide is one of the miscreants who ... (more >>>)
Buh-Bye Bad Bank: Our Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, 'serviced' by Bank of America is no more. We cancelled it late last month. I've had more troubles with this card than any other credit card in my lifetime.
I could never call up and complain because I didn't know how to yell 'asshole' in the various obscure native languages of BofA's unintelligible customer service representatives.
The tipping point came when Alaska Airlines took away a key benefit - being able to use the annual $110 Companion Fare when booking first-class trips. As of August 1st, annual companion ticket was be restricted to coach fares only. We stopped flying coach when the accommodations became more low-rent and grungy than a 1940s Trailways bus. That translates roughly to United Airlines circa 1995.
Even if ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Update: 15 East in Battle Ground has closed its doors. A new restaurant is set to debut in this doomed location - formerly Dante's, Leonardo's, Paparazzi, etc. - later this month. We're getting pretty hard up when it comes to nearby dining, so I'll wish the new establishment good luck in advance.
Lies, Lies, Lies: The news du jour is that Mitt Romney killed a laid-off steelworker's wife.
A Democratic PAC ad accuses Mitt Romney of being responsible for a woman's death from cancer - on the theory that Romney was personally responsible for providing health insurance and health care services to family members of anyone who ever worked for a company in which Bain Capital invested ... in perpetuity.
Here are the facts: Romney left Bain in 1999. GST Steel was shut down in 2001, in part because the union workforce wouldn't accept new work rules to improve productivity. Joe Soptic was offered a buyout; he refused. Soptic's wife worked elsewhere and had her own health insurance through 2003. In 2006, she was diagnosed with very late-stage cancer. She died 22 days after diagnosis.
Frank J. Fleming wrote, "You could probably draw a connection between that guy's wife's cancer death and Kevin Bacon easier than you can with Mitt Romney."
Meanwhile, Time magazine - another bunch of media butt-boys for Obama - has declared the sleazy ad accusing Romney of killing people with cancer to be "dishonest but important." Huh?
It's not just about this latest falsehood the Democrat party is advancing. It's the ongoing maelstrom of bilious slander that is being invented by the White House, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and their ilk.
Did you know that Mitt Romney once "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die?" Oh wait. It wasn't The Mittster. It was Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
Bailouts For Everyone: President Obama, while vilifying Mitt Romney for opposing the auto industry bailout, bragged about the success of his decision to provide government assistance and said he now wants to see every manufacturing industry come roaring back.
Just what this country needs - a million little GMs. Each with its own UAW labor union and overseas soccer sponsorships.
Keynesian Economics: Wiki says that "Keynesian economics are the group of macroeconomic schools of thought based on the ideas of 20th-century economist John Maynard Keynes."
Most Keynes advocates argue that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes which require active policy responses by the public sector, particularly monetary policy actions by the central bank and fiscal policy actions by the government to stabilize output over the business cycle.
Here's a simpler explanation:
Today's Thought: A person who smiles in the face of adversity probably has a scapegoat.
Thursday August 9, 2012
More Dismal Government Motors News: Mark Tapscott has reported that General Motors is selling to and financing a lot of sub-prime buyers.
Speaking of GM products, my buddy Ray's 2010 Chevrolet Traverse LT is back in the shop to fix yet another water leak. This time it was the actual roof panels that were leaking.
Apparently, the Traverse's roof panel welds were not watertight. While this sounds to me like faulty welding and makes me wonder about the integrity of the roof in, say, a rollover crash, the dealer took the easy way out by removing the headliner and applying caulk to the welds on the underside.
How To Fix A Problem: Specialty car maker Spyker has filed a $3 million lawsuit against General Motors over Saab's demise.
It's a tangled and complicated legal web but I'm offering a simple solution. Let GM settle the matter by giving Opel to Spyker free-of-charge. Everybody wins. General Motors gets rid of a money-losing boat anchor with a troublesome union and Spyker gets into the volume car business, with a chance to resuscitate Opel.
And later, maybe Spyker could produce its beloved Saabs in the same plant.
Car Sighting: Saw my first example of the all-new Ford Escape last week. The pseudo-aero front end attached to an otherwise boxy body reminded me of a Porsche Cayenne. That's not a good thing.
Don't Bother Me; I'm Texting: The percentage of 19-year-olds in the U.S. who have driver's licenses dropped from 87.3% in 1983 to 69.5% in 2010, according to the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute.
"It reflects mostly the increased use of the Internet," said Michael Sivak, research professor and the head of the University of Michigan's Transportation Research Institute. "The virtual contact that is possible through electronic means is reducing the actual physical need of contact among young people. Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication."
It might also be the high cost of owning a vehicle these days as well as very high unemployment among the young.
According to R.L. Polk & Co., auto sales to 18-to-34-year-old buyers was about 11% in April 2012, down from 17% in April 2007, before the Great Recession.
Charter School Debate: In each issue, 'The Costco Connection' magazine offers a debate question with experts weighing in on each side. The most recent issue asked, "Are charter schools a good idea?" Answering in the negative was Julie Cavanagh, a Brooklyn teacher. The second sentence of her argument stopped me dead: "Unfortunately, the charter school landscape has evolved into a politically-charged campaign that aims to impose the same business-minded approaches that took our country to the brink of economic disaster in recent years."
Whoa. Many of the factors that caused the recent financial crisis were caused not by business but by government. Beginning with the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, there was increasing government interference in the free market banking process. Over the years, the government assumed more and more of the home lending function. Even in the mid-1980s, most mortgages were private and were not sold or repackaged. By 2006, 90% of all mortgages were done through quasi-government entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
In June 2010, Sheila Bair, chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, remarked, "The financial crisis was triggered by a reckless departure from tried and true, common-sense loan underwriting practices."
If the mortgage finance industry hadn't been forced to abandon traditional underwriting standards on behalf of a government-imposed affordable housing policy, the mortgage meltdown and resulting financial crisis would not have occurred.
Given Ms. Cavanagh's bizarre and incorrect worldview that business-minded approaches are the root of all evil, it became difficult for me to give credence to anything else she wrote.
As for the charter school movement ... (more >>>)
Pithy & Petulant: Jimmy Carter will give a prerecorded speech at the Democratic National Convention next month. Frank J. Fleming has seen it and reports that it's very short and to the point: "You said anyone could do a better job than me, but look how wrong you are!"
In related news, Frank has suggested that whenever Americans win the gold in the Olympics, during the medal ceremony they should play the theme to 'Team America'.
The Best Olympic Headlines ... have come from The People's Cube:
Here's one that has nothing to do with the Olympics but it's too good not to include:
Restaurant Review: Shenanigans - West Linn, OR
Shenanigans is a Portland icon. In the 1970s, it was a hot drinking-dating-dining spot, located on Swan Island with a view of the Willamette River. I ate there a couple of times and found it to be quite good. Several years ago, Shenanigans relocated to Hayden Island in the Red Lion Hotel with a view of the Columbia River. Initial visits were promising but the decline in the quality of service and, later, food caused us to dine elsewhere. In 2011, the restaurant closed.
Shenanigans has again arisen ... (more >>>)
Organic Farming In The 21st Century: Velociman wrote, "No pesticides, no chemicals. So if a worker can't make it to the port-a-potty and shits on the watermelons, well, we'll just call that batch 'artisanal'."
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "We all enter the world knowing nothing but, by the time we are teenagers, we know it all. Sometimes it is decades later before we know enough to realize how little we know."
Tuesday August 7, 2012
Weekend Celebration: Blogging has been a bit light lately because of a little partying on my part. My 69th birthday was on Sunday and it was hot. I don't mean the party. I'm referring to temperatures - 101 degrees on Saturday and 95 on Sunday. It cooled off to a balmy 89 on Monday. And 77 degrees Tuesday.
Knowing that a heat-wave and busy weekend traffic were coming, I took a drive in my Plymouth on Friday morning. The sky was that light blue you only see in the summertime - looking like a light, bright aquamarine gem. It was already 65 degrees at 9:00 am and the temperature eventually reached 89 degrees by afternoon.
I enjoyed a nice morning outing with the windows down, the Glasspacks burbling and Little Richard's 'Long Tall Sally' blasting through the speakers: "... he saw Aunt Mary coming and he jumped back in the alley - oh baby."
I took another drive at 7:15 am on my birthday - the temperature was already in the mid-60s and the sun was shining brightly. By going out early, I practically had the roads to myself and didn't have to contend with the hordes of Apostolic Lutherans who seem to believe that God has given them a dispensation from Earthly traffic laws.
It was a wonderful weekend - fun presents, followed by a Canadian Club Manhattan, expertly prepared by my wife.
Then I cooked filets mignon on the grill which we enjoyed along with a bottle of 2006 Waterbrook Meritage wine from Walla Walla. The Columbia Valley blend (40% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec) is a Bordeaux-style wine. According to the winemaker's notes, it "presents a strong backbone that carries through to the lengthy finish. Fragrant clove and ripe blackberries marry together on the beautiful nose. Blackberry and earthy notes are interwoven on the rich palate." We enjoyed it greatly; it stood up well to the grilled meat.
Finally, there was dessert - homemade German chocolate cake. Awesome, as they say.
It was a spectacular finish to a grand birthday.
Why Lincoln Is Dying: Once upon a time, Lincolns were stately cars. Even when the brand was in decline, Town Cars were smooth-riding vehicles with a limo-like look. That's why they were so popular with livery services.
Then Lincoln decided to stick the Town Car moniker on the livery version of its ugly MKT crossover. The MKT itself is a marketplace failure, averaging sales of less than 627 vehicles per month so far this year.
The Chick-fil-A Strategy: Here's the headline of the week, so far, from The People's Cube - 'GM profits plunge 41%; CEO to make desperate statement in favor of traditional marriage'.
Expensive Time: A Tag Heuer watch worn by Steve McQueen in the film 'Le Mans' had sold for nearly $800,000 at auction. The Tag Heuer Monaco has a black alligator skin strap and a stylish retro 60s style blue face.
A signed U.S. passport belonging to McQueen fetched over $46,000 at the same auction.
Tasty Celebration: Every year on Bastille Day (July 14th) at Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, costumed French revolutionaries throw 2,000 Tastykakes from a tower to a the assembled masses below ... (more >>>)
Democratic Crooks: The House Ethics Committee issued a blistering report last week finding Rep. Laura Richardson guilty of improperly pressuring her official staff to campaign for her, destroying evidence and tampering with witness testimony.
"In an unusually scathing 16-page report, the Ethics panel depicted the California Democrat as acting with 'utter disdain' for the secretive committee, which Richardson has accused of evincing racist overtones in its investigation of black members."
Richardson is black. As are Richardson's chief of staff, Shirley W. Cooks, and deputy district director Daysha Austin, who received public letters of reproval from the committee.
"Richardson's views weave an elaborate fabrication out of threads of decontextualized evidence and outright prevarication, in an absurd attempt to rebut the majority of the tremendous evidence against her," the report stated.
After delaying her interview with the committee, Richardson finally agreed to sit down with panel investigators in June and answer their questions. But Richardson soon began complaining about how long the interview was taking and "ultimately demanded that it end so she could participate in an annual congressional softball game." Arrogant, unrepentant Ms. Richardson never ... (more >>>)
Media Bias: The headline says it all: 'Ann Romney slammed for $990 shirt, Michelle Obama praised for $6,800 jacket'.
Book Review: 'Defending The Free Market' by Rev. Robert Sirico
Over the years, I've sat in many a pew listening to priests try to interpret Jesus' words, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." I've yet to hear a cogent explanation from the pulpit.
If all those now-deceased successful entrepreneurs have gone to Hell because they've made lots of money on earth, I would think that they'd have used their skills to turn Hades into a five-star destination. Kinda like a Four Seasons resort but a little hotter. Maybe if you've become really wealthy on earth, you'll be upgraded (or is it 'downgraded') to Concierge Level. And, with Steve Jobs down there, you'll have some awesome electronic devices - not to mention a devilishly-fast internet connection. Perhaps the 'hell' part of Hell is having to teach Attila the Hun to use a computer: "Owwww! Quit clubbing me, dammit! Just hit the F7 key."
I'm always amused when - after the camel/needle's eye homily - the next words always seem to be, "Please be generous during our weekly collection which begins right now." There's a sort-of ironic 'money is evil but give us your money anyway' vibe.
When you look at ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: A woman claimed that she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
Thursday August 2, 2012
What Savvy Shoppers Buy: Costco members are by no means cookie-cutter people, having a variety of backgrounds, educations and political outlooks. That said, what they seem to have in common is a desire to obtain great value for their shopping dollars.
Costco's offerings are normally a cut above those of Wal-Mart, Target and Safeway. But Costco's prices are usually more than competitive.
I found some interesting auto data in the latest issue of 'The Costco Connection' magazine. More than a million Costco members have purchased a new vehicle through the Costco Auto Program in the past five years. So far in 2012, the top requested program vehicles are: Toyota Prius, Honda CR-V, Toyota Camry, Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra.
While none of these autos will set an enthusiast's heart aflame, all represent really good value for the money in their class.
July Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 14.1 million SAAR in July - up 14% from July 2011 but down slightly from last month.
Sales at General Motors decreased 6%. Cadillac was up 21% (Infiniti & Lexus were up even more) but Buick sales dropped 15%. Ford Motor Co. sales were off 4%; Lincoln was down 11%, with less than 7,000 units sold. Chrysler Group reported a sales increase of 13%.
Honda sales were up 46%, Volkswagen increased 28% and Toyota reported gains of 26%.
General Difficulties: In a piece titled 'Mayhem at GM', Mickey Kaus related several recent disturbing events at General Motors, including the abrupt dismissal of a respected designer on the eve of a big promotion, continuing turmoil at Opel, the firing of GM's global marketing head accompanied by a snide press release instead of the usual 'we wish him the best'. These unsettling events have been reported and analyzed by many throughout the auto news world and blogosphere.
Kraus opines that these are symptoms of GM's bailout coming unraveled, something of interest to all taxpayers since the U.S. Treasury still owns a boatload of General Motors stock. Meanwhile, General Motors plans to shell out as much as $600 million to sponsor a European soccer team despite owing $27 billion to American taxpayers.
GM's profits fell 41% in the second quarter, making $1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2012, compared with $2.5 billion for the same period last year. Revenue fell to $37.6 billion from $39.4 billion in the second quarter of 2011.
I'm concerned by the rumors of deep discounting of many of GM's new vehicle offerings, growing inventories - especially in the truck segment, anemic sales so far this year and falling sales of GM's luxury (and presumably most profitable) brand Cadillac - its sales dropped 18% in the first six months of 2012.
In the U.S., General Motors itself sold 4% more vehicles in the first half of 2012 versus the same period in 2011. In comparison, Ford Motor Company was up 7% over the same period and Hyundai/Kia grew 10% and Volkswagen 32%. Honda and Toyota suffered in 2011 due to the tsunami but roared back with gains of 49% and 58% respectively.
When the government forced GM into bankruptcy in 2009, I wrote, "The corporation may 'survive' as a downsized, money-draining, quasi-government entity (think Amtrak) but The General we used to know is dead."
Fast forward to now: Under the 'leadership' of CEO Dan Akerson, GM is going back to many of its old practices - the very ones that took them to death's door before - such as overloading dealers with product. AutoExtremist Peter De Lorenzo has called CEO Akerson and his team a "looming train wreck." Like Amtrak perhaps?
That's the problem. When you bail people out, they generally don't get rid of their bad habits. Beause they know you'll bail 'em out again next time.
Drive Time: On Tuesday, I used my old Plymouth to travel to the library and exchange some books. Then I took a short but pleasant drive on some back roads in the neighborhood.
In related news, Rick Luepke, who was my old car mechanic and did a lot of the work on the Plymouth, has died at age 75. Rick was a consummate car-guy and whiz-bang fixer of everything auto-related.
He owned Rick's Garage of Vancouver, WA for 40 years until he retired in 2004.
Maybe The Perps Were Just Demonstrating 'Chicago Values': The Obama administration released illegal immigrants who went on to commit more crimes, including charges of 19 murders, 3 attempted murders and 142 sex crimes, the House Judiciary Committee has reported.
"All told, the nearly 47,000 illegal immigrants the administration was notified of but declined to deport between 2008 and 2011 under its Secure Communities program had a recidivism rate of 16%."
In November, we need to elect a president who will secure our borders.
We Live In Interesting Times: An article in the New York Times reported, "Since median inflation-adjusted family income peaked in 2000 at $64,232, it has fallen roughly 6%. You won't find another 12-year period with an income decline since the aftermath of the Depression."
Why? Well, I'd posit that we have been in the Perfect Storm. This is what happens when ... (more >>>)
Definition Of The Day is for 'chickens': The only animals you eat before they are born and after they are dead.
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