A Blog About Cars ... And More
Thursday May 28, 2020
Autosketch: 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V - A Big Winner
For 1977, Lincoln completely reskinned the Mark series, renaming it the Mark V. The external dimensions were almost identical to its Mark IV predecessor but due to the angular styling the car appeared to be longer and lower. The Mark V offered more trunk space and weighed 500 pounds less than the IV, tipping the scales at 4,650 pounds. The V rode on a 120 inch wheelbase and was 230 inches long overall. An AM/FM radio was now standard, as was a Cartier day/date clock. For the first time, a CB radio was offered as an option.
The Mark V's standard engine was... (more >>>)
Feels Like Summer: The weather has been cloudy with on-and-off rain for the past several days. On Wednesday, dawn arrived with welcome sunshine. The temperature was 68 degrees at 10:30 am when I fired up my 1939 Plymouth coupe and drove downtown to gas up. It eventually reach 82 degrees in the afternoon. The sky was bright blue and cloudless, Mt. St. Helens was clearly visible and traffic was moderate, with lots of people trailering boats and RVs.
I rolled the windows down and, at one point, got a dose of freshly cut grass from a large field I passed. As usual, I had a fun drive along the back roads of Clark County - my old Plymouth ran great. It was a perfect day for an old car drive.
Officially Dead: The 2020 New York Auto Show which had been rescheduled from April until August, has been canceled.
"One of the four tier-one shows in the U.S., typically attracting close to 1 million visitors and dozens of new product introductions, the NYIAS was originally scheduled to take place during the first half of April, starting with a two-day media preview. As covid-19 outbreak began sweeping across the country and much of the U.S. went into lockdown, organizers decided to reschedule for late August and into September. But that plan was put into doubt when New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center was converted into an emergency hospital to help handle the city's massive outbreak."
Mark Schienberg, president of the Great New York Automobile Dealers Association, which sponsors the annual show which was set to mark its 120th anniversary this year, said, "Even though Javits currently has no patients on site, we understand the need for it to remain ready to serve in the event of a second wave of infections. Because of the uncertainty caused by the virus, we feel it would not be prudent to continue with the 2020 Show and instead are preparing for an even greater 2021."
Oh well. You can always revisit the 1966 NY International Auto Show.
Is It Just Me? Or does Allison Janney sound like the name for a manufacturer of diesel engines? (permalink)
The Always Entertaining Shoeblogger ... Manolo discovered an ad for Crocs, the style-challenged plastic clogs, on his blog: "One would think that the people behind the Crocs would know how the Manolo feels about their ungainly, life-sapping, and horrifically unattractive product, for it is not as if the Manolo has made any secret of his feelings.
But, the Manolo's position is that the Crocs are the legal product which, if you are not riding on the escalator or wrestling alligators, pose little physical threat to humans."
Can 2020 Get Any Worse? First it was Wuhan Flu. Then murder hornets. Now cannibal rat armies!
The CDC reported that "restaurant closures and restrictions intended to combat the spread of the covif19 virus have left trash bins less full than usual, cutting into a major food source for rodents. In a battle over slim pickings, some have become more aggressive, leading to reports of rat cannibalism and rodent armies on city streets."
Homeschool Revolution? A RealClear Opinion Research poll that found over 40% of families are more likely to choose to homeschool their children or engage in virtual learning once the coronavirus pandemic subsides. The survey asked parents, "Are you more or less likely to enroll your son or daughter in a homeschool, neighborhood homeschool co-op, or virtual school once the lock downs are over?"
Of the 626 parents who responded, 40.8% said they were "more likely" to do so, while 31.1% replied they were "less likely." Among those parents who said they were "more likely" to homeschool, 36.3% were white, 50.4% were black, 38.2% were Hispanic, and 53.8% were Asian.
William Katz commented, "Hard to know exactly what the poll means, but I'd guess that many parents now realize how little their kids have been getting from many public schools. This could start an educational revolution."
Meanwhile, Dave Burge added that "the higher ed model in this country has been ripe for an Amazon vs department stores reckoning for decades. Quarantine Zoom classrooms are just going to accelerate that reckoning."
Second Bananas: Versatile actor Richard Herd has died at age 87. He had a long and successful career - you may remember him as George Costanza's boss, Mr. Willhelm, of the New York Yankees on 'Seinfeld'. In the 1970s, he did insurance company commercials. While he was a successful actor, he always reminded me of the guy they'd pick when Academy Award winner Karl Malden wasn't available.
As I thought more about it, I came to the realization that every product (including actors) has a first-class versus also-ran brand ... (more>>>)
Headline Of The Week … so far is from The People's Cube: 'With America in lockdown, China offers to host Democrat primary.'
Cancer Update: Last week, I visited the Oncology Center for the usual blood test, which measures cancer markers - carcinoembryonic antigen. My blood CEA is 1.0, which remains well within normal range (0-5.0 µg/L according to my oncologist). Good news.
Notable changes have been made to the oncology facility due to the Wuhan virus ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "One of the most important skills for political success is the ability to make confident assertions of absurdities or lies."
Tuesday May 26, 2020
Buh-Bye: The Acura RLX is dead; there will be no 2021 model. Acura's flagship sedan never sold particularly well. "Acura's sedan future now lies in the compact ILX and midsize TLX, the latter of which gains a new generation for 2021."
"Front-drive in base models and boasting all-wheel steering, the RLX offered a 3.5-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic. Any benefit to handling realized by its steering system failed to catch the attention of consumers, who stayed away in droves. The same can be said for the uplevel RLX Sport Hybrid SH-AWD, which combined the same 310-horse V6 with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and a triple-motor all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain."
Back in 2005, when we were looking for a new car for my wife, we looked at the RLX's predecessor - the RL. I had high hopes for it but the sedan disappointed in person. I didn't care for the front end styling. And the interior didn't seem fancy enough for a $50,000 car. It also had an iDrive-like central control 'mouse' which was a turn-off for my wife. On the other hand, the Acura TL was a very nice car and was $17,000 less costly than its slightly larger brother.
Only 205 RLX sedans found buyers in the first four months of 2020. In 2019, Acura sold just 1,019 RLXs. In its first full year of production, some 3,413 RLXs made it out of showrooms. The RLX was too much like the TLX and didn't look or feel like a high-end luxury sedan. It suffered from the same disorder (and fate) as the Lexus GS.
Hitting The Road: Rentals of recreational vehicles are up 650% as Americans plan summer vacations that incorporate social distancing to protect against the China coronavirus outbreak.
"The ability to isolate oneself or one's family while traveling is one of the RV's main attractions according to those surveyed, of whom 77% expect to commit to travel plans within the next three months, and of which a majority have a secluded destination in mind. Some 65% said they planned to visit a national park, and 47%, a lake. Many said they'd plan to camp out in these areas for an extended period, with nearly half of respondents stating they plan to travel for more than a week."
It also helps that gas prices are the lowest in decades.
"Hey Everybody, The School Nurse Is Givin' Out Free Water Balloons!" In Provincetown, Mass. - the legendary gay, artist and weirdo habitat on the extreme tip of Cape Cod - the school district is offering free condoms at school to everyone from first-graders to high-school seniors.
The policy requires school nurses to supply condoms to "any student who asks." First and second grade teachers have been advised to wear rain gear in class.
Wuhan Flu Update: If you live in Washington state but not in the Seattle metro area, you're pretty safe - 542 out of 1,050 WA coronavirus deaths are in King County.
Using data as of last Friday, Battle Ground, WA had only 27 China coronavirus cases. In Clark County, WA, there were 427 cases and 25 deaths - no additional deaths since a week ago. 17 of those who perished were 80 years or older. In the county, only 7 people remain hospitalized; none are in intensive care.
In the past seven weeks, Clark County has experienced 19 new covid-19 deaths (about 3 per week). During a typical week in Clark County, there are 70 deaths from other causes.
What's Next? I think few people realize the large degree of harm that the Chinese virus has caused. Aside from the 1.7 million cases in the U.S. (many resulted in serious illnesses) and the almost 100,000 American deaths so far, there is a profoundly grave economic impact that is not yet fully felt. The nation has been on full lockdown for two-plus months; this has caused severe and unprecedented damage to our economy.
The Panglossian idea that everything is going to snap back and return to normal just-like-that is, in my opinion, wishful thinking. Will America's recovery be V-shaped? I doubt it. I'm guessing it will be more of a checkmark-shaped recovery.
Here are my guesses about how specific business sectors will be affected in the near term ... (more >>>)
I've Been Dying To Write About This: Thomas Sowell gives his take on the death penalty: "There was a time when murderers were hanged or electrocuted without any of these emotional tabloid TV scenes in the courtroom - and without years, or even decades, of delay while all sorts of legal hand-wringing and nit-picking goes on in the appellate courts.
With our courts often so overcrowded that criminals are out on bail, walking the streets and committing new crimes, while awaiting trial on old charges, do we have the luxury of using up court time emotionalizing the obvious?
Are sentences supposed to fit the crime or to depend on what kind of show is put on in the courtroom?"
And: "There is no such thing as life imprisonment without the possibility of a liberal president being elected and issuing a pardon or an amnesty.
There is no such thing as life imprisonment without the possibility of escape - or of killing a fellow prisoner or a guard. For members of international terrorist networks, there is no such thing as life imprisonment without the possibility of fellow terrorists taking dozens of hostages and killing them if their guy is not set free."
My death penalty stance is this - we're not killing enough bad people. Everyone is entitled to one fair trial - with a public defender if you can't afford your own. After that, you pay for the cost of an appeal, posting a large, non-refundable performance bond to guarantee that you can pay. If you can't post a bond within 15 days, execution is carried out. (If you can't persuade friends and associates to raise the money for your appeal bond, you obviously haven't made enough friends in your life. Or the right kind of friends. Too bad.)
All terrorists should receive a closed-to-the-public-and-media military trial. They are wartime saboteurs and should get the same, well-established treatment as those in WW II.
The great thing about the death penalty is it offers a zero-percent rate of recidivism. Guaranteed.
There Is More Than One Kind Of Catholic: New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has stood by his recent dealings with President Trump in the face of criticism from Catholic Democrats, insisting Catholics believe in dialogue and engagement.
"Now the left wing is snotty about the fact that I was part of a conference call with Catholic leaders, and I just say, 'Look, are we in the sacred enterprise of accompaniment and engagement and dialogue, or are we not?'" he asked in an online Facebook interview with Jesuit Father Matt Malone, editor-in-chief of America Media. "When you do it, you risk criticism on both sides. When you don't do it, well, then what do you do? You become Amish," he said.
On Friday, Catholic Democrats from the George Soros-funded group Faith in Public Life (FPL) posted an online letter blasting Cardinal Dolan and other bishops for engaging in a phone call last Saturday with President Trump, insisting that the president is "not pro-life." This is a ridiculous assertion. Donald Trump is probably the most outspoken pro-life president the country has ever had. He appeared and spoke at this year's March for Life event in Washington, DC. Beware of snakes who spread lies in the name of Catholicism. They are CINOs - Catholics In Name Only.
The Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life is John Gehring, the former communications director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a group created by John Podesta, former campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton, to plant the seeds of "revolution" in the Catholic church. The plot to subvert the Catholic church from the inside was revealed by WikiLeaks in 2012, when it published a series of Podesta's emails. Meanwhile, Pope Francis seems to care more about 'climate science' (which isn't 'science' at all) than he does about the sanctity of human life.
I sometimes wonder if the current pope is a CINO. In 2018, he conferred the title of 'Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great' on Lilianne Ploumen, a Dutch politician and vocal agitator for abortion rights. Last year, Ploumen founded a pro-abortion organization called 'She Decides', which offers funding and support for international NGOs that provide, facilitate or campaign for abortion. 'She Decides' is "a response to U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to cut off funding for overseas NGOs which facilitate abortion."
William Katz wrote, "Almost anything funded by George Soros is going to be bad news. The man is hopelessly leftist, and blindly so. Cardinal Dolan is a good man, and he is right."
Theology: People waste too much time arguing about Limbo. I believe that Limbo is much like a doctor's waiting room in January - a lot of hacking coughs and old issues of Time magazine strewn about.
In fact, that's probably Time's major market these days - waiting rooms of one sort or another.
Business Advice: You Can't Save The Company On Weekends. In the early days of our manufacturing company, my business partner and I used to save our little firm every weekend.
We'd forget to get a job done during the week, so we'd come in on Saturday and Sunday to complete it. We might have to re-do a job that we had messed up, or to quote some job that we didn't have time to deal with during the week. If we didn't do these things, we were sure our customers would get angry and desert us, and the company would die.
It was a never-ending race against the clock.
Of course, we'd have to save the company the next weekend, too, because we'd be so exhausted from working hard the week before we'd make more mistakes the following week and have to rectify them the following weekend. We felt that there was never enough time to do get everything done. We were always under the clock pressure.
Geezer Joke: A little old man shuffled slowly into an ice cream parlor and pulled himself slowly, painfully, up onto a stool. After catching his breath, he ordered a banana split.
The waitress asked kindly, "Crushed nuts?"
"No," he replied, "Arthritis." (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from John Kenneth Galbraith: "The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."
Friday May 22, 2020
Why Cars Cost So Much: 40% of a new vehicle's cost is electronic systems.
A report from consulting firm Deloitte on the semiconductor industry "puts hard numbers to the cost of semiconductors and electronics in the automotive industry. Any auto enthusiast could have correctly guessed the trend based on the annual list of new tech features showing up in entry-level and flagship offerings. The marquee number is likely still a surprise: as summarized by Car and Driver, the paper notes that as of 2017, electronics systems powered by semiconductor-based chips comprised 40% of the cost of a new car. That was up from 18% in 2000, 20% in 2007, and is projected to reach 45% come 2030. The cost of the base semiconductors that enable the systems was roughly $312 per car in 2013, and is expected to rise to nearly $600 per car by 2022.
The larger component costs come from finer electronic control of basic systems like windshield wipers and OBDII ports, digitized systems like electric power steering and digital instrument clusters, new automotive-specific features like blind-spot detection and automatic emergency braking, and increasing non-specific tech integration like app-based entertainment and cloud data communication. In 2004, practically no cars had blind spot monitoring nor tire pressure sensors."
Once upon a time, the most expensive components of a car were the engine and transmission. Vacuum tubes for the radio were pretty far down the list.
The Case Against Mass Transit: Randal O'Toole recently wrote, "A growing body of research shows that mass transit is the major reason why the coronavirus has been so deadly in New York City. The New York urban area (roughly New York City plus Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties in New York plus Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Union counties in New Jersey) provides 45% of all transit trips in the United States and, not coincidentally, has seen about 45% of Covid-19 deaths in the United States."
He concluded, "Automobiles and suburbs have helped make the United States one of the wealthiest nations in history. It's time to end the vendetta against the automobile and suburbs and recognize them for what they are: efficient, egalitarian, and in many ways beneficial to our social and natural environments."
As I've said before, buses, trolleys and subways are just giant petri dishes on wheels.
Reptile Management: Recently, Jack Baruth explained the term Lizard People and their role in business, politics and society. He posits that "virtually everyone in our country's "one percent" is at least a sociopath and possibly a psychopath." He referred to "all those people who earn six or seven figures in ill-defined, completely unproductive jobs. … The people who sit on eight corporate boards and nobody knows why. The CEOs who shipped jobs overseas to make a quarterly earnings call look good, the people at Boeing who managed to trash the world's best brand in a matter of years." Think of a mix of Dilbert's pointy-haired boss, Catbert and Dogbert.
The name Lizard People may be new but there have always been jerk managers who put their personal and career interests ahead of their employer's. Or the public's. Here are some examples ... (more >>>)
Cats - Ingrates Of The Animal World: James Richards, a renowned cat veterinarian, former president of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and author of the 'ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats', died while swerving his motorcycle to avoid a cat in New York.
If you die, your dog will lay at the foot of your casket and whimper sadly. Your cat, on the other hand, would prefer to be transported to the morgue with you so that it can amuse itself by batting around your toe tag with its paw. (permalink)
Big Money For Doing Nothing: Scott Grannis has pointed out that "unemployment is becoming a gigantic problem that is turning out to be much bigger than anyone anticipated ... some 30 million people have been added to the ranks of the unemployed in the past six weeks, and virtually all of them from the ranks of the private sector. That means that about 25% of private sector employees have lost their jobs! The 30 million newly-minted jobless are not hopeless, at least yet. Thanks to the generosity of Congress (it's always easy to spend other people's money, isn't it?), the average weekly unemployment check now resides in the princely neighborhood of $1000 per week, or $25 per hour. Congress has effectively raised the minimum wage to $25/hr. by boosting weekly unemployment checks by $600/wk through the end of July."
What, you say?! Consider: for any business in trouble because of the shutdown, the very best solution is to fire or lay off employees, since most, if not all, of them will be able to collect unemployment benefits which are the equivalent of $25 per hour through the end of July. The 30-plus-million-strong army "of the recently unemployed now work for the government, you see. Their job? To stay at home and watch TV all day, or whatever else suits their fancy. Do nothing, and the government will pay you $25 per hour. Not a bad job, if you can just get fired or laid off! Think of it as a paid vacation with time-and-a-half! And it's all for a good cause: to win the war against the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, employers who dare to re-open before August 1st, when Congress' $600 per week unemployment sweetener expires, will find few workers willing to work for less than $25/hour. This creates a very unfortunate headwind to any early attempt to reopen the economy."
This disincentivisation of workers program will end badly and have unintended consequences.
Moron Update: Did anyone expect Washington Governor Inslee to staff his Safe Work and Economic Recovery Leaders Group for Economic Recovery with top business executives, experienced entrepreneurs, savvy small business owners or successful tech wizards? Think again. Idiot Inslee has picked a mass-transit activist, three labor leaders and the head of communications for a winery.
By the way SWERLGER sounds like a villainous organization in a Bond movie. Or a gay/minority/cripple grievance coalition.
Memorable Eulogy: A young priest in Alabama was asked by a funeral director to hold a grave-side service for a homeless man with no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a new paupers' cemetery way out in the country; this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.
Unfamiliar with the farm country area, the priest became lost. After driving around for an hour, he saw the backhoe and the workers, who were eating lunch, but the hearse was nowhere in sight.
He apologized to the crew for his tardiness and stepped to the side of the open grave, where he saw the vault lid already in place. He assured the workers I would not hold them up for long, but this was the proper thing to do. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. The priest earnestly poured out his heart and soul. As he preached, the workers began to say 'Amen', 'Praise the Lord' and 'Glory'!
He closed the service with a prayer and walked to his car. As he was opening the door, the priest overheard one of the workers remarking to another, "Lord In Heaven, I never seen nothin' like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for over twenty years." (hat tip - George Pradel)
Quote Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "I've found that in normal everyday conversation I have a difficult time distinguishing between "New Delhi" and "Nude Ellie"."
Wednesday May 20, 2020
The Perils Of Auto Predictions: I have in my possession Popular Mechanics '1957 Cars Fact Book'. I bought it new as a 13 year-old (paying the then-dear sum of 75¢ for it) and have carted it around from dwelling to dwelling ever since. I've lost the front cover but otherwise, it is largely intact.
The softcover's author was Arthur R. Railton, Automotive Editor of Popular Mechanics Magazine. Within the mag-style 'book', there is a section entitled 'Predictions For 1958', found on page 128.
I've written about the fallacy of predictions before. But, in the case of this Fact Book, the predictions were only for one year ahead. I was surprised at how wrong they turned out to be. To wit:
"Both Pontiac and Chevrolet will have all new cars - both will use the long-awaited unitized (body) construction." GM unibodies didn't happen until the 1960 Corvair appeared.
"If Studebaker and Packard are successful this year, they will be all new in 1958. Hudson and Nash will be all new too." Ummm ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Faster: How a Jewish Driver, an American Heiress, and a Legendary Car Beat Hitler's Best' by Neal Bascomb
As a decade, the 1930s offered little joy to the world. There was a great depression which encompassed most of the world. There was a rise of dictators across Europe: Nationalist Franco in Spain, Fascist Mussolini in Italy and Nazi Hitler in Germany. The world saw the dark clouds of war begin to form. Germany became aggressive as it fought its way back from the Weimar Republic's worthless currency and restrictions under the Treaty of Versailles.
As Hitler rebuilt his country's military might and began to rattle his saber at Austria, Poland, Belgium, France and other countries, he also looked to promote the image of unconquerable Aryan superiority in sports, including motor racing. Germany long had a reputation for technical prowess in engineering, metallurgical and chemical development. These skills were applied to the development of advanced race cars, developed by Mercedes and Auto Union with government financial backing.
The mighty Mercedes W154 racer was powered by ... (more >>>)
Who's Gonna Lose The Most? The China coronavirus has decimated American business. Don Surber wrote, "Gradually it is dawning on people that the big losers in covid-19 are fracking, airlines, hotels, restaurants, newspapers, and New York City. The first three are resilient because they have weathered many a business cycle but he latter three are devastated.
One industry in peril that does not get mentioned is the automotive industry, particularly those who service vehicles."
The entire auto industry will be affected. Don noted, "Automobiles are sturdier and last longer. My car is 10 years old and I see no reason for it not to go another 10 years, especially as I have averaged less than 10,000 miles annually in the last 6 years.
Projecting my experience on those working from home, I see fewer oil changes, fewer tire purchases, and fewer automobile repairs.
I also see fewer car companies. The American market is stagnated."
Then there's ... (more >>>)
Decoupling: President Donald Trump has ordered federal retirement money invested in Chinese equities to be pulled. The assets at hand number around $4.5 billion in Chinese stocks.
"In the first letter written Monday, obtained exclusively by Fox Business, national security adviser Robert O'Brien and National Economic Council Chair Larry Kudlow write to U.S. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia stating that the White House does not want the Thrift Savings Plan, which is a federal employee retirement fund, to have money invested in Chinese equities." The letter states that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is "departing from the Board's established index for the International Stock Investment Fund (I Fund) to track one that maintains Chinese equities is risky and unjustified." The letter directly links China's handling of Covid-19 as one of several reasons why investment in Chinese companies should not occur.
In the second letter, Scalia writes to Michael Kennedy, the chairman of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, sharing the Kudlow/O’Brien letter and noting the two have "grave concerns with the planned investment on grounds of both investment risk and national security."
President Trump's order is being carried out - unchallenged by anyone. That's good news.
Cortizone-10: Yeah, I use it sometimes. But only because they won't sell me Cortizone-15. You know they have it. They keep it locked up in a subterranean vault, right next to the 100,000 mile tires. And those 200 mpg Fish carburetors. (permalink)
Rattan Death March: Pier 1 Imports is calling it quits. The bankrupt home-goods retailer has asked a court for permission to liquidate its remaining 540 stores once they reopen after coronavirus-driven lockdowns, ending a 58-year legacy of selling glassware, wicker furniture, rattan side tables, big heavy candles, oddball wall hangings and other assorted crap.
The company has tapped Gordon Brothers to begin liquidating its locations this weekend across the U.S.
Pier 1 was founded in 1962 in San Mateo, California, under the moniker Cost Plus Imports. In the movie 'Bullitt', there's a background shot of a Cost Plus in San Francisco. Oh well. There's always World Market.
Puzzle: There's toast ... and there's Texas toast. There are English Muffins ... but no Texas Muffins. What's up with that? (permalink)
Quote Of The Day is from Lily Tomlin: "I always wanted to be somebody but I should have been more specific."
Monday May 18, 2020
Did Male America Die 68 Years Ago? 1952 was the last year you could buy a big V-8 Lincoln with a stick-shift. That was the last American luxury car built by carnivores for carnivores. You could have the trappings of wealth and still shift for yourself, proving that you were still a Real Man.
You see, the 1952 Lincoln was built by real men for real men. It was a solid, handsome car with clean, simple lines. It had a brand new body style and a brand new overhead-valve V-8 engine, too. It had a real stick-shift for real men to drive. "Waddya ya drivin', Bud?" "A stick-eight Lincoln, Chief. Want another beer?" … (more >>>)
What's It Worth? Ferrari's share price surged on the back of strong first-quarter earnings. Its market cap topped $30 billion, putting it ahead of General Motors and Ford.
"Ferrari's shares jumped as much as 7% after the Maranello, Italy-based sports car maker reported better-than-expected earnings.
Despite shutting its factory in March, the company's total shipments of cars increased 5% to 2,738. Revenue fell only 1% to $1.02 billion - better than the $852 million analysts expected."
Goodbye GS: After four generations of production since 1993 and a 2012 update, Lexus brand is killing off the GS line due to declining sales.
"Through the first three months of 2020, Lexus sold just 624 GS sedans, a decline of more than 34% year over year. Full-year sales in 2019 were down a whopping 48.8%, at just 3,378. The model saw its best sales year in 2015, when it sold 23,117."
In my view, the GS never quite fit. Although it was a rear-driver, it wasn't noticeably different in everyday handling than the entry-level ES. The GS was supposed to be sporty but it didn't seem so to me. The car rode and handled nicely but was not particularly spectacular in any way and the six-cylinder version I drove lacked power. (At the time, a 300 hp V-8 model was available for an $8,000 premium. As my daughter correctly pointed out - that's $4,000 per cylinder!!) The trunk seemed small and the car had neither the steering wheel nor seat move back to facilitate entrance/egress. The salesman quipped, "Lexus isn't big on those bells-and-whistles." Hey, for $50,000-plus, I expect bells and whistles.
You might think that every Lexus model is the paragon of quality, but the AWD version of the Lexus GS was rated 'much worse than average' by Consumer Reports.
For some extra money, you could buy an LS model which was powerful and luxurious. Or save money and buy a roomy Avalon-sized Lexus ES. The GS was Mr. In-Between and, like Mercury, Oldsmobile and others, couldn't find a place for itself in the 21st Century marketplace.
40 Years Ago Today ... Mt. St. Helens blew its top. On this day in 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, causing a massive debris avalanche. It reduced the elevation of the mountain's summit from 9,677 feet to 8,365 feet and replaced it with a mile-wide horseshoe-shaped crater. The 5.1 magnitude earthquake uncorked a gas-charged reservoir of magma that leveled 230 square miles, killed 57 people and triggered the largest landslide in history. The explosion equaled the force of a 20-megaton bomb.
I see the mountain every day; I live a mere 35 miles away as the ash flies. I had never really noticed St. Helens on my drives up and down I-5 until it blew its top. The devastation was impossible to imagine. Trees knocked over like toothpicks. Mud and ash everywhere. Gray 'snow' on the ground. I had an incredible view of the eruption, since I was staying at a motel overlooking the Columbia Gorge in Hood River, Oregon. I was provided a ringside seat - a north-facing room with a large picture window.
At the time of the eruption, I was 36 years-old. It was not a great time in my life. My dad had died two months before and my small business was struggling and barely hanging on. The economy was turning downward and interest rates were heading to the stratosphere. 1980 inflation was 12.5%.
That week, I was on a sales trip trying to drum up business for my small plastics company. As I headed east on I-84, stopping in various towns to make calls, most of the ash seemed to be running just behind me. By late week, I reached the apex of my trip in Boise, Idaho. By then, the majority of the ash cloud was traveling north into Montana.
Money was tight, so I was staying in cheap motels and living frugally. I was enthusiastically touting ... (more >>>)
For The 'I Told You So' And 'You Shoulda Done This Instead' Crowd: Referring to the squabbles, finger-pointing and blame game over various aspects of the Wuhan Flu, Dave Burge wrote, "Say what you want about Mrs. O'Leary's cow, but it didn't strut around giving fire safety lectures to people in burning buildings."
More Area Businesses Gone: According to an article in the Columbian, the very popular Hockinson Cafe in Battle Ground has closed its doors for good after 19 years in business. We had many a good meal there during its 15+ years of operation.
Joe's Crab Shack, a chain seafood restaurant on Vancouver's waterfront, has closed permanently. I've never been there.
World of Speed, a Wilsonville museum - just south of Portland, OR - popular with auto enthusiasts and dedicated to celebrating the world of motorsports, is closing permanently due to the China coronavirus. The 50,000 square-foot museum opened five years ago and encompassed many aspects of motorsports, including drag racing, road racing, land speed racing, motorcycle racing, open wheel, NASCAR and hydroplanes.
Wuhan Flu Update: If you live in Washington state but are not in the Seattle metro area, you're pretty safe. Yet the entire state of Washington remains closed by order of Oberführer Jay Inslee, the Democrat governor.
Using data as of last Friday, Battle Ground, WA had only 26 China coronavirus cases - a rate of 678 per million people. In Clark County, WA, there were 401 cases (835/million) and 25 deaths. 17 of those who perished were 80 years or older. Nine of the dead were female; 16 were male. In the county, only 7 people remain hospitalized; 2 are in intensive care.
Compare the aforementioned covid-19 cases/million numbers with Washington state (2,450 cases/million), the U.S. average (4,472 cases/million), Florida (2,055 cases/million), New York (18,298 cases/million), Vatican City (14,981 cases/million) and Ireland (4,859 cases/million).
In Washington state, King and Snohomish counties (in the Seattle metro area) contain 55% of all WA cases and 65% of all deaths.
Your Papers, Please: To reopen, Washington state restaurants will have to keep a log of customers to aid in contact tracing.
"Hand sanitizer must be available to employees and customers, restaurant tables must be placed far enough apart that guests at one table can maintain a 6-foot distance from guests at another, it is "strongly suggested" that customers wear a cloth face covering any time they are not seated at the table, buffets and salad bars are not allowed, and menus and condiments must all be single-use. Bar seating is not permitted."
Achtung! You will comply.
I don't know about you, but I plan to sign in as John Galt.
Update: Because he was mocked relentlessly, Inslee retracted his order over the weekend. Now he says it's a "voluntary" ask. But the fact that he made such an order in the first place reveals what a fascist he really is.
Tyranny 101: A six-step program taught at Wuhan University and, now, by many U.S. state governments, including Washington:
Perfect For Those Still In Lockdown At Home: Legendary photography company Kodak is offering the world's largest jigsaw puzzle made up of 51,300 pieces and measuring a whopping 28.5 feet by 6.25 feet.
Not What You'd Expect: Doesn't it seem odd that a singer named Jackson Browne is a white dude?
The Truth About Gelato: Gerard Van der Leun once wrote about the pomposity of this frozen dessert, noting that it is "actually soft ice cream but we don't want anybody with just a high-school education coming in our store, our block, our neighborhood, our city and looking for a scoop. ... It's staggering that people crank out this crap when what they are up to is opening an ice-cream store in which they will sell you flavored churned curds at around one dollar a bite. But is the way these things get done these days. There has to be a thick layer of bullshit smeared on any new business opening around these "Farmers" market sections of our snoburbias and there is. And it does.
It works in these zones because they are thick with educated and intellectually insane white people. The business plan here is the one that we've been running from the control towers of the country since 2008. It is predicated on one simple notion; People dumb enough to vote in the Democrats and Obama will eat any bullshit you can serve."
I must confess that I had never heard of gelato until 1983 when one of my gay employees took me to gelatotorium in a then-trendy part of Seattle. I always figured that gelato was the expensive, gay version of Mister Softee.
Thirty-seven years later, that once-trendy Seattle neighborhood is now full of homeless and druggies.
Quote Of The Day is from Margaret Thatcher: "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
Thursday May 14, 2020
My blog is self-described as "about cars ... and more." I usually lead off almost any day's posting with something transport-related. Non-automotive postings include news articles which I find significant or humorous, nostalgic items as well as my opinions on social, political and cultural issues. And lots of other stuff.
I'm still posting nonfiction book reviews at the rate of 50-60 or so per year, although I've run out of books to review due to the Wuhan flu. Publishers have pushed back release dates and my local library is closed. (As of today, I have one book review in the hopper; it will be published next week.)
Traffic to the blog page was down about 7% from last year. A couple of years ago, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit wrote about the demise of blogs and blogging and blamed Twitter. Since my blog brings in absolutely no money, there is no financial incentive for me to care. Since I don't sell ads, web traffic has no impact on my life. The View Through The Windshield is strictly a one-man voluntary operation; I don't have co-writers or a comments section. This blog is my journal, not a collaborative or a community forum. And that's how it's going to stay. I write about things which interest me.
There are no plans to expand my online presence. No Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, podcasts or other social media. I want to enjoy my life rather than chain myself to a computing device day and night. Unless someone can present me with a compelling business case for doing so: "Show me the money." Lots of it. No? Well, never mind then.
While I remain a mere Baco-Bit in the vast salad bar of the online world, my micro-condiment will continue to plod along for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, here's to another year: Cheers!
Tuesday May 12, 2020
Zoooom! The 2021 Nissan 400Z will offer 400 horsepower from a twin-turbo V6 engine.
Twenty-eight years ago, I bought a Nissan 300 ZX that made 280 horsepower. It too had a twin-turbo V6 - mated to a four-speed Infiniti-based automatic transmission.
I have fond memories of that car It would do 0-60 in 6 seconds and the quarter mile 13 seconds or so. Top speed was governed at 155 mph. It was faster than Superman on crack. It cornered like it was on rails and had Lionel Magna-Traction. This Made-In-Hiratsuka-Japan beastie was undoubtedly the best cornering car I've ever owned. It was compact (shorter than a VW Beetle) and was easy to park. My two-seater sports car had all the luxury touches - including a titanium ignition key - and a good-looking, understated, functional interior with leather bucket seats.
I hope the new one is as good as my old one.
Go Fast! Wheeeeeee! California highway police say that while overall traffic levels are down 35% this year because of a stay-at-home order, the number of speeding tickets for driving more than 100 mph has increased by 87%, with one motorist caught doing 165 mph. The American spirit lives on!
Yes, We Have No Customers. We have no customers today. Vehicle rentals are waaaay down since the Chinese flu has smothered travel.
"Rental car companies like Budget and Avis have seen business tumble by as much as 90% since a near-nationwide lockdown began in mid-March. Industry giant Hertz announced on April 20 that it would lay off more than a third of its 29,000 North American employees while working to restructure $17 billion in debt.
With few reservations, Hertz and the rest of the rental car companies also are taking steps to reduce one of their biggest budget line items. And that could mean cutting back the acquisition of nearly 1 million new cars, trucks and crossovers this year, according to a new forecast by J.D. Power."
Mess Transit: 35% of worldwide potential buyers are considering buying a car in 2020. "We're going to see individual vehicle usage rise as people more concerned with hygiene choose personal transportation," said Daniel Davenport of Capgemini's North America auto sector. "There's also more interest in car ownership from customers under 35 years old" - a sentiment contrary to recent indications younger consumers put a low value on owning a vehicle.
While 35% of all people surveyed globally were considering getting a car this year, 45% of those under 35 were considering doing so and a majority of the latter group have never owned a car.
"It's potentially a seismic shift," Davenport said.
People are now realizing that riding mass transit is like living in a petri dish. I expect that both public transportation and ride-hailing may suffer. In America, "51% of respondents said they'd be less likely to use public transportation this year, rising to 53% in the future. Ride-hailing services fared nearly as badly: 49% said they were less likely to use them this year and in the future."
Words Of Wisdom from Dave Burge: "The deliberately planned demise of auto shop is the biggest tragedy to ever befall our education system. It's not that we need a zillion mechanics, we need a zillion people who *think* like mechanics."
Problem identification, problem solving and decision making are three key life skills which are no longer taught in schools. Educators seem more interested in teaching *feelings* and self-esteem bullshit, instead of teaching students to *think*. Refer to my posting: 'The Troubleshooting Guide To Almost Everything' for a six-step process to solve almost any problem.
Few schools teach critical thinking, where students are challenged to take a position (historical, political, theological, etc.), then analyze and defend it.
Plague Ahoy: Carnival Cruise Line says it will begin to phase-in cruises again starting August 1st with eight of its ships leaving from Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston.
Masked Purchase: California governor Gavin Newsom bought $1 billion worth of N95 face masks from China at the rate of 200 million masks per month. The deal was inked with failing Chinese electric car manufacturer BYD - which stands for Build Your Dreams - earlier this month. BYD has never made face masks before and their work on electric buses for California was shoddy.
BYD was formed in 1995 as a battery manufacturer. In 2008, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway purchased a 24.8% stake in the company. Since then, BYD has grown into one of the largest electric car makers.
"The paper reports that a Newsom administration official refused to provide state senators with a copy of the contract during a budget oversight hearing in Sacramento, despite the state having already paid half the cost. The state's chief deputy director of the Office of Emergency Services told senators via videoconference that providing all specifics of the deal would risk disrupting the supply line of masks to the state." A report on FoxBusiness said masks were received but they weren't the specified N95 ones. Instead, they were ordinary surgical masks, worth less than a dime each.
Don't buy stuff from China. As one of the Hong Kong demonstrators warned several months ago: "Don't trust China. China is asshole."
Wuhan Virus Update: I still can't get a haircut or a drink at a bar, but the virus has passed its peak in my area, based on the most recent numbers.
Battle Ground has 678 cases (positive tests) per million population, Clark County has a total of 386 cases (804 cases/million) - 10 are hospitalized, 3 are in intensive care. 71 cases are in assisted living facilities. Clark County has had 24 deaths so far, 16 were 80 or older, 16 men/8 women. Old men are clearly at greatest risk. In Clark County, only about 5% of those tested are positive for covid-19.
In Washington state: 16,891 confirmed cases, 931 deaths. 54% of all deaths are from King County in the Seattle area. Whites and Asians are at a greater risk of dying than any other race.
Clark County WA has a death rate of 50/million population, Washington state: 122 deaths/million, USA: 245 deaths/million and New York state: 1,381 deaths/million. About one-third of all U.S. virus fatalities come from New York City. Belgium has a national rate 751 deaths/million, Spain: 572 deaths/million, Italy: 506 deaths/million and the UK: 472 deaths/million.
Dead Tomatoes: Souplantation, a chain of all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurants operating as Sweet Tomatoes outside of southern California, is closing all of its restaurants permanently - another casualty of the China virus that is likely to be the death knell for all self-serve eateries. (As well as many other kinds of businesses.)
The permanent shuttering of the 97 restaurants, including 44 in California, will result in 4,400 lost jobs. The first Souplantation opened in 1978 in San Diego, California.
Given the new emphasis on ultra-clean food service - untouched by human hands - I question how Golden Corral and other self-serve buffet restaurant chains will survive unless they change their business model.
In related news, J.C. Penney is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection with plans to permanently close about a quarter of its roughly 850 stores, becoming the latest major U.S. retailer to succumb to fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
A bankruptcy filing would cap a long decline for the iconic 118-year-old department store chain, which struggled with a nearly $4-billion debt load and competition from e-commerce firms even before the pandemic's onset. J.C. Penney employs nearly 85,000. (Update: J.C. Penney filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy on May 15th.)
Who Knew? 'You'll Never Know' (by Dick Haymes) was the number one musical hit on the day I was born. Find your top song here.
Another Missed Marketing Opportunity: You'd think that the makers of Imodium, the anti-diarrhea pill, would sell a pill for constipation called Modium. (permalink)
Oh, No! Little Richard, the self-proclaimed Architect of Rock 'n' Roll, has died at age 87 of bone cancer. He had been ill with numerous disabilities for some time.
Richard Wayne Penniman's fervent shrieks, flamboyant garb, and joyful, gender-bending persona embodied the spirit and sound of that new art form and he added a unique sound to those early days of rock. With is big pompadour and screams of "Wooooooooo!", he was rock's screeching fireball - the world's wildest, most outrageous and exciting rock 'n'n roll performer of all time.
"Starting with “'Tutti Frutti' in 1956, Little Richard cut a series of unstoppable hits - 'Long Tall Sally', 'Ready Teddy' and 'Rip It Up' that same year, 'Lucille' in 1957, and 'Good Golly Miss Molly' in 1958 driven by his simple, pumping piano, gospel-influenced vocal exclamations and sexually charged (often gibberish) lyrics." In 1958, he quit the music biz and enrolled in preacher school at an Alabama Negro college run by Seventh Day Adventists. But he later returned to the rock scene.
In 1986, he was one of the 10 original inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as he properly should have been. Early raucous rock-and-rollers like ... (more >>>)
Serenity Now!!!! Comic actor Jerry Stiller has died at age 92. In the early-1960s, he appared as part of a comedy-duo with wife Anne Meara on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' and at nightclubs around NYC. In his later years, he played the volatile Frank Costanza, George's dad, on 'Seinfeld'. Who could forget Frank's dissatisfaction with the senior condos after one day at at Del Boca Vista: "That's it! We're moving back to Queens! Where's my hat?" Or Festivus for the rest of us. Or the mansierre. Or his mantra of calm which he screamed: "Serenity now!!!!"
Jerry once recalled that 'Seinfeld' represented "the best years of my life as an actor." He is survived by a daughter as well as a son, actor, comedian Ben Stiller. Rest in peace.
Quote Of The Day is from Alexis de Tocqueville: "The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."
Friday May 8, 2020
April Vehicle Sales: The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated light vehicle sales of 8.58 million SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate) in April 2020 , down 25% from the revised March sales rate, and down 48% from April 2019. AutoData also reported an April year-over-year decline of 48%.
Sales in March were revised down slightly from 11.37 million SAAR to 11.36 million SAAR. Sales collapsed in the second half of March, and in April were at the lowest level in 50 years.
Hyundai's core brand was down nearly 39%; Genesis was off by almost 19%, Kia fell 38%. Toyota saw sales fall by 54%, both at the Toyota division and at Lexus. Subaru of America Inc. reported 30,620 vehicle sales for April 2020, a 47% decrease compared with April 2019. Mazda saw auto sales drop 44.5% in April, yet only has seen a year to date drop in sales of 13.2% down to 78,610 vehicles.
Meanwhile, zero-percent financing deals are at an all-time high.
Don't expect much of an improvement in May. Many auto dealers remain closed to walk-in buyers and too many people are unemployed with uncertain futures.
Back To The Future: Whenever anyone mentions cars and the 1939 World's Fair, everyone thinks of the famous General Motors Futurama exhibit. But Chrysler had a pretty neat exhibit, too.
It included 3-D movies which you watched wearing special '39 Plymouth glasses ... (more >>>)
More Future Past: Let's not forget that, at the 1964 World's Fair, Chrysler had large building in the shape of a V-8 engine (go here and scroll down to see my photo of it) as well as a four-story building shaped like a giant car.
So Very Green: Yesterday, at 11:00 am, the weather was gorgeous, so I fired up my 1939 Plymouth coupe and went for a drive. As more people emerge from quarantine, the traffic is getting a little heavier but it is still not back to pre-virus conditions.
The temperature was 60 degrees, the sky was a pleasant azure color with only a few wispy clouds here and there. I encountered no Asian murder hornets, no swarms of declassified UFOs, nor Kim Jung Un stunt doubles during my brief excursion. I did have a crystal-clear view of a brilliant-white snow-covered Mt. St. Helens.
What was most noticeable was the greenery - it was that unique shade of Spring Green observed during my little tour. Grass, trees, weeds, etc. are a vibrant, glossy, verdant hue with no hint of the dull, dry look of summer.
I had a very good drive along the area's back roads and my old Plymouth ran great.
Used Car Sales Tanking: The decline in new vehicle sales due to the coronavirus pandemic isn't just a problem for automakers’ bottom lines. The full stop on sales is taking its toll on the used car market as well, causing prices to fall precipitously. New car incentives only add to the problem.
"Edmunds predicted that used values stay lower for the foreseeable future, but once the economy begins to rebound, used vehicles are often sought after as a place for consumers to save money when the nation is coming out of a recession. As a result, the slide in used values is expected to level off, but hopes for a rebound in pricing isn't something for sellers to hang their hat on as the longer vehicles sit, the more they lose in value. The timing is really unfavorable at this point."
Big Odor: The auto air freshener business in the U.S. is a $50 million industry. 76% of Americans surveyed used some form of auto air freshener. Little Trees is the biggest player with an estimated 30% of the market.
I prefer fresh air with the smell of real trees.
Never Let A Plague Go To Waste: Randal O'Toole observed that public transit advocates are pushing their agendas, despite mounting evidence that urban transit has been one of the main spreaders of the Wuhan flu.
"Seattle transit advocates held a 'Transportation for All and Covid-19 Solidarity Webinar' on March 30. As reported by the Washington Policy Center's Marissa Gaston, one of the webinars leaders urged, "Don't waste a good crisis to make positive transformative change."
One state representative argued that the "externalities of driving" were worse than coronavirus, so driving should be discouraged even though it is the safest way to travel during a pandemic. A state senator urged that transit advocates should use "Covid as an opportunity to try to reorient how we're thinking about transportation. … Can we switch to more non-single occupancy vehicle trips? Can we see more carpooling and more transit-riding?"" Pack 'em in tight, boys, and let 'em breathe, sneeze and cough on each other. "Yeah, that's the ticket," as serial liar Tommy Flanagan used to say on SNL.
Too bad they didn't have mass transit advocates in the 14th Century. They could have killed off a lot more people.
Cancel Culture: The 2020 Clark County Fair usually held in early August, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, if you're an amusement ride operator or other business that travels the fair circuit, you're screwed. Then there's all the 4H kids who have spent the winter raising and grooming animals to compete for awards. Sadly, their efforts and hard work were wasted this year.
It's amazing how deep and far this pandemic is affecting the economy. Also, popular downtown Vancouver (WA) brewpub Low Bar is closing permanently due to the economic impact of the Wuhan flu.
Meanwhile, my hair is getting long and shaggy because my barber is closed but, somehow, Washington Governor Jay Insley seems to have a fresh haircut. How'd that happen?
Department Store Death Watch: An article in the New York Times discusses the sorry state of department stores. "American department stores, once all-powerful shopping meccas that anchored malls and Main Streets across the country, have been dealt blow after blow in the past decade. J.C. Penney and Sears were upended by hedge funds. Macy's has been closing stores and cutting corporate staff."
The forced closures due to the Wuhan coronavirus have exacerbated things. "The sales of clothing and accessories fell by more than half in March, a trend that is expected to only get worse in April. … At a time when retailers should be putting in orders for the all-important holiday shopping season, stores are furloughing tens of thousands of corporate and store employees, hoarding cash and desperately planning how to survive this crisis."
The Neiman Marcus Group, the most glittering of the American department store chains, has declared bankruptcy. Neiman Marcus has a monstrous debt load to service; this exacerbated the retailer's woes.
Venerable U.S. retailer ... (more >>>)
Isn't This Like Appointing Hannibal Lecter To A Luncheon Committee? Accused sexual assaulter Joe Biden has appointed Chris Dodd as the head of his VP Search Committee. Dodd and Ted Kennedy were co-inventors of the Waitress-Sandwich, often used by the drunken duo on unsuspecting Washington, DC food servers in the 1980s and '90s.
"Carla Gaviglio was a waitress at the now-shuttered upscale Capitol Hill restaurant La Brasserie when Dodd and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy allegedly groped her after a lengthy dinner in a private dining room in December 1985. According to a GQ account of the night published in 1990, while the senator's dates were in the bathroom, a “very drunk” Kennedy grabbed Gaviglio and threw her onto the table, sending plates, cutlery, glasses and candles flying. Kennedy then picked up the terrified waitress, who was just 24 at the time, and put her on Dodd's lap Kennedy forcing himself on Gaviglio and rubbing his genitals on hers, the report said, the alleged assault becoming known by the cruel moniker 'waitress sandwich'."
Up Yours, Karen: On Monday, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell and NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss feared that President Trump conducting a virtual town hall with Fox News at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday night to discuss the coronavirus pandemic had somehow sullied the "hallowed ground" of the Washington D.C. monument. "And speaking of inconsistent messaging or unusual messaging, let's talk about the Lincoln Memorial," Mitchell proclaimed indignantly during her show, referring to the event. Turning to Beschloss, she complained: "…to a lot of people, that's hallowed ground." What a load of crap - just two more Trump-hating Karens mouthing off.
I remember when Gulf's Girard Point refinery (located in South Philadelphia) caught fire in 1975. It was a horrendous blaze. Eight firefighters were killed, 14 more were injured and four Philadelphia fire trucks were destroyed. I also remember a relatively young Andrea Mitchell (who was then a field reporter for KYW television - an NBC affiliate at the time) reporting on the blaze with the Penrose Avenue bridge - which spanned the refinery - in the background. In those days, Ms. Mitchell was not the glammed-up, blonde NBC anchor you see today. In the '70s, she had dark hair, a pockmarked complexion and a New Yawk voice and attitude. Often wearing a dark leather jacket, she looked like a tough South Philly broad. Who would have guessed that she would eventually marry Alan Greenspan, who was once the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
And, as a liberal tyrant, she's turned into a Karen. Andrea Mitchell doesn't know which end is up. This is what happens when you get your talking points from Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Cher, and George Soros.
Ass Bread - Is It A Sub-class Of Artisan Bread? And does Safeway carry it? In Medieval Times (the historical period, not the restaurant chain), people believed that impotence could be cured by consuming bread "that had been kneaded with a woman's buttocks."
I learn something new every day.
Hail To The Chief: Philadelphia kiddie show icon Chief Halftown hosted the world's longest running local TV children's show from 1950 to 1999. His signature greeting was "Ees da sa sussaway," which is Seneca for "Let's get started."
Traynor Ora Halftown was born in 1917 on the Cattaragus Reservation about 25 miles south of Buffalo, N.Y. He was a full-blooded Native American. His grandfather toured with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.
The Philadelphia kiddie show started out as an inexpensive cartoon vehicle with ... (more >>>)
Sunday is Mother's Day ... so I wish a hearty Happy Mother's Day to all moms (especially mine) - whoever and wherever they may be.
Mother's Day was officially established in the early 20th Century. At first, it was the custom to wear a white carnation to honor one's mother. In part due to the shortage of white carnations, and in part due to the efforts to expand the sales of more types of flowers on Mother's Day, florists invented the idea of wearing a red carnation if your mother was living, or a white one if she was deceased; this was tirelessly promoted until it made its way into the popular observations at churches.
I remember carnations being sold outside of churches on Mother's Day, when I was young. I always felt a little sorry for my dad; he wore a white carnation because his mother died when he was only 23 years-old - a year before I was born.
In the past 35 years, I've not seen carnations worn on Mother's Day, either because the custom never caught on in the Pacific Northwest or because the tradition has waned. Perhaps it's because no one seems to dress up anymore, so there are no lapels on which to affix carnations.
Another Retail Fail: Once a mail-order giant - peddling preppy clothes through its catalog, retailer J. Crew has declared bankruptcy due to flagging sales exacerbated by the China virus shutdown. The retailer has been grappling with competition from online firms such as Amazon that have been eating into traditional retailers' market share and complaints about the poor quality of some of its offerings.
Founded in 1947, the firm operates almost 500 stores - 193 J.Crew stores, 172 J.Crew Factory outlets and 132 Madewell locations.
Quote Of The Day is from Jean-Paul Kauffman: "The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters."
Wednesday May 6, 2020
Time Required To Recoup Investment - Never: Lexus' hybrid flagship LS sedan costs nearly $5,000 more than the standard LS model yet delivers less performance and only marginally better fuel economy. Ezra Dyer of Car and Driver noted, "Last year, only 187 customers opted for the hybrid, proving that Lexus LS buyers are nothing if not rational actors."
Sadly, long payback times are common for most hybrids. Then there's the Bentley Bentayga Hybrid SUV - its highway mileage is lower than the non-hybrid model. Sebastian Blanco of C-D wrote, "Going hybrid doesn't always mean getting the best fuel economy in all circumstances. Instinctively, it should, but engineering realities don't always line up with our instincts. … A Bentley spokesperson tells us that the difference in highway fuel economy between the hybrid and gas models is due to the additional weight of the battery pack and the PHEV system."
Interesting Development: Hyundai is developing a mid-engined sports car to take on the Toyota Supra and Nissan Z. It could also be a poor man's Boxster.
A turbocharged inline-four engine will likely produce well over 300 horsepower and the car will be available for sale within 2-3 years. The decision makers in South Korea "are still weighing whether their car should be a $40,000 Hyundai or a $70,000 Genesis."
Pricey Electric: The 2020 E-Tron Sportback, a swoopier version of the standard E-Tron that inaugurates several powertrain improvements.
"The electric Sportback will carry a base price of $78,395 when it begins arriving in American showrooms in the summer of 2020, a figure that includes a $995 destination charge. In comparison, the E-Tron starts at $75,795 after the same destination charge enters the equation. Eligible buyers can claim a one-time $7,500 tax credit from the federal government, and some states offer additional incentives."
Bad Numbers, Even Worse To Come: Ford reported a $2 billion loss in the first quarter of 2020 and warned investors of a probable $5 billion loss in the second quarter due to the Wuhan flu outbreak.
"The results reflect the crippling effects of the pandemic on automakers’ bottom lines, even though the ongoing North American production shutdown went into effect less than two weeks before the end of the quarter. Results from the current quarter are sure to be even worse, Ford said, with no cars, trucks or SUVs rolling off North American assembly lines in April and Detroit automakers tentatively eyeing a mid-May restart date - roughly midway through the second quarter."
The recession will be deep and not as brief as some are predicting. As for stocks, recent gains are just an uptick in a bear market, in my opinion. Hold on for dear life.
Eco-Indifference: Jeremy Clarkson once made this comment on Gaia: "And nor do I care much about the wellbeing of the planet. It's big and old enough to be able to look after itself."
My Newest Word: Procrastitard (noun) - Someone who employs turn signals when the maneuver indicated is already 90% complete.
A Girl's Gotta Earn: In Portland, strippers from closed-down clubs are now offering topless food delivery. They do wear surgical masks though.
For a $30 delivery fee, Boober Eats allows customers to order a burger and fries (or a salad, or a steak, or any variety of dishes) delivered to their homes, where two dancers will show up accompanied by a driver/security guard. Equipped with masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, the dancers deliver food to the customer's doorstep, within the six-feet guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Aaaarrrrrgh! I still miss the little chef image on our old microwave. That Sharp Carousel microwave passed away fifteen years ago. It probably had a fatal myocardial infarction from all the greasy junk food it had cooked during its brief life.
Healthy food always seems to be prepared in an oven, stove or grill, while the unhealthy - albeit tasty - stuff gets zapped. There is something tantalizing about watching grated cheese melt over a rotating pile of nachos. It seemed almost ballet-like - a 35-second performance of 'Cholesterol Lake'.
Our late microwave had a 3-inch LCD screen which counted down the time. When the cooking was done, a little chef appeared on-screen (with chef's hat, funny mustache and 'OK' hand signal) with the message: "Enjoy!" No one was watching when the Sharp bit the dust, but I suspect the chef grimaced, grabbed at his chest and produced the message "Aaaarrrrrgh!"
Chefie, we hardly knew ye. (permalink)
Life Imitates Monty Python: In Canada (cue 'The Lumberjack Song'), a man "bought a parrot that wasn't YET stone-dead, but it HAD been evidencing signs of a terminal illness … signs the shopkeeper assured the customer that it was simply evidence of the parrot (yes, there really was a parrot in this story!) 'molting'."
A veterinarian diagnosed the bird with psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), "an extremely contagious and lethal virus" that is usually contracted "from a contaminated environment or directly from an infected bird."
The parrot's owner is suing the pet shop.
During My Lifetime, I Think I've Worked For A Few Of These: A newly-discovered New Zealand jellyfish, of the family Coeloplana, has its mouth on its underside and its anus wrapped around its brain.
Excommunicate Him: Former VP, alleged Catholic and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden underlined his shift on the issue of abortion, describing it as "an essential health care service" during the China flu pandemic. "We need to ensure that women have access to all health services during this crisis. Abortion is an essential health care service. It's being used as a political wedge right now. And it shouldn't be," said Biden. Then he fell asleep.
Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser called Biden's comments "shameful," noting that he "has not only aligned himself with the failed agenda of Hillary Clinton, which the American people soundly rejected in 2016 when they elected President Trump - a major political liability for him - he has raced further to the left than any nominee before him in his bid to appease the radical abortion lobby."
Book Review: Billion Dollar Brand Club: How Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker and Other Disruptors Are Remaking What We Buy' by Lawrence Ingrassa
Too many business books are informative but dull as dishwater. Not this one. The author is a good storyteller, making each business story an adventure and adding a lesson at the end. Ingrassa takes us inside the revolution of upstart brands disrupting markets and stealing market share from established (big, comfortably-lazy) giants.
You'll learn how Dollar Shave Club found out what annoyed blade buyers most ... (more >>>)
Quote of the Day is from W. Somerset Maugham: "Only a mediocre writer is always at his best."
Monday May 4, 2020
Porsche Versus Tesla: Car and Driver did a head-to-head comparison test between the all-electric Porsche Taycan Turbo S and the Tesla Model S. Both are very fast and have similar real-world mileage ranges but Tesla costs far less than Porsche due to Porsche's love of expensive optional equipment.
"Tesla wins this one largely on price, but the Model S's virtues stand on their own, too. Some spreadsheet fiddling suggests that the finishing order wouldn't have changed had we pitted the Tesla against the far slower $105,150 Taycan 4S. Given the Model S Performance comes at a $85,160 discount to the Taycan Turbo S, there's no question which is the better buy."
One sentence in the article caught my eye: "But the Model S still has a lot going for it. The interior continues to impress, particularly with the $2,000 white leatherette in our car."
Leatherette is, of course vinyl. My first Volkswagen Beetle was red with a near-white leatherette interior. The whole car cost less than $2,000, although that was in 1963. The idea of paying extra for vinyl is mind-boggling to me as is the idea for paying for "premium" blacked-out wheels and blacked-out trim. Such cars look like the black-bumper cars driven by Mennonites in the 1950s and '60s.
My car perception world has turned upside down.
Backyard Geniuses: Dave Burge observed, "For my money, the coolest 1950s small block Chevy-powered Ford hot rod was Duffy Livingstone's 'Eliminator', a Model T roadster with a beefed up Chevy 283 that regularly smoked brand new Ferraris on road courses."
"That's the spirit of hot rodding distilled: one guy with a garage, ingenuity, ambition, and a pile of junk parts beating the pants off some rich boy's store-bought Spaghetti GTO."
That would also apply to ... (more >>>)
First Old Car Drive Of May: It was sunny and 62 degrees at 11:00 am last Friday, so fired up my 1939 Plymouth business coupe and I went for a back roads run. Traffic is progressively getting heavier; people are venturing out despite what Washington Oberführer Jay Inslee demands. The traffic didn't slow me down - most of it was going the other way.
There was much pale blue sky overhead with puffy clouds here and there. I could only see part of still-snowy Mt. St. Helens though; the top was obscured by wispy clouds. I had a good drive and got lots of fresh air (I drove with the windows down) but there were ominous clouds to the west. Sure enough, by noon, the clouds had rolled in. It began to rain just before 3:00 pm and rain continued throughout the weekend.
We drove to the store a couple of hours earlier and it was much sunnier with bright blue, almost cloudless skies. Everyone was wearing masks and keeping social distancing. One bearded geezer jerk wanted to use the 24 foot marker to stand in line, instead of the usual six-feet, screwing up the line for everyone else. Moron. Store traffic was fairly light, especially for a Friday. The nearby car wash was open, so I treated the Lexus to a basic wash while my wife continued shopping.
The Return Of Jaguar: Tata-owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) plans to gradually resume production on May 18th, starting with manufacturing plants in Solihull in the UK as well as in Slovakia and Austria.
Pony Developer: Retired Ford Motor Company stylist Gale Halderman, who was instrumental in the design of the original 1965 Mustang, has passed away at age 87 from liver cancer.
"Sad news for Mustang fans everywhere," said Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford museum. "Lee Iacocca will always be remembered as the father of the Mustang, but he was merely the driving force behind a team of talented designers, engineers, and marketers - with Mr. Halderman prominent among them." Halderman is credited with proposing the long scoop on the Mustang's side. Some 55 years later, that scoop is still a defining feature on the car. I'm glad to know that Mr. Halderman's contributions were recognized and celebrated by Mustang fans over the years. He knew how much the car meant to owners and enthusiasts."
I reviewed Gale's biography in detail here. RIP.
Fake Boobs - Is There Anything They Can't Do? In a remarkable study, researchers report what they say is the first documented case in medical literature of a silicone breast implant altering a bullet's trajectory and most likely saving a woman's life.
The incident "took place in Ontario, Canada, and the events of the evening are the subject of an ongoing investigation, with the shooter remaining unidentified, and the firearm used in the episode never having been recovered. What is certain, though, is that a 30-year-old woman with breast implants sustained severe chest trauma after being struck by a bullet in public at night, with the projectile hitting her suddenly and without warning."
Although reported cases like this might be rare, there are at least two other cases in medical literature where ruptured breast implants are thought to have played a role in saving patients' lives after they were stuck by bullets.
Short-Term Opportunities May Mask Long-Term Pain: This is a cautionary tale about Prestige Ameritech and its owner, Mike Bowen. The North Richland Hills, TX company is America's number one maker of hospital surgical masks.
During the 2020 coronavirus crisis, you'd think the company would be working 24/7 to manufacture the one commodity that Americans and the rest of the world want so badly. "But … noooooo," as John Belushi used to say.
In 2007, Bowen warned that allowing another country to serve as our main supplier of personal protection equipment had the potential to become a national security nightmare. But no one listened. Of the current situation, Mr. Bowen said, "There is 200 times more demand than there is supply. My phone is ringing every two minutes. Every one minute I am getting an email."
The story is that, during an outbreak like this, everybody wants to be his customer. But as soon as an outbreak subsides, some customers dump him and run back to China. The reason? His masks may cost a dime each, but a made-in-China mask might go for only two cents. This time around, Prestige Ameritech is apparently asking new customers to sign long-term contracts before the company accepts their large orders. Most refuse because, as soon as things get back to normal, they'll go back to buying cheapie masks from China. Or some other low-cost country.
The company is ... (more >>>)
Wuhan Virus Update: Almost 70% of all Washington state Wuhan flu cases are in three counties - King, Snohomish and Pierce (all in the Seattle-Tacoma metro area). Those three counties account for over 74% of Chinese coronavirus deaths. Less than 3% of the state's cases are in Clark County in Southwest Washington where I live. Yet our moron governor has extended the closure of the entire state through May 31 and revealed a 4-phase plan to reopening the state. "I would like to tell you that you can make reservations for June 1, but I can't," Inslee said. "We will have to monitor, assess and adapt."
As of Friday, Clark County WA had 361 cases and 21 deaths. Two-thirds of all deaths were people age 80 or older.
Of those Clark County deaths, at least seven people have died and more than two dozen have been infected with the coronavirus at Highgate Senior Living, a long-term care facility in Vancouver, WA. As of last Wednesday, seven have died and at least 18 residents and eight staff members have contracted the illness, The facility is home to about 60 residents and represents one of the biggest clusters of coronavirus cases in southwest Washington.
Battle Ground had 600-900 cases per million people as of last Friday. Washington state had 2,078 cases per million. The United States had 3,466 cases/MM. Spain had 5,197 cases/MM; Ireland was at 4,319.
Philadelphia, PA had over 13,445 covid-19 cases and 516 deaths as of a week ago. Northeast Philadelphia ZIP codes accounted for over 21% of total cases.
The last word on the virus and the state of the nation goes to a Facebook poster "Corona is starting to feel like the Check Engine light. At first it freaks you out, but after a few weeks you're like: 'Look, I gotta go to work.'"
Big Apple Prediction: Don Surber wrote, "Manhattan will be like it was in the 1970s again, only there is no young Donald John Trump on the horizon to reverse the fleeing, and there is no Rudy Giuliani to fight the crime."
"Manhattan is a ghost town. The streets are empty in a city of 8 million. This is not their fault. Yes, they could have acted sooner but this punishment does not fit the mistake. This is not 9/11 where everyone rallied behind New York. Rudy Giuliani is not the mayor now, some communist named de Blasio is. New York was a victim in 2001. Now many Americans blame New York City for this shutdown."
"The financial center of America is now the epicenter of COVID-19 of America. Wall Street is now telecommuting. Is there any reason to stop once the all-clear signal sounds? The trillions of dollars invested in stocks and bonds can be bought and sold online. Why bother having a presence in Manhattan where the rents are high? Brokers are still needed, but they can relocate to less congested places that are less susceptible to Chinese viruses.
Other corporate headquarters also will re-locate. Why would a CEO risk his health to live there?"
"Then there is Times Square and tourism. Visit New York City? Are you crazy? Why would anyone from Twin Oaks, Ohio, want to risk getting the next COVID-19 there?"
"Nearly half of restaurants in New York are closed even with the provision that they can serve food and alcoholic beverages for takeout and delivery. I doubt they will re-open. This is tragic. 8 million people will suffer for a far longer time than most people realize."
It Was Temporary Until It Became Permanent: American-based premium food and gift producer and retailer Harry & David will not reopen its 38 brick-and-mortar stores which were shuttered by the Wuhan virus.
Now owned by 1-800-Flowers.com, H&D had a long history as a mail-order retailer long before there was an internet. For many years, the firm had only one retail location at its headquarters and orchards in Medford, Oregon. The Medford location will continue to operate; it is also a factory clearance store. 1-800 Flowers said that the about 370 employees who work at the retail locations will be offered severance or jobs in other parts of the company.
Blonde Joke: Three young ladies were all applying for the last available position on the detective bureau. The detective conducting the interview looked at the three of them and said, "So you want to be cops, huh?" The blondes all nodded.
The detective got up, opened a file drawer and pulled out a folder. He opened it, pulled out a picture, and said, "To be a detective, you have to be able to detect. You must be able to notice things such as distinguishing features and oddities like scars and so forth." He then stuck the photo in the face of the first blonde and withdrew it after about two seconds, asking, "Did you notice any distinguishing features about this man?"
The blonde immediately said, "Yes, I did. He has only one eye!" The detective shook his head and said, "Of course he has only one eye in this picture! It's a profile of his face, you ninny! You're dismissed." The blonde hung her head and walked out of the office.
The detective then turned to the second blonde, stuck the photo in her face for two seconds, pulled it back and said, "What about you? Notice anything unusual or outstanding about this man?"
"Yes! He only has one ear!" The detective put his head in his hands and exclaimed, "Didn't you hear what I just told the other lady? This is a profile of the man's face! Of course you can only see one ear! Dismissed!" The second blonde sheepishly left the office.
He detective turned his attention to the third blonde, said, "This is probably a waste of time ...", flashed the photo in her face for a couple of seconds and withdrew it, asking, "Did you notice anything distinguishing or unusual about this man?"
The blonde said, "I sure did. He's wearing contact lenses." The detective frowned, took another look at the picture and began looking at some of the papers in the folder. He looked up at the blonde with a puzzled expression and said, "Holy cow ... you're absolutely right! His bio says he wears contacts. How could you tell that by looking at that picture?"
She rolled her eyes and said, "Helloooo! With only one eye and one ear, he sure can't wear glasses."
Quote of the Day is from Bill Vaughan: "It might be a good idea if the various countries of the world would occasionally swap history books, just to see what other people are doing with the same set of facts."
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