Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fiero


1988 Fiero GT. (Photo by Richard Lentinello.)

Another very interesting car is in my March 2015 issue of Classic Car magazine.
A 1988 Pontiac Fiero GT.
Fiero at first was Pontiac’s attempt at building a two-seater sportscar. But then the mighty General said it should be a commuter-car that was fun to drive.
Fiero was introduced in 1984. It had GM’s fabled four-cylinder “Iron-Duke” engine that replaced the troublesome aluminum-block Vega four.
The Iron-Duke was essentially one side of the Chevy SmallBlock V8, 2.5 liters displacement.
An early Fiero.
In a Fiero the motor was behind the driver, what is called “mid-engine.”
Race-cars, like Formula One and Indy, have their motor behind the driver. It gives better mass-centralization and weight-balance.
Dreamers have wanted Chevrolet to do this to the Corvette for years, patterned after the fabulous Can-Am (Canadian-American Challenge Cup) racers of about 1970.
Can-Am racers were essentially two-seat open sportscars complete with fenders and swooping bodywork.
They even had souped-up Detroit V8s at first, but that was skonked by turbocharged European overkill.
A Porsche 914.

A Lotus Europa.
The first mid-engine car I remember is the Porsche 914 (“poor-sha;” as in “poor”). It had only a Volkswagen engine, and was tricky. —Although you could get it with a Porsche flat six: the 914-6.
Lotus fielded a mid-engine car called the “Europa.” It had a Renault engine, although later you could get it with a souped-up double overhead-cam Ford four.
I remember wanting one. Supposedly they were state-of-the-art, possessed of the Lotus Formula-One reputation.
What I should have wanted is one of these Fieros. As a Detroit car it was much more dependable than a Lotus.
And the 1988 Fiero GT was best. For 1988 Pontiac fiddled the suspension to make it more a sportscar. They also had earlier made the V6 engine optional.
Both the V6 and the Iron-Duke were the package used in GM’s front-drive Celebrity clones, first available in the Chevrolet Citation, then in the Chevrolet Celebrity.
Each GM division except Cadillac had a clone of the Celebrity.
Putting that V6 in the Fiero made it more a threat to Chevrolet’s Corvette.
The magazine says GM killed the Fiero after 1988, but the scuttlebutt I always heard was it was Chevrolet.
With its upgraded suspension and V6 motor the Fiero was threatening Corvette.
Plus it was the mid-engine layout. Corvette wasn’t.
Pantera.

Pontiac Solstice.
The only mid-engine Detroit V8 I remember was Lincoln-Mercury’s Pantera. But that was an Italian supercar with a Cobra-Ford V8, not made here in the states.
Sadly, I never owned a Fiero. And the ’88 GT sounds exceptional.
Pontiac came out with another two-seater sportscar, the Solstice, but that is gone too.
So too the entire Pontiac brand.

Labels:

Monday, January 19, 2015

They cut me slack

I’ve said it hundreds of times: “the Messenger newspaper was the BEST job I ever had.”
But I began to wonder. Perhaps it was good because previous jobs were difficult, sometimes awful.
I was always encouraged at the Messenger, like what I was doing was worthwhile.
But occasionally I’ve heard comments about the Messenger, that don’t apply to me, yet make me wonder.
Like perhaps the Messenger was cutting me slack as a stroke-survivor.
They were amazed at some of the things I came up with, especially my time-savers.
“You’re doing that stockbox in five minutes?” they’d say. “That’s not possible!”
“Is too,” I’d say. “I have a Quicken portfolio of the stocks we run. All it is is a copy/paste. I don’t type anything.”
Sit back and watch ‘im fly!
Long ago they started me doing the “Weather-Almanac” information: sunrise, moonrise, sunset, moonset, etc. I was doing it from the Farmer’s Almanac with a fudge-factor.
Then one afternoon I walked out of my garage at home after work. “What’s that moon doing up there?” I said. “I had it setting four hours ago.”
I always questioned my procedure for Weather-Almanac information. So my wife and I got on our computer and discovered the “Naval Observatory Site.” I could plug in “Canandaigua,” and it rendered sunrise-moonrise-sunset-moonset for Canandaigua.
So much for my Farmer’s Almanac — in the trash.
“You did that?” the Executive-Editor crowed. “That’s amazing!”
“Yeah, I said; “at last our Weather-Almanac info will be correct.”
A while after I started at the Messenger I was drafted into proofing ads. This went fairly well, until one day a local car-dealer gave us an ad for a special offer: a used Ford-Explorer for $30,000.
That seemed reasonable to me; it was low-mileage, and had a lot of options. So that is what we published.
The car-dealer went ballistic, as did our Executive Vice-President, Andy Kavulich (“kuh-VEW-litch”), a staunch REPUBLICAN and our newspaper’s hatchet-man.
No matter the car-dealer provided me with erroneous information. As a stroke-survivor I was clearly incapable of proofing ads.
Kavulich sought to get even. He would lay me off.
But the Executive Editor intervened: “What do I wanna lay him off for? He’s providing me with at least four-to-six ‘Letters-to-the-Editor’ every day, plus he has the best attitude of all my employees.”
I had learned how to scan “Letters-to-the-Editor,” Optical-Character-Recognition (OCR), to turn a typed or printed letter into a computer text-file.
I was one of the few that could do it, and it was something the average low-level Messenger employee poo-pooed.
So I wasn’t laid off, and Kavulich eventually was fired. He made too many enemies, and valuable employees were lost.
Then also were my honor-rolls. Local schools would provide their honor-rolls, which we published. Long lists of page-filler.
But typing up an honor-roll took weeks.
So I developed ways of processing them in Microsoft Word©.
My Word was an antique; 6.1, installed from eight three-inch floppies.
But it would do what I wanted. And if not I’d e-mail the honor-roll home to process with my Word98.
For printing in the Messenger an honor-roll had to be just so, last name last, comma after the name, alphabetized.
Some I had to OCR scan, some were sent e-mail. I never typed anything, although my job-title was “typist.”
I’d open my text-file in Word, then fiddle. If it was last-name-first I’d “convert-to-table” so I could reverse columns. After that I would alphabetize, a Word function.
Sometimes the honor-roll would be all capital-letters. Word had a decapitalize function that skonked that.
I also had a trick for inserting commas en masse. Converting back to text there’d be a paragraph-return after each name. All I did was a find/replace, find the paragraph-returns and replace with “comma-space.”
BAM! Ready-to-publish!
I kept my completed honor-rolls as Quark© files. Then all I had to do was paste my new honor-roll file over my old honor-roll listing.
Under appropriate headings already there; like “Grade-Nine High-Honor,” etc.
Boom-Zoom! I could crank an honor-roll in about two or three hours.
And the page-editors loved it. A complete honor-roll might blow almost an entire page.
And our readers loved it. “There’s Johnny in the Messenger,” Granny would say.
Honor-rolls ended when I retired.
Editors required “ready-to-print” honor-rolls in the format I used, and the schools refused.
The schools continued sending honor-rolls as they had in the past, and all the Messenger could do was type them. Back to completed honor-rolls taking weeks, if ever.
I offered to teach a typist my Word-tricks, but nothing came of it. They probably decided what I was doing was beyond the ability of the average Messenger employee.
So they were often amazed at some of the things I did.
“Give ‘im a ‘pyooter, and watch ‘im fly.”
But I think the fact I had a stroke played into it.
“This guy had a stroke?”
I was doing my tricks on what was left of my brain. Everything works. It didn’t at first. My recovery is based on what was left — apparently enough to pass for never having had a stroke.
My left side, which was paralyzed at first, is no longer paralyzed.
Listen carefully and you can hear it in my speech.
One’s speech-center is the first thing to go in a stroke, so what is generating my speech is a part of my brain that wasn’t designed for speech.
I often have difficulty finding words, so there is hesitation and stoney silences.
So I think they were cutting me slack at the Messenger. “He had a stroke, and he did that?”
“Beep-beep-beep-beep;” the sound of one of my magic macros used by someone else on their computer.

• The “Messenger newspaper” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger, from where I retired over nine years ago. I worked there almost 10 years (over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern.)
• “Canandaigua” (“cannan-DAY-gwuh”) is a small city nearby where I live in Western NY. The city is also within a rural town called “Canandaigua.” The name is Indian, and means “Chosen Spot.” —It’s about 14 miles away.
• My wife died April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• I had a stroke October 26, 1993, and it slightly compromised my speech. (Difficulty finding and putting words together.)
• “Quark” is the paginating computer-software, essentially a glorified word-processor, we used to generate the newspaper in our computers.

Labels:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Retractables



A ’59 retractable. (Photo by Richard Lentinello.)

My March 2015 issue of Hemmings Classic Car magazine features Ford’s “Skyliner” retractable hardtops, a convertible, but its top wasn’t cloth.
It was a metal hardtop that folded and retracted into the car’s trunk.
No one had made such a car before the Skyliner. Convertibles were always a folding cloth top.
The ‘50s were a time of expansive confidence. We had made the world safe for democracy.
So Ford decided to do a retractable hardtop. They sold ‘em from ’57 through ’59.
The retractable hardtop was an engineering masterpiece. It had three motors, 610 feet of wiring, 10 solenoids, and many relays, circuit-breakers and locking motors.
Say that to this old bus-driver, and I think of our first wheelchair-lift installations. Relays and solenoids galore! But it had to work in a wet and salty environment.
Ford’s retractable hardtop didn’t have that.
Shortly after my stroke I was asked to review a handicap-van with a wheelchair lift.
I pilloried it. “It won’t work in this environment. That gizmo is right out there where salt can get it.”
Ford’s retractables have the reputation of being unreliable, but the owner of the car pictured disagrees.
“Everything still works,” he says. “So far only one motor has failed.”
The owner also says show-goers are amazed American car-makers made such a concept 58 years ago.
I never thought much of Ford’s retractable.
A gizmo.
The hardtop is small, and it’s on a body I never thought much of anyway.
To me it was the Tri-Chevys that always stood out: ’55, ’56, and ’57. They had that fabulous new V8 motor.
Yet the ’57 Ford outsold the ’57 Chevy; first time in years that Ford outsold Chevrolet.
Long, low, big and wide. That’s what car-buyers wanted.
And Ford’s retractable contributed; it was always a hit.
Although Ford had to give up on it. Not many sold.

• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs.
• I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered. It ended my bus-driving.

Labels:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shreddings

Every day Yrs Trly shreds acres and acres of paper.
Yesterday I shredded perhaps 40 pieces; 8&1/2 by 11 printing-paper, envelopes, etc.
Why are all business printouts on 8&1/2 by 11 paper, even appointments?
Anything with my name and address gets shredded, like magazine and catalog covers.
I used to send postage-paid envelopes back, like credit-card solicitations.
But then I noticed they had some kind of tracking-code, so now they get shredded.
The shreddings get recycled. I bag ‘em in big plastic trash-bags, and my trash-guys pick ‘em up for recycling.
(My trash is collected by a private company.)
I used to put ‘em in paper grocery-bags, but one blew out of my blue-box, and deposited shreddings all over my lawn.
So perhaps my Marcal “Small-Steps” tissues have some of my shreddings. “Small-Steps” paper-products are made from recycled paper.
It used to be one bag every two weeks. But now I’m shredding so much I can fill a bag in one week.
A lot of it is junk-mail. I shred a lot of it, but if I can put it in my magazine-recycling, it doesn’t get shredded.
I set out a bag just this week, but it looks like I’ll hafta do another the next time the trash-guys visit.
I have a slew of Christmas-cards to shred.
Now that I’m alone I feel swamped.
The laundry-guy is me, the bed-maker is me, I cook my own supper, I bake muffins.
But it feels like the deluge of paper is getting out-of-hand.
Processing mail used to take five minutes. Yesterday was at least a half-hour, and I still have stuff to put away.
Often I have to let the mail sit unopened.
Yesterday I was bewailing “so much junk!”

• My wife died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Toto


Toto. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I look at some of my photos in PhotoBucket, and notice I have a photo of “Toto” in there.
Photos I use fairly often I keep in “my bucket,” readily available.
Toto is a Lo-Flo toilet, the only Lo-Flo in our house.
Our house was built in 1989, before the coming of Lo-Flo toilets.
We had three toilets, all by American-Standard.
The toilet off our master-bedroom became difficult, and our plumber couldn’t fix it.
He suggested a new toilet, and all that was available was Lo-Flo, and “Toto” was supposedly the best Lo-Flo toilet money could buy.
The plumber also blamed our tankless water-heater for that American-Standard toilet being difficult.
Uhm, I thought a toilet used COLD water.
A tankless water-heater doesn’t have a tank; it heats water as it passes through.
Toto is a Lo-Flo toilet, and often won’t compute. Try to flush four dollops of toilet-paper, and it plugs.
I had to unplug Toto so many times it became blog-material, which was why I needed the picture.
I Finally gave up on Toto. It became a secondary toilet. My other toilets became primary. Being not Lo-Flo they were much less likely to plug.
Since Toto is no longer my primary toilet, I don’t blog it.
Any more it rarely plugs, although it did recently. I was stupid enough to put four dollops of toilet-paper in it.
So I will delete my Toto picture, plus some others I rarely use.
(I can’t delete it yet, or it won’t display atop this blog.)

• “We/our” refers to my wife and I; she died in April of 2012.

Labels:

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Financial-Advisor

I have a so-called “Financial-Advisor.”
I’m supposed to see him today (Thursday, January 8th, 2015).
He just all-of-a-sudden pulled in my driveway about five years ago as I was putting away my lawnmower.
He then introduced himself.
I remarked I had two deferred-income accounts, and I wanted to combine everything into one local account.
He said he could do that, so we did.
The guy is affiliated with Edward-Jones, and has an office in nearby Honeoye Falls (“HONE-eee-oy;” as in “boy”).
When it became apparent my wife might not survive, we wicked things up a bit.
I had a stroke 21 years ago, so occasionally I need help. I recovered pretty well, but I can get befuddled.
My wife has since died, and the guy is helping.
This gets me crying sometimes; I come from a background of having to get by on-my-own — expecting no help from anyone.
I used to do my own taxes: state and federal.
The IRS sent a letter saying I owed $28,000.
I happened to mention this in passing, and the guy jumped into action.
He referred me to a local tax-lady to straighten things out. The $28,000 had something to do with transferring to Edward Jones.
So what has happened?
Years ago I felt no need for a financial-advisor, nor a tax-advisor.
I was my own financial-advisor, and my wife was a penny-pincher too.
No Corvette, no speedboat, no RV camper, and most importantly no children to suck income putting through college.
And I used to do my own taxes.
But things got out-of-hand.
“Consult your financial-advisor,” the ads all say.
Why has it come to needing a financial-advisor?
And why has income-tax got so complicated I need a tax-advisor?
While at Transit a new 1040 was posted on the wall. You declared your income up top, then down bottom you saw your tax-liability: “all-of-it.”
Keep the military-industrial complex running.
Well okay, this ain’t reality, but there was that $28,000, which was because of my ignorance.
No matter to the vipers at IRS: ignorance is no excuse.
Engage tax-lady,
thanks to my financial-advisor.
I find myself pleased with my financial-advisor.

• “Honeoye  Falls” is the nearest village to the west to where I live in western New York, a rural village about five miles away.
• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• “Transit” equals Regional Transit Service (RTS), the public transit-bus operator in Rochester, NY, where I drove transit-bus for 16&1/2 years (1977-1993). My stroke October 26, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

“Don’t think, just do.”



This here laptop is an Apple MacBook Pro, and I’ve been noisily told by various Windoze© PC users anything Apple is disgusting and of-the-Devil.
I started with a Windoze© PC myself, but switched to Apple when my employer, a newspaper, computerized production with Apple.
I was told at that time Apple was superior, and it seemed it was. I did a Photoshop class with Photoshop on a PC, and it was hourglass-city.
I got used to Apple, so much a Windoze© PC can be intimidating.
Apple and PC computers do pretty much the same thing, but are different.
Faced with the idiosyncrasies of the way Apple does things, PC-users slide to calling them inferior. They get exasperated.
I’ve driven Windoze© PCs myself, and can usually get by.
Libraries are usually Windoze© PC.
But I like getting back to my Apple; it’s familiar. A Windoze© PC can get complicated. —But mainly because it’s unfamiliar.
I purchased this laptop maybe four or five years ago, at the behest of a confirmed Apple-user.
It wasn’t new; it was a “refurb,” refurbished by Apple.
I was driving an old Apple tower back then, and we thought it wasn’t big enough to crunch video.
Video-files are gigantic, and my tower was only a 60-gig hard-drive with two gig of RAM; huge when I bought it maybe 15 years ago.
This laptop has a 500-gig hard-drive, big enough to swallow the entire known universe; and its RAM is four gig.
I’ve never crunched the video, so essentially this laptop is overkill, as was my tower at first.
But it doesn’t do the Photoshop shovel-bit. Go back far enough to my first Apple, and often it couldn’t crunch a photo.
That is, it had so little RAM it started shoveling to “virtual-memory” on the hard-drive.
At my newspaper we added RAM to my humble iMac, from four meg to 60 meg, so I could crunch photos for the newspaper’s website.
I’ve crunched hundreds of photos here at home, but this 500-gig hard-drive is only 25% full, and I’ve never got the “virtual-memory” bit.
This laptop came with the “Snow-Leopard” version of OS-X, and still has it. Later versions of OS-X came along, but I’ve never installed ‘em.
Recently I drove an Apple computer with “Yosemite,” the most recent version of OS-X.
It had a one-terabyte hard-drive. That’s 1,000 gig. For Heaven sake! Storage of hard-drives is going beyond my descriptions.
I think I might install “Yosemite,” but only if I can still use the apps I have.
“Snow-Leopard” is pretty good, but “Yosemite” is phenomenal.
Every version of OS-X I’ve used — I began with my tower — has what’s called “the dock.”
OS-X is Apple’s most recent computer operating-system.
“The Dock” is a small strip of display across the full width or height of the screen, perhaps a half-inch or more wide, depending on what’s in it.
Usually it’s at the bottom, but I have mine up the right side.
(My desktop picture is GG-1 #4896, the only GG-1 I’ve been through. As I’ve said hundreds of times, I consider the GG-1 the greatest railroad locomotive EVER.)
The Dock contains icons of apps you quite often use; the apps are aliases.
When I click an icon in my dock, it fires up the app, and I can add apps.
If I drag an icon out of my dock to my desktop, it disappears with a “poof.”
Since I use Apple’s “Pages,” a word-processor, quite often, I added it to my dock long ago.
But apparently the other night my mouse grabbed my “Pages” icon and “poofed” it.
So get “Pages” icon back in my dock.
First I had to find my “Pages” application.
Easier said than done.
I opened up my applications folder, which shows my icons, and it wasn’t there.
Finally, after a lot of hand-wringing, I searched “Pages,” expecting nothing.
Viola! It was in the iWork folder in my applications.
I tried moving that icon to my dock, as I’ve done before, but it wouldn’t do it; perhaps because I had a “Pages” document open.
So I began stabbing away.
I could move the “Pages” icon to my desktop, but that’s old-school. It wasn’t where I wanted it — in my dock.
I moved that desktop icon to my trash, but after that “Pages” documents wouldn’t open.
I dragged it out of my trash back into my iWorks folder.
I then fired up a “Pages”-document, and noticed it put a “Pages” icon in my dock.
I eventually quit “Pages,” but the icon remained in my dock.
Perish-the-thought, I like to understand why things are happening.
It seems to be the bane of my generation.
But understanding no longer matters. That “Pages” icon is back in my dock, so why worry?
I used to get this at the newspaper — “don’t think, just do.”

• “The newspaper” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger, from where I retired nine years ago. Best job I ever had — I worked there almost 10 years (over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern [I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I recovered fairly well]). (“Canandaigua” [“cannan-DAY-gwuh”] is a small city nearby where I live in Western NY. The city is also within a rural town called “Canandaigua.” The name is Indian, and means “Chosen Spot.” —It’s about 14 miles away.)
• “Windoze” is of course Microsoft “Windows;” an Apple-user put-down. Apple people and Microsoft people are always at war.