Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Panic in Detroit

On the way home tonight, I caught part of On Point, a decent news talk show out of WBUR in Boston. One of the guests on tonight's show was GM's vice chairman product development, Bob Lutz. I don't follow the auto industry as closely as a I used to, so while I am familiar with Lutz's name, I don't really know anything about him. He started off talking about the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid that GM is hoping will finally be the car that will best the competition in style, quality, and efficiency. He's not a very good speaker and his voice leaves a lot to be desired, but I can't really hold that against him. Once he switched out of sales pitch mode and starting fielding questions from the host and the callers, he came completely unhinged. He sounded more like an anonymous commenter on a third-rate conservative blog than an executive of a fortune 5 company. He literally responded to a caller's question about the possibility of improving the efficiency of gasoline engines by challenging the caller to come up with some new ideas. I could practically hear the spittle hit the microphone when he started talking about "professor" Tom Friedman's ideas about the US automotive industry. I don't know if he was confusing Friedman, who to my knowledge is not and has never been a college professor, with his colleague Paul Krugman, who is a professor. Either way, it made him sound like a complete fool. If this is what Detroit, or at least GM, has to offer, the US auto industry is in even worse shape than I had previously imagined.

If it looks like a duck...

As I noted last year, the Detroit Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup runner-up for three consecutive years. This year, the were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion. I don't know if that's an improvement or not.

Word of the Day

Yesterday, I learned via Deadspin about a list of 100 words that Houghton Mifflin believes all high school graduates should know. Conspicuous by their absence were some of my favorite words, such as the, is, and like. In all seriousness, I love words, especially ones like these that no one ever uses in conversation, and I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I don't know every word on the list. It seems like every time I learn a new word or a new historical fact, I come across a reference to this new piece of knowledge the very next day. This has happened to me so many times that I'm sure that it's not a coincidence and it must happen to other people as well. Sure enough, on my way to work this morning, I was listening to Frank Deford's weekly sports rant on NPR. He ended his missive about the twin spectator death marches that are the NBA and NHL playoffs with the top 100 word jejune. This phenomenon makes me wonder how often I encounter words or facts that I'm not familiar with and just ignore without even noticing it.