A Blog About Cars ... And Everything Else That Catches My Eye
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Tuesday May 13, 2014
Closing Time: Today marks the tenth anniversary of 'The View Through The Windshield', which debuted on May 13, 2004. You can view the earliest of blog posts here. You'll notice that there were few images posted in 2004; in those days, most people, including me, still had dial-up internet and I didn't want to slow down page-loading any more than necessary.
I've described my blog as "about cars ... and everything else that catches my eye." I usually lead off almost every posting with something vehicle-related. Non-automotive postings have included news articles which I find significant or humorous, nostalgic items as well as my opinions on social and political issues. And lots of other stuff, including business and economic subjects.
Sometimes I have struggled to develop content. On certain days, it seems there is nothing worth writing about. I'm not alone in this. Regarding his extensive and enjoyable website and blog, the prolific James Lileks wrote, "I hate to start an entry with "man, I'm done, tapped, drained, bereft of even a trace of remnant zilch" because then I know I'll go on for 1,395 words on something of no consequence. And it's such a boring way to begin."
I understand; at times I have hit dry spells, too. Lileks added, "There was no golden age for this site. Some things are better and some things less so, but there's always something, and besides I don't believe in Golden Ages at all, anyway. Time removes the anxieties and leaves only the certainties."
Looking at the archival pages of 'The View Through The Windshield', I find no 'golden age' for my blog either. Some days may be better than others but, over a month, things average out. It's always gratifying when readers compliment me about something I wrote.
Recent events have led me to conclude that it's time for me to stop blogging - at least, for a while. I've decided to disconnect the battery, drain the oil and put The View Through The Windshield up on blocks.
Last month, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had surgery a couple of weeks later. The operation took longer than expected due to complications and I was hospitalized for eight days, including a few in the ICU. I am now home and trying to build up my strength. Later this month, I will have surgery to install a port and then will begin a six-month regimen of infusion chemotherapy, followed by more surgery early next year.
While this sounds ominous, the fact is that my post-chemo prognosis looks pretty good. Nevertheless, I can use any prayers you'd care to offer on my behalf. The next 10-12 months will be challenging for me with various medical procedures, limited travel and few, if any, rides in my old Plymouth coupe. (Although I did manage to take a very pleasant Plymouth ride yesterday. It's becoming a form of therapy for me - a fresh air escape from my illness.) There will be no train layout this Christmas; putting it up requires strength, stamina and energy which I won't have.
My priorities have changed. I'm spending less time in front of a computer and more time with family and friends. Will I return to blogging? I don't know - only time will tell. I plan to keep my past posts online, including the blog archives and my collection of essays and car drawings.
I sincerely thank those loyal readers who have been 'regulars' at The View Through The Windshield as well as the many who have offered favorable comments and encouragement during my blogging years. I wish all of you the best that life has to offer.
Joe Sherlock (permalink)
Update: The chemotherapy side effects were less than expected, so I began blogging again in mid-June 2014. In early December 2014, tests revealed that I was cancer-free. But then it came back. I completed more treatments - chemo plus radiation - in September 2015 and five years later, remain cancer-free.
Happy Mother's Day to all moms wherever they may be (especially my mom):
Book Review: 'The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History' by Robert M. Edsel
As Hitler expanded his conquests, he ordered his armies to seek and capture the finest art treasures in Europe. Tons of rare and precious paintings, statues and the like were stolen by Nazis - from countries, museums and individuals. A special group of American and British museum curators, art historians and others - The Monuments Men - risked their lives scouring Europe in the midst of battle after battle to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture, contained in paintings, statuary, church art and historical relics.
This book provided a completely different ... (more >>>)
Quote of the Day is from H.L. Mencken: "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody is looking."
Friday May 9, 2014
Badge-Engineered Luxury: Recently, I watched the 1989 James Bond flick, 'Licence To Kill'. It wasn't the best of the Bond films and Timothy Dalton may have been the worst James Bond ever. Nevertheless, the car Bond was driving, a Lincoln Mark VII coupe, looked handsome and was shot from several flattering angles. Of course, I'm partial to Mark VII's, having owned a 1984 model.
The late '80s were Lincoln's best days, saleswise. In 1986, Cadillac reduced the size of their vehicles and offered styling which - from a distance - was hard to distinguish from its lesser stablemates, Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Lincoln reaped the benefits of this as Caddy's sales dropped by almost 40%. Lincoln outsold Cadillac in 1988 and 1989.
Fast forward to 2014 and there's not much to admire in the Lincoln line-up. Recently, Dan Neil tested the Lincoln MKZ, calling it "an overpriced, badge-engineered, sort-of-premium version of Ford Fusion that is actually less successful, stylistically, than the donor car."
This is a brand that has raised badge engineering to a high art, selling essentially up-optioned Ford products with dubious/hallucinogenic styling at premium prices. This would be absolutely ... (more >>>)
Now Officially On The Road: My grandson got his driver's license this week:
Rollback: Maybe the Bad Old Days weren't so bad after all.
TB, a commenter on Hot Air, wrote, "Nobody has to create Galt's Gulch. If we could just get back to the original idea of decentralized government, where as much as possible was done at local and state levels, we'd be a lot better off. Hell, just get the Federal government back to what it was in my own lifetime, maybe 1960 or so, and we might be a lot better off.
There was no Medicare in 1960, and somehow old people were seeing doctors and going to hospitals. Social Security taxes on workers were less than half what they are now. Medical costs were a lot lower.
The 1960 Federal budget, in constant 2008 dollars, was less than a fifth of what it is now. Yet somehow parks stayed open, White House tours got made, and the mail got delivered. The Federal deficit in 1960? $2.1 billion in 2008 dollars. The deficit now is 600 times that.
1960 Federal revenues, in 2008 dollars, were $631 billion, or $3,500 per citizen, compared to the current $6,300 per citizen.
Percentage of Americans with health insurance in 1960: About 75%. Now, after trillions of dollars of government health care programs: 84%, a gain of 9 points.
Defense spending as a percentage of the Federal budget was around 53%, over twice what it is now.
Education spending per student in 1960 (constant 2008 dollars): $2,741. In 2008: $11,134. A factor of four. There was no Federal Department of Education, and somehow these students still built the greatest technological civilization on the planet, and put men on the Moon.
There was no Department of Housing and Urban Development. No Federal Departments of Transportation, Energy, or Veteran's Affairs. No EPA. No Department of Homeland Security.
How on earth did we survive?"
Book Review: 'The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ' by Roger Stone
After watching author Stone speak on BookTV last month, I was impressed enough to order his book. It is a very interesting but flawed work. He claims that Lyndon Baines Johnson (with help from the CIA, J. Edgar Hoover and the Mafia) was the driving force behind a conspiracy to murder President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. This makes for a good premise, since Lyndon Johnson was known to be an often-drunk, philandering schemer, characterized by at least one Secret Service agent as a truly "insane" individual.
Stone's evidence is somewhat compelling and often fascinating but ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Gregory Sullivan: "Smart managers know the suggestion box is 99.9% for humoring cranks. The Internet is the world's suggestion box now, with much the same role."
Wednesday May 7, 2014
Among My Souvenirs: At its peak, the William F. Harrah Automobile Collection consisted of approximately 1,400 vintage automobiles. After Bill Harrah died in 1978, the casino and auto collection were acquired by Holiday Inns. The hotel chain planned on selling off most of the car collection. An outcry by locals led to Holiday Inn donating 175 vehicles to establish the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada, a collection also referred as The Harrah Collection. Holiday Inns did sell the biggest part of the collection at auction for $100 million.
When I visited the Reno museum in 1984, I picked up a cheap-and-cheerful souvenir ... (more >>>)
Zoom Zoom: Financial pundit Karl Denninger recently acquired a new Mazda6 and likes it. He has made some small changes to the car in order to make it even more pleasant.
I rented a Mazda6 several years ago and really enjoyed my time with it.
The Reluctant Business Magnate: The most recent jobs report indicates that more people have left the workforce and that many of the new jobs created are part-time. Specifically, 288,000 jobs were created but the workforce dropped by 860,000. Job participation is at a record low of 62.8% of the workforce.
"In April, almost a million Americans left the labor force in one month. I think that's the largest exodus from the labor force since they began keeping the statistics,' economist Peter Schiff says, adding that he doesn't believe 280,000 jobs were created. 'Better than 80% of them potentially were just made up by the government because over 240,000 of the jobs were the result of the birth-death assumptions where the government simply assumes that new businesses were created in April and that they hired people,' Schiff told J.D. Hayworth and Miranda Kahn on 'America's Forum' on Newsmax TV. 'But they don't have any actual proof that any of this happened and it's the statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Department - everybody assumed that people hired more people in April because the weather got better,' he added. And that is why Schiff says that he doesn't 'even believe the 280,000 jobs being created.'"
Business owners and managers are very cautious and timid in the current environment.
Recently, Spengler wrote, "Business won't invest in brick, mortar, equipment and labor. Part of this is due to the Obama adminstration's regulatory reign of terror. Part of this is due to Obamacare, which adds to business costs. Part of this is due to secular trends what Nobel laureate Edmund Phelps calls a "structural slump." We no longer have high-tech companies: we have instead aging monopolies run by patent lawyers. Nondefense capital goods orders, adjusted for inflation, are running 20% below the 2000 peak and 10% below the level of 2007."
"The problem now is obstacles to investment: the highest corporate tax rate in the world, onerous regulation, the crazyquilt uncertainty of Obamacare. America needs aggressive tax cuts and regulatory rollback."
"If Republicans stage more cliffhangers around the budget, they may yet snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. They should talk about nothing but growth and jobs." And Obamacare.
Book Review: 'His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir' by Dan Jenkins
Having read and enjoyed 'Semi-Tough' and 'Dead Solid Perfect', Jenkins earlier novels, I was looking forward to his memoir. It had its good points but sagged in spots. Sadly, there was page after page of name-dropping (famous people and places) and filler material - excerpts from other writers' and snippets his daughter's sports articles. These were distracting and ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Grandpa Simpson: "The metric system is the tool of the devil! My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that's the way I likes it!"
Monday May 5, 2014
April Auto Sales Summary: Light vehicle sales were at a 16 million SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in April, up 5.5% from April 2013, and down 2% from the March 2014 sales rate.
General Motors sales grew 7% in April; Chrysler sales increased 14%, led by Jeep - its sales jumped 51%. Chrysler brand sales fell by 21%.. Ford Motor Company sales declined slightly, while Lincoln band sales dropped by 11%.
Toyota Motor Co's sales increased 13%, with Lexus sales up 28%. Honda sales increased 1%.
Book Review: 'Life Inside The Bubble: Why a Top-Ranked Secret Service Agent Walked Away from It All' by Dan Bongino
This much-hyped book had so much potential but ultimately disappointed. There's nothing about what it was like serving the Clintons, Bushes and Obamas - no comparisons. This was more of a self-serving memoir and was whiny in spots. And boring.
The last chapters on ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun of the Day: When fishermen get too competitive, they start suffering from pier pressure.
Friday May 2, 2014
Mint Condition: Up against an industry-wide trend of rising costs and difficulties dealing with overseas factories, Danbury Mint the company best known among car buffs for its high-quality, 1:24 scale miniature vehicles has exited the diecast model car business.
"Like Packard, Duesenberg and Pontiac, so too has our journey come to an end," wrote the Danbury Mint's Diecast Product Manager, Art McKenna. "For more than 20 years, the Danbury Mint has been proud to offer what many deem to be the finest 1:24 scale replicas in the world. Unfortunately, our last 1:24 scale replica has rolled off the assembly line."
McKenna said the decision to discontinue the diecast line came after the factory in China that produced the models for the company closed. Two years ago, the Danbury Mint's main factory in China closed, leaving it with only its secondary factory to produce a limited lineup. No reason was given for the factory closures, although such closings are not unusual in China these days. "We didn't own the factory, so we couldn't control much of what happened," McKenna said.
Pricing of the models also appeared to play a role in the decision. Retail prices for the company's die-cast cars had also sharply risen over the last couple of years from about $150 to about $250. Well-made 1:18 diecast vehicles are available from numerous sources at prices in the ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Race Underground: Boston, New York, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America's First Subway' by Doug Most
By the late 19th century, large cities had become more congested and streets were clogged with slow-moving horse drawn vehicles. In his book, 'The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible', Otto Bettmann wrote of "streets caked with animal waste", noting that there were over three million horses in American cities at the turn of the Century, each producing 20-25 pounds of manure per day. During dry spells, the pounding of hooves refined the manure to dust which blew "from the pavement as a sharp, piercing powder to cover our clothes, ruin our furniture and blow up our nostrils."
Then there were the flies. Disease-carrying flies. And the smell. New York City of the period was described by a visitor as a "nasal disaster." Bettmann noted that the 15,000 horses of Rochester NY produced enough manure in 1900 to cover an acre of ground with a layer 175 feet high. This steadily increasing production caused more pessimistic observers of the period to predict that American cities would disappear like Pompeii - but not under ashes.
A solution was needed. Two brothers from one of the nation's great families ... (more >>>)
RIP: Actor Bob Hoskins, the English actor who starred along with a crazy bunny and a '39 Plymouth business coupe in the 1988 film, 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit', has died.
He was 71.
Quote of the Day comes from the late Groucho Marx: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."
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