Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Thing About Statues

After you travel around Europe enough, you come to this realization.  There are statues that can be done in some tasteful but provocative fashion.....that no one says much about.

In Bama, if you tried to put up some statue of a half-naked gal with a lion's body on the bottom half....a bunch of folks would get all upset and frustrated.  They'd be disturbed and have to talk their minister about their hurt feelings or the downward spiral of the world.

This statue....at the front of the big palace in Vienna will probably have itself photographed at least a thousand times a day and no one ever says much.  I would admit.....it's not that great of a statue and it doesn't really say much except for cash flow for the artist who spent a year crafting it.

The thing is....folks get around to talking a lot over statues....at least in the US.  It's always supposed to represent some dead Senator, soldier, or President.  You don't get statues made of farmers, trailer-park women, or former University of Alabama quarterbacks.  There's only two statues of Coach 'Bear' Bryant in existence.  If you went looking for female statues in the US....you'd only find a couple.  In Europe, probably a quarter of all statues.....are mostly of imaginary Greek goddesses who did some fantasy deal with some other imaginary Greek guy or just looked 'hot'.

So, when you sit and dream up an idea of a trip to Europe....you need to prepare yourself for some lusty statues, and ask the local Baptist minister for some hefty praying material while on the trip.  

Vinegar This and That

In a couple of weeks, the wife will have wrapped up one full year at current job.  Frankly, it's one of the few jobs ever in her life.....where there is satisfaction over the operation and the product (vinegar).

This small company markets one of the top vinegar production lines in Europe.  There's probably twenty different vinegar items which are produced and sold.

Over the past year....I've probably had more than triple the amount of vinegar in my system than usual.  Mostly because.....they give the wife free samples on a monthly basis.

So, there's the regular vinegar for cleaning windows and shelves.  There's the fancy stuff for salads.  There's the hot-chilli-related vinegar for spicing up your foods.  There's the vinegar-mustard sauce.  On and on and on.

I'll bet there's probably forty bottles of the stuff around the house and more than a three-year supply on hand.

To be honest, I probably never (ever) was a big fan of vinegar until I got to the more unusual tasting types.   Now?  I can almost gargle with the stuff, or sip it via a shot-glass.

Last Observation of the Car Show

 My last four comments over the Frankfurt Auto Show:

First, one of the top ten reasons you attend....is to note the models hired to 'talk' about the new cars.  There's at least forty car companies there and each hires a minimum of a dozen models....who wear the company-approved clothing....always showing a lot of leg and cleavage.

You tend to be amazed as you walk up to a car and some gal quickly walks up and lets you know eight amazing facts about this new model.  Then you ask this stupid question about the tires or the engine, and she's got this deer-in-the-highlights look.  You've gone one step beyond the eight lines that she memorized. Then she turns and gives the signal to 'Doctor Johnny' who is some car engineer guy in a suit, who walks over and then starts to bring tears to your eyes over the 16,000 interesting things about this particular model.  'Doctor Johnny' wears a suit and has zero sex appeal....even to women over the age of fifty.

I've often been curious where they find these gals and how they train them the week prior to the show.  Each one fits into her suit and it's simply a 'sexed-up' piece of clothing which helps to sell the cars, in my humble opinion.  Some companies....like Mercedes are very picky about the suit and it's more professional.  Some companies, like the Chinese car makers....try to show as much skin as possible.  I'm guessing the car show management has some rules....otherwise, all of the ladies would be in bikinis.

Second observation.  The Audi guys turned their entire building into some life-time experience.  You weave through a massive crowd and it takes ten minutes to get to the front door.

Then you enter some stairway to reach the 'ice-room'.  They brought in a dozen slabs of arctic ice with blue lighting in the background.  The temperature in the room is probably 25 degrees, and fairly chilly.  Then you exit to this big long extended hallway with flashing red-lights.   If you were epileptic in nature....you'd be all over the floor.  Finally you come to the end of the light show room and there's this gal with a big long stick and this 12-step downward stairway.  She's there to whack you and get you back to your senses that you have to be careful and watch your step.  I imagine a dozen-odd people fell down the stairway over the whole show.  Why they need to have some stairway deal built into this or all the flashing lights.....is beyond me.

Third.  I come to the number of bikes shown at the show.  I know.....it's an auto show, but there were at least forty different battery-powered bikes on display.  This one is designed in a way similar to some small motorcycle, and has the battery-pack for added boost.

Germans are hyped up about this trend.  Most everyone is trading in their old style bike for the battery powered deal.  The odd thing is this cost factor.  You can't find a single battery-powered bike for less than $1,750 (1,500 Euro).  I was looking at some bikes at the show and they were in the 3,000 Euro range.

The batteries themselves?  Well, no one says much but it's hard for me to see them lasting more than three or four years with the recharge business.  Getting a new one?  No one says much over the cost factor, but I doubt if these are cheap.  And I'd have serious doubts that you could order this and install the battery yourself.  Probably takes some certified bike mechanic to make the change-out.

Fourth and final.  I come to the yearly demonstration of a useless personal gadget which pops up at these shows.  These are health-related items which are usually disproved by health authorities within three months after a show episode.

This one?  A turbo 'wiggle-device'. Basically, you turn the thing on, step on it, and it's flipping you at a hefty speed.....flopping left and right.

There were probably six different stations around the whole show where they featured these.

After watching this demonstration for five minutes, I made the logical Alabama educated guess that it was a nifty engineered gadget with zero health appeal.  They had some warning sign near the station....not to hold kids while on it or pets.

Cost factor?  Unknown.  They didn't put signs up and they wanted you to stand and chat with the guy for a while before they dumped the price on you.  I'd be guessing somewhere in the five to six hundred Euro range.....for a cheap wiggle-machine made probably in China.

Course, some computer engineer guys will look at this and think it'd be neat to have in their office for that mid-afternoon low-sugar point.  Toss back a Mountain Dew and stand on the wiggle-machine for five minutes, and you'd be back in fifth gear for the final two hours of work.

More Auto Show

 Three more observations from the Frankfurt Auto Show.

First, this mini-truck.  Max speed is 50 kph (roughly 30 mph), basically made for driving around your village or local town.  Oddly enough, because of the speed and limited power.....they even allow a sixteen-year-old kid in Germany to drive it.

A guy with a small business and delivery requirements in town might look over this option.  The price though?  Roughly $15,000.  Yep, for a vehicle that you can't drive on the autobahn, and would take forever to drive twenty miles.  You can barely toss one driver and a border collie into the cab.

 Second, this little vehicle?  It's for retirees and gives them 365-day protection from the elements.

I looked at it closely.....it's all cheap plastic and has some little heater element.  In rain or fall months....it might be a decent vehicle, but I wouldn't take it out into any field or figure to go further than a mile or two.  Maybe if you needed a beer in the midst of a November evening....you could climb into this and drive down the sidewalk to your local pub.

Maybe if an older guy had money to throw around and just wanted something to impress the neighbors....it might be worth it.  To me, it just looked like a riding lawn-mower with a four-star cab.

Third, Opel had this new van design.  Basically, you have the drivers compartment area, then you have the second seat for up to three people to sit, and then you have an entire enclosed area behind the second seat.

Naturally, the Opel guys put in fancy lights and nice carpet.  I tried to stand there and imagine why you'd want the enclosed area.  Maybe if this were for business operations or you needed a mini-office at some construction site, it might work.

For a tail-gate party?  Well, you could load up a ton of stuff into the back (cubic-space-wise).

This was also the model that had the USB stations at each seat and two tab-like computers in the back-seat.

A camper-like deal?  Well...it's actually big enough that you could throw a couple of bunks into it but why make it a camper?

It's simply designed as one of those oddball things that a guy would dream about, but have no real excuse for buying.

The VW 'Fix'

"Performance, emissions, durability, and fuel economy."

- Jake Fisher, Director of Consumer Reports Auto Testing

I was reading over a simple outline of the VW diesel problem yesterday, and Jake put it in simplicity.

You can build an engine that delivers one of the four, or three of the four.....but you can't have all four mandated requirements of a normal engine when talking about diesel design.

So you prioritize.  You can have great fuel economy....doing forty-odd miles per gallon.  You can have a very durable engine which lasts easily through 250,000 miles.  You can have a car that performs through harsh winters and hot summers, and zips you from 0-to-60 in a couple of seconds.  But when you have those three things.....you can't have emissions on the plus side.  Zero possibility.

I noted several German PhD engineer folks commenting on the VW crisis, and they generally think a minor part or two change-out and a different software package....could bring this problem under control in a matter of six months.  Then they kinda noted the obvious 'fix'.....you'd have to accept a car which doesn't have quiet the ZIP that it had before and the gas mileage would go from forty-odd miles a gallon down to probably twenty-four miles a gallon.

Back in 2009, I had a chance to drive a diesel Alfa-Romero MiTo as a rental for two days.  It had been twenty years since I'd last driven a diesel and I was expecting a less-than-peppy car.  So I was surprised that it actually reacted very quickly and blasted along the autobahn at a fair speed.  I might have even been enthusiastic about buying the MiTo.....except when it came to the final hour of use and I needed to refill the tank.....the stupid tank-security cap release simply didn't work.  A one-year old car and the security device giving you access to the cap was screwed up.  But I was sold on the idea of a decent diesel powered car.

Here's the problem I see with the VW 'fix' that will come by spring of 2016.  The EPA will ask for the full copy of the software and demand some kind of review....go figure four months before they approve this.  So when it's accepted....there's going to be several problems to develop.

First, is there a complete list of VW owners affected held by the EPA?  My guess is no.  Not unless VW offers them the list, or states cooperate to provide registration data to the EPA.  Can the EPA mandate that you come in and be forced to accept a change to the car which drops it from forty-odd miles to the gallon....to twenty-four miles a gallon, and remove the peppyness of the car?  I have my doubts that EPA could do it, but states could deny you a renewal of the car tag (some states have emissions tests and some don't).  The EPA might invent some yearly tax to encourage you to accept the 'fix'....figure $500 a year is enough to convince most folks.

Second, let's say that you figure out all this geeky stuff.....get upset....then decide to undo the software release package.....like going from Windows 10 back to Windows 7 because it simply worked better.  This would require you to have a copy of the VW enhanced program, and each year you'd have to bring the car back to the right version for the state emission test episode.  Would EPA figure out that half of these owners have turned geek and cheating the system?  Would the EPA start having spot-inspections on these owners?

Third, if you were an owner of a 'fixed' VW diesel car, and you had the twenty-four mpg situation....of what re-sell value is your car?  Even if the car was just a year-old.....you probably lost another fifty percent of the re-sell value once the 'fix' goes onto the car.  There just wouldn't be used-car market for these diesel VW's.

So, this brings me to this odd analysis point.  If you were ever going to own a diesel VW that does the forty-odd mile per gallon....you'd best go down this next week or two and buy it now, with the problem software working as it should.  Even when the sales guy warns you about the 'fix', just smile and grin and say you kinda know what has been said....but you know this geeky guy who will ensure you stay with the better performance package.