A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
Wednesday October 31, 2012
AutoSketch: 1984-92 Lincoln Mark VII - A New Direction For The Mark
The original Lincoln Continental (the Mark I, if you purists will pardon my use of that phrase) was a boulevard car. It was a car to be seen in while driving down a wide straight road. It was good-looking and expensive. The Continental Mark II was also good-looking, very expensive and offered more luxury touches than the original. The Mark III, IV and V were more affordably priced, but their main claim to fame was a distinctive look and a nice ride. The Mark VI was the same philosophy in a smaller package. None of these cars was a real driver's car.
The Mark VII changed all that. It was ... (more >>>)
Tire Tale Addendum: Following last week's Costco Horror, my wife bought new tires at Les Schwab in Battle Ground. Verdict: fast, polite service, attention to detail and brand-new pristine tires with no gunk on either tires or chrome rims. Details here.
Election Optimism: Last week on Greta Van Susteren's show, Newt Gingrich predicted that this election will be a near-landslide victory for Mitt Romney. "I believe the minimum result will be 53-47 Romney, over 300 electoral votes and the Republicans will pick up the Senate."
Dick Morris has made a similar prediction; he has a good track record as a prognosticator. Political commentator and electoral guru Michael Barone has also predicted a Romney victory as has National Review's Jim Geraghty. Author & political commentator Steven Hayward, lately of Powerline, has also predicted a Romney sweep.
The bipartisan Battleground Poll is projecting that Mitt Romney will defeat President Obama 52-47%. Unskewed Polls is predicting a blowout for Romney - 321 electoral votes versus 217 for Obama. Gallup reports that Romney is up seven-points, 52-45%, among those who have already voted - about 15% of registered voters.
I remain cautiously optimistic but am still worried. This country can't handle four more years of Obama and his socialist, pro-Islamist buddies.
The Ignominy Of Benghazi: I've been reluctant to write about this incident since the facts were slow to come to light, thanks to stonewalling, contradiction and cover-up from the present administration.
A New York Post editorial has summed things up succinctly: "Myriad are the failures of the Obama administration, but none is more tragic, or more frightening, or more foreboding of catastrophe than the appalling mishandling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi."
The editorial continues: "Acknowledging what really happened in Benghazi would mean confessing to hubris, incompetence, amateurism and deceit. These are, sadly, Obama hallmarks."
The tragedy in Libya is just one more failure of Obama's Mideast 'policy'. The Post noted, "As does nature, statecraft abhors a vacuum. When one develops, adventurers and advantage-takers appear in short order.
Iran continues to build its bomb; Syria burns; Turkey awaits its fate, and Egypt is looking at a Muslim Brotherhood-enforced Sharia state. Think of it as Benghazi writ large."
The editorial concluded with an election recommendation: "Time to evict the deceiving amateurs."
Moo Payback: A Gaza health official reported that a panicking cow has killed a Palestinian man who was trying slaughter the beast during the Muslim celebration of Eid al-Adha.
Muslims around the world slaughter sheep, cows and goats during the four-day holiday to commemorate the sacrifice by their forefather Abraham. But accidents are common as people frequently buy animals to slaughter at home instead of relying on professional butchers.
Another 150 more people were hospitalized in Gaza with knife wounds or other injuries caused by animals attacking butchers or bystanders.
I found this to be a very mooooving story. And I think the folks at Chick-fil-A would be proud. (permalink)
Trick Or Treat: Halloween brings back memories of my daughter's trick-or-treating years. One year, I made a cylindrical costume for her out of cardboard and wood and painted it; she went as a giant Rolo candy bar.
Another year, I made her a giant pack of Wrigley's Gum Pack from cardboard to wear. My daughter still reminds me of those times - every Halloween, saying that both costumes were awkward and uncomfortable. (Hey, I wasn't a professional costumer - just an amateur dad.)
I still remember going out trick-or-treating as a kid. You could tell a lot about adults based on the treats they gave out. First, there were the really-great folks who gave out full-sized candy bars.
Then there were the cheapskates who gave out Klein Lunch Bars, a cheap knockoff of Hershey Bars - a little smaller in length and width and micro-thin. But wrapped like a Hershey - even the lettering was similar. Except the slide-off wrapper was dark green instead of brown. (Like they could fool anybody above idiot level that these were Hershey bars - what were they thinking?) In those days, Klein Lunch Bars cost 3¢; Hershey Bars cost 5¢. The green-wrapped knockoffs were produced by Klein Chocolate Company of Elizabethtown, PA.
Then there were the 'creative' cheapskates who gave out little candies wrapped up in a paper napkin folded up 'hobo-style' and tied with cheap ribbon. Always containing disappointing offerings - a couple of forlorn pieces of candy corn and a few cheap hard candies fused together. Fooled no one - underneath the paper and ribbon disguise - these packages were assembled by neighborhood skinflints.
Finally, there were the jerks who gave out a single penny ... or didn't open their doors at all.
Luckily, back in those days, most people were friendly and generous.
Halloween: a time when children learn to be judgmental and to separate grown-ups into specific categories - good training for adulthood.
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno, offering an inexpensive Halloween costume idea: "Wear a re-elect Obama button and go out as a journalist."
Monday October 29, 2012
Car Sightings: Last week, I spotted a new-looking 1952 Ford Mainline Ranch Wagon in Sungate Ivory. This was the first year of Ford's all new body. This entry-level two-door station wagon was probably intended for duties on the ranch but mostly ended up parked under the carports of postwar ranch houses.
I didn't see any V8 markings, so I assumed that this example was powered by Ford's all-new 101-hp overhead-valve straight six. It had business-like blackwall tires and small hubcaps.
Ford made over 32,500 Ranch Wagons in '52; this is one of few survivors. Most remaining Ford station wagons are the pricier, top-of-the line, fake-wood-sided Country Squire models. The original base price for the lowly Ranch Wagon was $1,832 - 16% less than the tony Country Squire. Only 5,426 examples of the wood-sided line-topper were sold during the '52 model year.
While on the same road ... (more >>>)
Small Redefined: The term 'small-block' came into being when Chevrolet debuted its first modern V-8 engine in 1955. The term came from the fact that the displacement of the compact new engine was 265 cubic inches, not much larger than the six-cylinder engines of the period. The 1954 Chevrolet inline six displaced 235 cubic inches.
Today's engines are smaller displacement - most V-6s are in the 3 to 3.5 liter range - 180 to 210 cubic inches. Two-liter four cylinder engines are not uncommon common on today's cars.
It was recently announced that the 2014 Corvette will be powered by a 6.2 liter "small block" V-8. That's 378 cubic-inches of displacement and not small in my book.
Preliminary numbers suggest no less than 450 horsepower and 450 pound-feet of torque for this not-so-small Corvette V-8. (permalink)
Why Unions Support Obama: At the time of the auto bailouts of 2008-9, I wrote that it was a bad idea.
In October '08, when the bankruptcies of automakers were first being discussed and there was hand-wringing over the "catastrophic collapse of the entire industry," I opined that, if McDonald's went out of business tomorrow, we wouldn't become vegetarians. Or starve. We'd simply trot across the street to Burger King. Or Arby's.
Now comes a report from the Buckeye Institute, which notes that the auto bailouts were, at best, a waste of money. And a windfall for the UAW.
"The auto bailout transferred over $25 billion in taxpayer dollars to the United Autoworkers labor union, while preventing the kind of 'fresh start' that normal bankruptcy procedures, without political meddling, provide - something necessary for the industry's future success and that normal bankruptcy procedures, without political meddling, provide."
"When a public policy produces worse results than doing nothing, it properly should be described as a failure. The Obama Administration auto bailout is such a failure."
In July 2011 ... (more >>>)
Stormy Weather: As I write this, Hurricane Sandy - aka Frankenstorm - is making her way up the Atlantic coastline and threatening to turn inward and wreak havoc from Delaware north. Forecasts sound ominous.
For example, all Philadelphia-area bus, trolley, subway and regional rail services have been suspended and almost all tourist attractions, including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall are shuttered. New York City has similar restrictions. Don't expect to visit the Statue of Liberty anytime soon.
Many service stations in Connecticut are out of gas and Home Depot stores throughout the Northeast have empty shelves where home generators are usually found. Blogger Francis W. Porretto lives on Long Island and on Monday morning reported "sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph and skies as black as Obama's heart."
Fifty years ago, there were two record storms that older people still remember. The Great Atlantic Storm of 1962 - also called The Ash Wednesday Storm - occurred in early March 68, 1962 along the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States.
It was considered by the U.S. Geological Survey to be one of the most destructive storms ever to ... (more >>>)
Where's The Beef? Gallagher's Steak House, a New York City icon that opened in 1927 and survived the great Depression, is closing its doors in January. I've never patronized this joint but a 10-ounce filet mignon for $40 sounds pretty reasonable, especially for NYC.
The establishment survived the bad times of Hoover, Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter but succumbed to Obama's 'recovery'.
Not to worry. As upscale restaurants disappear, fast food jobs are booming. And are often stocked with recent college graduates eager to serve you, especially if you want to engage a short discussion on history, philosophy or sociology,
Thanks to revised 'coding' by the Department of Labor, burger-flipping can now be classified as "manufacturing." Therefore, manufacturing jobs officially appear to be returning to America. Just keep believin'.
Latest Sign Of Desperation: Barack Obama has referred to Mitt Romney as "a bullshitter." This is the best you've got, Mr. President?
Quote Of The Day is from author Stella Paul on what she misses about America, remembering "when the American Dream wasn't food stamps and disability."
Thursday October 25, 2012
I'll Never Buy Tires From Costco Again: Last week, I drove to Costco and purchased a new set of Bridgestone tires to replace the originals on my Lexus. When I picked up my car, I noticed that the very nice polished aluminum valve caps had been replaced by cheap bright green plastic ones.
I went back and asked, "Where are my valve caps?" I received the sheepish reply ... (more >>>)
No More English Fords: The European sovereign-debt crisis has tanked the Continental economy, leading to the largest drop in car sales in 19 years. Manufacturers such as PSA (Peugeot, Citroen), General Motors Co. (Opel, Vauxhall) and Fiat have responded by shutting or outlining plans to close factories.
Ford Motor Co. plans to shut two European assembly plants, including a factory in Southampton (England), that makes chassis cabs for the Transit van. A 48-year-old plant in Belgium that builds the Mondeo mid-sized sedan, S-Max wagon and Galaxy minivan will close by the end of 2014.
Ford has been making vehicles in Britain since 1911. The carmaker's last auto-factory shutdown in Europe was in 2002 at its plant in Dagenham, England that made the Fiesta compact - a move that cut 2,000 jobs. The closing at Southampton will eliminate Ford’s final vehicle-making factory in the U.K.
Ford also has manufacturing sites in Valencia, Spain; Saarlouis, Germany and Bordeaux, France. Europe is running at an estimated 50% of auto capacity these gloomy days.
Indian Affairs: An American Indian tribe is considering taking its case to state court after its lawsuit against four beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska was thrown out by a federal judge.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe governs the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota - just over the state line from Whiteclay. Last year the four beer stores named in the suit sold the equivalent of 4.3 million 12-ounce beer cans even though Whiteclay has only 11 residents.
The Connecticut-sized Pine Ridge Reservation is home to 40,000 residents and has struggled with alcoholism for generations, despite an alcohol ban in place since 1832. It also spans some of the most impoverished areas in the country.
Well, you can't stop free enterprise. Or good marketing: find a need and fill it.
Alcohol, hookers, porn and pancakes have been around since the Dawn of Man, although those early pancakes were pretty crappy and the hookers didn't smell so good. The point is - prohibition never works. Only self-control does.
Maybe it is time to close the reservation, offer ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The New Leviathan: How the Left-Wing Money-Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America's Future' by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin
This was a very enlightening read. The book illustrates how seemingly-benign nonprofits and foundations have been infiltrated by the left. It presents an unsettling picture of the vast ... (more >>>)
It's Over: Last Friday, my wife and I voted and mailed in our ballots.
Even though we're done, the robocalls and campaign literature keep coming. None from either Obama or Romney since we live in a blue state that seems to be in the bag for Barry O.
No October (or November) surprise will change our minds. It's too late.
Headline Of The Week is from The People's Cube: 'Americans prepare for obnoxious Thanksgiving relatives by watching reruns of Biden/Ryan debate'.
Quote Of The Day is from Will Rogers: "Things will get better despite our efforts to improve them."
Tuesday October 23, 2012
Be On The Lookout: At one point during Sunday's tragic and fatal Wisconsin spa shooting, it was announced that "police are looking for 2003 Mazda Protege."
Even though I consider myself a car guy, I had no idea what that model looked like. A quick search of Google Images showed it to be a nondescript compact sedan - looking quite a bit like a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or Nissan Sentra.
That's the problem with so many of today's cars - they look too much alike. I miss the Fifties, when every car had its own distinctive toothy grille, chrome side trim and taillights.
Deflated Expectations: Yesterday, I saw a little Smart car with an Obama sticker in the window parked at the Battle Ground Les Schwab tire store. The Smart had a flat tire; it probably ran over a thumbtack.
Given the trend of recent polls, perhaps the flat portends the Obama's election chances.
Final Presidential Debate: Romney won last night because he looked and acted presidential. Obama, by contrast, was petulant and snarky; he looked nervous and angry. His various interruptions and attacks were the actions of a man with a bad hand bluffing and blustering. The split screen was not the President's friend: Romney was calm and composed, while Obama was jumpy with shifty, blinking eyes.
On Fox News, Charles Krauthammer said that Romney won the debate hands down, both strategically and tactically. But what Krauthammer thought worked very well in Mitt's favor was that Romney went large and, in contrast, Obama went shockingly small. And petty.
Romney's line of the night: "Mr. President, America has not dictated to other nations. America has freed other nations from dictatorship."
Mitt's job last night was to convince disillusioned Obama voters that he is a viable alternative. He met his objective and I think future polls - and the election - will reflect his success.
Sharp Contrast: Colonel B. Bunny has weighed in on those remaining undecided voters: "Apparently, if you're "undecided" you can't form an opinion as to whether the one guy with certifiable record of management and business acumen as long as your arm is the better candidate over the one who's a bisexual, dope-smoking, constitutionally-unqualified, Muslim, white-hating, America-loathing, treasonous, naif with a forged "birth certificate" and a Social Security number once used by a dead man, which candidate also took to heart the lessons of "community organizing" articulated in a book dedicated to Satan." Ouch.
Damn, He Looks Better Than I Do: Former James Bond actor Roger Moore is now 85 years old.
In related news, Petula Clark will turn 80 next month. We had the privilege of seeing her perform at London's West End production of 'Sunset Boulevard' in 1995.
Restaurant Review: Provecho Mexican Grill, Vancouver, WA
Located just north of downtown, you shouldn't let the semi-dumpy strip center location scare you off. The menu is very limited (tacos, burritos and tostadas seem to be the primary focus) and no ... (more >>>)
Twenty Five Years Ago: On Black Monday, October 19, 1987, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped a whopping 508 points - 22% - in one day. It was the biggest single-day drop in the Dow's history.
There was much weeping and pointing of fingers - at everything from program-trading to that Evil Ronald Reagan. Nitwit Al Gore said that "the voodoo chickens of Reaganomics have come home to roost." Yeah, right.
I saw the market drop as an opportunity. IBM had lost 25% of its value that day. When I got home from work at 4:30 pm (PDT), I telephoned my broker at Shearson/American Express and put in a buy order for 100 shares of IBM. She asked, "Are you sure?" "Yep," I replied. "The best time to invest is when there's blood running in the streets." That was probably the only time in my life that I've quoted 19th Century financier Baron Rothschild.
Over the years, I kept my little investment and reinvested the dividends. It has now increased more than twelve-fold, handily beating the Dow which has increased by about six-fold since that dark day in '87.
Was This A Monty Python Sketch Gone Bad? A police force "has apologised to a blind grandfather who was shot in the back with a 50,000-volt taser stun gun after officers mistook his white stick for a samurai sword." Two-time stroke-victim Colin Farmer, 61, said he thought he was being attacked by muggers when he was hit with the weapon by the officer, who then handcuffed the retired company director as he fell to the ground."
Quote Of The Day is from Solomon Short, sci-fi author David Gerrold's fictional alter-ego: "The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky."
Friday October 19, 2012
Oh, The Days Dwindle Down: It's been almost two weeks since my last '39 Plymouth ride. Ever since I gassed the car up, the weather has been against me - rain, fog, etc. When the sun finally returned, albeit briefly, I fired up the old coupe and took a drive.
The Fall colors are nearing their peak around here and the warmth of summer is gone - it was 53 degrees at 11:30 am. But the skies were a pale blue dotted with puffy clouds and it was a very pleasant ride. (permalink)
Moving Pricey Old Iron: Last weekend, I watched televised coverage of the September Mecuum Auction in Dallas. Collectors Gary and Donna Hall of Hallbrook Stables in Joplin, Mo., where the Halls breed, race and sell quarter horses, sold some of their cars. Total sales for Hallbrook Collection surpassed $5.2 million, with 82 vehicles going to new homes thanks to an 85% sell-through rate.
Some of the offerings were:
Oxymoron Alert: The CEO of New Seasons, a Portland-based Whole Foods wannabe, has quit to build a chain of "healthy convenience stores." What does this mean - low-salt Slim Jims?
"Lisa Sedlar plans to launch her own chain of small stores that will stock healthier options, such as locally cured salami instead of Slurpees and gourmet cheese instead of the liquid variety."
Book Review: 'The Road to Freedom' by Arthur C. Brooks
In this book, American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks argues that the socialistic redistribution trend of recent times cannot be reversed through greed-is-good appeals about the economic efficiency of capitalism. Instead ... (more >>>)
Bumper Sticker Of The Week:
Dinner Talk: Last night was the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in NYC, honoring the Catholic charity named after the 1928 Democratic presidential candidate, renowned New York Governor and patron of the "Little People." Since 1945, luminous guest speakers - including Presidential candidates - have stepped from the world stage to entertain audiences with light humor and political quips.
Romney and Obama were on the dais for last night's event. Mitt is often thought of as a stiff, humorless guy but his performance was a knockout - the jokes were first-rate and his delivery and comedic timing were far above political par.
Obama was not nearly as funny although he did have a good self-deprecating moment when talking about Romney's and his names: "Actually, Mitt is his middle name. (ruefully) I wish I could use my middle name."
A Credit To His Race: U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., the useless spawn of America's Top Race-Baiter, hasn't worked in several months while being treated for mental illness or drug dependency or something, but has somehow managed to stay in office and collect his paycheck.
Rep. Jackson's campaign finances are now the subject of a federal probe after ... (more >>>)
Door. Ass. Bang. Newsweek will cease print publication at end of this year. In early 2005, after continuously subscribing since 1966, we dropped our subscription to Newsweek.
I used to read it to get analysis of current events, commentary and back story articles not found in newspapers. Then the internet came along. By the time Newsweek arrived, its articles were ancient news. Plus, it had moved smugly left and we had moved logically right. So, we moved out.
The last time I saw a print version was a dentist's office a few years ago. (permalink)
Bad Pun of the Day: A man went to the doctor with a piece of lettuce hanging out of his ear. "That looks painful," said the doctor. "Painful?!?," the man cried. "Why, this is just the tip of the iceberg, doc!"
Wednesday October 17, 2012
Style Pile: Last week, I wrote that I was unimpressed with Jaguar's new look. Although not really a car enthusiast, Kathy Shaidle doesn't like the new styling direction either: "Whenever we drive by the nearby Jaguar dealership, I always note how pretty and graceful and distinctive these cars look. They look like their name.
The [Jag XFR sedan] looks like a giant dinosaur turd, if the dinosaur lived in the Kremlin. What the hell happened?"
And that just-revealed new Jaguar F-Type sports car doesn't look so sleek and gorgeous either.
Your Electric Tax Dollars At Waste: Lithium-ion battery maker A123, which received an Obama $249.1 million Federal Green Energy Grant in 2009 to build a U.S. factory, has declared bankruptcy after struggling with costs from a recall of batteries supplied to Fisker Automotive Inc., the plug-in hybrid luxury carmaker - another Obama-subsidized venture which will probably fail.
When A123 opened its plant in Michigan later that year, Obama called to congratulate Chief Executive David Vieux. "This is about the birth of an entire new industry in America - an industry that's going to be central to the next generation of cars," Obama said. "When folks lift up their hoods on the cars of the future, I want them to see engines and batteries that are stamped: Made in America."
But, the company’s advanced lithium-ion battery business for electric vehicles just did not grow fast enough - given that the bloom is off the rose in the electric vehicle biz.
This is what Hope 'n' Change means: Hope ("I hope this money I'm throwin' around will do somethin'") and Change ("Let's now change A123's status to chapter 11.").
Murphy's Law On A Small Scale: On my O-gauge train layout, I run a Philadelphia PCC trolley car. One of the two bayonet-style bulbs used to light the interior of the trolley had burned-out. Thinking that replacing the bulb would be a snap, I disassembled the model streetcar, only to find that the lamp was stuck tightly. Finally, with the help of a ancient rubber jar-opener and a jeweler's screwdriver, I managed to extract the old bulb from its socket.
I had some extra 12-14v bayonet bulbs in the garage. I tried them and, at running voltages, they were extremely dim. I called the local Radio Shack and they were no help.
Then I remembered that I had ... (more >>>)
Second Presidential Debate: There was an elephant in the room last night. I'm referring to Candy Crowley, who played an 'enormous' role. And a biased one. Jonah Goldberg of NRO wrote, "I thought the questions, pre-screened by Candy Crowley, were for the most part indistinguishable from questions the Obama campaign might as well have drafted for her. Nearly every one was asked from a fundamentally liberal premise."
As to Crowley's ill-advised interruption and 'correction' on the Libya Rose Garden point, not only was she factually incorrect but her actions were, as Jim Geraghty noted: "One of the most egregious misjudgments of any moderator in the history of presidential debates." Ol' Candy definitely saved Obama's ass, though - when Romney mentioned Fast & Furious, she quickly instituted a topic change. She also awarded 8% more time to Barry O. She interrupted Romney 28 times, Obama only nine. Thanks to Ms. Crowley, I hate the mainstream media even more.
Then there was that mysterious disappearance of pre-debate donuts. I don't want to call Candy morbidly chubby, but every mosquito that ever bit her is now on Lipitor.
And what's with these ugly women moderators? Last week's moderator, Martha Raddatz, wore a craggy a face only Edward James Olmos could love. Karen Tumulty of the Washington Post, appearing on one of the Republican debates, had a face suitable only for radio. Why can't we get someone smart and good-looking, like Megyn Kelly?
As for the debate itself, I would have called it a draw with Mitt being handicapped by Crowley's tactics. Romney really did seem to get under Obama's skin, though. Democratic strategist Joe Trippi said it was a wash.
Frank Lutz's focus group was another matter. His small sample of Las Vegas undecideds went big for Romney. Luntz declared this shift "as significant as in Denver ten days ago." A very good sign.
In CBS News' Instant Poll, 65% said Romney won on the issue of the economy. A CNN poll asked, "Who is the stronger leader?" Romney won 49-46. The same poll said Romney won 54-40 on the economy, 49-46 on health care, 51-44 on taxes and 59-36 on the deficit. Everything's comin' up Mitt.
The Buck Stops Where? Lemme see if I understand this: The poor economy is Bush's fault, and our lousy foreign policy is Clinton's. Right? It's ABB - Anybody But Barry.
Why We Don't Go To Downtown Portland Anymore: Once upon a time we were regulars at downtown events: Broadway in Portland series, concerts at the Schnitz, dinners at downtown's many upscale restaurants. No more. And, we're not alone.
"I am a third generation native and have spent many of my professional years as an attorney working downtown (although I rarely go downtown at night). Last Saturday night, my husband and I were downtown for a wedding. We arrived a bit early to grab a drink. At Portland Prime. The wedding was at Kells.
We were both STUNNED to witness the hordes of aggressive panhandlers / street kids with too many pit bulls to count harassing tourists, making rude and inappropriate comments to us when we would not give money and at one point, blocking our car door. Not surprising, Portland Prime was virtually empty. The tourists in line at Voodoo Donuts looked scared.
Downtown Portland, once the thriving epicenter of the city, is going to hell."
Don't forget to read ... (more >>>)
They Never Had This Problem When John And Mary Got Hitched. The New York Times recently ran this correction: "A report on Sept. 30 about the marriage of Paul Poux and David Pfingstler misidentified them in the accompanying photograph. Mr. Pfingstler was on the left, Mr. Poux at the right." (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Jonathan Schwartz: "Rock is jazz under pressure."
Monday October 15, 2012
A Tale of Two Corvettes: The 1963-72 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Rays are some of the best-looking cars on the planet.
Derived from the one-off 1959 Sting Ray racer (conceived by General Motors Design V.P. Bill Mitchell, styled by Pete Brock and Larry Shinoda), the 1963 Corvette was a stunner from every angle.
Car & Driver noted that: "Waiting lists of great length and duration for the Corvette Sting Ray at all Chevrolet dealers' are the best proof of the public's acceptance of the new model. ... The new all-independent suspension has completely transformed the Corvette in terms of traction and cornering power."
Corvette Godfather Zora Arkus-Duntov summed it up this way ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Treacherous Beauty: Peggy Shippen, the Woman behind Benedict Arnold's Plot to Betray America' by Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case
"Peggy who?" you ask. I did too. And what about Benedict Arnold? "Traitor." That's all I remember, too.
'Treacherous Beauty' is a biography of comely 18th Century society girl Philadelphia Peggy Shippen, who married Benedict Arnold. She was instrumental in the plot to sabotage the American Revolution.
Benedict Arnold's story is told as well. A once heroic Colonial figure who fought beside George Washington, Arnold becomes frustrated ... (more >>>)
Are EU Kidding? This year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union. This seems kinda like awarding the Nobel Prize in Medicine to an abscess.
That muffled explosion you heard was the corpse of Alfred Nobel dynamiting himself in his grave.
Follow this progression of 'peace' prize winners:
Yasser Arafat > Kofi Annan > Jimmy Carter > Al Gore > Barack Obama > EU
Therefore, these are my predictions for next year's Peace Price finalists: Rubik's Cube. Alec Baldwin. Monty Python's Dead Parrot. Hugo Chávez. The Simpsons' inanimate carbon rod. Sean Penn. Stewie Griffin. And the Oslo telephone directory. (permalink)
Post-Debate Analysis: Referring to last week's VP debate, Jay Leno said, "Well, I guess you know the Obama campaign has a new strategy. They've gone from "Hope and Change" to "Smirk and Giggle.""
And Furthermore ... between Big Bird and Biden, the 2012 election is shaping up to be all about Sesame Street. It's not a pretty sight when Muppets get old:
Call Me: If a political pollster telephones, I plan to answer that I'm still undecided. What I won't disclose is that I'm still trying to decide whether to vote for Romney or against Obama.
Horrible Homilies: Thomas G. Long, who teaches at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, has written about bad sermons, noting that "for many people, the words boredom and sermon are a proper pair, like horse and carriage. Pulpit search committees almost always top their wish lists with "good preacher" and report that their searches lead them through dry and waterless places."
Last year, Monsignor Mariano Crociata, secretary-general of the Italian Bishops' Conference, made a splash on the pages of the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano when he slammed dull homilies ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun of the Day: An X-ray specialist married one of his patients. Everyone wondered what he saw in her.
Friday October 12, 2012
Gas Pains: Being an engineer and therefore, somewhat anal-retentive, I keep a record of all fuel purchases in spiral notebooks. (I have done so for decades and still keep a small notebook in each car.) I've owned my '39 Plymouth since 1994; here's a chart showing what I paid for Premium gas in September of each year for the past 18 years.
Please note: September 2012 was an 18 year record high - $4.339 per gallon.
Vice-Presidential Debate: Perhaps, I should have titled this 'More Gas Pains', since there was a distressing amount emanating from that gas-bag Joe Biden last night.
Biden was rude, disrespectful and uncouth, not just to Paul Ryan but to American viewers, as well. His grins, chortles, muttering and constant interruptions (82 times in 90 minutes) made him seem like a ninnyhammer and a total jerk.
His bizarre smirks and inappropriate, ill-timed smiles reminded me of how some people act after a lot of drinking or a bad head injury. Actually, it also reminded me of 'debates' I've seen in bars, when some old souse tries to get into it with a nice guy who just came in for a beer.
Chris Wallace said, "I think I have watched almost every presidential and vice-presidential debate since the first four Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, and - thinking back over the last few minutes - I don't believe I have ever seen a debate in which one participant was as openly disrespectful of the other as Biden was to Paul Ryan tonight. And that's what it was - the smirks, the smiling, the head-shaking, the mugging - it was openly contemptuous and disrespectful."
On the other hand, Paul Ryan gave steady, even-tempered answers and stuck to his talking points. Ryan hit the tax question out of the ballpark and was eloquent on both Medicare and foreign policy. The best Ryan line: "We asked for the president's economic plan and all we got was a speech. The Congressional Budget Office couldn't evaluate it because the CBO doesn't score speeches."
Biden struggled with Libya and gave incorrect answers. VP Biden's claims about security in Benghazi were clearly bullshit. He blamed bad intelligence for misinformation, contradicting other testimony. He also failed to make a convincing case for how the Democrats would solve unemployment/underemployment. The Vice-President lied about his voting record, falsely claiming that - as a senator - he voted against both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
CNBC asked, "Who do you think won the debate?" Answer: Ryan - 56%, Biden - 36%. Ryan won CNN's poll of Undecided Likely Voters: 48-44%. Other networks had different results, but I don't think this debate swayed as many voters as last week's Romney-Obama match up. Viewership was down about 40% from last week, so there's that, too.
Ryan won several post-debate likability polls; one had him at 53-43. This is significant because Ryan, who has been portrayed as the crazy right-wing devil who wants to kill your grandparents, is now seen as 'likable' by more than a majority of the public, whereas ill-mannered Biden has simply pumped-up his angry liberal base.
The really good news is that, if present trends continue, we may never have to watch a Joe Biden debate again.
Book Review: 'The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity' by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy
This fascinating book discusses the relationships between various presidents - friendships and/or bitterness that last long after they are gone from the White House. Beginning with Herbert Hoover and ending with a partial report on Barack Obama, the reader is presented with sides of presidents not previously unseen.
I thought the authors presented even-handed accounts with seemingly no political biases. The book is full of inside information, including ... (more >>>)
"Mongo Only Pawn In Game Of Life." Alex Karras, one of the NFL's most feared defensive tackles throughout the 1960s when he played for the Detroit Lions and later gained fame as an actor, has died at age 77.
Karras had been battling a myriad of illnesses over the past two years, including kidney disease, heart disease, stomach cancer and dementia - thought to be caused by brain trauma from his football days.
Alex played the loveable subliterate bruiser Mongo in 'Blazing Saddles'. His character been semi-immortalized in our household. You know that particular intestinal affliction - the one where you have to run-for-your-life to a bathroom because an explosion is imminent? Our nickname for that digestive phenomenon is 'Candygram for Mongo'. RIP, Alex.
Bad Pun of the Day: I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
Wednesday October 10, 2012
Stabilizing: On Monday, I drove my '39 Plymouth to the local gas station and filled it up ($4.43/gallon ... ouch!) after dumping some Sta-Bil fuel stabilizer in the tank. Soon, winter-formula gas will be arriving in Southwest Washington and I don't want any of that dreck in the Plymouth's gas tank. Accordingly, this was my last fill-up of the year.
While the weather is very pleasant right now, the forecast calls for it to turn by Friday. I expect that my 2012 Plymouth travels are nearly at an end and the coupe will soon be hibernating in the garage until Spring 2013.
After the fill-up, I took a nice drive under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-50s. The last few nights have featured lows in the upper 30s and that has had an impact on the tree leaves. More are turning and there are flaming reds and bold yellow-oranges to be seen while driving the back roads of North Clark County. (permalink)
Sightings: On Tuesday, I headed over to Portland to pick up and order some stuff. It was quite foggy in the morning and, at a traffic light near the airport, I spotted a cream-colored 1940 Ford Deluxe convertible with a white top gliding past. It looked like a ghost car in the fog.
At the next intersection I saw my first 2012 Mini Cooper Roadster. I wasn't impressed. What's next - a Mini tow truck?
On the 205 freeway, I passed a new Jaguar XJ sedan. It did not seem Jaguaresque to me. It lacked the distinctive, British lines of past Jag sedans. The taillights were interesting but had no connection to the marque's heritage. And the chrome leaper on the deck was too big, reminding me of hip-hop jewelry.
During my travels, I didn't see a single Obama sign, sticker or decal, even on bumpers of cars with those otiose 'Coexist' stickers. No Obama lawn signs were observed either. Oregon and Washington are heavily Democratic states (recent polls show Obama up by 9 and 16 points, respectively) and, in 2008, there were Obama signs and bumper stickers everywhere. Does this lack of signs/stickers/decals mean anything? I dunno. I guess we'll find out in early November.
Hot Fusion: AutoExtremist Peter De Lorenzo has described the launch of the redesigned 2013 Ford Fusion as a Defining Moment for Ford Motor Company.
"I'm reminded of GM's heyday when the great automotive designer Bill Mitchell had an uncanny knack for bringing tailored, concept car looks to the mainstream market. To me the Fusion has the same kind of impact and presence on the road that Mitchell's signature vehicles did."
When Bill Mitchell's name is mentioned, I think of milestone cars such as the Corvette Stingray, Buick Riviera, Olds Toronado, 1970 Camaro and Cadillac Seville. These were stunning machines in their day and were very successful in terms of sales. Style matters.
De Lorenzo wrote, "And Ford's willingness to push the boundaries of predictability in the mid-size market may be the most telling aspect of the new Fusion. The car has 'premium' written all over it; from the way it looks to the way it drives, and with an array of efficient powertrains that suit a wide range of needs and tastes the Fusion will be the most competitive car in the mainstream American market in decades."
The new-generation Fusion is a handsome car. I, too, think it will be a sales winner.
Built To Last: The Pennypack Creek Bridge on Frankford Avenue in Northeast Philadelphia is the oldest stone arch bridge in America. Located just north of Solly Avenue, the bridge has been in continuous use since its 1697 completion.
The 154 foot-long bridge served ... (more >>>)
The Real Obama: Speaking in Virginia last week after the first debate, President Barack Hussein Obama said, "We don't believe anybody is entitled to success in this country."
Wow. Just wow. He finally said it out loud. This explains all those anti-business moves over the last four years. The man hates success, except when it involves himself or his crooked cronies.
Vote for Mitt. He wants everyone to succeed.
Quote Of The Day is from Bill Vaughan: "Money won't buy happiness but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem."
Monday October 8, 2012
Color Change: Last Thursday, I took my '39 Plymouth out to pick up a library book and take a back roads tour. At 10:30 am, it was sunny and a comfortable 67 degrees, so I lowered the windows and cranked up some rock 'n' roll music through the Plymouth's speakers. In just three days, the color on the trees had significantly changed.
Peak color won't happen until late in October, but Fall colors are already making big inroads around here.
The book, 'The Road to Freedom', turned out to be a dud, so - on Friday - I drove to the library to return it and pick up two more books I had on reserve. The weather was sunny and breezy and almost-balmy 70 degrees at 1:00 pm, making this Plymouth ride a most pleasant one.
Book Review: 'Engines Of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars' by Paul Ingrassia
The book purports to offer "a wondrous epic in fifteen automobiles," according to the jacket, including the Ford Model T, LaSalle, Corvette, VW Beetle, Chevrolet Corvair, Pontiac GTO, Honda Accord, Toyota Prius and others. The author connects various car brands/models to society's cultural shifts.
Remember in 'Animal House' when Blutto gave a rousing, if inaccurate speech? ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? No!") Frat brother Boon waves away the historical error, noting "Forget it, he's rolling." Soon, the whole Delta House is yelling, "Let's do it! Let's do it!" Ingrassia's book begets the same ... (more >>>)
Everything In Its Place: My wife picked a complimentary copy of the Oregonian last week. I noticed that the obituaries are now in the Business section.
I always get a little freaked out when newspapers put death notices in the Living section. (permalink)
Free-Range Business: Dallas Federal Reserve President Richard Fisher has said the U.S. is "drowning in unemployment" and that the Fed's monetary easing was not the solution. So much for all those Obama administration economic forecasts.
In my opinion, the 'solution' is to ease burdensome and crippling regulations on business.
Last year, Boston Scientific disclosed it was investing $150 million and hiring 1,000 people in China, raising fears that the company will gradually shift more work to foreign sites with less government oversight and lower costs than the United States.
The quest for "less government oversight" rings true to anyone who operates a business. The bureaucratic intrusion into everyday commercial activities has become so burdensome that it is killing off business formation and growth.
The annual cost of mandated Federal regulations for firms with less than 20 employees is estimated at almost $8,000. This doesn't include the cost of training poorly-educated, near illiterate graduates - products of our failing unionized education system, which turns out near-illiterate slackers with little knowledge and even less work ethic.
Stop wasting our money. Quantitative Easing I, II and III as well as the shovel-ready stimulus programs are abject failures. Keynesian economics doesn't work. It never has.
Stop over-regulating businesses and watch them soar. Mitt knows this.
Flipping The Bird: The subject of Big Bird was raised in last week's presidential debate, when Mitt Romney said that he'd cut funding for PBS. A Breitbart follow-up article was headlined: 'Big Bird makes more money than Mitt Romney, but is still on the government dole.'
'Sesame Street' makes over $50 million per year just from toy and consumer product sales. Writer John Nolte quipped, "Yep, that one-percenter Big Bird makes about four times what Mitt Romney does annually and yet Barack Obama still wants you and I to still carry his freight.
I guess that's Obama's idea of 'economic patriotism'."
Quote Of The Day is from Jay Leno: "A new survey out today shows how much time we waste every day in our lives. For example, we waste seven minutes in line every time we go to get coffee, 28 minutes getting through airport security, four years waiting for Obama to do something about the economy."
Thursday October 4, 2012
September Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 15 million SAAR in September, up 14% from September 2011 and up 3% from the sales rate last month.
The big successes could be found among the imports. Toyota Motor Co. sales jumped 42%. Sales of the big Avalon dropped 37% to 1,571 sedans at the end of the old model run. Sales of Lexus vehicles increased 36% to 20,386. Sales of the LS flagship decreased 24% to 558 units. The Honda brand was up 29%, while Acura leaped 44%. Volkswagen sales increased 34%. Hyundai Motor, which operates the Hyundai and Kia brands, posted a 23% gain.
Chrysler's sales were up 12%; General Motors was up less than 2%. Ford Motor Company and Nissan were down slightly. In the American luxury segment, both Cadillac and Lincoln were down - to 12,579 and 6,802 vehicles respectively. Only 1,004 Jaguars were sold in September - 10% decrease.
These data surprised me. August is usually a fairly dead month because of end of summer vacations. September normally picks up the pace. That didn't happen. And the big winners last month were mostly small cars rather than pricey, higher-margin SUVs and trucks. Detroit still has much to worry about, even though overall annual sales of 15 million is a 'getting back to normal' number. Sales are more-or-less steadily growing from the dark days of early 2009. Since the bottom in February 2009, sales are up at a 15% annualized pace.
Americans are choosing new vehicles partly because of the limited supply and high prices of used cars. Financing is also looser, perhaps a scary sign.
Book Review: 'Final Victory: FDR's Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign' by Stanley Weintraub
This book details Franklin Roosevelt's last campaign for an unprecedented fourth term. Roosevelt used his savvy and cunning to charm reporters and other politicians to support him despite concerns about his policies and his obviously failing health. In those days, news came from radio, magazines and newspapers. The press deliberately and/or by omission covered up the president's obvious illness.
In addition to polio and its side effects, the president suffered from ... (more >>>)
First Presidential Debate: Admit it - all of us love disasters. Many, including me, record the Indy 500 and fast-forward much of it, stopping to watch the wrecks. Especially if there are fiery explosions. We watch presidential debates for the same reason, just waiting for someone to crash and burn.
No one hit the wall and exploded last night but Romney won. Not by a few car-lengths but by a dozen laps or so. Obama sputtered on the straights and skidded some in the turns. Romney looked and sounded like a President. He exuded confidence. Obama looked petulant, tired and annoyed. It seemed like he wanted to be somewhere else. Maybe shooting baskets. Or fundraising/partying with Jay-Z and Beyonce.
Mitt was prepared. He knew his stuff, spouting facts, citations and statistics with confidence. Barry O. didn't. No hope and change this time.
Obama ended by promising that, if reelected, he'll work just as hard for Americans in his second term as in his first. Translation: More golf.
Obama's passionless plea for reelection reminded me of something I saw on Liberal Logic 101 recently:
A CNN post-debate poll gave the debate to Romney: 67% to 25%. Go Mitt!
Headline Of The Week Is From Weekly World News: 'Scientists make major discovery at an archaeological dig dinosaurs played with marbles'.
Today's Inspirational Thought: Stress is what happens when your mind screams "NO!" and your mouth says, "Of course, I'd be glad to!"
Tuesday October 2, 2012
Early Travels: The weather lately has consisted of cloudy and/or foggy mornings with sun later in the day. But Sunday dawned bright and sunny with an almost cloudless blue sky, so I took advantage of the good weather and fired up my '39 Plymouth for an early morning drive.
It was chilly - 45 degrees at 7:30 am - but the roads were almost empty and I had a pleasant drive, spending time admiring the Fall scenery.
On Monday, I used the Plymouth to fetch a book from the library. Afterwards, I took a leisurely drive to Hockinson and back, enjoying the morning sun and upper 50s temperatures at 10:00 am or so.
Charge It And Save! General Motors is artificially boosting sales of the Chevrolet Volt by offering $10,000 off, as well as sweet lease deals.
As any aging salesman, who has moved metal like the 1957 Hudsons, leftover '60 Edsels, '83 Cadillac Cimarrons or a 2000 Daewoo Leganza, can tell you: If you put enough money on the hood, you can sell practically anything with wheels.
The difference with the Volt is that one person's tax money is being used to help someone else buy an overpriced car. That's not right and is another indicator of the failure of the General Motors bailout. Taxpayers remain on the hook for at least $27 billion. (permalink)
Be Bold! George Romney and His Ramblin' Ways: During an interview on Fox News in August, Chris Wallace asked Mitt Romney what his father would say about his presidential run. Mitt replied that his dad, George, probably would offer the same advice he offered to many others, "Be Bold!"
George W. Romney died in 1995 and had been out to the media spotlight long before his passing. But aging car guys like me remember the bold moves he made in the 1950s to save American Motors. And they worked.
Nash Motors had always been a maker of mid-priced automobiles but, in the postwar era, company CEO George Mason realized that he needed to break into the low-priced field. But the firm needed to offer something more than just another ... (more >>>)
Business Smarts Compared: The Obama Administration is clueless when it comes to business, probably because his cabinet members have less private sector experience than any other president in over 100 years.
Let's compare Romney versus Obama:
I Hate B&Bs: Some of my worst lodging experiences have been with Bed & Breakfast establishments. I'm sure there are some good ones but too many are operated by amateur ''hobbyists" who are doing this for "fun."
I won't stay at such places for the same reason that I wouldn't choose a hobbyist brain surgeon having fun with his with a homemade MRI made from parts scrounged from a '47 Chevy Fleetline sedan and a '52 Muntz Radiation King 11" television.
No thanks. I want a place run by flinty-eyed, money-grubbing professionals with a bar and an ice machine. (The prior sentence refers to lodging, not neurosurgery although, I suppose, such characteristics would not necessarily be a bad thing if facing a craniotomy.) (permalink)
Question Of The Day: If a parsley farmer loses a lawsuit, can they garnish his wages?
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