A Blog About Cars ... And Much, Much More
Thursday May 28, 2015
Autosketch: 1963 Buick Riviera - Modern Classic
The phrase Personal Luxury Coupe was unheard of in 1956. The name developed shortly after the four seat Thunderbird arrived for the 1958 model year. Automotive purists were loudly denouncing the end of the two-seater Bird - which they never bought anyway because it wasn't really a sports car.
Ford Motor realized that they had to do something, so they described the new T-Bird as a Personal Luxury Coupe. The phrase would have shortly evaporated from the nation's lexicon, except that the new Thunderbird was a big sales hit ... (more >>>)
Dead & Still Trying To Be Hip: Former auto executive, cocaine dealer and general gadfly, John Z. DeLorean died of "a stroke at the Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey" at age 80 in 2005.
At his viewing, DeLorean was decked out in "blue jeans and a black leather motorcycle jacket. He looked pretty cool."
His ashes are buried at the White Chapel Cemetery, in Troy, Michigan. His tombstone shows a depiction of his DMC-12 with the gull-wing doors open. In my opinion, the DeLorean DMC-12 was a mildly futuristic, underperforming, overrated and overhyped machine which most of us would have forgotten had it not been for those 'Back To The Future' movies.
Lighting Up A Corgi ... In 1956, the British firm Playcraft toys offered their line of Corgi diecast vehicles. English cars were usually the subjects modeled but, in 1959, models of American vehicles became part of the toy line. In 1964, Corgi introduced a model of the first-generation Buick Riviera. While many modelers refer to these as 1:43 scale models ... (more >>>)
Hot Time In Vegas: The Association of Woodworkers & Furnishings Suppliers is having its convention and trade show in Las Vegas in late July.
Even though I'm retired, I still get promotional mailings from AWFS because I used to own a plastics fabrication company, manufacturing acrylic displays. Much of the woodworking equipment at the show is suitable for processing acrylic sheet and shapes.
The entire program looked interesting with many cool seminars. The thing that really caught my attention were the special guest speakers: John Bassett III whose story was profiled in 'Factory Man'. Also appearing are Wayde and Brett from the television show 'Tanked', about the foibles and follies of a acrylic aquarium tank manufacturer.
Sounds like it would be a fun trip as long as you stay indoors during the very hot summer days.
Heretic: This man disagrees with Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore and the Pope. Dr. Philip Lloyd, a South Africa-based physicist and climate researcher has proclaimed, "Global temperature change observed over the last hundred years or so is well within the natural variability of the last 8,000 years."
Dr. Lloyd, a South Africa-based physicist and climate researcher, examined ice core-based temperature data going back 8,000 years to gain perspective on the magnitude of global temperature changes over the 20th Century.
What Lloyd found was that the standard deviation of the temperature over the last 8,000 years was about 0.98 degrees Celsius - higher than the 0.85 degrees climate scientists say the world has warmed over the last century.
"This suggests that while some portion of the temperature change observed in the 20th century was probably caused by greenhouse gases, there is a strong likelihood that the major portion was due to natural variations," Lloyd wrote in his study.
And Furthermore ... Updated data from NASA satellite instruments reveal the Earth's polar ice caps have not receded at all since the satellite instruments began measuring the ice caps in 1979.
Since the end of 2012, moreover, total polar ice extent has largely remained above the post-1979 average. The updated data contradict one of the most frequently asserted global warming claims that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede.
Book Review: 'Empire Of Cotton: A Global History' by Sven Beckert
This book relates the epic tale of the empire of cotton with its rise and fall in various locations throughout the world and how events influenced the cotton business while the cotton business influenced world events.
The empire of cotton was, from the beginning, the focus of constant global struggle between slaves and planters, merchants and statesmen, workers and factory owners. Slavery of one sort or other has always been part of the cotton business, whether it be African slaves (who were sold in Africa for woven cotton goods, usually from India) or various degrees of indentured servitude. Or sharecropping. Because growing cotton has always been a labor intensive process, the plantation owner with the lowest wage rate gets the business.
Well before the advent of machine production in the 1780s, entrepreneurs replicated ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "It apparently does not occur to some engineers who design products that most of the people who will be using those products are not engineers."
Wednesday May 27, 2015
Quintessentially British Design Of The Future: Last week, Bentley's EXP 10 Speed 6 was awarded the 'Design Award for Concept Cars & Prototypes' at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este classic and vintage car show. The distinction is awarded by a panel of expert judges and celebrates the exciting future of the automobile industry.
According to the judges, Bentley's EXP 10 Speed 6 concept shows "the future direction of luxury and performance, using the finest materials and advanced hybrid technology."
Accepting the award, Bentley's design director Luc Donkerwolke said the highly coveted award was "further proof of the success of our quintessentially British design." I love the look of this car, although I was hoping that the designer would have a more British-sounding name such as Nigel Farthingbourne. Or Sir Roger Pennythump.
The EXP 10 Speed 6 has been described as a forward-thinking vehicle model, combining classic and modern features, intended for the younger generation of luxury car customers.
A Fool And His Money ... Tesla Motors now has a market value higher than Fiat-Chrysler. Tesla sells 40-50,000 cars per year. FCA sold 633,000 vehicles in the last quarter.
I'm not a fan of either as an investment but as Douglas McIntyre wrote, "It is hard to make the argument that Tesla is more valuable than Fiat Chrysler. Very hard." Indeed.
Design Hijack: The styling of the 2016 Hyundai Sonata looks like it was stolen from Audi's design studio.
Shortest-Lived Slogan Since New Coke: Of course, I'm talking about "Black Lives Matter," which made its first appearance as a hashtag during the recent riots in Baltimore. Over Memorial Day Weekend, the total stats for Chicago and Baltimore: 63 shot, 21 dead. This is strictly black-on-black violence.
Apparently no police or white people are to blame, so there won't be any protest marches or riots. Nor will there be appearances by Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson or that new Attorney General. No press conferences have been scheduled.
"It's the deadliest month Baltimore has seen in more than 15 years. More than two dozen shootings over the holiday weekend alone have city police working around the clock."
One of the injured in Chicago was a four year-old girl, Jacele Johnson, who was shot in the head ... (more >>>)
Bad Pun Of The Day: The invisible man married an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.
Tuesday May 26, 2015
Trailered Away: There's a reason why I've been trying to get so many '39 Plymouth drives in lately.
Last Tuesday, my old coupe was hauled off to the shop to get some body work done as well as a fresh paint job. There are many small body flaws, including a misaligned trunk, Bondo pops and fenders which need a little straightening. The paint on the car is almost 30 years old and has developed a slew of micro-blisters. While the paint looks good from five feet away, the number of blisters is increasing every year, so it's time for a proper repaint. (My paint guy said the blisters are caused by poor prep work before painting.) I'm keeping the color almost the same with a little more silver metallic added.
I'm glad I didn't wash the car because it was raining when I drove it up on the trailer.
Hopefully, I'll get the Plymouth back in ... (more >>>)
Closing Time: Rod Ward, former proprietor of Modelauto, a retailer in the UK wrote, "Modelauto Ltd. has now been wound up. After 40 years in the model car business, Modelauto no longer exists. Many collectors have told us of their happy memories of Modelauto; visiting the shops, reading the adverts in MAR (Model Auto Review magazine) and buying by mail order. But all good things must come to an end."
For many years ... (more >>>)
Spotted During A Visit To Modelauto: A full-size model of a ... (more >>>)
Job Creation - What If? Did you know that President Obama's stimulus program put $1.8 billion into the city of Baltimore's coffers, including $467.1 million to invest in education and $26.5 million for 'crime prevention'? (Seems like that 'crime prevention' money was certainly wasted.)
Everyone claims that the biggest problem in Baltimore - and other urban areas - is a lack of jobs. But none of the politicians seem to be doing anything about it.
With $1.8 billion in federal funds, disbursed of a 15 year period, I believe that I could create over 9,000 new permanent jobs in Baltimore.
Here's my idea ... (more >>>)
Questioning Their 'Methods': The Methodists have declared, "The world's lone Jewish state must be singled out for punitive divestment campaigns, while we should at the same time promote economic investment in North Korea, whose government has done absolutely nothing in the area of human rights worthy of specific criticism. And we should take our broad support for sex outside of marriage one step further by advocating to legalize prostitution."
What are those guys smoking anyway?
RIP: Actress and comedienne Anne Meara has died at the age of 85 of natural causes. The Brooklyn native was the wife of 87-year-old actor Jerry Stiller, who she often performed with on TV and on stage. The two were married for 61 years. Anne was was also the mother of 49-year-old movie star Ben Stiller.
I recall that Anne and Jerry were quite the comedy team on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in the early '60s, appearing on Ed's show over 30 times. They also made appearances on Johnny Carson's 'Tonight Show'.
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "Give a man a fire and he's warm for the day. But set fire to him and he's warm for the rest of his life."
Friday May 22, 2015
You're Never Too Old: Occasionally, friends who are not car enthusiasts ask how long I'm going to keep driving my old Plymouth. I've not given the matter much thought. I suppose that I plan to drive it for as long as I am able to drive.
A few weeks ago, Dennis Gage of 'My Classic Car' spoke with 104 year-old Margaret Dunning about her 1930 Packard which she drives regularly.
The interview was held at a car show in Kentucky. The 'Belle of the Concours', as she is known, was exhibiting her 1930 Packard Straight Eight 740 convertible.
She's been driving since she was 8 years old, and officially received her license at 12, after her ... (more >>>)
The Truth About Door Handles: I've always hated software upgrades because they often screw up other, unrelated applications on my computer. I once said jokingly to one of my car buddies that it would be like upgrading tires on your car and having the door handles fall off.
It turns out that the joke is on Tesla owners. Consumer Reports staffers "effectively got locked out of the Tesla Model S P85D that it was testing out. $127,000 doesn't buy what it used to, in some cases.
The popular electric vehicle features retractable door handles that are supposed to pop out when the driver arrives. It's a cool feature, when it works. After less than a month of driving its vehicle, though, CR said the driver's side door handle stopped popping out, rendering the car undrivable."
"Last fall, Consumer Reports gave the Model S an "average" reliability rating after factoring in responses from 1,300 Tesla owners as well as its own experience driving the car for about 16,000 miles. The most-prominent issues at the time were creaky windshields and, yes, faulty door handles."
Where The Press Eats: When the news media descended on the Frankford Junction railroad accident in droves, they had to find a source of sustenance. Many of them chose Pete's Clown House Restaurant nearby. Ashleigh Banfield of CNN was observed scarfing down a quick meal.
The Clown House is described as "a greasy-spoon diner crammed into the front of a Philadelphia rowhome, outfitted with bathrooms on the second floor, where you have to compete with the apartment dwellers who share the space. Make a wrong turn and run into an octogenarian watching repeats of Suddenly Susan - if you're lucky."
It gets generally great reviews on Yelp ... (more >>>)
Prescient Caveat: This warning came from Bishop Fulton J. Sheen in 1952, "At the present time, the hatred of the Moslem countries against the West is becoming a hatred against Christianity itself. Although the statesmen have not yet taken it into account, there is still grave danger that the temporal power of Islam may return and, with it, the menace that it may shake off a West which has ceased to be Christian, and affirm itself as a great anti-Christian world power."
Stylish Chinese Crap: Jack Baruth wrote that the retailer Touch of Modern "stocks a variety of utterly fascinating design-y stuff that, by and large, I don't need and would not actually use were I to purchase it. And when you do order something from them, it usually takes four to six weeks to arrive, just like you were ordering from Sears Roebuck back in 1905. Half of the time, what you get is broken or wrongly sized."
Touch of Modern offered this self-description, "We're a small team that handles every aspect of the process from design, testing to manufacturing."
Jack noted that "you will see a variation of it on the websites for 80% of the enviro-friendly, totes-recycled, hipster-friendly clothing and accessories out there. There's always a call-out to the 'small' or 'focused' so-called 'team'. And you'll often hear quite a bit about the location of their corporate headquarters or their annual retreats. You'll also hear about sustainability or sourcing for the materials."
When Jack asked ToM's parent, Nomadix, where its expensive $64 towels were made, he received the not surprising answer: China.
Mr. Baruth wrote ... (more >>>)
A Dying Medium: Newspaper print advertising revenues of just $16.4 billion in 2014 fell to the lowest level of print advertising since the Newspaper Association of America started tracking industry data in 1950. In constant 2014 dollars, advertising revenues last year were $3.6 billion (and 18%) below the $20 billion spent in 1950, 62 years ago.
Newspaper print advertising revenues decreased more than 57% in just the last six years, from $38.15 billion in 2008 to only $16.4 billion last year; and by more than 75% from the $67 billion peak in 2000. (permalink)
Question Of The Day is from Tom McMahon: "Since every pound of payload was at a premium back then, why didn't NASA use midgets as the original Mercury 7 astronauts?"
Wednesday May 20, 2015
Bump! A recent article in Via, the Oregon-Idaho AAA magazine, had a brief article about the bumper car ride in Seaside, Oregon which features vintage Lusse Auto-Skooter bumper cars. A 1953 model was described as "styled after the curvy, chromed-out Chevrolets of its era." "Harrumph," I grumbled as I gazed at the photo. "It looks more like a 1947 Chrysler to me."
Researching the Lusse name further, I discovered that the Auto-Skooter was made by Lusse Brothers of Philadelphia, PA. Cousins Joe and Ray Lusse ran a machine shop supplying roller coaster parts to Philadelphia Toboggan Co.
In 1922, they began designing a bumper car to compete with Dodgem Corporation. Eventually, they developed a more controllable bumper car, brought it to market and prospered. After World War II, they improved their offerings with working headlights, fiberglass bodies, air-filled bumpers instead of rubber and, eventually, safety harnesses.
The business changed as amusement parks declined in number. Competitor Dodgem went out of business in the 1970s but new Italian competitors emerged, fighting for a piece of a shrinking pie.
In 1994 ... (more >>>)
Here Comes The Sun: The weather people keep changing the #%&*$ forecast. On Sunday, rain was predicted for Monday. Instead, it dawned sunny and warm (65 degrees by 9:30 am). And no rain was forecast until Saturday. Who knows what will really happen?
In any case, I fired up my '39 Plymouth and took a nice drive. By 9:30, the school buses were off the roads and I had a pleasant drive under pale blue skies with thin clouds here and there.
The rain began late in the afternoon on Monday.
The Company You Keep: Jack Baruth road (and track) tested a Prius. He generally liked it but Jack had some issues with the Prius brand and its owners.
"Yes, we all know the kind of people who buy these things in droves: feckless, mouth-breathing Whole-Foods-shopping asexuals who treat the government like a surrogate parent and use phrases like "I'm not okay with that" and "Here's why that's a problem." Some day it will be legal to cut those people down from horseback like a Dothraki, but in the meantime they have to be coddled by a car that BEEPS INSIDE WHEN YOU'RE BACKING UP. I know I'm backing up, damn it! I also don't need the car to flash some tacky-ass additional display every time I touch the Volume button. I know I'm touching the Volume button, because I'm a functioning human. What's worse: the "you're-touching-a-button" display lights up when you touch the button, but you have to press the button more to get it to do anything."
Nevertheless, said Mr. Baruth, "It's the most intelligently-executed basic transportation since the Model T. As such, it lacks both surprise and delight. If you don't like it, get an Accord V6."
I took a short drive in a second-generation Prius several years ago. I, too, was impressed with how roomy it was inside. And the all-around visibility was great. That said, I still think that the "most intelligently-executed basic transportation since the Model T" was the air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle.
Soldiers Of The Cross, Armor Up: Matt Walsh wrote about the latest Islamist outrage - "the brutal execution of dozens of Ethiopian Christians. Some of the victims were decapitated, others were shot in the head. All were butchered by bloodthirsty Muslim thugs for the crime of believing in Christ.
It might be hard to believe this kind of persecution happens in the world, especially when the American version of "persecution" includes not having access to gender neutral bathrooms. Out there, people face the very real threat of death and dismemberment if they practice the wrong religion. Here, we whine if a toilet stall feels too exclusionary."
The mainstream media (print, television and online) takes little notice of the War against Christianity and, sadly ... (more >>>)
"After being shuttered for five years, the 1934 art deco landmark reopened last October for its dancing and dining Mondays. The newly-refreshed Rainbow Room has been drawing a dressed-to-impress crowd of tourists and locals and even the occasional celebrity, like Steven Soderbergh, who recently presided over a corner table of five."
The Rainbow Room will offer an a la carte menu with a $34 cover charge. On a recent night, the 20-piece Evan Sherman Big Band "started its set at 6:30 when a singer in a floral dress sailed into a sultry 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'. For the next hour, the musicians barely stopped for breath."
My wife and I dined at the Rainbow Room only once, in 1993. We had a wonderful and memorable time but haven't been back to New York City since.
Book Review: 'American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History' by Chris Kyle
U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle recorded the most career sniper kills in United States military history and has written this book about his experiences, particularly in Iraq.
While I enjoyed the book and found it informative, the writing could have been better. The passages written by ... (more >>>)
Thought For Today: Only in America, could people claim that there is still discrimination against black Americans when there is a black President, a black Attorney General, roughly 20% of the federal workforce is black, while only 14% of the population is black, over 40% of all federal entitlement money goes to black Americans - three times the rate for whites and five times the rate for Hispanics.
Monday May 18, 2015
Taking Advantage Of The Sun: The weather around these parts has been variable lately - clouds, rain showers, thunderstorms, etc. So, when sun and blue skies appeared on Thursday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and took a drive.
At 1:00 pm it was 65 degrees and mostly sunny, although heavy clouds to the north obscured Mt. St. Helens. Traffic was surprisingly light and I had a very nice ride.
Sunday was a bit more cloudy but there was enough blue sky and sun that it merited another drive. At 2:00 pm, the temperature was a balmy 66 degrees and I got a dose of fresh air driving with the windows down.
Citroën DS 19: When unveiled in 1955, the quirky French sedan seemed like something from the far future, at least to my 12 year-old brain. I was fascinated by the photos and description in magazines such as Motor Trend and Motor Life.
Dan Neil confirmed that it look like nothing else on the road back in the day, noting that "should you park one next to a '55 Chevy Bel Air, which then appears to have been built by cave-dwellers. The DS was a front-mid-engine, front-wheel-drive car with rear wheels closer together than at the front, allowing its sleek, tapering bobtail. The rears are enclosed in prim fender spats and, above, the remarkable panoramic greenhouse and fiberglass roof, canted like a beret. Did we mention it was French?"
Neil wrote, "Sixty years after its introduction at the Paris Auto Show, the futuristic, perfectly Gallic Citroën DS 19 (D series from 1955-75) retains the ability to wow, an atom bomb of style from a time when atom bombs were kind of cool. The DS was the most technically gifted automobile of its time and the most quintessentially modern, in that it scorned all that was familiar in prewar design - big, exposed wheels, low roofs, strong shoulders and commanding chrome grilles - in favor of something utterly new, at least outside the realm of pulp science fiction."
Some of the car's features included a distinctive one-spoke steering wheel; the trendsetting multidirectional air vents, directed by little wands with plastic knobs; the turn signals located in chrome nacelles fixed to the roof for better visibility. "The DS's high-pressure plumbing could also raise the car's body to traverse poor roads, high enough even that owners could change a tire without using a jack. Charles de Gaulle credited the DS's unique suspension with helping him escape a 1962 assassination attempt even after the Citroën's tires were shot out."
How does it drive? Dan reported, "I slot the column gearshift to first and the big Citroën embarks on a strange, oily sea. The little four-banger doesn't have much, about 70 horsepower, but it gives willingly. The rack and pinion steering is firm and reasonably keen for a vintage car. The Citroën's body rolls with nautical dignity, well damped, while floating above the busily pumping wheels. Obviously, the DS was designed to conquer the vast straight-aheads and is less composed with a lot of steering dialed in. But once at highway speeds, the Citroën rolls out the magic carpet.
The seats are royal, the ride sublime. Few modern cars, maybe none, are as splendidly comfortable as the DS."
Citroën sold nearly ... (more >>>)
Boom! Thirty-five years ago, 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 (unless it's clouded over); 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's inflation rate 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 our firm's plastic vacuum-forming capabilities as well as our recent foray into plastic sheet distribution. 1980 turned out to be my company's best year for vacuum forming, although our machine utilization never exceeded 50%. (We soon decided that there were greener plastic pastures elsewhere and sold our PVI vacuum forming equipment a few years later.) Acrylic sheet sales put an additional $10,000 in the company's coffers that May. Impressive, since we had just been appointed as an Acrylite distributor two months before.
We were also beginning to make inroads into the Plexiglas display market; Pacific NW Bell (the phone company) and Hewlett-Packard had recently given us substantial point-of-purchase display orders. (Eventually, store fixtures and displays became our largest market segment: 92% of total sales by 1988.)
Despite the worsening economy, our overall sales for fiscal 1980 were up by 70%. Those sales didn't come easily; I spent a lot of time on the road that year and passed many evenings in dumpy motel rooms putting together quotations for prospective customers.
In those days, I was driving ... (more >>>)
The King Is Dead: 'King of the Blues' B.B. King has died at age 89 in Las Vegas.
The guitarist and singer was known for his hits 'My Lucille', 'Sweet Little Angel' and 'Rock Me Baby'. King began performing in the 1940s, going on to influence a generation of musicians and work with Eric Clapton and U2. Once ranked as the third greatest guitarist of all time, he had been suffering ill health in recent months. He was recently taken to hospital with a diabetes-related illness and ended up in hospice care.
In 1990, King was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George H.W. Bush. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues and blues rock guitarists.
In 1992, my wife and I saw him perform at B.B. King's Blues Club on Beale Street in Memphis. It was an unforgettable evening. Rest In Peace, B.B.
Investment Factoid: The Vanguard Group of mutual funds has roughly 20 million customers who have invested more than $3 trillion with Vanguard. That's about $150,000 per person.
Neck-Breaking News: Lesbian learns to tie her own necktie. Now go learn to do a proper Windsor knot. And buy classier and more stylish neckwear.
And Yet It Seems Like They're On 50% Of All TV Shows: According to a recent Gallup survey, of the total U.S. adult population, only 0.8% are part of a same-sex couple. The same survey finds that approximately 0.3% of U.S. adults are married to a same-sex spouse and a mere 0.5% identify as being in a same-sex domestic partnership.
Quote Of The Day is from Thomas Sowell: "Many of the same people who claim that mental tests are not valid for college admissions decisions, or for employment decisions, nevertheless consider these tests valid for deciding that a murderer cannot be executed when he scores low on such tests - even though he has no incentive to score high."
Thursday May 14, 2015
More Deadly Than The Corvair ... And The Death Toll Is Climbing: At least 100 people have been killed and 184 injured in car accidents caused by defective General Motors ignition switches so far.
More to come I suspect, since there are 626 death and injury claims still under review.
Happy Birthday, Blog! This blog turned eleven years old yesterday. To put things into perspective, that would be 77 in dog years - which would transport a human back to 1938, a year before my Plymouth was born. Or 1,100 Internet years, which would go back to the era of the Battle of Garigliano, Pope John X, the reign of Fland Sinna mac Maele Sechnaill, King of Mide, and Monty Python's "Bring out yer dead!"
But I digress.
The View Through The Windshield debuted on May 13, 2004. You can view the earliest of posts here. You'll notice that there were few images in '04 - in those days, most people, including me, still had dial-up and I didn't want to slow down page-loading any more than necessary.
My blog is self-described as "about cars ... and much, much more." Indeed. I usually lead off almost every 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 and political issues. And lots of other stuff, including business and financial subjects. And, I'm still posting book reviews at the rate of 40 to 50 per annum.
Most of my website traffic goes to the main blog page - it out-pulls any other interior page by tenfold. Traffic to the blog page about the same as last year - remarkable considering the public's move to mobile devices and Twitter for information. Over the past year, many other blogs contain noticeably fewer posts than in 2014.
Since I don't sell ads, web traffic has no impact on my life. I've never blogged for money and I have no intention of making The View Through The Windshield a commercial venture. It 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.
There are no plans to expand my online presence. No Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, RSS feeds or podcasts - creating and monitoring all that stuff is too much of a pain in the ass, in my opinion. I think a lot of 'social networking' stuff is vacuous crap and, if I had anything to say about it, would fade away soon - just as CB radio did in the late '70s. Ten-four, good buddy.
Furthermore, I don't want 'Facebook friends'. If you are a real friend, you'll fly out here and buy me a couple of drinks.
Looking at the archival pages of The View Through The Windshield, I find no 'golden age' for my blog. Some days may be better than others but, over a month, things average out.
It's always gratifying when readers compliment me about something I wrote. While I'm a mere loose thread in the mighty woven warp and woof of the internet, this little filament of a blog will continue to cling to the internet fabric for a while longer.
In the meantime, here's to the beginning of another year: Cheers! (permalink)
Tragedy At Frankford Junction: Eight people were killed and dozens injured, six critically, when a northbound Amtrak train derailed Tuesday night near Frankford Junction in Philadelphia. "One car was severely damaged, its stainless steel carbody twisted and ripped open, the result of hitting a catenary/signal truss structure."
The locomotive came off the rails and almost slid into a row of tank cars parked at Frankford Yard, a holding yard next to the main trackage. Loco #601 was puling seven Amfleet passenger cars. The Amtrak ACS-64 Cities Sprinter electric loco was introduced a couple of years ago. It is based on Siemens' EuroSprinter, which is capable of 135 mph top speed.
The accident occurred on a sweeping curve which is banked and has been rebuilt with concrete railroad ties in order to handle ... (more >>>)
High School Wasn't All Fun And Games: I think all of us tend to look at the past through rose-colored glasses and remember the good times.
Last week, while reminiscing with my high school classmates by e-mail, one of the missives mentioned Mr. Paszek, our math teacher and a Jesuit seminarian. His teaching was incomprehensible, he had a sour disposition (he only smiled when handing out pop quizzes) and almost everyone was flunking his tests.
The name reminded me that Mr. Paszek offered a telephone help line for his students. It was more like a suicide (encouragement) hot line. I called once and Paszek told me that, with my lack of intelligence, I could expect a lifelong career as a ditch digger. "I hope you have a strong back," he quipped just before he hung up.
It was a very discouraging thing to say to an impressionable 16 year-old. But I got beyond it and ... (more >>>)
Book Review: 'Food: A Love Story' by Jim Gaffigan
The author is a stand-up comic, who jokes about food and his obsession with eating. He rhapsodizes about the joy of bacon, enumerates the many intrusions of kale into our food culture and rants about McDonalds, Hot Pockets, Waffle House and the lure of Cinnabon. (I've often wondered if Germany has a chain of Luftwaffle Houses.)
Jim is not a fan of fruit in general and especially those overpriced ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Brit Hume: "In announcing that she's calling in the Justice Department to investigate her own police department, Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that despite major progress already made, "Baltimore continues to have a fractured relationship between the police and the community."
By community she means the mostly black, crime and drug infested areas of the inner city. Her entire emphasis, like that of the Obama administration is on reforming the police. The idea that the people in the community need to do any reforming is never mentioned.
But as Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal has noted, blacks account for roughly 13% of the U.S. population but commit about half the murders, and are charged with violent crime at a rate twice to three times their share of the population. The major contributors to these grim statistics are young black men of the sort we watched throwing rocks and bricks at the police last week."
Tuesday May 12, 2015
Early Run: On Saturday, I fired up my '39 Plymouth coupe and gave my son-in-law a ride. Even at the early hour of 8:30 am, temperature was already 55 degrees and would peak at 82 in the afternoon.
The sun was shining, the clouds were blue and snowy Mt. St. Helens was clearly visible. (Monday and Tuesday were rainy and more rain is forecast for the remainder of the week, so I'm glad I got my drive in when I did.)
Due to the early hour, traffic was almost nonexistent, so we had the roads to ourselves. Wished that happened every day.
Graduation Gift On Wheels: Last Saturday, we gave our grandson his high school graduation gift - a 2013 Mazda3 i Sport - lightly used with only 17,000 miles on the odometer. He had no idea that this gift was in the works, so he was shocked and pleasantly surprised.
Connor officially starts college in September but he will be taking college-level summer classes and will need a means of transport. Hence the early gift.
My wife and I did a lot of research before selecting a Mazda3. The primary reasons we chose it were ... (more >>>)
Unsustainable: Tesla has reported a loss of $154.2 million in the first quarter of 2015, on revenue of $1.1 billion.
That would be a loss of $13,817 per vehicle.
Furthermore, Karl Denninger doesn't think much of Elon Musk's Powerwall battery system either.
Another Overused, Overapplied Word: Recently, I was reading a travel magazine, which described a particular dining establishment with this opening statement, "An ambitious young chef serves exotic meats, smoked fish and artisanal cocktails in a building that was once a private home."
Artisanal cocktails?! Aren't all cocktails by definition artisanal? Unless you're mass-producing a bar full of sidecars for a meeting of 90 year-old Shriners.
Artisan used to be a noun, meaning ... (more >>>)
Remember When Nelson Muntz Had A Birthday Party And No One Came? The White House found out that an upcoming summit of Persian Gulf states is becoming irrelevant after learning that leaders from four of the six invited nations are expected to skip it.
The Middle East considers Obama and his policies unimportant. Haw Haw.
This Is Huge: Many plastic bottles (milk jugs, bleach bottles and the like) are made by a process called extrusion blow molding, where plastic is extruded into a tube and clamped between cooled mold halves while the plastic is still hot and pressure blown into the shape of the mold.
Rikutec, a German producer of large extrusion blow machines, is building what it calls "the world's largest blow molder" for making above-ground water tanks of 1,850 gallons and weighing 550 pounds for use in the Middle East. These tanks will be almost one-half inch thick and "molded at the rate of about eight tanks/hourr using a single operator."
Quote Of The Day is from Enzo Ferrari: "Aerodynamics are for people who can't build engines."
Friday May 8, 2015
Nice Weather We're Having: Thursday dawned with plenty of sun, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth and went for a drive along Clark County's back roads.
The skies were blue with puffy Johnson & Johnson cotton ball clouds here and there. The temperature was 55 degrees at 10 am and I could easily see snowy Mt. St. Helens in the distance during my travels.
I had a very nice ride; traffic was light and I mostly had the roads to myself. The weather forecast calls for sunny days through next Tuesday with afternoon highs between 70 and 80 degrees.
A Big Helping Of Depreciation With Shame Sauce On The Side: Almost 3% of new vehicles end up on the used car lot after only a year of ownership.
The Buick Regal tops the list "with 10.7% of owners exchanging their keys after a year, the Chevrolet Sonic takes second with 8.9%, and the BMW X1 at a close third with 7.8%. The Dodge Charger, Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan, Chevrolet Cruze and Nissan Frontier also make the list."
Final Lap: Racer and automotive journalist Denise McCluggage has died at age 88. Her accolades include induction into the Automotive Hall of Fame and the SCCA Hall of Fame, a Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism and the Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award.
Her racing achievements included winning the grand touring category at Sebring in a Ferrari 250 GT in 1961, and she scored a class win in the Monte Carlo Rally in a Ford Falcon in 1964. She also participated in the 1000-km race at the Nürburgring. She hobnobbed with the giants of racing's golden age, including Phil Hill, Sir Stirling Moss and Briggs Cunninghams, and impressed many with her race-winning driving skills.
Denise drove Porsches, Maseratis and other racing cars, often with her compatriot Pinkie Rollo. She ended her racing career in the late 1960s and eventually became founding editor of 'AutoWeek' magazine, where she remained a Senior Contributing Editor until her death. RIP.
Meanwhile, At The Bottom Of The Sea: Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the luxury British ocean liner RMS Lusitania, one of the markers on the way to U.S. entry into World War I.
I just finished Erik Larson's book about the event, 'Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania'. I'll be posting a book review next month.
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. Men wore one as a boutonnière on the left jacket lapel. 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.
Book Review: 'Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Screen Mothers You Love (and a Few You Love to Hate)' by Richard Corliss
This is an oversized coffee-table style book which would make a nice Mother's Day gift. It is filled with photographs - mostly black and white - of mothers portrayed on the silver screen along with stories of movie moms - good, not-so-good, bad and very bad, such as the uncharacteristically evil Angela Lansbury in 'The Manchurian Candidate'. Or the terrific and terrifying Fay Dunaway portrayal of Joan Crawford in 'Mommie Dearest': "No more wire hangers!!!!!"
It's a clever and unique premise for a book.
The book begins with two forewords ... (more >>>)
Quote Of The Day is from Terry Pratchett: "The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head."
Wednesday May 6, 2015
Ancient Wanderer: Dan Neil recently drove a replica of Buckminster Fuller's 1933 3-wheeled Dymaxion automobile.
It was a frightening experience for Dan because ... (more >>>)
As Clouds Roll By: At 9:30 am on Monday, the weather was partly sunny with a temperature 52 degrees - decent enough for me to take a drive in my '39 Plymouth coupe.
While it was a pleasant outing with light traffic, I couldn't see Mt. St. Helens - it was obscured by clouds. There were patches of blue sky to be seen but the sun was elusive, moving in and out of cloud cover.
Conditions weren't ideal but I wanted to get a drive in before the rain arrived on Tuesday afternoon.
When did the rain arrive Tuesday? At about 9:54 am, just as I was running my Lexus through a car wash. When I entered the wash, the sun was out. By the time I exited, it was semi-pouring rain. A waste of eight bucks.
Everybody's Jumpin' On The Bandwagon: Health care stocks and funds are on a tear these days. Actually, they have been for almost 30 years.
T. Rowe Price has a hot-performing mutual fund, Health Sciences Fund. The fund just announced that it was closing to new investors on June 1st, noting that "the pace of flows into the fund increased dramatically over the last several years." TRP President Edward C. Bernard went on to state that the fund is being closed "to ensure that additional strong flows do not overwhelm our ability to invest prudently in the health-related stocks that are the centerpiece of the fund." I'm glad that I got into Health Sciences Fund earlier this year. Existing investors can continue to add to their fund holdings.
Malcolm Berko wrote recently, "Making big bucks in the health care industry is as easy as falling off a piece of cake, because the operating culture at Medicare and Medicaid is perversely polluted."
These programs are managed by political (often crooked) appointees and ... (more >>>)
Poster Girl: My wife posed for my son's Angry Mom poster for Linn-Benton College ... (more >>>)
Racial Unrest: Black Conservative Thomas Sowell is dismayed by the riots in Baltimore.
"In a world where the truth means so little, and headstrong preconceptions seem to be all that matter, what hope is there for rational words or rational behavior, much less mutual understanding across racial lines?"
There is a general assumption that ... (more >>>)
Question Of The Day: What disease did cured ham actually have?
Monday May 4, 2015
April Auto Sales: Light vehicle sales were at a 16.5 million SAAR (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in April, up 3.3% from April 2014 and down 3.2% from last month.
Ford Motor Co. posted gain of 5% year-over-year in April, to 222,498 Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Sales of all types of Ford vehicles rose - car sales were up 0.8%, Utility vehicle sales (SUV, CUV, crossover, et al) were up 14.5%, and truck sales rose 28%. (I'm old enough to remember when the only utility vehicles were things like Bell Telephone service trucks.) Lincoln sales were up almost 20% to 8,134 vehicles.
April retail sales rose 7% on all models while fleet sales were up 1% after posting a drop of 13% in March.
General Motors posted April sales of 269,056 vehicles, a rise of 6%, reflecting stronger Cadillac and Chevrolet sales, as well as a jump of 20% in sales of GMC trucks. Retail deliveries were up 5%, while fleet deliveries were up 8%. GM reported that fleet sales comprise 27.8% of April sales.
Cadillac sales rose 14% overall to 15,801 vehicles; Cadillac retail sales rose 1%. For the year to date, Cadillac sales are down 1%. Total Chevrolet deliveries in March were up 3% year-over-year. The company's Buick brand saw a sales decrease of 5%.
At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., sales rose 6% to 189,027 units, the company's best April sales level since 2007. The Jeep brand posted its best monthly sales ever, with Patriot sales up 14%, Wrangler sales up 22% and Cherokee sales up 27%. All set monthly records.
Ram pickup sales rose 3% in April to 37,921 units. Slower growth in pickup sales is not good news for Chrysler. The pickups are the company's best-selling vehicle, accounting for 20% of total sales in April and total year-to-date sales.
Pickup sales had their best April ever, but it was not enough to overcome continuing weakness in the company's Dodge brand sales, which were down 16% year-over-year in April to 44,906 vehicles. Fiat sales decreased 13% to 3,756 cars. Year-over-year sales of the company's Chrysler brand were up 16% as sales of the new Chrysler 200 rose 348% year-over-year to 18,850 units - probably in part because of hot financing deals to subprime mouth-breathers.
FCA ended the month with 78 days supply of inventory, up from 73 days of supply at the end of February.
Toyota Motor Co. sales were up 2% overall, while Lexus sales rose 12% to 25,876 units. Hyundai-Kia sales increased 1%, while Honda sales decreased 2%. Volkswagen dropped 3%, while Subaru sales jumped 18%. Mercedes-Benz was up 13%, while sales of BMW rose 7%. Mazda sales rose 7%. Maserati and Jaguar ran almost neck-and-neck in April; 1,060 Masers were sold versus 1,079 Jags.
In the ultra-luxury market segment, 242 Bentleys, 195 Ferraris and 70 Rolls-Royces found buyers last month.
The biggest losers in April were Smart (-54%, 480 cars), proving once again that it has become the muffin stump of the automotive world, and Scion (-20%, 4,309 vehicles).
Bookmobile: The library's automated e-mail system informed me that two of my reserved books were in, so I fired up my '39 Plymouth and drove there on Friday to pick 'em up.
Another old car, a Ford Model A Victoria (pale yellow and black), was parked in front of the Library's front doors. On the way home, I took a detour to get some back roads time in. Coming at me on the main road was a prewar pickup truck. I couldn't definitely identify the make (possibly a Chevrolet), but it was lowered and hot-rodded. We waved at one another - they way people in MGs used to do in the 1950s.
At 10 am, the temperature was 57 degrees and the skies were hazy blue. It wasn't so hazy that I couldn't see that flattened snowball known as Mt. St. Helens. It has been explosion-free for almost 35 years now.
Warning - Uncertain Future Ahead: In the recently-issued Vanguard Dividend Growth Fund Annual Report, Donald J. Kilbride, the Senior Managing Director and Equity Portfolio Manager of Wellington Management Company, wrote, "Our expectation for 2015 is for more of the same. The global backdrop of much of the last three years - a relatively healthy United States, a messy Europe, and a very uncertain China - appears to be intact. The difference now is that it's possible all three of these conditions could change, which means that they could be overly discounted in the markets.
For example, conditions in the United States seem very good (at least relatively), but the U.S. market seems to have more than adequately priced for that. Should the Federal Reserve act decisively on either interest rates or its balance sheet, the market might react strongly, as underlying economic performance seems insufficiently strong to fight through.
The consensus view is that Europe is in trouble. Although that seems most likely true, aggressive action by the European Central Bank might provide enough liquidity to turn the tide and markets. Finally, China is fighting various challenges, the most profound being the slowing of its economy. How its government manages the economy will be critical." Indeed.
As to those 'conditions' in the U.S., they're really nothing to brag about ... (more >>>)
Baltimore Circus: Alan Dershowitz the famous defense lawyer and political liberal, has called the case against the six Baltimore officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray "a show trial." The actions of prosecutor Marilyn Mosby "had nothing to do with justice," but instead amounted to "crowd control."
With regard to the second-degree murder charges against Caesar Goodson, Dershowitz stated that "there's no plausible, hypothetical, conceivable case for murder under the facts as we now know them." At most, there may be a case for involuntary manslaughter.
"Dershowitz believes that, having overplayed its hand, the prosecution is unlikely to obtain any convictions. And if even if it does, there's a good possibility the convictions will be reversed on appeal."
Attorney Paul Mirengoff wrote, "Marilyn Mosby, it appears, is a hypocrite, an ideologue, and a political grandstander. It may well be that one or more of the Baltimore six deserves to be prosecuted. But Alan Dershowitz is right to be concerned that Mosby's actions have nothing to do with "deserve" and that she wants to conduct a show trial."
RIP: Ben E. King has died at age 76 of coronary problems. He was perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of 'Stand by Me', written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and a U.S. Top 10 hit in 1961.
As lead singer of The Drifters, King and the group produced a string of hits. He co-wrote and sang lead on 'There Goes My Baby' in 1959.
He also sang lead on a succession of hits by the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, including 'Save the Last Dance for Me' and 'This Magic Moment'. King left the group and went solo in 1960.
Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo ... let's honor it with this little joke: Q - What do you call four Mexicans in quicksand? A - Cuatro sinko.
Quote Of The Day is from Ted Nelson: "Any nitwit can understand computers. Many do."
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