Monday, August 28, 2006

My Own Anthology

I just published an anthology of my own work. No, it's not a huge volume. And no, I didn't have a big-name publishing house begging me to take a huge advance. If you look to your right, just below the picture, you'll see a link that says "Articles and Other Writings". Click on that and it'll take you there.

At the moment there are three things on that page. One is a collection of commentaries that Janis and I sent to friends and family during our four-month European trip in 1999. These are accounts of our adventures (and misadventures) as we meandered around the continent. Another item is an article that I wrote about "information warfare". It was published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press in February, 1996. Rather heavy reading, but interesting if you're into military stuff. And the last item is an article I wrote for a car club about my experiences doing a major maintenance procedure on my own car, and living to tell the tale.

And the other two links on this page? One will take you to my professional website, the "Studio of Skip Rohde". The other will take you to the River District Artists website, which is a group of artists in Asheville, NC, of which I'm a part.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


The other day I was driving down the road when I started hearing a "ka-ching, clink, rattle rattle". After a few minutes looking around, I discovered the source of the noise. All the change in my pants pocket was rolling out, coin by errant coin, and straight down into the slot where the seat belt comes up through the seat. My natural reactions as a tightwad kicked in and I was all over two lanes of traffic, trying to stave off coin bankruptcy. Later I was able to dig some of it out, but a goodly number of the coins made their successful escape. I figure that if I ever have the seats re-covered, I won't have to write a check. I'll just tell the guy he can keep whatever he finds down there. Probably a fortune!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thoughts on the American car industry ...

I heard some talking heads today discussing Ford and GM's financial troubles. Both manufacturers are hemorrhaging money, and both are blaming their troubles on what they call "legacy" costs, meaning pensions and health care for their unionized workers and retirees. They say these add something like $2400 to the costs of their cars as compared to those from, say, Honda or Toyota. And it's these costs, they say, that are killing them.

I say that's bunk. The only thing killing Ford and GM are Ford and GM's top brass. These are the brilliant leaders who bet the farm on big trucks and SUV's, even long after anybody with an ounce of foresight could see that gas prices were going to go way up again. (Actually, they're still betting on big trucks and SUV's). And not only that, but they do very little to improve the design and construction quality of any of their vehicles.

By contrast, look at Honda and Toyota, which are making money hand over fist. These guys decided several decades ago that they were going to build top-quality cars for the average family. Their cars are completely redesigned every four or five years. Not just new styling tweaks, I mean they redesign the chassis and everything in it. So the engineering in your new Camry is, at most, five or six years old. And they do this with every car in the lineup. Then they build it in a factory (often in the U.S.) where every worker is focused on making a quality product.

Ford, by contrast, has been building the same Crown Victoria for FIFTEEN YEARS. And it wasn't exactly cutting edge even when first introduced. The Taurus had two chassis designs in over twenty years production. The last version of the Mustang was originally designed when Jimmy Carter was President. GM isn't any better, except with a few cars like the Corvette and the new Cadillac lineup (which proves these guys can do some good stuff if they put their minds to it).

The military uses the phrase "getting inside the enemy's decision loop", meaning that if you can gather information, make decisions, and react faster than your opponent, then you'll win. By this standard, Honda and Toyota are reacting about twice as fast as Ford and GM. They're making money. Ford and GM aren't. And it has nothing to do with the cost of retiree benefits.

Note to Bill Ford: Try doing something radical, like designing more cars that people want to buy, instead of trucks.

I say all this as a long-time Ford owner who wants to see these companies succeed. We have enough trouble with American manufacturing moving overseas. We don't need to have the American motor industry go down the tubes, too. Particularly when the guys currently driving the industry into bankruptcy will still make millions in salaries and bonuses, while the average working Joe will lose everything.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

First Post ...

I'm starting this blog because I'm an opinionated old fart and feel a need to inflict these opinions on the rest of the world. Here you'll read comments on art (my profession), politics (my usual subject matter), world news, sports, and who knows what else. Some might be interesting, some not, we'll see. In the meantime, this note will at least get things started.