A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Friday August 30, 2013
Auto Sketch: 1964 Lincoln Continental - Improved Greatness
The 1961 Lincoln Continental was a gorgeous design which set Lincoln on a new course. But it wasn't perfect. People complained about things like a poor ventilating system for the air-conditioner (fixed in '62) as well as poor rear legroom and small trunk capacity. These were addressed with the 1964 model.
The redesigned '64 Lincoln Continental retained the basic styling theme from 1961 but contained revisions which materially improved the product. The new rear decklid combined with a deeper trunk well increased luggage space by 15%. The curved side glass was eliminated which reduced the 'tumblehome' of the cross section and reduced the feeling of claustrophobia, increasing shoulder room. The wheelbase was extended by 3 inches; this provided a much-needed increase in rear-seat legroom and produced a smoother ride. The restyled roof produced increased head room.
The 1964 Lincoln was offered in 18 new exterior colors and was powered ... (more >>>)
The Death Boat: Two scrapyard workers were overcome by toxic fumes and died while breaking apart the old Pacific Princess, once the nautical star of the television show, 'The Love Boat'.
Kathy Shaidle believes that the toxic mix was a "a fatal airborne marinade of Robert Goulet's Brylcreem and Joan Collins' eau de cologne."
Headline Of The Week is from 24/7 Wall Street: 'In India, Toilet Paper Becomes More Valuable Than the Rupee.'
"India is a market and economy with great promise. Its growth generally rivals that of China and its population is over 1.2 billion. It is also a young population, and one that is still growing. Unfortunately, its policies are not working and its infrastructure is simply not up to date in a manner that can support its full potential growth rate ahead. And at the end of the day, the country simply has to develop internal growth, as it cannot simply rely on being an outsourced-IT and outsourced call center nation for the rest of the world.
We previously said that the Indian rupee is becoming worth less than the paper it is printed on. Unfortunately, toilet paper is holding its value in dollars better than the nation's currency. The WisdomTree Indian Rupee hit a new low of $17.42 and the exchange-traded product is down 2.6% on last look. Its price chart looks like a downhill ski slope, with the end being a cliff rather than the ski lodge."
Prediction: When someone finally gets around to doing a movie about the Obama administration, the part of Janet Napolitano will be played by Nathan Lane.
Hefty Help: Hershey Foods Corporation has announced that packaging for the company's Whoppers malted milk balls will now feature photographs of missing fat kids on one side of every carton.
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Every great cause begins a movement, becomes a business and eventually degenerates into a racket."
Wednesday August 28, 2013
Defining The Weather: Let's see ... there's Partly Cloudy, Partly Sunny and Mostly Cloudy. On my '39 Plymouth drive Monday morning, the only blue sky to be seen was toward the south. North, east and west were nothing but clouds and the east view was dark clouds.
The Weather Channel considered local conditions to be Partly Cloudy while Weather Underground declared it Mostly Cloudy. I'm sticking with Mostly Cloudy.
In any case, I had an enjoyable ride with a 65 degree temperature at 10:00 am. By evening, it was raining.
Concours d'Index: Hemmings has posted a list of every Best of Show winner at Pebble Beach from 1950 onward.
Big Book: Many years ago, the Sears catalog was marketed as The Big Book. Now that Sears is out of the catalog biz, the title should be awarded to the 580-page Uline catalog. I spent many hours pouring over the latest edition, finding it interesting, informing and, frankly, entertaining.
Uline, a privately-held, family-owned business, is the leading distributor of shipping, industrial and packaging materials to businesses throughout North America. The catalog contains all sorts of things, including cardboard shipping containers, plastic bags, janitorial, retail store fixtures, excelsior, boxes for unicycles and even its own brand of gourmet coffee.
In the late 1980s, my manufacturing company was shipping 250-300 boxes of merchandise per day, so we used a lot of cardboard, foam peanuts and other packaging materials. Uline wasn't a supplier for us in those days; it was a strictly a Midwest firm which had been founded in 1980. Today, the company has 10 warehouses across North America and claims that, if you place and order by 6:00 pm, Uline will ship the same day. The catalog states, "99.5% of our orders ship the same day, with no backorders." This is pretty amazing, considering that the firm stocks over 27,000 different items. None of our company's packaging suppliers could deliver that fast and none of them carried as complete a line of shipping supplies as Uline.
By comparison ... (more >>>)
"I Have A Mess." The day after thousands rallied to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington and the 'I have a dream' speech, the National Mall looks like a trash dump.
"The grass from the Lincoln Memorial to the World War II Memorial is covered Sunday with empty soda cans, water bottles, boxed lunches, newspapers, a broken chair and rally signs. The Reflecting Pool also was filled with trash."
This is how attendees, mostly black, chose to 'honor' MLK's legacy - by showing disrespect for our nation and other citizens. Maybe Dr. King should have exhorted, "I have a dream that ... someday ... my people will start cleaning up after themselves."
Book Review: 'My Way: An Autobiography' by Paul Anka with David Dalton
Paul Anka burst on the music scene in 1957 with 'Diana'. Anka wrote and performed the song and it became a number one hit record. Other hits followed in 1958 and '59. He toured with the major stars of his era, including Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly. Anka wrote Holly's last hit, the ironic 'I Guess It Doesn't Matter Anymore', and just missed joining the Buddy on his fatal plane flight. I don't know if that's true but it seems to me that every '50s-era singer - except Elvis, who was in the Army and stationed in Germany at the time - has claimed to be "almost on that airplane."
Anka later made a few movies, dated Annette Funicello, wrote the theme for the 'Tonight Show', became a Las Vegas fixture and a junior member of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack. He is one of the few people from the fifties rock era who is still alive and making a good living. You have to admire this 72 year-old's talent, tenacity and ability to adapt to the times.
His autobiography is mostly an interesting read and I learned much from it - about Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, the 'business' of Vegas and the mob influence as well as many of the movers and shakers in the gaming and entertainment business. His story about Dodi Fayed and what a scumbag druggie he was certainly enlightened me.
I was shocked ... (more >>>)
What To Do About Syria? The Syrian government used chemical weapons on rebels and innocent bystanders in Damascus last week. Over 120,000 people have died amid the country's ongoing civil war.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is a murderous scumbag but the Syrian rebels have been infiltrated by Islamic extremists. Arming the rebels is, therefore, a bad idea; it is likely that any weapons we supply would end up in the hands of terrorists, to be turned against Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or U.S. diplomats.
Furthermore, the Vatican has confirmed that Islamic rebel forces fighting against the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria had beheaded a Roman Catholic priest. Jabhat al-Nusra forces accused Father Francois Murad, a Franciscan priest serving in a Northern Syrian monastery, of collaborating with the Assad regime and summarily executed him.
William Katz has written of the situation, "It is completely degenerate, and makes us wonder who's on what side in Syria. Maybe it's a war in which we want all sides to lose."
There are no easy answers. And, it may now be too late to do anything truly effective.
On a related note ...
A Real Gasser: Back in March 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that "many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months say they believe he is a reformer."
At that time, Assad had over a decade to implement 'reforms'; he took over Syria after the death of his father - another piece of work - in 2000. Groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have detailed how Bashar's government and secret police routinely tortured, imprisoned, and killed political opponents as well as those who speak out against the government. And, more recently gassed people with chemical weapons.
Many U.S. secretaries of state have been fairly useless and lacking in prescience but Hillary may go down in history as the Worst Ever.
Quote of the Day is from Sam Goldwyn: "Never prophesy - especially about the future."
Monday August 26, 2013
I Can Get It For You Wholesale: In July, 19% of General Motors vehicle sales went to fleet buyers, down from 24% last year.
The fleet queen crown continued to be held by Ford, which came in at 22%. Other makers: Hyundai-Kia - 15%, Nissan - 12%, Chrysler LLC - 10%, Toyota - 5% and Honda - 2%.
Now Can We Shoot Him? Terrorist Nidal Hasan has been convicted on all charges in the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas. Hasan said he opened fire on his fellow soldiers to "protect Muslim insurgents abroad."
Use bullets dipped in pig dung. Then bury him in a casket made of bacon.
No Hope; 33 Changes: American Digest listed 33 shocking facts which show how badly the economy has tanked since Obama became president.
Here's just one:
Since Obama has been president, seven out of every eight jobs that have been "created" in the U.S. economy have been part-time jobs.
I Can't Wait For All The Boomers To Die. The problem is I'm older than them and I'll most likely die first.
Not all baby boomers are jerks. Some have dignity, resolve and responsibility. Others ... not so much.
Paul Begala, a former Clinton adviser and a Boomer himself, published an article in Esquire titled, 'The Worst Generation'. He wrote, "The Baby Boomers are the most self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation in American history."
He continued, "If they were animals, they'd be a plague of locusts, devouring everything in their path and leaving but a wasteland. If they were plants, they'd be kudzu, choking off every other living thing with their sheer mass. If they were artists, they'd be abstract expressionists, interested only in the emotions of that moment - not in the lasting result of the creative process."
Even though they're now getting old ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "I didn't get a toy train like the other kids, I got a toy subway instead. You couldn't see anything but every now and then you'd hear this rumbling noise go by."
Friday August 23, 2013
Class Upgrade: In a recent post, I reported my driving impressions of the S-Class Mercedes. The one I drove was a 2013 model and its driver's seat was as comfortable as a well-upholstered chair.
For 2014, the Mercedes S550 is all new. Every exterior light source is now LED and, for the interior there is an optional in-cabin aromatherapy diffuser offering four distinct scents. Geeez, remember the good-old days, when you simply rolled down the car windows when someone farted?
The rear seat has a "hot stone massage function," whatever that means. It's probably a good option if you plan on transporting any stressed-out rocks. In the rear of the Merc, there are integrated airline-style pull up tray tables for your laptop or a large bag of Funyuns. Or those giant pretzels they sell during Oktoberfest in Munich.
The twin-turbo V8 engine now makes 455 horsepower and is mated to the old seven-speed automatic. Base price is said to be around $95,000 and Mercedes has said that 20,0000 pre-orders have already been taken. The S550 arrives in the U.S. next month.
Despicable Students: Dave Miceli wrote, "I have taught in the Baltimore public school system for the past two decades. What we need is better students. They have trashed brand new computers, destroyed exit signs, set multiple fires, destroyed many, many lockers, stolen teachers' school supplies, written their filth on the tops of classroom desks, defecated in the bathrooms and stairwells, assaulted teachers (beyond constantly telling them to perform certain impossible acts upon themselves) and refused to do any homework or class work."
Columnist Gregory Kane called Miceli ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business' by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
The book description states that "two leading global thinkers in technology and foreign affairs give us their widely anticipated, transformational vision of the future: a world where everyone is connected - a world full of challenges and benefits that are ours to meet and to harness."
Well, the authors certainly have impressive resumes ... (more >>>)
More Obamacare Fallout: United Parcel Service plans to remove thousands of spouses from its medical plan because they are eligible for coverage elsewhere. The Atlanta-based logistics company points to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as a big reason for the decision.
Thought For Today: Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
Wednesday August 21, 2013
Cruisin': Last Saturday evening, I took a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe. The sun was low in the sky and, when I headed east, was blinding. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the drive - a pleasant change from my usual morning excursions. Traffic was relatively light, too.
On Monday, after a detour to the library in order to return some books and pick up a couple that were on reserve, I pointed the Plymouth towards my usual back roads loop for a late-morning drive.
At 11:00 am, the temperature was already 75 degrees. Mt. St. Helens was a bald mound of brown dirt - the snow is gone and the skies were pale August blue and cloudless.
At RM's Monterey auctions, a record-setting sum of money changed hands in exchange for one of the most exclusive Ferraris of all time. The 1967 Ferrari 275 GTB/4 NART Spider blew away expectations last night, selling for $27.5 million. Only ten of these North American Racing Team cars were built; another example appeared in 1968 movie, 'The Thomas Crown Affair', starring Steve McQueen. The actor once owned a NART Spider but wrecked it.
A 1953 Ferrari 375 MM Spider crossed the block for $9,075,000. Other big-dollar transactions included a pair of rare Ferraris: a 1950 166 MM Barchetta and a 1955 750 Monza Spider, which took $3,080,000 and $4,070,000, respectively. A 1939 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special captured $7,480,000, while a 1955 Jaguar D-Type went for $3,850,000.
The 1928 Mercedes-Benz 680S Torpedo Roadster that took Best of Show at the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance was sold for $8,250,000. A 1953 Maserati A6G/2000 Spyder sold for $2,530,000 and a handsome 1935 Hispano-Suiza K6 Cabriolet changed hands for $2,255,000. A 1960 Birdcage Maserati fetched $2,090,000, while a 1960 Aston Martin DB4GT sold for $2,060,000.
At Gooding & Co., a 1957 Dual-Ghia crossed the gavel at $495,000. During the Dual-Ghia's brief production run from 1957-1958, just 117 examples were constructed - including 115 convertibles and two coupes. At the same auction, a black 1937 Bugatti Type 57SC Atalante sold for $8.75 million.
Mecum Auctions tends to feature more moderately-priced vehicles but they gaveled a 1955 Porsche 550 RS Spyder for $3,750,000, a 1990 Ferrari F-40 for $1,325,000 and a '64 Shelby Cobra 289 for $925,000. I watched the auction on television and shook my head as split-window VW Microbuses were bid up over $100,000, while ill-handling and primitive Porsche 356B Carrera coupes were commanding prices close to $400,000. A 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 Fastback sold for $550,000.
Meanwhile, a handsome green 1938 Delage D8-120 Aerosport coupe failed to sell at a bid of $2,400,000. A black 1956 Continental Mark II with factory air - almost identical to the one on the Pebble Beach poster - crossed the block at a modest $48,000. A very nice two-tone 1952 DeSoto sedan - the subject of a $30,000 restoration - failed to sell when bidding stopped around the $5,000 mark.
At Sunday's Pebble Beach Concours, Best of Show was awarded to a 1934 Packard Twelve Model 1108 Convertible Victoria with body by Dietrich. It is owned by Joseph and Margie Cassini of West Orange, NJ.
The Packard spent much of its life in Puerto Rico - eventually painted a garish red and orange and thrashed about as a taxi before it was returned to the U.S. and restored.
At Pebble Beach, Lincoln was the featured marque, just like it was 17 years ago. But unlike 1996, Ford's moribund 'luxury' brand had neither interesting concept cars nor exciting new models to showcase this year. It introduced the silly 'Black Line', apparently believing that "if it sells new models with special paint and interiors, then consumers will flock to its dealerships. Nothing could be further from the truth."
Cadillac handily upstaged its competitor by unveiling the visually-arresting Elmiraj concept coupe during Monterey Week.
Hot Jag: Venerable actor Dick Van Dyke was rescued from his current-production Jaguar XJ sedan on Monday when the engine apparently caught fire on the 101 Freeway near Los Angeles. Van Dyke was uninjured but the Jaguar was destroyed.
The Truth About Tesla: The megahyped electric car start-up "received the $465 mm loan from DOE, but it also benefits from a $7500/car federal subsidy for electric cars. Moreover, it benefits from the State of California's Zero Emissions Credit program. In its infinite wisdom, CA mandated that all the major auto companies sell a certain number of zero emissions vehicles. If they don't they have to buy credits from companies that do make them-namely, Tesla. This was also essential in putting the company in the black in Q1, and the company is sitting on $250 mm worth of these credits.
IOW, Tesla's profits are courtesy of you, the taxpayer-and also courtesy of the shareholders of Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, etc."
You have to give Elton Musk credit ... (more >>>)
Keep On Truckin': Scott Grannis has noted that "the inflation-adjusted value of U.S. equities has closely tracked the amount of tonnage carried by U.S. trucking services, according to data compiled by the American Trucking Association.
Truck tonnage is a reasonable proxy for the size of the economy, so it makes sense that as the economy expands the value of U.S. businesses should rise. At times stocks appear to overshoot or undershoot truck tonnage, but that is likely due to the vagaries of human emotion which tend to magnify the ups and downs of the business cycle."
When my dad worked for the railroad ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Little Italy's Trattoria; Vancouver, WA
Located in the downtown, hard-to-park section of Vancouver, this establishment is in an ancient corner brick building. The food was good and served in generous portions. The garlic bread was better than nearby Vinnie's but the lasagna was a tie - both restaurants offer outstanding versions. Our waiter was ... (more >>>)
Dire Threat: The Muslim Brotherhood has warned that "if the United States continued meddling in Egypt, Libya, and other potential hot spots in the Middle East, they intend to cut off America's supply of 7-11 and Motel 6 managers.
If this action does not yield sufficient results, cab drivers will be next, followed by Dell, AT&T, and AOL customer service reps.
Finally, if all else fails, they have threatened to not send us any more presidents."
Quote Of The Day is from David Burge: "Write about what you know, unless all you know about is writing."
Monday August 19, 2013
A Quarter Million Dollars Worth Of Iron: Last Friday, I participated in a BMW Driving Experience, testing a BMW 750Li against a Mercedes Benz S500. The event was held at Portland BMW, a nice facility with people far more personable than those at the Kuni BMW store a few miles away.
Each of these luxury cars tested can easily top $100,000 in price, depending on equipment and that doesn't include Washington state sales tax and other fees. Both cars were very handsome from outside - on the BMW, the Bangle-styling is thankfully gone and the current design simply evokes luxury. As does the Benz, which was a bit more stately-looking to me.
After registering and signing-in using my finger on a touchscreen pad, I began my drives. Warning: there may be some use of road test terms from here on out - you would be advised to refer to my Road Test Lingo Guide.
My first ride was the Merc S-Class sedan, finished in glossy black. The interior was quite nice with dark wood trim, although the shift selection lever was counter-intuitive and the satellite radio kept cutting out on the corners and hills. The Benz requires the insertion of a key to start it - something unusual in these times of proximity sensors and start buttons.
The M-B seemed about as fast as my normally-aspirated V8 Lexus LS 460, which now has over 22,000 miles on the odometer. The twin-turbo V8 Merc has more horsepower (429 versus 380) but is bigger and heavier. It features a seven-speed tranny, compared with the Lexus' eight-speed. In the curves, the S-Class was no better than the Lexus. Its ride quality is not as good and there is more road/tire noise. The Merc's brakes did not seem as good as my car's.
Then came my turn in the BMW 750Li. It, too, was painted in a glossy jet black, which gleamed. The sales catalog lists mostly metallic colors available for this flagship sedan. But other Bimmers on display in the showroom were not nearly as impressive. To my eyes, the exterior colors seem to have no depth - they remind me of 1960s VW Beetle enamels. All of the non-SUV vehicles in the showroom were racy M models with shockingly high prices - a 5-Series stickered at over $90K and its blacked-out twin-kidney grille cost extra compared with the stock shiny one. My solution: Buy it with the shiny one, then purchase a $6 can of Krylon flat-black spray paint at Wal-Mart and paint it, in the manner of Black-bumper Mennonites.
The front of the 750Li is unmistakably BMW but the rear bears a resemblance to my Lexus LS 460:
It was time to get behind the wheel. The big Bimmer had impressive road manners and accelerated like a jet. It was powered by a 445 horsepower twin-turbo V8 mated to an eight-speed automatic and it had some serious get-up-and-scoot, especially for a 4,600 pound beast. It was definitely faster my Lexus, which supposedly does 0-60 in 5.6 seconds. The 750Li's ride was very composed - less noisy than the Mercedes and about as smooth as my Lexus.
The BMW handled corners very well, although not significantly better than its competitors. All the car-buff mags proclaim the 7-Series as the Greatest Handling Big Sedan Ever Made but I've driven a couple of Sevens through the twisties before and have not been excessively impressed. This car corners just fine but not it's class-exceptional to me. This big car's brakes were quite good, by the way.
The Bimmer had a fuel-saving feature that shut the engine off at stoplights. I found this disconcerting - and annoying - but was told that it could be turned off via one of the many console switches, located somewhere in what the sales brochure described as "a cockpit to make a private jet pilot envious."
My biggest complaint was the interior trim. It did not look like wood. It did not even look like '70-era faux wood. It looked like brown extruded Play-Doh. There are seven trim options available on the 7-Series, including piano black and burled walnut. Be sure not to check the kiddie modeling compound box when you place your order.
Thus ended the Teutonic tussle. I hereby declare BMW the winner although you won't go far wrong with the Merc either.
All in all, I had a fine time. The cars were sleek, soigné and desirable, the BMW associates were young, enthusiastic and very professional, the event was well-organized, a simple buffet lunch was provided and I even received a goodie bag with a tchotchke or two inside. For taking the drive, I also received a special offer entitling me to $1,000 off a new Bimmer, if I buy one within the next 30 days.
After considerable thought, I've decided to keep my wallet in my trousers and continue to drive my Lexus. (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Oscar Wilde: "The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything."
Friday August 16, 2013
My Way Or The Highway: Here's Jack Baruth of TTAC at his best: "We're pretty eager to wish death and destruction upon people who have made different choices than we've made.
You're driving through a downtown Detroit freeway at 85 miles per hour, wishing the dumb-asses doing 50 mph in their junkers would swerve off into the barrier, when four malt-liquor-fueled heroes in a Lumina Euro blast by you at 115 and you wish they would hit the barrier as a reward for their recklessness. Only your choices are good, right?"
RIP Speed: Tomorrow morning, the Speed Channel goes dark. While I'll miss the coverage of the Barrett-Jackson and Monterey auctions, I'm happy to report that my two favorite Speed shows have found new homes.
Barry Meguiar's 'Car Crazy' has already moved to Velocity and Dennis Gage's 'My Classic Car' will soon be found on MavTV and, in January 2014, on Velocity as well.
It Done Got Cloudy And Started To Rain ... I tooted my horn for the passin' lane. So sang Chuck Berry some 58 years ago. Yesterday, I had to toot my horn and pass a couple of slow pokes - doing 10-15 mph below the speed limit - during my '39 Plymouth excursion.
I began by driving to town and gassing up the old coupe. Then I headed to Hockinson and North Vancouver and looped back. It was cloudy most of the way, although I could see patches of blue to the south. At the end of my drive, just as I was pulling into the driveway, it began to sprinkle.
Thirty-Six Years Ago Today ... Elvis died. I was in Chicago on a business trip. It was sunny and hot. I had just finished a meeting and was driving east on I-90 in a rented '77 Buick Century sedan headed toward South Bend when I heard the news on the radio.
I was wearing a gray, three-piece business suit with a button-down shirt and maroon club tie. I don't know why I remember such details but they are embedded in my brain deeper than the Stuxnet worm in a Tehran weapons lab.
That night, I watched the 11:00 pm news in a depressingly dark motel room and saw an old b&w clip of a young Elvis performing 'Ready Teddy' on The Ed Sullivan Show.
I had seen that very show when it originally aired on September 9, 1956. It was one of Elvis' finest live television performances. The show was viewed by a record 60 million people which, at the time, was over 82% of the television audience and the largest single audience in television history to date.
Sullivan was in the hospital after a car accident in his big '56 Lincoln Premiere sedan. Substitute host Charles Laughton introduced Elvis, who performed from a remote hookup in Hollywood where he was making 'Love Me Tender'.
While many remember the mid-70s fat, bejeweled, drugged-out parody that he had become, the fact is that Elvis Presley was an awesome talent back in 1956.
I have further thoughts on Elvis posted here.
Deadville: Detroit is not the only dying city in America. Camden now has a tent city located "off Route 38 at Wilson Boulevard under an overpass, through woods and down a path of trash lays a community of people living in tents. This particular community was relocated from Federal Street and it's inhabited by an array of people: addicts, people who have fallen on hard times and some with mental illness."
When I lived in New Jersey ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Girls Of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II' by Denise Kiernan
Once a sleepy corner of Tennessee, Oak Ridge became a hotbed of secrecy and activity during World War II as 75,000 newcomers, mostly women swarmed into the are in order to work on what became purified uranium used in the atom bomb.
This is a subject with great promise. The author had access to several of the ladies who worked at Oak Ridge and could have done a magnificent job of telling their stories, producing an engaging narrative in the manner of ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: The first attempt to build the Channel Tunnel was in France in the 1890s. It would have been the longest steam train tunnel in the world, but they stopped when they realized they'd Britain off more than they could choo.
Wednesday August 14, 2013
It's A Keeper: In the Fall of 1957, Grace Braeger of West Bend traded in her 1950 Chevrolet, wrote a check for $2,250 and bought a '57 Chevy Bel Air four-door hardtop. Since that day, the black - with red interior - Chevy been her only car and it still looks and runs great.
Says Grace, "I was raised during the Depression and we learned to take care of things."
Running Errands: Monday morning dawned cool and cloudy. We headed to Costco in NE Portland to get film developed. At my recent party, my wife put a disposable camera on each table, so that guests could take photos. Neither of the Vancouver Costcos do this kind of film developing anymore.
While there, we bought a trunk full of staples, saving over 8.4% since Oregon has no sales tax. We also drove to nearby Whistle Stop Trains to use a gift certificate which I had received as a birthday gift. I came home with an armful of model train and full-size train magazines.
After a stop for lunch at the always-delightful Los Jalapeños, we headed home and unloaded our purchases. By that time, it was mostly sunny - pale blue skies and high, puffy white clouds - and the temperature was a moderate 74 degrees, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a pleasant drive.
Tuesday's weather was even better and I drove to Vancouver to for an appointment. Mt. St. Helen's has now lost much of its snow. Spotting a new Ford Focus in my rear-view mirror while on Interstate 5, I did a double-take; those things really do look like Aston Martins from the front.
It Begins: The economy is improving and The Gouge is back. There are reports that some Chevrolet dealers are demanding $10,000 to $20,000 above sticker price on the soon-to-arrive 2014 Corvette C7.
Death Panels Come To The Beaver State: Oregon now rations healthcare to Medicaid recipients. Terminal cancer patients are denied life-extending chemotherapy treatments.
Wesley Smith of NRO wrote, "Like most such panels, including the Affordable Care Act's Independent Payment Advisory Board, the Oregon Health Evidence Review Commission, or HERC, claims to be merely concerned with what supposedly works and what doesn't. Their real targets are usually advanced, costly treatments. That's why HERC, for example, proposed in May that Medicaid should not cover "treatment with intent to prolong survival" for cancer patients who likely have fewer than two years left to live."
Of course, free medical care is not a constitutional right. I've always said that, if you're poor, you better make lots of friends - maybe they'll take up a collection for your medical needs if you become seriously ill. That's what used to ... (more >>>)
Bob Evans Had A Black Brother!? Hillary Clinton recently paid tribute to someone named 'Medgar Evans'. Probably she was referring to Medgar Evers, the slain civil rights icon. But as Hillary always says, "What difference does it make?"
Or maybe she was referring to a half-brother who worked in the back of a Bob Evans Restaurant.
Quote Of The Day is from Robert Frost, "A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain."
Monday August 12, 2013
Stormy Weather: The best time to visit the Pacific Northwest may be August, because that's when it's least likely to rain. Or be cloudy and overcast. The latter part of last week proved to be an exception. There were lots of clouds.
When the sun appeared Friday morning, I hopped in my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive. By the time I got to the end of our street, it had clouded up again. The more I drove, the darker the skies became. Black clouds appeared. I shortened my planned drive and pulled into the garage just before the rains came.
On Friday evening, we had actual thunderstorms - something one expects in places like Montana.
Coupe de Grâce: The handsome Nissan Altima coupe will be dropped for the 2014 model year. I'm saddened by this - the world would be a better place with more coupes on the road.
I don't pay a lot of attention to the goings on at Nissan - the brand has been off my radar since I sold my 300ZX.
Restaurant Review: Salty's on the Columbia: Portland, OR
This has been generally one of the most consistent restaurants we've ever experienced. The food is always well-prepared and delectable. Salty's specializes in seafood but the steaks are some of the best in town. Drinks are generous and the wine list is decent enough. The view of the Columbia River is spectacular.
In almost 25 years of patronage, we've experienced near-perfect service, although we were disappointed during our most recent visit ... (more >>>)
The Truth About Amazon: Last week, Karl Denninger wrote, "Amazon makes almost nothing (gross margin) on sales other than media. Basically, they sell things like electronics at effective break-even. ... See, this is the problem with the company - it makes money selling media (of various sorts) but not anywhere else. Last quarter I identified a monstrous slowdown in international media sales growth - and let's remember that international is 40% of the company's gross." But international sales are down and U.S. sales growth is on the decline."
This quarter, international media went into contraction ... (more >>>)
RIP: Talented and versatile songstress Eydie Gormé has died at age 84. The popular nightclub and television singer performed as a solo act and as a team with her husband, Steve Lawrence.
Cause of death was not disclosed but I blame it on the Bossa Nova.
Why Is It ... that Rush Limbaugh continues to thrive and the fabled Washington Post is being sold in a fire sale?
Strange Search Engine Inquiry: Looking at my website's server logs, I found that there were four search strings this month for "pigeon nursing bottle with milk flour regulator." Go figure.
Thought For Today: To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
Thursday August 8, 2013
Birthday Gifts: I received five very nice model cars for my birthday ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Top Of The Morning: Inside The Cutthroat World Of Morning TV' by Brian Stelter
New York Times reporter Brian Stelter reveals all the dirt behind the glossy facade of morning television. BFD. I've seen just as much back stabbing, politics and clumsy firings during my years in corporate America. The difference was that the players weren't household names and didn't have agents or PR people.
Waiting to leave for grade school on weekday mornings, I'd try to catch a segment or two of the 'Today' show. Dave Garroway was a car guy and he often had segments on vehicles. He was also a proud owner of a white 1953 Corvette.
I remember seeing ... (more >>>)
The Irony Meter Just Pegged And Broke Its Needle: Earlier this year, California's Contra Costa County won the right to run a health care call center, where workers would answer questions to help implement Obamacare. Area politicians called the 200-plus jobs it would bring to the region "an economic coup."
"Now, with two months to go before the operation commences, it's been revealed that about half the jobs are part-time, with no health benefits at all."
As Nelson Muntz would say, "Haw-haw."
Bad Pun of the Day: A man continued to eat wheat, even though he was allergic to it, because he was a gluten for punishment.
Tuesday August 6, 2013
Party Time: I turned 70 on Monday, August 5th, and there was a surprise party for me on Saturday. We were transported by limousine to Camas Meadows Golf Course - east of Vancouver, WA - for a party in the Oak Ballroom.
My first surprise was when we were picked up at home by a Pepto-Bismol Pink stretch Hummer limousine and, along with some neighbors, were transported to the party.
The pink Hummer was chosen as an inside joke. Almost every week, we drive past a limo service where several limousines are parked in the courtyard. We often made fun of the loooooong pink Hummer and nicknamed it Pinky. If I was out by myself, my wife would often ask when I returned home, "Did you see Pinky today?"
So, it was only fitting that Pinky became my party ride ... (more >>>)
Friday August 2, 2013
July Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 15.6 million SAAR last month, up 11% from July 2012 but down 2% from the sales rate last month. This is highest level for July auto sales since 2006.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler all showed solid gains - up 16.3, 11.4 and 11.1% respectively. American Honda experienced a sales increase of 21%, thanks in part to my son and family who purchased a new Accord sedan. Toyota sales rose 17%, while Subaru sales soared by 43%.
Luxury car sales were mostly up: Lexus - 26%, Mercedes - 19%, Cadillac - 17% and BMW 13%. Lincoln sales declined slightly, while Infiniti dropped 33%.
Replacement Orb: Ben Bernanke is retiring as Fed Chairman and people are speculating about his successor. I vote for the Magic Eight Ball. It requires no salary and provides impartial, Solomon-like economic advice.
Would the Senate confirm the Ball? All Signs Point To 'Yes'. (permalink)
We've Become A Nation Of Service Providers, Social Workers And Enablers: In 1940, over 23% of workers were in manufacturing, 18.5% were employed in agriculture and 14% were in the retail trade.
By 2010, over 23% worked in educational services, health care and social assistance. Retail trade was second at 11.7%. Manufacturing had declined to a troubling 10.4% of the workforce.
I've written before about the decline of manufacturing in the U.S. and the troubling consequences of it. I've also suggested ways to reverse the trend.
Quote Of The Day is from James Lileks: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture."
Thursday August 1, 2013
News Flash: Older People Have More Money; Buy More New Cars.
The median age of Cadillac buyers was 57 in 2011, and for Lincoln buyers the figure was 60 years old. Even luxury cars that appeared aimed at younger buyers have relatively old median ages among those who purchase them. For example, the median age of BMW buyers was 50 in 2011.
Among less expensive cars, the patterns were not much different. The media age of Ford Motor Co. buyers was 52, and among Toyota Motor Corp. buyers it was 51. Across virtually all models, Polk researchers found median age rose from in 2007.
Here's the looming problem: "the demographics of car buyer age would argue that sales will taper off as Americans over 55 move toward the end of their driving lives." Even if that won't not happen for several years, the car manufacturing business is likely in for a shock at some point.
Latest Economic Word: According to Dave Leggett, German Chancellor Angela Merkel "has apparently become fond of a rather crude English language term that is becoming so popular in Germany that it has now been inducted into their equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary, the Duden."
The word: 'shitstorm'. German language experts voted it 'Anglicism of the year' in 2012 and the Eurozone's economic crisis seems to have propelled the word into wider usage in Germany. Auto sales in Europe are at their lowest in 20 years.
Europe's economy remains in the Dumpster. Great Britain didn't become a European Union member and its economy is in much better shape. Germany is the strongest of the EU countries and its citizens are tired of bailing out weaker, often lazy 'partners'.
Before the European Union, cars and other goods were protected ... (more >>>)
The Lure Of Neon: Flavorwire has posted photos of 35 of "America's Most majestic Vintage Neon Signs."
Turncoat: In an interview with The New Republic, Senator John McCain called Fox News 'schizophrenic' on immigration and suggested that "tea party members were damaging to the Republican Party, touting negative messages that ran counter to Americans' political will."
Meanwhile, Mr. McCain described former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's work on the global level as 'rock star' status. "I think she did a fine job," he said. "She's a rock star. She has, maybe not glamour, but certainly the aura of someone widely regarded throughout the world." What the hell has this guy been drinking? Clinton was the worst Secretary of State since Warren Christopher.
I seem to recall from my college days that the Greek philosopher Plato once said, "You're an asshole but a brave, medal-deserving asshole." Or maybe it was Aristotle. Or Agrippa the Skeptic. Or maybe I just dreamed the whole thing after a night of heavy drinking. In any case, this ancient muttering seems to fit McCain.
During his 2008 presidential campaign, I wrote a brief profile of John McCain. Since then, I have watched as McCain has turned from a former POW hero to an clueless old bozo. Is it the mental ravages of age? Or did his skin cancer bout, which seems to have blown up one side of his face, somehow affect his mind as well?
In any case, what remains of Mr. McCain has truly gone over to the dark side. He seems willing to trade any principle or core belief for a mention by the press. Once a decent man, John is now a media whore admired only by Democrats.
But Those Code Pink Bozos Are Allowed Everywhere? Go figure. A group of college Republicans were denied entry into President Obama’s speech at the University of Central Missouri last week for security reasons, despite the fact that they held tickets to the event.
Missouri College Republicans State Treasurer Courtney Scott saidthat an unidentified police officer told the group they were barred from the event for "security reasons and for the president’s protection."
This is not America. This sounds more like 1970s Communist Romania when it was led by a cowardly dictator. Remember Ceausescu and his secret police force? Now, Obama and his Stasi have assumed the mantle.
Could Be Jimmy Hoffa: Archaeologists working at the site in central England where King Richard III's body was found underneath a parking lot are currently puzzling over a sealed lead coffin containing the remains of a yet-to-be-identified person.
The lead coffin was found encased in a larger stone coffin. The smaller coffin is intact "except for a hole at one end of the casket through which we could tantalizingly see someone's feet," said Mathew Morris, the fieldwork director at the site.
Hey, Hoffa had feet.
Might Rapidly Hit Zero If The Second Coming Happens Soon: Atheism is in decline worldwide, with the number of atheists falling from 4.5% of the world's population in 1970 to 2.0% in 2010 and projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
Quote Of The Day is from Joan Rivers: "Justin Bieber looks like a little Lesbian. He's the daughter Cher wishes she'd had."
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