Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Ill Wind

About which (Investor's Business Daily -- "Meet the New Boss"):

A president of the United States orders the chief executive officer of General Motors to resign. The same president is further ordering Chrysler to merge with Fiat, the Italian firm specializing in flimsy cardboard boxes on wheels.

This new reality should send a chill down the spines of all Americans. The federal government has begun to run U.S. companies.

President Obama said Monday, "my team will be working closely with GM to produce a better business plan."

To that confident assertion he added these stern sentiments:

"They must ask themselves: Have they consolidated enough unprofitable brands? Have they cleaned up their balance sheets, or are they still saddled with so much debt that they can't make future investments? Above all, have they created a credible model for how not only to survive, but to succeed in this competitive global market?"

Who is in a better position to know the answers to these questions? Rick Wagoner, the GM CEO for nine years and former GM chief financial officer who has been with the automaker since the late 1970s, even running one of its foreign affiliates in Brazil, and who holds a Harvard Business School MBA?

Or President Obama, a former community activist from the south side of Chicago with a great rhetorical gift?

The president answered that question this week by ordering Wagoner's firing.

Who'd a thunk it? I knew things weren't going to be good under an Obama administration but I really didn't think it would be this bad. And to add insult to injury... The One has the incredible chutzpah to chide GM about their balance sheet and debt... after submitting a budget to Congress that guarantees the largest deficits in our history. Just how we... the United States... are going to finance this debt remains to be seen, but let's not go down that road. Let's think about other things, such as going to the DMV (or some other to-be-announced Fed agency) to file a warranty claim on your GM car. Yeah. THAT will be fun, dontcha think?


In other news... You know how I'm always going on about the wind here on The High Plains of New Mexico? Aside from being a real pain in the a$$ as far as comfort goes, the high winds can have real negative effects. Case in point (from the Portales News-Tribune.):

After wind knocked down a transmission line serving parts of Portales on Monday, 3,136 customers were without power for as long as almost 2 1/2 hours, Xcel Energy spokesmen said.

Spokesman Troy Foos said the power went off in stages, but the longest time before it was restored was two hours and 20 minutes. Spokesman Wes Reeves said power was back by about 5 p.m.

“We’ve had some wind issues across the whole system today,” Reeves said.

The wind caused several outages at once in the Portales and the Texas Panhandle, he said.

I was without power for about an hour and a half yesterday afternoon. It could have been worse, as it's said.

Monday, March 30, 2009

One Good Thing and a Few Variations on "Worst"

Here’s a pretty cool piece on Twitter from Ed Driscoll which contains everything you ever wanted to know about Tweeting, and then some:
If you moused over the Ed Driscoll link you probably saw it takes you to a piece Ed wrote called “Twitter: ‘The Worst Person in the World.’” And yeah… that’s a nod to one of Olbermann’s signature shticks, wherein he names a daily “Worst Person” on his “show”… which is nearly always someone like Dubya, Cheney, Newt, Ann Coulter, or any other conservative who happens to pop into his ever-so-short attention span. Being named as “Worst Person” is a Badge Of Honor for conservatives, ya know.
Well, Dear Keith put his foot in it last week, BIG Time, by claiming... on air, in a “Worst Person” segment, no less!... his @countdownMSNBC Twitter account was a false-flag op by none other than Fox News. In the words of Red State: “Epic Fail!” The whole story, if’n ya missed it… is here… complete with Olby video and screenshots of the now-closed @countdownMSNBC Twitter account.
Heh. This couldn’t have happened to a more deserving asshat. Long time readers know I used to beat up on Olby quite often in the way-back… I’ve since discovered I (generally) have better things to do with my time, but this is TOO good to let slide…
Apropos of “worst”… this weekend was a serious downer for YrHmblScrb. First there was the weather, wherein Ol Man Winter made a curtain-call here on The High Plains of New Mexico on Friday and Saturday… complete with freezing rain, snow, wind, and other undesirable weather thingies. Sunday was a little better in that our temps got back up into the 70s… but there was that howling wind… ever-present at this time of year. Here’s what we looked like last Friday morning:
I took that screenshot and went directly back to bed and stayed there until around 1400 hrs. It wasn’t only the weather that drove me to return abed though, Gentle Reader. I’m still not healing as well from the latest Adventures in Modern Dentistry as I think I should be and there’s a distinct possibility I may be nursing an infection of sorts. I’m scheduled to have my stitches removed late this week but I may go in earlier if The Good Doctor is available (he’s on his annual, well-deserved Spring Break at the moment).
So… there’s all that and more. I spent the entire day Sunday down with an absolutely miserable case of gastric distress, of the type where one cannot be more than a few feet from The Little Room at any given point in time. Nothing… not even water… would remain in my gut longer than about six minutes. Pepto-Bismol normally works pretty well for me when I’m so afflicted, but NOT yesterday. Whatever gut-bugs are resident in my frame simply drank The Pink Stuff up and sent it on its way… quickly. This also tells me I may be nursing some sort of infection.
This, too, shall pass.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Unbelievable... Unthinkable...

... yet it happened. From ESPN:
DETROIT -- Joey MacDonald made himself right at home at Joe Louis Arena.
The former Detroit goalie made 42 saves for his first NHL shutout, and Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey scored goals in the lowly New York Islanders' 2-0 victory over the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings on Friday night.
New York, which broke a three-game losing streak, has the worst record in the NHL, while Detroit is tied with San Jose for the league lead.
I listened to the radio feed of the game last night, thinking this one was a "gimmee." I mean... it was the Islanders, playing the Mighty Wings at home, right? What chance could the lowly Isles... with their pathetic 56 points going into last night's game, dead last in the NHL... have against the Wings? Plenty, as it turned out, and as the score shows.
I'll not make any excuses here. It just goes to show that virtually any team can win in the "new" NHL, on any given night. Detroit needed those two points last evening. At stake is first place in the West (the Wings are tied with San Jose for the conference lead) and a possible President's Trophy, the latter which, if won, would guarantee Detroit home ice all the way to the Stanley Cup Final (Presumptions 'R' Us). Not that home ice made any difference last night... at all.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cheesy Videos V: "It's Just the Normal Noises In Here"

We’re having a bit of a wind event here on The High Plains of New Mexico tonight (33 mph, gusting to 48). I thought it would be interesting (if only to me) to check out the MinoHD’s low-light capabilities and give all y’all a taste of what it’s like to rock ‘n’ roll inside an RV during high winds. The results are a little short of spectacular… or even acceptable… in that the Mino’s mic didn’t quite pick up the sounds of the wind like I hoped it would. But that obviously isn’t stopping me from posting the results… as I have no shame and very little taste. (Watch in HD if'n you have the connection speed to do so.)

The title of the vid (and one part of my lame commentary therein) is a hat-tip to Tom Petty. “Damn the Torpedoes” was in heavy rotation back in Former Happy Days... specifically those in Oregon and Ol’ Blighty... which is where I happened to be when the album hit Number One on the charts (Oregon in '79, England in '80). I spent more than a few minutes listening to selected cuts off this album while waiting… oh-so-patiently… for YouTube to finish processing this vid. Entertaining, that was.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fat Tire Snow Gauge

Soo... Fat Tire has uses beyond drinking. The bottles, anyhoo. Denver is undergoing a Spring blizzard as we speak and one guy has a GREAT snow gauge.

The whole story is here... with more vids, including an on-foot beer run. These guys are dedicated NB fans!

When I'm Sixty-Four

Back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth (i.e., 1967), Sir Paul McCartney sang:

When I get older, losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?

The answer, alas, turned out to be “no” for both Sir Paul and YrHmblScrb. The song, however, remains a classic. Here’s the original version, coupled with a wonderfully well done animation.

So… yeah. We’re 64 today and it’s funny-strange how things come to pass. There was once a time when we were quite sure we’d never reach this age… what with choosing the profession of arms as our first career, the nature of our hobbies, and a habit of taking more risks than were sensible or prudent up until late middle-age. It all seems rather tame now, in retrospect.

And so here we are… a lil worse for wear (and only a little, mind you!) in nearly every dimension, save one. And that one dimension? We’ve come to realize we’re not nearly as smart as we thought we were 40, 30, or even 20 years ago. Progress.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Truth In Advertising

Sent via email from Blog-Bud Lin. Click for larger, of course.

Methinks the seller is a newlywed. Anyone who's been married for longer than a month or two knows exactly what that sort of comment means... and the prudent husband (or wife, for that matter) would never let a conversation get to that point. But, Hey! The ad is clever, innit?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cheesy Videos IV

Or… “There and Back… A Short Journey Through Portales.” There’s no other kind, actually.
Some notes on the video…
First: What you see is one of two videos I shot yesterday; there were issues with the outbound video (MUCH more about which below) and I didn’t upload it. I apologize for the shakiness of the video. I tried to stabilize the camera by holding it firmly against the steering wheel and was only moderately successful. It’s somewhat exciting to steer, shift a manual transmission, and film at the same time. I’m thinking I should include a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer but it ain’t all THAT hard, especially in a town the size of P-Ville.
Second: You just experienced a one-way trip from Wally-World (on the north side of Portales) through the totality of P-Ville… southbound on Second Street, the main drag… also known as US 70. On a good day I can drive all the way through town without stopping even once. This happens about two or three times a week.
Third: The soundtrack is selected cuts from Collective Soul’s “Hints, Allegations, and Things Left Unsaid” (1993), a favorite album from Former Happy Days.
Fourth: I’m surprised the cop (briefly visible in the vid, on the right as we come into town proper) didn’t pull me over. I didn’t see him until I was nearly past him, but I was only going about ten-over… my usual, customary and reasonable speed. One of these days, tho…
Fifth: It was a beautiful day (in the low 70s) and the top was most definitely down. Today was the first day where I felt like I might actually recover from last week’s Adventures In Modern Dentistry… and I briefly, oh-SO-briefly… considered doing a lightweight version of Happy Hour on my return. But I didn’t; we’ll hold off for another few days. I’m Jonesing in the worst way for a beer and a cigar, given it’s been a week today that I’ve been both alcohol- and tobacco-free.
Last: I added titles and credits to the video but decided not to use that version, as the aforementioned additions added well over 300 MB to the final file size (!!), an increase that also is probably associated with converting mp4 files to wmv format. So… what you see is raw, unedited video… the file sizes are MUCH smaller that way (but they are in HD; that’s something). FWIW… it takes FOR-FRICKIN’-EVER to upload a 600+ MB file to YouTube.
Be advised: this is long. I thought long and hard about (a) writing about this at all and (b) posting the piece if I DO write about it. The issues I mentioned about the first of the two videos I shot yesterday weren’t technical in nature, they were social. And terrifying on at least two levels… so much so that I’m still shaken today, more than 18 hours after the events I’m about to relate transpired.
I got back from Wal-Mart around 1630 hrs and set to transferring the two videos I shot to the computer, played around with the Mino FlipShare movie-maker software, and began to upload the raw files to YouTube after the movie-maker thing proved unworkable. Around 1800 hrs there was a knock at my door and I got up to answer it. I opened the door and saw two guys standing there, one in his mid-40s or so and the other considerably younger. Both men had a sort of Aryan Nation look about them… powerfully built, short hair, black Harley tee shirts and that “I’ll kill you” look on their faces that Victor Davis Hanson was on about in that piece I posted yesterday… except the looks on their faces were “I’ll kill you,” meaning me... in frickin’ spades.
I said “hello” and asked how I could help them. The older of the two men said “My name is John (Something). You took some pictures today of some kids in a (vehicle). I want to see the pictures AND the camera.” This wasn’t a request, it was a demand, and in no uncertain terms. The younger man stood next to the older guy, silent with his arms folded over his chest, glaring at me. My first thought was “WTF?” And then I replied: “There are no pictures. I used a video camera today and I’ll show you the video, if you like.”
“Show me” was the reply.
I let the two of them into the RV and we went to the computer, whereupon I brought up the video. I began shooting the first video in the trailer park yesterday to give all y’all a bit of a flavor of my environment. I turned the camera on after I dropped off my trash at the dumpster, turned around, and proceeded towards the highway. In so doing I passed the mail kiosk, where there was a vehicle parked. A young girl of perhaps six or eight years of age was in the back seat, hanging out the window. She was smiling and waving so I pointed the camera at her as I passed and smiled back. The elapsed time couldn’t have been more than three seconds, if that, and given the shakiness of my videography skills… compounded by the fact I was in a moving car… her face was barely on-screen at all.
Older Aryan Guy growls: “I want you to put that video in my hand.”
“I can’t do that,” I replied.
“Do it or I’ll take the whole computer.” This was getting uglier by the minute, if not the second.
“What’s the problem here?” I asked.
“I don’t want pictures of my kids on the internet for perverts to look at. I spent 15 years in (some military organization) and I KNOW anyone can identify the exact place this video was shot.”
More conversation went down… him demanding, me refusing, Younger Guy standing by looking menacing. I don’t remember all that was said verbatim but it finally came down to “Let’s call the police.” Which was fine with me, as any fool could plainly see there was ZERO evil intent in play here, especially in the context of the rest of the video, which was me providing running commentary as I drove through Portales towards Wal-Mart. I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 411, asking the operator for the Portales police department’s number. My two friends said they would wait outside, and I went to the door with them, cell phone to my ear.
I proceeded to wait to be connected after assuring the 411 operator this wasn’t an emergency. A couple of minutes passed and no connection. I told the older man I had no idea what was going on; he replied “Call 911.” I refused, saying this wasn’t an emergency and there are laws about using 911 inappropriately. It was about this time I made a suggestion.
Me: “Look, that video doesn’t mean a damned thing to me and I can always re-shoot it, anyway. It obviously bothers you, so let’s go back inside and I’ll delete it. You can watch me do it.”
Him: “OK.”
So… we go back to the computer, which has Windows Explorer open from when I first showed them the video, and I do the shift-delete thing, which deletes the file rather than sending it to the trash. “Bong” goes the computer… “cannot delete file as it’s in use by another program.” I’d forgotten I was uploading to YouTube. I explained the issue to my two friends, canceled the YouTube upload… making damned sure they saw me do just that… and deleted the file.
Older Guy sez “You sure you deleted it? It’s gone?”
“Yes. It’s gone”
“I better not see that video anywhere,” sez he. And then they left.
I closed the door, relieved they were gone. I was pretty shaken up by this time, so I took one of those Acid C-Note cigarillos out of my humidor and fired it up… stitches be damned. I stood in the kitchen for about 20 minutes and smoked that cigarillo down to a nub, replaying the events of the last hour in my mind. I calmed down enough to return to the computer and began uploading the vid you see above.
Fast forward an hour… to around 2000 hrs; there’s another knock on the door. I open the door and there’s a police officer standing there. He says “I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes.” “OK, sez I… “Would you like to come in?” “Please,” he says.
This is where I’ll make a long story short. The police officer identified himself and why he was there… and it was all about the video. He asked me for identification. I gave him my drivers license, he called it in, I came back clean (Wow. Surprise!). I then I spent about 15 minutes explaining myself in great detail, answering his questions fully, accurately, and as simply as possible. It was about that time I wished I hadn’t deleted the damned video because I was now in a position of having to defend myself without incontrovertible proof of my innocence. And I told the officer that. He replied he thought the video wasn’t really gone and it could be recovered, if need be. I acknowledged that and told him that was certainly true but that I was no forensic PC specialist.
Fifteen more minutes had elapsed by that time and it appeared I had successfully convinced the officer that I was NOT a pervert, all this crap went down innocently enough, and my two Aryan Friends had grossly over-reacted. He agreed somewhat but allowed as how there are a lot of perverts in the world. I replied that I was offended at being accused of being one of them, when I’m clearly not. He simply nodded.
But wait… there’s more.
“Is there any marijuana in here?”
“I smell marijuana smoke.”
“What you smell is the remnants of that cigarillo in the ashtray at your elbow.”
“Is there any marijuana in that?”
“No… let me show you.” I reached into the cabinet behind me, pulled out my humidor, and took the package of C-Notes out, handing them to the officer. He examined them closely.
“Is there any marijuana in these?”
“No” is what I said… “Do you think for a frickin’ minute I’d hand those to you if there was?” is what I thought.
The officer sniffed the cigarillo and handed it back to me.
“That could be what I smelled. Thank you and have a nice evening.”
And with that he left. It was now nearly 2100 hrs and I’m a complete frickin’ wreck. I remained a frickin’ wreck for the rest of the night. I couldn’t sleep. I tried, but I just kept replaying these events in my mind’s eye… they would NOT go away. I finally got up around 0330 after watching a LOT of teevee, made a half-pot of coffee and finished messing around with the YouTube video. I went back to bed around 0830 and finally fell asleep just after 1000 hrs. I slept exactly three hours.
So. All’s well that ends well, I suppose. But it’s a sorry state of affairs when a guy is accused of being a pedophile… and that’s what this was ALL about… for just pointing a video camera at a laughing, smiling little girl sitting in the back of a car. I’m still shaking as I type this, because there are VERY few things that are worse than what I went through yesterday. But, yeah… it COULD have been worse.

Too Easy

This ad… a Bridgestone tire commercial featuring Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head (Super Bowl XLIII 43 2009)… is in heavy rotation in my market right now, and I think it’s just THE Best Thing Since Sliced Bread (or whatever superlative you choose, Gentle Reader)…

Would it were THAT easy to silence your companion on a spirited drive through the countryside, eh?

Monday, March 23, 2009

"A Certain Coarseness"

I haven’t quoted or linked one of my favorite pundits in quite a while, and it’s past time I do so. Recommended… highly recommended… for your perusal is Victor Davis Hanson’s “Thoughts about Depressed Americans.” Excerpt:

3.) A Certain Coarseness. We also are wearied by a certain crassness in American society in ways we have not seen before—or at least since the mid-19th century. Sorry, I don’t want my President joshing about the Special Olympics on Leno. I don’t want him on Leno at all in his perpetual PR mode. I don’t want him drawing out his picks for the final four on TV. I don’t want him paid for rewriting/revising/ condensing/whatever his earlier book while he’s supposed to be President, or ribbing Gordon Brown about his tennis game in patronizing fashion, or giving the British a pack of un-viewable DVDs after they, in exchange, offered a tasteful gift of historic importance.

I was always an advocate of informality, of casualness, but now when on a plane, in a restaurant, at Starbucks, I am struck by the rare well-dressed person who does not crowd. How odd the extra-polite woman, who conducts herself with charm and grace at the counter, or the gentleman who opens doors, says excuse me, and whose intelligent conversation I enjoy listening in on—like a dew drop to someone thirsting in the desert. In contrast, when the punk walks by, with radio blaring, mumbling obscenities, flashing the ‘I’ll kill you’ stare,” it all leaves me in depression.

Worse still, on the opposite end of the scale, is the master of the universe who elbows his way onto a plane while he blares on the telephone and blocks the aisle. I feel creepy after walking through an electronics store and seeing some of the video game titles and covers.

In short, I don’t want to hear any more Viagra or Cialis ads, no more douche commercials—please no more talking heads about penises that are enlarging, hardening, stimulated on the public air waves.

The sum of these foul parts is smothering us. I don’t want to know that there is a new sex clinic opening in Fresno, or hear another ad about how I can skip out on my credit card debt, or that some sort of food is stuck to my intestinal walls like spackle and paste unless I buy some gut cleansing product.

At some point, we need to say enough is enough, and try to find some sense of honor and decorum in these times of crisis. My god, the entire country has become some sort of Rousseauian nightmare, as if the Berkeley Free Speech Area circa 1970 is now the public domain, as if the culture of the Folsom cell block is now the national ethos.

Just so. At considerable risk of sounding like the proverbial Cranky Old Man… I’ll just say Mr. Hanson speaks for me. It’s always been true that the current “older generation” has harped on the habits and foibles of the upcoming young; I know MY father never tired of pointing out how clueless and stupid my generation was, at the time (which would be during the '60s and '70s).

The unfortunate aspect of my Ol’ Man’s harping and carping was that he was right in so many respects. A great deal of the problems we’re experiencing today have their roots in the attitudes and mores of The Boomers… the ultimate “me first” generation. But I digress, and there’s been a veritable sea of ink spilled on this topic. I don’t have any unique insights to add in this space, other than the fact I witnessed, first hand, a lot of the madness as it “went down.” And to vouch for the veracity of my father’s observations.

That said… “things” DO seem worse today… a LOT worse… than they did five or ten years ago. Or, Hell… even eight months ago, for that matter. I know I can chalk some of my angst up to nostalgia for a “more simpler time,” but that ain’t all of it. All one needs to do is re-read the excerpt I posted above and remember that we weren’t exposed to even a third of those things Mr. Hanson is on about in the near past. Depressing, indeed.

The excerpt above is but one out of five items… and I encourage you to “read the whole thing” if you haven’t already. All of Mr. Hanson’s points ring true to me, and I’m on a semi-crusade to change things for the better. Well, except for giving up my well-worn jeans and tee shirts. There are SOME things My Generation refuses to abandon.


Capt. Matthew Jaeger, Senior Airman Mckayla Dick, and 1st Lt. Vance Feavel stand before the KC-135 Stratotanker that they safely landed using GPS when the navigation system failed during a refueling sortie from Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, March 16.

From the AFA's Daily Report... a story of a resourceful USAF tanker crew who averted disaster:
Innovative Tanker Crew: A KC-135 tanker crew operating out of Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan, as Shell 73 on an aerial refueling sortie March 16 lost both its flight navigation systems. The three-person aircrew from Fairchild AFB, Wash., found no answers as they went through checklists and had no visual cues because of dense cloud cover below. Aircraft commander Capt. Matthew Jaeger, who knew that Manas was socked in by rain and clouds and that the aircraft was flying high enough to avoid mountains, opted to head south to Afghanistan, where he knew Bagram Air Base was open. He told boom operator SrA. McKayla Dick to get the handheld GPS from the aircraft survival kit. Using it to verify their heading to avoid flying into Chinese or Iranian airspace, the crew flew over Afghanistan, where they could get help from other coalition aircraft. Co-pilot 1st Lt. Vance Feavel said, "For about five minutes it was pretty tense, but once I knew we were on a vector south toward Afghanistan, that's when it started to calm down." Jaeger explained that they contacted Kabul air control and were able to rendezvous with a C-17 that diverted from its airdrop mission to lead them through a hole in the clouds for a visual approach through the mountains that surround Bagram. Lt. Col. Patrick Rhatigan, commander of the 22nd Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, praised Jaeger, a junior aircraft commander, for his "level of maturity and quick thinking" in a situation that Rhatigan hasn't seen in 18 years of flying. (Manas report by TSgt. Harry Kibbe)
OK... is it just me? That KC-135 was being flown by children!! You know I jest, of course. But still...

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Stolen from SN1's Facebook photo album... "The Red Wings Game." This is Grandson Sean, who apparently is well on his way to living up to the Pennington Male Image.

Sean was 4 years old in ABQ when he learned about Hooters...from Big Daddy if I recall. Been a running joke ever since!

As captioned by SN1.
I have NO idea who "Big Daddy" is.


It’s not unknown in hockey but this sort of thing (Canucks vs. Coyotes, last night) IS rare, not to mention embarrassing beyond belief:
The “own goal” I remember most… and with GREAT pain… is this one (from The Wiki):
Detroit Red Wings' Paul Coffey accidentally swiped the puck into the Wings' own net during Game 1 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals against the Colorado Avalanche. The goal proved costly as it forced the Wings to tie the game late to force overtime, where they would eventually lose. Colorado went on to win the series 4-2.
Yup. That one hurt. A lot. It hurt Coffey more than it hurt me (and all other Wings fans), tho. Coffey was traded to the Hartford Whalers in the off season that year after a reported falling out with Wings coach Scotty Bowman. Coffey’s “own goal” could well have been the beginning of the animosity between the two. But that one moment of ignominy shouldn’t be the basis for judging Coffey as the man had a damned fine career, all things considered. “Stuff happens,” to everyone.
"Spuck Bennett, left, owns two Harley-Davidson dealerships, one in Delaware and another in Maryland. "I haven't seen anything like this in the 33 years I've owned a dealership," he says. "We're just trying to survive." At Mr. Bennett's dealership in Seaford, Del., Terry Willey Jr., center with hat, Terry Willey and Justin Chambers, right, were checking out the bikes."
Photo: Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times
Hard times in Milwaukee… and elsewhere (NYT: “Harley, You’re Not Getting Any Younger”):
SPUCK BENNETT’S dealership just outside Ocean City, Md., is cluttered with 65 shiny Harley-Davidson motorcycles, including the chrome Sportster and the sleek V-Rod. Last year, Mr. Bennett, 79, sold 200 bikes, down from 280 the year before. This year, sales have slowed to a crawl.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in the 33 years I’ve owned a dealership,” he says. “We’re just trying to survive.” He has cut expenses by trimming hours and overtime, and laid off 7 of his 49 employees.
After riding high for two decades, the company that makes the hulky bikes that devoted riders affectionately call Hogs is sputtering. Harley’s core customers are graying baby boomers, whose savings, in many cases, have gone up in smoke in the market downturn. Few are in the mood to shell out up to $20,000 or more for something that is basically a big toy, and the company, in turn, has not captured much of the younger market.
Well… all that is interesting and more than a little predictable. We are in a recession — toys are usually the first things to go in times like these — and a mo’sickle ain’t nothing but a toy in these United States. But what caught my attention is Harley’s very own sub-prime crisis:
As much as one-fourth of the $2.8 billion in loans issued by Harley-Davidson Financial Services last year were subprime, with interest rates as high as 18 percent. As the downturn took hold, some borrowers started defaulting on loans and investors stopped buying the securities, forcing Harley to write down $80 million of debt last year, analysts said. Although it recently tightened lending standards, the company is still chasing buyers by offering credit.
“It’s an unsustainable strategy to continue financing this way,” says Robin Farley, an analyst with UBS. “In the last few months, they’ve been running into a liquidity wall.”
Tom Bergmann, Harley-Davidson’s chief financial officer, defends the company’s lending practices. “It’s not easy in this environment,” he said. “We have to give loans to customers, but only to those worthy, and we’ve been disciplined and prudent in granting credit to our customers.”
In large part because of loan problems, though, profits at Harley fell 30 percent last year, to $654.7 million on revenue of $5.6 billion. Operating income of the financial subsidiary fell 61 percent, to $83 million.
Interesting, eh? It ain’t just subprime real estate loans… it’s bikes, too. I’m betting there are similar situations in the boat and RV markets as well, or any other industry requiring the significant financing of a purchase. This, of course, tempts me to drag out my soap box and talk about things such as self-restraint and financial responsibility in the sense of “we have met the enemy and he is us.” And to re-post the famous Walt Kelly cartoon which I will do, yet again.
The cartoon is as far as I’ll go down this path, other than to say the collective “we” brought a LOT of the current economic crisis upon ourselves through our instant-gratification culture. The sales, marketing, and finance asshats who encourage and exploit that attitude ain’t helping things, either. I really don’t know which is worse…the clue-free consumers who really DO believe they deserve every damned thing in life… NOW! … or the aforementioned blackguards who make mindless acquisition possible at exorbitant cost to everyone involved (bike loans at 18-frickin’ percent?), including those who hold more reasonable and prudent values.
One is tempted to think we might deserve to reap this economic whirlwind… but I keep reminding myself there ARE responsible people left in America. Somewhere…
Well, now. I should remind you that the Harley article isn’t about values and financial peccadilloes… it’s mostly about the bike bid’niz and its product. And the article IS a good read, regardless of the fact most of us bikers have seen this movie before… like back in the early-80s when Harley was on the brink and cajoled temporary tariffs out of President Reagan and the Congress on imported bikes over 700 cc displacement while management saved the firm. Forgive me my massive digression and pontification, Gentle Reader.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This Modern Age...

The Red Wings played the Thrashers in Atlanta last evening... and SN1 and crew were at the game. I didn't lack for updates as the game progressed... as evidenced by this screen-shot of my in-box:

That would be three cell phone pics and ten status updates, all in real-time. Ain't technology grand? And note one other thing... Buck sez there were as many Wings fans as Thrashers fans in attendance. That's NOT at all unusual as the Wings have about as wide and loyal a fan base as any team in hockey and most other pro sports, as well (I'd say "more than most," but there's no sense in belaboring a point).

Friday, March 20, 2009


Photo Credit: Anita Martinz from Klagenfurt, Austria (via Wikipedia)

It won't be long until we see tulips, daffodils, and other Spring bulbs bursting from the ground, what with today being the first day of Spring. The crocuses have already come and gone in some places...I've seen them bloom in the snow oftentimes in other parts of the world where I've lived... but for most of us the glories of Spring are just now arriving.

My all-time favorite memory of Spring flowers involves rounding a bend and swooping down a stone-walled lane into a tiny Cotswold village not far from where I lived in High Wycombe, England back in the early '80s. It was on a chilly Sunday morning in early Spring and I was out for a morning ride, alone. This village couldn't have been home to more than 500 souls, but there were literally
thousands of bright yellow daffodils in full-bloom lining both sides of the lane leading into and out of the village. It was a breath-taking sight, and that is understatement of the highest order.

I immediately headed back for home after trundling through the village, parked the bike outside the house upon arrival (leaving it running), and burst into my living room, surprising the living HELL out of The Second Mrs. Pennington. I simply said "Grab your helmet, put on your jacket, and come with me! Now!", my outburst being more of an order than a request. She complied... albeit in a somewhat perplexed manner... asking where we were going. I only replied "You'll see."

And see we did. I retraced the exact same route I had taken about a half hour earlier, except this time I approached the village just a little slower while reaching back and tapping TSMP's leg just as we entered the village. I could hear her "Ooooh!" exclamation over the noise of the bike's motor and rush of wind as I slowed to a veritible crawl. We pulled over to the side of the lane, parked the bike and spent about a half-hour walking the lane, drinking in the beauty of the flowers and the tiny thatched-roof houses in the village. And there wasn't a soul to be be seen anywhere, strangely enough. Just the two of us, amid a riot of daffodils on a quiet Sunday Spring morning in Britain.

It doesn't get much better than that, Gentle Reader.


Today's Pic: Our mount on that glorious Spring morning... my old RD350LC, on the day I sold her... the week before I left Ol' Blighty. Notice my pallor. That comes from living in a country where I might have seen full sun on perhaps seven occasions over the course of three years. OK... I exaggerate... but not by a whole helluva lot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

News Item

I know all y'all probably saw the news footage of the White House fountains on St. Pat's Day. But just in case you didn't...

I like Mr. Ramirez' idea MUCH better, don't you? "Chicago Politics," indeed. Might as well have appropriate colored water in the fountains, coz the deficit is gonna haunt us for frickin' years and years and years...

I KNOW Some of Y'all Get Tired of This...

... but it's MY blog and hockey is my LIFE from now until mid-June when The Cup is hoisted and skated around the ice, hopefully in Dee-troit. But a road win clinching The Cup (see: last year in that city somewhere in Pennsylvania) would be almost as good.

That said... there's this, from The Hockey News:

This week the THN Top 10 counts down the NHL’s 10 best lines.

Now before everyone gets all in a tizzy over the combinations listed below, let it be known we worked off the depth charts sent to us last week by our 30 NHL correspondents – all of whom cover their respective teams for major dailies in those cities. So although you might think you’ve got the finger on the pulse of your favorite club, these are the guys who watch every game, go to every practice and have access to players and coaches almost daily.

We’ve also gone with just one line per team, because we didn’t think it fair for Detroit and Philadelphia to take up 40 percent of the list. Finally, this list is both subjective and objective, the former because we took into account intangibles such as leadership and all-around play, the latter because we also looked at pure numbers. But needless to say, any team in the league would take any of these 10 lines on their team.

Lines are listed as left wing–center–right wing.

1. Johan Franzen – Pavel Datsyuk – Tomas Holmstrom, Detroit Red Wings
The choice in Hockeytown was even tougher than the one in Philly. But Datsyuk is the premier defensive forward in the league and has a 24-point lead in the Red Wing scoring race. Plus the line owns a cumulative plus-63 rating and has scored 29 power play goals and 11 game winners. As for its No. 1 position on the list, when you’re the best line on the deepest team in hockey, which also happens to be the defending Stanley Cup-champion, you deserve it.
I couldn't have said it better myownself. Read the whole thing and see if you agree. Jimmy T's prediction of a Dee-troit - Philly Final might come to pass. That wouldn't be a BAD thing in my book... no sir, not at ALL.

(h/t: The BEST hockey blog in all of Christendom... Kukla's Korner)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Ya know how things just come out RIGHT, every once in a while? Case in point... the perfect three-egg-and-cheese omelet, in progress:

And as served... and even though the pic is out of focus the taste was NOT, Gentle Reader.

Can you tell I love my salsa? The soft-food thing ain't all that bad, with the right condiments at hand.


Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
You have to either be "of a certain age" or a REAL Beatles freak to get the quote... but we digress, sorta. One of my favorite ladies in all the world... this lovely woman...

...awoke me from my frequent and periodic slumbers a while ago to put these in my hot lil hands:

Smiles, indeed. Followed immediately by a frown... as full-blown Happy Hour, which by necessity includes a good cigar... has been put on hold until sometime next week at the VERY earliest. I think mebbe I've grown up, as deferred gratification has NEVER been our method of operation in the past unless it was absolutely, positively required. Deferred gratification is most certainly required given my current situation, Gentle Reader. To do otherwise would be really stupid, and although I might look dumb...

About the second pic... After much experimentation, which includes the lovelies you see above, my former "cigar of choice," the immaculate Partagas Spanish Rosado (in the Familia size), has been replaced by most anything from Drew Estate. My last three orders from cigar.com have been two 14-cigar Acid samplers and a box of Acid Liquids, and each and every one of those cigars have been MOST excellent. The only size or version of Drew Estate cigars I'm not particularly fond of is the C-Note, which is a cigarillo and not a cigar, anyway.

All that said, isn't the packaging just lover-ly?

The cigars are packed in slightly crushed and dried tobacco leaves. I've never seen that before. Pretty cool, eh?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Just Checkin' In...

Thank you all for the kind thoughts you posted here today and yesterday. I'm happy to report that all is well and good at El Casa Móvil De Pennington... or at least as good as can be expected under the circumstances, said circumstances being "a mouth full of stitches."

Dr. Thompson picked me up around 0745 hrs today and I returned home shortly before 1400 hrs. I proceeded to sleep until 1730 hrs, having had the presence of mind to set my alarm so as not to miss the days' second-most important event, which was the Wings-Flyers game, which came out as well as my surgery: Wings 3, Flyers 2. In regulation; NO OT here. And so there was no need for additional doses of 400mg Motrin to dull that pain, Gentle Reader, as said pain never materialized. I will admit there were some tense moments near the end of the second period when the Flyers were up, 2-0. But... enter the Dee-troit Scoring Machine (which is NOT at all like the Miami Sound Machine) and the rest, as it's said, is history. GOOD history... unless you happen to be a Philly fan. In which case, better luck next time. You guys do good against the Wings at home. Too bad this game was at The Joe... where you haven't won in something like...oh... over 20 years. But... who's counting? ;-) <=== a wink 'n' grin.

And now... back to bed.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I feel like that running joke in Airplane... where Lloyd Bridges sez "I picked a bad week to...", shortened to a day, in my particular case. I feel like three thugs sneaked into El Casa Móvil De Pennington last evening, rendered me unconscious and proceeded to beat the living dogsnot out of me. I hurt ALL over today... legs, back, shoulders, arms... you name it. I woke up this morning (I use the term "morning" oh-so-loosely) wondering what the Hades happened, coz events like this are exceedingly rare to non-existent for me.

I toughed it out until about 20 minutes ago and then took two Aleves. The temptation to get horizontal is overwhelming, but I just can't do that. I need to stay awake until at least 2200 hrs tonight and then get a good night's sleep. Coz we have our surgery on the morrow, Gentle Reader, oh yes we DO.

Gotta be well-rested for that.

Go Wings!

From the AP (Red Wings top 100 points for NHL-record ninth straight season):
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No need to hit the panic button, Detroit fans. Despite some bad games, rocky times and nagging question marks, the Red Wings are right back atop the heap.
Chris Osgood made 23 saves for his 49th career shutout, and the Red Wings beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 on Sunday to become the first team in NHL history to top 100 points in nine straight seasons.
The victory came eight days after the Blue Jackets humiliated the reigning Stanley Cup champions 8-2 on their own ice, with Osgood surrendering seven goals -- also on 23 shots.
"Anytime you're embarrassed it is [motivation]," Babcock said. "They're big boys, they're smart. They were up for the game. They suffered humiliation, just like anybody else. We needed to respond here today."
The Red Wings broke a tie with Montreal (1974-75 through 1981-82) for the NHL mark for consecutive 100-point seasons.
No one I know has hit the panic button but there has been some cause for concern… specifically the Wings’ problems in goal. Both Ozzie and Conklin have been inconsistent (to say the very least) and the defense have had their problems as well. Still and even, last night’s game is cause for celebration. It’s good to see Hossa back, too, and on form.
It's also worth noting the Wings clinched a playoff berth with the win, as well. And why is this significant? Because it's also another record... the Wings will be making their 18th consecutive playoff appearance this year, the best record in ALL of US professional sports. No one team in any sport has ever done this before. Period.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Post Happy Hour Haiku

Warm sun on my face

Stevie Ray plays just for me

It’s bliss… of a sort.

Yeah... like that. Even considering the 5-7-5 structure is SO limiting...

(OK, Doc... I just HAD to try it.)

♫♪ Happy Days Are Here Again... ♫♪

OK... so it ain't perfect (see: wind) but at least it's WARM. We shall now prepare for Happy Hour, scheduled to commence in about six minutes... or so. Read as: as soon as I can cut a ceegar and uncap and pour a 1554. Life is GOOD.

Decline, In Two Parts

At Time magazine… “Detroit’s Beautiful, Horrible Decline.” A couple of the photos, as captioned in the magazine:

Remains of a City (reliques_10)
On their website, the photographers write, "Ruins are the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes...the volatile result of the change of eras and the fall of empires. This fragility leads us to watch them one very last time: to be dismayed, or to admire, it makes us wonder about the permanence of things."


United Artists Theater (reliques_05)
This spectacular Spanish Gothic theater, built in 1928, was closed in the 1970s.

The photos pain me greatly, speaking as a guy who lived in Detroit for ten years and came to love the city, warts and all. Detroit is dangerous, dirty, and decayed. It was that way when I arrived there in 1985, it was that way when I left in 1996… only just that much worse. Still and even, Detroit has wonderful people with wonderful traditions and parts of the city and its near suburbs remain breathtakingly beautiful… elegant, even. Detroit has its legacy, its past glories… which were and remain considerable… and perhaps not much else. One doesn’t much speak of “the future” in conjunction with Detroit, and there’s reason for that. In the headlines everyday. And now I’ve come full-circle, returning to pain. Decline is painful and so very, very sad.

We owe Detroit something but I don’t know what. Encouragement, perhaps, and respect, at the very least.



Also via Doctorow, a rant I agree with:

Doctorow sez:

Here's Penn Jillette -- a teetotaller for all substances -- calling for the legalization of marijuana on the incredibly sensible grounds that a) Many presidents, including recent ones, have smoked pot; b) Lots of other happy, well-adjusted people smoke pot; c) Imprisoning pot smokers by the millions costs a lot of money and ruins the lives of millions of otherwise fine Americans.


But hell, if you want to change your state of mind with a chemical, it's your goddamned state of mind to change. What liberty could be more fundamental than the liberty to choose how you think? Taking mood-altering substances is, in and of itself, victimless (though the drug trade that's sustained by drug prohibition has plenty of victims, and people can certainly destroy their lives with drugs, a tragedy that is vastly exacerbated by prohibition). I've lost several dear friends to drug overdoses and none of them were suicidal: they died because street dope varies wildly in potency and the heroin they took was purer than they'd anticipated.

As far as I'm concerned, everything that we call "drugs" -- including crystal meth, heroin, crack, and other drugs that destroy lives in vast swaths -- should be legalized and brought into the light of day so that the people who have problems with them can get help without the stigma of criminality and so that the people who don't have problems with them can get on with doing their thing.

Pre-freakin’-CISE-ly. The US Gubmint’s anti-drug industry… from the Feds, to the “consultants,” to the “educators,” to state and local law enforcement, the courts system, and the prison industry… is a fantastic and non-productive drain on resources that could be better applied to something else… like buying F-22s or operating another Navy carrier group. Literally, because we’re talking billions and billions of dollars here. And just what the HELL do we have to show for all this wasted time, effort, and money? The largest percentage of incarcerated citizens in the industrialized world. That’s it. Oh, and a lot of gainfully-employed bureaucrats.

Dang, I’m impressed!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

"The Road to Ensenada" - Lyle Lovett

You can offer to the righteous
The good that you have won
But down here among the unclean
Your good just comes undone...

Friday, March 13, 2009

In the "You Can't Make This Shit Up" Category...

From "Bad Paintings of Barack Obama.com." The only downside of this website is you MUST click through on all the images... there are no thumbnails or "back" function on the site. But... take my word for it... it's worth the visit. Assuming you (a) aren't seeing enough tacky Obama images in the check-out line at Wally-World and (b) have some minor masochistic tendencies. Some of these images are just flat frickin' FUNNY.

(h/t: The Telegraph [UK])

Apropos of Not Much...

Our weather radar pictures have been quite colorful today. I'd prefer solid green or dark blue, when ya come right down to it. Ice does nothing for me unless it's in a tumbler surrounded by single-malt... and similar such liquids some sort of alcohol concoction, like margaritas. (Edited in the spirit of "full disclosure." See comments.)