Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Fantastic Car Weekend in Los Angeles

We flew out this past Thursday to Los Angeles for a cruise that didn't start until Sunday.

This was intentional.

We've been spending the time since our arrival with famous Corvette race driver and bon vivant Dick Guldstrand. He has really shown us a great time.

We have visited three totally awesome collections of automobiles and other fantastic creations of Man: the Nethercutt Collection and Museum, Jay Leno's garage, and the Petersen Automotive Museum.

We were most fortunate in the timing of our arrival at the Nethercutt Museum. A private tour of the much more exclusive Nethercutt Collection was about to start and we were invited to join.

The main "showroom" is itself an incredible sight. It is a large open area, in three colors of marble, with gold trim and mirrors on the back wall. This is apparently a recreation of the kind of showroom the more exclusive marques used to employ to overcome the lower-intensity lighting then available.

While we were enjoying the cars in the showroom, we were listening to a fantastic special player piano playing a rendition of "Rhapsody in Blue" actually played by the composer himself, George Gershwin!

After a while, the group was invited to ascend to a level overlooking the showroom. On this level there were some beautiful works of art including an awesome collection of radiator and hood ornaments. I was really drawn myself to a fine porcelain piece depicting what appears to be a soldier fresh back from World War I, out on a drive with his girl, enjoying the local waterfowl.

Finally -- we ascended to the top level. This is where the Nethercutts would entertain on the weekends.

It included a dining area that seated 16 people, with mirrors at each end, situated so as to create a neverending "hall of chandeliers"... the reflection in the mirrors was that of a chandelier known to date from the 1600's and thought to be an actual Louis XV chandelier. As a lark, Dick and I stood in front of the mirror while I coerced the camera into producing an image of us in the "hall of chandeliers". As no flash photography was permitted, this was a bit of a challenge but fun to take on.

The room also included several mechanical orchestras, which were demostrated for our astonishment and pleasure, and a fabulous Wurlitzer Grand Theatre Organ. A nicely arranged program involving the organ and a linked piano was then presented.

Believe me when I tell you that I am really not doing this amazing collection any justice. Also believe me when I tell you that this is a "must" for the car guy's bucket list! Learn more about the fantastic collection here.

Next post -- the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Two good stories from Microsoft

Well, I guess really it's a fix for a bad story plus a good story, but we'll take what we can get.

Thanks to the Seattle Times for bringing these to our attention. The links below will take you to their coverage.

The first story is the one that's been getting all the ink (or since it's mostly on the Internet, I guess it would be packets, bytes or maybe electrons). This has to do with the recently laid-off Microsoft workers who were accidentally overpaid. After a few days of public wailing and hand-wringing, Microsoft did the right thing and let them keep it.

As for the laid-off folk who got the extra money... at the end of the day they still got laid off. They can probably use the extra green. Too bad all of the other ones didn't get accidentally overpaid too.

The second story has much wider potential impact, all positive, and therefore has gotten a lot less coverage. Here Microsoft is contributing to the recovery by working in conjunction with the various states to provide low-cost, and in some cases, free technical courses and even certifications in its new Elevate America program.

The value over a career of a Microsoft certification can be very substantial. In a crowded job market, these can make the difference between employment and another day at home.

Well done, Microsoft ... don't lose sight of all the good you can do with this program -- put that maximum energy into making this a success!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I should have bought a ZR1

At one point last year, I had the opportunity to get myself the ultimate hot ticket: a Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Right off the dealership floor, it can do 200 mph and still be begging for more. It can turn in amazing lap times on the famous Nürburgring. 0-60? There before you finish saying "Zero To Sixty". When you're not flogging it, you get pretty darned good comfort and gas mileage too. A heck of a package.

The deal was good. But it had a 10-second expiration time, and what little I had salted away in my holdings, while sufficient to get the job done, would have really taken a major hit in the process. I knew there was no way I could ever even consider it, and immediately said as much.

Fast forward to today. Looking at those same holdings, I would have been a lot better off buying the car. Yes, the automotive market is still in deep doo-doo. But the securities I would have sold to buy the ZR1 have depreciated an awful lot faster than that particular car would have... I could have driven the car for 6-8 months and sold it -- and I'd have more to my name than I do now, not having done so.

I know that under normal circumstances that wouldn't be the case. But these aren't normal circumstances.

And ... driving that mother around would have taken a little of the sting out of losing that big chunk of my net worth!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

All Right!!! Junior is a Mariner again!!!

I had the distinct pleasure, no, wait -- I got to experience the joy of watching Ken Griffey, Jr. play baseball in Seattle.

Part of that was the joy he clearly took in playing the game. He really did approach it like he was being paid for going out and playing games. He wasn't naive about the money, but we always knew that there was much more to it for him than just the money.

Even when he left, his stated reason -- being closer to his family -- made much more sense and had much more of the ring of truth than A-Rod's claim that he was going to perennial loser Texas (which couldn't afford to pay him $25 mil per year and hire any decent pitchers at the same time) to win championships.

But Junior was a very big part of the near-championship season that did result in enough public support to get Safeco Field built. And except for a short time before his departure to Cincy and one series there with the Reds, he never got to play in this beautiful park.

Now that all changes. He's not the amazing player he once was. But even in decline, he will provide his fans, old and new alike, with plenty of new excitement.

Welcome home, Junior! Keep that cap on backwards for me, OK?

Griffey's decision the ultimate walkoff homer

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's the real story behind this shampoo?

When you're looking at a product, God knows that price matters. But price is only part of the actual cost of anything.

Here's a site that can tell you whether a product you currently use or are considering for use was produced ethically, and whether it's likely to be safe for your use.

GoodGuide provides the world's largest and most reliable source of information on the health, environmental, and social impacts of the products in your home.

One summer a few years ago, Dara O’Rourke was doing what he’d done dozens of times before: putting sunscreen on his five-year old daughter Minju before she went outside to play in the summer sun. The thought occurred to Dara, "I wonder what’s really in this stuff?" So, being a Professor at the University of California-Berkeley, Dara researched the sunscreen. What he found was surprising and disturbing: the sunscreen he’d been putting on Minju for years had a toxic ingredient.

At that moment, Dara realized how little we know about the products we bring into our homes every day. He knew that other parents should have the same access to product information that he and his fellow researchers had. He also wanted to solve the problem of increasingly confusing marketing claims regarding whether products were actually healthy, safe or green.

Their site is still in beta. Go check it out and see if they're doing something that interests you.

GoodGuide | Ratings of Natural Products, Green Products, and Healthy Products

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It was a nice thought while it lasted.

It appears that Ken Griffey Jr. won't be getting back to where he once belonged.

The Atlanta Braves made a very spirited late bid for his services, and the relative convenience of both their spring training locale (a short drive from his home) and their home park (a short flight from his home) seem to have carried the day.

That's unfortunate, but understandable. Some stories don't have a clean arc, and this will apparently be one of them.

Griffey telling friends he's Atlanta-bound

Monday, February 16, 2009

Dog Heaven is when yours is with you

I was in third grade and I was home sick. That happened a lot when I was a kid. I always had a cold or strep throat and often wound up with bronchitis or pneumonia.

The phone rang. My dog had been hit by the milk truck bringing its precious cargo to my school -- and my friends had seen it.

He was gone. And it was a long time before we had another dog.

I can only thank God I was sick and didn't actually see it happen.

Roger Ebert writes with his usual genius about what it is like to enjoy the unconditional love of a dog and how it felt when his dog was lost.

Dog lovers, keep a tissue handy.

Blackie come home

Sunday, February 15, 2009

And we wonder why most Hollywood SF is crap

Frederik Pohl has his own perspective. Sad that we haven't seen more of his great work on the big screen.

Me and the Biz

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Junior back to Seattle?

Looks like Ken Griffey Jr. will be back with the Mariners soon. No surprise that Edgar and Jay are excited about it. Me too!

It was a very sad day when Griffey left Seattle. We all need for him to return, and finish his career where it started.

Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez thrilled that Junior might be back

I wish they did more of this in the U S of A

Apparently in Japan it's accepted and good form to wear surgical masks when deemed necessary for health or personal reasons. I wonder if I would have avoided my two weeks of downtime last month if people did that here.

Japanese Surgical Mask Culture

Friday, February 13, 2009

My friend's weblog

I mentioned in my last post that I was now "following" her weblog... but perhaps a few more people would like to do so as well. In the hope that someone will read this, let me offer this link:

Vegetable Frittata w/ Seasoned Oven Baked Potatoes

Looks really good, just put some spicy turkey Italian sausage (crumbled) in there, and I'm ready to dig in!!


Well, it's been a while.

One of my dearest friends has set up a blog in which she shares various interesting foodstuffs and recipes that she has tried herself (hopefully always editing out the ones that her husband would prefer she not try again...). I decided I wanted to "follow" her blog and while I was going through that process, I was reminded that I had a blog!

Now, it's been 5, count 'em -- 5 years since I posted in it and I've moved on a lot attitude-wise, so the original blog title "Ignorance is Strength" had to go.

It probably isn't a big deal for me to actually keep writing to this blog, God knows I send a number of links to friends every day along with pithy comments. But I'm making no promises (which is probably fine, to the best of my knowledge nobody else knows about this blog either :)

You never know... MAYBE I'll actually make a go of it.