Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Google Videos

Google Videos

Google has introduced a video search feature with a built-in video player at www.video.google.com. This promises to be a world-class time waster. If you like the audition episodes of American Idol, you'll find plenty to browse on Google videos,

The link below is to a documentary made by a guy named Dennis Taaffe that explores conspiracy theories around Jimmy Carter's infamous "killer rabbit" incident of 1979.


Monday, January 30, 2006

Chimera (genetics) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia link of the Day: Chimera (genetics)

Is it possible for you to give your dna to your child, but for your child not to show as your biological child? The answer is yes. It could happen if you are a Chimera. In this context, a chimera is a person (or other species) with two sets of dna. It happens when two fraternal twins begin developing, and one absorbs the other. The survivor contains the DNA of both twins and can manifest the DNA in unpredicable ways.

In the case of fraternal twins who are of different sexes, the chimera may be a hermaphrodite. A chimeric mother or father may be the natural parent of a child, but could show up as a false negative on a paternity (maternity) test.

Chimera (genetics) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United Press International - NewsTrack - Exxon Mobil reports huge earnings

Exxon Mobil Reports Record Quarterly Profit:
$10 Billion

War - Huh, Good God ya, What is it good for?
Exxon's profits apparently.

United Press International - NewsTrack - Exxon Mobil reports huge earnings

A Hamas Leader Seeks Foreign Aid as Western Leaders Meet - New York Times

Palestinian Election Update:
New Ruling Coalition Formed

In an effort to secure needed foreign aid, leaders of the radical Hamas party, the party that won last week's elections, have engaged other parties in an effort to build a ruling coalition.

It appears those efforts have been successful. Hamas has brokered agreements from the environmentalist party, the Greens, and from the Poultry workers' party, locally known as the "Eggs". The ruling coalition will be known as the "Green, Eggs & Hamas" party.

In separate news, a stoning has been scheduled for a pun that was too bad to condoned.

A Hamas Leader Seeks Foreign Aid as Western Leaders Meet - New York Times

Thursday, January 26, 2006

GM's Delphi obligation at least $3.6 billion - Autoblog

GM Pegs Cost of Delphi Bailout from $3.6 to 12 Billion

In its earnings announcement, GM set aside $3.6 Billion to cover Delphi costs, but it announced that costs could be as high as $12 billion.

Now, remember GM lost $8.6 million in 2005 including $3.6 from Delphi. This means that there is a potential additional $8 Billion from Delphi. If GM loses another $5 Billion next year from regular operations, that will put GM dangerously close to technical bankruptcy.

href="http://www.autoblog.com/2006/01/26/gms-delphi-obligation-at-least-3-6-billion/">GM's Delphi obligation at least $3.6 billion - Autoblog

How to beat the high cost of gasoline. Forever. - Jan. 24, 2006

Fortune Magazine: IS Ethanol in our future?

Link courtesy of Paul C. Thanks Paul

This article points out that Ethanol already practically runs the economy in Brazil. If the US widely adopts the fuel, we would have to generate most of it from garbage and drastically cut our consumption. We have a lot more vehicles than Brazil, and those vehicles tend to be guzzlers.

That being said, I think back to something I learned in grade school: Alcohol rules.
From the Beverly Hillbillies I learned that if you put a jug of corn squeezins in the tank, your old truck will beat anything on the road.

I learned a lot of other important stuff from TV too. From Green Acres, I learned that if your truck blows a head gasket, you could punch out eight of Lisa's pancakes and use the "outline" as a head gasket.

href="http://money.cnn.com/2006/01/24/news/economy/biofuel_fortune_020606/index.htm">How to beat the high cost of gasoline. Forever. - Jan. 24, 2006

AP Entertainment | IndyStar.com

Richard "I Forgot" Hatch Guilty of Tax Evasion

In a story I've been following, Richard Hatch, a sometimes-naked attorney who won the first CBS Survivor competition was found guilty of tax evasion for failing to pay income taxes on his CBS winnings as well as other income. He'll now get a chance to survive in jail for 3 years or so.

AP Entertainment | IndyStar.com

2007 Toyota Yaris Review, Prices, Photos: New Car Test Drive

2007 Toyota Yaris: Return of the Subcompact
Linked below is newcartestdrive.com's review of the 2007 Toyota Yaris. This model replaces the Echo in Toyota's line-up. The goal with the Yaris seems to have been to improve the feature-content-per-dollar ratio, paying particular attention to safety features. Although it's the lowest-priced Toyota, the Yaris includes dual front, side and door airbags, seat-belt-pretentioners and 5-point seatbelts for all (including rear-center) positions.

This is a banner year for sub-compacts, a class that almost disappeared over the last few years as previous-generation sub-compacts grew well into the compact class. New models include the Yaris, the Nissan Versa, the Honda Fit. These models join the recently updated Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, and Chevrolet Aveo. Note, the only traditionally-American nameplate of the bunch is the Chevrolet Aveo, and the Aveo is actually a Daewoo -- made in Korea.

2007 Toyota Yaris Review, Prices, Photos: New Car Test Drive

DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and GM's layoffs won't affect US economy, declares government - Autoblog

Secretary of Labor: Ford and GM's Layoffs won't affect the economy

Well, I'd say the full-of-sh** award for the day is pretty much a lock now.

DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and GM's layoffs won't affect US economy, declares government - Autoblog

The Cincinnati Post - Jobs at stake

That's the Question for Batavia Ohio

One of the plants that Ford has targeted for closure is the transmission plant in Batavia Ohio. This plant, formerly operated as a joint venture with German transmission maker ZF, makes two products, a continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) used on the Ford Freestyle and Ford Five Hundred, and a conventional 4-speed automatic. The 4-speed automatic is being phased out. When the 4-speed is gone, the plant will be more than half empty.

According to the Cincinnati Post article linked below, Ford had planned to make 1 million CVT transmissions per year in Batavia by 2005. The actual figure ended up being less than 1/4 that number.

The CVT transmission is usually praised by owners - once they get used to it. It uses a belt and pulleys instead of gears. In the Ford Freestyle, the CVT allows the vehicle to deliver better than average acceleration with a smaller than average engine. While Ford is quick to point out that the acceptance rate of the CVT is below expectations, it should be noted that Ford hasn't even offered the CVT in products other than the Freestyle, Five Hundred, and the closely-related Mercury Monterey. Ford will likely offer the engine in its upcoming "crossovers" the Ford Edge, as well as their Lincoln and Mercury counterparts. I suspect that all three versions of the crossover won't amount to 100,000 units. It's hard to sell a million transmissions when you only offer them on car lines that sell 200,000 units. Unless Ford deems the CVT worthy of installation in more car lines, and higher-volume lines at that, it looks like Batavia's days are numbered.

href="http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060121/BIZ/601210307/1001">The Cincinnati Post - Jobs at stake

GM loses $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter - 01/26/06 - The Detroit News

GM's 4th Quarter #s are in:
4th Quarter Loss $4.8 Billion
Annual Loss $8.6 Billion

The numbers reported include large set-asides for pension obligations arising out of the Delphi bankruptcy and for closing plants. It's not clear if anybody knows how much additional money will need to be set aside for these same purposes.

GM loses $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter - 01/26/06 - The Detroit News

Xenu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wikipedia Entry of the Day: Xenu

Too sick to blog? Is that like "too drunk to fish?" I'm back to the blog after having my body possessed by microbes yesterday. From the very small to the very grand, I give you, without further comment, Xenu, the random Wikipedia entry of the day. Xenu - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monday, January 23, 2006

CBSNews.com: Blog

Bush and Abramoff
"There Might Be Photos"

Bush and Abramoff sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

"I do not know the man" said Mr. Bush.

The cock crowed.

"but we saw you together" said the crowd.

"I do not know the man" replied Mr. Bush angrily.

The cock crowed again.

"But we have a picture of you shaking hands" said the crowd.

"I swear to you that I have never seen this man before in my life!"

Whereupon the cock crowed a third time . . .

CBSNews.com: Blog

News & Alerts - California Dept. of Justice - Office of the Attorney General

49 State $325 Million AG settlement with Ameriquest

I wonder how much money a company has to take from people to get them to VOLUNTARILY agree to a $325 million settlement?

News & Alerts - California Dept. of Justice - Office of the Attorney General

MSN Money - Feds target Grandma's Medicaid

Medicaid Changes on the Horizon

MSN Money - Feds target Grandma's Medicaid

DEVO: UnOfficial Site - Lyrics to DEVO Songs

EXCLUSIVE: An Excerpt from Ford's "The Way Forward" Plan

A mole deep inside Ford management leaked key provisions of the turnaround plan known as "The Way Forward". As it turns out, the plan went through several variations to reach the level of perfection shown by the final version. Even the title changed from "Let's get out of here while we still can" to "Alms for an ex-leper" to "The Way Sideways" to the final version. Anyway, here's the plan, here's how Ford will solve it's problems and find The Way Forward:

now whip it
into shape
shape it up
get straight
go forward
move ahead
try to detect it
it's not too late
to whip it
into shape
shape it up
get straight
go forward
move ahead
try to detect it
it's not too late
to whip it
whip it good

DEVO: UnOfficial Site - Lyrics to DEVO Songs

Bloomberg.com: Top Worldwide

Ford Posts Slight Quarterly Profit as it starts "The Way Forward"

Ford announced a $124 million quarterly profit, but the profit wouldn't have occurred had Ford not posted a gain from sale of its Hertz rental car business. Still there was good news, North American automotive operations narrowed their losses to $143 million from $470 million the year before. Still, losses from other operations (I'm not going to name any names - Oh look, there's a Jaguar!)were such that a billion dollar gain from the Hertz sale was almost wiped out.

The quarterly earnings were announced on the eve of the unveiling of Ford's major restructuring plan called "The Way Forward." The vaguely Maoist name conjures up images of banishing the urban residents to collective farms for retraining. I have some advance information on "The Way Forward" that I'll put in my next post.

Bloomberg.com: Top Worldwide

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ford cuts Deepen

Ford to Deepen cuts
25,000 to 30,000 Jobs - 10 plants
Bye Minivans - Hellow Fairlane

Ford announced that it is planning on increasing the scope of its cutbacks. 25-30,000 jobs will be cut over five years. Up to 10 plants will be closed.
Separately from the job announcement, Ford announced that it would be ending minivan production. The Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans will likely be replaced by a three-row vehicle along the lines of the Ford Fairlane concept car.

IFCAR Comparison: Economy Vans

Car Comparison: Dodge Caravan vs. Mazda 5

Here's a comparison that I've been waiting for, the short-wheelbase, 4-cylinder version of the Dodge Caravan vs. the Mazda 5. Minivan vs. "space wagon". Most US buyers shun the short-wheelbase Caravan, especially the 4-cylinder. I'm told it's big in Canada. It's kept as a low-price loss-leader, but good luck finding one on the lot here. The Mazda 5 (Mazda5) is kind of a marketing experiment for Mazda. Past "space wagons", including the long-wheelbase "Colt Vista" made by Mitsubishi, haven't been too successful here, but they are popular throughout most of the rest of the world.

In the comparison linked below, by the Instatute for Consumer Automotive Research (never heard of them before today), the Mazda 5 was rated as the better car, but the Caravan was rated as the better minivan. The real-world prices of the two vehicles were within a few dollars of each other.

The ICAR comparison is in line with my impressions from inspecting these two models first hand. I haven't driven them, but I did sit in them. The Mazda is just too small for full minivan duties. For both vehicles, the combination of over-worked 4-cylinder engine plus 4-speed automatic transmission results in real-world fuel economy that is not much better than full-sized minivans such as the Dodge Grand Caravan and Honda Odyssey. In the Mazda 5, this can be partially rectified by getting a 5-speed manual transmission, the only "minivan" that can be ordered that way in the US. The Caravan can be ordered with a V-6, and in fact, most are. With the 3.3 liter V-6, the Caravan performs well, and there's very little real-world penalty in fuel economy.

According to Allpar.com, when the DaimlerChrysler minivans are redesigned for the 2008 model year, the short-wheelbase version will be dropped. IMHO that would be a mistake. GM has already dropped its short minivan. The Toyota Sienna and Nissan Quest have grown to full-size. The market is wide open for a vehicle that has three rows but is shorter than the 200 inch extended length van.

Dodge already has the pieces necessary to turn the short-wheelbase Caravan into a standout. The 2.4 liter "world" 4-cylinder engine provides 172 horsepower and 165 lb./ft. of torque, a 22 hp. bump over the current engine. Combined with a DC's new 6-speed automatic transmission, this should give a real-world gain of almost 2 seconds 0-60 and about 2-3 mpg. As I understand it, the EPA is about to apply CAFE fleet fuel economy standards to trucks. The Dodge Ram and Durango are gas hogs. It wouldn't hurt to have a minivan that gets 22-29 mpg to offset the hogs' low mpg.

IFCAR Comparison: Economy Vans

Friday, January 20, 2006

UAW News Update

Ron Gettlefinger's Plan to Save the World

Here's the UAW's plan of action to get the US auto industry back on its feet, according to UAW President Ron Gettlefinger's speech at the Automotive News World Congress.

The plan includes a nationwide universal healthcare system and incentives for new fuel sources. I don't understand his program for dealing with the China problem.

UAW News Update: "Gettelfinger"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Rip-off Report.com - badbusinessbureau.com

Does GM Have too Many Dealers?
Maybe One - Bill Heard Chevrolet

Many auto industry analysts claim that part of GM's problem is that it has too many dealers. As a whole, I don't necessarily agree with that. I'm thinking of the rural towns where the only new car dealer is a GM dealer. If you get rid of those dealers, the business just goes away. To a lesser extend it's true in urban areas also that the less convenient that you make buying and servicing a car, the fewer cars you will sell.

Anyway, that being said, there are bad apples that need to be thrown away. My nominee for bad apple #1 is Bill Heard Chevrolet. Bill Heard Chevrolet has several locations across the southern tier of the US, and from the trail of complaints and legal actions reported on the web, Bill Heard Chevrolet may be the worst auto dealer in the country. Ripoffreport.com lists 129 consumer complaints against Bill Heard Chevrolet. A good portion of the complaints involve spot delivery abuses (yo-yo sales), but there are other types of complaints as well. Two minutes on Google revealed attorney general actions in Texas, Tennessee, Florida and Georgia. A Google search of "Bill Heard" (Enterprises OR Chevrolet) and "Attorney General" yielded an astounding 46,900 hits.

What does the organization do when the heat is on? Well, that's when the campaign contributions come in handy and the influence peddling comes into play. According to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution (www.ajc.com), when the Georgia Department of Consumer Affairs started to come down on Bill Heard Chevrolet concerning deceptive advertising claims, the agency's administrator received a visit from a representative of the governor asking the agency to back down. The Bill Heard organization just happens to be a big contributor and fund-raiser for the governor, don't you know.

Bill Heard Enterprises is one of the Top 10 Dealer groups in the country, bringing in $1.4 billion in revenue for new car sales alone according to Wardsauto.com. Even though the Heard Operation is big, the number of complaints and the diversity and outrageousness of the alleged bad conduct seem to set Bill Heard Chevrolet in a class all by itself.

IF you combine Bill Heard's sales with GM's head-in-the-sand management, it should come as no surprise that Bill Heard was named one of GM's "Dealers of the Year" in 2005. The moral of the story: it's important to reward quality - or was that quantity - whatever.

Rip-off Report.com - badbusinessbureau.com

JimHillMedia.com : Welcome!

Pixar & Disney to Merge - Steve Jobs to become controlling shareholder?

There are rumors floating around that Disney may buy out Pixar and install Steve Jobs as CEO. Today the Wall Street Journal has a page 1 story about a possible Disney/Pixar merger. While I wouldn't be too surprised if Disney & Pixar merged, I would be surprised if Steve Jobs became CEO. Why? Steve Jobs is already CEO of two companies, one of which is already larger than Disney, and both are generally more profitable. As I write this, Walt Disney Company's market capitalization (the total value of all its stock) is about $48 billion. Apple stock is on a roll, and Apple's market cap is up to $72 billion, just recently passing Dell Computer. In three years, Apple's value has grown by a factor of 10. In the meantime, Disney stock has basically been flat. Pixar is worth about $6.7 billion, and Steve owns half of it.

Some might believe that Steve Jobs is too attached to Pixar to part with control. Not necessarily. The article linked below from jimhillmedia.com discusses the history of Pixar. According to the article, before Toy Story, Steve Jobs saw Pixar as primarily a computer hardware and software company; and he tried hard to sell it. Not only that but he continually tried to make cuts on the creative side. Since then, he's seen the light and understands that the creative talent at Pixar is its primary asset, and he's mainly been a hands-off boss.

If Steve really wanted to run Disney, it would be best to just have Apple take over Disney. It would be a relatively simple matter to use the inflated equity in Apple to justify a stock for stock buyout of Disney, arranging a three-way deal with Pixar. By keeping Disney-Pixar as a separate "tracking" stock. Once Steve got Disney-Pixar up to its full potential, Disney-Pixar could be spun off at a large profit for Apple shareholders. There are conflict of interest problems to be worked out because Mr. Jobs would be wearing several hats, each with fiduciary duties, but with votes of independent directors, it would be possible.

There's an outside chance that Jobs might leverage a Pixar buyout into control of Disney. If so, it would be history repeating itself. Jobs gained his current post at Apple after Apple bought out Job's software company, NeXT. Jobs gained a board seat and used that seat to convince the board that his vision was best for the company. He was right. NeXTStep became OS-X. Jobs guided the colorful iMac to market, and the Apple recovery has contined since then.

If Disney bought out Pixar, it's probable that Steve Jobs would get a board seat. He might hold out for more than one. What about John Lasseter, the creative force behind Pixar? Only time will tell.

JimHillMedia.com : Welcome!


$50 Gift Card for Test Driving a Ford Fusion

Ford isn't going out of its way to publicize this site, but here's a link. Download it fast before they change it.


Cobo crowds, by the numbers - 01/19/06 - The Detroit News

How big is the Detroit Auto Show

How about 82,000 attendees per day? Last year the total attendance was 773,000.

Cobo crowds, by the numbers - 01/19/06 - The Detroit News

1970s teen idol in heroin bust - 20 Jan 2006 - World News

From the Makes-you-look-better-by-comparison File:
Leif Garrett Charged with Heroin Possession

Actor/Singer/Hasbeen Leif Garrett was charged with heroin possession after being arrested for subway fare dodging. This makes me feel better, because we're the same age, so when I think I'm being an underachiever as a lawyer who makes less than the autoworkers that I service, I now have something to make me realize that I could be doing a lot worse.

Thanks Leif, you're pissing your life away, but you made me smile.

1970s teen idol in heroin bust - 20 Jan 2006 - World News

Bloomberg.com: Germany

German Workers fight for 5% Pay increase

Bloomberg.com: Germany

"A 330 mpg car for everyone" - Autoblog

330 MPG Car

"A 330 mpg car for everyone" - Autoblog

Should the United States Attack Iraq? Let The George W. Bush Magic War Ball Decide!

Fun site of the Day: Bush's Magic War Ball

Should the United States Attack Iraq? Let The George W. Bush Magic War Ball Decide!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

About Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group - Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group - Meetup.com

Bayhwatch 2006 - January update

I've periodically kept tabs on the growth of the Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group at meetup.com. For many months, the group was stuck at the 4 member level. Now the movement has finally taken off, and membership is up to six.

About Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group - Indianapolis Evan Bayh/All America Committee Meetup Group - Meetup.com

Dana loses nearly $1.3B - 01/18/06 - The Detroit News

Parts Supplier Dana loses $1.27 Billion - in One Quarter
Automotive components supplier Dana Corp reported a loss of $1.27 billion for the quarter ending September 30. According to the Detroit News, the stock fell 20% as a result. Why are they only now reporting results for the quarter ending September 30?

Dana loses nearly $1.3B - 01/18/06 - The Detroit News

Chuck Norris Facts

From the Things-You-Need-To-Know File: Chuck Norris Facts

Chuck Norris Facts

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Win two cars

Win TWO Lincoln Zephyrs from American Airlines

American Airlines is running a contest "From AA to ZZ" At the website linked below, you can enter to win two Lincoln Zephyrs, valued at $35,000 each. Although some promos suggest you have to book an AA flight to enter, the rules say no no, and if you click on the fine print at the linked site, it will take you to the official entry form. The deadline is January 22, 2006. FYI, the rules contain the standard disclaimer, employees of AA, Ford, their affiliates etc. are ineligible. What is an affiliate, anyway?

Win 2 cars

Spy Shots 2008 Chrysler Town & Country

2008 Chrysler Town & Country Spy Shots

Speaking of Daimler Chrysler, the first spy shots have appeared of the next generation of DC minivans. The picture linked below is actually doctored shot that replaces the disguised portion of the vehicle with an artist's guess of what's under the wrap. Obviously, the styling cues come from the 300 series.

My problem with DC styling is that it is so blatantly and self-consiously UNaerodynamic. You can't cheat the wind just like you can't fool mother nature.

2008 T&C Spy Photos

Dodge Caliber Details

Dodge Caliber Details from allpar.com

The DC wonk site, allpar.com, has detailed information on the Dodge Caliber, the car that replaces the Neon. The CVT transmission that the car uses is a JATCO model. Jatco is a Nissan subsidiary. Chrysler has more flexibility in outsourcing major assemblies on high volume models than General Motors because Chrysler divested more of its parts operations earlier. With curb weights running from just under 3000 lbs. to a couple hundred pounds more than that, the CVT and new engines will have to deliver on their efficiency promises to keep the car out of the 18 mpg purgatory where the PT Cruiser dwells.

The first Calibers may be available at Dodge dealers by the end of this month. It may be March before the car is widely availabe.

Dodge Caliber

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Japan's Newer Cars

Will Newer Japanese Models mean Trouble for US Makers?

GM and Ford seriously need increased market share. They both tout new models that they say are going to generate it. The problem is that the new models will be spending most of their tenure competing not with current Japanese models, but instead, with their successors.

For example, Chevrolet's top selling sedan, the Impala, just received a significant refreshening for 2006. Later this year, it will be facing a brand new Camry. In approxiimately two years, a new Honda Accord will be online. In about a year, Nissan is due to introduce a new Altima, a car that already slightly outsells the Impala. Even DaimlerChrysler may cut into Impala market share. The replacement for the Stratus and Sebring will compete for fleet buyers. And Hyundai? No doubt the big Korean maker will be looking for outlets as it ramps up capacity in its large Alabama plant.

How about trucks? A new Toyota Tundra will compete with redesigned GM pick-ups. Cross-over SUVs? Everbody and their brother-in-law will be fighting for the crossover market.

Bottom line: Nobody's going to roll over to help GM get on its feet.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Car and Driver Magazine - The Ride of a Lifetime - December?2005

Hurricane Katrina - a First Hand Account From Caranddriver.com

Here's a link to a first-hand account of a former Car and Driver Editor who sat through the hurricane at his beach house on the Mississippi Shore.

Car and Driver Magazine - The Ride of a Lifetime - December?2005

Friday, January 13, 2006

Little car, big interest-China's $10,000 Geely eyes U.S.

Geely 7151CK- From China to Cobo Hall

I wonder if the representatives of the Geely car company wear Kevlar vests as they circulate among the crowd at the Detroit auto show. Geely hopes to make the Geely 7151CK the first Chinese-made car sold in the USA. In this case, the first 2000 units are headed for Puerto Rico.

Perhaps it would have been appropriate to have a Benifer reunion onstage for the unveiling of the car. No doubt the name Geely was picked to honor the commitment to quality demonstrated by its homophonic namesake, Gigli.

href="http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060111/AUTO04/601110396/1364/AUTO04">Little car, big interest-China's $10,000 Geely eyes U.S.

SnapBubbles.com - Virtual Bubble Wrap

Snapbubbles.com: Waste of time of the Day

SnapBubbles.com - Virtual Bubble Wrap

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

PC card - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

How Up-to-date is Wikipedia?

Yesterday Apple replaced its Powerbook laptops with new notebook comptuters called Macbook Pro. Buried in the specifications was a change of the memory card standard. I searched today on Wikipedia under the topic "PC Card", and sure enough, Apple's change had already been updated into the encyclopedia text.

PC card - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BetaNews | XP Won't Run on Intel MacBook, iMac

Apple Introduces Intel Macs - What about Windows?

On Tuesday, Steve Jobs announced the first Macintosh computers to use Intel processors. The new Imac looks just like the old one, but is twice as fast. The new MacBook Pro replaces the longstanding Powerbook line.

I delayed posting on this to get some word on whether these computers will run windows. I had to wait for an appropriately wonky article to link. I finally found one, and it's linked below. The apparent answer is that Windows EX probably won't run natively because the machines don't have a traditional BIOS. Even though current Windows won't run natively, the smart money is on a hacked work-around within a couple of months. Microsoft's Vista, which is due to replace XP either late this year or early next year will probably run natively on the new Macs.

BetaNews | XP Won't Run on Intel MacBook, iMac

Caliber to start under $14,000

Dodge Caliber to Start at $13985

When the Dodge Caliber goes on sale later this month, it will be at a MSRP $13,985. This is $410 cheaper than the outgoing Neon even though the Caliber has additional equipment including side airbags.

Fema Trailers

Everything You wanted to know about FEMA Trailers

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

2007 Dodge Caliber

2007 Dodge Caliber

The Dodge Caliber made its debut in Detroit, at least as a production vehicle. DaimlerChrysler has a lot at stake on this dodge Neon replacement, but to its credit, it doesn't look like a half-assed effort like we're used to seeing from the General.

When I first saw the concept car, I thought sarcastically, 'just what we need an SUV to replace the economical Neon'. With views and specs of the production car available, I can see that though it has some SUV styling cues, it's just a tall hatchback. In fact, it's very similar in dimensions to the Pontiac Vibe and Toyota Matrix. The Vibe/Matrix have now been out 4 years with virtually no changes. The the last time I checked, the Vibe and Matrix spend less time on the lot than just about any other vehicle -- with negligible incentives.

If GM would have introduced this car, it would have been introduced with whatever engine GM had handy, and with the standard GM 4-speed automatic transmission. DC is giving the car not one, not two, not three, but four new engines, three in the global 4-cylinder engine family, and one a turbo-diesel. The diesel probably won't make it to the US. The Caliber also gets a state of the art CVT transmission, one that's been programmed to feel "right" to people used to ordinary gears.

2007 Toyota Camry

2007 Toyota Camry Unveiled

Linked below is thecarconnection.com's preview of the redesigned 2007 Toyota Camry, which was unveiled this week at the Detroit Auto Show.

There's really not too much surprising here. It's not surprising that Toyota isn't standing still and waiting for other companies to come in and take the mantle of best-selling car from the tried-and-true Camry. The styling is part out-going Camry, part current Hyundai Sonata, and part Ford Fusion. Overall, it's not as boring as the outgoing car.

The Camry's top engine might be a little surprising, at least if you step on the accelerator not knowing what's under the hood. It's a 268 hp. 3.5 liter V-6 lifted from the recently revised Avalon. It seems like just yesterday that Nissan shook up the class by offering a way-overpowered 240 hp. Altima. Now that engine wouldn't even make it the top five.

As predicted, Toyota announced a hybrid version of the 4-cylinder that will be available later this year. Predicted MPG for the hybrid is 43city/37highway. This is compared to the standard 4-cylinder (158 hp) at 24/34.

Jerry York's Prescription for GM

Who is Jerry York? Why should you care?
Time for "Crisis Mode"

Jerome "Jerry" York was CFO of Chrysler during its 1990 crisis period. He's the person that Kerkorian wants to install on the GM board of directors, the one that Rick Wagoner has been fighting to keep off. Jerry gave a speech today at the Society of Automotive Engineers. His analysis: It's time for "Crisis Mode". GM will run out of cash in 1000 days, 3 years give or take, if nothing changes. His prescription: GM needs to cut its dividend. It needs to cut salaries across the board. It needs to sell or dispose of "noncore" brands such as Hummer, Saab and Izuzu. Incidentally, he does not believe that significant headway can be made through forced price cuts by suppliers.

Now, regarding the "if nothing changes" proviso, he acknowledged that a lot of thinks could happen to change that three year period. The impact of the Delphi bankruptcy seems to be number one on his mind. I'm not sure what kind of cash hit from Delphi that he's assuming to get to the 1000 day figure. To get to three years, he's assuming the sale of the non-core brands AND 1/2 of GMAC. I still stand by my earlier public pronouncement, unless GM picks up its sales or gets some form of government bail out, technical bankruptcy will be here sometime in 2007.

If I have any criticism of the speech, it is that he focused almost exclusively on North America. Yes, it appears that the biggest part of GM's negative cash flow (6.6 Billion in 9 months) has come from North American operations, but GM also has a worldwide presence. Coming with that is a world of problems and opportunities. What about Opel?

Overall, I was impressed by reading York's speech, and if I had a vote (which I don't because GM already spun off Hughes, and I had GM-H shares), I'd definitely vote to put him on the board.

Reuters Business Channel | Reuters.com

GM Putting Pressure on Suppliers

Reuters reports that, although GM cut the number of parts suppliers by 14%, it is continuing to increase the pressure on suppliers even though three of its main suppliers filed for bankruptcy last year.

With the possibility of a Delphi strike hanging over GM's head like the sword of Damocles(extra points for putting a metaphor, simile and Greek mythological reference in the same prepositional phrase), at some point it becomes self-defeating to demand price cuts from suppliers. As Reuters reports, GM is looking to Asia and other low cost regions for low-cost parts.

Once upon a time, the mantra was "just in time" inventory. Just in time inventory management is a dangerous game to play when your parts supplier is half a world away. As most of us UAW-LSP lawyers can attest, the shift in furniture manufacturing to China has resulted in huge delays in delivery to customers. Delivery times can be missed by months. A back up in a port here, a shipping strike there, lots of things can happen to delay a part and therefore ruin an assembly line's balance.

Reuters Business Channel | Reuters.com

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Truth About Cars

GM Deathwatch at thetruthaboutcars.com

I considered opining on Robert Farago's editorials about problems he sees with General Motors. I'll let you read his columns at www.thetruthaboutcars.com and form your own conclusions.

Just go give you some ideas of where he's coming from: GM's "red tag sale" is the "toe tag sale". The board of directors is the "board of bystanders." Rick Wagoner is "Rabid Rick".

The Truth About Cars

NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW: Chrysler poised to overtake Ford

Chrysler to Pass Ford in 2007?

According to the Detroit Free Press article linked below, DaimlerChrysler appears to be on track to pass Ford as the #2 automaker in North America in 2007.

Some interesting stats from the article:

The revival of Chrysler's Jeep brand after a five-year slump is a key factor prompting Chrysler to boost capacity and add third shifts at existing U.S. and Canadian plants, just as Ford prepares to shrink itself by announcing on Jan. 23 a wave of plant closures and elimination of up to 30,000 jobs.

The result: Chrysler's annual capacity will grow 15% to around 3.7 million vehicles, while Ford's expected closure of 10 to 13 plants will cut capacity by 25% to bring it in line with its North American sales volume of about 3.3 million vehicles last year.


Chrysler's three brands -- Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep -- sold 2.53 million cars and trucks in the United States last year, up 4% from 2004; Ford sales dropped 5% to 3.15 million units.

While Ford sold about 600,000 more vehicles in the United States than Chrysler in 2005, the gap between the two has been closing rapidly.

In 2000, for example, Ford sold almost 1.5 million more vehicles than Chrysler. And in 1990, Ford sales were 95% higher than Chrysler's -- 3.3 million to 1.7 million. Now Ford's lead is about 17% and shrinking.

Chrysler, in contrast to GM and Ford, has posted sales gains the past two years. And although much of the credit for that has gone to the stylish Chrysler 300 sedan, it was Jeep that contributed half of the company's 2005 sales gain.

NORTH AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW: Chrysler poised to overtake Ford

Your phone records are for sale

Psst, Buddy, You wanna buy your cell phone records?

Your phone records are for sale

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Inside Line: Three-Wheeled VW GX3 May Be Headed for Production — If Americans Like It -

VW GX3 - The Hottest Thing on 3 Wheels?

Three-wheeled concept cars have come and gone over the years. Here's the latest, the VW GX3. Zero to 60 in about 5.7 seconds at $17,000: the numbers aren't bad. Neither is the mileage, 46 mpg.

Inside Line: Three-Wheeled VW GX3 May Be Headed for Production — If Americans Like It -

In separate news, Daimler Chrysler is planning to build a minivan for Volkswagen. Chrysler will do the engineering and will manufacture them along side its other minivans. VW will do its own exterier and interior styling.

Main Page - Autoguidewiki.com


Conceptually based on the popular Wikipedia collaberative encyclopedia, Autowiki.com is an open-source guide to cars old and new.

Main Page - Autoguidewiki.com

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tele Atlas at CES - How Sat-Nav maps gets made - Autoblog

How Your Navigation System Gets its data

Interesting post at autoblog.com about how Sat-Nav gets data for its automotive navigation system. They have a fleet of bright orange Toyota Sienas with video cameras linked to satellite navigation systems that drive around and input data. I did not know that.

Tele Atlas at CES - How Sat-Nav maps gets made - Autoblog

Thursday, January 05, 2006


CES Coverage at Engadget.com

The annual Consumer Electronics Show is going on right now. The best place to keep up with it that I've found is www.engadget.com. So far, the trend is toward home media centers, converged video and still cameras, cell-phone media players, and small satelite radio receivers that also play mp3s. This year also seems to herald the marketing of "digital ink", something that I remember reading about in Popular Science at least a decade ago, maybe two.


USATODAY.com - GM is China's top-selling foreign automaker

Some Good News for GM:
GM Takes over #1 Importer spot in China

GM sales in China were up 35% in 2005, and GM took over the title of #1 importer from Volkswagen. GM sold 665,000 vehicles in China for the year. Chevy sales topped 100,000 for the first time. (One wonders what they could have done if the whole "Chery" design theft wouldn't have occurred.) Buick sales continued strong at 105,000.

USATODAY.com - GM is China's top-selling foreign automaker

That's no jack rabbit ... it's an artist in chains - Peculiar Postings - MSNBC.com

The First Nominee for 2006's "Stupidest Person Award:

Save this for a day when you think you've talked to the stupidest person in the world.

That's no jack rabbit ... it's an artist in chains - Peculiar Postings - MSNBC.com

GM, Ford lose more ground-Chrysler makes gains, along with Asian Big 3

GM & Ford Sales down
Toyota, DC, Honda, Nissan Sales UP

General Motors and Ford lost market share in 2005. DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan gained sales. Based on current market trends, Toyota will pass General Motors as the global market leader sometime this year. Also based on current market trends, GM will slip below 25% market share in the United States in the coming year.

The article linked below has the rankings of the top selling cars and trucks. The Toyota Camry led the car parade. The Ford F-series was the top-selling truck.

GM, Ford lose more ground-Chrysler makes gains, along with Asian Big 3

GM fires 500 engineers-The loss of contract jobs darkens grim Mich. outlook

GM Fires 500 (Contract) Engineers

That's the way to turn around your company, fire the people who make your product better.

GM fires 500 engineers-The loss of contract jobs darkens grim Mich. outlook

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Winnipeg Free Press Online Edition

Consumers Trust - Part II
Oh, I See, It's a "Slippage" Scheme.

From the Winnipeg Free Press:

How it worked

How the voucher promotion worked and what happens next: * Merchants participated in the program by entering into a deal with Consumers Trust, in which they transferred to Consumers Trust 15 per cent of the face value of each voucher handed out in a given week. Forty per cent of that money was held in an account for future voucher payouts. The rest was used to pay the costs and marketing expenses of the program.

* When a consumer bought something from a participating merchant, the consumer was given the cashable voucher along with a set of complicated instructions.

* The customer was required, within seven days of purchase, to send by registered mail a copy of the cash voucher to Consumers Trust.

* Within five days after the three-year anniversary of the purchase, the customer was required to send a long list of documents to Consumers Trust in order to redeem some or all of the cash promised. The list of documents included a notarized copy of the customer's birth certificate, a copy of the registered mail receipt issued by the post office three years ago, the original voucher, a copy of the invoice issued by the merchant at the time of purchase and proof of payment.

* Court documents filed by Consumers Trust in a New York bankruptcy court explain how the program worked: "Until recently, the cashable voucher program was viable because it is "slippage based," meaning that the vast majority of consumers simply forget to submit claims to the trust three years later, lose their cashable vouchers or the requisite proofs of purchase or otherwise fail to follow the steps detailed on the back of the cashable voucher. The cashable voucher program is explicitly marketed in written promotional material to the merchants and consumers as being precisely what it is, a memory test that most people will fail."

The FTC really should get more involved with regulating rebate advertising and administration. Claims of "free after rebate" are deceptive when the company issuing the rebate isn't solvent or isn't paying claims, when sales tax is charged on the pre-rebate amounts, when the cost of complying with the rebate is a substantial portion of the rebate amount. Also, in some rebate situations, you must deface the product or box to redeem the rebate, and in so doing, you might cut short your warranty.

The Winnipeg Free Press Online Edition

Missouri Sues Consumers Trust

Consumers Trust - Rebate Scam

There are clients coming out of the woodwork looking for answers because they received a notice of bankruptcy of Consumers Trust. This is a rebate company that by all appearances was nothing but a scam. Here's a link to a suit by Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon. From what I've seen, Jay Nixon's office has taken on more difficult consumer protection litigation than any attorney general in the country, with the possible exception of Elliot Spitzer. Since there are a lot of interstate scams luring people to sales meetings in Branson Missouri and Lake of the Ozarks, it's important that Mr. Nixon isn't a slacker.

If you are a victimized consumer or an attorney representing a victimized consumer, I recommend that you do plenty of background research and network. I doubt that a lot of money will be available through the bankruptcy, but the retailers selling these things knew or should have known that recovery was doubtful. Keep an eye on newsletters from the National Consumer Law Center.

Missouri Sues Consumers Trust

Daily Edition: Jan. 4, 2006 - The Car Connection

Multiple Items from Thecarconnection.com:
-SUVS Aren't Safer
-Dodge Challenger Concept Pic
-Chrysler Imperial Concept Pic
-Ford Reflex Pic
-Saturn Sky is Priced

Thecarconnection.com rounded up in a concise form some of the latest news of the auto industry.

First up, a study just came out confirming what I always believed, SUVs aren't safer than cars. The roll-over risk outweighs the inherent weight advantage. When you consider the external risk that the SUVs impose on the lighter vehicles, you can actually say that as far as society goes, they are less safe.

Next up, the Dodge Challenger. DC has circulated pictures of its Dodge Challenger concept car that will be formally unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show next week. It is very faithful to the original in proportions, strikingly so. Since it is based on a shortened version of the 300 platform, it should be easily producible.

Next, the Chrysler Imperial concept. This luxury concept car, also to be unveiled in Detroit, rides on a lengthened version of the 300 platform. It is also producible, although the business case is more suspect. The failure of the VW Phaeton is fresh in everyone's memory.

Next, the Ford Reflex, a hybrid small coupe with solar panels. I don't think you'll see anything like this in the real world, but interesting none the less.

Next, Saturn announced pricing for the Saturn Sky Coupe. Pricing starts at $23,690, more than two thousand dollars more than its close relative, the Pontiac Solstice. The Sky has one thing that the Pontiac doesn't have that may end up attracting buyers to the Sky: a place for a front license plate.

Daily Edition: Jan. 4, 2006 - The Car Connection

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dodge Charger police cars

How fast is that Cop Car?

Allpar.com, the DaimlerChrysler enthusiast site, has the results of a comparison test between the latest police packages. The hemi-powered Dodge Charger and Magnum blew away the Crown Vic and Impala in the acceleration tests, but on the closed course all of the cars were close together. What might seal the fate of the Crown Vic as the standard police cruiser is the marked superiority in braking shown by the Charger.

Two areas very important to police departments aren't discussed in this article. The first is usable trunk space. The second is long-term costs and durability. Both of these are areas where the Crown Vic has built up a top-notch reputation.

Dodge Charger police cars

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Look Back at Hof's Blog -March & April 2005

Indirect bad news for UAW-LSP attorneys continued and was pretty much unabated. Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis ended their UAW-LSP coverage for new hires. GM closed its Lansiing Michigan plant. GM also halted development on its Zeta rear-wheel drive platform, a platform that would have competed with the Chrysler 300 and possibly would have spawned a new Camaro. The fan was starting to get pretty messy at Delphi as a lot of problems started coming to a head.

Despite the problems, I put in a reminder that being a rich lawyer is not necessarily better than being a poor UAW-LSP lawyer, especially when you're a rich stupid lawyer. Richard Hatch, the (formerly) fat, naked guy from survivor, a lawyer by trade, got into trouble for not paying taxes on the $1 million that he got from CBS as well as from other income.

On the lighter side, I posted the link to the Koko Gorilla site. Koko was in the news later in the year when her handler was sued for sexual harassment by demanding that female staff members show Koko their breasts whenever Koko, by sign language, requested it.

March was also the month of the "Numa Numa" dance.

April was a slow month for auto news. Chrysler announced that it was considering exporting cars from China to the United States. Nissan reported record profits.

BARF, the pet name for the Bankruptcy Abuse and Prevention Act, was in the news. I reprinted the letter that I got from Democratic Senator Evan Bayh wherein he explained why he voted for the bill. If you can figure out from that letter the reason other than undue influence and/or political posturing for a 2008 presidential bid, then you have one up on me.

The animal of the month was the Cambodian River Stingray.