Monday, December 31, 2007

Plural of Prius? has an interesting post about the correct plural of the word Prius, using correct Latin grammar of course. Here's a tidbit.

Previously, on "You Need To Get A Life," Trib author Jan Freeman declared that the appropriate term for more than one Toyota Prius was "Prioria." Reader Christopher Casey took exception, kinda. "You were right that Prius is the neuter nominative/accusative singular of the adjective prior, but the plural forms of the word - which means 'earlier, better, more important'- would be Priora, not Prioria." Freeman rang-up Harry Mount, author of "Carpe Diem" (a.k.a. "Latin isn't half as dull as you think it is. More like a quarter"). "Yes, it's Priora," he told Freeman, "because it's neuter plural. But if you cheated a bit and made the car masculine or feminine - and I do think of cars as female - then it would be Priores. And Priores has nice undertones of grandness - Virgil used it to mean 'forefathers' or 'ancestors.'

And people cal Latin a dead language, hah!

I am using this post about Latin Grammar as an excuse to post a clip of Monty Python's Life of Brian which covers a similar topic.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nardelli Puts Chrysler Engineers on Double Secret Probation

According to (where I borrowed the picture) via the Wall Street Journal (where I initially read the article)Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, aka Dean Vernon Nardelli, has put Chrysler Engineers on double secret probation after repeatedly turning out crappy products that are threatening the continued existence of the company. Apparently, Stephen Feinberg, the mysterious supervillian that heads Cerburus,is leaning on Dean Bob because the company that Cerburus got for free is going to lose over a billion dollars this year.$1.6 billion specifically. Unless Chrysler can come up with new products that don't exist, and/or single-handedly change the business cycle of the United States economy, Chrysler will lose similar amounts of money next year.

How bad is the Chrysler financial picture? Here's a quote from the WSJ article above that allegedly came from a meeting that Mr. Nardelli had with Chrysler employees:

"Someone asked me, 'Are we bankrupt?'" Mr. Nardelli said at the meeting. "Technically, no. Operationally, yes. The only thing that keeps us from going into bankruptcy is the $10 billion investors entrusted us with."

Wait, there's more . . .

Mr. Nardelli arrived to find Chrysler's vehicle sales and cost-savings efforts were falling well short of their targets. Some models had faults such as cheap plastic interiors and noisy rides. He learned that Chrysler badly lags behind on fuel-saving technologies and will have to spend billions to catch up. Worse, the mortgage crisis and slowing economy mean U.S. auto sales are likely to fall next year to their lowest level in 10 years.

And more . . .

He liked the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, but also saw Chrysler's product line had many serious weak spots. Riding the Sebring convertible, "I found the wind noise totally unacceptable and bordering on offensive at speeds of 80 mph," he wrote in a terse email to Chrysler's top designer, Trevor Creed. Griping about the cheap plastic of its interior, he added, "I sure hope that as we go forward, we don't punish the customer by thrifting the interior to meet a cost target."

The article also that there is a "crash program" to replace the Sebring, which has been a failure from day one. A 5 minute test-drive of the Sebring last year caused me to immediately sell my DaimlerChrysler stock, and in my opinion the Sebring may end up being the car that kills Chrysler. I have no doubt that the Sebring had some bearing in Daimler's decision to cut Chrysler loose.

Nardelli says it is important for Chrysler to sell assets to generate cash. The problem is that Chrysler only has what assets Daimler chose to give away to Cerburus in the first place. Nardelli hopes to generate about a billion dollars in asset sales even if those sales result in paper losses.

For those in my reading public with short attention spans, I remind you that Mr. Nardelli said that but for the $10 billion in assets that "investors" invested in Chryslerberus, the company would be bankrupt. In 2007, the losses will be $1.6 billion. In 2008, let's call it a billion. By 2010, according to the recently concluded UAW contract, Chrysler is supposed to contribute $8.8 billion to the retiree VEBA account. Where is that money supposed to come from? Where is Chrysler supposed to get the capital it needs for new product development? Sure, some product development money is budgeted from current revenue; but Chrysler's problem is that it has not been generating new product often enough, and those that have been entering production have not been good enough to stem the tide.

So, that's why Chrysler engineers are on double-secret probation. They've got to pull a proverbial rabbit out of their hat. Either they come up with a killer product in the next year, or Chrysler stops operating as an independent automaker.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Next up: More Buyouts for GM Workers

The Detroit News reports that General Motors is trying to implement a new buyout program aimed at reducing the number of high-seniority UAW workers. The General is facing greater pressure to cut costs because sales have been slipping in recently, and the outlook over the near-term does not look good due to overall economic conditions, especially the housing slump.

The buyout would be similar to the one implemented in 2006 when workers received $35,000 to $140,000 in lump sum payments. Many but not all of the bought-out workers would be replaced by new workers in the lower tier of the two-tier contract that GM negotiated with the UAW this fall. According to the Detroit news, implementation of the new buyout plan has been slowed because the two-tier structure has not fully been implemented. The two-tier structure is being set up on a plant-by-plant basis.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Youtube Video of the Day
Jesse Jackson Reads Green Eggs and Ham

Here's something I've been looking for for a long time. it's a clip of Jesse Jackson reading Dr. Seuss's book, Green Eggs & Ham shortly after Seuss's death in 1991. I suspect that for some time, people had been noticing the similarities in rhythm between Green Eggs & Jackson's speaking style. Rev. Jackson responds by reading a deadpan-rendition of the Seuss classic.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Senate Passes Craptastic Fuel Economy Bill

The United States Senate passed a bill that mandates average fuel economy for each automaker at 35 mpg by 2020. Unfortunately, to get the deal to go through, so many compromises were made that there may be very little effect on US energy consumption. The bill retains separate standards for trucks and cars. This provision in the current law contributed to the rise of SUVs as substitutes for station wagons. It also resulted in cars like the PT Cruiser being classified as "trucks" to subsidize gas guzzlers in the product line. The bill also retained credits for flex-fuel capable vehicles even if those vehicles never run on alternative fuels.

An earlier version of the bill included $25-35 billion in loan guarantees for automakers to use to revamp and retool older factories to manufacture greener cars. This was stripped from the version that passed at the demand of Republican senators.

The energy bill is expected to go to the House and pass in that chamber. President Bush threatened to veto an earlier version, a version that included alternative fuel credits and taxes on windfall oil company profits. Those provisions have been stripped, and the President might just sign this one. For more on the bill, here's a link to the Detroit Free Press article.

Personally, I think there is a place for CAFE type fuel economy mandates, but that such mandates should not be the core of energy policy. If you want to reduce total fuel consumption, the efficient way to do it is to tax fuel or actually ration fuel. Rationing can be economically efficient if rations can be freely traded. CAFE standards that simply increase miles per gallon do not necessarily decrease gasoline usage. A person who switches from a 20-mpg car to a 25-mpg car saves money that he/she might decide to use by driving 25% more. In fact, collectively, the miles we drive per year has been going up far faster than the rate at which our vehicles have been improving their MPG. Unless driving (or heating your house etc.) is made more expensive, the economic incentive for conservation will be watered down.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Youtube video of the day
Deposition Civility - Texas-style

Thanks to Jack K. for the link.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Youtube Video of the Day:
Stopping Terrorist Washing Machines

It seems that terrorists have been hiding in washing machines carefully camouflaged in Iraq. Luckily our troops are on top of things, and have developed tactics to take out the evildoers. Witness below:

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Toyota's Violin-Playing Robot

Let's say you're Toyota. You're the biggest automotive company in the world. Your stock is valued at ten times that of General Motors, if not more, and your cars move out the door as soon as they hit the dealer. What do you do with your money? Answer: you build a violin-playing robot.

Unlike Honda, which named its humanoid robot "Aismo", Toyota stuck with the memorable name "Violin-Playing Robot". They should have had the robot make its debut in Carnegie Hall. That way, when a reporter asked how the robot got to Carnegie Hall, the PR hack could say "practice, practice, practice."

In response to Toyota's display of technological wizardry, General Motors announced a "mild robot", a kazoo-playing hairdryer.

This is a great opportunity to recycle some old violin jokes.

What's the difference between a robot violinist and a dog? The dog knows when to quit scratching.

How do you get two robot violinists to play in unison? Shoot one of them.

For more violin jokes, click here.

Here's a youtube video of the Honda robot fighting the Toyota robot. Or so I'm told.

Thanks to Ken W. For the heads-up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

From the Cars-we-can't-buy File
Ford Focus 2.0 TDCI Titanium

This fall brought a redo of the 8 year old Ford Focus. The automotive press writers almost uniformly panned the new car, not because it’s bad per se, but because it’s not as good as the European Focus. Ford says that the US market would not pay the additional cost that is built into the European model. Nevertheless, Mazda sells its platform mate of the European Focus, the Mazda3, built in high-wage Hiroshima, Japan for at or around its sticker price, usually a couple grand more than the Ford Focus. Ford’s Volvo brand sells its version, the C-30, built in Sweeden, for $25,000 to $30,000 here in the States.

What’s so great about the European Focus? It handles and rides great. There is a diverse range of engine options, including two diesels, with displacements of 1.8 liter and a 2.0 liter respectively. The modern 2.0 liter turbo diesel in the TDCi Titanium Version, the model tested by Britain’s Car magazine, is rated at 134 bhp and 251 lb./ft torque. It goes from 0-62 mph (0-100 km) in 9.3 seconds while returning 40-50 MPG. This compares to 28 MPG in 2.0 liter US version, a car with similar acceleration when fitted with a manual transmission. The model Car tested was dressed to the nines, with a fancy navigation system, deluxe wheels, yada yada yada. It looks more like an Audi A3 than a VW Golf.

How much for all this European goodness, only £18,345. According to Google’s currency converter, that’s $37,812 US dollars. For 30% more (or a year and a half more payments), you could buy the Mercedes E320 Bluetec, which will cradle you in luxury and give you close to 40 MPG along the way. Maybe Ford was right about the price.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Youtube Video of the Day:
The Accident Clinic

In 1992, before the show Friends, Jennifer Aniston was in a show called The Edge. The Edge came and went before most people realized it was on, but it had a great cast including Wayne Knight from Seinfeld and Julie Brown from "Everybody Run, the Homecoming Queen's Got a Gun". Since we might all be forced to go back to private practice one day, I thought I'd post this clip that describes how to run a personal injury practice.