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My major essay titled “Acceleration” tells the inside story of Toyota’s early acceleration and growth in the U.S. market, from the 50s through the 70s. Learn why and how Toyota was accepted by Americans as an alternative to U.S.-built cars. The U.S. auto industry has now learned how to be competitive at home, and is doing better and better all the time, while established offshore brands like Toyota are often now built here, or offer features, design and value that appeals to American tastes.

Read my essay at:–%20Acceleration.htm

Looking forward 20 years or less, from 1995, Bill Gates of Microsoft foresaw the computer as the ubiquitous communication device it is today. From his address to the Economic Club of Chicago, April, 1995, at the dawn of the internet age:

“Certainly within the next 20 years the impact here in the United States will be very, very dramatic…

“The first 20 years were really about creating a tool that would allow us to build documents, and it was a tool of the individual. That’s very different than the computer that came before, which was a tool of organizations. But the primary way that you got a benefit out of the tool was that you would type in your word-processing document or your spread- sheet or your database and you’d print something out; take it to a meeting. And so it was only you, working alone, that was sitting at that device.

“What I’ll talk about that comes in the next 20 years is that, rather than being a device for an individual, or even a computation device, these will turn into communication devices. And devices that are so far beyond, in terms of their presentation capability and their location capability, something like the phone is, to redefine how we reach out into the world at large…”

Seems like a silly question — how could something so absolutely state-of-the-art as the about-to-be-announced IPhone 5 not WORK?

Well, I’ve had an IPhone 3GS for a couple of years, and thanks to AT&T, it hasn’t worked very well, and sometimes not at all where I spend most of my time, at our house just south of Lake Geneva, WI. The service here is spotty at best, and despite the flat land and proximity to Chicago, there are many areas up here where the phone is dead, sometimes including my house. Guess AT&T is too cheap to lease enough antennas, or band width or something.

My contract with AT&T is now up, and I was looking forward to getting a new IPhone 5 and switching service to Verizon, but now I’m a little confused, as I hear Sprint may well be added by Apple, and friends here and about tell me Sprint service is great in southern Wisconsin, as well as Chicago. So, I’ll check the rate structure and internet comments on both Verizon and Sprint before deciding. An IPhone is a bit of a luxury for a retired person like myself, who is likely to use the data service for apps much more often than the phone itself.

I don’t get many calls on my cell, because there’s not much that’s urgent enough in my life to justify a cell call. So, I have my phone set to quack like a duck when a call comes in. That infrequent “quack” recently became disconcerting when my wife called me while I was at a dinner reception with the president of my alma mater, Bradley University. I’d left the phone in my briefcase, which was leaning against a wall behind her, as she gave after dinner remarks from a podium. A few minutes into her talk, the briefcase began softly quacking. She bravely went on, and I never admitted it was my phone, except in a sheepish note I sent her later. Anyway, this is sounding too much like an Andy Rooney monologue, so I’ll sign off, and look forward to a new IPhone 5, one that will “quack” wherever I happen to be located.

When we left Shanghai for the airport week before last, we decided to do so on the world’s fastest train, The Shanghai MagLev, a 19 mile magnetic levitation line completed in 2004 for a modest investment of $1.3 billion.

It is the world’s only such line. We actually took the photo of the speed meter as the train was slowing down. It hit 431 Km/h or 218 Mph on our 7 minute run to the airport. The acceleration and ride is totally smooth and quiet, and the cabins are wide and comfortable. If you sit on the side nearest the opposing track, as we’d been advised to do, you hear a sharp “crack” as the Mag Lev running the other way passes, at a combined speed of more than 400 Mph.

The Mag Lev is a thrill, and the only land vehicle faster is the Bugatti Veyron sports car. The Shanghai MagLev is essentially a demonstration line, the Shanghai to Beijing line currently beginning development will be a conventional high speed railroad. I doubt that we’ll see a Mag Lev in America in our lifetimes, because of the extreme costs, but it is a wonder.

Toyota is now concluding that at least some of the 2000 reported cases of unintended acceleration by their cars have been proven to be driver error. Here’s the story:

As a driver, I had an experience in a rented car outside the Charlotte Airport that made me wonder. It was a foreign car, can’t recall the make, that I’d just rented on arrival. As I left the airport and drove a few blocks, I was alarmed that the car was slowing down when I wanted to go, then would barely move away from a green light. I pulled over into a gas station, and was about to return the hobbled car when I discovered the problem. The gas and brake pedals were closer together than I was used to, and my foot was pressing both at the same time, sometimes rocking toward the brake and sometimes the gas. The inconsistent placement or size of these pedals, compared with what I was used to, was the real problem. Once I realized this, I adjusted and drove off normally.

Could the placement or size of the pedals sometimes be the real problem in unintended acceleration? Does the size or shape of one’s shoe or angle of pressure based on leg length or physique factor in? Is this all already taken into consideration by the engineers and sufficiently accommodated, or if not, should standards be set or drivers be educated or warned about the differences? I wonder…

The 42-US-gallon oil barrel is a unit of measure, and is no longer used to transport crude oil — most petroleum is moved in pipelines or oil tankers, according to Wikipedia.

The BP Gulf Oil Spill is reportedly spilling 12 to 24 thousand barrels of crude oil per day. That means that one million or more gallons of crude oil, per day, is spilling into the Gulf, or as much as 40 MILLION GALLONS to date. You know how much a gallon of milk is. You probably have one in your refrigerator. Now, spill a gallon of milk onto the floor every day, and do it for the next 110,000 years or so, and you have some idea of what BP has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, so far.

BP, and our government and the naive news media are conflating the scope of the spill into terms the general public does not relate to, using an antiquated measure of volume — the barrel — that is not today used to carry crude oil, and is not well understood, and sounds a lot more modest than A MILLION GALLONS A DAY!

BP, oil companies, government, news media, give it to the public straight. Media, give the people analogies they can relate to. Do the basic math and use a little sense, instead of just passing on the handouts you receive. Multiply the result by the evils that a gallon of floating or sunk crude can do now and later to the natural environment, which includes people’s lives, and you have perspective on the scope of this mega-disaster.

On May 19, I called for the U.S. assets of BP to be frozen, so that full reimbursement to those people and communities endlessly harmed by their Gulf oil spill could be assured. Now, as BP seems to be slowing their responsiveness, increasing their excuses, as the extent of the damage their criminal negligence has caused becomes more apparent, I think it’s time for the U.S. to step up and temporarily nationalize the U.S. company and seize their assets and put it all under the leadership of a single agency accountable to the President, at least until the well is safely capped and the spill damage is under control. Again, it’s time for the executive branch, Congress and the Supreme Court to cooperate and get it done. If the employees of BP U.S. need to be drafted for the duration of this effort, so be it. It’s time for everyone involved to face up to the challenge, take the personal and political risks entailed, and maximize our coordinated response to this greatest man-made environmental disaster in recent history. .

There is a lesson for all high profile corporations and organizations about adopting mottos, bywords and marketing slogans, thanks to the trevails of BP and Toyota this year.

While such slogans are often aspirational or directional. it’s clear that the rhetoric can far outreach reality, and the adage about the danger of getting too far ahead of the market is underscored. On the other hand, we all know how hard it is to always keep our promises, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

So I guess my advice to organizations in this regard is: be prepared for cynicism in the face of your aspirations and promises, and be prepared to live with it, or don’t make the promise or adopt the aspiration in the first place.

Following is from today.

BP loses $32 billion in value on spill

By Paul R. La Monica, editor at large May 4, 2010: 1:23 PM ET

The Buzz is now on Twitter! Follow me @LaMonicaBuzz

NEW YORK ( — Oil giant BP has a marketing slogan dubbed “Beyond Petroleum.” If only that were true. That ad campaign has to rank up there with Toyota’s “Moving Forward” motto as the most unintentionally hilarious of the year.

via The Buzz: BP may keep falling due to bad PR from oil spill – May. 4, 2010.

In the following excerpt from Jamie Malanowski’s article on, we see  the “survelliance state,” — Great Britain — gone amuck. Before you program your I-Phone to tell all your friends where you are at any given moment, give this discussion a thought.

“Instead, the cameras catch people in the act of performing the kind of infraction that Gordon Brown committed—things that are embarrassing, things that should be ignored that instead cause tons of explanation, things that everybody does. Everyone in London seems to have heard a story like the one about the university security sweep that was aimed against car thieves but instead caught two faculty members snogging in the back seat of a sedan. That was an accidental discovery, but as it turns out, local governments, armed with souped-up surveillance capabilities invested in them with new anti-terror laws, have been targeting people suspected of littering, fishing illegally, dumping, and applying to a school outside their area of eligibility. Seeking al-qaeda, we found cow-tippers. Last January, documents were revealed that suggested that the South Coast partnership, a cooperative venture between the Kent Police and the Home Office, was planning to use unmanned spy drones of the type employed in Afghanistan, in policing the population. Hey, it’s not a black helicopter, but it’s close.

“And CCTV is just the beginning; British civil libertarians have been fighting other recent Labor Party initiatives include the institution of a biometric national ID card, the creation of a national DNA database, fitting all cars with tracking devices, and instituting systems for tracking all e-mails, phone calls and internet use. The glib line often cited to justify these measures is “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.’’ But everybody’s got something to hide. If you don’t believe me, ask Gordon Brown.”

via Gordon Brown’s Ironic Demise: Surveilled on His Own Petard – Jamie Malanowski – Topic A, Among Others – True/Slant.

The Best Apple Advertisement Yet – Stephen C. Webster – Brave New Hooks – True/Slant.

January 2023

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