Thursday, August 28, 2003

China Studies New Import Restriction on Cars

From - China has drafted a new Regulation designed to protect their domestic auto industry. This at the same time, Chinese production for foreign markets, especially for car parts up to and including engines is growing by leaps & bounds.
The Googleteer(tm) shifts production to China

It's been awhile since our friend The Googleteer(tm) paid a visit.

Here's the search term & results:

shift production to china

Results about 383,000
DC announces a new incentive for suppliers


"DaimlerChrysler Corp. will begin offering "preferred" new-vehicle pricing to employees of Chrysler Group suppliers, beginning in August 2003. The program, the DaimlerChrysler Affiliate Rewards Supplier Program, gives the U.S. employees of Chrysler Group suppliers and their subsidiaries the opportunity to purchase or lease Chrysler, Jeep, and Dodge vehicles at one percent below factory invoice."

Naturally, UAW-LSP workers, suppliers though we may be, aren't included.


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

More on the Experience Curve

Here's a link to a weblog all about the Experience Curve
Second Generation Toyota PRIUS to debut

Three years ago Ford announced that it would be coming out with a hybrid version of its Ford Escape SUV by 2003. Well, 2003 is almost over, and the Escape is on the schedule for nyear, probably as a 2005 model. In the meantime, Toyota is on track to debut its second generation Prius hybrid. This version is bigger, faster and more economical than the first generation, but the pricing remains the same. The New York Times review (free registration required) linked below is typical of the praise the new Prius has generated.

I am concerned that the domestic car makers are late to the party on the hybrids. They may have great stuff in the labs, but you really have to get them on the street to shake the bugs out. Given that experience curve effects tend to accellerate technology as a function of total units produced, you don't get the benefits of the technology unless you are actively producing.

As a side note, General Motors has a wealth of experience in hybrid powertrains, just not in its automotive units. GM has produced diesel electric locomotives for most of this century. This experience could also be useful in the cogeneration applications that GM has identified for fuel cells.
Sobig F virus = racketeering?

A news item on ZDNet explains that the Sobig F virus includes code to make spam e-mails anonymous. The creators can sell a list of infected computers to the advertisers. It seems to me that this might be expose the advertisers as well as the creators for a civil Rico suit. Advertisers beware!

Blogger isn't posting my hypertext links for some reason, you'll actually have to cut & paste this to your search bar if you want to see it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Could 4 Wheel Drive be universal in 10 years? reports that GM has developed light-weight electric motors to power the rear hubs in cars that would ordinarily be frontwheel drive. The motors weigh 30 lbs each. Coupled with a hybrid drive system with a modest-sized battery, the whole secondary powertrain could weigh less than the 300 lbs or so that a part-time 4WD system adds, but the hybrid system would deliver the additional benefits of recovering lost braking energy and delivering additional power during peak accelleration.

Although most current hybrids don't do this, the system could be programmed to deliver power get the car out of the way when the primary powertrain fails. Considering that a significant portion of urban congestion is caused by cars that don't run, this redundancy would be a significant safety advantage and could contribute to the efficient running of congested motorways. It therefore wouldn't surprise me if it were to be made mandatory once it proves itself.

GM isn't necessarily ahead of the curve on this. Don't be surprised if the next generation of the Honda Odyssey includes an electric hybrid 4WD feature as early as 2005. Based on my educated guess, Honda has the technology to deliver a hybrid minivan with 240 hp gas and 60 hp electric (300 hp total) on a 4600-4800 platform. You're looking at the potential of a minivan with 0-60 times under 8 seconds and 30 city/30 highway gas mileage.

And yet, Ford has the nerve to put an old 4.2 liter van engine in the Windstar, change it's name to Freestar, and think it's really going to be competitive.

I know what you're thinking . . .

Gee, I wonder how you do a taxidermy mount of a two-headed calf. Once again, the web comes to your rescue.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

The Kinkos Scam

In the news not long ago was a story about a guy who stole people's passwords with a keystroke capture program when they used the public computers at Kinkos in New York. This really hit home with me because I have entered passwords on public library computers before and I wondered if that could happen. Yup.

The program he used was Amesico Invisible Keylogger Stealth

Luckily there is at least one countermeasure, a program called Spycop

I haven't used this product, but it is good to be aware that it exists. Note, if you believe someone is spying on your computer usage at work, spycop should work under those circumstances as well.
The Customer is always right?

Not at

The World's Busiest Movie Reviewer

I stumbled upon James Dawson's Back Row Reviews movie review site. This guy must be the busiest movie reviewer on the planet. As far as I can tell, the guy appears to be an amateur. Since I see maybe three or four movies a year, I don't know whether to be jealous because he sees so many flicks or feel superior because I have a life.
Gigli - Part II

Ben & Jen make the best on-screen couple since Harrison Ford & Josh Hartnett.
What can you say?

This is William Shatner at his best - singing "Rocketman" in jerky multimedia splendor.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

You know you're lucky when . . .
when your son is into Pokemon & your daughter is into Mary Kate and Ashley. Bad children's literature for 1000 Alex . . .
Ben & Jen take two

The dashing young (?) lawyer goes to the phone booth, turns into the Googleteer(tm) and performs this search

"Ben & Jen" overexposed

and came back with 23 hits - not all of which were relevant. You've got to be kidding!
Ben & Jen

On news there’sthis headline

“J.Lo and Ben Look Forward to Next Film”

Let’s see, that makes the score

6 Billion to 2.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Hof's Ramblings on Contract Negotiations - Part One
Michigan Teachers earn more than UAW Legal Services Attorneys

From an article in the July 5, 2003 Detroit Free Press

"The average teacher in Michigan earns $52,497 a year, more than $8,000 above the national average of $44,367, the survey shows. "

"The AFT said teacher salaries would be lower than those of white-collar peers -- such as accountants and engineers -- even if teachers worked a 12-month year. Factoring in an additional 35 days, the average teacher salary would be $52,541, the survey said. "

Lower than those of white-collar peers? In the words of Fluffy the Guinea pig, "I DON'T THINK SO!"

We at local 3357 are at a disadvantage on contract bargaining time when we negotiate in Detroit. We are always the visiting team. We're away from our work and families. The Plan's negotiators can go home to their families at night, and get their work done on breaks. It is a horrid negotiating practice and one that we were crazy to ever adopt. It would be better for us to pool our support behind the Michigan group, stay home & save money than to go up to Michigan for protracted bargaining sessions at contract renegotiation time.

This article suggests that we may be lucky to have Michigan brethren to do pattern bargaining. If the Michigan teachers bargain substantially higher than the national average, then there is potential for Michigan UAW LSP attorneys to do the same thing.

It would be interesting to use teacher contracts as a reference when setting up our contracts. Teachers start much lower than attorneys, in the 30s, but the Michigan public school teachers top out well over $60,000, with bonuses for a masters degree etc. These contracts are publicly available on the web. Very few other professionals collectively bargain.

As a second touchstone, we can use the UAW's own contracts. We need to make it clear to the UAW members that we make less than they do. Not only do we make less, but on the last contract, they received double the raise that we did. Secondly, we do not have the pension benefits or other side benefits that they do.

How about the argument: "If I can hire as many lawyers as I want for $45000, why should I pay AFSCME 3357 members $60,000." The answer is reflected in the whole nature of collective bargaining.

I can hire all the high school graduates that I want to do auto assembly for $35000 a year, why should I pay them $50,000 - because that's what the union held out for, and I agreed. Ditto teachers. Nonunion teachers make substantially less than unionized teachers. Why should unionized attorneys make the same OR less than nonunionized attorneys?

Part of the answer is that we have historically not even considered playing the strike clause. Ok, that's fine (even though UAW-represented legal services lawyers struck in New York.)

There are other alternatives - informational picketing, working without a contract, disbanding and forming a professional association. I hope to discuss these in future installments.

The Plan is likely to take a hard line at contract negotiations. It will be challenging to come out with a favorable contract. The auto industry is contracting. Healthcare costs are skyrocketing. Nevertheless, we can't give up come contract time. Each one of us has to challenge ourselves to say no to a marginal offer.


The UAW is now bargaining on its major automaker contracts. All AFSCME 3357 members should keep a close eye on this. As you know, our last contract wasn't as good as theirs. (More on that later.) Now, however the UAW is under a lot of pressure regarding healthcare costs and overcapacity causing the need for plant closings. (It would have helped if the Big 3 would have put more money into its main line products, and less into merging with German Automakers, buying Jaguar, Daewoo, Volvo, Saab, and dumping money into a black hole called FIAT.)

How much is a law school education worth?

I found this spreadsheet

Here's the assumption that struck me: It assumes a 40 year professional life, and a starting salary of $40,000, and equal increases until a final salary of $250,000 is reached.

Another CAFE increase is shot down: Is LED (Solid State) Lighting our best hope for achievable energy-consumption reduction?

Last week, the Senate rejected an increase in CAFE fuel efficiency requirements for light trucks. Newsweek ran a story discussing why the US lacks an energy policy due to powerful special interests, including autoworkers.

Here's an energy initiative that everyone can get behind - changing our lightbulbs. Almost no lightbulbs are made in the United States. We have the opportunity to grow a new industry, LED lighting, that can save 10% or more of our energy consumption.

More than 10% of our energy consumption comes from lighting. More than 90% of the energy consumed by a standard incandescent bulb is dissipated as heat. New LED lighting technologies are 90% efficient at producing light, not heat. This means that you don't have to pay to chill the heat out of the air with air-conditioning.

What's the catch? The technology is still low on the experience curve. There is little mass production in place. (Although Honda does use LED lighting in its 2003 Accord.)

If the progressive consumer lobby would press for stong government backing of new lighting technologies, including having the GSA purchase large quantities for government buildings, we can get this technology up to speed faster - this would be a good face saving measure as a consulation when the lawmakers reject the next CAFE increase proposal.

For a Sandia National Laboratories report on LED lighting click the link below.
(I wish had a spellchecker.)

White Collar Jobs the next thing for globalization

The next time you talk to an insurance adjuster - could the adjuster be in Punjab? Here's an interesting USA Today article about the trend of exporting white collar jobs.

Blue Collar workers aren't the only folks who have to worry about the effect of globalization.