Sunday, 27 February 2011

Road Test - 2011 Dodge Charger

My first car was a 1973 Malibu. I bought it used in 1978. It was a two-door with vinyl roof, swivel bucket seats, and and 8-cylinder engine that spit out 350 hp. I often lie and say it was a four-barrel engine, when in fact it was only two. I have no clue what that means.

Driving the Charger brought me back to the heady days of big power, rear wheel drive, and high fuel consumption. This muscular car made me feel like a guy. I could almost feel 'em growing back after 3 decades of driving emasculating front-wheel drive cars.

My rental car place gave me a "complimentary" upgrade to the Charger, but actually what they did was push me into a perceived gas guzzler at a time when everyone is asking for a fuel sipper (like I was born yesterday). I was however, born at a time when I can appreciate some old school muscle driving. Here's what I liked about the Charger:

Good - you feel like a guy again. It feels a little dangerous. It has a serious, almost a "mean" face to it (as opposed to happy-faced mini-vans and compact cars). The rear wheel drive feels powerful and tough. You strut when you walk towards the car.

Great - all of the above, and more. The car is smooth on the highway, and reasonable on gas considering... It's roomy, simple, and the controls are easy to read, understand and use. There are no distractions and it's far from boring to drive.

Room for Growth? It's pretty basic at the level I was driving, but that is also it's strength. It's a throwback to the 70s in its simplicity, and yes I know it's loaded with computers and gadgets that hadn't been invented in the 70s. They're out of the way, and the cockpit is simple and a very cool no-frills experience. If I could add one thing, it would be a trip computer that showed fuel consumption, a compass, upscale sound system controls...but I can live without all that.

But Would I Buy One? If I did a LOT of highway driving, this would be a very cool car to do it in.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

How to Destroy your Business and Still Collect your Bonus

I've remarked several times in the past about the very bad impression the car rental agency has been leaving with me lately. Here's the final straw...

For the second time in as many weeks I arrived to pick up my rental car and found it at somewhat less than a full tank. The tank was at 3/8 full (or 5/8 empty). Because of that, the manager refused to let me purchase my usual option of pre-paying for a full tank and returning the car empty. He argued economics - he wasn't going to let his team fill it up at $1.10 per litre and sell it to me at the pre-paid price of $.94. And yet, that's the very nature of the deal.

I asked superstar manager about this new procedure, he called it policy. Upon further investigation, he admitted it's HIS policy at HIS store and it's been that way for about 3 weeks (probably really more like two months, he just doesn't want to admit that). It's not company-wide or industry-wide, it's his store.

Two things - first, it's a basic rule of car rental that you ALWAYS depart with a full tank and bring the car back full. It's been that way since I rented my first Volare at Tilden in 1979, and probably long before that.

The second thing is that when I rent a car locally, my nearest appointment is at least 200 km away. I don't care about the economics of pre-paying a full tank; this isn't about saving a buck. It's about convenience and good service.

About an hour into my trip I had to find a highway gas station and fill the tank at inflated highway prices. So why has he has implemented this policy? Here's my considered opinion.

When he stopped filling up the tanks on all pre-paid rentals that came back near-empty (probably starting back in December), he saved hundreds or thousands of dollars in fuel expense. The bottom line looked pretty good that month, probably just in time for year-end. The manager probably got a bonus, and he seems to have received a promotion. He's moving to a bigger metropolis next week.

Here's the mess he's leaving behind - I am now looking for an alternative rental car company to deal with. His replacement manager will be saddled with the expense of filling up the fleet (higher expenses) and a regular customer is fed up and actively seeking another company from which to rent (lower sales).

And everyone will wonder why the replacement just can't deliver the bottom line like his predecessor could.

Oh, and I've shared my concerns with the manager, but I think they fell on deaf ears.

Sunday, 6 February 2011


Deacon Greg Kandra blogged this piece on Humility, and I share it with you.
A friend posted this on her Facebook page, and it seems too good not to share. Here are some thoughts, then, on humility from the writings of Saint Josemaria Escriva:
The Seventeen Evidences of a Lack of Humility
1. To think that what one says or does is better than what others say or do
2. To always to want to get your own way
3. To argue with stubbornness and bad manners whether you are right or wrong
4. To give your opinion when it has not been requested or when charity does not demand it
5. To look down on another’s point of view
6. Not to look on your gifts and abilities as lent
7. Not to recognize that you are unworthy of all honors and esteem, not even of the earth you walk on and things you possess
8. To use yourself as an example in conversations
9. To speak badly of yourself so that others will think well of you or contradict you
10. To excuse yourself when you are corrected
11. To hide humiliating faults from your spiritual director, so that he will not change the impression he has of you
12. To take pleasure in praise and compliments
13. To be saddened because others are held in higher esteem
14. To refuse to perform inferior tasks
15. To seek to stand out
16. To refer in conversation to your honesty, genius, dexterity, or professional prestige
17. To be ashamed because you lack certain goods

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Commentary: A "Shush" Heard Around the Room

This happened at a dinner in Ottawa last week, and regrettably I was one of the offending parties. I remain deeply embarrassed by my inadvertent bad manners, but I am thankful for the opportunity to have learned a lesson. When the room quieted, the most beautiful voice emerged and shared a compelling story... click below to read more...

Commentary: A "Shush" Heard Around the Room

Thanks to Mitchell Beer for sharing it.