Tuesday, July 13, 2010

...and then???

So Sept 20 is fast approaching...and then?

Well, i just don't know. i know what post september 20 would look like in any other year, but this year? i have no idea. that's both scary and exhilarating!

I haven't made any posts in quite a while primarily due to lack of motivation. i suppose I've been a bit busy as well with birthing classes, wedding planning (or at least watching mel plan), working on my race car, working etc. etc. but really..it's motivation

Mel and i are tearing through birthing class and doing pretty well i think. We've got 8 more until we're ready...at least, that's what they tell you. is anyone ever really ready for this?!?!?

There are so many millions of things to do over the next few months. some things seem both trivial and absolutely vital at the same time. like picking a name. on the one hand, it's just a name. people do it millions of time every day. and people with really crappy names can achieve great things.


what do you know, the internet even has a list!


thanks interweb.

i suppose i shouldn't really equate being a celebrity to achieving a great thing. but..the crappy names list serve my purpose here.

but then on the other hand, choosing a name seems so vitally important. i have to call the kid this name. forever. so does my family. friends. it's friends (we don't know if its a boy or a girl). that's pretty important.

mel and i have a list of names (For a boy and a girl)...but it's really tough. i suppose in the end it'll have to be decided though. the kid can't be named September Twenty Corrigan.

or could it....

the house is filling up with lots of baby stuff. i like it. seems more like a home somehow. i hope this means we don't have to get a TV though. baby corrigan can watch the little Einstein video's on my computer, right!?

For a short alfa update..it's probably easiest to reference some pictures. I took all of last week off to get paint on the car. and it was a great success!! with a bit of filler, the proper paint supplies, tons of sanding and generous amounts of patience, the car is now white! despite never having painted before, it's actually fairly easy. i constructed a Paint booth of sorts in a friends shop using a temporary garage from home depot.

At this point the major body work is completely done and it's a matter of re-assembling the car into it's full on race setup. To keep myself motivated i took little red (as it's come to be known around here) to the track last saturday for an open track day. What a fantastic day and the car handles awesome. It's only limits were due to the bad second gear synchro, the street tires...and maybe the driver (just a bit). but hey, that's what Open track days are for! i hope to have the white car done so that i can use open track days next year as shake down runs. that should get me running with VSCDA by the end of next year or early the following year. now, where to put the baby seat.....

latest alfa pics..

2009 ALFA Project

oh, and Sept. 20 is not only the baby's due date but also my birthday. so i get two cakes for the rest of my life if it really comes on that day!

just kidding!!!

well, not really.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

a few good men

“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Son, we live in a country with an investment gap. And that gap needs to be filled by men with money. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Middle Class Consumer? Goldman Sachs has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Lehman and you curse derivatives. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what we know: that Lehman’s death, while tragic, probably saved the financial system. And that Goldman’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves pension funds. You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want us to fill that investment gap. You need us to fill that gap.

“We use words like credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligation, and securitization… We use these words as the backbone of a life spent investing in something. You use ‘em as a punchline. We have neither the time nor the inclination to explain ourselves to a commoner who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very credit we provide, and then questions the manner in which we provide it! We’d rather you just said thank you and paid your taxes on time. Otherwise, we suggest you get an account and start trading. Either way, we don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!”

Friday, April 09, 2010


always seem to come at the perfect time. Although we had planned this one long before the events of the last few months (something about a baby...maybe a wedding too if i remember right), we couldn't have planned it for a better time. The truth is if we didn't take a vacation now, we probably wouldn't be able to get one like this in for at least a year or so!

Luck...planning..whatever it was...it was perfect timing.

Mel's offered a good recap at her blog...bonus points to whoever notices the main re-occurring theme :)





As nice as amsterdam was, i find Prague a lot more interesting. It's history as a country stuffed between Germany and Russia means that its always been a country that's been viewed as a mere stepping stone to the larger enemy (by both it's neighbors). There's something about communism that i find very fascinating. I suppose it's partly that i grew up in a free (freer) capitalist society and communism seems so foreign. East Berlin was fascinating because of it's WWII history and Prague is fascinating largely because of it's post WWII history.

It wasn't but 20 years ago (21 to be exact) that the locals won their freedom. 20 yrs seems like a long time when i consider my age but in the scheme of things it's only a sliver of time. A fact that's driven home even more so when you watch the videos from 1989 at the communist museum.

Throughout the year various anniversaries were used as an excuse to protest in Wenceslas square (which begins only about 100 meeters from our hotel). Throughout the course of the year the police became increasingly brutal against the peaceful protesters. Plainclothes policeman would routinely drag out "provocateurs" from the crowd to be arrested by the swarms of armed police patrolling the streets.

As 1989 came to an end and it became clear that the winds of change were blowing as far east as Moscow, and after 20 years of rule by a puppet government of the soviet union the Czech parliament, in a pretty bold move, determined to dissolve itself rather than fight on (against the people). Since it's inception 20 yrs earlier over 250k citizens has been imprisoned for anti-state activities.

What amazed me was the video of the secret plain clothes police literally dragging people from the crowd to be arrested. Imagine if you were the guy being drug from the crowd and happened to bump into that same police officer in the square today. That kind of thing must happen all the time here but i can't even imagine how I'd react or how these people deal with that.

I suppose that history has shown us (time and agin) that masses of people can have a pretty high tolerance for a bad situation, but once the tide turns there's really no stopping them.

The velvet revolution came to pass without a single shot fired.

Cool stuff.

oh, and the re occuring theme in mel's blog? FOOD! and Water Closet's (but that's a whole 'nother story)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Monday, March 01, 2010


on one of his CEO's....

A hugely important event in Berkshire’s history occurred on a Saturday in 1985. Ajit Jain came into our office in Omaha – and I immediately knew we had found a superstar. (He had been discovered by Mike Goldberg, now elevated to St. Mike.)

If Charlie, I and Ajit are ever in a sinking boat – and you can only save one of us – swim to Ajit.

on Mistakes made...

And now a painful confession: Last year your chairman closed the book on a very expensive business fiasco entirely of his own making.

For many years I had struggled to think of side products that we could offer our millions of loyal

GEICO customers. Unfortunately, I finally succeeded, coming up with a brilliant insight that we should market our own credit card. I reasoned that GEICO policyholders were likely to be good credit risks and, assuming we offered an attractive card, would likely favor us with their business. We got business all right – but of the wrong type.

Our pre-tax losses from credit-card operations came to about $6.3 million before I finally woke up. We then sold our $98 million portfolio of troubled receivables for 55¢ on the dollar, losing an additional $44 million.

GEICO’s managers, it should be emphasized, were never enthusiastic about my idea. They warned me that instead of getting the cream of GEICO’s customers we would get the – – – – – well, let’s call it the non-cream. I subtly indicated that I was older and wiser.

I was just older.

on Management...

In my view a board of directors of a huge financial institution is derelict if it does not insist that its CEO bear full responsibility for risk control. If he’s incapable of handling that job, he should look for other employment. And if he fails at it – with the government thereupon required to step in with funds or guarantees – the financial consequences for him and his board should be severe.

It has not been shareholders who have botched the operations of some of our country’s largest financial institutions. Yet they have borne the burden, with 90% or more of the value of their holdings wiped out in most cases of failure. Collectively, they have lost more than $500 billion in just the four largest financial fiascos of the last two years. To say these owners have been “bailed-out” is to make a mockery of the term.

The CEOs and directors of the failed companies, however, have largely gone unscathed. Their fortunes may have been diminished by the disasters they oversaw, but they still live in grand style. It is the behavior of these CEOs and directors that needs to be changed: If their institutions and the country are harmed by their recklessness, they should pay a heavy price – one not reimbursable by the companies they’ve damaged nor by insurance. CEOs and, in many cases, directors have long benefitted from oversized financial carrots; some meaningful sticks now need to be part of their employment picture as well.

on BNSF...

Our subsidiaries made a few small “bolt-on” acquisitions last year for cash, but our blockbuster deal with BNSF required us to issue about 95,000 Berkshire shares that amounted to 6.1% of those previously outstanding. Charlie and I enjoy issuing Berkshire stock about as much as we relish prepping for a colonoscopy.

The reason for our distaste is simple. If we wouldn’t dream of selling Berkshire in its entirety at the current market price, why in the world should we “sell” a significant part of the company at that same inadequate price by issuing our stock in a merger?

In evaluating a stock-for-stock offer, shareholders of the target company quite understandably focus on the market price of the acquirer’s shares that are to be given them. But they also expect the transaction to deliver them the intrinsic value of their own shares – the ones they are giving up. If shares of a prospective acquirer are selling below their intrinsic value, it’s impossible for that buyer to make a sensible deal in an all-stock deal. You simply can’t exchange an undervalued stock for a fully-valued one without hurting your shareholders.

Imagine, if you will, Company A and Company B, of equal size and both with businesses intrinsically worth $100 per share. Both of their stocks, however, sell for $80 per share. The CEO of A, long on confidence and short on smarts, offers 11⁄4 shares of A for each share of B, correctly telling his directors that B is worth $100 per share. He will neglect to explain, though, that what he is giving will cost his shareholders $125 in intrinsic value. If the directors are mathematically challenged as well, and a deal is therefore completed, the shareholders of B will end up owning 55.6% of A & B’s combined assets and A’s shareholders will own 44.4%. Not everyone at A, it should be noted, is a loser from this nonsensical transaction. Its CEO now runs a company twice as large as his original domain, in a world where size tends to correlate with both prestige and compensation.

If an acquirer’s stock is overvalued, it’s a different story: Using it as a currency works to the acquirer’s advantage. That’s why bubbles in various areas of the stock market have invariably led to serial issuances of stock by sly promoters. Going by the market value of their stock, they can afford to overpay because they are, in effect, using counterfeit money. Periodically, many air-for-assets acquisitions have taken place, the late 1960s having been a particularly obscene period for such chicanery. Indeed, certain large companies were built in this way. (No one involved, of course, ever publicly acknowledges the reality of what is going on, though there is plenty of private snickering.)

In our BNSF acquisition, the selling shareholders quite properly evaluated our offer at $100 per share. The cost to us, however, was somewhat higher since 40% of the $100 was delivered in our shares, which Charlie and I believed to be worth more than their market value. Fortunately, we had long owned a substantial amount of BNSF stock that we purchased in the market for cash. All told, therefore, only about 30% of our cost overall was paid with Berkshire shares.

In the end, Charlie and I decided that the disadvantage of paying 30% of the price through stock was offset by the opportunity the acquisition gave us to deploy $22 billion of cash in a business we understood and liked for the long term. It has the additional virtue of being run by Matt Rose, whom we trust and admire. We also like the prospect of investing additional billions over the years at reasonable rates of return. But the final decision was a close one. If we had needed to use more stock to make the acquisition, it would in fact have made no sense. We would have then been giving up more than we were getting.

on acquisitions.....

I have been in dozens of board meetings in which acquisitions have been deliberated, often with the directors being instructed by high-priced investment bankers (are there any other kind?). Invariably, the bankers give the board a detailed assessment of the value of the company being purchased, with emphasis on why it is worth far more than its market price. In more than fifty years of board memberships, however, never have I heard the investment bankers (or management!) discuss the true value of what is being given. When a deal involved the issuance of the acquirer’s stock, they simply used market value to measure the cost. They did this even though they would have argued that the acquirer’s stock price was woefully inadequate – absolutely no indicator of its real value – had a takeover bid for the acquirer instead been the subject up for discussion.

When stock is the currency being contemplated in an acquisition and when directors are hearing from an advisor, it appears to me that there is only one way to get a rational and balanced discussion. Directors should hire a second advisor to make the case against the proposed acquisition, with its fee contingent on the deal not
going through. Absent this drastic remedy, our recommendation in respect to the use of advisors remains: “Don’t ask the barber whether you need a haircut.”

on the annual meeting...

Our best guess is that 35,000 people attended the annual meeting last year (up from 12 – no zeros
omitted – in 1981). With our shareholder population much expanded, we expect even more this year. Therefore,
we will have to make a few changes in the usual routine. There will be no change, however, in our enthusiasm
for having you attend. Charlie and I like to meet you, answer your questions and – best of all – have you buy lots
of goods from our businesses.
The meeting this year will be held on Saturday, May 1st. As always, the doors will open at the Qwest
Center at 7 a.m., and a new Berkshire movie will be shown at 8:30. At 9:30 we will go directly to the
question-and-answer period, which (with a break for lunch at the Qwest’s stands) will last until 3:30. After a
short recess, Charlie and I will convene the annual meeting at 3:45. If you decide to leave during the day’s
question periods, please do so while Charlie is talking. (Act fast; he can be terse.)
The best reason to exit, of course, is to shop. We will help you do that by filling the 194,300-squarefoot
hall that adjoins the meeting area with products from dozens of Berkshire subsidiaries. Last year, you did
your part, and most locations racked up record sales. But you can do better. (A friendly warning: If I find sales
are lagging, I get testy and lock the exits.)

on management style...

Charlie and I mainly attend to capital allocation and the care and feeding of our key managers. Most of these managers are
happiest when they are left alone to run their businesses, and that is customarily just how we leave them. That puts them in
charge of all operating decisions and of dispatching the excess cash they generate to headquarters. By sending it to us, they
don’t get diverted by the various enticements that would come their way were they responsible for deploying the cash their
businesses throw off. Furthermore, Charlie and I are exposed to a much wider range of possibilities for investing these funds
than any of our managers could find in his or her own industry.

Thursday, February 04, 2010


I'm not a big fan of Toyota, i don't own any of their products nor would i buy a new one (but then again...i have vowed to never buy/lease another new car from anyone, ever again). but they've clearly got their work cut out for them with their recent quality woes.

On the one hand, they've had a hell of a run. it was bound to end eventually and that time has apparently come. with an item as complex as the automobile, and with most suppliers working to 6 sigma (ish) type quality standards, its inherent to the process's that roughly 6 defects are produced in every million parts. you design for that and then rely on your quality systems to catch the 6, but there is no product or manufacturing process that is 100% without problem. i.e. A problem of this type was bound to crop up eventually. So i can sympathize knowing that this was bound to happen and wishing that the public was a little more realistic in their expectations.

but on the other hand, they have had a hell of a run. and it's nice to see a bit of product realism injected into the public perception. maybe Toyota quality isn't really that much better than anyone else (anymore)! crazy idea, i know. It's rather easy for a company to take the level of public trust that Toyota has recently enjoyed for granted. when the public is having a love affair with your products you (can) become overly emotional about the relationship and let logic and common sense go.

as to a recall, there are a lot of monday morning quarterbacks out there questioning the timing, the decision, etc. etc. in fact most would say "when you know you have a problem, issue a recall", or "it's better to play it safe" even when you think it's a problem. that's certainly been the position with many in the media (particularly on NPR). but the simple fact is..it's not always the best course of action. in most cases a full-on recall isn't warranted (as opposed to a campaign or a service bulletin). and in the rare case that it is, it becomes a difficult balance timing wise. do you issue the recall before having a solution ready? or do you wait, sometimes weeks or months, to issue the recall knowing that defective product is out there? let's be real, a solution to a design/process defect can take weeks or months of development and testing to create.

and you must be sure it's correct.

and you have to make sure you understand the scope of the problem (how many parts may be out there and where?).

so even though Toyota may have known for a time that a recall is evident, it was probably prudent to wait until a solution was ready and they understood the scope of the problem - all the while risking further failures. a recalled product can never be un-recalled.

cold hearted? perhaps. but irrelevant.

practical? absolutely.

in the end the public will probably never know the whole story behind the product problems and the recall. these aren't the types of things that become clearly exposed in the public domain, no matter how many hearings the talking heads on capital hill hold. they're concerned about showing "concern" so they can get re-elected in the fall.

I do think a word of caution to GM (in particular) is wise at this point. a company never wins, or rather, rarely wins, by simply relying on the failure of your competition. This is not the break you've been looking for. you still have an uphill climb to get out of the hole you've dug for yourself. Realistically, is a customer who has shunned GM for toyota likely to return to GM, or switch to another automaker like Hyundai? It's ok to prey on this problem a little bit, but be careful. that type of attitude can quickly bit back when (not if) GM has it's next quality problem.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Alfa Update

So i gave myself a little Christmas present (in addition to mel's awesome gift - a compressor!!!), i got the cage work all done in my car over the break.

It's possible buy a pre-made, 4 pt cage (bolt or weld-in) for these cars, but they're really only for safety and offer no improvement in stiffness to the chassis. Plus they leave the cell completely exposed in the trunk and make it very difficult to make any real improvements to the rear suspension. Hence i decided to spend the money for a proper 8pt cage. This cage ties into the front spring perches, allows the seat to be lower in the car (Safely), protects the cell in the case of a rear end hit, and ties in to the panhard setup. Truly the right way to design something like this and in the long run this chassis will need no further improvement to make the car faster.

Here's a pic of the drivers side. The x-bars are a nice compromise for entry/egress and safety.

I still haven't welded the rear skins on because i have some more work to do around the wheel wells and windows. Plus I have some straightening to do on the skins themselves

Here's the rear of the car, i plan to run without bumpers so the square stock is effectively the new bumper. The cell was raised a few inches for ground clearance (if a tire goes flat). It's also well protected.

The roof had to come off to properly weld all the joints, so i went ahead and painted the roof and cage while i had access. hence I taped the cage to keep the paint safe while i keep working.

It's a bit cold out for metalwork, so for now i'm working on rebuilding the rear end, steering column and steering box. It's amazing how simple these parts are to tear apart and rebuild! and they're pretty stout pieces, esp. the rear end.

I'm planning on a drivers school in Sept. to get my SCCA license. I won't be driving this car but rather the school's cars (probably prepped miata's). It was them or monopost cars, but i figured the miata's would be closer to this, so better for gaining experience.


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

...and a happy new year!

2009 is done, and what a year it was. we saw a new president, nationwide tea parties, pig flu, a bankrupt GM AND Chrysler, the crotch bomber, the king of pop died.....and enough "best of 2009" lists to last until the best of 2010 comes out!. Sick of them yet? Well here's mine!

I've done a little "Corrigan year in review" ever since i moved to Europe in 05, i figure why stop now?!

2009 was one of my best years ever, if i do say so. Despite spending most of the year in a drugged up stupor 3 nights a week i still managed to quite a bit.

Kick of the new year right by moving into a new house! well a rental..but it has a garage!

Mel and i also took a little trip to Omaha for the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. it was so much fun...we're gonna go back this year! (hopefully)


On the same weekend that my parents and my cousin delaney drove out from NY with my camaro. I also took delivery of my first Alfa GTV. It will be entered into VSCDA group 8 (eventually).

Next up we went to Gilbao Quarry in Ohio to get mel certified to go scuba diving. It reminded me why i like warm water diving!!

then the real reason for the certification...our trip to Aruba!

I took a short trip to Germany for work...my first time back since moving back to the states and luckily most of my german came back to me!

Followed by some new babies in the family! (not mine!)

and my first China Trip

....followed shortly thereafter by a Second Alfa! I think this one should have the license plate "impulsiv"

and maybe the best part was i got to do all that wit mel. oh man, better watch what i say!

Health-wise 09 was filled with good news (unlike 08). My cancer seems to be gone and i'm officially all done with treatments. Although i can't seem to bring myself to throughout my last dose of interferon (maybe because it costs like 4g's?). nevertheless, my most recent scans have all been clean and the doc's are optimistic.

I don't want to be to premature...but i think this bullet has been dodged!

well, not dodged. This one hit me. but didn't kill me!

This year is already gearing up to top 09. With a followup trip to omaha (w/mel), a visit to Amsterdam and Prague (w/mel), and driving school in the fall...it'll be hard not to! That girl is gonna be so sick of me! And hopefully i'll be doing some track events this year while i finish prepping my GTV start racing in 2011.

Cheers to a great 2010!

Here's some of my older "year in reviews".





Friday, January 01, 2010

What's the top web Video of 2009?

acc. to CNBC....

at 1:20 comes the great line "President Obama, Are you listening?"

here's the rest....


Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Our Government underwrites failure....

I'd like to compare a few articles that popped up in my reader yesterday to show the absolute lunacy and hypocrisy of our federal government.

First...the federal underwriting of failed mortgage giants freddie and fannie continues...when will it end? We've already subsidized 111 billion in losses, and now that cap has been removed only to be replaced by a new formula whereby the more that is lost...the more we will subsidize them.

I say enough already. Failing companies should be allowed to fail.


Next up..despite this horrendous performance the leaders of these companies continue to pull in millions in compensation! Wasn't there supposed to be pay limits for bailed out companies?


ah yes, here they are. the pay limits for execs like those at GM...right?

Well apparently even those pay limits are flexible if you pull the right strings.

After all, what good is a pay limit if you can't bribe your way out from under it.


Each of these articles are fine examples of what is wrong with this country. We subsidize failure and punish success. Subsidize spending and punish savings.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Ron Paul

continues to impress,

Ron Paul in 2003,

"Ironically, by transferring the risk of a widespread mortgage default, the government increases the likelihood of a painful crash in the housing market. This is because the special privileges granted to Fannie and Freddie have distorted the housing market by allowing them to attract capital they could not attract under pure market conditions. As a result, capital is diverted from its most productive use into housing. This reduces the efficacy of the entire market and thus reduces the standard of living of all Americans.

Despite the long-term damage to the economy inflicted by the government's interference in the housing market, the government's policy of diverting capital to other uses creates a short-term boom in housing. Like all artificially-created bubbles, the boom in housing prices cannot last forever. When housing prices fall, homeowners will experience difficulty as their equity is wiped out. Furthermore, the holders of the mortgage debt will also have a loss. These losses will be greater than they would have otherwise been had government policy not actively encouraged over-investment in housing.

Perhaps the Federal Reserve can stave off the day of reckoning by purchasing GSE debt and pumping liquidity into the housing market, but this cannot hold off the inevitable drop in the housing market forever. In fact, postponing the necessary, but painful market corrections will only deepen the inevitable fall. The more people invested in the market, the greater the effects across the economy when the bubble bursts."


Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday, December 07, 2009

China and back in 5 days

i arrived in dalian, china around 9pm last monday evening after travelling for app. 24 hrs! newark to beijing, then beijing to dalian. luckily i had a driver to pick me up from the airport because the taxi situation in dalian was a bit crazy. as was the driving....it was like cairo! you would think lane dividers, trafic lights, and even driving on the right side of the road were just suggestions. thank god i was so tired, otherwise i probably would've had a heart attack.

i stayed up for to wait for 2 colleagues coming in from chicago and also to force myself onto local time. in my travels i've found that forcing yourself onto local time seems to be the best way to get over jet lag.

on tuesday morning it was off to our plant for a meeting and a tour. fun fact, apparently they have to pre-order electricity. and if they mis calculate the demand...there is none! interesting. Dalian is a city of around 6 million that was historically a popular summer destination for beach going russians. during my visit though, the fog hardly lifted enough to see the ocean. our plant and the hotel are located in a very nice area of town (commonly called the development zone) that was filled with various JV's (joint ventures), hotels and housing units for expats and locals working in the plant. it was very western in it's appearance.

around 11 we headed to the airport to catch a flight to qingdao, unfortunately all flights in and out were cancelled due to fog! actually i take that back, the custom there is not to cancel, but rather delay. so it wasn't until about 5pm that we finally called it quits and headed back into town for another night in dalian. no one could explain to me when a delay became a cancellation. with some extra time on our hands we went to this great chinese restaurant. the entire first floor was filled with fish tanks and displays of what could be ordered. a waitress followed us around taking our order while we pointed. want squid? no problem. sea cucumbers (for stamina, i was told), no problem. stingray or eel? no problem, how do you want it, raw or cooked? crazy selections, but great food!

Wednesday morning it was the same story...more fog! but luckily it began to break and we were on the ground in qingdao by 12. while waiting for our driver we had some kfc. some things are the same everywhere! once in qindao we found our driver and started the 2hr drive to rizhao. finally, we were at hyundai wia! the countryside was very rural and very poor providing an interesting contrast to the state of the art engine plant(s). nothing to share regarding the customer meeting except that it was generally very successful. so successful that they treated us to an authentic korean dinner followed by on offer of foot massages! (not from them, but at a massage parlor). and yes, a real foot massage, not "special service"...or so i was told anyway. we couldn't get in, the place was packed! so we set off for a few more drinks before finally hitting the road back to qindao around 11.

and then..

more fog!

and the highway was closed. yes closed!

our driver, and seemingly every other driver, was perfectly content to stop their car and sleep in it for the night. luckily one of my colleagues found this 100% unacceptable and convinced the driver to turn the car around, drive backwards up the shoulder to the last exit and take side roads back to qindao.

a mere 3 hrs later and we finally checked into our hotel at 3:30 AM.

that was by far, the best nights sleep in the most comfortable bed i have had in my entire life. ever.

on our last day there we had meetings with 2 seperate warehouse company's to discuss inco terms and various import/export issues which were rather unventful. finally it was off to beijing thursday night and then back to the states on friday.

My overall impressions..
food - awesome. far better that US chinese food (As expected)
tea - really good. bring some home, but get it where the locals get it.
language - in some ways, easier than english. but good to travel with a local since outside of major cities, english is not very common
money - exchange rate is around 6.5 to one (all the time). but things are cheap. the 5 star hotels we were in were only 100 or so /night. very affordable. travel with a few thousand rmb for each week you're there.

and here's a few things i learned about doing business in china...

hand the business card with 2 hands, receive with 2 hands, (actually, this is for most things..credit card, receipts etc.)
always take a moment to look at the card.
bow slightly when greeting
"special massage" or "special haircut" at the hotel is, uh, very special. (no i didn't get one, but was informed)
the koreans like to drink!
always fill up the others glass first
have a well charged, functional cell phone at all times.
travel with a local!!!!!
plan on delays. lots of delays.

2009 China Trip

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What good are deadines?

particularly self imposed ones?

well, they help motivate me, if nothing else. i had made an agreement with Roman (cage builder) to have my car up to him the weekend of the fifth. But that meant i had 2 days to get both front floors completely installed. I made a valiant effort..but just couldn't get it done unfortunately.

but i did get the drivers side completely installed. the fit was really good, i would definitely recommend EB's floors to anyone doing this job. I had to recontour the firewall slightly to match, but given i needed to repair a rust spot on the firewall anyway, that was no big deal. the biggest pain in the ass is trying to weld vertically! man, i wish i had a rotisserie! maybe next time..

today i got the Pass. side completely prepped..but ran out of time to weld it in. but at least it should be "drop in" when i get back.

mel and i are heading to NY for thanksgiving(!), following that are attending my niece and nephew's christening. i wonder if bri got a 2 for 1 discount?

anyway..i'm the godfather. so i better watch the movies (only 1 and 2) before i get there so my godfatherly advice is polished up.

then on the 30th, while mel drives back to michigan alone, i'm off to china. 20+ hrs of flying each way for 3 days of meetings. fun. fun. fun.

hope everyone has a good thanksgiving! life's short, so skip the turkey and go straight for the pies!!!!

i had to remake this little channel because it came off in pieces with the cross-member.

here's the piece hole i made to repair the rust and recontour the firewall.

cleco's were a big help where clamps couldnt reach

the final product (drivers side)

Here's the Pass. side all fitted, prepped and ready to be welded in,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Almost thanksgiving?!

Yesterday morning mel and i took a little trip down to Detroit to plant some trees. in 20 years, jefferson will start looking really great. in the meantime..well....let's not think about that.

not only did the green twine hold the tree bulbs together..it apparently makes a good hair tie too.

I called in some reinforcements yesterday afternoon to help me make some headway. I worked on cleaning up the PS floor surrounds (welding surfaces) while my buddy roy started cutting out the DS floors. i picked up a combo break/shear and roll so i've been anxious to try it out. it came in handy while trying to make the repair section for the upper floor lip on the PS. i also cut out and welded in some new material in the tunnel section..that steel is really light gauge stuff and got pretty chewed up while taking out the old floors.

Today was a bit more of the same along with the musical additions of my neighbor, who blasted a mix of phil collins and the miami vice them (i'm not kidding) while i worked. i cleaned up the PS floor cross-member and the small piece that reinforces the front of the rear suspension to the floor (what's that piece called anyway?).

One more vacation day tomorrow to go up north and finalize the plans for the cage (hopefully)and check out a used race seat . I need to make sure i know exactly what else to do and what to bring before taking the car up for the cage. it's an hr drive..so i don't wanna do it more than once!

Monday, November 09, 2009

A day off, and some alfa progress

The weather was great, the tea was warm, Black Merda was cranking on my stereo...it was a great day to be home working on my car. i finished welding in the inner sill then cut and fit the a-pillar base panel. once that was all in i welded back in the a-pillar pieces i cut out and then, finally, fit the outer sill!

One of the tougher parts was fitting in the new jack point. it's supposed to contact 3 different surfaces and unfortunately only 2 were available as the car was sitting. so i went ahead and got the cross-member out of the way and fit in the new front floor just well enough that i could get the location right and weld in the jack point.

my welding is getting better as i gain confidence and experience but these pieces today (in particular the jack point and inner sill) have to be good welds. they (potentially) carry a lot of load. so i played with the welder a bit to make sure i could draw a good bead and then went at it. as i let the car off the jack i was a bit nervous...but i haven't heard a big crash yet!!

despite it's name, i find great stuff to be decidedly UN-great. i found even more up behind the fender today!

A few pics below, the rest here,


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Another wedding!

Mel and i are currently in Annapolis for a wedding, what a great location!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Papa needs a new pair of...


There's nothing like starting your day off with a new pair off socks..is there? For someone who loves new socks, i tend to wait far too long before actually buying them. But last night i bought some and man..it's a whole new day! Mel and i hit costco last night, for me it was the first time in 4 or 5 years stepping foot in a costco! but nothing had changed..still crates and pallets of cereal, christmas toys, TV's and of course..socks.

I went in for a CT scan yesterday, i expect the results in the next day or two. i haven't though about it much because i've already convinced myself that my little cancer "problem" was merely a speedbump in my life. my fingers are crossed.

And could this be the badest snowmobile...ever?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why The Face!?


i'm disgusted by this,


aside from the fact that the federal government employes 1.9million civilians (sounds like about 1.8 million too many to me), they are paid far, far above market rates.

your tax dollars at work.....

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mel fired her kiln today and the weather was beautiful outside...so it was easy to justify staying out all day!

Whoever was working the alfa line spot welding and applying undercoating the day this car was built certainly earned their money!

I finally got all the spot welds drilled along the floorpan mounting surfaces then cleaned up and shot it with primer. The a-pillar base plate i got from classic alfa looks great. Unfortunately the inner sill (behind it) was in really bad shape, but only in a relatively small area. i have a friend with a machine shop and I'm gonna see if he can bend up a small replacement panel for the inner sill. the jack point basically fell off in 1 rusty clump! nice!

At this point I'm gonna hold off on doing anything else with the floors till the a pillar and jack point are in place. the next step on the floors is to take out the cross member..but I'm using that for support right now on the dolly.

A few pics added to my folder (at the bottom)

2009 ALFA Project

Mel and i went to the cidermill yesterday along with a few friends. the weather was crappy, but the food was GREAT! damn i love the fall.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Ride in the Volt - A shocking Tale!

i wrote this a few weeks ago...just now getting around to posting though.

Well, not literally shocking. I mean, the car didn't zap me or anything.

But as a gearhead who is a firm believer that you can never have enough horsepower, what i found shocking was how much i liked the car. Before going into details..a few disclaimers.

1-i was unable to drive it. Mel brought home an IVER (development vehicle) and as such, she's the only one allowed to drive it.
2-The IVER is, naturally, a pre-production vehicle. This one had so many wires and test unit's hooked up that the back seat was hardly visible!

Other than that though, this was more or less a production intent vehicle with most parts being off tool (to my untrained eye anyway). I had an appt. for a brain MRI last night so Mel offered to deliver me to my appt. in the volt and show off what she's been working on over the past year and a half.

A few impressions,

Styling-wise the car has been watered down significantly since it's concept debut. that's unfortunate, but not unexpected given the aerodynamic driven design convergence of today's high mpg cars (in particular). It still looks good though and is distinctly Chevrolet. The tail lights weren't of the final design nor were the headlights but even with those two issues and the flat grey paint, the car looked good. It'll be nice to see a few cars with color on them as surely that will only improve things. My mind kept envisioning the car in dark blue for some reason. The hatchback opens up to an enormous amount of space, particularly with the seats down. You could easily put ski's, a bike, a few dogs...maybe even a supplemantal 350 ci chevy in the back. Just saying...

On the inside i was immediately drawn to the IP (instrument panel). It is awesome. The two displays are large, colorful, crisp....really cool stuff. (most of) The buttons function like those on an ipod..there's no physical movement but rather the activation is by way of capacitance. They essentially sense the presence of your finger. This IP is a big departure for GM, and a huge step in the right direction. This is the interface for the ipod generation. there seemed to be a lot of room inside and it was proportioned well. The shift mechanism was a bit odd, no doubt it's a concession to those drivers that expect to have a clunky shifter to move the vehicle from Park to Reverse to Drive. In this car, little more then a toggle switch should be needed since no physical drive mechanism is actually connected to the shifter.....but perhaps consumers aren't quite ready to take that leap yet.

Riding impressions

Things were a bit cramped given all the equipment in the car, but that was quickly overlooked as we started moving. Despite GM's efforts to make this car feel as "normal" as possible, its difficult to overlook the fact that this is a vastly new type of vehicle. Backing out of the driveway, virtually silent, and then heading down the street, again, virtually silent, is a unique experience. Without the engine noise masking so much of the NVH you would think all sorts of new squeaks and rattles would be heard. And they probably were there, to start. But GM is well on it's way to providing a vehicle that runs silent. There were a few whines and whistles as various pumps, servo's etc. did their job, but overall the vehicle is very quite in EV mode.

The power is adequate. Not overwhelming, but adequate for this type of vehicle. And unlike an engine, the power is very linear. There's no sense of any sort of power band. It's a cool sensation.

But what does the engine sound like? Well, it's not silent, thats for sure. With the radio off the engine could be heard coming on quite clearly, but that's not to say it was overly loud. given that the engine operates more like a generator then a direct source of propulsion, it's noise is not dependent on speed. That takes a bit of getting used to. The best comparison i can make is that it sounded like a very muted turbo prop airplane engine. There's a low level "drone" of sorts that comes to life as the engine hit's it's operating speed(s). If the radio was on i think it would be virtually un-noticable. There was a vibration that could be felt, but that was very subtle. When the vehicle stops the engine goes into auto-stop.

We didn't drive it long enough to confirm the 230mpg number, but i didn't expect to. As an engineer, i don't doubt that 230mpg was arrived at via some legitimate calculation, i just wonder under what real world conditions that could really be achieved. But I'll give GM the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise.

plug in charging

Mel showed me how the plug works and it's pretty simple. if you can plug in a toaster, you can plug in a volt. It would be nice if the charge port door could be opened from outside the vehicle (there's a button inside right now), but i understand that's probably not preferable for security reasons. Maybe that functionality is on the keyfob?

A few suggestions, though admittedly these may already be on someone's open issues list,

-Fix the blinkers! they blinked too fast and seemed to operate at 2 different intervals (maybe just teething problems at this vehicle level?)
-Remove the gloss coating above the drivers IP screen. the reflection was annoying...
-Do something with the door panels! the funky design looks awful

Anyway, i hope i don't get Mel in trouble for writing all this! Even though the car is not completed yet, the vehicle i saw is a massive achievement and in it's current state, quite impressive. As launch approaches and the car is refined further, i think we can expect to see an even more impressive vehicle take shape. Given that the world seems to be moving from combustion engines, GM needs to start transitioning drivers to a new set of expectations regarding noise, feel etc. the volt seems to be a good first step in that direction. It operates close enough to a normal vehicle to not scare off drivers but provides enough of a different experience to help bridge the gap to the next generation of technology. This vehicle is a bridge for GM. To where?...that may not be clear right now, but this is GM's first major attempt at changing consumer expectations for the driver's experience and in that i think it will be a major success.

2009 09 The Volt

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How many vehicles does one man need?

You may think the answer is 1...but no, it's actually 4.

I've always been a truck person. I tried to fight it when i leased my audi, but it caught up with me. 2 weeks ago i bought a 99 silverado z71. You may think it's difficult to fit 5 cars in the driveway (incl. mel's), but it's surprisingly cozy! I got a great deal on it, i just need(ed) to do a little maintenance work (brakes, u-joints, etc). The real reason i bought it is that i have to haul my race car around to a few different places this fall and to borrow a friends truck once is one thing...but 4 or 5 times is a bit much. so what the hell.

Here's a pic...but now the hard part.

....What color truck nuts do i buy...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Berlin and Ilsenburg

Here's some pics from in and around Berlin as well as a few from Ilsenburg. Berlin is a great city. The division between east and west is still quite visible today although it's clear that significant investment has been made in the former East.

On Saturday we visited the "ddr" museum. It attempted to give a glimpse into the life of an east German by showing products, clothes, furniture and general lifestyle info (including some crazy DDR tv!) Good stuff, but it was overcrowded and not very inviting (maybe indicative of the east?!)

On Sunday we woke up and walked about 500 meters to the site of Hitler's bunker and his death. This site is pretty hard to find because the German government is not very keen on advertising this due to the threat of it becoming a shrine for neo nazis. In fact it wasn't until the world cup was held here just a few years ago that it was identified with a plaque! The site today is nothing more then a parking lot. Underneath which remains the walls and floor of the bunker, albeit completely filled in with sand. The bunker is located on the former east and remained more or less in tact until well after the war (albeit covered over). The Russians, who controlled the east, left much of the WWII damage unfixed for many many years after the way. Hitler and Eva Braun killed themselves at this spot in Berlin along with Goebels and his family. The body's were damaged during shelling and partially burned. There was a lot of controversy and uncertainty about what happened to the bodies. Following the collapse of the wall Russian records show that after attempting to burn the bodies, the remains were buried, in secret, not to far from Berlin in Magdeburg. After a few years the remains were unearthed and cremated with the remains being scattered in a river. but even that account is contested..so we'll probably never know.

The wall itself ran right THROUGH the hotel we were staying in. Our hotel was built after 1989 but there are some buildings where the wall run's right down it, some streets that the wall cuts in two. It's incredible really to think that this wall existed and divided this city like that for so long. Some people could literally look out there window and view a completely different world. In front of the hotel was "no man's land" and only 500m's or so down the street is the Brandenburg gate! Much of the area that the wall once occupied, in this part of town, has been given to various countries for their embassy's including the US and Canada.

Of course we visited checkpoint C (or checkpoint Charlie). At one point this was a 10 lane crossing point, but today there's not much left. a replica of the original guard shack surrounded by lots of placards and info. The before and after photo's are very striking.

On Monday we visited the German historic museum. I'd highly recomend this, it covers German history...All of it!

After the three hour drive to Ilsenburg we started the actual work portion of this trip. It's too bad we didn't have just a bit more time though because the next town over is Nordhaused, famous for the "mittelwerk" where the germans built thousands of V2 rockets! they were built INSIDE a tunnel system, cut by slave labor, towards the end of the war. The allies took all the remaining rockets following liberation, after which the russians sealed the tunnels. They have only recently been opened back up and you can tour these today. It looks exactly like it did at the end of the war! Also outside of nordhausen is the small Dora concentration camp. A small but brutal example of the worst of humanity.

Maybe next time...

2009 10 Berlin



Monday, October 12, 2009

Guten tag vom ilsenburg

I just got into ilsenburg after 2 days in berlin. i forgot the cable for my camera (Actually mel's camera) in the car...so photo's will follow shortly!

Friday, October 09, 2009


well, i'm finally done with the interferon! After a year of 3 x weekly shots, endless pills, doctors visits, ct scans, MRI's and rarely making it past 9PM..i'm finally done! And i have to say..i feel pretty good. :) I saw my oncologist on Monday and wasn't shy in telling that i hope i never see him again! nicely of course....but my life should be back to "normal" now. Many of the changes i made in the last year will of course have to be permanent as i will always be at a high risk of re-occurrence. Looking forward over the next year(s) I'll go in for ct scan's every 6 months and continue with my 6 month dermatologist schedule. I don't think I'm ever considered "cured" but if I'm still healthy in another year I'm considered in remission..i think. I'm not too concerned about labeling my condition at this point beyond "cancer free...apparently" :)

I also have to say that despite all the horror stories we hear about our medical system, my experience was fantastic and i couldn't have asked for better doctors. And of course I'm extremely fortunate to have a great, supportive family and girlfriend. I can't imagine how some people do this alone.

And it couldn't have come at a better time because i fly to Germany in a few hrs. mmmm...chocolate and beer! i mean....water and brocoli! :)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I'm doing it all wrong!

so i've been working on my race car for many...many...many months now. and i need many more before it will even resemble a car again. But after watching these videos..i realize i'm doing it all wrong. i should just hire these guys! They build a new acura prototype in less then 22 hrs! Watch the crash..then the time lapse build video. Really cool.

ALMS: Patron Highcroft Petit Le Mans Rebuild from GrandTouringPrototype.com on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


So just in case there was any doubt...here's photographic proof that i'm healthy.

and have a brain..

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I used to be able to say i was closer to 20 then to 40.

As of today, that's not true anymore.