Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Brandy, She's a Fine Girl, but She Drives like Toonces.,0,5138626.story?coll=bal-entertainment-headlines

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hafnium Valley?
Not So Fast

Last Friday, Intel and IBM made virtually simultaneous announcements that they were introducing a new chip-making process that was not based upon the silicon dioxide substrate used during the last 40 years. Instead, a new process is based upon the element hafnium and two undisclosed substances.

You might be surprised when I tell you that I'm no expert on hafnium, but Wikipedia knows everything, so I asked Wik to tell me about Hafnium. Here's what Wik has to say.

Unlike silicon dioxide, which is basically sand, Hafnium doesn't exist in its elemental state in nature. It is refined from ore that contains approximately 1% to 2% Hafnium in its natural state. The refining process is done by the Kroll Process, a complex and expensive process that is used to refine titanium. The ores that contain hafnium generally contain 50 times as much zirconium,hafnium's chemical analog, and because of similar chemistry, the two metals are extremely difficult to separate.

The bottom line is that hafnium chips may never end up taking over the market. The process needed to create the raw material is too expensive and environmentally damaging to be used in situations where silicon chips are plenty good enough.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Breaking News: China's Chery May Buy Chrysler Transmission Line

Autoweek reports that China's Chery Automotive is working on a deal to buy DaimlerChrysler's 4-speed automatic transmission line and have it shipped from Kokomo Indiana to China lock, stock & barrel. This type of deal is called a "lift and shift". I've written about it before. Until now, the most prominent example in the auto industry was the transfer of BMW's Brazilian engine line to China.

The Chrysler transmissions in question are just starting to be replaced in North American Vehicles by a new 6-speed Ultradrive transmission, also built in Kokomo. In the past, Chrysler has had trouble with its new transmissions, including (and especially) the 4-speed Ultradrive line that Chery is purchasing. Now the outgoing line has at least average reliability, but its efficiency lags that of newer competitive designs. Although at first blush this deal seems no more than DC getting salvage value out of an obsolete asset, such may not be the case. Given that the recently-introduced Chrysler Sebring has not been weaned from the old 4-speed, it is likely that Chrysler will be using the transmission for at least four years. There is no word on the when the Chery move is to take place, but it is highly possible that Chrysler will import some transmissions from Chery. Secondly, once the Chery line is up and running, DC can compare price and quality to the Kokomo-built transmissions. If the comparison is favorable to Chery, more work could be sent to the Far East.

Even though the old transmission is not state-of-the-art, the deal appears to be a great one for Chery. Freed from the constraints of developing a transmission from scratch, then working out the bugs, Chery can crank out more cars for the American market sooner rather than later. DaimlerChrysler appears to be keen to exploit this, and may import a small car built by Chery to be sold as a Dodge. Newer transmissions on competitive cars might only yield a 5-10% advantage that can be tuned to favor fuel economy or performance. In the case of fuel economy, such an advantage may worth as little as $50.00 per year on a 4-cylinder car. If Chery applies traditional Chinese pricing practices, this disadvantage can easily be overcome.

Interestingly, even though Autoweek broke the story yesterday, the Kokomo Tribune and the Indianapolis Star have not yet picked up on it as of this morning. This seems out-of-place considering DaimlerChrysler may perform a Cross-your-heart Bra move on Kokomo, lifting and separating the city from one of its most important industrial assets.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Wikipedia Entry of the Day - Apostrophe

If you look up "apostrophe" on Wikipedia, you'll find the entry includes everything you always wanted to know about apostrophes, but were afraid to ask. As lawyers, most people know that when you want to refer to more than one person who serves as a state's highest attorney, you use the term "attorneys general". But what about when there is one #1 attorney who just happens to have a slush fund? Then it's the Attorney General's slush fund. But, you say, the fund is owned by the attorney, "general" is a mere adjective. Ah, here's where the distinction comes in. It is the attorney general's slush fund. This distinguishes from when the slush fund is owned by many attorneys general, in which case it is the attorneys general's slush fund. Of course, you can always debate whether there should be a hypen between "attorney" and "general", because manuals of style don't agree.
Saturn's Aura fading?

In another one of his General Motors Deathwatch editorials, Robert Farago of, suggests that the highly-touted Saturn Aura has been less than a roaring sales success. Quoting:

In its first three months, Saturn sold 19,746 Auras. If the model sustains those numbers– and that’s a big “if”– the Aura will generate roughly 80k sales per year. While the projected annual tally would dwarf ’05 sales of the similarly platformed Saab 9-3 (24,133), it would fail to surmount the, gulp, Buick Lucerne (96,515). To put that into perspective, last year GM sold 323,981 Chevrolet Impalas, 312,747 Cobalt/HHR’s, 157,644 G6’s and 163,853 Chevrolet Malibus.

To put THAT into perspective, between 34 and 60 percent of those models went to rental fleets. In other words, in the battle for the mass market, the award-winning pride of Detroit Saturn Aura is another, even smaller, damp squib.

Part of the reason for Saturn's disappointing sales has to be questionable marketing. I've seen several print ads, but I can't remember a single television commercial.

Another reason is that the Saturn dealer network isn't what it used to be. Although Saturn dealers get praise for their customer service, they just don't churn the metal like Chevrolet dealers. When the Malibu (pre-redesign) sells twice as much has the new-design Aura, it's time for GM to consider whether the Saturn brand is a true necessity.

A Tango that only Takes Two

Ron Burdge of The Lemon Law Blog turned me onto a new electric car called the Tango from a company called Commuter Cars Corporation. The Tango is a two-seater that looks like the Smart ForTwo, except the Tango is narrower. In fact the Tango is narrower than some motorcycles. The passenger is crammed into a jumpseat behind the driver. The Tango may look like a Smart car, but it goes like a Tesla roadster. Published 0-60 time is 4.2 seconds. What's the price for this beastie? $108,000 for a "mostly assembled" top of the line T600 model. George Clooney has the first one.

One may quibble and say that the Tango is as likely to get off the ground as the Moller Skycar, but Commuter Cars Corporation has delivered one, and that's one more than the Chevrolet Volt.

Here's a link to a video of the Tango T600.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

New from Hallmark for Valentines Day

Nothing says I love you like heart-shaped fake dog poop.

Okay, I lied. It's not from Hallmark. It's from eBay.

If that doesn't capture the exact mood that you're looking for, perhaps you should browse the eBay fake dog poop listings for just the right gift.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wikipedia Entry of the Day - Cousin

Do you know the difference between a second cousin and a first cousin once-removed? How about a fourth cousin twice removed? Everything you always wanted to know about cousins is contained in this entry.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Googleteer on Rosie Vs. The Donald

Our favorite web-searching superhero, the Googleteer, flew in through the window to say hi. While he was here, he did this search which profoundly reflects the current state of the media and public opinion:

sick of both of them rosie-o'donnell donald-trump

The result? 76,300 hits. Hmmm, I thought it would have been more.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Play Moist Towelette Concentration

Here's the link. It is just what you think it would be.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Minivan R.I.P.
Long Live the Minivan

At the same time that Ford announced that it's putting the Freestar and the Monterey out of their misery, Daimler Chrysler announced that it will be previewing the DCX 2008 minivans at next week's Detroit Auto Show. Is Chrysler riding in like the cavalry to save the day, or is it cavalierly riding off a cliff? It might depend upon the strength of the new product. GM killed their uncompetitive vans late last year. All of the domestics have been relying heavily on fleet sales, but none so much as Ford.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that in late October 2006, I purchased a 2006 Dodge Grand Caravan. I hope to publish an actual review when I get around to it. Even though the van has performed flawlessly, and I think I got the best vehicle for my money, I have to tell you that my shopping experience had something to do with my decision to sell my DCX stock. More about this in a later post.

From the Psst: Want to see a Minivan Naked file:

Autoblog backed off when DCX protested the posting of leaked minivan pics. There's a guy named Vince Burlapp that would be happy to oblige you if you are really interested in seeing naked pictures of the 2008 Chrysler minivans before next week. I'm not going to link his site. You'll be able to find him. Here's a warning: just ask some people look better with clothes on, some cars do too. There's nothing to see here folks, move along. Note to DCX: after you've taken the Sebring stylist to the woodshed for a whipping, leave the door open. the Town & Country stylist has something coming.