Bellwether Events

The year 1973 was tumultuous for the world, and calamitous for the United States.

In October 1973, Richard Nixon, the beleaguered President of the United States, ordered his Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Archibald Cox, who was investigating the Watergate affair.  Richardson refused and resigned his post rather than fire Cox. Cox was ultimately fired for wanting to subpoena the Watergate Tapes. Eventually the tapes were made public, and Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment for lying to the American public. Continue reading

Another Bet on the Future

Despite the surplus of oil in the world, investments in Canadian oil sands projects continue.  This past week, two Canadian First Nations issued bonds totalling $545 million.  The funds, raised by the Fort McKay and the Mikisew Cree First Nations, will be used to purchase a 49% stake in an oil storage terminal facility run by Suncor Energy. Continue reading

Is This Oil’s Tobacco Moment?

In the fourth season of the television show “Mad Men”, Don Draper, the mercurial creative head of the ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Price wrote an ad published in the New York Times claiming that the agency will no longer accept advertising business from tobacco companies.  Don stated that he was relieved to no longer advertise a product that made people sick and unhappy.  The circumstances, in the mid-1960’s, when smoking tobacco was coming under fire from doctors and heath professionals, feels familiar, when the anti-smoking lobby came up against ‘big tobacco’ and, ultimately, science and empirical evidence against smoking held sway. Continue reading

With apologies to Jim Kenzie…

The column by Jim Kenzie published on Saturday October 1st, 2016, needs a little editing. Jim’s words, my words.

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Is the time finally right for electrically fuelled cars?

It’s long past time.

There is little doubt that electric motors are a pretty good way to power a vehicle. Maximum torque at zero r.p.m., so excellent launch characteristics and strong acceleration. Low to no noise, compared to ‘infernal’ combustion. And zero emissions from the vehicle itself.

None of this is news. It was all true of the Baker electric, which went out of production in 1916.

The problem with the Baker Electric remains the problem with all modern battery-powered cars.

It’s called “energy density”, which is a measure of how much power you can get per kilogram of weight.

And, frankly, we are a heck of a lot farther advanced now than we were a century ago. Continue reading

I love Jim Kenzie, but…

I’ve read Jim Kenzie’s columns in the Wheels section of the Toronto Star for more years than I can remember.  He’s a great read: informed, enthusiastic, and not afraid to have a politically incorrect opinion about the vehicles he reviews.

I have to take exception to his column in the Saturday, March 12th edition of the Toronto Star.  In it, Mr. Kenzie goes to considerable lengths to declare electric cars a waste of time and taxpayer money.  Let’s take a look at each his arguments. Continue reading

Stick and Ball Sports

The professional sports leagues have a few things in common.  In baseball, basketball and football, a ball is used.  In hockey, a ball with the top and bottom sliced off, makes a puck.  In baseball and hockey, a bat or stick is used to hit the ball or puck to score.

Baseball and hockey, both stick and ball sports, have different rules.  There are nine players in the field for one team, and one opposing player in baseball.  For hockey, there are two opposing teams made up of six players each.

Hockey has three periods of 20 minutes each.  Baseball functions with up to nine innings.  In baseball, each team takes a turn hitting the ball to score.  In hockey, there is a free-for-all during a period in which to score.

I’m sure you’ve had enough of the sports analogy.  Here’s my point: Continue reading

No allergy to duck fat: 2016 Honda HR-V vs 2016 Mazda CX-3

On a recent trip to New York, we found ourselves in a great French restaurant on Park Avenue.  While ordering, I asked if their ‘frites’ were cooked in oil that was shared by breaded items.  The owner happened to be sitting nearby at the bar, and he assured me that there was nothing to fear in the fryer, unless I was allergic to duck fat.  He said he’d give up wine before giving up duck fat.

North Americans are having their wine/duck fat moment.  Large SUVs are giving way to small CUVs.  People are downsizing their vehicles, and not a moment too soon. Continue reading

Kathleen Wynne’s New Year’s Resolution

I remember my father pulling into the Canadian Tire gas bar, and before he came to a stop, an attendant was at his window asking if he wanted ‘regular’ or ‘high-test’.  Without any more conversation, the windows of his car were cleaned and the oil level checked.  If memory serves, gas was about $0.35 a gallon, and a fill-up could cost about $2.50.

Today, we ask ourselves if we want to endure standing in the cold to pump our own fuel, and brave more of the nasty winter winds to clean our own windshield.  Cars don’t consume oil like they used to, even though we should still check the level at every fill-up.  Fuel, up until a few short weeks ago, was $1.30 per litre, and to fill the tank in my moderately sized sport utility cross-over vehicle, was $80.00 Continue reading

2014 Mazda 3 GX vs 2014 Toyota Corolla CE

Today is the battle of the light weights (low curb weight, excellent fuel economy, inexpensive to operate), while they’re heavy weights in the automotive world (biggest market segment), especially in Canada.  The compact arena is a smack-down, blow-out, take no prisoners fight, where customers often purchase their first brand new car. A manufacturer like Toyota needs these customers to be happy so they can put them into a Lexus in 30 years.

So let’s take a look at the lower end of the compact scale, which doesn’t mean low-end in terms of amenities and features.  What would a prospective purchaser look at, and likely buy? Continue reading