Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bright Car Colors

Back in the early 1970s the fashion for automobile paint schemes was for really bright, bold colors.

For example, here is my 1971 Porsche 914:

It was a pretty small car -- a lot smaller than current Porsches, for instance.  But the bright colors worked just about as well as more conservative hues.  Moreover, this was true of most smaller cars: the smaller the car, the easier it was to wear bright colors.  On the other hand, most large cars seemed odd if they were painted that way.

In my opinion, the only large cars that could handle bright colors were convertibles such as this 1950 Cadillac, one of the largest automobiles of its day.  Perhaps the lack of a metal top that would add even more sheet metal requiring paint made the difference.  Or maybe it simply had to do with convertibles being sporty cars where bright colors were a factor in that sportiness.  Either way, perception psychology seems to matter.

And so it follows that large, formal cars seem to look better painted in dark hues such as on this 1953 Cadillac 60 Special.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Pre-1946 Military History is Best

I confess to being a military history buff.  Have been reading it almost since I became aware that there was such things as history books.  Well, perhaps a bit later than that, but certainly by the time I was in junior high school.

I also kept up with developments in military equipment, aircraft in particular.

The problem was, much about recent (at the time) military history as well as the current equipment was classified.  What information that was available -- especially for things such as capabilities of currently active aircraft -- could sometimes border on Public Relations press releases.  (My Army job happened to be Public Relations, by the way.)

After a period of time, information became declassified.  Probably the most famous case was Ultra, the British decoding of coded and enciphered German radio messages.  Histories of World War 2 written before 1974 did not include this important information: we had to wait nearly 30 years after the war ended to learn of it.

So now I tend to ignore accounts of military events that occurred, say, less than 70 years ago.  As for aircraft, information about types currently in service might not be entirely trustworthy, especially regarding any defects or limitations.

Recently I've been reading a lot about naval vessels from World War 2 and earlier, and figure I'm gettin a fairly truthful picture.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Father Nosser

I don't know what the U.S. Army does these days, but when I was attached to Fort Meade, Maryland's post headquarters we had to take maybe one morning a month for Training.  Part of that was something called "character guidance" which meant that a chaplain would speak to us.

The one chaplain I still remember was Father Nosser, a Catholic.  Being an army captain and unmarried he could afford a sporty Oldsmobile -- none of that vow of poverty for chaplains, though I suppose he did turn over part of his income to the Church.

When he gave us character guidance he first lit up a cigarette.  Then he would casually lean on the podium and say a bunch of casual things with a message buried someplace.  When his cigarette burned down to a nub, he'd snuff it and end his talk -- the cigarette being his timer.

I always enjoyed Father Nosser because he was brief and fun to hear.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Overpriced Goods

I have no problem with the existence of luxury goods such as Bentley automobiles and what can be found in Hermès stores.  After all, their creation involves the employment of lots of people, and that's good.  And if a buyer has plenty of money to spend on such items and does so, that too is fine because it helps keep the economy chugging along.

A few of us have to keep an eye on our spending.  I don't know about you, but I seem to maintain a mental sense as to whether a product is overpriced.

That sense is clearly subjective.  In almost all cases I have no knowledge of the cost of materials and labor that go into something.  I do know what inexpensive products of the same kind can cost in an approximate sense.  I seldom comparison shop, but that option would yield better information and would be easy to do, especially using the Internet.

Take the case of womens' purses.  My late wife for several years was enamored of a particular Chanel design.  Year after year we would walk past the Chanel store in the Wynn casino in Los Vegas, and each time the price would be several hundred dollars higher than the last time on the item that we first saw priced at around $3,500.  She could afford it, but couldn't quite justify buying it, tempting though it was.

I just checked the Web and saw a Guess purse priced nicely under $100.  Functionally, it is essentially the same as the Chanel item.  Now, the Chanel purse surely was made of better materials -- but the difference couldn't have cost the maker more than several hundred dollars more.  And the Guess purse was probably made in a low-wage country whereas, for all I know, the Chanel might have been made in high-wage France.  Again, the difference was probably a matter of hundreds of dollars and not thousands.  I do not know how much it actually cost Chanel or its supplier to make that by-now $4,000+ purse, but surely it was far less than the asking price.  Even allowing for distribution, marketing, and retailing expenses, that purse could be considered overpriced.

Nevertheless, those purses do sell because of intangible factors related to the various motivation buyers bring to Chanel stores.  If it's fine by them, it's fine by me.

I admit to liking certain brands such as Filson, Barbour, Belstaff and Paul & Shark.  Filson and Barbour jackets are priced at the upper edge of my comfort zone.  Paul & Shark sweaters usually cost more than I'm willing to pay, so I usually buy mine when they are on sale.  The same is true for Belstaff jackets.  However, I did see a particularly enticing Belstaff in their Munich store in May and bought it even though it cost about 50% more than I would have preferred to pay.

Another case is Burberry.  Over the years I've purchased two of their trench coats and a sweater or two.  Nowadays what they offer strikes me as being about double what I think is their worth.  Even items in their outlet stores strike me as being too expensive.

You might wonder why I don't simply consider less expensive brands.  It's because I'm probably of the same mindset as those who shop at Chanel and Hermès, but at a different zone of the price/prestige scale.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Slug & Lettuce

I've noticed this pub the last two times I visited Bath in England.  I thought it was a Bath-only place, but then stumbled across another one in London a few days later.

Indeed, it's part of a pub chain with a sketchy history, as this Wikipedia entry indicates.

Anyway, the name is both cute, memorable, and slightly off-putting.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Some Fallen Mighty Retailers

Not long ago I posted about the once-dominant news magazine Time and that it's a shadow of its former self because the whole category of weekly news magazines has largely imploded here in the USA.  (Some argue that the Economist, a British version, is still doing fine, but I have my doubts about its viability in the medium-run.)

Then there are companies dealing in retail sales.  A few days ago I was driving through Tacoma on Interstate 5 and glanced at Tacoma Mall, noticing that the Sears store there had closed.  Sears has been in decline for many years now, even having sold some of its prime assets to bring in cash.  The Tacoma Mall store closing is just one of many such closings.

Yet 40 or 50 years ago Sears was a retailing powerhouse, having grown from being a major catalog mail-order operation to a bricks-and-mortar giant by mid-century.  Its clientele was Middle America -- upper Blue Collar and lower White Collar workers and their families.

While Sears was at its peak, newer retailing concepts appeared.  But these concepts were faster-moving from birth to decline or extinction, being more like fads or fashions.  What I find interesting is that many of these were hailed as transformative, waves of the retailing future.  And by implication, they might rule for many decades.

An example is E.J. Korvette, a discount clothing retailer that met with sudden success in the 1960s, even having a store on New York's Fifth Avenue.  Then there were the "Big Box," "category killer" stores of the 1980s and 90s.  Their strategy was to have huge selections of a single class of merchandise, providing potential customers the opportunity to fairly quickly find what they needed without traipsing all over town from store to store (remember, this was mostly pre-Internet).   An important example here is Toys "R" Us, that many observers thought would destroy all toy-selling competition.   Then there was Blockbuster, a leading renter of video tapes and compact disks of movies and did roaring business around the turn of the present century.

All those companies are defunct.  Stronger competition probably did Korvette in.  Walmart and the Internet are two factors in Toys "R" Us's failure.  Blockbuster's demise was probably triggered by the Internet.

The current hot retail paradigm is Internet-based sales facilitated by massive, efficient distribution systems.  Looks like this is The Wave of The Retailing Future.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Packing for a Journey

I've been re-reading Martin van Creveld's classic book "Supplying War" that deals with logistics.  At the same time I'm getting ready to start packing for a trip to England, so matters such as future needs, carrying capacity and transportability are clearly on my mind.

Given human variability on many dimensions, it follows that some people are skilled at packing for trips and there are others who are not -- even though they might be fairly frequent travelers.

Packing for a road trip is comparatively simple where only one or two people are involved and the vehicle is not tiny: there's usually enough space available to allow for overpacking.  Air travel is another matter due to constraints of weight and, recently, the per-item charges for luggage.

My sister, who favors out-of-the-way destinations is able to confine her items to a backpack and a couple of smaller shoulder bags.  It helps that she has no need to pack for dress-up occasions such as many cruise passengers have to face.

Then there is another lady I knew well who consistently overpacked.  A trip to Europe would have her fill two suitcases to their weight limit despite my consistent warnings that she was certain to buy gifts and personal items and needed some extra room to allow for that.  Usually what happened was that she would buy a small, cheap piece of luggage en-route to accommodate what she indeed bought overseas.  Another problem she had was deciding what to pack, having a large wardrobe to choose from.  Basically, she wanted to have a costume for every social contingency.  But at the same time had trouble dealing with possible changes in the weather, being fixated by what she saw through the window while packing, assuming that would be what she's experience on the trip.  I tried to be helpful by telling her what weather forecasts were saying, but this didn't sink in very far.  Therefore, she was constantly complaining that she didn't pack the items she really needed.  To me the oddest part of all this was that she never really changed her packing style despite the problems it had caused on many previous trips.

As for me, I like to think that I do a reasonably sensible job of trip-packing.  Even if that's so, almost inevitably I discover at some point in the journey that I had forgotten to include an item of real importance.  My upcoming England trip should be easy to pack for because the predicted weather there is close to what Seattle's weather has been recently.  For instance, that allows me to gauge how thick or waterproof a jacket I'm likely to need.  Of course, I'm probably still doomed to get something wrong.

No matter how good you think you are at packing, the length of the trip and future weather conditions conspire against getting it right.  Weather forecasts become increasingly unreliable more than a week ahead, so one must allow for a wider range of possibilities than indicated.  Another difficulty is packing for destinations with different climates.  Sometimes my late wife and I would visit Hawaii and the Bay Area, California around Christmas / New Year's, all on the same journey.  So we'd need to be wearing warm, water-resistant clothing for Seattle weather at each end of the trip, semi-tropical duds for the Islands, and fairly warm items for northern California.  Combining these needs with a limited amount of luggage space, requires a lot of careful thought along with the certainty that the result will be inadequate in some respects.

If you have a trip planned in the near future, I wish you the best of fortune when it comes to packing.