Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday Havoc


For the second strait year and on the one year anniversary of the night I spent stranded in the Philadelphia Airport, I found myself unable to fly across the country without running into complications.  Last year was a snow storm that saturated all of Philly and this year was a flood warning surrounding Washington D.C.  The result is not a story, but a lesson.  That lesson is simple; don't travel the day after the day after Christmas.

Now I know what you are all thinking, two chances of misfortune tumbled on top of one another, but here me out because at very least, I avoided the frustration and inconvenience of last years mishaps.  Last year, I flew from Buffalo to Philly and was set to fly from Philly to Las Vegas.  I arrived at the airport in Buffalo over an hour early, was at the gate with 50 minutes to spare (I'm always early).  Two hours later, our plane was delayed four times and the airline representative (for which airline I will not mention) was "optimistic" that if I got on the plane and flew to  Philadelphia, I would most certainly get on my connector.  I believed her, as any normal person would trust a stranger in official airlines attire and got on-board.  I didn't really have an alternative, I drove into Buffalo and my only ride was an hour and four inches of snowfall away.

When I got to Philly, my flight was delayed only twenty minutes.  Perfect for me, because I arrived at the gate just in time to board.  Only we didn't board.  The flight was delayed again.  Then thirty minutes later, delayed again.  When I asked the employee working the desk, he first told me the plane hadn't arrived.  Then the plane arrived, but because it arrived so late, they had to wait.  Then because they had to wait, the crew, who were all on the clock while waiting, had gone over their maximum work hours for the day and some couldn't legally work anymore according to FAA regulations.  The reason I bring this up is because our flight, after two and a half hours of waiting, was cancelled and it was all because we were short one airline attendant who was there, but was over the legal hours limit.  By that time it was past midnight and a plane-full of angry, tired travelers were forced to find new ways home.

We waited in the customer service line for another hour and a half before they closed for the night and left the back-end of the line with no place to stay or no way of getting out in the morning.  Most of us were told we wouldn't be able to fly out for another three or four days since the flight schedules were all overbooked.  Luckily for me, I had worked the phone while in line and had scheduled me a flight out in the afternoon with the airline.  Later that morning, I jumped in line when the customer service opened back up (which was only closed for two hours!) and being very polite, where everyone else in line was exhausted, frustrated and bitter, was able to finagle an early morning flight out to LA and a quick connect over to Vegas.  All first class with no additional fee and I was home that afternoon.

This year, was different.  I recognized the problem, analyzed it with my android phone and keen ability to listen to other people's conversations to figure out what the real story was when my flight was delayed three time in less than an hour.  I knew when the airline representative explained that we would land and I would only have ten minutes to get a shuttle to the other end of the airport to make last call for my flight to Vegas, she didn't know what she was saying.  I had heard it before and I listened to her tell other passengers the same thing she had said to me forty minutes earlier about the plane fully boarded and pushed back from the gate, but didn't take off yet.  I knew the signs, I recognized the potential for spending the anniversary of my worst travelling experience (which trumps my regurgitating road trip from New York to Florida) the same way and made the moves I had to to get me off that flight and onto the next possible option.

I arrived in Las Vegas yesterday evening after flying for around six hours on two flights and a four hour layover...in Philly.  My morning flights, as they often do, went off perfectly and as long as I was in the air before 1 pm, I knew I would be safe.  By now, you're probably wondering what the moral of this tale is.  It's more of a venting rant than anything, but there is some valuable lessons to take away.  Most people don't have the heart or social brutality to get in airline employee's faces and ask for an honest answer to their questions(a lot do, though).  They are people too and it is not their fault planes don't arrive on time or crew members blow past their daily hour allowance, but the least they could do is be strait about it instead of blowing you off for three hours then telling you you're flight is cancelled.  That is why you have to be smart when you fly, especially during the holidays.  

Recognize when you will be stranded and find a solution.  No matter what, those same people who tell you you should be fine will also help keep you happy by finding you a new route.  If you have a family with you, the last thing you want is to have your kids sleeping with an aluminum looking space blanket on a bench at gate A23 while you burn your cellphone battery on hold, waiting for some voice on the other end to find you four tickets with two connectors four days from then to get to your destination.  I was lucky, I was one person with no checked bags or problem adapting.  I guess, this story is more of something to learn from than anything else.  I hope it helped.

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Top Ten : Famous Ships from Hollywood Part I


There is something to be said about a good aquatic voyage.  A man can learn a lot about who he is during such a journey.  The sailor life, the seven seas, a simple case of nautical nuance.  That is what boating is really about.  The freedom to be one with nature and to do so surrounded by boundless blue.  Hollywood has a sweet spot for such visual aesthetics.  The camera crashing in on a sweeping overhead angle as a hard wood pirate ship plows through a wake of water.  We all have our favorite films about the open ocean and in each of these films, there is one key character that never says a word.  The ship.  In honor of these inanimate watercraft vessels, we've picked our favorite ten ships throughout the history of cinema.

Here is our pick for 10-6:

10. The Belafonte; Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

We know many of you will not know this beat up, past-her-prime boat, but The Belafonte was the pride and joy of Bill Murray's manic, sometimes stoned Captain Steve Zissou in Wes Anderson's Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.  The reason we ranked this vessel over such other selections as that ship from Perfect Storm (Andrea Gail) is because of it's imperfection and how that played on the tone of the film.  Here is a ship that should have been retired for a decade, where the power constantly shorted out and all the equipment was thirty years out dated, but still kept cutting through the waves.  It was an extension of it's Captain, who has found himself in a rut emotionally and over-the-hill professionally.  As disheveled and archaic as Murray was, The Belafonte was his mirror image.  Let's not forget the crazy eyed shootout between Captain Zissou and his infinitely loaded pistol and a boat of Filipino pirates with AKs and machetes.  The Belafonte is a darling vessel with a crew of misfit all wearing matching red knitted caps and powder blue short shorts. It's our choice for number 10.

9.  The Poseidon; Poseidon Adventure

We want to forget Kurt Russel's remake of the Gene Hackman classic, The Poseidon Adventure, because frankly it was an unnecessary reinterpretation for the age of smash mouth cinema (big budgets and short worded scripts).  Instead, let's focus on the 1972 version.  How could we not see what was bound to happen with the SS Poseidon, an old cruise liner on it's last voyage before retiring forever in a scrapyard?  The film worked well as an inspiration for James Cameron's Titanic while boasting an amazing cast during the golden age of the 70's.  It's The Towering Inferno in the middle of the ocean and it added new meaning to the phrase, "abandon ship."  The thing that stuck was how the characters came from different walks, brought together by their trip to New York City, but forced to rely on one another to survive.  Plus, the SS Poseidon has one of the most killer names a ship could possibly have (God of the Sea, anyone?).

8.  The Red October; The Hunt For Red October 

The Hunt For Red October was an extremely red movie to say the least.  Most will remember the movie as the first film to portray the famous Jack Ryan character from the Tom Clancy novels.  With Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery at the helm, Red October was a fantastic film with a strong plot.  The Red October, an undetectable submarine captained by James Bond himself, made for an amazingly suspenseful film.  No one really knew what was going to happen (that didn't read the novel) and that made it one of the best novel to film adaptions ever.  Red October is our number 8.

7.  Nautilus; 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

Red October may be the quietest submarine under the surface of the sea, but only one sub has the cajones to battle a giant killer squid.  That's the Nautilus and it is our pick for number 7.  The most advanced piece of underwater equipment ever made, the Nautilus was home to one of the most decisive and famed captains of all time; Captain Nemo.  Jules Verne never wrote a more complex character.  Nemo was stern and composed on the outside, but filled with a vengeful fury within.  While Captain Nemo has been portrayed in several adaptions and films, the original 1954 Disney film was the first true fantasy film in our book.  It had the right amount of colors and excitement, mixed in with great acting from Kurt Douglas and James Mason.  It also is the primary source for a strange phenomenon known as Steampunk (steam based sub-genre of sci-fi).  The Nautilus has stood as one of the defining ships in cinema for almost sixty years.

6.  Orca; Jaws

When people think about the ocean, they often associate it with sharks.  When people think of sharks, they think about one shark that had a taste for human blood...Jaws!  Jaws, the 1975 blockbuster hit directed by the ever eternal Steven Spielberg, changed a great many things.  It changed how a thriller film represented itself (with building tension, false alarms and close calls), but more than that, it changed how we looked at sharks forever.  What was so great about Jaws, besides the direction and the amazing acting from Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider, is how aware and unsuspecting Jaws was.  One minute you could be splashing about treading water and the next, you're swallowing screams underwater while the mad killer shark sucks you down into the depths and gobbles you up.  In that film, The Orca was Robert Shaw's small fishing boat that they used to face-off against Jaws when the time came.  We love the screen time this boat got, because every scene with it was either a humanized conversation that carried weight or a carnivorous battle between man and toothy beast.  When the three heroes salted the water around the Orca with chum and they watched as Jaws' fin circled around them, it was truly heart arresting.  Of course, Jaws had to ruin everything by flopping onto the deck and sinking The Orca, but no one could deny the sick enjoyment that came as Brody tossed the scuba tank into Jaws' mouth and blew him to bits with a keen shot from a rifle.  The Orca is easily our number 6.

That's it for now.  Check in with us later this week when we will bring you the top five!

Tyler Baker; OSM Writer

Monday, December 19, 2011

SAAB WATCH 2011 : Saab files for bankruptcy

As inevitable as it always was, Saab Automobile finally filed for bankruptcy this morning in Swedish courts.  The car manufacturer was under debt protection for several months while it attempted to re-align it's stars and scrambled to find funding to stay alive.  They failed, due to a combination of things, and were forced to file bankruptcy as a result.

For those keeping score at home, Saab has been in trouble since they closed their manufacturing plant in April of this year.  They were out of money to pay parts providers and wages to their 3,000 plus employees.  They had plans in place to pay off these wages and developed a restructuring process that included finding foreign investors interested in purchasing the company, but missed deadlines, vetoed proposals and general disjointed communications has lead Saab to finally throw in the towel.

As it was reported in the Chicago Tribune this morning, Saab's CEO Victor Mueller announced that he handed in the submission of bankruptcy himself.  Since Saab's deal to be bought by Chinese automotive company, Zhejiang Youngman was thwarted several times by General Motors, Saab lost the potential option for a buy-out as Youngman has to pull out of the deal.  The reason GM, who still have priority votes in regards to any business deal Saab would want to make, denied the sale has to do with their concern that the technology they provide Saab with currently would be used against them by their Chinese competitors in the Asian market.  Since GM didn't see a way that the sale of Saab would benefit them, and rightly so, they couldn't allow the deal to go through.  It's not clear if Saab every truly understood this, because they proposed several deals in the past month, but none of them really addressed GM's concerns.  With the veto in place, the investors had to give up.

Mueller is reportedly placing blame on Saab's recently resigned reconstruction administrator, Guy Lofalk, for misrepresenting to the Chinese investors how much of the company could be sold to them.  He claims Lofalk implied the Chinese could do a complete buy-out, which was never going to be approved by GM.  It's hard to say if this is true or not, seeing as Lofalk asked last week to be removed as the administrator on their restructuring because he didn't see a way out for Saab.  On the outside, at least, it looks as if Lofalk recognized the severe disconnect between what Saab thought they should get and what their realistic value was.  He also petitioned the courts to end the creditor protection for Saab, siding that they had no legit plan to restructure properly.

Though we may never be able to verify the truth, it seems that Mueller and his board may be the real people responsible for Saab's constant misfortune and eventual destruction.  He was the one who turned down Chinese investors several times because he was afraid of losing Saab's identity to outside companies.  It was only after they had missed the deadline to present a course of restructuring to courts that Saab caved in and announced they would sell off their shares to the Chinese.  Then, when GM stepped in and stated their position, Saab did nothing until they ran past the deadline to pay owed wages, in which they resubmitted a deal that would only give up 60% of the company to the Chinese.  GM rejected that as well and here we are.

It is sad to think that the 3,000 employees of Saab, who have been on the edge, waiting for some good news, had to wait until the week of Christmas to learn they're company would probably be chopped up and sold in pieces.  When a company is so mismanaged the way Saab was, it's hard not to realize where this was heading.  Mueller's company, Spyker Manufacturing, purchased Saab from GM almost two years ago with the promise to turn the company around in five years.  A year and a half later, they ran out of money.  Even from the start, many analysts saw a flaw in Mueller's optimistic plan.  The fact that sticks out the most is how Saab sold a company record 133,000 vehicles in 2006.  Three years later in 2009, they reported sold only 27,000 vehicles.  As plain as day, we can see how such a steep and brutal drop in sales would kill any resemblance of a profit margin.

Today, Saab files for bankruptcy, but the story doesn't end there.  The courts need to figure out how best to sell off their assets in order to pay debts.  If they can find a buyer who will take the entire company as a whole, this may salvage the jobs of many employees.  For now, however, nothing is certain except that Mueller and company will be out and someone else could be in.

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer

( Source : Chicago Tribune )

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SAAB WATCH 2011 : $5 million; World's Cheapest Bailout

It's silly, but Swedish automotive manufacturer, Saab just won't die.  For months now, the world has watched the spectacle surrounding Saab as they desperately sought new investors, then denied them, then approved a buy-out, then GM denied them and so on in that fashion.  Well, last week it was made clear to Saab that the Swedish courts would judge them by Friday.  They had no money, their last submitted proposal for Chinese investors was rejected by GM again and they owed millions of dollars worth of wages to their employees.  Today, however, Saab received a $5 million investment from Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile, one of two proposed Chinese investors.

This move was to solve Saab's immediate tax issue and according to an article on Reuters.com, Youngman is set to give Saab another 20 million euros by tomorrow.  That money will go to paying the owed salaries of Saab's several thousand employees.  With that out of the way, Saab will be better positioned to face the courts come Friday.  Still, Saab was almost entirely out of funds yesterday, so it's hard to see how $5 million will make a difference.  That is why, Yougman is reported to be handing over another 10 million euros by the end of December.  That could, theoretically, keep them afloat until they can get GM to approve Youngman's acquisition of Saab.  The reason GM continues to reject this deal is because they feel it would hurt them in the Asian market and replace them the primary parts and technology provider for Saab.

It is fun to see how Saab continues to stay alive while constantly hanging in that place of business limbo.  For those Saab is in debt to, the same cannot be said.  Saab has failed to pay off their debts for some time now, shielded by court order creditor protection.  That could end by this week, which would leave Saab circled by all it's creditors with nowhere to hide.  It seems, however, that Youngman Lotus has taken a keen interest in Saab and would likely prevent that from happening while taking hold of the company reins.  We'd be lying if we said we weren't engaged in where this story will eventually end up.

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer

( Source : Reuters.com )

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do electronics really interfere with airplanes?

With recent news surrounding the online petition to ban the FAA's sky law prohibiting the use of electronics during take-off and more entertaining gossip regarding Alec Baldwin's recent run in with American Airlines, the truth of electronics on an airplane have been called into question.  Namely, does your cellphone or ipad or laptop really put you at risk when being used on a flight?  Lucky for us, NBC's Today Show fielded the question willingly.  What they found might surprise you.

According to the Today report, when asking if the signal of your cellphone or electronic devise interferes with the navigational system of an airplane, the short answer is no.  Simply put, the navigational system is not in question, but rather, the radio is the thing being interfered with.  Today revealed that the electronic displays of a phone, not the GPS or cellular signal is what interferes with plane radios during a flight.  Since the radio is used for specific instructions, especially during take off and landing, this could be a potentially dangerous thing.  However, one cell phone is not going to bring an airplane spiraling and dropping out of the sky.  In fact, there has been no proven evidence that a plane crash has resulted from the use of electronic device, according to Today.  We would think it highly unlikely that technology as conflicted with an everyday item as an ipod or blackberry would be used in something that soars several thousand feet above the surface of the Earth.

What does this mean?  Well, the FAA looks at it in terms of hypothetical.  While a single electronic device, placed in the right area, will interfere with the radio to a mild level, how much interference would a plane full of these devices do?  Given that a passenger might have one to five devices with them on any given flight, the FAA's rules are in place to prevent the overloading of a minimal interference.  Today reported that while not proven, the FAA believes one airplane crash was caused by a pilot's cell phone interfering with the radio from the cockpit.  Again, this was never proven, but if it was true, wouldn't it make sense to prevent the use of such a device when there are theoretically hundreds of these little techs available in the cabin.  Of course, if they allowed the use of electronics during the crucial parts of a flight (the ascent and descent) people would be rifling away with rabid fingers to keep themselves busy or prevent boredom, or maybe like Alec Baldwin, they will be engaged in a vicious verbal campaign that needs a victor.

If it is known that an issue does occur between the radio system and electronic devices, then how does one lobby against the FAA rule banning the use of electronics while below the 10,000 feet height?  As we learned last week, the online petition to remove this ban has been going strong.  The players behind the movement, recognize that the correlation between the myths and the math are far between anything consistent to keep them from stowing their electronics.  At least according to Today, this is only partly accurate.  For now, rules are rules and whether Alec Baldwin like it or not, we have to power down our devices.

If you'd like to see the video, it's available here:  Can our electronics interfere with flights?

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer


Friday, December 9, 2011

The Spot Delivery Scam

The Spot Delivery Scam

Who's involved? - New and Used Dealerships

What is it? - The Spot Delivery Scam is a clever bait and switch style tactic involving either used or new dealers.  The idea is for a preliminary deal between you and the dealer to be put into motion based on "on the spot approval" regarding your financing.  The way it works is that they entice you to take the vehicle home with you based on the idea that the deal is done, it only needs to be processed the next day.  Why they do this is to tie you to the car.  By taking in home, you are considerably less likely to renege on your agreement, even after the original arrangement has been altered by the dealer.  Even if you do want to kill the deal, you'll be roped into legal trouble because the car is in your possession and has been driven by you.

It works in a number of ways.  They will talk you into a sale, or comfort you into trusting them, but before you can get the financing or before a finalized deal can be in place, they will attempt to get you to sign incomplete or blank documents, promising to have their financial consultant handle the paper work first thing the following morning.  The dealer will wait you out a few days, dulling your awareness to the switch and then call claiming the initial deal could not be reached.  Now you're liable for a larger down payment or a higher monthly rate and can do very little to simply return the car and walk away.  After all, you've driven the product and made it used in the process.

How to avoid? - Avoiding this type of fraud tactic is easy; never, ever sign anything until financing has been officially approved.  Also, never drive a car off the lot unless all the documents are in order.  Dealers can't pull off the switch if you haven't taken the product off the lot.  If they say something about how they're financing firm or department is closed, that should be a tip-off to get up and come back in the morning.  It's easier to wait until a deal is in order and approved than to pay more later.  Still, we suggest being pre-approved for financing from a trusted source before you ever enter a dealership.  If the dealership can beat your pre-approved arrangement, then you can consider switching over.

Terms & Trigger words to avoid? - "Right of recession"; this is a term taken from a contract that if you sign, you agree to allow the dealer to change the conditions of the contract without consulting you.  You should never sign something with these words in it.  EVER!

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SAAB WATCH 2011 : The Last Stop

News spread last week of Saab's failure to meet the deadlines to pay back wages to their workforce.  The Swedish automotive manufacturer had buyers in-line to purchase controlling interest (and then some), but were vetoed by General Motors due to the deal hurting the future business structure of GM.  Like they have for the past several months, Saab procrastinated past the point of no return and in an effort to show Swedish courts and labor unions they were trying, Saab had arranged a deal with their proposed Chinese investor, Zhejiang Youngman Lotus Automobile and an unnamed Chinese Bank to find instant funding and strike a deal that might appease everyone.  Today, it was reported that GM has once again, denied Saab of any signs of life.

In an article on Autocar.co.uk, GM's position on Saab's "new" offer was made perfectly clear.  The spokesman of GM was quoted in the article as saying, "we have reviewed Saab's proposed changes regarding the sale of the company.  Nothing in the proposal changes GM's position.  We are unable to support the transaction."  Although the details of the deal are undisclosed, it seems apparent that Saab really hasn't listened to GM's position on the matter.  The American company is concerned with competition in Asia as well as the lose of a significant portion of income through parts and services that GM provides to Saab currently.  Selling the company to Chinese based companies, regardless of who it is, has GM concerned about the matter.

At this point in this drudging courtroom dance, it is hard to be subjective or even apathetic for the shot callers of Saab.  The owners, Swedish Automobile, purchased the manufacturer from GM less than two years ago and has driven the company into ruins in a spectacular implosion of empty promises and failed tactics.  Granted, GM is partially responsible, but if these last months revealed anything about the way Saab is being run, it's that Saab is not being run well at all.  Failure to meet any deadlines thus far, it is a huge surprise that the Swedish courts, who are the only thing keeping Saab from being gutted by their debtors, has kept them alive so long.  Let's not forget, they continually refused the advances from the Chinese investors only until it was far past their deadline to present to their restructure solution to the court.  After that, they had to submit and accept a total buyout from Youngman and Pang Da Automobile.  It's this kind of absurd high mindedness that has lead them down this spiraling sink hole of a situation.

The bottom line is that Saab is out of options and on December 15th, they will have to explain themselves for the very last time to the courts who are protecting them.  Guy Lofalk, the administrator appointed by the courts to manage Saab's reorganization process, has already filed the motion to kill Saab's court protection from creditors.  Saab, however, will attempt to make a case and ask for a new administrator be put in Lofalk's place.  With the Chinese deal being blocked by GM and a slew of owed invoices and wages in their way, how could the courts see it sensible to side with Saab?  By next week, we'll know, but until then, Saab remains alive, grasping to whatever short straws are left in the hand of fate.

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer

( Source : Autocar.co.uk )

Monday, December 5, 2011

Luxury car pile-up in Japan


What started as a luxury car joyride amongst automotive enthusiasts ended in an expensive 14 car pileup on a Japanese freeway over the weekend.   ABC News reported this morning on the accident as perhaps the most expensive crash in the world, estimated at $3 million (although the police have not issued the actual estimate).

 The accident included three Mercedes-Benz, a Lamborghini and a staggering eight Ferraris.  The driver responsible for the costly crash was one of the Ferraris drivers, who decided to accelerate past the pack in an attempt to take over the lead sled position.  This led to the Ferraris hitting a median and losing control.  The car came back across and hi the adjacent luxury cars in the pack.  After that, it was bump, grind and collide as the expensive rides each either lost control or attempted to avoid the building collision.  At the time, the cars were reportedly travelling at around 140 KPH or 90 MPH.

The crash shut down the Chugoku Expressway for a reported six hour stretch as cleanup crews and police worked to remove debris from the vehicles.  Nobody involved in the accident was seriously injured; however 10 people were treated for cuts and bruises at a local hospital.  The same cannot be said for the egos and wallets of those involved in the incident.

Tyler Baker; One Stop Motors Writer

( Source : ABC News )

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