Friday, May 11, 2007

How well do you know the news? (02:22PM)

San Diego Union-Tribune Reader's Representative (=ombudsman) Carol Goodhue has a column that runs every Monday. (It's actually a pretty good column, as was that of her predecessor, Gina Lubrano. That is why I still read it five years after leaving San Diego.) In her most recent column, she notes an interesting Pew survey about news consumers and their awareness of current events. She provides a link to an online version of the poll, which I just HAD to take. I got eight of the nine questions right. Amusingly, the only question I got wrong was the one question was a follow-up to a previous question--if you did not answer the first question correctly, the follow-up question was not asked. The link to the report is here. At the top of the report there is a link to the quiz (here); take the quiz before reading the report if you want an accurate report of your knowledge. According to Pew, my score was in the 91st percentile, while the average score in my demographic group was considerably lower (men 36-49 with some college averaged 5.3 correct answers).

Interestingly enough, the news outlet with the lowest percentage of "low-knowledge" customers was The O'Reilly Factor, although it didn't have the highest percentage of well-informed viewers; that honor went to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, satirical news shows that apparently are imparting some knowledge to their viewers.

:: Comments left behind ::

Monday, May 7, 2007

Reengineering General Motors (12:46PM)

I've been kicking this idea around in my head for several months, since talking to my mother's neighbor (a long-time GM engineer) about the company's woes. I recall CG Hill writing something similar some time ago over at Dustbury, although I am not ready to go plowing through his enormous archives to find it..

GM currently sells vehicles under eight nameplates here in the United States—Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn. There is no reason why they need that many nameplates, and the tremendous advertising resources they expend to promote all those brands could be better used elsewhere within the company. I have some ideas about each of their brands, and what to do with them.

Buick—appeals to an aging demographic, and their near-total replacement of their lineup has not translated into increased sales, which dropped 30% from last year. Still, there is some potential there, as much of the shrinkage occurred in the fleet-sales business, as GM cuts back on the discounts offered to volume buyers.

Cadillac—One of GM's success stories. They successfully managed to take a nameplate with even worse demographics than Buick and turn it into a desirable brand.

Chevrolet—The corporation's mainstay; this division is crucial to the company's success, due to the sheer volume of vehicles they move every year.

GMC and Hummer—Why do these divisions exist? Sales are stong, but since they offer a variety of large, not terribly fuel-efficient vehicles, they are vulnerable to volatile gas prices, although most of their affluent buyers are not as concerned about driving costs as their less-affluent counterparts at Chevrolet.

Pontiac— the "excitement" division has not offered anything exciting for quite some time now, as their highest volume vehicle, the Grand Prix, is also the highest-volume fleet sales car sold by GM. Their most interesting offerings are not developed in house; the Solstice is a rebadged Saturn, and the Vibe is a joint project with Toyota, essentially the same vehicle as the Toyota Matrix. The GTO was a Holden Commodore, an Australian vehicle also rebadged and offered in Britain.

Saab—Saab's niche for quirky vehicles is not large enough to cut it in the cutthroat US market.

Saturn—Saturn jettisoned everything that made them "A different kind of car" and saw their sales rise dramatically. Many of their new and future offerings are redesigns of vehicles designed in Europe by GM's Opel division, which is one of the largest auto manufacturers in Europe. In any case, their brand already appeals to a demographic which GM desperately needs to capture— the 25-49 buyer with higher income than the Chevrolet market.


My proposal is to halve the number of brands sold here. Here's what I suggest:

Merge Pontiac into Chevrolet. Eliminate the overlapping models and rename the remaining models with Chevrolet-appropriate names if necessary.

Merge GMC into Buick. The two divisions complement each other nicely, with very little overlap in model range or demographics, although both marques appeal to the same income brackets. Getting GMC customers into a dealership that sells Buicks may get them to take a look at what is available and provide a bump to Buick sales.

Merge Hummer into Cadillac. Again, both brands appeal to similar demographics with no overlap in vehicle range at all. Hummer is another niche vehicle that does not need its own division within GM.

Merge Saab into Opel and continue the Opel/Saturn partnership. Since Saab is already selling vehicles based on Opel models (and built in Opel plants in Germany) this won't have much effect on the company, except for the savings in marketing and management. GM's Vauxhall division (its UK Marque), which sells rebadged Opels and Holdens, should also be closed down at the same time, resulting in even more savings.


Obviously, this proposal is not likely feasible in its present form. The issue of dealer networks is another story in and of itself, and killing five brands would raise a huge fuss from the unions, regardless of the impact on manufacturing capacity. And since two of my targeted divisions are European Union-based, there is the possibility of getting the bureaucrats in Brussels involved, which would be a headache GM really doesn't need right now. But GM needs to do something a lot more dramatic than closing a few plants, selling the same vehicle under five different names, and offering "factory to dealer incentives" that eliminate every last cent of profit from their vehicles.

:: Comments left behind ::

Do you even know what GMC is? GMC sells trucks. Rebadged Chevy trucks. They don't have any cars. Just trucks. Supposedly a little better equipped than the comparable Chevy truck, but basically a Chevy with a GMC badge on it. Unlike Pontiac and Chevy where the body panels are different, the GMC body panels are interchangeable with Chevy.

So, to put GMC with Buick only means you're giving Buick a truck line that is basically a Chevy.

:: Guess May 9, 2007 01:00 PM

No, I obviously have NO idea that GMC sells only trucks, and Buick has only one truck—an SUV, which they are dropping at the end of the current model year.

Jesus, what a tool.

"Giving Buick a truck line" was the point of that particular merge, since the GMC division is one of the few GM divisions that is actually growing, instead of falling off a cliff, like Pontiac, or running in place, like Chevrolet. Buick doesn't sell trucks, but they target the same income bracket as GMC. Buick owners (in North America, at least) are significantly older than GMC division buyers, which is a liability unless Buick can find someone to replace the older buyers as they die off. Getting a truck buyer into a showroom that sells Buicks might persuade them to look at Buick's cars when it comes time to replace their other vehicles.

As to the "rebadged" snark, read through my post and you will notice I use that EXACT word several times. All makers with more than one brand sell rebadged vehicles, but just as the Lincoln brand has more snob appeal than Ford, the Navigator sold for much more than the essentially identical Ford Expedition. (In fact, the Navigator survived after the Expedition was dropped due to slow sales.) The point is that people who are looking for a high-end truck are not going to shop at Chevrolet or Ford, but may go to a Buick or Lincoln dealer.

:: timekeeper May 9, 2007 01:41 PM

Actually, you know little about Lincoln/Mercury/Ford, too. While there are similarities, they don't drive the same.

For instance, the Lincoln Navigator is based on the Ford Expedition, but the suspension and drive train are not the same. There is a huge difference in how they drive. They don't even feel like the same vehicle. Even the hoods are different.

The Lincoln Continental is built on the Crown Victoria chassis, but there is no way you can ever confuse the two even when blindfolded. Again, they feel different. They have different suspensions. They drive different. They handle different.

When it comes to GM trucks, there is no difference in how they drive. The GMC feels like the cheaper Chevy. All mechanical parts from the GMC are interchangeable with the Chevy. The same is not true with the Navigator and the Expedition.

I don't see Buick drivers and GMC drivers being the same demographic. I just can't see a Florida Q-tip hobbling into a Buick showroom and going, "Oh! I think I'll buy a Buick truck instead of a sedan."

Trucks are bought by younger people. Buicks are bought by older people who want a Cadillac but wouldn't be caught dead driving one.

:: Guess May 9, 2007 05:09 PM

If you want to get nitpicky, the GMC and Chevrolet versions of each model have different hoods and bumper and wheel wheel designs, and (in the case of the Sierra Denali) the transmissions are different. The Sierra Denali has the 6L90 6-speed transmission, which is not available on the Silverado. Of course, we haven't even discussed the Acadia, which has no Chevrolet analogue at all.

You say that you don't see the Buick and GMC divisions attracting the same demographic. It's interesting that you notice that, because I specifically mentioned that in both my original post, and in my first response. They attact different ages in the same income bracket. And my reasoning was the opposite of what you are claiming I said; what I said was that GMC buyers might take a look at Buick's passenger cars, since a lot of families who own more than one vehicle have both a car and an SUV or truck. Nobody expects my 71 year-old Buick-driving mother in Florida to hop into a Denali and decide that she has to have it.

:: timekeeper May 9, 2007 06:24 PM

I can't speak for the rest of the country, but based on my (unscientfic) observations in CA the Saturn is either a chick car or a gay man's car.

If a man is driving, it invariably has a rainbow flag on the bumper.

My problem with american cars is how horrible their interiors are. However, my experience is mostly with rental cars which are not the high end interiors so I could be biased.

:: Kevin May 11, 2007 01:14 PM

The last Lincoln Continentals were built in 2002, and they were front-wheel-drive unibodies; obviously they were not built on the Crown Victoria full-frame rear-wheel-drive chassis.

:: CGHill May 13, 2007 05:04 PM

Thursday, April 5, 2007

A letter to ABC News (08:43PM)


Your article about the appointment of Sam Fox as ambassador to Belgium is a wonderful example of why your network (and most of its competitors) is accused of a left-wing bias. The second paragraph, which is not a quote from a political figure but the words of your reporter Tahman Bradley, is simply unconscionable. The needless insertion of "slanderous" makes it an editorial, and an offensively biased one at that. Additionally, the reporter apparently did not bother to contact any administration spokesperson before filing the report, because the only quotes (other than a quote from Mr. Fox from hearings held six weeks ago), are from Democrats. Nothing from the Republicans, but two extremely partisan Democrats (Senator Kerry, the target of the ads, and Senator Dodd, who is running for president) are invited to trash both Mr. Fox and President Bush.

A quick Google search on Mr. Bradley revealed a blog post he submitted about Rep. Duncan Hunter's speech to CPAC a month ago, another piece in which he was unable to maintain a sense of decorum and balance. Perhaps ABC's editors should have a talk with Mr. Bradley and encourage him to moderate his tone, and the managing editor should talk to the editors about their sloppiness in letting such shoddy coverage pass through the vaunted "multiple layers of editing" that the broadcast media are proud to possess.


(Inspired by National Review's Media Blog, here. A link to Rep. Hunter's speech, in which he neither bellows or lashes out, can be found here.)

:: Comments left behind ::

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why I don't read Fox News (11:38AM)

Unlike most of the people who do not like Fox News, my problem lies not with its political leanings (slightly to the right of center), but with some of the less-polished productions it offers.

Take, for example, this story, about a pair of unusual weather features recently discovered on Saturn. The article is interesting, but two phrases struck me as inappropriate for a straight news article, especially one dealing with scientific issues.

Instead of the normally sinuous or circular cloud structures seen on all planets that have atmospheres, this thing is a hexagon.

"Thing"? I suppose that is better than "whatchamacallit", but not any more appropriate.

At Saturn's south pole, Cassini recently spotted a freaky human eye-like feature that resembles a hurricane.

"Freaky" is a word I could accept in a high-school newspaper, but not something produced by (and for) adults.

CNN, AP, AFP, Reuters, et al have their shortcomings (left-wing and/or anti-Israeli bias runs rampant through their political reporting), but sub-par writing is not one of them. They may miss the story or distort it beyond recognition, but their misreporting is at least well-written. I hope Fox gets with the program, because they are not yet ready for prime time.

:: Comments left behind ::

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sock it to me (01:56PM)

I love fees.

I received my phone bill today (first one at my new address). I was struck by the array of fees, taxes, and surcharges levied on something as simple as a phone bill. Discounting the extortionary $46.00 connection fee (which consisted of flipping a switch somewhere, since this is not a new building), my bill consisted of $24.24 in charges for basic phone service with caller ID and $1.12 in long-distance charges (including $1.03 for the slightly reduced long distance charges), and 18.30 in fees, taxes, and surcharges. In other words, the "extras" added up to 40% of my total bill. This is why people stop using the phone and switch to e-mail to communicate. Cell phones are just as bad, which is one of the reasons why I refuse to use them.

:: Comments left behind ::

my vonage bill is a flat $25... 28 and change after taxes.

Give them a shot if you get fed up with these guys. I get a free month if I refer you. hint hint

:: Kevin March 15, 2007 09:05 PM

My Hillsborough County water bill is worst.
1300 gallons-----------------$2.87
customer billing charge------$3.80
water base facility charge---$7.80
sewer base facility charge--$12.75

:: Bill March 21, 2007 08:37 AM

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gotta love it... (04:51PM)

When you go to the Yahoo NCAA tournament coverage, select a video, watch the HP ad, and THEN get a message telling you that you can't watch video on your system. Can't watch the video, but have no problem watching the ads. Hmmmm.

I'm not going to bother going to their help page to figure out why it's broken; I'll simply go elsewhere to get what I want. Yahoo blows it yet again. They eviscerated their TV listings about three months ago, turning it from a useful, convenient module on my homepage into something so totally worthless and counterintuitive that I deleted the module and bookmarked More lost revenue, as they are getting fewer pageviews from me as a consequence.

Can anyone recommend a good start page? Yahoo used to have the best portal in the business, but they seem to have a need to fix it until it's broken, and I'd like to have some options when it's no longer worth it. Google's start page is not ready for prime time, and the one that is provided by my ISP is not much better.

:: Comments left behind ::


It's free. It loads really, really fast. And it's clutter-free.

:: mark March 15, 2007 06:00 PM

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A thought about Amanda Marcotte (07:12PM)

Amanda Marcotte, who was hired by the John Edwards campaign as a blogger, has a long history of intolerant and misandrist postings, "liberally" (pardon the pun) laced with language that puts me—a former sailor—to shame. When some of her previous offerings were widely circulated in an effort to raise her visibility, bloggers on the left were quick to cry foul. "It's her personal blog, not John Edwards's" or "You're cherry-picking and taking comments out of context". Both excuses are non-operative.

Several well-known right-of-center bloggers have been sacked for their private blog postings— Bill Hobbs is probably the best-known example, but I know of at least one other blogger who took down his blog after a rival of his boss threatened to use the blogger's posts against the boss (rather than against the blogger himself). Additionally, Chad Dotson (who ran the now-defunct Commonwealth Conservative) was targeted because of his postings; admittedly, he was posting from work on government time.

As to the "out of context" meme, quoting entire posts is not taking anything out of context. "Out of context" is usually the last refuge of the "Oops, I got caught with my pants down" crowd. The only context that is missing from such posts is the mindset that it is acceptable to use vile and derogatory language only if the target is a Republican or other conservative. Most of the people who are squawking the loudest are the same people who tut-tutted Dick Cheney's f-bomb towards the duplicitous Patrick Leahy, or Bush's unguarded and careless "major-league a**hole" comment about New York Times reporter Adam Clymer.

There are lefty bloggers out there that are reasonable and temperate, but they are few and far between. Kevin Drum is one of them, but his commenters are typical feverish ranters like one would find on Daily Kos or Democratic Underground (no links for them). Brad DeLong is another, and his commenters are relatively sane. Either of these gentlemen (whose liberal credentials are impeccable) would have been a better choice than Ms. Marcotte (although it would have been an issue for Professor DeLong, who is a public university professor). Almost anyone in the left side of the blogosphere would have been a better choice than Ms. Marcotte, but for whatever reason, she was the choice of the Edwards team, and it may well prove to be a decisive hit on the campaign. If he doesn't repudiate her posts, no informed and devout Catholics will vote for him, and if he does repudiate her, the "nutroots" will be up in arms about the issue. It's a no-win situtation for Edwards, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next week or so.

:: Comments left behind ::

This incident in no way affects my opinion of Mr Edwards, whose judgment has never impressed me anyway.

:: CGHill February 8, 2007 06:01 PM

In addition to the points that you have posted, I also note that many left-leaning bloggers are now blaming Bill Donohue for the fall out that has happened to poor, misunderstood Amanda.

:: Terry February 16, 2007 01:44 PM

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I'm ba----ack. (04:46PM)

For anyone who is still reading, I received my DD-214 today. This is my official statement of service, the one that says that I am "U.S. Navy, retired". (My actual retirement date was last Wednesday, but since I am in Florida, the DD-214 had to be mailed to me, which took a couple of days.) What a strange 20 years it has been...

I will be moving to Gainesville, Florida next week. I had hoped to have been moved by this point, but I had a few hiccups which delayed my move for about three weeks. I will be back to posting daily after the end of February, once I am moved and unpacked and settled in. I will be severely updating and pruning the blogroll, and will change my bio and picture (which is 4 years and about 35 extra pounds out of date). I've actually had a lot to say, but was way too busy getting ready to retire to spend time on blogging.

:: Comments left behind ::

Welcome back, Time Keeper. I am looking forward to your comments on this strange world.
Congratulations on your 20 years of service.

:: Bill February 7, 2007 05:09 PM

It's... about time. ;)

:: Laurence Simon February 9, 2007 06:44 AM

Welcome back. And congratulations on your retirement.

:: Andrew Olmsted February 10, 2007 07:05 PM

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day (10:30AM)

Remember the reason behind the holiday.


To al those who paid the ultimate price defending liberty, America will never forget.

:: Comments left behind ::

Monday, May 22, 2006

Progress report (10:12PM)

August 2005:

Weight: 245 pounds. (49 pounds over Navy weight standard)
Blood pressure: 144/92 ("normal" blood pressure should be 120/80 or lower)
Cholesterol: 249 (<200 is desirable)

1.5 mile run: 16 minutes, 52 seconds (failing score)
Push-ups in 2 minutes: 27 (marginal pass)
Sit-ups in 2 minutes: 37 (marginal pass)

Overall PRT score: fail


Weight: 180 pounds (16 pounds under navy's maximum weight for height)
Blood pressure: 114/74 (lower than average is better)
Cholesterol: 178 (<200)
1.5 mile run: 12 minutes, 8 seconds (good/high score)
Push ups in 2 minutes: 37 (good/low score)
Sit-ups in 2 minutes: 47 (good/low score)

Overall PRT score: Good/low.

(Scores are based on Navy fitness standards for a 35-39 year old male, 71 inches tall, running PRT at less than 5,000 feet above sea level.)

I've made a lot of progress since last year, and I've managed to keep my weight stable for over three months now.

:: Comments left behind ::

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Headline disconnect (12:23PM)

The headline reads Conservatives Split Ahead of Alito Hearing.

The body of the article (reproduced in full):

PHILADELPHIA - On the eve of Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, conservatives gathered Sunday for a rally in his support in the state where he is an appellate judge.

Organizers said the "Justice Sunday III" event was an opportunity to defend religious liberty and educate conservatives about the need to reform the federal courts.

Among those expected to attend were Sen. Rick Santorum, a Pennsylvanian who is the No. 3 Senate Republican, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

AIDS activists, liberal groups and other religious leaders organized a protest, maintaining that the sponsors of Justice Sunday back a dangerous mixing of church and state and support an agenda that threatens civil rights.

Conservatives have generally supported Alito but liberals fear he is too conservative and could undermine abortion rights, a pivotal issue before the Supreme Court.

Philadelphia is the hometown of Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, and it is where Alito sits on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Justice Sunday III" was slated for Greater Exodus Baptist Church. Its pastor, the Rev. Herbert Lusk, drew the ire of separation-of-church-and-state activists when he endorsed President Bush from the pulpit during the 2000 Republican National Convention here. The church's charitable arm was awarded nearly $1 million in federal money in 2002 to help low-income Philadelphians with mortgages and Bush spoke at the church in 2004.

Thousands attended the first two Justice Sunday events last year in Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., which took place before a threatened filibuster showdown in the Senate and the confirmation hearings for now-Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.


How does the article support the headline? The only split I see is one between conservatives and liberals. (Remember, not all religious groups are conservative!) Looks like our AP headline writer is attempting to put a spin on the Alito nomination to create more controversy. The article itself is not the problem, but as I have noted in the past, headlines are an easy place to insert blatent bias.

:: Comments left behind ::

What does this have to do with the Military?

:: Salminio January 14, 2006 02:51 AM

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Catalog hell (06:32PM)

In the past, I had limited my online purchases to smallish items, ordered from Amazon or one or two other retailers who did not share their mailing lists with anybody. Consequently, I seldom received any catalogs from other merchants pushing their stuff.

However, when I moved into this place three months ago, I needed a lot of furniture and housewares in a short period of time, and the internet (with its home delivery) seemed to be the way to go. I ordered stuff from three different companies (Pottery Barn, Target, and Home Decorators Collection; the last two were through's affiliate program) as well as a living room set through, with whom I had dealt before without incident. Somebody sold my address to the catalog pimps, because I have been bombarded with catalogs ever since that time. At first, it wasn't too bad; a couple of catalogs a week, with stuff that was vaguely interesting to me. However, today I received no fewer than seven catalogs, including two that I can never see myself ordering from; they were country and Victorian styles, and my design aesthetic is not either style. (Those links are the stuff that is my style.)

Why don't the wizards who sell my information do a better job of screening it? It's bad enough that they shared it with ANYONE, but at least limit it to stuff I might actually buy. C'mon, flowered curtains and lace doilies? Toile and black walnut? Urgh.

:: Comments left behind ::

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Happy New Year (04:50PM)

I hope that everyone's 2006 turns out to be better than 2005, even if 2005 was your best year ever.

I don't ordinarily do resolutions, but I resolve to continue to lose weight. So far, I have dropped 54 pounds; I have 12 more to go to hit my target weight of 179 pounds. I'm slowly reintroducing some of the higher-calorie foods that I had stopped eating, but missed terribly (chocolate, anyone?), but I make sure that I cut back somewhere else to keep the total calories for the week down.

I just came back from a shopping trip to Seattle, where I essentially bought a new wardrobe, because none of my old clothes fit any more. Goodwill is going to get some nice stuff that is in great shape but no longer fits me. This is the best time to shop, because Macy's, Nordstrom and J. Crew were all having big after-Christmas sales. I spent more than I planned, but I got a core of a decent wardrobe to build upon.

:: Comments left behind ::

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Chirstmas (05:19PM)

2000 years ago, a child was born to a young couple traveling to Jerusalem to register for the census. The birth itself was unexceptional, but the child was anything but ordinary. The fact that we celebrate this day 2000 years later is a testament to the lasting impact of the life of that child born amongst the livestock.

Whether you celebrate the holiday for its religious aspects, for its more secular interpretations, or just watch everyone else celebrate, I wish you well on Christmas Day 2005.

:: Comments left behind ::

sigh. (05:11PM)

Even in a little town like mine, the Wake Up Wal-Mart bozos are posting flyers. Unlike most bigger cities, however, there is not much in the way of alternatives to Wal-Mart (even if I wanted to follow). We have a K-mart and a brand new Home Depot; there is no Target, no Fred Mayer, no department stores (the nearest mall is 30 miles away). Of course, the people protesting Wal-Mart are probably well-off liberals who can afford to travel off the island; the rest of us (including the large military population) are happy that Wal-Mart is here. This area has a lot of not terribly wealthy people who appreciate the low prices and selection that Wal-Mart offers, and those who don't like Wal-Mart are free to shop elsewhere.

:: Comments left behind ::

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