In Or Out? 11

First…the site of yesterday’s major explosion in Baltimore is a five-minute walk from the house in which I lived from the ages of 2 to 25. As the actual cause of the explosion has not yet been determined, and may not be determined for years, I will refrain from editorializing…well, at least too much.

In my opinion, this country has allowed its infrastructure to decay. In my opinion, the federal government’s obligation under the first clause of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution to “provide…for the general Welfare of the United States” does not mean that it spend the excessively large (again, IMO) amount of $1.9 billion A DAY on defense and spend little on infrastructure. Remember that the federal government paid 90% of the cost of building the Interstate Highway System.

I think the “Left” is misguided and naive in calling for a massive reduction in defense spending–it’s a dangerous world–but even a 10% reduction would free up significant funds to be used for other worthy purposes and without raising taxes. I think the “Right” is hypocritical in calling for small government, but for huge defense expenditures. The United States spends more on defense than the amount spent by the next 7-9 countries COMBINED. The actual number of countries depends on the exact definition one uses for defense spending.

Even if the Baltimore explosion was caused by negligence of the property owner and/or the residents (I think the property was a rental), about one-third of the gas distribution mains for Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) and half of its transmission mains are more than 50 years old. You can’t just build it and forget about it.

Well, I guess I editorialized too much…if you can’t tell by now, I am not a political ideologue. I think both political parties in the US have lost the plot and that both of their policy platforms are rife with dangerous inconsistencies. I will once again offer the opinion that the US is headed for dissolution and maybe that won’t be a bad thing.


Talk about switching gears…of the first ten In Or Out? cars, six were manufactured by non-US companies. I have to admit that I struggled to find a US car about which a consensus doesn’t already exist. From an MSN article about the most surprising cars ever sold in the US, a picture of today’s In Or Out? car, the Pontiac Fiero:


Slide 9 of 21: Pontiac developed the first mass-produced mid-engined car ever made by an American company. Called Fiero, it was envisioned as a smaller, cheaper and more efficient alternative to the Chevrolet Corvette and launched in 1983 as a 1984 model. Early examples weren’t as quick or as fun as they looked, and various problems made them prone to overheating and catching fire, but Pontiac fixed most of the Fiero’s issues for the 1988 model year.Sales unfortunately ended after 1988 and GM didn’t dare venture into mid-engined territory until Chevrolet unveiled the eighth-generation Corvette in 2019.


For many, the Fiero is a prime example of where General Motors lost its way in the 1970s and 1980s; some say it has never recovered. The Fiero, introduced for model year 1984, was the first US mid-engine production car and the first new US-built two-seater since the original Ford Thunderbird of 1955-57.

The car was actually conceived in 1978 in large part as a way to help GM meet CAFE standards, but without making something boring. The car was popular at first with sales of about 137,000 units in its first model year. From one of my favorite and most valuable books, Encyclopedia of American Cars by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®:


“…But Fiero was flawed–heavy and sluggish with the standard 92 HP, 151 cubic-inch Iron Duke four, little faster with the optional 173 cubic-inch V-6; low, cramped, noisy and hard to see out of; hard to shift, stiff-riding, indifferently put together. As it had with the X-cars, GM shot itself in the foot by selling a car before it was fully developed.”

Those facts, combined with a recall having to do with engine fires and insurance companies greatly increasing premiums on two-seaters (that difference still exists today), meant that the Fiero was doomed and ultimately discontinued after the 1988 model year in which only about 26,000 Fieros were built. Of course, Pontiac had just spent a fortune for an all-new suspension that significantly improved handling on the ’88 Fieros. Exciting plans for a new engine and new lighter frame were left unused.

I fully understand why many GM bashers exist among car enthusiasts and the Fiero is one of the cars why the bashing exists. For an “agnostic” car person like me, the Fiero is a very frustrating car. I think it looks fantastic and with a mid-engine setup it could have been successful like the Toyota MR-2, which sold more than 300,000 units in 20+ years of production with the largest market being North America.

OK, kind folks…the Pontiac Fiero, In Or Out?







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Monday Musings 53

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”

– Isaac Asimov, 1980


For the second consecutive weekend we had no showings of our house, which has now been on the market for a month. The lack of showings is in stark contrast to the many showings we had in the first two weeks.

Our realtor sent us data indicating that interest, as measured by the number of showings, seems to have fallen quite dramatically in our segment of the local real estate market. I guess he sent the data so we would know it’s not just our house that has seemingly dropped off the radar of potential home buyers.

The best realtor in the world will have a difficult time selling a house in a “bad” market and an inept realtor can easily sell a house in a “good” one. When I began to explore the idea of selling my first house, which I had not lived in for nine years, I called the wonderful person who had managed the property as a rental during that time and she told me that the market was exploding. (I had no idea what was going on in that market as I was living 1,400 miles away.) Even though her company would lose the rental commission, she showed me the comps in my area. The house had appreciated in value by 35%-40% in the last year.

I decided to sell; the house sold in three days and for more than the asking price. I have never had such good luck in selling any other house.

Not to be too morbid, but this house may very well be the last one I sell. I have never dealt well with being in limbo. When I (and in this case, we) decide to do something, I want to do it, not wait to do it. However, our experience is yet another example of the truth that we don’t have total control over what happens in our lives.


This Hemmings article addresses adding EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) to classic cars, something about which I have written many times in this blog. The piece begins:

Gearheads, like much of society, can be slow to embrace change. In the automotive world, advances in technology often mean considerable improvements in performance, and nearly every gearhead can agree that’s an admirable pursuit. But still we resist.

Here is another interesting passage:

…But even with design improvements that allowed the carburetor to function in a wide range of conditions, it still remained (as many would refer to it) a calibrated fuel leak.

That may be a slap in the face to those who still maintain carburetors as a viable fuel delivery device. But anybody who has experienced the nuances of flooding, an irregular idle, vapor lock, mediocre fuel mileage, or any of the myriad maladies inherent to the carburetor, has to question that thinking.


If I am ever in a position to buy a car like the one pictured below, I will certainly have EFI installed. It would be my car and my money. Why some people think they have the right to tell other people how to spend their money is beyond me.



From a Hemmings ad a picture of a 1965 Buick Riviera. What a magnificent car; the addition of EFI will not diminish its magnificence.







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Why Can’t I Buy This Car?!

Motor Trend airs a show called “Head 2 Head.” It is hosted by Jethro Bovingdon and Jonny Lieberman. They are both long-time automotive journalists; Bovingdon is from the UK while Lieberman is American. I think both of them have an anti-American bias when it comes to automobiles, but none of us is completely objective.

The latest episode featured a BMW M2 Competition and an Alpine A110, which is built by Renault. During his time in the A110, Lieberman asked why he couldn’t buy it in the US. He said, and I’m paraphrasing, that the US is one of the two largest automobile markets in the world, is a country with lots of automobile enthusiasts and lots of great roads. (This episode was filmed in Europe.) At the end of the show, and after lots of test driving, the A110 was chosen over the BMW M2.

When Carlos Ghosn was still in charge of the Nissan-Renault Alliance he said that Renault would not be re-introduced into the US market. Why not? Some of the reasons are rules and regulations established by the DOT and the EPA. What cracks me up is that many Americans think that Europe is a place where people have no freedom and the government micromanages everyone’s life. Still, the A110 is available there, but not here.

Don’t kid yourself; a lot of these rules and regulations were simply adopted after lobbying by American car companies in order to reduce foreign competition. I also think that after Americans showed an inclination to buy SUVs, the car companies pushed their marketing in that direction because SUVs have a higher profit margin than cars.

Of course, Renault did not have a lot of success selling cars in the US and may have poisoned the well when it basically took over American Motors Corporation and built a lot of products that were not well-received. However, that was a long time ago; AMC was purchased by Chrysler in 1987.

From Auto Evolution a picture of the modern Alpine A110:


See the source image


It is a mid-engined two-seater, powered by a turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine of 1.8 liters/110 cubic inches in displacement that produces 249 HP/236 LB-FT of torque. If that output doesn’t sound impressive, consider that the car weighs less than 2,500 pounds. A 2020 Dodge Challenger with an 8-cylinder engine weighs over 4,000 pounds. Oh, the A110 only comes with a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.

Even if I could afford to do so, it would be illegal for me to buy one of these in Europe and bring it to the US. That just doesn’t sound right to me. No, I do not believe in unconstrained freedom, but why is this car illegal and some monstrous SUV legal? Sorry, but that’s just wrong.

Does anyone have any opinions on this matter that they’d like to share?






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Saturday Stuff

“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”

When his wife asked him to change clothes to meet the German Ambassador: “They want to see me, here I am. If they want to see my clothes, open my closet and show them my suits.”

– Albert Einstein


In June of 1916 Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves, ripples in the curvature of spacetime which propagate as waves, traveling outward from the source, transporting energy as gravitational radiation. In February of 2016, the existence of such waves was confirmed when researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (bka LIGO) published the first observation of gravitational waves that were actually detected on Earth in September of 2015.

Where are the Einsteins of today? Maybe the answer is there aren’t any, that Einstein was sui generis. I think that’s too bad for all of us.


See the source image


From Science ABC a picture of Einstein in a less than serious moment.


From Cadillac at 100 : Legacy of Leadership a series of pictures showing that Cadillac concept cars are not just a recent development:



Of course, these concepts were an exercise with a purpose, the execution of a front-wheel drive, two-door luxury coupe that came to fruition with the introduction of the “modern” Eldorado in 1967. Lead times for model development were much longer then although they are hardly short now. By the way, I think a “modernized” version of XP-727 number 3 would also make a great basis for a super-luxury car.

I have always been extremely fond of the first generation of the modern Cadillac Eldorado. Such a car was named as a member of my Ultimate Garage 2.0. At some point I would like to have one of those “Ultimate” cars as my own besides my 2016 Z06. Although prices have increased lately, a 1967-68 Eldorado is still the most affordable car among those in Ultimate Garage 2.0. At 221 inches in length I would have to have a garage at least a little longer than 20 feet, though.







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Fried Friday

Many thanks to my wonderful wife’s parents for providing us with safe harbor.

Power was restored shortly before Noon yesterday, about a day ahead of the preliminary estimate by the utility company. We returned home mid-afternoon. I know many people fared worse, even much worse, and some are still without power, but I have to admit that I am fried, I am frazzled by events.

Looming large is the seeming disappearance of any interest in our house, which has now been on the market for about a month. We had no showings at all last weekend and it’s now been well over a week since the last one. We made a token reduction in the asking price just so the house will appear when people search for listings where the price has been reduced. Almost all potential home buyers begin on the Internet and one field that can be searched is houses that have had price reductions.

We can’t enjoy living in the desert until we sell this house. Technically, I guess we could, but after having had a very bad experience in moving out of state without selling our house first, we do not want to tempt a repeat.

Logistically, moving without selling this house would be very difficult. After the Equifax breach of 2017 we froze our credit files; they remain frozen and we hope to never have to un-freeze them. We cannot obtain a mortgage with frozen credit files. While we could, theoretically, liquidate more of our equity/fixed income holdings to raise sufficient funds to buy a house without a mortgage, we will not do so. We are completely debt-free and will do our damnedest to stay that way, but do not want to reduce the size of our investment portfolio any more than is absolutely necessary. The proceeds from the sale of our current house will provide most of the funds for buying a home in the desert.

We also do not want to be 2,000+ miles away from a property we still own, from a property on which we would still be liable for taxes, insurance, etc. I cannot describe how painful it was to pay property taxes for more than four years on a house in which we would never live again, in a state in which we would never live again.

I don’t think it will help, but please send us good thoughts. We cannot remain in this state of limbo. (I’ve never heard of that state. Is it on the East Coast? 🙂 )


On this day in 1906, Cadillac was granted a trademark for its crest. From this Hemmings article a picture of the original Cadillac crest:


Post Image


Of course, the symbol used by Cadillac has changed over the years. The fortunes of the company have changed as well.

For decades, Cadillac was the leader in American luxury cars. Now, Cadillac is struggling to find an image and products that will give it a strong position in the automobile market. In 1985, new Cadillac sales in the US were almost 300,000 units and about 2% of the market. In 2019, Cadillac sales were about 156,000 units and less than one percent of the market. (Data from CarSalesBase. Based on some of the data I have, a 300,000 figure for 1985 would have been almost three percent of the market.)

Once again, I will offer my opinion that Cadillac should manufacture a super-luxury car, both as a way to make a profit and as a halo car that will enhance the image of the company. In the recent past I have offered the Cadillac Elmiraj concept as a basis for such a car. I am also a fan of this Cadillac concept, the Cien (picture from GM Authority):


See the source image


How many US households have a net worth of $10 million or more? The answer is more than a million, probably about 1.3 million to be more precise. Virus or not, many wealthy people/families still live in this country. Cadillac wouldn’t have to have a large percentage of these people/families buy a super-luxury car in order to make the project profitable. In addition, of course, foreign buyers might be interested.

Cadillac’s previous failures with the Allanté and the XLR might still be casting a shadow on sentiment regarding the development of a super-luxury car. Of course, neither of those cars were actually pitched towards the highest end of the automobile market. What is that remark supposedly made by Einstein? “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”









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Monday Musings 52

The old saw that highly intelligent people lack common sense is usually uttered by unintelligent people in an attempt to feel better about themselves. Being absent-minded or unmindful of mundane details is not the same as lacking common sense. Besides, I defy anyone to actually define “common” sense.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


August 1st marked the fifth anniversary (!) of my receiving my first pension payment from major league baseball. This month’s payment was received today; although the payment is supposed to be received on the 1st of each month, it is actually received on the first business day.

I have probably written elsewhere on this blog about my months of ruminating on when I should start receiving the pension. I performed all sorts of calculations using fixed and variable discount rate models in an effort to find the age that would maximize the present value of those payments. It should come as no surprise that the pension payout is structured in such a way that no real change exists in the present value at age 55–the first age when a person with 10+ years of service can begin receiving the pension–whether one begins receiving it at 55, 60, 65 or any age in between. (The earlier one begins receiving the pension, the smaller the nominal amount. Of course, a dollar received today is worth more than a dollar received five years from now. The amount increases literally every month one waits to receive it, like Social Security. Unlike Social Security, however, the pension is not adjusted for inflation. Also unlike Social Security, where waiting until 70 maximizes the nominal monthly amount received, the max for the baseball pension is age 65.)

I decided to begin receiving the pension on August 1st of the first year I was eligible because 1) that most closely mirrored my last day as a full-time employee of a major league team and 2) that would almost maximize the number of payments I received until they put me in the ground. The baseball pension is an “old-fashioned” defined benefit plan, of which very few exist these days. I did not put one penny into the pension fund; my benefit is a function of how many years I worked and how much I earned.

How much do I receive every month? That’s no one’s business except for my wonderful wife and my accountant.


On this day in 2007 DaimlerChrysler completed a deal to sell an 80% stake in its ailing US Chrysler division to the private equity company Cerberus Capital Management for 7.4 billion euros, or $10.1 billion. Because debt/credit markets were already beginning to suffer at the beginning of the “Financial Meltdown/Great Recession,” DaimlerChrysler and Cerberus had to help with the financing. This was the first time a private equity company took majority ownership of a US car company.

Daimler-Benz AG had acquired Chrysler in 1998 in an alleged “merger of equals.” However, the merger terms clearly favored Daimler and within a year many people at Chrysler said it was being “Germanized” into a mere division of Daimler-Benz. Jurgen Schrempp, Chairman of Daimler-Benz, later conceded that was part of the “merger” plan.

Of course, less than two years after being sold to Cerberus Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which set in motion the events that led it to be purchased by Fiat, the company that currently owns Chrysler. Maybe the echoes of the Great Recession still haunt American car makers today and that partly explains why, in general, they seem very risk-averse in terms of product offerings. The fact that 70% of American adults are overweight and a third are obese also is a factor in the glut of SUVs and pickup trucks. The companies are all too happy to oblige since profit margins on those vehicles are higher than on “regular” cars.

From Classic Cars a picture of one of my favorite Chrysler/Mopar products, the Chrysler 300B:


See the source image


The “B” designation means the car is a 1956 model. The optional engine for this car was the first American motor to offer at least 1 HP per cubic inch, generating 355 HP from 354 cubic inches. The engine also produced 405 LB-FT of torque.

Who knows what long lasting effects “the virus” will have on the US and world automobile industries? Must I write it again? History is replete with examples of the folly of human beings trying to predict the future.







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Where Is Cristy Lee? Redux

First…some good news, for a change. The results of my latest thyroid ultrasound were better than ever. Even the one growth (of about six) on my thyroid that appeared “troublesome” in the past no longer seems to be. All growths were small, <1 cm. The doctor said I could have more imaging in two years, but that wasn’t strictly necessary.

My TSH levels have always been in the normal range although sometimes with some interesting fluctuations within the range. Whatever is ailing me is almost certainly not a function of my thyroid.

More than 52,000 new cases of thyroid cancer and more than 2,000 deaths from it occur every year in the US. Women are 3 times more likely to develop thyroid cancer. Heredity also seems to be a major risk factor.


Second…the months of April, May, June and July of 2020 are the four highest months in terms of views/visitors in the history of Disaffected Musings. If the average of these four months could be maintained for an entire calendar year, that would represent a doubling of these figures compared to 2019. Obviously, people being home much more is playing a role in the increase in blog activity. I am grateful for the increase in views, but I will continue to ask for the sale. Please feel free to tell your friends about the blog and to pass along the URL (, please feel free to click on any (or all) of the related posts at the bottom of each post, please feel free to “Like” any post and to submit thoughtful comments.


Speaking of the history of this blog…it was inevitable, I guess. Where Is Cristy Lee? is now the most read post or entry in the history of Disaffected Musings, even surpassing the About page.

I first published the post about Cristy Lee in January when she didn’t appear on the Motor Trend broadcast of the Barrett-Jackson auction from Scottsdale. Of course, we later learned that broadcast would be the last on Motor Trend, at least for the foreseeable future, as whenever the Barrett-Jackson live auctions resume (now tentatively scheduled for late October, also from Scottsdale) they will be broadcast on History and fyi.

As I suspected when she joined the cast of Garage Squad, Lee left All Girls Garage after season 8. Her departure, and the departure of Lou Santiago and Jared Zimmerman from Car Fix, are almost certainly due to financial considerations. As I have written before, it is show business. The current hosts of both shows, which are produced by the same company, are almost certainly earning less than the previous host combinations. Of course, I am “obliged” to show a picture of the lovely Ms. Lee, this time from her website that I don’t think is actively maintained.


See the source image


Here’s a still from a video on the minion of the Evil Empire, also called YouTube, of a 1961 Pontiac Ventura bubble top. Ever since seeing a 1962 model on TV at the Mecum auction from Arizona in 2019 I have really developed a hankering for a car like this:


See the source image


I think the Mecum car went unsold at a high bid of $62,000, so a car like this is not in my future barring a lottery win. I do, however, have a long history with Pontiac and will always have a soft spot for the make. What is life without dreams?






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Frugal Friday, C6 Corvette Encore

On a personal note…this day in 1999 was my last as a full-time employee of a major league baseball team. I didn’t know that at the time. In normal baseball seasons July 31 was the trading deadline, the day after which it is more difficult, although not impossible, to trade players. I confess I don’t even know if this date is still the trading deadline and, if it is, if it is still possible to trade players after July 31.

I tendered my resignation in May, but offered to stay through the trade deadline. Two of my colleagues, apparently, had a bet as to whether or not I was really leaving the organization. The one who won the bet is now baseball’s “Wonder Boy.”


Another personal “note”…



I have been waxing nostalgic for this car, my 2007 Corvette that I purchased new in February of 2007 and then sold in a panic in October, 2010 when I basically lost my baseball business. Earlier this week while running errands in my Z06, I saw a good-looking C6 convertible (a 2007 Corvette is a C6) with the top down. I am usually the first to make the “Corvette Wave,” but on this occasion the C6 driver beat me to the punch.

Although I wrote a Frugal Friday post about C6 Corvettes last September, I am compelled to do so again today. This is not the least expensive C6 I found on AutoTrader, but it was the least expensive convertible and this 2005 model allegedly has only 16,000-ish miles.



Maybe it’s inappropriate to write about buying cars as “toys” in light of current conditions including the largest quarterly GDP decline in US history. The opportunist in me thinks that this might actually be the best time to indulge oneself in such a purchase, if one is in a position to do so. The seller is asking $23,495, a price that AutoTrader calls a “Great Price” because it is in the lower half of the Kelley Blue Book® value range for this car. (A car with an asking price below that range is also called a “Great Price.”)

What do you think of this car? Is it inappropriate to buy expensive “toys” at this time? During the Great Depression many people of means refrained from buying expensive cars because they didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, not because they couldn’t afford it. Of course, at about $23,000 this Corvette is not expensive, as long as you’re still working and/or have a decent-sized nest egg.






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Throwback Thursday, Rowhouse Edition

See the source image


From the Maryland Historical Trust a blurry picture of a Baltimore rowhouse block. We didn’t call them townhouses in those days.

From the time I was 2 until I was 25 I lived in a Baltimore rowhouse. It is highly doubtful I will ever call another place my home for as long. Counting from the major road at the “head” of our street, our house was the 37th of 38 houses on our side of the block. The block was “split” in two with about 20 or so houses (24?) in one group and the rest, including our house, in the second group. (As a comparison, our current neighborhood only has 37 homes in total.)

Even now, sometimes when I dream of being home it is this house that appears. Rowhouses still exist in droves in Baltimore and in other eastern cities, but for me rowhouses are a throwback to a different and much simpler time. I suppose that someone in my family might be in possession of photos of our house and that neighborhood, but I don’t seem to have any, hence the appearance of the “borrowed” photo.


Speaking of Maryland, on this day in 1952 the Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened. The original bridge, at 4.3 miles in length, was the world’s longest continuous over-water steel structure. A parallel span opened in 1973. From Wikipedia a small picture of the two spans:


Chesapeake Bay Bridge viewed from Sandy Point State Park.jpg


From the Wikipedia article:


“The bridge is officially named the Gov. William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge after William Preston Lane Jr. who, as the 52nd Governor of Maryland, initiated its construction in the late 1940s finally after decades of political indecision and public controversy.”


Despite being born and raised in Maryland, I have not driven across the bridge that often. The bridge links the “eastern” and “western” shores of the Delmarva Peninsula, with the beach community of Ocean City, Maryland and the Delaware beach communities being on the eastern side. I am not a beach person; Baltimore is west of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is part of US Routes 50 and 301 and has led to the growth of towns on the eastern shore. Queen Anne’s County, Maryland is on the eastern shore (and at the eastern terminus of the bridge), but is now considered part of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area by the Census Bureau. The county population increased from about 15,000 in 1950 to almost 34,000 in 1990 and nearly 48,000 in 2010.

Our future home will not be in a place in close proximity to large bodies of water that require enormous bridges. Maybe my wonderful wife and I should take a drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge before we move.






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