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...