Monday, December 01, 2008

Year Two

It's a small thing and I only note it on here because this is how my blog had begun, a journey to buy a house in Austin. Today is the second anniversary of the closing of my house. I was not here for it, I arrived the next day.

I finished painting the master bedroom this morning. It's chocolate fudge brown now. It was one of the few rooms in my house that were painted before I bought it. Two years later, the colors are all mine. This is the same photo angle of my house from the listing. If you look back at past December blogs, you'll see the changes in the trees. My how you've grown!

Last night I attended a the first run of Holiday parties. There will be more. Besides the wonderful food and drink, I could not help but be thankful for the wonderful friends I've made in this short amount of time. I'm highly suspect of people who say they can't make friends in this town, it's the friendliest place I've lived.

I'm off this week, forced vacation time. You have to use your vacation or loose it. I'll be doing a few projects around the house.

What a surprise.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When The Pen Is The Sword

No doubt the US auto industry is teetering on the brink of destruction. Ford has the cash to make it though until 2010 but the collapses of GM and Chrysler will destroy the supplier network that Ford and many other auto manufactures depend on. There has been so much talk about the bankruptcy of GM that the shock value has worn off. We're growing to accept that it is highly possible there will be no more General Motors. There is no longer PanAm, Woolworths, Bethlehem Steel, and the list goes on. Icons do pass.

There will be a huge impact to our economy and many companies without GM. But of interest today is, my former employer. It's not about the website itself, but I guess more about Automotive Journalism here in the states. For years and years, Ford, GM and Chrysler were beat up and nit picked. Toyota's are boring, Nissan's not very reliable after all, Honda's bland, but these never were their main themes. Remember, Hillary Clinton on paper was probably the most qualified candidate for President. The pen is very mighty.

But in the case of, the pen has come back to stab the hand that holds it. Today's featured an article called "Be American, Buy American". It was written by a "ghost writer" called "The Mechanic". Well that would have to be an Edmunds staffer as I doubt they've given the keys to the website to some nameless person. The picture for the piece was the new Chevrolet Camaro, a car that could conceivably never be produced.

It's a bit too late though. GM writes eight figure checks to and it's a substantial portion of their total revenue. Out of respect, I wont' quote any figures from my time there, but it's quite a bit. You might say "wow". I found the timing of the article interesting as today the automakers went to the Senate for a beating while they were asking for life raft.

GM may have loved, but I could never see the love returned. Bob Lutz even once paid a visit to the offices in Santa Monica. But recently they showed a picture of a Silverado attached to a tow truck as a main photo for a long term test. All cars can break down, but never in my nearly 30 years of car magazines can I recall such a slap. Despite the large chunk of cash bestowed on the company, during my time, no upper management drove a GM product. Acura, Lexus, Land Rover and Volvo, as I recall were the personal (not long term test) vehicles with reserved parking. If GM handed me an eight figure check, I might have a Cadillac or two parked in the reserved spaces.

But it may be too late Edmunds. It was not cool to be nice to GM either personally or in print. The company is run by a fine family with high caliber employees and despite the major bruising it may receive for the loss of GM, it will live on.

Just like the rest of us.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Big Decisions

I've already voted. Thankfully Travis County does a great job of setting up polling places. One was by my office and I voted earlier in the week. Fast, efficient and convienent. Voting should always be this easy and acessable. I think the election is decided for President, the big show will be how big the Democrats lead in Congress will be.

What do we do about the American automobile industry?

Chrysler maybe a goner. Yes you can still buy one, in fact you can order one. But before we have another Congressional election, you won't be able to get a new one. Ford is doing ok, and will weather the storm with the surplus of cash on hand. But what do we do with GM?

GM has more then sales problems. It has cash problems. Two years ago Ford mortgaged everything. Credit markets were open, it was easy for them to get cash. GM sold half of GMAC (their finance arm) to raise cash. Now they can't lend you money to buy a car, but Ford still can. Ford held on to Ford Motor Credit.

GM is not an industrial icon to my generation. However to my parents generation it is. GM was everywhere on television, they owned half the new vehicle market in the United States and were at times eyed by the justice department to be broken up for anti-trust reasons. Today, GM has about 24 percent of the market and is on the verge of running out of cash. When you burn through a billion dollars a month from your bank account, well sometime in 2009 GM won't be able to pay their bills. They no longer pay them in 30 days as it stands today.

Do we save GM? Arguments are being made by governors across the country to lend money to help them out. We did help out Chrysler in the 80's and the treasury made $400 million in profit for doing so. Do we want to try the same for GM? You keep hearing GM is going to buy Chrysler, but don't be fooled. Chrysler is a goner, you're financing saving GM not Chrysler which will be closed. Period. There will be massive job losses regardless.

I work in the auto industry. The company I work for will be effected. Part of the problem with GM and Chrysler going under is that the suppliers who supply them will go under too. Those suppliers also supply the rest of our auto industry in the US and will face massive restructuring (layoffs). Oh, and the retirees who will be flooding the government funded pension guarantee system. Don't forget about them.

We've said good-bye to making textiles. We've said good-bye to making electronics. We've said good-bye to most of our manufacturing industry. But are we ready to say goodbye to General Motors?

Baseball, Apple Pie and Chevrolet. A fate that will be decided after Election Day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Kinda Town, Again

My blog is taking it's third trip to Chicago. I'm here in business to see a client. My first trip was February 2007 for the Chicago Auto Show, the best of the auto show season. That was a momentous trip as I gave up Diet Coke and I've never had another one since. The next trip was November 2007 to pick up a 1988 Pontiac Fiero with my friend Mike and drive back to Austin.

Chicago helped me kick the Diet Coke habit but I'll never give up burgers and fries. So tonight I headed over to my old neighborhood here in Chicago to have dinner at the Green Door Tavern. It's old and it's wood. Rare in Chicago as most things post the Great Chicago Fire were made of stone. If you're downtown and want to head to a neighborhood bar without a "corporate" theme, head to the Green Door Tavern at Orleans and Huron. Try the blue cheese burger and some nachos. Yum.

And if you're on a budget, there's always the original Mr. Beef next door.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Long October

It's been a while, I know. As many of you know me, I'm a sporadic communicator at times.

I've begun to feel a bit of disconnect to my blog. And I'm going to overcome that, but it may take some time. My blog started out as the beginning of my departure from Los Angeles to Austin. You may recall that I left Los Angeles so I could buy a home and that was an important goal of mine.

I love my home here. I love my new friends. I love my dogs. I love having a garage and a big yard. I love the quality of life here.

There is so much that is good, but the last six weeks or so have been so bad. I've been angry, disappointed and at times a bit bitter. The government bailout of the banking system made me ill. I wrote my Congressman three times, and he voted against it. Anyone who broke the law writing mortgages from the broker to the underwriter should be brought before the courts, and he agrees as well. Despite my Democratic leanings, he's Republican and I'm voting for John Carter tomorrow. He wrote me back too.

So much of this is all wrong and we're spinning our heads looking for someone to point the finger at. The problem is that there is no one government, bank, mortgage company, President, Senator, CEO etc. We're looking at the government to fix a problem that wasn't theirs to begin with.

Having lived in the heart of the mortgage meltdown from 2000 to 2006 I was at ground zero of what was happening. I could have jumped in but I knew better. I wanted a house and I had to leave Los Angeles to get one. Back in the fall of 2006 you could still get a crazy mortgage that you could not possibly afford. I was offered upwards of 350k to buy a house. By Bank of America.

Of course I did not accept. I knew better. It was stupid. Your income times three is the price you should be able to pay for a house. I don't make that kind of money. (yet) Your income divided by two is the price you should pay for a car. Simple math I've learned long ago. I'm well below those two guidelines and while my parents expressed their pride in my decision making, I'm still feeling a bit ill and angry.

Bank of America, who owns the other 80% of my house, recently announced they were "adjusting" mortgages to fit people's income. They were going to take the principal down to 30% of the person's income so they could stay in the home. I felt that kick in the stomach feeling you get when you get horrible news as I read that article. I didn't have to leave Los Angeles, I just had to wait it out.

I often say, if you want fair, wait until the end of the summer. So I'm not going to scream at Bank of America, or send them nasty letters. It's a good business decision rather then evict people and try to sell houses. The numbers make sense, they are better off adjusting mortgages then flooding the market with properties in a climate where they can't lend people money to buy them. I'm all for good business decisions. I can live with people being evicted.

Harsh as it sounds, it's true. I sympathize with the renters who paid rent and then the landlord defaulted on the mortgage. Somehow they committed theft and should be brought before the courts. But the owner occupied properties, well you kinda had it coming. The mortgage is a simple financial instrument that has been around for decades. You put money down, you buy a house and make payments for 20 or 30 years that are fixed monthly. Your taxes and insurance go up with inflation but the mortgage stays the same. No brainer, our parents did it. Their parents did it. You knew better but chose to ignore it. It was the greed of wanting a better house then you could afford.

My story is the path I took to get to my piece of the American Dream.

And I get to keep it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


With daily commuting now a fact of life, it was time to bring a new vehicle into the stable. The Jeep Grand Cherokee had been relieved of duty earlier this year and found a new home. Horrible gas mileage and very little space made it easy to say goodbye. I should have bought a pick-up instead in February 2006.

I'm happy to introduce to you my latest addition, the Mazda Mazda6. (that's no typo, I'm not kidding). My new companion will be my primary ride to work and back, with the BMW filling in back up duties and for a change of pace. I really like the 635csi, but 17 mpg on premium is not going to cut it. Also, I don't want to run on the miles on a classic car. It was also like an insurance policy as well, certainly the BMW would break to the tune of $1500.00 or so if I had depended solely on it.

This is the Mazda6 sSport. (again, no typo!) A V-6 with a manual transmission, not an ordinary vehicle build, in fact it's no longer offered. I had to travel to Houston to find one and major thank you's to my friend Mike for taking me there and leading the way home. The car I found was in Alvin, TX pretty close to Galveston. I had actually found the car about 10 days ago, but all of Houston was a little busy last weekend. Alvin, TX is 64 feet above sea level, so no flooding and just a lot of wind damage. The dealership had just opened on Friday and I came in Saturday and picked her up.

So far it's a great car. It's still under factory warranty for another 14 months and 20,000 miles. I won't be able to work on it. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle that. But the BMW and Mustang need plenty of attention. This car has always had great reviews as a sporty sedan. I had a similar set up in my 1993 Ford Contour SE with the V6 and manual transmission, but that combo has not been offered by Ford in a long time on a mid-sized sedan. I was looking at the Ford Fusion, but there was no manual offered on anything but a four and I'd have better luck trying to find Osama Bin Laden then a manual Fusion. I flirted with getting a 2009, but the dealer said a manual was an "order only" build. Me wait? HA! See ya.

Houston is recovering. On the way to the dealer we saw much wind damage. Office building windows were boarded up, power poles were leaning, fences were down, roofs were tarped and some structures had failed. There were many "four way stops" due to lack of signals. Everyone cooperated though. On the way home I had the "pleasure" of driving through a backed up sewer that was about 12 inches deep on the road. It did not smell nice.

There was one constant sign of damage throughout Houston that was unmistakable. McDonald's has several signs that were 400-500ft in the air. They are not very wind resistant as all over the city they were destroyed. I snapped a shot of one. Every where I went they were destroyed, even when nothing else around seemed damaged.

Tomorrow I break in the Mazda for commuting duty. Now I'll be Zoom-Zooming through traffic with much better mileage.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Next Door

When one door closes, another one opens. They don't mention that sometimes the hallway is a long one. And this time it was. It's been over a year since my departure at Edmunds when my product was discontinued. During that time, I've gone back to school, upped my credentials, upgraded my house, and met some personal fitness goals.

The next door has opened and Sept 2nd I'll be returning to an office. No surprise, I'll be a Project Manager. Well I've obtained my Project Management Professional (PMP) designation and my Certification in Project Management from UT Austin, so I had better. All evidence that education does pay off. The most exciting part is that I'll continue to stay in the automotive data business. I'll be managing IT projects for Austin's homegrown automotive data provider, Digital Motorworks. I could not ask for anything better anywhere.

So life will change a bit for me and my boys. I've been home since December 2006. When I adopted my dogs, I was always here to be with them and play, let them out, feed them. The snuggle with me on the couch for my afternoon nap. But now I'll be gone for most of the day so to accommodate them, I've installed a "doggie door". They can come and go as they please, although they have not figured that out yet. Baxter took to the door instantly but only when I told him to come in/out. Logan is a little more timid about it. In good time they will get it.

Tomorrow I head out to see my parents for a week. It will be a while before I get vacation time to see them. Then a few last days of goofing off here in Austin and prepping the dogs and the house for my no longer being around as much as once was. I'll miss being master of my own schedule for sure.

But when you do what you love you never go to work. Looks like I missed out on working again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Express Myself

A few weeks ago I received a big envelope from our local Triple A baseball team, the Round Rock Express. It was a little suspicious as I had not asked for anything from them, nor was it addressed to me. So I opened it. The handwriting was pretty bad on the envelope so I know why it came to me, the house number and zip code matched.

It was a batch of tickets for a local Girl Scout Troop to have a evening watching a game and camping out on the field at night. Well not wanting bad Girl Scout Karma, I called the team and spoke to Gregg Miller who was wondering what happened to the tickets. He made good to the Troop and the tickets were replaced. For my efforts, he gave me four tickets to the game of my choice.

The game was today and I took my friends with me. Unofficially it turned out to be the hottest day of the summer, with highs hitting 104. Not sure if it made it or not, but it really didn't matter. There was a good breeze and cold beer so all was well with the world. When you sit down, 104 is not bad with a beer in your hand.

It was fun, had not been to a baseball game here. The stadium, Dell Diamond, was really nice. There was a lot to do and of course a lot to eat. When you think Triple A, you might think of wooden bleachers and stale hot dogs. This was not the case, it was a much smaller stadium, but as nice as the big league parks I've been too. Of course being in Round Rock, the people were nice and polite, kids were running everywhere, and the parking was only five dollars. Life here is easy.

Last month Money magazine named Round Rock, number seven on it's best places to live and I can see why. Having lived in Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles, life is pretty easy here. Kids leave their bikes in the yard at night and they are there in the morning. Sure, the stores close at 10:00 and funky/interesting is 12 miles away in Austin.

I'll take it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dog Daze

It's another day of 100 or near 100 degree heat here in Austin. While the days are hot the mornings and nights are very comfortable. It's just about four in the afternoon when it hits the high for the day.

Usually those two are out playing in the yard, but it's just to hot during the day. They don't want to play even in the AC of the house. They usually camp out in my office but apparently it's a bit cooler in the bedroom. I caught them out cold in their beds this afternoon. It's funny how animals know how much to eat for the exercise they are going to do. It's so hot they only eat once a day now.

As for me, well I painted more of the living room and part of the upstairs hallway. Summer in Texas is like Winter in Buffalo, you just find things to do inside.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hey Good Lookin

In the rebirth of the Pony car wars, GM is last to the game this time. Their original answer to the wildly successful 1964 1/2 Mustang took a little over 25 months to bring to market. Ford launched the current Mustang in September 2004 and it was an immediate hit. GM's response will go on sale in the spring of 2009, a little over five years later. It's the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro.

Camaro and Mustang started out very similar vehicles then diverged in 1970. Ford kept the concept of a four seater sports coupe that was a comfortable for every day driving and was a little more upright. Chevrolet sent the Camaro in the direction of the Corvette and made it low to the ground with a low roofline as well. It made for a much sportier and aggressive appearance at the sake of passenger comfort and outward visibility.

Sporty is wonderful but practical one out. The Camaro was laid to rest in 2002 while the Mustang lived on. Ford had consistently stayed with the it's original formula of a practical sporty car that everyone could enjoy. I grew up with one as my mother would drive nothing else. (Mini-van? Huh!) In her 60's, she still has a red Mustang coupe as her daily driver. And of course there is one my my garage too.

The Camaro is back and the world will be a much better place for it returning. As you can see, it's gone back to the original 1967 design theme patterned after the original Mustang. It's a beautiful car with great lines and proportions. The interior is a modern interpretation of the original and I love to see the ancillary gauges on the console as in the original model. A wonderful "surprise and delight" that sets the car apart from the pact. The Camaro has always made the Mustang a better car, and vice-versa. GM will pack some potent engines into everyone from the base models to the SS.

And the Mustang? Well just you wait until 2010.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eviction Notice

I think you could call it one of nature's miracles. A little 10 lb, 10 year old, dog can keep two seventy pound dogs off of the couch. Poor Baxter and Logan ended up laying down clear across the living room. Ripley is very cute and cuddly, but Baxter and Logan might disagree. Funny how she can visit and take over so easily.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Maybe We'll Take The Car

A good friend of mine works for an airline, fortunately it's Southwest. His job is secure and he's been there a long time. Southwest also hedged it's oil prices somewhere near $50.00 a barrel for another year or so. Don't quote me on that though. The point of the conversation we were having is that air travel may once again be not for the masses as it was pre-1980's when it was a luxury or a business purpose.

I didn't give it much thought. Then I went to price a ticket home to see my parents for a long weekend. The normal $400 fare was now $800. Plus fees for my bags, etc. I spoke to my sister today and she's flying to San Fransisco at the end of the month with her family. She's using frequent flier miles, and if she hadn't, $1400 for two seats round trip. Ouch.

Americans do not use all the vacation time there allocated each year. As a collective, we roll it over or cash it out. In the worst case, we just loose it entirely. It was fairly cheap to pack the kids up on a plane and shoot them off to some destination that took about half a day to get there via air. Maybe that's about to change.

There was a time when "Dad" took two consecutive weeks off of work and the family hit the highway to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, etc. Factories in fact counted on this and shut down for two weeks so everyone could go. Ford/GM/Chrysler still do this in July. Vacation was actually forced on you to take. Where or if you went anywhere was your call.

So $3200 in family airfare that was once $1200 may be a game changer. Those vacation days we didn't take could be days spent on the open road getting to our destination. These days though, cars have DVD players for the kiddies to pass the time. I myself love the Ford Flex as a road trip car. I can't resist a car with a fridge in the backseat. My BMW has one and it is handy in this Texas heat.

In about a year, we'll figure how this all plays out. For now, plans have been made and are set. Tickets were bought months ago for plane trips for the summer season. We'll end up not using all our vacation time again this year.

Next year, don't be surprised if the cubicle next to you is empty for two weeks.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Big Show

I can't take credit for this photo, but I really like it. This was taken by my friend Bud who was also the captain last night for a late evening trip on Lake Travis. One of the popular dock up bars, Carlos and Charlies, sponsors a huge fireworks display on July 3rd every year. (well except last year when it poured everyday). We left the marina where Bud's boat is docked and headed out to a cove to settle for the show.

For about fifteen to twenty minutes we were treated to a fantastic display of fireworks over the water. There was a barge in the lake that the fireworks were launched from. It was quite a show and the sound from the explosions echoed through the hills around the cove we were anchored in.

It was a great night. Good friends, good beer and a big show in the sky.

Happy Fourth of July everyone.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Or They Can File Bankruptcy

It's been another dour week in the domestic auto industry. Back on June 25, I suggested that GM and Ford abandon the North American market where their business model no longer works. My method was to issue stock for GM's and Ford's non-North American business where they are competitive. Bankruptcy could do something similar.

GM traded today at less then $10.00 per share. It has not traded like that since 1954. It's a big story but the year has nothing to do with it. Remember basic business and accounting, the company's stock price is taking the number of shares and dividing it up by the value. There were fewer shares in 1954 then there are today. So the company is not worth the same price as it was in 1954. But it makes for good headlines.

However GM's North American operations are essentially worthless. Same with Ford. Chrysler was worthless last year when it was sold off by Daimler to Cerberus. They actually had to pay money out to have them take 80% of the company off their hands. Cerberus is far more aggressive in slashing models and finding business partners to divide up the company's assets. Again, Chrysler will be sold as a distribution channel along with mini-vans and Jeep to a Chinese maker to get them into the US market. Chrysler/Dodge have no product that anyone is interested in anymore in any great volume.

If GM files for bankruptcy, Ford will have to follow suit. Why? GM's cost structure would change radically with canceled and re-negotiated contracts. Bankruptcy makes it much easier to shed factories, union contracts, excess dealers, retirees, etc. There is no way for Ford to overcome that cost advantage without having parity with General Motors. Bankruptcy by GM would be a nightmare for Cerberus.

Simpletons say, "They weren't building fuel-efficient cars, it's their fault!" Well, you weren't buying fuel efficient cars, were you, American public? GM and Ford build fantastic and stunning fuel efficient vehicles throughout the globe. Products you would say "huh!?" Ford makes that? Yes they do, and they are best selling, award winning, etc.

And they are coming here, if Ford and GM survive. It takes less then a minute to change the price at the gas pump. Re-tooling an assembly plant and setting up a supplier base, well...

BTW, Ford of Europe has announced it will be unveiling the 2009 Ford Fiesta Diesel with a 1.6 liter engine at the British Motor Show next month.

It gets 62.5 MPG on the highway.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Good Flex

With a little hunting on you can find which Ford vehicles are in stock at your local dealership. If they are actually at the dealership is another story. For the past two weekends, I've tried to find a Ford Flex as I've wanted to see what they ended up looking like when the factory cranked them out. My local dealer, MacHaik Ford had several but they were MIA except for the one locked up in the showroom. Blue Laws keep dealerships from selling cars on Sunday here in Texas.

No luck there. Thankfully for the price of a fast food "kinda" Chinese lunch, my friend Mike carted me around northern Austin looking for a Flex. Luck would have it that our second stop, Leif Johnson Ford, had four Flex vehicles on the lot. It was 95 degrees outside so we found the two closest to where we could park his truck. Blacktop and Texas sun do not forgive.

I'm impressed as I was the first time I saw a prototype. It looks great and like nothing on the road. Yes there are design elements and cues from other vehicles but nothing like this total package. I do have suggestions if you are thinking of ordering one. Go for the 19 inch wheels and skip the roof rack. It's very sporty looking and looks like the perfect road trip mobile. It looks big but really it's not, however the packaging is excellent.

Would I get one? Yes. What would I order? Hmm. I would pass on the "Limited" model and head for the SEL. Definitely add the SYNC($395) system. The fridge ($860) in back is a must have in my opinion. (Nothing says "hah hah" like pulling up to the car next to you and having a creamsicle) But you need the captains chairs ($770.00) to get it. I'd pass on the two-tone roof for that. It's 34k MSRP as I want it and with Dad's discount (thank you!) I'd pay a smidge over 30k. Despite being a sales success, come December there will be a $1500.00 rebate on it.

For the ultimate road trip/dog mobile, it's not a bad deal.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Big Idea

I read everything automotive I get my hands on everyday. You know that.

Well there's not a lot of great news coming out of Detroit these days. To no ones surprise, trucks are no longer hot sellers. Trucks have large profits on them and small cars do not.

Let me back up a second there. It costs more to develop/build a small car then it does to build a car big. This is in proportion to the price and size of the vehicle mind you, and the target market. But stay with me here. If you need a transmission and you have 30 inches to make it, that's simple. When you need to take that transmission down to 22 inches, then things get expensive with engineering and development. Same with the brake booster, etc. It cost more money to engineer things into smaller packages. It's also easier to install them when you have plenty of room to move around. It's like putting furniture in your house. The bigger the room, the easier to fit the furniture.

All the parts of a truck are in a car, for the most part. But there is more real estate to work with. Granted the vehicle is bigger and there is more materials involved. But really a Ford Focus and Ford F-150 aren't that far apart in raw material costs considering the MSRP differences. Building the F-150 is much easier too. Meanwhile Ford may make up to $20,000 profit in a well equipped pick up and $500.00 on a well equipped Focus. Now you see why we have such a problem.

Making up the difference in selling more of the Focus is not going to make you money. But please go out and buy the Focus in the record numbers that it is now selling in.

Ford and GM can sell all the small cars they want but still not make it here. And no one really buys their small cars anyway. Their best small cars are tucked away in other countries and with the weak dollar, you can't bring them in here and make money. The are very competitive in other places, but not here.

So the big idea. Is it time for Ford and GM to say goodbye to the US market? Spin off the foreign brands and issue stock for them? Let the North American operations go into bankruptcy? Sell off the truck lines to Caterpillar et all? (the non-commercial market is abandoning trucks like a house on fire). Assets if any for sale in bankruptcy court to divide amongst the creditors. A company could be set up to manage parts and warranty. It's not that un-real to imagine.

There would still be a GM and a Ford. (Chrysler is going to die and it's distribution channel sold to the Chinese sometime soon, I swear) But no more Ford and no more GM in America. Maybe their foreign brands could come back at another time, or not. When you think this is crazy, IBM of all power house companies abandoned the personal computer market. General Electric is no longer going to make appliances. Imagine that news back in 1950.

Corporate HQ would leave the US for both companies and set up shop somewhere else. Collectively, would we really miss them? I can't wait for United, American and Delta to finally fold up shop so I can stop reading how their business model is broken and they can't make it work. The same with GM and Ford, the media hates them. I do mean hate.

It would truly be the end of the middle class if it were to happen. The middle class was largely brought about by unions and the industrial age. People who labored for decent wages on a daily basis. The non-unionized service sector emerged in this country and their lower wage tier priced them out of union-made goods. They dislike unions because of the high wages and crazy work rules that they don't enjoy.

As we make our decent back to a two-class society, maybe it's time to wave goodbye to two of the few remaining icons that brought us the third class.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Car and President

Well, you saw it here first. Today Car and Driver arrived and of course I tore through it immediately. On page 40 there was a chart of the all the political candidates and their vehicles of choice. Of interest was of course Barack Obama and his reference to the Ford Granada. I was flattered they used the same photo I did in my post from May, That 70's Car. Lee Iaccoca, in photo, was president of Ford Motor Company at the time of the launch of the Granada

Saving you from buying your own copy, here's my synopsis with editorial remarks.

Barack Obama: Traded in his Chrysler 300C for a Ford Escape Hybrid. Apparently "Yeah it's got a Hemi" does not sit well with some members of the Democratic Party. Of course they noted his dislike of the Ford Granada.

Hillary Clinton: Ford Escape Hybrid. Although, rumor has it she has not driven since 1992 making this irrelevant. Once during an alternative fuel vehicle press conference she was invited to drive one of the experimental vehicles on hand by the President of GM. She replied she had not driven in many years and maybe this was not the car to start back up with. She chose wisely, those prototypes are worth millions. Hubby (another non-driver) has the Mercury Marinier Hybrid pitched by Mercury hottie Jill Wagner. No further comment.

John McCain: 2006 Cadillac CTS with optional 3.6 V6 engine. General Motors A/C can freeze meat in Arizona during August. Cadillac is as Republican as Montana. At least he chose the smallest model.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Adios Vonage

Many of your received a pre-mature e-mail last week about my decision to leave my 310 phone number and go exclusively with my cell phone and VOIP/UMA service from T-Mobile. The dates I was told never held and finally today the 512 was fully ported over to my cell phone.

Apparently this was a problem with Vonage and their delay in releasing my 512 number to T-Mobile to complete the port. I'm not surprised when I phoned Vonage to cancel my account, it was nearly a 12 minute phone call with the rep offering many solutions for me to stay a customer. Of my three years with Vonage this was the worst experience I had, saying goodbye is hard to do for them. I was satisfied with their service, but technology marches on and so must I.

So goodbye to my deskphone. And the matching cordless. Off to the closest of still-good-yet-obsolete-electronics with you. Cordless being a interesting term as you look at all that is required to have a VOIP speakerphone with cordless extension.

Anyone need a VOIP router?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dog Daze

It's 100 degrees here today. It was 100 degrees yesterday. And tomorrow...

Yes compared to last year's very very very damp Spring, it's been a bit toasty here in Austin. Sleeping has indoors has become a favorite past time for everyone here at the Jordan residence in Round Rock.

Baxter has a new bed. For some reason his bed was getting torn apart in the middle of the night. I woke up to the sound of chewing and Logan was pulling his bed apart. I don't know if it was sibling rivalry for having a comfortable bed or not. I found a similar sized Bevo bed for Baxter. He's not sure what to make of it.

Whatever he first thought of Bevo, eventually he realized it was better then laying on the floor.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


There was something amiss yesterday afternoon. I caught up with an old friend who I had not seen in months at my favorite hamburger stand. We had a great time and shared a few laughs. By about 1:30pm it was no longer all good. With this lunch running long I had to cancel a coffee appointment with my friend Vern so I could make another appointment with my friend Sam about a job I was interested in. I'm never late and I don't cancel appointments. My lazy Friday afternoon socializing had come undone.

I was darting through traffic while the air conditioner on the BMW was struggling to keep up with this 100 degree Texas Spring day. My Blackberry was lying on the console under the emergency brake when it chimed with a text message. A quick glance down and I paid no further attention, it was from Meet The Press and every Friday they send me a text with Sunday's line up. Nothing I can't catch up with later.

Tim Russert was dead.

There are people in my life that I've always admired from afar. After so many years you develop a personal relationship with them, you look forward to seeing them or reading about them as if they were family. These relationships endure as you have a respect for the person and their professional existence. Tim Russert was such a person in my life. I'll never see him on Sunday mornings again.

I've always been a news junkie. I love to follow politics. In elementary school I was disqualified from current events contests in class as I would consistently win. Each day was filled with an hour of news. That has carried on into my adult life as well. I feel lost if I don't know what is going on.

Every Sunday it has been Meet The Press for as long as I can remember. I picked up watching the program post college but I'm sure I caught episodes while in school. Tim Russert has been the only moderator I've known as he picked up the spot in 1991. At first he was just the host, but the more you watched, it was clear the show was his.

Maybe it was the Buffalo connection, but I have these feelings for others that are not from there. Tim was a quintessential Buffalonian. Proud working class Irish Catholic family where the children please their parents by working hard and getting farther ahead then they were. But not forgetting where they came from. Like most of us from Buffalo, we leave the city and region to establish our professional lives. Our parents stay behind, as his and mine have. We visit and wish they were closer. We sit there in silence at the airport gate while we wait to board our planes to other places.

I understood him and maybe he would have understood me. I love the hypothetical question of "If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?" Tim was easily on my list of people. As well as many of his quests. I can't imagine what dinner is like with Mary Matalin and her husband James Carville. They were frequent guests on the show. If you know who they are, you'd want to sit in the car with them too when they are lost and without directions to their destination. Now that would be fun.

As I waited for the garage door to open I picked up my Blackberry off the console to check my messages and find out who was going to be on MTP on Sunday. The message was simple. Confused, I ran upstairs to my office to read MSNBC. It was everywhere and Tim Russert was indeed gone.

My Sundays will never be the same.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cartman News Network

I'm a news junkie without a doubt. I hit the major news sites multiple times a day to catch up on what's going on in the world. Yesterday I had to take pause at what was the most likely the most immature headline I had ever seen from CNN:
Incest dungeon girl reunited with family

The date line for the story was 12:40pm EDT on 6/10/08. I refreshed the page this morning and it updated to something better:
Incest dungeon teen wants to see ocean

Was this written by a 4th grader? This is CNN, not News of the World. Incest Dungeon Teen? C'mon.

In contrast, MSNBC carried the same story with a different headline:
Austrian dungeon captive reunites with family

A far better, classier, humane headline for a story so horrific that we cannot phathom what this person has been through. We're angry. We're sad. Whatever is going to happen to these victims?

MSNBC chose to side with the young woman. Referring to her as a "captive", which she was. CNN choose to give her a label, "Incest Dungeon Girl/Teen".

It's the end of the school year. Hopefully whoever writes these headlines for CNN will be held back for another year of 4th grade.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Twenty Years Ago Today

I'm horrible at remembering things like this, thank you Jennifer for the text message this morning. Today is my older sister's twentieth wedding anniversary. Yes this photo was taken twenty years ago today. Happy Anniversary.

It was 1988. My brother-in-law and I had hair. Jennifer's hair didn't dare touch her shoulders or her electric-blue bridesmaid dress. Her hair is well past her shoulders today. Mom's shoulder pads were so wide Joan Collins was green with envy. Dad's hair was jet black, it's not that any more. However he still has more then I do.

Twenty years is a significant milestone, but I find the more interesting story is that my sister and her husband met when they were both 17 on the first weekend of college. They have been together ever since. This fall their oldest daughter starts the same college, SUNY Geneseo, and will be 17 as well.

Will lightning strike twice?

Monday, June 09, 2008

That Ole Ripley

Small dogs were never of much interest to me. Having grown up with St. Bernard's that were nearly as big as me, what's the point of a dog if you can't tackle it? No doubt I like to roll around and play with my dogs, and they are built to take it.

Over the past week I've been watching my friend Mike's dog while he has been away on vacation. I've known Ripley for over a year now and we've gotten to know each other. Mike wanted a dog but was constrained to an apartment size dog 10 years ago when he bought her. She's a mixed breed of Rat Terrier and Chihuahua. Despite her age, she's pretty feisty and active.

She does have a temper for sure. Last Christmas while watching her, she bit my mother who had never been bit by a dog in her 29++++ years on this earth. All ten pounds of her keeps Baxter and Logan off the couch. God help you if you try and take her food away. Like all dogs, she does have her soft snuggly side. And she certainly fits better on the couch next to me compared to Baxter and Logan.

I'll take my big dogs anyday, trust me. But this one's always welcome to visit.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Something Old, Something New

Today I say goodbye to the big white box on my desk. It has been there in some incarnation or another since I was 18 and had my first phone line at college. The land line phone will soon be gone. Land-line sorta phone, I switched over to VOIP about three years ago and went with Vonage. This is by no means a hit at their service, it's been flawless. And if you need VOIP, I'd recommend them.

But I no longer need them. My long-time cell phone carrier, T-Mobile, has lowered the price of HotSpot@Home service to $9.99 a month. So I now have unlimited calling at home over my cell phone when I'm in range of my new T-Mobile/Linksys router. I was paying $24.99 a month, $32.00 w/tax, for Vonage unlimited. With the savings I upgraded to the new Blackberry Curve 8320 and opted for e-mail service on my phone. Just getting more for the money and I'm still ahead.

310 will be no more come 6/13. I've had that number for longer then I can remember, and it's hard to say good-bye to. I wonder what lost phone calls or test messages I'll miss from people trying to catch up. I get them every so often and it's great to hear from an old friend. To make things easier on everyone, I'll be porting over my 512 number to T-Mobile so it won't be that drastic of a change. On 6/14 all text messages will have to be sent to my 512 number.

By-the-way, I've been with T-Mobile for so long as their service is excellent. And today they did it again. Of course I'm on a Mac so I had to call in to have them set up my router. Audry my representative was excellent and took my step-by-step through the process and without fail, it worked the first time. Kudos to her and T-Mobile for being so well organized.

Something new, and excellent service too.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Time For A Brake

As I'm writing this blog, Hillary Clinton is giving her concession speech and about to endorse Barack Obama for President. For some this brings closure to a long campaign for the Democratic nomination, but for many like me, it's the end for our candidate. Hillary may endorse him, and that's fine, but I'll make up my own mind. And it's not made up yet.

During lunch with my friend Sam last week, he brought up an interesting point. While I've always identified myself as a Democrat, I actually may be an Independent voter. The appeal of (old) McCain and Hillary to me is they tend to be more centrist, at least that's my perception of them. "Hope" and "Change" tend to be more idealist themes and I see that as far more toward the extremes then pitching down the middle. I could be wrong. I often am.

So this morning I myself conceded that the BMW needed new brakes. Well actually there's a light on the dashboard that tells me that. I knew this was coming and thanks to mom and dad, they supplied me with new brake parts for my birthday back in March. I think a brake job is an easy sell to the parents for a birthday gift, or any gift for that matter. Turns out I only needed pads and not the rotors too. Oops. Sorry! (Rotors last forever on the shelf and I'll have to replace them eventually)

I've decided to post a few pictures of what a brake job looks like. Not very exciting but I did want to be sure and post the last picture. That is the picture of the old and new pads side by side. People ask me car questions all the time, so here's what used up brake bads look like next to brand new ones.

Brakes a expensive to fix on a car, but for little reason really. It took me about an hour to put new pads on. If I had a garage, it would take me less. They are very simple and to add rotors would be no more then another 15-20 minutes for the fronts. Brakes are expense because they are an emotional piece to the car. You need brakes to avoid personal injury to yourself and others. There's a price premium on that. If you find a brake job that is not that expensive, it may not end up being a bad deal if all you need are pads. All pad replacements do not require rotors either. Ask to see a set of old rotors next to the new ones to determine the thickness of them. Never go for the cheap pads, they squeek.

So look at the bottom picture and remember it next time you're told you need brake pads. Brakes start wearing out the day you drive the car off the lot at the dealership. You need to make the decision with your garage as to when you feel the need to replace them and always ask to see the pads. Visually compare them to a new set.

That's my PSA for the day. The More You Know...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Done Deal

Ok it's done!! Yeah!!!!

The tile is done in the kitchen and the baseboards and trim are painted. The floor is clean and the kitchen is habitable again. You don't realize how much you miss your kitchen until it's gone. So nice to have it back.

Muchos Gracias Senior Kurt for coming over today and helping me paint. I was going a bit stir crazy. The Behr paint I originally bought was not very good, we stopped by Loew's for some Valspar and with one coat, it covered. No more Behr paint ever again.

The dogs love the new tile floors. It was nearly 100 today and they stayed very cool when I would let them in that is.

Dog hair and wet paint don't mix.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Almost There

At 9:48am this morning I finished the last of the grout that I needed to put down. Just a few quick shots, now I need to clean up the tiles and put the new baseboards on. Many thanks to Mike for coming by last night to help with the grout.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Point Of No Return

There comes a time in a home improvement project you reach the point of no return. That moment came today when I ripped up all the linoleum flooring in the kitchen. It does not come up in one piece that you can put back down. Think of trying to re-wrap a present you've ripped open with the same paper. It's not going to happen.

So the final stages of tileapoolza begins. It's the kitchen/pantry/laundry room. Many thanks to Jeremy, Jason and Ryan who assisted this morning with the appliance removal. And hats off to Ryan for ripping up the biggest piece of linoleum. I think it was the proudest moment of his life.

It's almost 11 pm and I'm pooped. I had planned on cutting and setting all the tile today, but it's not going to happen. There's no race to get this done and tile is permanent and so are your mistakes. So I'm going to shower and hit the sack.

I'm pooped.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

That 70's Car

Lee Iaccoca and Barack's Unloved Ford Granada

And just as I was warming up to Barack Obama...

From the Detroit News May 7, 2007
"The car I learned to drive on was my grandfather's Ford Granada. ... It may be the worst car that Detroit ever built," the Illinois senator said in an interview with Indianapolis radio station WFBQ. "This thing was a tin can. It was during the '70s when oil had just gone up, so they were trying to compete with the Japanese," Obama said. "They wanted to keep the cars big, so they made them out of tin foil. It would rattle and shake. You basically couldn't go over 80 (miles per hour) without the thing getting out of control."

Oh, now it's personal.

First off, Detroit was not competing with the Japanese in the 1970's. They were still a blip on the radar screen at the time. The benchmark compact at the time was the Volkswagen Rabbit. Americans ate them up so much VW built a plant in Pennsylvania to build them here. (It was later sold to Chrysler). We were also still in love with the VW Beetle. Japan was coming around the bend, but would not hit their stride until the 1980's.

Most every car we can remember from the 70's was crap. Cus we can remember them. Compared to today's cars, every car from pre-1994 was crap. A computer from the 80's is crap today. Technology marches on, and it does come in bigger packages and smaller one's too. Cars are built with evolving technology in metal/plastic/design/manufacturing/electronics... etc. I could go on and on here. Tomorrow's cars are going to be built better then today's cars are, and so on.

I own two iconic cars that had their platforms and sheet metal launched in the 70's. My e24 88 635csi was originally launched in 1977 and my 1990 Mustang GT was launched in September of 1978. Both cars are iconic in that they are the primary two coupes of that period that maintained their basic sheet metal through their entire runs. The 635csi from 1977 to 1988 and the 'stang from 1979 to 1993.

Build quality? Undeniably polar opposites. Price, just the same. In 1988 my BMW cost about $49,000 and my Mustang GT would have run you about $15,000. Twenty years later, the BMW is built like a tank and the doors close with a beautiful thud like the day they were new. The Mustang, more clank/thud. The leather and trim in the BMW, amazing for a 20 year old car. The Mustang, well I had to redo it all. Both cars have about 113,000 miles on them too. One month of Mustang production was more then one year of BMW 635Csi production. So, in 1977 my BMW cost about $23,000 and Barack Obama would not find it a tin can. Other then that, most cars of the time were about $5,000 to $7000 and he would find them very much at tin can. Too bad he did not have a BMW to learn to drive in.

Ford/GM build what America wants. Dell builds what America wants. McDonald's cooks what America eats. It's our free-market economy and until the government says otherwise, we decide what to buy. Ford could not take a stand of not making large SUV's if America wanted them. GM would be glad to build America as many SUV's as we could grab. Ford's shareholders would scream bloody murder and put someone in who would build SUV's. Who are the shareholders of Ford and GM? Why most of America. These two corporate icon's are largely held by institutional investors, ie your 401k's, mutual funds, pension plans and so on. Their profits end up in your portfolio one way or another. Two large companies cannot sit down together and come up with product plans, that's collusion. Like many American corporations, they get short sited by quarterly profit reports to please Wall Street, honestly we're all to blame here folks.

Picking on Ford/GM for 70's cars is about the lowest hanging fruit I can possibly think of, even worse for someone who aspires to be president and they need to win Michigan. And on top of it, you got it wrong. And why are you going 80 mph when the national speed limit was 55 mph? Why are you taking a machine that was made to go 70 mph and complain that it doesn't feel good at 80 mph? My mountain bike is great up to 20 mph, but I sure as hell don't want to be on it at 40 mph.

You almost had me.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Blog About A Dog

ok, again nothing earth shattering going on these days. I waxed the BMW and Jeep today after a four mile hike around Town Lake with the pups. Baxter was actually spooning Logan by the end of the evening. They do love each other. And that's exactly what I was going for.

So here are some cute doggie pics. It's not always I have my camera with me. These two guys were outside most of the day and were ready to crash. So I watched some tv and they joined me on the couch. I'd like to say it's the only piece of furniture they are allowed on, but they jump on the bed in the morning to get me up.

It beats the buzzer of the alarm clock.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Casey Jordan, PMP

I'm too tired to hunt for a picture, so if I can't catch your attention with text, oh well. Next time.

Back in September I began the certification process for becoming a PMP, Project Management Professional. There are three requirements you must meet to obtain this designation from the Project Management Institute. First, work experience. Ok that's an easy requirement to meet. Second is education. Off to UT to accomplish that, done. Then comes the 200 question, four hour examination. Today I finished that. It's simply pass/fail. I passed.

I hate tests, always have, always will. I can write a paper whose beauty of prose will bring a tear to your eye, even if the subject is retirement planning. Projects, no problem. Tests, well... $#%@$#%^####$%@$%^&&&$%!!!!

Multiples choice was never like this. All answers are to be the BEST answer. Let me repeat that, the BEST answer. Oh, and you remember, out of four, two were easily dismissed and one was the best choice after logical deduction? Not here. Two or three are generally correct. I won't even get started on what the math portion is like. But you can imagine how the test sadists toyed with that.

But it matters no more. The test is done, and it's forever. (Provided I keep up the continuing education) My eyes are tired. My formerly hunched shoulders are tight.

Off to the hot tub, for it's a good night.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Pure Energy

Wind chill factor is not something that's normally brought up in Central Texas, but it sure was the topic of conversation this afternoon. My friends Kurt and Gary, along with yours truly, braved the elements to attend Hillary Clinton's last rally before Super Tuesday number two. It was 50 degrees outside but with the wind blowing the wind chill was down to the 40's. We waited outside for an hour.

The line stretched out for quite a bit despite the cold temperatures. I certainly had plenty of time to think about things while trying to use Gary's enormous shoulders as a wind block. On Sunday's Meet The Press it was clear that everyone expects Hillary to drop out if she looses Texas and/or Ohio. But given the spirit and dedication that this crowd was showing, I can see why she pushes on. It's not just her own ego, it's the support she receives. The conditions and wait made everyone uncomfortable, but the enthusiasm was still there.

Inside the venue was crowded and like a concert, there was a warm up act. No, it's not a cover band or semi-funny comedian. It's other Democratic leaders building up the crowd and selling Hillary. Selling her on many lines that she cannot say herself. But that's politics. Tearing the other person down and building yourself up. It's odd we don't interview for jobs like this, as the election process is pretty much a job interview.

No matter what you think about Hillary Clinton, she is a historical figure and it's always a experience to see someone of this stature in person. Television snippets only do so much. The roar of the crowd, the reaction of your bleacher mates and the energy are hard to duplicate. Television just doesn't do it justice.

So Hillary came on stage. She brought Chelsea with her. Along with Ted Danson and Mary Steamburgen. I don't know why those two were there, unless there's a demographic that they have undo influence on. Everyone left the stage and it was Hillary alone. Nothing new, I've watched the debates. I think I spent too much time trying to get a decent picture then listening. Drat my Nikon CoolPix for not finding a correct aperture and shutter speed for that location. I took 47 pictures and nothing really came out on all different settings.

Tomorrow is the "Texas Two-Step" primary voting. I have to caucus at 6:45pm as I have early voted. As they say in Chicago, "Vote early and vote often." Despite what you think about Texans, support for the Democratic Party does exist.

Lines to use the Men's room at a Hillary rally do not.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Extreme Makeover

Tileapalooza has claimed it's third bathroom.

It's a lot of work, ugh. It took 14 hours just to cut the tile for this room as there are so many angles. It's a good thing tile does not wear out. The diagonal pattern makes things even harder. To further complicate things, no wall was 100% straight and each tile that needed to be cut was a custom cut. It's a lot of work but it looks really nice.

For some reason I can't find all the pictures of my house I took, but I did manage to find this one from the day I decided to buy it. This is what the master looked like before and after. Wow, what a change. The previous owner kept everything in great shape, but it was mostly builders grade materials. They held up well was a testament as to how he cared for this home.

But I've purged the house of most of the builders grade materials, ie. lights, flooring, paint. And it's paying off. Just like HGTV, here's an example of what you can do. Of course I did it myself. This room cost about $600.00 in supplies to make over like this.

My friends say I'm lucky I know how to do this work. But let me tell you after day three of laying on the floor caulking baseboards, you wish you were not so competent and could call in someone to finish the job. Am I proud of the work I did and doing it myself, yes. Though I think I'm more proud/surprised that it looks good when it's done.

I'm pooped on tile work. It will be a week or two before I take on the kitchen... maybe.