Monday, December 21, 2009

Saab's Not Dead Yet

is reporting that, even though GM's deadline for acceptable bids for Saab has passed, Spyker has submitted an 11 point proposal for aquisition of Saab.

Eleven points! With eleven points, it has to be good. After all, anyone who has seen Spinal Tap knows eleven is better than ten.

Friday, December 18, 2009

79.9% Credit Card - What a Deal
First Premier is up to New Tricks

First Premier Bank is famous for its high fee credit cards that are available to anyone, no matter how bad your credit. How do they do it. They charge as much as $259 in an annual fee for a credit card with a balance of $250 to $300.00. It's not uncommon for someone to call us and complain that they are being charged an over limit fee before they've even charged anything. The new credit card bill was supposed to outlaw such practices by capping account fees to 25% of the credit line. According to this article in USA Today, apparently First Premier has found a way around the new law. They'll be charging 79.9% interest to go along with a $75.00 first year fee on a credit card with a maximum credit line of $300.00. The reason for the change: under the new law, annual fees are capped, but interest rates aren't. For more on First Premiere, check out the ripoffreport link here.

The clip is from a great documentary on the credit card industry called Maxed Out.

Sale to Spyker falls through

Although this should come as a surprise to nobody, it was officially announced today that General Motors' sale of Saab to the Spyker company was not going to consumate. The company will immediately begin winding down operations. At least to start, there will be no bankruptcy involved. has some interesting statistics on Saab that tell the story.

Saab's U.S. sales fell 61 percent in the United States through November, to 7,812 units, meaning this year will be the lowest total under 20 years of GM ownership.

GM's peak for Saab was 47,914 in 2003. The company's U.S. high was 48,181 in 1986.

Nationally, Saab had 2,100 vehicles in U.S. inventory as of Dec. 1 -- a 130-day supply. The brand sold just 371 units in November.

The article said that Saab had about 3000 employees. At current sales levels, that's more than 1 employee for every two Saab cars sold. If you figure dealership employees, the ratio is probably greater than 1:1. It's no wonder nobody came through with a package to buy Saab. I always kind of liked Saabs, but never well enough to actually buy one. Apparently I was in good company.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Youtube Video of the Day

"Hey Bob, what have you been doing for the past few months?"
"I've been making a movie."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NewsFlash: Arcade Claw Games are Rigged

We've always known that claw games were rigged, but we couldn't prove it. that explains just how the games are rigged. They came up with a pdf of a manual for the ACC-1 Arcade Crane Controller. According to the manual, you can set the machine to a winning/losing percentage. In a "winner" round, the pinchers of the crane grasp with maximum force locking in anything it grabs, and the machine can be set so that in a "winner" round, if no prize is dropped in the slot, the player can keep playing until the prize drops. In a predestined "loser" round, the pinchers are set to grab but bleed off pressure until there is just enough pressure to close the jaws without a load. In other words, there's no skill involved. Winning is either a matter of luck or a pure impossibility depending upon how the game is set.

Here's a video of a claw game that picks up live lobsters - maybe, sometimes.

Look Who's Going to Save Saab - Maybe

This from, a weeka fter SAIC, a Chinese automaker, sealed a deal to buy the tooling for the Saab 9-3 and 9-5 models, Sweedish sportscar maker Stryker is the only bidder to take over Saab as a going concern. As TTAC points out, Stryker Stryker lost more money in the first half of this year than they recorded in revenue for all of 2008. Also according to TTAC, Stryker has extensive ties to the Russian mob. All in all, you know that this story is going to have a happy ending.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Surprise Kitty

A natural progression

Cool Auto Gadget

Earlier this year, I finally broke down and Garmin GPS for my car. Like my tie, my Garmin 265WT is a clip-on. Wow, I thought, this has a computer, a touchscreen, a GPS sensor, Bluetooth, why doesn't it have any of the cool programs available for the iPhone? Here's something cool that's coming next year.

Garmin's EPS module is a small box that attaches to your car's OBD-II computer in your car's engine bay. You know all that data that they read off your car when you take it into the shop, EPS should be able to convey all that information to your Garmin Nuvi GPS device. The EPS sends the signal to the GPS display unit via wireless Bluetooth signal. In addition to checking and clearing fault codes, you can monitor instantaneous fuel flow and even set up your own customized set of engine gauges. Think of it as a glass cockpit for $200.00. (I'm just guessing the price. No actual prices have been announced.) For those who can't wait until next year, a system with similar capabilities is advertised online by Zeitronics for $749.00. Oh, yes, there are OBD-II reader programs available for the iPhone, but it doesn't look like there's a standard and inexpensive way to get the signal from the automobile's computer to the iPhone. Besides, I don't have an iPhone, and I'm not going to get one soon. I don't a phone it would kill me to lose, and I don't want to be an indentured servant to AT&T for three years.

More info on the Garmin EPS at the site is here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Super BOWL XLIV (Halftime) Preview

We're now three fourths of the way through the regular season, we still have two unbeatent teams, the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, but there are still lots of teams that could line up on the field in Miami

The Super Bowl halftime entertainment has been announced and the featured entertainment are The Who. Judging from some recent pictures from and the Palm Beach Post of 65 year-old Who frontman Roger Daltrey on the beach being tended to by a whitehaired gentleman named Gordon, we could soon be pining for the days when we only saw part of 40 year-old Janet Jackson's chest. Roger looks better than average for a man his age, but if he takes off his shirt, I'm writing to the F.C.C.

As I understand it, The Who have changed some of their old tunes to match changing demographics. Some of the new ones:

I Can See For Miles, but I can't see up close without my glasses
The Kids are Alright, if they're not on my lawn
Magic Bus, that takes us to the casino
Talking 'Bout what's left of My Generation
Who Are You? (no change)
Youtube Video of the Day
Introducing the FORD EXPIRED

The Discovery Channel Show Mythbusters decided it would be cool to crush an old Ford Aspire with a rocket sled zooming near the speed of sound. Yep. It's cool.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Apple Acquires La La

I just saw this news story that Apple has aquired LaLa. That's just sick. "Acquired", for what sick purpose one can only imagine. Frankly, I'm so disgusted I didn't even finish reading the article.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Math Calculators

Let me tell you what I remember about trigonometry. Now that that's done, I can tell you that a simple trigonometry calculator at lets you put in the length of any two sides of a triangle or the length of a side plus the measure of one angle, and the calculator will solve instantly for all remaining sides and angles. This is important because you don't have to remember when to use sin tan or cos, or even worse, inverse sin, cos or tan. This calculator should buy you the better part of a year where you can help your kid with her homework without looking like a complete idiot.

When you need heavy math artillery, check out Wolfram Alpha. I'm not worthy of using Wolfram Alpha. Wolfram Alpha posits itself (I just wanted to say posits itself) as a "computational knowledge engine". If you have a question where the answer is either a number, a graph, a chart, a table, or an almanac-type statistic, asking a question at Wolfram Alpha may be the quickest source for the information. I'm embedding a 7 minute introduction to Alpha. There's a 106 minute introduction available if you have two hours to kill.

Currency conversion? No problem Inflation values of money? Sure. Median height of a 12 year old? It's there. Median height of a 12.5 year old boy? Sure, it even gets that specific.

I thought I'd trick Alpha. I asked it in plain language, "What's the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?" Actually, this was an overhead lob for a search engine for nerds by nerds, and Wolfram Alpha easily handled the request. The response:

there is unfortunately insufficient data to estimate the velocity of an African swallow (even if you specified which of the 47 species of swallow found in Africa you meant)
(asked, but not answered, about a general swallow in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail)

It also gave an option for clarification

Assuming estimated average cruising airspeed of an unladen African swallow | Use estimated average cruising airspeed of an unladen European swallow instead

For that question, it returned an answer of 25mph. (Of course, you have the option of doing unit conversions.)

Because it wasn't quite midnight, I asked, "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood?"

The answer:

A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood.
(according to the tongue-twister, although the paper "The Ability of Woodchucks to Chuck Cellulose Fibers" by P.A. Paskevich and T.B. Shea in Annals of Improbable Research vol. 1, no. 4, pp. 4-9, July/August 1995, concluded that a woodchuck can chuck 361.9237001 cubic centimeters of wood per day)

Now that I know this, I can go to sleep.

Website of the Day: Smugopedia

Let's say you're crashing a party at the White House.
You don't want to be discovered as an interloper, but you've never mastered the art of cocktail party banter. Never fear, stealthily steer your iPhone browser (You DO have an iPhone, don't you?) to and quickly soak up a page or two of high culture learned opinions and factoids that can take an Ivy League education to acquire.

Yes, you too can learn and use exciting phrases like the following:

Although Herodotus is remembered today as the first historian, his strength was actually as a story teller; what he lacked in analytic rigor, he compensated for in his exquisite narrative prose.

Such departmental bickering always reminds me of Borges' observation on the Falklands War: It's like two bald men fighting over a comb.

Although a lot of fun to play, Go isn't as realistic as another ancient strategy game, the Viking "Hnefatafl," in which one of the two sides is the attacker and the other merely vies to help its own King escape.

Keep in mind, not all of the facts on Smugopedia are correct, but it's always better to be condescending than right.

Fritz Henderson Shown the Door at GM

Ed Whitacre takes "Interim" CEO Role

It was a surprise, but it shouldn't have been. In a hastily arranged press conference GM board chairman Ed Whitacre, Jr. announced that Fritz Henderson would be vacating his position as CEO of the company, and Whitacre himself would be taking over as interim CEO. It seems that Henderson was basically fired but went willingly. Clearly, Henderson and the board had different ideas regarding strategy. The best example was the on-again-off-again sale of Opel.

Looking back, Henderson was doomed from the start. He was an insider from the GM accounting department, where lies were cooked to order every quarter. The government-backed board needed Henderson to help them sort out the mess and get through the merger, but just because you need Gollum to lead you to the fires of Mordor, you aren't going to trust him to throw the ring into the fire.

Whitacre was brought in by the Government because he was an outsider with experience running a large corporation. He retired as President and CEO of AT&T in 2007. He was formerly the national head of the Boy Scouts of America, so he must "be prepared" for the job. Unlike the past two GM CEOs, Mr. Ed isn't particularly funny-looking.

(Picture from