A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Friday January 23, 2015
Road Roomba: Dan Neil tested the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid, noting that "Toyota's media materials claim the 2015 Camry is "easily the best-handling and most comfortable-riding Camry ever." My test car, the Hybrid SE, offered the vivid driving thrills of a Roomba, so I marvel at that notion."
I dunno. We have a Roomba but I've never ridden on it. The way it scoots and turns, it might be fun. When working its magic, the little robot cleaner spins and staggers through various rooms, like a tipsy Kennedy at a D.C. pickup bar.
"Powered by a Hybrid Synergy Drive system (200 net horsepower) comprising an Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter inline four and a high-torque motor/generator/whirligig, the Hybrid gets 43 mpg in the city - 41 combined - and can nip to 60 in a not-discreditable 7.6 seconds. It does, however, sound mostly like a refrigerator."
Why do so many people buy Camrys? Neil cited "the thousand minute encounters with the machine comprising the automotive experience." The hassle-free, easy-to-drive, cheap-to-maintain satisfaction as measured over time. "I'm not talking about peak horsepower, cornering grip or braking distance. For all the blood on the floor over 0-60 times and lateral G-force, consumers are far more likely to ditch their cars because of aching backs or because the touch screens are fidgety."
Cadillac Style: The Space Race in car design began when General Motors found out about designer Virgil Exner's new 'Suddenly It's 1960' '57 Chrysler Corp. line-up; the GM styling department almost soiled its corporate trousers.
Suddenly, The General realized that Styling VP Harley Earl's age of high 'power dome' hoods and chrome applied by the bucketful with a trowel was over. It was too late to do anything about the '58 models (the '58 Buicks and Oldsmobiles are case studies in high hoods and excess brightwork), but a crash program was initiated to make GM's 1959 models as wild as Chrysler's. The result were creations such as the soaring-finned '59 Caddy and the bat-winged '59 Chevy.
Understandably, Cadillac had some reason to worry. In 1957, sales of the all-new, big-finned Imperial more than quadrupled and came very close to Lincoln's sales figures for the year. Cadillac's sales were down 5% from 1956, despite the demise of the big Packards - which most auto pundits thought would send conservative Packard clients in Cadillac's direction. Looking at the sales data, it appeared that Packard's loss was Imperial's gain.
Postwar Cadillacs were always modern-looking automobiles but they also carried hints of the brand's historic values. But the 1959 models introduced so many style changes simultaneously - huge, soaring rocket fins, bullet taillights, a large compound wraparound windshield, thin-section rooflines and slim roof pillars - that they received much criticism from the press, design experts and others for abandoning Caddy's familiar ... (more >>>)
Throwing Money At A Problem Doesn't Necessarily Solve It: Money is often wasted, especially by government.
Businesses waste money too, but soon learn from their mistakes, either because the money drain makes them look closer at the problem, or drives them bankrupt or activist stockholders point it out and, if its not fixed, replace the management dolts with new, smarter executives. Sadly, in government these fixes don't happen because the bureaucracy is too large and there's far less oversight.
John Hinderaker of Powerline has provided just one example: public education spending.
Hinderaker wrote, "And if the money we have spent so far hasn't done the trick, the solution is to spend even more. The possibility that there is little or no correlation between federal spending and progress is one they can't comprehend."
This graphic illustration from the Cato Institute, illustrates the point. It plots per-pupil K-12 spending in constant 2012 dollars against student achievement in reading, math and science.
Hinderaker concluded, "I'm going to go out on a limb here: I don't think that demands for ever more spending on public education have anything to do with benefiting students."
Things That Happen To You When You Get Old: I regularly receive mailings from The Neptune Society, a cremation service provider. Shouldn't a firm with that name be doing burials at sea?
When I think of what good name for a cremation service might be, I come up with like The Firemen's Fund, Hunka-Hunka Burnin' Love, Ashes-R-Us, Torched-n-Scortched or The League of Extraordinary Arsonists. (permalink)
Headline Of The Week is from The Onion: 'Postal Service Unveils New Line Of Stamps Honoring Americans Who Still Use Postal Service'.
In an effort to highlight their longstanding contributions and loyalty to the agency, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a new line of commemorative stamps Wednesday honoring those Americans who still use the U.S. Postal Service.
"Our latest series of Forever stamps recognizes the remaining citizens who continue to support the USPS by physically sending their bills, rent checks, and thank-you cards via traditional mail," said Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe, noting that the newly issued stamps will depict such longtime supporters as Linda Campbell, an elderly Charleston, SC resident who still writes letters to her loved ones regularly, and 24-year-old Nicole Meier, who sends postcards during various trips around the country using the national mailing system.
RIP Tootsie Roll King: Melvin Gordon, chairman and CEO of Tootsie Roll Industries - who helped turn the enduring popularity of the humble Tootsie Roll into a candy empire, has died at 95. He was board chair for over 50 years. His wife, Ellen Gordon, will take over his positions.
Along with its namesake cylindrical chocolate chews, Tootsie Roll sells candy under the Blow Pop, Dots, Junior Mints, Charleston Chews and Dubble Bubble brands.
Restaurant Review: Philly Bilmos; Vancouver, WA
This East Vancouver shopping center sandwich shop has Philadelphia memorabilia on the walls and offers great cheese steaks and pizza steaks, served on authentic-tasting rolls - an important component of a proper Philly steak. We've been patronizing this place since 2006 and the only change is that ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Eric Hoffer: "Retribution often means that we eventually do to ourselves what we have done unto others."
Wednesday January 21, 2015
Cheap Driving: Mark Perry has produced a graph showing the minutes of work required to buy enough gasoline to drive 100 miles:
"Incorporating the combined effects of: a) the increase in average fuel economy over time, b) the increase in the average hourly wage, and c) falling gas prices, the chart above shows the number of minutes of work required to buy enough gasoline to drive 100 miles. At 27.2 minutes, the current cost of gas in minutes worked to drive 100 miles is the lowest since 1999 (26.3 minutes). If gas prices fall another 26 cents per gallon from $2.36 currently to $2.10 per gallon, gas prices adjusted for fuel economy and wages would be the cheapest in US history. In some states like Oklahoma ($2.03), Missouri ($2.04), Kansas ($2.11), Texas ($2.13) and Indiana ($2.14), gas prices are already below or near that level."
Now You See It, Now You Don't: Volvo, now owned by Chinese automaker Geely - in case you forgot, plans to market directly to buyers but will skip most auto shows. In the U.S., Volvo will exhibit at just one car show, the Detroit Auto Show, skipping Chicago, New York and LA, as well as the smaller regional shows.
In Europe, Volvo is expected to attend the major show in Geneva while skipping Frankfurt and Paris. Volvo is expected to have a presence at a major Chinese show, either Beijing or Shanghai.
"The changes are part of a new global marketing strategy from the Swedish brand. Called the 'Volvo Way to Market', Volvo hopes to attract new buyers by emphasizing digital leadership, up to and including e-commerce sales of its vehicles in markets where such transactions are permitted. Dealerships will be required to adopt a standardized look and feel, with a focus on details to reinforce the brand's Scandinavian heritage."
Customer-centric changes will extend to the service side as well; upon taking delivery of a new Volvo, buyers will be assigned a Personal Service Technician, to remain with the customer throughout his ownership of the vehicle.
Volvo sales slipped an estimated 9% in 2014 and the company felt they had to do something. If this strategy doesn't work, it will probably be renamed the 'Volvo Way Not to Market'.
Book Review: 'The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution' by Walter Isaacson
This book chronicled computer and later, internet history, beginning with the Babbage Difference Engine of 1822 and gave numerous examples of how innovation happens and how digital technology has changed the world. My introduction to computers was more than a century later, when I learned Fortran as an engineering student.
Author Isaacson wove an engaging and revealing story of the people who created the computer and the Internet. I found the various stories mostly ... (more >>>)
Bad Prediction: "The computer will never be as important as the copier."
This came from the shortsighted head of Xerox NY research facility sometime in the mid-1970s, according to Walter Isaacson in his book, 'The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution'.
More bad predictions are listed here.
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "America is positively no longer a melting pot. We're a giant wallet waiting to be picked."
Monday January 19, 2015
Sleek & Smooth: This 1:43 diecast model, manufactured by Ixo Models as part of its Museum Series and one of my Christmas gifts, is a scale representation of Pourtout-bodied Delage D8-120 S Aero Coupe was commissioned by Louis Delage himself for the 1937 Paris Auto Show and as his personal car.
Georges Paulin, principal stylist for coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout, designed the sleek aerodynamic body. Unlike many other designers of the era ... (more >>>)
2015 Scottsdale Auctions: F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand."
Yes, the rich are indeed different. Someone who pays almost $10 million for a single Ferrari does not just have one collector car. Or one Ferrari. Typically, he has a collection - 20 to 50 cars. He employs several mechanics just to care for them. Often, such folk own a tricked-out enclosed car carrier to transport their prized vehicles to shows. It's fair to assume that this person's collection is worth north of $30 million. The kind of person who has such a collection is quite rich, probably worth a half-billion or more.
This man is likely a first or second generation business owner, with a firm large enough to allow his sheet metal indulgences, including the time off to travel to auctions and hobnob with other, like-minded collectors.
This year's Scottsdale car auction week was full of such aging white dudes with lotsa money, bidding up car prices toward the stratosphere as they sought their automotive nirvana du jour. Or the nostalgia of their youth.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. In America, we celebrate success. And, if a self-made guy wants to spend his own excess cash overpaying for a shiny piece of rolling automotive art, who are we to judge? It's better than, say, giving the money to the Democratic National Committee who - if they had their way - would have all of us driving Trabants. Or puny electric microcars. Or riding public transit.
Enabling auctioneers RM Auctions, Gooding & Co, Bonhams and Barrett-Jackson helped orchestrate January's Arizona feeding frenzy and there was, indeed, lots of ... (more >>>)
Amazon On Wheels: Tesla Motors is watching its shares free-fall after its CEO Elon Musk made some less than positive projections on the company's outlook at the Automotive News World Congress. He predicted that the company would not have a profitable year until 2020.
To reach profitability, the company will need to sell 500,000 cars/year, which is not projected until 2020 said Musk. Tesla's Model 3, an entry-level product priced at $35,000, is not expected until 2017. Tesla sold about 33,000 cars in calendar 2014.
The Tesla story sounds too much like Amazon, which has claimed since 2000 or so, that they need to get 'bigger' in order to make more money. Amazon is still "ramping up" - the story it's been pedaling since it was a mere $3 billion company in 2000. How can Amazon be still in ramp-up mode as a $75 billion entity?
Selling Fords: My dad bought his 1956 Ford Mainline Tudor sedan from Alvin A. Swenson Ford, which claimed to be the 'Largest Ford Dealer in the Northeast' (the slogan vaguely hinted at the largest in the NE United States, although the boast probably referred to the Northeast section of Philadelphia).
Swenson had been around for a long time; a 1922 ad noted ... (more >>>)
Alarming Business Trend: Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton sounded the alarm that "for the first time in 35 years, American business deaths now outnumber business births." Clifton says for the past six years since 2008, employer business startups have fallen below the business failure rate, spurring what he calls "an underground earthquake" that only stands to worsen as lagging U.S. Census data becomes available. "Let's get one thing clear: This economy is never truly coming back unless we reverse the birth and death trends of American businesses," decried Clifton.
The statistics are worrisome. Contrary to the oft-cited 26 million businesses in America figure, Clifton says 20 million of these so-called 'businesses' are merely companies on paper with zero workers, profits, customers or sales. I suspect many of these are part-time moonlighting employees, people who have been sucked into get-rich-quick, work at home schemes as well as people on the bottom rungs of multi-level marketing distributorships such as Amway, Mary Kay and the like. All are Schedule C filers who report very low annual sales.
In reality, America has just 6 million businesses with one or more employees 3.8 million of which have four or fewer employees. In total, these 6 million U.S. companies provide jobs for more than 100 million people in America. Of the 2.2 million job-creating companies with five or more workers, the numbers break down accordingly ... (more >>>)
Not A Parody From 'The Onion': Secretary of State and wealthy buffoon John F. Kerry traveled to Paris last week, bringing 'hugs' and has-been musician James Taylor to serenade grief-stricken Parisians with 'You've Got A Friend'.
Folk songs - the Obama Administration's answer to Islamic Terror. Kumbaya, suckers.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals' expansion of the welfare state."
Friday January 16, 2015
Sunny Morning Comin' Down: If you read much of my writing, you'd think that it rains continuously from November 1st to July 10th around here. The fact is that we do get a few sunny days even in Winter. Wednesday was one such day. This is the view at 7:30 am from our deck - the outside temperature was a chilly 30 degrees:
By 1:00 pm, it had warmed up to 44 degrees, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took my first drive of 2015. By then, the clouds were beginning to move in - the rains returned Thursday - but I had a nice country roads drive.
There was enough sun and clear skies remaining to permit a good view of the giant white Hostess Sno Ball known as Mount St. Helens. The Plymouth fired right up and, after a little cold stumbling - the automatic choke has never worked properly - I settled in for a smooth ride, serenaded by the coupe's dual Glasspacks.
The original 1939 heater is pretty useless and the vinyl seats will suck the heat out of buttocks within a half-mile radius.
Nevertheless, I had a fun ride and a good beginning to 2015. Perhaps it's a sign of better times ahead. (permalink)
GM's Euro-Fail: General Motors' efforts to turn around its European operations have suffered another blow. As sales of all cars of any brand in Europe moved higher by 1.4% in November 2014 to 953,886, sales of Opel dropped 11.9% to 62,908. GM has fallen to sixth place in Europe, as measured by market share at 6.6%. Even BMW sales bested GM last month.
General Motors' figures contrast against the improvement in sales of Volkswagen, the largest car company in Europe based on sales. In November, VW's market share was 26.5% to Opel's 6.6%. The market share of the number two car company in Europe, PSA Group (maker of Peugeot), was 10.3%, followed by Renault at 9.7%, Ford at 6.7% and BMW at 6.9%.
GM Europe has lost money for more than a decade. I've written more about Opel and its British cousin, Vauxhall, here.
Streamlined Flop: The Chrysler Airflow was produced by the Chrysler Corporation from 1934 to 1937. The Airflow was one of the first full-size American production car to use streamlining as a basis for building a sleeker, more aerodynamic automobile.
The Airflow was a huge commercial failure; it was shunned by prospective buyers because they did not like its looks. In 1935, Chrysler responded by installing a slightly peaked grille that replaced the unloved waterfall unit of 1934. For the 1936 model year, the grille became more pronounced and more conventional.
Chrysler offered a more conventional-looking automobile, the Airstream, starting in 1935. In 1936, Chrysler sold only 1,590 of its Airflow four door sedans. In contrast, over 6,500 Airstream four-door models found buyers that year.
The 1936 Chrysler Airflow four-door ... (more >>>)
Middle Kingdom Mega-Market: Last year, Volkswagen sold 10 million vehicles worldwide; 3.7 million went to China.
Business Advice: A salesperson, trying to close me on signing up for some new technology, said, "Joe, the train is leaving the station. Either get on board or get left behind." Wow! Did he get my Irish up! I lost all faith in the facts which he had presented and showed him the door.
New technology, new machinery or new products are interesting and exciting. As a smart business owner, you should keep your eyes open to spot changes in your business world. But if some salesperson says to you, "If you don't do it right-this-here-minute, you're doomed.", you should run - not walk - to the nearest exit. There are lots of new things out there - materials, processes, technology, devices, software and apps. Some of them don't quite work yet. As a former new product specialist for a Fortune 500 company, I can state that any responsible new products person will tell you the risks and rewards of any new endeavor.
A new products specialist wants satisfied Beta-test customers because these customers will happily provide the testimonials needed to launch a new product. And there are enough ... (more >>>)
Years Later, Still Lousy: Bank of America remains deeply unpopular. The banking giant received an American Customer Satisfaction Index score of just 69, well below the industry average of 76, and "an indicator that customers are highly unsatisfied with the bank. Worse still, the company received the highest share of poor reviews of any business in Zogby Analytics’ 2014 customer service survey."
B of A's inability to satisfy customers is not its only problem ... (more >>>)
Coincidence? Or What?! Peter Paul Reubens painted great, fleshy mounds. Peter Paul Mounds taste great after a Reuben sandwich. (permalink)
Book Review: 'What Stays In Vegas: The World of Personal Data - Lifeblood of Big Business - and the End of Privacy as We Know It' by Adam Tanner
This book is about companies collecting personal data and using it to improve their sales and promotional methods. Much of the book focuses on Las Vegas, mostly Caesars Entertainment. Using Loyalty Cards, Caesars learns what games they like to play, what foods they enjoy for breakfast, when they prefer to visit and who their favorite hostess might be. They use these data to tailor promotions to individuals in order to keep them returning and spending.
The author frequently meanders far afield ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Ayn Rand: "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities."
Wednesday January 14, 2015
2015 Detroit Auto Show: As regular readers know, the first auto show I ever attended was the 1960 Philadelphia Auto Show in November 1959.
Ever since then, I have faithfully followed auto show coverage because I wanted to see what the future held by looking at all the wild concept cars on display. Alas, I continue to be disappointed by the lack of far-out machinery, such as bubble-topped flying cars, powered by nuclear turbine engines, at this year's Detroit Auto Show.
When I was growing up, magazines like 'Popular Mechanics' and 'Mechanix Illustrated' predicted that tires and roads would soon be obsolete and we'll get around in flying cars with Plexiglas roofs. Never happened.
While there were no bubble-topped, flying cars to be seen at this year's Detroit show - the one precociously renamed the North American International Auto Show, there were some new model introductions that caught my interest:
"I'm A Lumberjack And I'm OK ..." I had never heard of lumbersexuals before. Had you?
Their attire is apparently "jeans, work boots, and a flannel shirt." And tattoos.
Thanks, now I'm really confused.
Defining quote: "He was white. Somehow, at a fairly elegant affair, he had found a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Since then they've multiplied. You can see them in coffee shops and bars and artisanal butchers. They don't exactly cut down trees, but they might try their hand at agriculture and woodworking, even if only in the form of window-box herb gardens."
Window-box herb gardens? Sounds ... ummm ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "How come at so-called 'Baby Changing Stations' you always end up with the same baby?"
Monday January 12, 2015
Plus, robot cars are cool and will impress your friends, even your Facebook ones.
"Anyone who focuses solely on the technology has not yet grasped how autonomous driving will change our society. The car is growing beyond its role as a mere means of transport and will ultimately become a mobile living space," explained Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars and former Doctor Z of Chrysler, the latter being something he probably doesn't include in his LinkedIn profile.
Mmmmmkaay. The futuristic Benz looks like ... (more >>>)
Where To Invest These Days: I'm not a registered investment adviser nor have I ever played one on television. But I've been investing for over 45 years and have, therefore, gained some real-world experience and useful knowledge.
I am dismayed by the rush to invest in these newfangled Target Date Funds, especially as a repository for funds needed for retirement.
A target-date fund - sometimes called a life-cycle fund - is a mutual fund which uses a time-variable ratio of stocks to bonds. It's a mindless sort of investment which gradually shifts its holdings towards bonds as an investor's age climbs.
Target-date funds are aimed at retirement plans and have appeal because ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Black Angus Steakhouse; Vancouver, WA
Stuart Anderson founded this small restaurant chain in 1964. There are now 44 locations in six Western states. The chain has been sold several times over its life. In the 1970s, it was a real treat to go to one whenever I traveled to Seattle. The restaurants had hanging bronze Plexiglas dividers between tables to give some privacy and the decor was Western Trendy.
The food was always very good, despite changes in ownership and a couple of bankruptcies. Black Angus seems to be in good hands now. The food is mostly better than ever but the interior of the Vancouver location has changed and is now more ... (more >>>)
Channeling My Thoughts In A More Cogent Way: Roger Simon wrote, "All politics is local, as Tip O'Neill famously said. And there's nothing more local than a crazed jihadi aiming an AK-47 at your head and splattering said head against the wall and through the window. ... The last few days should remind us of that. And if you don't think what happened in Paris can happen here, you're out of your bloomin' mind.
Meanwhile, under the watch of the man who masquerades under the moniker of president of the United States, someone who can barely muster a dopey three-minute speech filled with banalities about the killings in France, radical Islam has metastasized across the world in a manner only dreamed of on 9/11."
Well said. I don't believe that our Flâneur-in-Chief Obama has ever uttered the phrase 'Islamic Terrorists'. He is as careful to avoid it as an old man parking his '56 Buick Roadmaster tries to avoid scuffing his whitewalls on the curb.
Roger concludes by stating that our next Commander-in-Chief needs to be a wartime consigliere - someone like Winston Churchill, the ultimate wartime leader.
"Civilizations have died before. Let's not let it be ours. Let's overcome the reactionary leaders in our own country and in Europe, who suffer from such extreme cognitive disorders that even after #CharlieHebdo they insist on delinking Islam from terrorism. Let's find our Churchill - and now."
We're tired of clubby, Milquetoast presidential candidates - who want to be collegial, professional and waffle in the face of opposing attacks. We want a dose of Howard Beale: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" We want a passionate candidate who appears hotly engaged with issues, especially Islamic terrorism.
And Furthermore ... while we're on this subject, Peter Heck wrote, "Every time Islamic jihadists strike, our society frantically searches for some reason to explain what provoked them: American foreign policy, the invasion of Iraq, a preacher in Florida who threatened to burn a Quran, the establishment of Israel after World War II, the events at Abu Ghraib, offensive cartoons, and on and on and on."
Meanwhile CAIR and other Islam apologists protest, yell, bully the media and generally behave like an out-of-control diabetic at Hershey World.
But lost in this silly sideshow is the truth that Islam has been imitating their warrior prophet and fighting the world since the 7th century. There's a reason that Alexis de Tocqueville wrote over a century ago, 'I studied the Quran a great deal. I came away from that study with the conviction that by and large there have been few religions in the world as deadly to men as that of Muhammad.'
Multiculturalist blather and politically correct garbage prevent us from acknowledging that simple reality. Pretending there is some moral and ethical equivalency between all faiths is cultural suicide."
Muhammad proclaimed, "I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."
Those Muslims in France "merely followed that example this last week. That's the real problem we continue to ignore."
In Related News ... soon to be filed in the 'Even A Stopped Clock Is Right Twice A Day' Department, the usually despicable Bill Maher ripped into his own liberal 'tribe' in the wake of last week's Islamist massacre in Paris, accusing them of turning America into a "pussy nation" through their refusal to highlight Islam's illiberalism.
Pointing out that the culprits are almost always Muslim terrorists, Maher said, "This happens way too frequently. It's like Groundhog Day, except if the groundhog kept getting his head cut off."
"We have to stop saying, when something like this that happens in Paris today we have to stop saying, 'Well, we should not insult a great religion'. ... We should insult them. And we should be able to insult whatever we want. That is what free speech is like." Indeed.
Where's Waldo? On Sunday, world leaders linked arms to lead an anti-terrorism march of more than a million people in Paris. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and British PM David Cameron were among dozens of world leaders there. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov Queen Rania and King Abdullah II of Jordan, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and, of course, French President Francois Hollande made the same unifying gesture in the march down the Place de la Concorde in defiance of the Islamist terror attacks that rocked the city last week.
President Obama skipped the march - he stayed home and watched an NFL game. VP Biden was nowhere to be seen. Secretary of State John Kerry was reportedly in India.
Eric Holder was sent to be the administration's representative but was a no-show at the march, choosing to make satellite appearances on four American morning television talk shows instead. A self-centered fame whore. Just like his boss.
It turned out that Clint Eastwood's Empty Chair routine foretold Barry O's second term, didn't it? No wonder no one respects America these days.
Quote Of The Day is from Greg Gutfeld: "The more people care about something far, far away, the less they care about their immediate surroundings - or the people they annoy within those surroundings. It's always the roommate who's obsessed with saving the orangutans whose personal hygiene is similar to one."
Friday January 9, 2015
Modele Ordinaire: If you want a toy or model of a '57 Chevy or Porsche 911, there are thousands of choices. Almost every model car manufacturer makes 'em.
AutoWeek recently published an article about Neo Scale Models - resin-based, limited-edition models of 1970s and '80s-era cars like the Caprice Classic, Lincoln Town Car or first-gen Cadillac Seville. Neo Models are manufactured in China.
Unlike the low-cost diecasts made by Yat-Ming, Motor Max and others, these models retail between $60 and $90 apiece, so make your choices carefully. On the other hand, if you've got your heart set on owning a mint 1984 Dodge 600 K-car convertible, the $65.95 price tag for the 1:43 scale example is probably cheaper than the real thing, even a beater.
I have a few 1:43 scale Neo models, including a not-so-ordinary 1941 Packard One-Ten Deluxe woody station wagon finished in metallic green. It was a recent Christmas gift.
In 1941, less than 140 One-Ten mahogany and ash woody wagons were built. These entry-level Packard models were ... (more >>>)
See, I Told Ya: The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil.
Back in 2005, I wrote that "future cars will not be diesel, hybrid or hydrogen. I think we will use internal combustion engines with improved efficiency via deactivated cylinders, improved transmission systems and other technology. Ten years from now, most cars will still use gasoline or a ethanol/gasoline mix."
I do believe however, that, by 2056, we will use nanotechnology to alter the molecular structure of discarded ice chestsin order to produce lightweight ablative nuclear-shielded boxes so that we can all drive atomic-powered cars - with transparent bubble roofs.
Gettin' Outta Joisy: The lure of lower taxes, a cheaper cost of living, more access to critical transportation networks, key manufacturing plants and about $50 million in incentives has caused German automaker Mercedes-Benz to prepare for takeoff from Montvale, NJ for Atlanta, GA. And along with it, potentially close to 1,000 jobs. M-B CEO Stephen Cannon said Atlanta won out because of the high quality of life, proximity to universities like the Georgia Institute of Technology and the business climate.
Mercedes will be realizing a massive savings by moving. Boyd estimated that the company will cut operations cost north of 20% with the move. The savings come largely in the form of lower costs in labor, property taxes, energy and construction.
Nearly two of every three families making an interstate move involving New Jersey last year were leaving the Garden State, the highest rate in the country. New Jersey had the greatest percentage of outbound moves of any state nationally last year with almost 65% departing, according to United Van Lines, the largest transporter of household goods in the country. The Garden State has led the nation in outward migration for the fourth time in five years. In all, United said it tracked 4,003 moves out of New Jersey in 2014 compared to 2,169 inbound.
Geezers comprised 41% of those moving and attributed their move to retirement. More than half (56%) of people leaving New Jersey were over the age of 55, with 22% older than 65. These people are seeking ... (more >>>)
Nearer To A Crusade? Gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris office of French satirical magazine 'Charlie Hebdo' in a militant Islamist attack.
Four of the magazine's well-known cartoonists, including its editor, were among those killed, as well as two police officers, one of them Muslim. The masked attackers opened fire with assault rifles in the office and exchanged shots with police in the street outside before escaping by car. Witnesses said they heard the gunmen shouting "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic ("Allahu Akbar").
'Charlie Hebdo' is not, as described by at least one television anchor, "a French version of 'Mad' magazine." Zut alors! It is nothing of the kind. 'Charlie Hebdo' is much more course and anti-religious. It manages to combine left-wing radicalism with a provocative scurrility that often borders on the obscene. Other religions who get mocked by this rag - and 'Charlie Hebdo' bitingly mocks anything religious - simply shrug their shoulders and move on to better things.
I would also point out that any "prophet" who requires "avenging," can't be much of an admirable religious figure. And I would note that over 3,000 Christians were martyred - murdered - last year, mostly by violent North African Muslims.
The next Crusade may be coming soon as Western civilized nations get sick and tired of all the Muslim violence and terror bullshit, although it won't be called a crusade and won't happen until a certain pro-Muslim, anti-Christian coward is no longer occupying the Oval Office.
But there is a glimmer of hope ... (more >>>)
Musical Cloning: Over at Sippican Cottage, Gregory Sullivan mused about cover bands. "The Strangers were a pop/rock cover band in Melbourne, Australia in the 60s and 70s."
Since they included Beetle songs in their repertoire, Gregory refers to the Australian group as The Upside-Down Beetles.
"They were the house band for a sorta Australian version of Hullabaloo/American Bandstand/Don Kirshner's Rock Concert-kinda thing called The Go!! Show, which shows the early predilection for exclamation mark abuse in the teen set, which would metastasize into full-blown emoticon leprosy when the Intertunnel finally showed up."
He also pointed out that, back in the day, "cover bands had to deliver the payload precisely. 'Just like the record' was the grail. You were stand-ins for the bands.
Nowadays, no one wants to call themselves cover bands, though. They're tribute bands, and they play just like the record, forevermore. The actual bands that played the songs in the first place get old and become cover bands of themselves, playing at state fairs and whatnot, trying to sound like themselves even thought four out of five original members have died by choking on vomit by the time they play at the Waterfront Concert for Balding Hair Metal Bands."
Then there were those doo-wop groups that changed members so often, it's hard to tell who/what was the real group. The Platters have had more members than the Congressional Black Caucus. I recall that there were several ... (more >>>)
Catching Up On Fiction Books: I just finished the new Jack Ryan novel, 'Full Force And Effect'. It has Tom Clancy written in large type at the top of the cover - 'Protecting The Brand' is what they call it, I think - but was written by Mark Greaney, since Clancy died in 2013. Greaney had co-authored other Jack Ryan books in the past.
It was a good read and had the proper Clancy style and feel to it. It was very timely as the focus is on North Korea. But, at 674 pages, it had cinder-block heft and probably weighed more than Tom Clancy's urn. (permalink)
Passive Investing: After being frightened by the Great Market Crash of 2008, individual investors are now returning to the market in droves. (It's a little late to do so, since the market has gained about 260% since the end of '08.) But they are tending to choose passive index-type mutual funds over individual stocks and actively managed funds.
Last year, investors poured $216 billion ... (more >>>)
Uplifting Nomenclature: Presidential candidate and Bush Dynasty member-in-good-standing Jeb-the-Bush has formed a money-raising Political Action Committee called 'Right To Rise!'.
Sounds like a Viagra slogan to me.
Quote Of The Day is from Henny Youngman: "My hotel room is so small, the mice are hunchbacked."
Wednesday January 7, 2015
2014 Auto Sales Wrap-Up: In calendar year 2014, U.S. auto sales rose 6% to just over 16.5 million vehicles. The market supported more than 16 million sales for the first time 2007 with strength rising most particularly in the SUV/crossover sector, but also from top-selling cars. Toyota's Camry, the best-selling car in America, climbed to 428,606 sales. The Nissan Altima set an annual sales record. The Honda Accord reached a seven-year sales high.
Brands which recorded record-breaking sales last year included Subaru (+21%), Porsche (+11%), Nissan (+12%), Kia (+8%), Mercedes-Benz (+7%), Maserati (+171%), Land Rover (+3%), Honda (+1%), Hyundai (+1%), BMW, (+10%) Audi (+15%), Jeep (+41%) and Ram (+28%).
2014's drop in gas prices helped fuel truck sales and starve sales of the Chevy Volt (down 19% for the year) and Toyota Prius (-12%). True eco-believers, mostly aging, politically-correct ex-hippies, were so so upset that they went and hung themselves in the nearest gender-neutral bathroom.
Tesla is estimated to have sold 26,400 vehicles in 2014, mostly to fashionistas, Hollywood types and wealthy hi-tech hipster dudes.
General Motors Corporation reported sales of 2,935,008 units, up over 5% for the year. Buick and GMC each had sales increases over 10% but Cadillac was its big disappointment; sales of the luxury brand fell 6.5% to 170,750 Caddies. Given Cadillac's tainted rep combined with high pricing, trying to increase sales is like pushing a dumpster through a magnet factory.
Ford Motor Company reported a sales decline of 0.6% to 2,471,315 vehicles, primarily because the new Ford F-series trucks are now just becoming available. Lincoln sales rose 15.6% to 94,474 vehicles, helped mostly by SUV/CUV sales - the Navigator and the new MKC. Most other Lincoln models saw substantial sales declines.
Toyota Motor Corp. sold 2,373,771 vehicles in the U.S. in 2014 - a gain of 6.2%. Lexus sales jumped 13.7% to 311,389 examples. Lexus outsold Mazda, which only found buyers for 305,801 vehicles, an increase of 7.7% over last year. Scion is becoming Toyota's Edsel, with sales dropping over 15% to 58,009. (During the 1958 model year, 63,110 Edsels were produced.)
Chrysler Group (FCA) reported a sales jump of over 16%, helped mostly by its Jeep and Ram brands. Dodge fell 3.7% to 574,155 autos. This continues to fuel those rumors that Dodge is on its deathbed.
Nissan Motor's sales increased 11.1% to 1,386,895 units, while Volkswagen Group's sales declined by almost 3% to 598,991 vehicles. Sales of Volkswagens dropped by 10% in 2014 to 366,970 units. American Honda sold 1,540,872 units - a gain of 1%.
Maserati sales jumped 171% in 2014 to 12,943 autos, while Jaguar sales dropped 7% to 15,773 autos. Subaru continued its solid march of growth, selling over 500,000 vehicles last year in the U.S.
Mini sales dipped a whopping 15.6% to 56,112 autos. Too many models, methinks, which confuses prospective buyers. Apparently, Mini thinks so too; it has decided to discontinue ... (more >>>)
"Wouldn't You Really Rather Have A Buick?" This mid-1960s slogan and commercial jingle promoted the desirability of all things Buick but, for many, the Buick they really wanted was Buick's hot rod Century.
The Buick Century first appeared in 1936; it combined the shorter, lighter body from lesser Buicks with the more powerful engine of pricier Buicks and could arguably be considered the first production attempt at a muscle car. The Century designation commemorated the company's first model to reach 100 mph.
Buick revived the Century name in 1954 for their new performance offering. Based on the smaller (122-inch wheelbase), entry-level Special chassis and body, the new Century received the Roadmaster's more powerful 322 cubic-inch V-8 engine from the big Roadmaster 127-inch wheelbase model. About half the Centuries made were equipped with Buick's Dynaflow automatic transmission, while the rest received a three-speed column-shift manual.
All body styles had new wraparound windshields and sported Buick's signature plunging chrome side spear. The 1954 Century was a "three-hole" Buick, with three Ventiports in each of the front fenders.
The Century moniker was ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'You Might Remember Me: The Life and Times of Phil Hartman' by Mike Thomas
Phil Hartman was an amazing talent, who's ability to capture the essence of famous people or characters he played was uncanny. I'll always remember his hilarious impersonations of Phil Donahue, Frank Sinatra, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as well as his performances as Frankenstein and Cirroc the Caveman Lawyer on 'Saturday Night Live'. On 'The Simpsons', he brought sleazy, inept lawyer Lionel Hutz and washed-up actor Troy McClure to life.
While this book is a biography, there's not a lot of insight into the off-stage, real life Phil. He was an enigma it seems, using a happy-go-lucky shell to mask what was really going on inside his mind. It's obvious that just about everyone loved him but even his close friends couldn't find the real Phil.
Hartman's seemingly charmed life ended ... (more >>>)
Elvis At 80: The King's birthday is tomorrow; he would have been 80 years old. And would have weighed 800 pounds. Or, as the ever-quotable Yogi Berra might say, "If Elvis were alive today, he'd be dead!"
Elvis didn't invent rock and roll but he spread the message across America. And the world.
Music changed greatly during the postwar era, helped by electronics, the ubiquitous reach of television and the increased monetary 'buying-power' of teenagers. The electric guitar was developed in the late 1940's by Les Paul. He and wife Mary Ford had a moderately successful singing career during the early Fifties. But Les' technology revolutionized music. The electric guitar arguably gave birth to rock and roll. It's hard to say which was the first rock and roll record ... (more >>>)
Obamacare Lies: Retired neurosurgeon and possible presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson discussed the fate of Obamacare, saying there is absolutely no reason politicians can't unravel, reinvent or outright repeal the health care plan - and those who say otherwise are selling a lie ... (more >>>)
Big Easy Becomes Big Morgue: New Orleans is the first American city to make it onto the list of the most dangerous cities in the world. There were a reported 93 homicides per 343,829 inhabitants. It is believed that many of the deaths are due to a high rate of gun crime, as well as gang warfare and drug lords.
No wonder there are so many murders on 'NCIS New Orleans'.
RIP: Bess Myerson has died at age 90. She was crowned Miss America in 1945, becoming the first (and, so far, only) Jewish Miss America.
Bess was one of the early television pitchwomen, a kind of glorified, statuesque model, demonstrating Frigidaire washing machines, modeling mink coats, hawking Ajax Cleanser, Fitch's Saponified Shampoo and announcing prizes on game shows. Her intelligence and wit soon landed her a regular panelist spot on the long-running hit game show, 'I've Got a Secret'.
Quote Of The Day is from Will Rogers: "Lord, the money we do spend on government and it's not one bit better than the government we got for one-third the money twenty years ago."
Monday January 5, 2015
Departing In Style: LaSalle was an automobile brand manufactured and marketed by General Motors' Cadillac Division from 1927 through 1940. Long and stylish, LaSalles were slotted just below Cadillac in price. LaSalle offered a commercial chassis which was popular with most U.S. hearse builders in the 1930s.
For Christmas, I received a 1:43 diecast Altaya model of a 1939 LaSalle hearse ... (more >>>)
Lowered Exclusivity: Bentley is targeting 20,000 annual worldwide deliveries by 2020, double its 2013 sales, boosted by new models such as its first SUV.
Is It Just Me? Or does Allison Janney sound like the name for a manufacturer of diesel engines? (permalink)
Paging Galileo To The White Courtesy Telephone Please: Pope Francis has decided to weigh in on something involving science, in this case 'climate science'.
Any time a religion gets involved with science, it's a bad idea and usually ends up with either people being locked up in the Vatican basement or the Scopes Monkey Trial.
In 2015, the pope will issue a lengthy encyclical on the subject of global warming and its evil effects to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Never mind that many scientists believe that global warming is a hoax. So do I. It is my hope that ... (more >>>)
Restaurant Review: Northwood Public House and Brewery; Battle Ground, WA: New owners took over the four year-old Laurelwood Public House and Brewery this summer - and not a minute too soon, in my view. Laurelwood's food was just OK, the kitchen always seemed slower than Stephen Hawking in a snowdrift and the wait staff ranged from clueless to indifferent to very good - the very good one being sort of an omniscient Thumper in a herd of clueless Bambis.
We had quit dining there because we could never be assured of having a satisfactory dining experience at Laurelwood. Changing the name was a smart move, so the new identity could distance itself from Laurelwood's shaky reputation.
I'm pleased to report that ... (more >>>)
2015 Dead Pool: My picks include Fidel Castro, Carol Channing, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jerry Lewis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Hosni Mubarak, Jim Nabors and Nancy Reagan.
Have you picked yours yet?
RIP: Well-know character actor and car enthusiast Edward Herrmann has died at age 71 of brain cancer.
Early in his career his best-known role was Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a pair of television movies in the 1970s, 'Eleanor and Franklin' and 'Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years'. He played President Roosevelt again in the 1982 movie version of the musical 'Annie'.
Herrmann appeared in well over 100 movies and television shows, including recurring roles in 'St. Elsewhere', 'The Practice,' 'Oz', 'Grey's Anatomy',” 'Harry's Law' and 'The Good Wife'. He was the voice of Dodge automobile commercials for most of the 1990s.
Herrmann was a well-known automotive enthusiast and restored classic automobiles. He was a regular master of ceremonies for the annual Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and hosted the television show 'Automobiles' on The History Channel. He owned and restored several classics of his own, including a 1929 Auburn 8-90 Boattail Speedster and a 1934 Alvis Speed 20.
In related news, actress Donna Douglas, best known for her role as curvy Elly May Clampett on 'The Beverly Hillbillies', has died of pancreatic cancer at age 82.
Ending 2014: We had much to celebrate on New Year's Eve. We stayed home and had cocktails in the afternoon - my first Manhattan in over a year.
I cooked filets mignon on the grill - cooking by flashlight on a cold, dark but clear, dry night - and my wife and I shared a bottle of Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon with our dinners. Only 10 barrels of this Walla Walla wine were produced. It was one of my Christmas presents. The wine tasted of spices and cherries, with a light cocoa note on the finish. It was wonderfully flavorful.
Then we watched the New Year's celebrations on television. It's just not the same since Dick Clark died.
Quote Of The Day is from H.L. Mencken: "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody is looking."
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