A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday November 30, 2017
AutoSketch: '39 Graham Sharknose
The Graham brothers first business venture was in the manufacture of glass bottles. Later, the brothers began building kits to convert Ford Model Ts into trucks. That led to them to producing their own trucks, using engines from various manufacturers. The brothers decided to enter the passenger automobile business and, in 1927, purchased the Paige-Detroit Motor Company, makers of Paige and Jewett automobiles, for $4 million.
Like many automakers, Graham-Paige struggled during the Great Depression. It was decided that a substantial and distinctive restyle would increase sales of the faltering brand ... (more >>>)
Meaningless Trophy: The Alfa Romeo Giulia was named Motor Trend Car of the Year. The magazine also named Ford's F-150 as its 2018 Truck of the Year, while the Honda CR-V captured the SUV of the Year prize.
Are you excited about the Giulia's accolade? Me neither. The COTY award used to get me somewhat roused until I read a revealing article by Peter De Lorenzo, which detailed how this "award" is for sale to the manufacturer that showers Motor Trend with the most ad/promo money. Peter wrote, "It's not about the "best" car. It has never been about the "best" car. It's about what car company will come up with the best media spending package that suits their interest in selling cars and that suits Motor Trend's interest in selling magazines and making money."
Recently, Peter De Lorenzo pointed out that media awards in general and Motor Trend's COTY in particular offer "a veritable Huckster's Paradise simply devoid of credibility on even the most basic of levels."
When auto scribes were sent on pricey junkets to some "bucolic location," all offered lavish praise on the Giulia. But, as Peter wrote, "When the journalists actually got to drive the Giulia back on home soil, virtually every road test of the car reported myriad problems, everything from annoying electrical malfunctions to actual pieces falling off the cars. True to form and as is their wont, too many journalists simply glossed over those piddling little details and praised the Italianate BMW to high heaven."
In announcing, the award, Motor Trend's Mark Rechtin proclaimed, "The Giulia was the only vehicle whose essence enraptured the jury with its charm and unbridled zeal for driving." Yeah, right.
What should have been said, opined De Lorenzo, "We completely ignored the fact that the combination of the shockingly piss-poor FCA quality ratings and the historically dismal, etched-in-stone, subpar quality demonstrated over decades by Alfa Romeo might be a negative; not to mention the notoriously woeful resale performance of anything with FCA's name attached to it."
MT's Car of the Year award has been awarded to some awful vehicles, including the meretricious and underpowered PT Cruiser (2001), the unloved 1983 Renault Alliance and the deplorable Chevrolet Citation - one of General Motors' X-body horrors - in 1980. In 1976, the twin rattletraps known as the Dodge Aspen and Plymouth Volare shared the prize. Since most of them rusted away and/or fell apart, they are now seen less often than a Higgs boson particle.
There's no reason to believe that the Alfa will acquire a better legacy than its COTY predecessors.
Lessons From The Car Wash: Long ago, when I was in college, I worked Saturdays at a local car wash. To give you an idea of how long ago it was, the price of a full-service, exterior and interior cleaning was only two dollars.
I worked with the exterior finish-up crew, doing the final touch-up cleaning and drying by hand. As a grand finale, we would open the driver's side door for the customer to get in and cruise off. Most did with a smile on their face - happy to leave with a shiny car (and, hopefully, a tip for us workers).
Some paused to check our work before getting in. Most of these inspectors were very satisfied since we had a good finish-up crew. A few would complain loudly that the car wasn't really clean. Most of these people were driving beat-up cars which hadn't seen soap and water in months. Or years. They were expecting and demanding a miracle.
One of the benefits of my minimum-wage job was ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'The Swamp: Washington's Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It' by Eric Bolling
The author's easy-to-read, 240 page book provides a history in political corruption in Washington, D.C., a city built on reclaimed swamp land. Bolling provides a litany of backroom deals, corruption, bribery and other criminal acts committed by politicians who ... (more >>>)
Half? Is That All? Half of the population over 65 years-old take at least five drugs per day.
"The figure has risen from just 12% 20 years ago, while the proportion taking no pills at all dropped from around 20% in the late 1990s to just 7% today. Researchers tracked more than 15,000 older people who took part in two long-term health studies which began in the 1990s. Some of those who took part in the long-term investigation said they were on up to 23 tablets every day."
I guess I'm around the median. I take 6-7 prescription drugs per day, adding up to twelve pills in total. This does not include vitamins and nutritional supplements.
Quote Of The Day: If you can't afford it, you don't deserve it.
Tuesday November 28, 2017
Too Rich For My Blood: A silver 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider is expected to fetch between $14 million and $17 million, according to RM Sotheby's at a December auction in New York.
Update: It sold for $17.99 million, exceeding expectations.
Rolling Egg: If your style preferences are somewhat ovoid, you might be interested in the egg-shaped Swedish urban electric vehicle, Uniti.
"Uniti's funky flagship is a two or four-seater made of composite biomaterials and carbon fiber, developed with the use of virtual reality and built on what the company says is a new kind of platform. The car weighs just 992 pounds and has a range of 300 kilometers (186 miles) from a 11- or 20-kWh lithium-ion battery and 15-kilowatt hub motors. It comes equipped with electronic steering, full-screen display, autonomous driving features and a small auxiliary battery that Uniti says is easily swapped with the main battery and can provide enough power for trips of up to 30 km, or about 18 miles. It's envisioned as an urban car for millennials (apparently they're the hot market demographic in Europe, too) or as a daily commuter vehicle for families."
Prices start at $23,000. Less if you buy a dozen.
Boring Book: Recently, James Lileks reviewed the latest Dan Brown novel, 'Origin', which he described as "a study in modern pretentious pop-lit."
Brown's novels are well-known for their Evil-Catholic-Dark-Vatican-Secret memes. I've previously read a couple of them and they were interesting and made for compelling fiction. 'Origin' was a slog. Lileks agreed ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Warren Buffett: "I realized technical analysis didn't work when I turned the charts upside down and didn't get a different answer."
Friday November 24, 2017
The S.S. Navigator: The 2018 Lincoln Navigator has a “Steamship Presence" … according to Car & Driver.
"What hasn't changed about the 2018 Lincoln Navigator is this: It's still gigantic. Lincoln lists the shortest and lightest version of this body-on-frame beast at 210.0 inches long and one offensive tackle shy of three tons hefty. The long-wheelbase Navigator L with all-wheel drive comes in at 221.9 inches and well over 6,000 pounds. Ford builds some Super Duty pickups and commercial trucks that are heavier, and during World War II it knocked out four-engine B-24 bombers to defeat fascism, so this isn't the biggest Ford product ever. But it sure isn't small."
The old V8 engine is gone, replaced by a turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 making 450 horsepower coupled to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
"The 2018 Navigator is available in four trim levels ranging from the short-wheelbase, rear-wheel-drive $73,250 Premiere, which rides on 20-inch wheels, through the Select and Reserve models on 22s, up to the Black Label, which also gets 22s. An all-wheel-drive, long-wheelbase Black Label L starts at $98,100. Hit the options list aggressively and a Black Label L will easily vault past $100K." Man, that's stratospheric, Mercedes GLS-level pricing. I think most people would prefer the three-point star to the Lincoln star.
Book Review: 'Big Money Thinks Small: Biases, Blind Spots, and Smarter Investing' by Joel Tillinghast
I enjoyed this easy to read, 300-or-so page book. The author provides a set of simple, credible steps to successful investing, peppered with tales of real-life stories of stocks which turned out badly. And why.
Tillinghast believes that patience, careful prepurchase investigation/analysis and methodical planning will pay much greater returns than flashy investments. Early in the book, the author states ... (more >>>)
There Is Little Correlation Between Talent And Success: Why isn't MST3K still on the air? Why is Patty Murray still in the Senate? How come Frank Sinatra made six thousand times as much money as Jack Jones? Why is Pauly Shore still alive? Or Carrot Top? Why does James Lileks still have to work while Dave Barry can retire and spend his days clipping bond coupons while newspapers across America rerun his old stuff? And continue to send him money for the privilege of doing so.
Then there's the talentless Kardashians who just signed a new deal with the E! Network and are pocketing $30 million a season ... for 5 seasons, which comes to $150 million. And Colin Kaepernick inked a $1 million book deal last month.
Anybody Remember Paula Poundstone? She was a hot-ticket comedienne in the 1980s. Her trademark was observational humor; she usually dressed in a manly way, wearing '70s-style wide ties.
This year's McCallum Theater season in Palm Desert, CA features numerous acts, starting with performances by Barry Manilow. Good seats for Barry cost $300. The best seats to experience Paul Anka are priced at $137. Good seats for an evening with Michael Feinstein cost $127. Tickets for an Elton John impersonator show run as high as $120.
Tickets to see Lucie Arnez range from $67 to $127 - surprising, since Lucie's main talent seems to be emerging from the right womb some 66 years ago. Well, she did appear in 'Fantasy Island' and 'Murder, She Wrote'. She apparently sings, dances and talks a lot about her mother, Lucille Ball.
Weird Al Yancovic is a relative bargain; seat prices range from $37 to $87.
Back to Paula Poundstone. She began serving as a foster parent in the 1990s. She fostered eight children and eventually adopted two daughters and a son. In 2001, Poundstone was charged with felony child endangerment in connection with driving while intoxicated with children in the car. She was also charged with three counts of lewd acts upon a girl younger than 14, although the lewdness charges were later dropped. In any case, it was bye-bye career for Paula.
Wikipedia notes that Poundstone now "identifies as asexual."
Apparently Paula is attempting a comeback. The McCallum Theater recently offered seats to Paula Poundstone's comedic performance for as little as $22. I predict that 10 years from now, during a 'comeback tour', Louis C.K. tickets at the McCallum will sell for as little as $22.
Question Of The Day: If a parsley farmer loses a lawsuit, can they garnish his wages?
Thursday November 23, 2017
Happy Thanksgiving: Hope you enjoy your turkey dinner today. And I trust it's better than this:
As Homer Simpson would say, "Mmmmmmm. Cobbler."
Wednesday November 22, 2017
Uncle Tom said that the 1958 Edsel "handles like a cannon ball in a laundry chute."
But Wait ... There's More: Adding to last week's recent hype, Tesla announced an even faster version of their just-introduced vaporware roadster as well as a roadster variation that can fly. Karl Denninger noted, "May I remind you that Tesla is a money-losing enterprise and has been since it was founded. It has never made a profit, it has zero in retained earnings and you will be an unsecured, back-of-the-line creditor with your "reservation" - which they will spend the minute it comes in the door. ... Musk ought to be in prison for running this crap."
By any comparison, Preston Tucker was a saint compared to this Elon Musk joker.
Peter De Lorenzo added, "The Bright New Automotive Future as promised by Musk and embodied in the Tesla automobile is a canard that has been a failed enterprise from the very beginning. Ruthlessly unprofitable and racking up debt at a prodigious rate, Elon Musk has conned Wall Street and the holier-than-thous in the greener-than-thou enclaves of The New Enlightened to believe that he through his Magic Pony, aka Tesla is the solution to all societal ills and if only the rest of the automotive universe would simply cease and desist the world would be a decidedly much better place, free and unfettered by the dismal dullards who make up the defunct remnants of the failed U.S. automotive industry. …
Tesla is a failed enterprise by every conceivable measure. And building a few high-priced machines for The Enlightened Elite does not constitute anything more than a boutique car company with nowhere to go but down. The Model 3 was supposed to fix all of that, but that is just not gonna happen, by any stretch of the imagination. Not even close, in fact. ... I predict that Musk, after being horribly embarrassed by the total failure of the Model 3, will finally grow tired of the whole auto thing and wind down Tesla, selling off its technology to whoever will give him the most cash money for it, so he can then focus on his real love firing off rockets and colonizing Mars.
Then we'll all finally have something to be thankful for." Amen to that.
Remembering Camelot: For people of my age, there are two dates that will forever resonate as tragic: September 11, 2001 and November 22, 1963.
It's hard to believe that today marks 54 years since John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas.
Whenever I watch television specials about the Kennedy years, I find the film clips and photo stills to be a time capsule. Fifty-four years later, the clothes people wore, the hairstyles, the cars on the road, the store signage - all are fit for antique stores or museums - simply remind me of what things were like when I was young.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination, I shared some of my memories. That 2013 article, 'Remembering Camelot', is posted here.
Too Smart For Their Own Good: UK Spectator journalist and author James Bartholomew wrote, "Why would anyone support Hillary Clinton - a ruthless, charmless Washington insider with socialist tendencies? Why do lawyers, churchmen, the BBC and, indeed, most educated people support the EU - an organization as saturated with smug self-righteousness as it is with corruption; one which created the euro, which in turn has caused millions of people to be unemployed; an organization which combines a yawning democratic deficit with incompetence over immigration and economic growth?
The elite are supposed to be educated. So why are they so silly?
Ah! There is a clue. That word 'educated'. What does 'educated' mean today? It doesn't mean they know a lot about the world. It means they have been injected with the views and assumptions of their teachers. They have been taught by people who themselves have little experience of the real world. They have been indoctrinated with certain ideas."
A Distinctive Pop Voice Is Silent: Della Reese, singer and actress who starred in 'Touched by an Angel', has died at age 86.
Reese's long career began as a singer. In 1957, Della Reese released a single called 'And That Reminds Me'. It reached #9 on the weekly Billboard chart and became a million-seller record. The ballad was an unlikely hit among the rock-n-roll and doo-wop offerings of the period. Even though Della was only 26 at the time, she sounded mature and sophisticated.
She also scored with her 1959 single 'Don't You Know?', another ballad. It became her biggest hit, reaching the #2 spot on the pop charts. Ms. Reese later moved on to acting in movies and television. Rest In Peace.
Good Riddance: Mass killer and cult leader Charles Manson, who became the hypnotic-eyed face of evil across America after orchestrating the gruesome murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others in Los Angeles during the summer of 1969, has finally died in prison at age 83.
Vincent Bugliosi, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Manson, provided the most accurate summation of this piece of human garbage: "Manson was an evil, sophisticated con man with twisted and warped moral values." Burn in Hell, Charlie.
Quote Of The Day: He who laughs last thinks slowest.
Monday November 20, 2017
A V-12 Lincoln Continental - But Not The One You Think: When I think of V12 engines and Lincoln Continentals, the 1940-48 models are the ones that come to mind. But at the 2017 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show, held in Las Vegas, there was a customized 1958 Lincoln Continental Mark III convertible which was powered by a Falconer V12, capped with two chromed superchargers, which poke through a cut-out in the front-hinged hood.
This beauty was featured at ... (more >>>)
Electric Junker: Tesla’s Model 3 has been trashed by a key automotive industry analyst after taking the compact battery-electric vehicle for a test drive.
"Our inspection revealed widespread shortcomings in fit and finish," wrote Sanford C. Bernstein financial analyst Toni Sacconaghi, after taking the Model 3 for a test drive out of Tesla’s showroom in Brooklyn. "Tesla representatives acknowledged some of the fit issues, but stated that they believed that Model 3 was much further ahead than where Model X and S had been at this point in production."
In particular, Sacconaghi said he was disappointed in the "relatively poor" fit and finish of the interior of the Model 3 he drove. And while he said Tesla's defense might be "credible, we can't help noting that Tesla likely chose to share with us its highest quality/best assembled units, so issues on other cars may be even more pronounced."
Elon Musk's introduction of the Tesla big-rig Class 8 truck, the COE-style pickup truck and the $250,000 roadster last week when he can't get the Model 3 into production, is hemorrhaging cash and is having major problems at his battery plant, seems to be an act of extreme chutzpah. Or desperation.
Drop-Top Fever: At Barrett-Jackson's Las Vegas auction last month, a black 1963 Lincoln Continental convertible sold for $110,000. Ten years ago, convertibles such as this sold for $30,000 or less.
Slabside Lincoln four-door convertibles are very hot - even with people in their 40s. They weren't even born when these old Connies rolled off the assembly line.
'Fraud' And 'Red Cross' Are Frequently Used In The Same Sentence: Fraud by Red Cross workers and others wasted more than $6 million meant to fight the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa. These revelations follow an internal investigation of how money was handled ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Dangerous' by Milo Yiannopoulos
Milo Y. is an outspoken political commentator, media personality, blogger and journalist. He is unabashedly gay and an avid supporter of President Trump, to whom he refers as 'Daddy', because he "oozes control and authority." Milo also describes Trump as "a fabulously camp cultural figure" and writes that many gays secretly admire the commander-in-chief: "He's the drag queen president!" Milo calls himself a cultural libertarian and says outrageous things. I watched Milo interviewed by Bill Maher and was impressed and ... (more >>>)
Hope It's A John Deere: Lisa Simpson: "I'm studying for the math fair. If I win, I'll bring home a brand new protractor." Homer Simpson: "Too bad we don't live on a farm."
Quote Of The Day is from Paris Hilton: "Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for everything."
Friday November 17, 2017
At The Movies: Saturday movie serials were a great way for getting patrons, especially kids, to become weekly, repeat customers. These action-filled, multi-chapter shorts were a theater staple from the 1930s through the 1950s. Each chapter offered a cliff-hanger ending, enticing moviegoers to return the following week to Find Out What Happened.
Recently, James Lileks has been featuring episodes of 'The Green Hornet', a 13-chapter action serial flick from 1940.
The Green Hornet, played by actor Gordon Jones, drove ... (more >>>)
Revisionist Revulsion: I've always liked cars and I'm a fan of big, powerful V8 engines. Fifty years after my death, there will probably be some kind of archival records - paper, digitized paper or digital which will have a record of my preference for internal combustion power. And a properly-cooked steak.
Will future vegan-ecoconscious overlords deem me to be guilty of the crime of Selfish Environmental Despoilage and attempt to commit postmortem retribution on my remains, not unlike what the Catholic Church did to poor old theologian John Wycliffe? Forty-four years after his death in 1384, his bones were dug up, ground to powder and cast into a river.
Actually, my niche overlooks the Willamette River but I suspect that, in the latter part of the 21st Century, eco-bureaucrats will have to get an EPA permit before they dump my ashes in it.
Nevertheless, I may be judged by future generations as an abomination by their standards, even though piloting a vehicle powered by a big internal combustion engine was perfectly normal (and legal) in 2017. As was eating beef. In that respect, I have something in common with the once-beloved George Washington.
Consider this: Leaders at the church that George Washington attended decided that a plaque honoring the first president of the United States must be removed. Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia will take down a memorial marking the pew where Washington sat with his family, saying it is not acceptable to all worshipers, because the first president once owned slaves, as did many of the founding fathers. This ... (more >>>)
Rail News: I am pleased to report that my O-gauge train layout is now up and running. All work was completed on Wednesday. Here's a night photo:
Backstabbing: Both former President Bushes - the ones who kept a vow of silence when it came to President Barack Obama - slung choice insults at current President Donald Trump in a new book scheduled to be published later this month. The elder Bush, the possibly-senile, ass-grabbing one - reportedly called the billionaire commander-in-chief a "blowhard" and flatly stating he does not like him.
"Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush, the 41st and 43rd top executives respectively, spoke to author Mark K. Updegrove for the book 'The Last Republicans'. It detailed the relationship between the father-and-son presidents and how they were fretful of what Trump had done to the Republican Party. Furthermore, both ex-presidents admitted they did not vote for Trump ... The elder Bush pulled the lever for Democrat Hillary Clinton while the younger told Updegrove he voted for 'none of the above'." W also backhanded Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney in his comments. Apparently neither Bush had anything bad to say about the crooked Clintons, who seem to be their buddies these days.
This is the pathetic scene as the curtain drops on the RHINO, globalist Bush Dynasty. The family is obviously angry at Donald Trump for hammering their beloved Jeb! in the primaries.
Quip Of The Week is from David Burge: ""Senate Ethics Committee" is the new "Jumbo Shrimp"."
Book Review: 'Sons And Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler' by Bruce Henderson
This little-known, true tale may be the last great story about World War II. Nearly 2,000 German-born Jews - most of whom fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and came of age in America - joined the U.S. Army. They attended a special ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
Wednesday November 15, 2017
Local License: This screen grab, taken from a video on President Trump's Twitter feed, shows the Presidential limousine - aka: The Beast - wearing what appear to be Chinese license plates during the president's visit to Bejing. The Beast usually wears D.C. plates.
I wonder if this plate change is done at every visit to a foreign land? If so, I've never noticed it before.
Incidentally, the vehicle shown is the 'old Beast' - the 2009 model that President Obama used. It is estimated to weigh 15-20,000 pounds and is equipped with five inch-thick armored glass. A new Beast is still undergoing testing and is expected to enter service shortly. It, too, will be Cadillac-like in appearance although it is closer to a tank than a limo. (permalink)
Think Globally: As an American, I tend to focus on the U.S. light vehicle market, which over the last 50 years has grown at a rate of less than 1% per year. The world market is much different; it has grown at a rate of 3.5%/year over the last two decades. China is now the largest auto consumer ... (more >>>)
A Time To Gather, A Time To Let Go: Rock singer, Lionel Trains savior-investor and bad author Neil Young is shedding parts of his model train and collectible car collections.
"The Canadian folk-rock star is putting more than 230 of his vast collection of Lionel trains and some of his cars up for auction in Los Angeles in December. Some of the trains have estimated selling prices of up to $9,000." 71 year-old Young is selling a 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark convertible, a 1954 Cadillac Fleetwood Imperial eight-passenger limousine, a 1948 Buick Flxible hearse and a 1941 Chrysler Windsor coupe.
Are Stocks Too High? David Snowball of the Mutual Fund Observer noted, "Index averages generally reflect the performance of a few huge, hot stocks. To eliminate that bias, investors sometimes look at the performance and pricing of the median stock in an index; that is, the S&P 500 stock ranked 250th in costliness. By such measures ... the average US stock has never been more expensive than it is currently, even at the height of the insanity that was the (dot com) bubble of the late 1990s. We have never seen such broad-based overvaluation of US equities."
Hanging With People Like Yourself: Fred Reed of Fred On Everything has examined the downside of forced inclusion. "People do not like being with those different from themselves. Sometimes, briefly, we find it interesting, as in traveling, but for extended periods, no. This distaste pervades society, often unnoticed, with consequences."
He pointed out that people tend to cluster by intelligence, age, sexual preference (which explains gay bars), by race, culture, recreational interests (which explains car clubs, stamp collector meet-ups, etc.), level of wealth and political views. "In general, liberals and conservatives coexist at best uneasily in social situations."
"We have elevated almost to the status of religion the idea that people are indistinguishable, or should be, and must be forced into association. This is said to be the natural or at least desirable state of humanity, even though it clearly is not what we really want. We have the silly spectacle of universities struggling to recruit diversity which, once recruited, struggles to segregate itself. Much of today's anger would diminish if we allowed people to live in neighborhoods of their own kind, and study in schools of their own kind, and be policed by their own kind, and to establish clubs as they like. We could call this something like, oh, say, 'freedom'." Indeed.
Quote Of The Day is from Herm Albright: "A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Monday November 13, 2017
Designed By Wylie Coyote ... or Acme Manufacturing ... or the Deep State: During its first hour in service, a driverless, automated shuttle bus in Las Vegas got into an accident last week.
Jack Baruth believes that this whole driverless vehicle deal is a sinister government scam and he may be right: "This is all completely obvious to me, to you, and to anybody who has the low-grade pattern-recognition ability to see the obvious. We could talk a lot about machine-intelligence concepts and all of the stuff you'd get from a Hofstadter or Penrose book, but it's not necessary. If you've driven in a major city for more than two hours of your life, you can intuitively understand why the hybrid system (autonomous vehicles and vehicles with human drivers sharing the same roads) won't work. So, if a middle-aged Dad from Nowheresville can figure it out without breaking a sweat, why can't all the big brains on the Left Coast do the same?
The answer, of course, is that they absolutely can. There's no future in the hybrid model and there never was any future in the hybrid model. The purpose of these little experiments isn't to prove that autonomous traffic deserves a seat at the table. Rather, the purpose is to demonstrate that human drivers need to be removed from the roads, and the sooner the better."
Aesop at Raconteur Report added: "Self-driving cars? Sh'yeah, as if. It's funny when you have to re-try because a web page won't load. A lot less funny when, because of software/hardware/dead squirrel on a relay issues, your self-driving car doesn't load on the freeway, and your family is crushed, and the company(ies) responsible sued into bankruptcy. Or your self-flying jetliner flies into the ocean. Or a mountain, or a stadium full of fans."
I dunno - I'm still skeptical about robot cars.
Doing Men's Work: As men went off to fight World War II, women stepped into traditionally male jobs. Two female addendants are busyTwo female garage attendants are busy servicing a '42 Dodge Custom four-door sedan ... (more >>>)
Zooooom: A Koenigsegg Agera RS - the Swedish mid-engined sportscar with the hard-to-pronounce name - hit 284.3 miles per hour and set a two-way averaged top speed record of 277.9 mph while testing in Nevada.
"The Koenigsegg Agera RS being used reportedly has the factory's one-megawatt upgrade, which means it's sending 1,360-horsepower and 1,011 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels."
Pedestrian Crossing Illusion: Pretty cool. But will it catch the attention of texting motorists?
Happy Birthday, Grandmom! The only grandmother I ever knew (my other one, Delia, died a year before I was born) had her birthday yesterday.
Ellen would have been 139 years old, although she always lied about her age and would probably admit to being 117 or so. Born in County Mayo Ireland, she emigrated to the U.S. in 1904 and later married a fellow immigrant from her old village. They worked hard, prospered and raised three children.
My grandmother was very good to me and bought me my first car - a new 1963 red Volkswagen Beetle, so I could drive to college rather than take public transit. It cut two hours off my commuting time. (Mass transit is not nearly as good as transportation utopians would have you believe.)
My favorite story about my grandmother involves a Seinfeldian dating situation:
Thanks for everything, grandmom. Fifty-plus years later, I'm still having a good time at the dance.
Book Review: 'The Age Of Daredevils' by Michael Clarkson
This book is about various attempts to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Sounds like a stupid idea. I thought so, when my parents took me to Niagara Falls in June 1949. Even my five year-old brain was able to process this and put it in my then-small bad idea file. After seeing ... (more >>>)
Amazon Nation: Does it sometimes feel to you like Amazon is taking over the world? Me too. Karl Denninger thinks so too, although he - like me - wonders how they make any money. Karl noted that "Amazon is turning nearly a negative 20% margin on goods sold not including SG&A (that is, their sales and administrative expenses, such as the buildings and their employees) but only counting the cost of goods sold and their fulfillment (shipping and warehousing) expense."
In the third quarter, Amazon's fulfillment costs ... (more >>>)
A Conspiracy Theory Begins: You give your two cents worth. But all you get is a penny for your thoughts. So, where's the extra money going? It can really add up over time.
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Are old whippersnappers possible?"
Thursday November 9, 2017
Just Spear 'Em: I'm sick of hearing about 'pedestrian safety'. I think I'll buy an old bullet-nosed Studebaker and mount a big chrome-plated javelin on the front end. (permalink)
The Title Says It All: Jack Baruth wrote an article with the headline - '2017 Range Rover Evoque Rental Review Modern Cimarron'. Ouch.
"So when I tell you that the Range Rover Evoque is an exercise in sloppily-executed cynicism that makes the Cadillac Cimarron look like the 1995 Lexus ES300 by comparison, I hope you'll understand that it hurts me to tell you that."
Jack noted that the infotainment system is "decidedly third-rate. Everything seems to require at least one more step than in, say, a Hyundai Sonata. ... It has none of the virtues commonly associated with old-school Land Rovers, and it makes my old Freelander feel like a Series IIa by comparison in terms of usable ground clearance and maneuverability. I'm not sure why anybody would buy it. Nor do I recommend it in any way, shape, or form." All this disappointment can be yours for $46,000.
Jack concluded, "At heart, the Evoque is a frivolous vehicle, meant for wives and girlfriends and au pairs to trundle between manor and mall."
Something Cadillac And Tesla Have In Common: Consumer Reports recently released its 2017 Automotive Reliability Survey. Cadillac is ranked the least-reliable brand, dropping six spots from CR's 2016 reliability survey to bottom rank, below Jeep and Fiat. The Caddy Escalade SUV tied as the single worst vehicle, in terms of reliability. The other model at the bottom was the much-troubled Tesla Model X.
"The Model X has been widely criticized for a range of quality problems, including faulty falcon-wing doors and body panel fit-and-finish." Tesla was not happy as you might expect and, as it always does, fought back vigorously. In that regard, Elon Musk is the Donald Trump of carmakers. TTAC's Matt Posky wrote, "For whatever reason, Tesla seems unwilling to remain silent whenever some bad publicity heads its way."
Toyota and Lexus, perennial charter-toppers, repeated as the most reliable brands, based on owner surveys covering about 640,000 vehicles from the 2017 model-year. Kia came in third.
Book Review: 'Machine Platform Crowd: Harnessing Our Digital Future' by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson
The late, great Arthur C. Clarke famously observed, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." As a 74 year-old geezer, that's how I feel about today's tech-fueled world. Around the turn of the 21st Century, I was considered reasonably tech savvy by my business peers. Today, I feel lost.
The authors seem to appreciate my dilemma ... (more >>>)
Religious Conversion: Pennypack Crossing, an apartment complex for people 55 or older and the disabled, is a former convent on the campus of Nazareth Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia. The hospital itself opened in 1940 and was financed solely ... (more >>>)
Where's That Global Meltdown, Paul? Exactly one year ago, acknowledging Donald Trump's election victory, economist and New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman wrote that markets would fall and stay down. "If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never. ... So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight." Krugman called Trump "an irresponsible, ignorant man who takes his advice from all the wrong people."
Yet here we are a year later and the U.S. economy is doing just fine. Since the election, the Dow has risen 28.5%, the S&P 500 is up 21.1% and the NASDAQ has jumped 30.3%. Shares of Caterpillar have leaped almost 64% and Boeing has soared by over 87% since election day.
I've written about Krugman's foibles before and still believe that he belongs in the comics section of a newspaper.
Quote Of The Day is from the late Senator Everett Dirksen on Congressional spending: "A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking real money."
Tuesday November 7, 2017
Automotive Publishing Legend: John R. Bond was publisher of Road & Track magazine from 1949 to 1972. He was a pioneer in field of automotive writing and publishing. An engineer by training, Bond once designed motorcycles for Harley-Davidson.
Born in Muncie, Indiana on July 25, 1912, his automotive interests were encouraged by a father who was also in the automotive business. Following graduation in mechanical engineering from the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan in 1934, John worked with Harley-Davidson, Studebaker (from 1940 to '43) and White Truck. When he began contributing to R&T, he was a design engineer with custom and race car builder Frank Kurtis.
Road & Track magazine was founded ... (more >>>)
Tesla Mess: Last month, I wrote about Tesla's start-up woes with its mainstream Model 3 sedan. Apparently, things are even worse than previously reported according to Ed Niedermeyer. Tesla's Model 3 line is being referred to as "production Hell."
Car Names You've Never Heard Of: China is the world's largest consumer of automobiles and, because of the country's heavy pollution, it is betting heavily on electric and hybrid automobiles.
This article lists some of the brands available: Besturn, Changan, Jianghuai Automobile Corporation, Quiantu, Bjev, Nio, DearCC, Yogomo, Haima and Landwind.
"NEVs (New Energy Vehicles including EVs, PHEV, and hydrogen cars) are subsidized by the central and local government to a maximum of about 90,000 yuan ( $13,570). On top of that, many cities offer extra perks including free license plates and free parking lots."
In other China news, carmaker Geely said that total October sales volume grew 30% year-over-year to a record high. The company sold total 125,118 units in the month, a 15% increase over September sales. The Geely Boyue, one of the new models, recorded a sales volume of 30,138 units. Geely expects to sell 1,100,000 vehicles in 2017.
Moving Story: At 12:40 pm last Saturday, we brought the train platform in from the garage. We moved it in under cloudy but dry skies. Everything went OK, except that one of the casters - the one I reattached during the summer - tore off. We used a handtruck to augment the missing caster. This ever-troublesome caster has now been relocated to a braced area where the wood is thicker and has been reattached using new, longer screws.
As to the remainder of the move, no animals were harmed; no humans were killed. No screws were badly stripped. And, if they had been, I don't care; I have enough to last me until 2037.
There is much work to be done but I hope to have my O-gauge train layout operational before Thanksgiving.
Good News: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for a blood test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen. Mine is now 0.8, which remains within normal range (0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist) and is lower than my last test. I also underwent a CT scan.
Here are my test results ... (more >>>)
Good Times? The economy is now at its best in a decade, according to economist and perpetual optimist Larry Kudlow. "The business side of the economy, the supply side, is doing very well. It's the best showing we've seen - I don't know, probably in over 10 years. It's as though businesses are sniffing out tax cuts, and they're starting to pull the trigger on some investments. And that, of course, will lead to higher wages. I like that a lot because that's been the worst area of the economy, business investments, and I think the stock market loves it."
Hillary Learns That A Brazilian Can Be Quite Painful: Donna Brazile, former DNC head, has written a tell-all book about the 2016 election.
"What emerges ... is a picture of Brazile as heroine (of course), Hillary Clinton as villainess, Debbie Wasserman Schultz as incompetent and lazy, and Barack Obama as the unnamed cancer that ate away at the center of the party." Ouch.
Wasserman Schultz outsourced all operations of the party to Hillary's headquarters in 2015 - long before the start of the primaries, ensuring Bernie’s defeat. In other words, the fix was in ... no Russians needed.
“According to Brazile, Obama "left the party $24 million in debt" - hey, sort of like the country! - and his campaign wouldn't pay off that debt until election year. Furthermore, Wasserman Schultz had grown staff and allowed the DNC to pick up the check for Obama consultants." Brazile claims that Hillary "essentially laundered campaign money through the DNC."
Keep in mind that ol' Donna has a big axe to grind. Plus, whenever she's on television, she comes across as an affirmative-action hire/hack whose knowledge is limited to spouting lefty talking points. Donna also was friendly enough towards Hillary during the campaign that she fed her debate questions from her one-time employer, CNN.
In any case, grab a big tub popcorn - the reactions to and effects of this bombshell book should be most entertaining. Watching the revelations unfold will be more entertaining/disgusting than peeking in Kevin Spacey's closet.
Thought For Today: We are advised to not judge all Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, But we are encouraged to judge all gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.
Friday November 3, 2017
Future Vision: In the late 1980s, Mazda was developing a luxury brand in the manner of Lexus or Infiniti, called Amati. Sadly, the project was abandoned. At this year's Tokyo Motor Show, Mazda revealed a stunning full-size four-door vehicle called the Vision Coupe.
"A big sedan has always been the symbol of a brand going premium. It's the icon of a brand," said Julien Montousse, Mazda North America's director of design. "It tells that Mazda is becoming serious in reaching that goal. ... Outside and inside, it follows a Japanese aesthetic, moving away from an animalistic approach, away from too much dynamism, to become something more minimal. But it is not mathematical or rigid. It is very fluid, meant to communicate a human trace behind it. It is a way to define and induce a specific feeling that connects a human energy to the product. To encourage pure love." M-kay.
I think the Vision looks great. I hope this coupe/sedan soon goes into production.
October Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were estimated at a 18.0 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) last month, up 1% from October 2016, and down 2.6% from last month.
October exceeded expectations, as replacement sales and inventory clear-out boosted the daily sales rate to a 15-year high. U.S. automakers sold 1.35 million vehicles in October. Sales were driven by SUV and truck sales, while sales of family sedans dropped across the board. Low-margin fleet sales declined for the month.
Incentives helped drive sales: Across the industry incentive spending per unit was up 8% year-over-year, surging to $3,820 per vehicle. At General Motors, incentive spending shot up 15% to more than $5,100 per vehicle.
Ford Motor Company's Blue Oval brand recorded a sales increase of 6% year-over-year. Ford truck sales shot up 11.4 percent. Sales of Lincoln vehicles declined 2% year-over-year. Continental sales dipped 19% to 996 sedans. Navigator sales increased 10% to 656 SUVs.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles saw overall sales sink by 13%. The Jeep and Ram brands both lost 3% last month. The Chrysler brand dropped 22%. Fiat fell 33% to 1,769 vehicles, while Dodge recorded a whopping 41% drop in year-over-year sales.
At General Motors, the passenger car slump weighed heavily. Overall GM sales fell 2%. GMC was the only brand to increase its tally, sales increased 5%. Chevrolet's sales fell 4%, Buick sales fell 5%. Cadillac sales were flat overall. The CT5 crossover experienced a 29% increase, while the compact ATS dropped 42%, the CT6 flagship fell 40%, and the midsize CTS was off 24%. Each model sold less than a thousand units in October.
Honda sales increased 1% while Acura Division was off 1% with sales of 12,698 vehicles. Nissan sales jumped 10% in October. Infiniti sales dropped 8%. Toyota also reported a modest sales increase of 1.1% for October. Lexus posted October sales of 22,894 units, down 8%. Only 609 flagship LS models found buyers in October.
Subaru, which has set a long string of sales records this year, continued to roll in October with slight sales increase. It is the 71st month in row that Subaru has posted a sales gain. Hyundai and Kia sales dropped 16% and 9% respectively.
Audi sales increased 10%, Acura sales slid 1%. Volvo sales increased 11% to 7,008 vehicles. Volkswagen sales rose 12% to 27,732 units. Mercedes sales were flat at 31,401 vehicles. Bentley, Jaguar and Maserati all reported double-digit sales declines for October. 140 Smart car found buyers in October - a cliff-like drop of 67% from last October.
All The Leaves Are Brown ... and the sky is gray:
This is the view from our back deck these days. On Sunday, I plan to grill steaks outside. With the time change, I'll have to cook by flashlight.
The Prophet Stewie: Recently, actor Anthony Rapp claimed that Kevin Spacey tried to seduce him at age 14. Apparently, Kevin Spacey has a reputation for hitting on boys and men.
Interestingly, in a 2005 'Family Guy' episode, Stewie Griffin, the acerbic toddler with the British accent and football-shaped head, ran naked through a crowd and yelled: "Help! I've escaped from Kevin Spacey's basement!"Stewie is also a time-traveler and can be seen with something resembling his time machine here.
Sometimes real truth comes from cartoons.
Quote Of The Day is from Steven Wright: "It's a small world but I wouldn't want to paint it."
Wednesday November 1, 2017
Falling Leaves: At 11:00 am Monday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth business coupe and took a drive. The sun was bright and the temperature was in the low 50s. (It's getting cold at night - temperatures in the mid-30s.)
I was very surprised by the change in foliage since my outing four days prior.
Leaves were dropping everywhere and I could see them falling to the roadsides as I took my drive. Most green deciduous trees have gone directly to brown, many of the yellow leaves have darkened substantially and most of the fire has disappeared from formerly fiery-red leaves.
The drive was pleasant and the Plymouth ran well but, with clouds and rain in the forecast, this may be my last old-car excursion for a while.
Movie Star: The same 1939 Plymouth Deluxe four-door sedan made appearances in two recent films. The Plymouth was seen driving past a ... (more >>>)
Preferred Parking: I recently read a blog post which mentioned a Ferrari F40 supercar; the mention of F40 triggered a memory.
In the early 1990s, we often dined at the Couch Street Fish House (it closed in 2000) in the questionable neighborhood (aka - seedy, filled with drunks and drifters) of Old Town Portland. The establishment had a small valet lot and, when we arrived in my Lincoln Mark VII, the car was always buried in obscurity amongst the other vehicular iron. When I purchased my new '92 Twin Turbo Nissan 300ZX and fitted it with chrome wheels, the valets parked it right next to the door, like a piece of automotive jewelry.
One evening, I exited the restaurant and found my Z buried amongst the more plebeian vehicles. It had been dethroned; a low-slung, red Ferrari F40 was parked by the door. Fame - especially car fame - is fleeting.
Buh-Bye Sears: Once a titan of Canadian retail, Sears Canada has announced that it is going out of business, putting 12,000 people out of work and shuttering all operations nationwide. Among the first to lose their jobs will be most of the 800 people at the head office.
Regarding Sears in the U.S. ... (more >>>)
Pray For The Dead: Tomorrow is All Souls' Day, also known as the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed. On November 2nd, we pray for the repose of the souls of the dead, in the hope that when we're dead, someone will return the favor and pray for us as well. We can all use prayer - living or dead. So, be sure to pray for the dead; your prayers and intercessions many somehow come back to help you when you're in need - sort of a prayerful Pay It Forward.
I've posted more information about All Souls' Day here.
Book Review: 'American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road' by Nick Bilton
Every time we find ourselves frustrated by the actions (or inactions) of some government bureaucrat, we suddenly want to become libertarians. But, taken to extremes, libertarianism can create chaos. Such is the case with 26 year-old, self-proclaimed libertarian programmer Ross Ulbricht. When the dark side of libertarianism met the dark web ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Fred Allen: "Television is a medium because anything well done is rare."
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