Monthly Archives: December 2011

What a Year

As I reflect on 2011, I think of everything I have accomplished and all the events that, in some way, effected my life.

Perhaps the most important development of 2011 was beginning my second, and final, year of grad school. To day I have written 3/4 of a thesis and am looking forward to my final semester as a student. The real work awaits.

While I may live in Virginia, one event that greatly effected me this past year was the May 22 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. I have spent a great deal of time in Joplin and even completed my undergraduate career in Joplin at MSSU. The tornado destroyed many familier landmarks and took the lives of 162 people. One of those lost in tornado was a former professor, Dr. José Alvarez. He will be missed by all those who were able to spend a semester in his classroom.

Of course, there were the countless national stories that made headlines that I will not go into. There are a few that had an impact on me, however. The first was the death of Steve Jobs. I am an Apple fan and its charismatic leader, but the loss of that leader was a blow to the Apple community. Only time will tell how new CEO Tim Cook will handle his new position. In addition, the release of Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs revealed details of his life and his success.

One of the other stories that has gotten more attention, more recently, is the collapse of Saab. Saab was released by General Motors in 2010 and since then, the company has struggled to find backers. Even when backers were found, GM refused the deal, fearing competition from Saab. It still disgusts me that GM, the company that begged for federal bailouts and yet still went bankrupt, can be so bigoted.

Perhaps one of the most important changes in 2011 was to this blog. In 2011, I wanted to take this blog to the next level and so I changed its name in June. However, the name change did not fit and I changed the name and design yet again in October. Somehow, Whole Earth Blog fits.

This past year was very eventful. There is so much more I could have written about, but I will leave it up to you to search online for a listing of the various important events of 2011. For me, the most important thing has been continuing my education and inching ever closer to my Master’s Degree, but that is something that will happen in 2012.

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The Whole Earth Blog in 2011

2011 was a busy year for me and for this blog. The Whole Earth Blog began 2011 with a different name and changed names twice before finding one that fit. This year was better than I could have ever imagined for this blog. I started the year with barely 200 visitors a month and ended the year with well over 2,000 per month! I credit this to the expansion of the topics discussed within the blog.

The stats for the year (Views per Month)

I posted on a wide variety of topics from my continuing education, auto news, tech reviews, the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, the Joplin tornado, the SS United States, and tributes to Steve Jobs and Harry Morgan. The popularity of the blog has been on the rise and I am very proud of the variety of posts that I am able to come up with. I thought, to celebrate the end of 2011, I would share the top ten posts of the year. And they are:

10. SS United States: A Ship in Distress

9. The Apple iPad 2 Review

8. Joplin, Missouri Tornado News and Updates

7. Welcome Pottermore

6. Pottermore (Beta): A Full Review

5. Own a Pair of Marty McFly’s Shoes

4. Is the First Generation iPad a Classic?

3. The Legacy of Steve Jobs

2. Who is Laurene Powell Jobs?

1. Graduate School and the iPad

I want to thank everyone for reading in 2011 and am looking forward to 2012 as I complete my college career and enter the “real world.”

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Merry Christmas

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Saab North America May Have A Chance

While Saab has filed for bankruptcy in Sweden, Saab North America has hired Michigan law firm McTevia & Associates to represent them and deal with creditors. Saab North America president Tim Colbeck says that the goal is to avoid bankruptcy if possible. The hope is that Saab North America will survive long enough for a buyer to come forward. Currently in the United States, Saab North America 188 dealers with 2,400 vehicles in inventory. Saab also employs about 50 employees in Royal Oak, MI.

There is still hope! It is unnecessary for a quality car company to die.

Source: Autoblog

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Saab to Sale Cars ‘As-Is’….For Now

I thought it would be interesting to document the death of an auto company. I started with a blog post yesterday about Saab’s bankruptcy. I will continue to follow this story as Saab liquidation continues.

A memo from Saab leaked suggesting that it has suspended all warranty work in North America and all remaining new Saabs will be sold as-is. Although this is not official, it is likely to be announced soon. This is almost certainly the beginning of what will come as a result of the Saab bankruptcy. Saab has had a long history and to see such a storied company come to a tragic end is depressing because it show volatile the auto industry is today.

Read the full memo:

UPDATE: 12/21: Saab Cars USA CEO Tim Colbeck has said he hopes to find a solution. In a statement he said:

“We’re committed to develop a way to handle warranties for all owners of 2010 and 2011 Saab models. [The goal is to] reinstate (warranty coverage) as quickly as we can.”

Meanwhile, General Motors said it will honor all warranties for Saab models produced before January 1, 2010. That leaves out owners of the majority of 2010, and all of 2011 model year Saab models.

Source: Autoblog

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Review: Automotive News Sites

You’ve seen them all. Car & Driver, Motor Trend, Top Gear, Autoblog, Auto Week, and Road & Track. They review cars and rank them, but no one ranks them. That is about to change.

I follow the auto industry closely and peruse the websites of all the major auto magazines. The rankings listed here are my opinion and do not take into account their print magazines, but only to the accessibility of their websites. The magazines are largely similar as they typically review the same new cars in any give month. The rankings are instead based on how their websites are organized and the accessibility of their content. This is how I rank them:

6. Car & Driver

If you are looking for a clean layout, rich with images and easy to navigate, avoid Car & Driver. Their website was much easier to navigate before the recent refresh. The layout is bland and extremely wordy. Readers like to be guided by images, but Car & Driver fails to deliver on that front. It is a shame because they have very good articles, but they are buried in the wordy layout.

5. Auto Week

Where Car & Driver is too wordy, Auto Week is not wordy enough. There home page is full of images and links, but it does not feature a great number of articles, just the headlines. For more articles, you have left with the navigation bar to take you places. Again, Auto Week has really good articles, but they are buried within the website.

4. Motor Trend

Motor Trend is probrably the most popular auto magazine and there is good reason for this. Their articles are usually well written and their beginning of the year rankings and “Car of Year” and “Truck of the Year” segments are always touted by automakers. Their website is not bad. Their headlines scroll across the front page, but it is surrounded by ads. The image above, for example, has four different ads which bury the content on the page. The navigation menu is not the greatest either. Auto Week‘s is better, but you do not get a nice streamlined place to read the news.

3. Road & Track

Although the magazine Road & Track is not the most popular, but their website is pretty easy to navigate. You can find most everything you need on the home page. The headlines scroll across the top and there is a listing of the most recent articles below the headlines area. While this is helpful, it is just a list of titles of articles. Like the others, their articles are well written, but there should be a better way to feature articles.

2. Top Gear

Top Gear is not just a great TV show from the United Kingdom (the History Channel’s version SUCKS), but it is also a great auto magazine. In the US a subscription to Top Gear costs $90 or you can pay $9.95 at the newsstand. Their magazine would be largely unfamiliar to Americans because it is very different from our auto magazines. While a typical issue of Car & Driver is somewhere around 100 pages, an issue of Top Gear is closer to 300. The articles are more extensive and there are more articles on historic cars as well. Top Gear‘s website is like that as well. You do not only get new car reviews, but commentary on car culture as well. If you have watched Top Gear on the BBC, you know that the hosts are all about fun, but there is a large staff in addition to the three hosts that put together Top Gear, the website and magazine. The only reason the Top Gear is not number one on my ranking is because it focuses on European cars and does not cover a number of cars only available o the American Market. Nevertheless, Top Gear is a great place to read about great cars and learn about cars that we only wish we could get in the US.

1. Autoblog

THE WINNER: Autoblog. I chose Autoblog as the best auto website because it is unlike any other website on this list. They do not publish a magazine and only deliver their news on via the Internet. Autoblog reviews cars, has the latest news, covers car culture, and even incorporates news from the other magazines (such as Motor Trend and Top Gear). This makes the website the best place to gain quick access to the latest automotive news. The website is organized much like a blog, so you can read the posts in the reverse order they were released. It is, therefore, easy to stay caught up with the latest news.

OVERALL

All the website presented here produce quality content, as I would not have included a website that did not. While Car & Driver and Motor Trend are the top two magazines, their websites are not as accessible as Autoblog. This ranking, after all, was about the quickest way to access the latest car information online. And for that, Autoblog easily wins.

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The End of the Road for Saab

Today it was announced Saab has filed for bankruptcy in Sweden. Despite finding a potential investor in China, General Motors, who provides technical support for Saab, refused to allow the deal to happen. This was the final nail for the auto maker who stopped production of new vehicles this past April due to lack of funding. Until today, Saab was optimistic it could find the necessary funds to continue, but todays statement is grim, and is likely the end for Saab.

Here is today’s press release:

Zeewolde, The Netherlands, 19 December 2011 — Swedish Automobile N.V. (Swan) announces that Saab Automobile AB (Saab Automobile), Saab Automobile Tools AB and Saab Powertrain AB filed for bankruptcy with the District Court in Vänersborg, Sweden this morning.

After having received the recent position of GM on the contemplated transaction with Saab Automobile, Youngman informed Saab Automobile that the funding to continue and complete the reorganization of Saab Automobile could not be concluded. The Board of Saab Automobile subsequently decided that the company without further funding will be insolvent and that filing bankruptcy is in the best interests of its creditors. It is expected that the Court will approve of the filing and appoint receivers for Saab Automobile very shortly.  

Swan does not expect to realize any value from its shares in Saab Automobile and will write off its interest in Saab Automobile completely.

It is such a shame that Saab will not be allowed to continue making its cars. Damn you General Motors for forgetting that just a few years ago you yourself were bankrupt, and relied on the American tax payers to save your ass. This was your chance to do something for the auto industry. There were a variety of ways General Motors could have helped Saab and kept its technology from finding its way into other cars in China, but they refused to negotiate. I have lost what little respect I had left for General Motors.

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Save Saab (Updated)

2011 Saab 9-3

The Swedish car maker Saab is in financial trouble, since they are no longer a part of General Motors, but now that potential investors have come forward, General Motors is resisting. The potential investors are Chinese and that appears to be the hang-up for the General. They are concerned that Saab will becoming a competitor to Buick and Chevrolet in China. Why be afraid of a little competition?

2011 Saab 9-4

Saab is nearing bankruptcy and is desperate. What is frustrating for Saab fans is that General Motors dropped Saab when it was downsizing a few years ago. Even more frustrating is that General Motors was in the same position a few years ago that Saab is in now, but they are refusing to budge.

2011 Saab 9-5

Come on General Motors. Give Saab a chance to live. It is your fault that Saab is in this position to begin with. Their current10. models are incredible, and it would be a shame to let Saab die.

UPDATE: 12/19: Today it was announced that Saab has filed for bankruptcy protection in Sweden. The automotive company ran out of money in April of this year and suspended operations. The company has been desperately seeking investors and found a few, but General Motors has blocked these deals. The future of Saab is certainly unknown because businesses do not always emerge from bankruptcy like General Motors and Chrysler did in 2009. Of course, they had government backing and Saab does not have that luxury.

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A New Campus for Apple

Last week, Apple submitted final plans to the Cupertino City Council for the their new campus. In June, Steve Jobs presented the campus to the City Council. It was his final public appearance before his death in October.

The new campus has been described as a space ship because of its round design. What the architects have been able to do is create a four story round building with courtyard that will house up to 13,000 Apple employees. Apple has quickly out grown its current campus on Infinite Loop (which it will keep) and is currently renting office space elsewhere in Cupertino. The new campus will allow employees to be in one place.

Landscaping now (left) and in the future.

Apple purchased part of the land from HP a few years ago and has since purchased some of the adjacent property, giving Apple a total of 150 acres in the center of Cupertino. Apples plans for the landscaping of the property is astounding. They have hired an arborist from Stanford University to help them choose various plants and trees native to area. The completed campus will be 80% landcape as opposed to the current 20% landscape. The plan calls for a total of 6,000 trees, including apricot trees which were on the property prior to HPs purchase of the land in the 1960s. Apple will be able to accomplish this by placing the majority of the property underground.

The floor plan for one of the four levels of the main building.

The buildings on the campus will only make up 20% of the 150 acres and will consist of the four level “space ship,” a four level parking structure, an energy center (to provide power to the campus), an auditorium, a fitness center, and several research and development buildings. The center piece of these structures is the round main building which will be constructed primarily from glass. Apple is known for using glass in its retail stores, but this will be a new challenge as the glass will all be slightly curved to create the round design. In total, the  building will be approximately 3.1 million square feet. The plan calls for ground breaking in 2012 and completion in 2015.

From the street, the buildings will be barely visible.

Jobs described the campus as an architectural achievement and the drawing certainly suggest a level of genius in the design. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs revealed that this campus was one of Jobs’ final projects at Apple and it is a fitting symbol of his and Apple’s attention to design and functionality.

You can view the full plans submitted to the City Council HERE.

Watch Steve Jobs present the new campus to the City Council:

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Friends Remember Harry Morgan

Several former M*A*S*H cast members have offered remembrances of Harry Morgan. I will simply let them speak for themselves.

Mike Farrell (BJ) released a statement:

“Harry was a wonderful man, a fabulous actor and a dear and close friend since the first day we worked together. As Alan said, “He did not have an unadorable bone in his body.”

He was a treasure as a person, an imp at times, and always a true professional. He had worked with the greats and never saw himself as one of them. But he was. He was the rock everyone depended on and yet he could cut up like a kid when the situation warranted it.

He was the apotheosis, the finest example of what people call a ‘character actor.’ What he brought to the work made everyone better. He made those who are thought of as ‘stars’ shine even more brightly.

The love and admiration we all felt for him were returned tenfold in many, many ways. And the greatest and most selfless tribute to the experience we enjoyed was paid by Harry at the press conference when our show ended. He remarked that someone had asked him if working on M*A*S*H had made him a better actor. He responded by saying, “I don’t know about that, but it made me a better human being.”

It’s hard to imagine a better one.”

The first come from Gary Burghoff (Radar) from Ken Levine’s Blog. He said:

“The last thing our wonderful Harry said to me (about a year ago) was, ‘I have always thought of the MASH cast as brothers… Oh,…and one sister.’ (Even over the phone, I could see the twinkled eyes and revealing little smile.) You had to know Harry to appreciate his abundant humor, warmth, kindness, modesty and his special kind of quiet strength. There was not an insecure bone in him. He was a “straight shooter” but also non-judgmental, understanding and tolerant. And, if you screwed up, he was (after an honest and deserved scolding) forgiving. I loved and respected him deeply and will cherish the memory of the time we shared…precious, precious time.”

Ken Levine (writer for M*A*S*H) remembered Harry Morgan in a blog post saying:

“Harry was very much like Colonel Potter.   He raised horses, and in fact, in the final episode when he says goodbye to Sophie, that really was one of Harry’s horses.    The picture on Potter’s desk was of Harry’s real wife, Eileen.   And the only difference in personalities between Harry and Sherman is that Harry held his liquor better.

He could read a scene once, have it completely memorized, and perform it perfectly take after take.  And then compliment a callow 26 year-old writer who wrote it and couldn’t believe the great Harry Morgan was even in the same room, much less reading his words.

That he died on the Day of Infamy feels somehow right.   Colonel Potter symbolized the best of the American soldier — dedication, sacrifice, compassion, and dignity.

In lieu of tears I give you a salute. 

And thanks to television and the MASH reruns that hopefully will play forever, we will always Remember Harry Morgan.”

Loretta Swit (Margaret Houlihan) was interviewed by Entertainment Weekly for a special section honor those lost in 2011. This is what she had to say about Harry Morgan:

Harry…my very dear, close friend…the best colleague you could hope for…an accomplished, committed actor, humble to the extreme, possessed of a brilliant mind, a dazzling sense of humor coupled with impeccable timing… the quintessential colleague, able to lift your spirits with laughter during those long, late hours on the set…often my ­father figure…ever a mensch… always my ”comrade-in-arms.”…

How blessed I am to have had you in my life all this time.

And now, I find myself using the words from the ”Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen” finale of M*A*S*H. Harry and I needed more than just a few takes during our goodbye scene. We could not stop the tears. ”Goodbye, Margaret,” Colonel Potter says. ”Don’t forget to have a happy life.” Margaret says: ”You dear, sweet man…I’ll never forget you.”

Even more so from me, dear Harry, dear friend. I take comfort in knowing that you knew how very much I loved you.

 

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