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Portland Auto Show 2006

Sunday, January 29, 2006
My dad and I went to the Portland Auto Show this morning and wandered around for a couple hours, gazing at the 2006/2007 offerings of the major automobile manufacturers.

Starting with my favorites (the cars I would conceivably buy, if I had the cash laying around):
2006 Cadillac STS
2006 Cadillac CTS V-series
2007 Saturn Sky
2006 Saab 9-3 SportCombi Aero

However, there were a lot of disappointments in this crowd. Aside from the neat-o 9-3 SportCombi, it feels like Saab as a brand barely showed up. The 9-2X wasn't there, nor was the 9-5 (I'm not sure if they're making that one this year, though.) Volvo styling continues to be bland, Toyota styling continues to be bland (though the Lexus IS350 was pretty but the Toyota Yaris is an eyesore), and Honda's non-car line is fugly. It's amazing to me how much Volkswagen is willing to charge you for a car, and the Dodge lineup consists of so-so cars whose main selling point is the hemi motor. Finally, while Ford ponied up with the 2006 Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500 (sigh...) both Chevrolet and Dodge neglected to display THEIR concepts for the next Camaro and Challenger.

All in all, though, the big thing about the Portland Auto show is that it's all basically production vehicles. Unlike the auto shows in Detroit, LA, or Tokyo where the concepts about the future abound, we just get to see what's on the table now. The best look forward we get is "next year's model" sometimes, and those are always roped off.

The Portland Auto Show... worth going to (drool...), but don't look for anything that you can't buy in the next 6 months there.

Unimaginable Riches

I was thinking about it the other day, and I'm at a point in my life where I don't need more money. I mean, it's nice, but my income is just above the regional average (I'm in Clackamas Country). I live alone and I have no dependents. I'm able to pay all my bills on time, indulge in my hobbies (computers and motorcycling, to begin with), and squirrel away money into savings and retirement accounts. I rent an apartment so my only real debt currently is my car payment. For all intensive purposes, I have what I need... I want more, but I don't *need* it. It's very liberating to think about.

Interlude with desperation

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Alarm goes off, hit the snooze, hit it again
Stumble out of bed, wash, dry, dress, pop some pills
I eat on the go, I'm late, I dash to the car

The commute, stuck in traffic, listen to the news, war everywhere, politicians lie
The daily grind, living for someone else.
Dress code, service code, error code
Answering phones, serving, waiting, talking, selling, buying
Meetings, decisions, budgets, lunchtime interactions, earning a paycheck
Who are these people around me?

More commute, traffic, horns, sirens, more news,
Plunging stock market, layoffs, scandals
Finger pointing across the globe as thousands die
And I listen to it in my glass and metal cage
Planning my next vacation.

The evening comes, the part of the day that belongs to me
Look to the sky and wonder about God
Look inside and wonder about me
How do I spend my time? What do I do?
Work out, play hard, see friends, do projects
Fix things, extra work, family, errands, dinner, reading
Take out the trash, put in the laundry, empty the dishwasher and load it again.

Later, the seeds of fatigue crawl through my head
Finally, every night, exhausted
A little death. What tomorrow?

A smaller Ford

Yesterday, Ford Motor Company announced that - in order to stem BILLIONS of dollars in annual losses - they were embarking on an ambitious restructuring program that would shut down several manufacturing plants and lay off thousands of workers.

Of course, the United Auto Workers are opposing this, claiming that shrinking an expensive workforce is not the way to profitability. Perhaps they're right. According to this report that I heard last night on NPR, laid off hourly workers from Ford aren't really laid off, per se. They're "idled" until the end of their contract, which means they'll receive up to 90% pay, full benefits, and more.

I love this quote from the UAW press release:
...Ford’s new ‘Way Forward’ is based on cutting jobs and closing facilities to ‘align’ Ford’s production capacity with shrinking demand for Ford’s vehicles. Then, as now, the focus should instead be on striving to gain market share in this competitive market by offering consumers innovative and appealing products.
This is, of course, a typical response from a union... and they're right. Due to the UAW's "job security" contract, Ford isn't saving money yet. But to have the arrogance to say that Ford should be focusing on growing their market is to have their head stuck in the sand. The market determines Ford's fate.

Every move Ford makes is a risk, and they have to balance the needs of their customers, their employees, and their shareholders, as well as fending off the competition. With the union's inflexibility, that leaves the customers and shareholders to adjust. Shareholders - the ones who own the company - are also inflexible. That means that the customers are the only ones that Ford can lean on to adjust. However, with the auto market competition the way it is, customers flock from Ford to Toyota or any other company that can produce a less expensive, quality automobile because their cost of operation is lower.

What does this mean for Ford? Static costs, but falling revenue, which means falling profits... which eventually will no more Ford unless something changes.

Bastards did it again

Monday, January 23, 2006
Remember Cyveillance?

So occasionally I look through the traffic logs for my little site here and look for anomalies. I saw this entry:
63.148.99.237 - - [23/Jan/2006:11:19:24 -0800] "GET 2006/01/magical-blogger-mood-ring_12.html HTTP/1.1" 200 15371 http://www.walkingsaint.com/2006/01/power-user.html" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows XP)"
Then I saw about 90 entries around that, all from the same IP address, looking at all the information on the site... but all spaced about a second apart.

Let me show you what it looks like when Google indexes my site:
66.249.65.1 - - [23/Jan/2006:14:42:10 -0800] "GET 2006/01/spending-issues.html HTTP/1.1" 200 16104 "-" "Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; Googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html)"
Do you see the difference? Google identifies itself as an indexing bot. It tells you where to get more information and they adhere to bot-like standards such as the Robots Exclusion Standard. Cyveillance does NO such thing. They'll basically trespass on a site mining information and there's nothing you can do about it. Bastards.

Can anyone think of anything that can be done about this?

Company Meeting

Sunday, January 22, 2006
There is little better than getting completely fucked up at a company function... on the company dime.

Seriously.

Okay, so the company meeting where I had to run the A/V went AWESOME (considering the absolute lack of rehersal and the fact that I was seeing the presentation for the first time). So, as a reward for NOT messing up (and even getting a "good job" from the powers-that-be) I went to the banquet afterwards and had at least a dozen drinks at the bar. Yes, we were given three drink tickets... but that didn't deter me. I ended up with upwards of a 14 drink tickets, but only managed to work my way through 12 or so drinks. Thank God for Ibuprofen!

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Friday, January 20, 2006
Current Color: Steel Grey

Stressed beyond belief at life and work. Will I rise to the challenge? Will I emerege on the other side better and stronger, or will I fail. Only time will tell.

Where do I sign up?

So it appears that there's a movement to legislatively introduce biofuels into the Oregon fuel market. Where do I sign up? One problem I have with our country's foreign policy is the fact that we're crippled by our dependence on foreign oil. Additionally, oil is a "non-renewable" resource, our need for which will (in all probability) outstrip supply at some point in the future.

I ran across an excellent article out on the web that describes some of the pros and cons of biofuels (the comparison of "growing sustainable fuel and growing food sustainably".

On NPR they pointed out that the oil industry is against this and say something to the effect of "if this new fuel is so great it should be able to stand on its own in the market without being propped up by the government." First off, OF COURSE the oil industry (which can do whatever it wants) opposes this. This takes profits away from them. But in a realistic economy where a large entity has the power and resources to stunt or kill the growth of a new competitor, it may take governmental support to help this product take off.

Some of us have known this for years...

Thursday, January 19, 2006
It happens every year and some of us have learned to live with it. An annual event that internet cognoscenti refer to as "Attack of the Idaho Backhoes" is now receiving attention from the press because apparently fibre-optic lines that carry huge amounts of data are vulnerable to attack. Not that this ever happened before.

The whole idea of the internet is that it "routes around failure". Since the internet is a huge web - not just a single line or pipe - a failure at any given link means that traffice will start to flow around it. It may be slow, but it'll get there. There is an incredible amount of robustness in the design of the internet and while some may want us to be afraid of what might happen, I suspect any attack on our fibre-optic capabilities will really inconvenience us... for a short while.

Fear Words, Part 2

When I see this title on CNN.com, US: 'Very High' Chance of WMD terror strike, I think back to an post I wrote a while ago: Fear Words.

I'm sure it's true that there are lots of terrorists out there bent on destroying the planet (maybe it doesn't match their pants or something) and I'm glad we have people out there fighting these urges. But to feel compelled to remind the public that, "...the probability of terror groups using (weapons of mass destruction) as very high.... it is simply a question of time" strikes me as an attempt the keep fear in the populace so they won't relax and question authority.

I could be wrong. I really could be.

I just don't think I am. What purpose is served by this statement? It was made (according to the article) by U.S. State Department counterterrorism coordinator Henry Crumpton. Well, this seems like someone whose job depends on the existence of such a threat. I'm not claiming a conspiracy, I'm just saying that his job (and the funding of his department) depends on the continuing existence of this threat.

Something to think about as my mind goes from sleepy to racing in the wee hours of the morning.

Myspace

So, as (statistically speaking) most of the readers of this little blog would be aware, there is the entity on the internet known as MySpace. It's a network, really, where any individual can build a page that shows off interests, ideas, blogs, friends, etc. It's a free social program, of sorts.

This is, on the internet, known as a Good Thing(tm).

Yours truly even signed up and can be found there. And, in a shameless act of self-promotion, I've got enough info there so that anyone interested in finding me could, then it points them here. You see - and I'm sure this will come as a shock - the author and editor of this little blog has what's known in layman's terms as "control issues" and the nice thing about THIS blog is I more or less completely control it. If I don't want it up any more, I can delete it. If I want everyone but AOL users to see it, I can do that. (I'm the man.)

MySpace has allowed me to find (and be found by) old friends, which is cool. I've even looked up people from high school (for better or for worse) and, for the most part, found that the poeple from my past are either still my friends - or I don't care to remember them. C'est la vie.

One complaint: Why do people feel compelled to customize their page to the point of being garish and hard to read? Sometimes, to my infinite joy, profiles even contain music, and extra feature! (Links chosen at complete random so as to not offend. I don't know these people.)

MySpace gives people power. But as Lord Acton pointed out, "Power tends to corrupt".

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Current Color: Grey

While the success of projects and friend keeps me going, there's a current of unhappiness and anger that still pulses through my thoughts. While there's much around me that's uplifting, life conspires to keep me uncertain, flapping in the winds of time.

Power User

It really hit me that I feel like a "power user" (despite my numerous credentials) when I start doing things with computers that it takes them hours to do. I can be working on three different computers and they'll all be busy doing tasks that will take them a while to complete. I'm not buying expensive computers to check my email; I'm buying them because I use them.

It's a good feeling.

Gettin' There

Well, it's taken me a year and a half, but I finally finished a project. In the summer of 2004 a friend and I rode our motorcycles down to San Francisco, over to Reno, and back. It was one of the most incredible and memorable adventures I've ever taken.

And we caught most of it on film.

Thanks in large part to iMovie being so awesomely easy to use, to my friend's camera spiffy, to my Mac(s), and to my friend being a good friend, the video editing project is complete. As I write this, my Mac mini is compiling the DVD video for (hopefully) the last time. With my acquisition of a DVD burner, the project will be done and put to rest.

The video is called Gettin' There.

Spending issues

Monday, January 16, 2006
Has anyone else seen this article over on CNN.com? Apparently the national deficiet this year is going to be around $400 billion (yes, that's a "b") dollars! What the...?

That's a lot of money. I mean, that's roughly $1,300 for every man, woman, and child in the US. Why do we spend that much? I understand deficeit spending during a recession or economic downturn, but since our economy is the envy of the world (best picture ever!) we might want to think about spending our money a little more wisely.

And, having worked on a federal site for years, I can tell you there's a LOT of room to cut spending in the government, but the mentality of money has to change first.

Highs and Lows

Sunday, January 15, 2006
So today had its highs and lows.

The lows came first. I didn't get much sleep last night due to a variety of reasons. So I woke up tired and groggy. I was sore from running and working out on Saturday. My dad and I were going to go up to Mt. Hood Meadows and the plan was that I was going to take a snowboarding lesson.

Well, the plan changed when heavy chain-up traffic slowed us down, ALL the parking lots were full, and we didn't get up there until just after the last class had started. So I ended up skiing, an activity I do with absolutely no skill whatsoever. Plus the first line I got in for the lift took 25 minutes!!!

Then came the highs.

My dad and I did a quick run. I stayed on the buttercup "green-circle" trails after that, but since it was just me (my dad's a WAY better skier) I ended up on the lift with a variety of random and interesting people that I'll never see again, and it was fun talking to them. Plus I didn't fall down much. On my last run down I felt pretty good and didn't fall at all!

After skiing came dinner at my parents' friends' place. Dinner and wine with adults was fabulous. Talking about books and art and church and being treated like a grown-up was a blast!

But now I'm home. And tired. But I had a good day.

Who's your inner European?

Saturday, January 14, 2006
Another slow news day, another random blogthing...




Your Inner European is Irish!



Sprited and boisterous!
You drink everyone under the table.
Who's Your Inner European?

Getting in on the action

My buddy Jake has a link to the best blonde joke ever up on his site. Check it out!

God Bless Ibuprofen

This morning I give thanks for ibuprofen. Having spent the evening in the neighborhood bar drinking away a week's worth of sorrow and stress, I woke this morning to a pain I'm all too familiar with. Fortunately, years worth of experience has taught me that 2 ibuprofen and a glass of water will cure the pain quickly, especially if I hop back in bed.

I'd also like to thank the new bartender-in-traning who had no idea how to make drinks, so he did things like make my jack and coke a "equal parts" drink. Fun times.

More on Saturday Market or "Good Ideas Gone Bad"

Thursday, January 12, 2006
I ran across this article in The Oregonion today. It sounds like Portland Saturday Market is in some dire financial straits because of a decent sounding investment gone wrong. This is part of the reason they're looking at moving.

Admittedly, I'm a little confused as to how the non-profit organization and the market itself interact. I do know this, though... the Saturday Market is a cultural event in our city and bailing that out is far more important (in my mind) that things like a bringing major league baseball to Portland.

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Current mood: Blue

The funny thing about time is that it's always marching forward. Nothing can ever be "un-done". Sometimes wounds heal quickly, and sometimes they never do. C'est la vie. I'll get over it, eventually, but there's a lot of sadness sometimes.

Hardball

So the Senate Judiciary Committee is wrapping up the hearings for Judge Samuel Alito's nomination for the Supreme Court. I enjoy listening to them because I like the way Chairman Arlen Specter works and I also respect the work of Senator Patrick Leahy.

I'm finding myself more and more on the side of the Democrats in these hearings. The position Judge Alito would be assuming is a crucial one in the Supreme Court and - let us not forget - it's a lifetime appointment. I guess we need to examine each side. The Republicans definitely have an agenda; they're throwing the softball questions because they feel that Judge Alito is going to be on "their side" when an issue goes to court so it's in their best interest to make sure he agrees with them. The Democrats are suspicious of Judge Alito because we WAS nominated by a member of the other party. They're trying to discover where he disagrees with them by asking the hardball questions. Each side has an agenda, you see?

I don't know enough about his body of work to have an opinion myself. Most of what I've heard is apocryphal so I'm not even sure of the source. I do know this: listening to pieces of the hearings on NPR, I respect the fact that he's a very intelligent man and a very competent judge. I don't think there can be any dispute on that matter. The big question, and the one that only time will answer, is how he will rule if he's on the bench.

Appreciation

Tuesday, January 10, 2006
My word for the year is "Appreciation", picked from a random fortune cookie-like pile of words or phrases. I guess that means I need to a) work on appreciating the people around me more and b) start looking for more appreciation. While both are necessary, I'm certainly going to work on finding more appreciation in the future, which is something that has been sorely lacking in my life as of late.

Charlie FM

As I was listening to the radio this morning, I recalled an article I'd read online at Wired.com. I saw a similar article in Entertainment Weekly, but they don't have it online.

The article talks about a new radio station format, known as "Jack". The "Jack" format is a low-advertisement, no DJ, random shuffle of popular songs that's becoming increasingly popular on the airwaves as a way to compete with XM radio and iPods on the road. Here in Portland, we call that 97.1 Charlie FM.

Let's take a look at my radio presets, shall we? I have 92.3 KGON, Charlie, 105.1 The Buzz, 101.9 KINK FM, 106.7 Klite, and of course 91.5 KOPB (where would I be without NPR, CarTalk, Talk of the Nation, and more?)

Usually I listen to NPR. If it's articles I've already heard or something like that I'll usually switch over to KGON (Classic Rock). However, KGON has a LOT of stupid advertisements, so then I'll switch over to listen to Charlie just to have something to drown out the road noise.

But what about the Charlie format? Is it a good one? I don't think a random selection of hit songs is an adventurous format, that's for sure. (But who am I to talk? I enjoy classic rock, music that's had 20+ years to filter out most of the crap.) Also, being DJ-less means it's very much just a corporate push-the-button-and-run station. But it works. I mean, they don't have to pay for many humans, they don't run any stupid morning shows (I can't stand those!) and they end up playing enjoyable music all day.

In the end, it's a successful alternative format. I think we should all worry if it becomes the standard format, however, due to the lack of anything new or fresh on it.

Another momentary gripe

Monday, January 09, 2006
So historically I've been a fan of Nero and their disc-burning software "Nero Burning Rom" (so clever, I love it!)

However, I had to work with the latest version this weekend: "Nero 7 Ultra Edition". What a fantastic piece of shit this software is.

First off, it didn't recognize the Philips DVD burner that was purchased with the Dell I was working on. No biggie, I'm sure there's a definition update to make it see the latest hardware....

Nope.

Sure, their ftp site LISTS an update available from their FTP site. But the FTP site sure didn't seem to be available when I tried to use.

So I thought to myself "I'll just update to the latest version of the software" since the version installed was 7.0.0.0. You know what? To update the software you have to completely remove one version, then install the latest version. (Both tasks involve a reboot.)

WHAT THE HELL?

Nero used to be the best CD-burning software out there, in my opinion. Fast, easy-to-use, all that. Now the uninstaller defaults to German (despite my language settings), there's no built-in updater for out-of-date files, and the company's web site lists information that's intensely out-of-date.

Signed,
A formerly satisfied user.

Magical Blogger Mood Ring

Current Color: Blue

Feeling a little used, abused, and thrown away.

These guys are awesome

Wednesday, January 04, 2006
I saw this article on CNN.com (and heard about it on NPR.) Apparently the rovers we have on Mars are still going after two years.

I just want to put this in perspective, because I think it's amazing.

I mean, I have trouble putting a basketball into a basket that's 10 feet away. These guys landed TWO rovers on a planet MILLIONS of miles away, and they're controlling it. Check out this quote:
In November, a motor on Opportunity's robotic arm stalled and the arm failed to extend while it was surveying a rock outcrop. The engineers fixed that problem after two weeks.

These guys at NASA (should I call them rocket scientists?) fixed a robotic arm that - AT BEST - is 34 million miles away. I can't fix a leaky faucet with the right tools, and they hacked up a fix for something they can't see or touch in real time!

Sigh... I wish I could have worked for NASA...

Middle of the road

It doesn't get much more balanced than this...

Your Political Profile

Overall: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Social Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal


How Liberal / Conservative Are You?

Egg Nog

Monday, January 02, 2006
The passing of the new year marks many occasions, but one of the ones that's often overlooked is the halting of Egg Nog production. This delicious drink (I've come to really enjoy it heated with brandy) becomes impossible to find after the 1st! Why? Is it really only that popular in Thankgiving-Christmas period?

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