America’s Next Top Scapegoat

rick-wagonerRick Wagoner’s out at GM, Fritz Henderson is in.  There’s been a lot of beating up on the American auto industryover the last months.  Longer than that, actually, in some corners, but it really took off with last summer’s rising fuel prices and fall’s global credit crisis dealing a one-two punch to Chrysler, GM and, to a lesser extent, Ford.

While this day has been coming for a little while now, and arrives not completely undeserved, I can’t help feeling that the American auto industry is being scapegoated to an unfair degree.  And when auto sales among all manufacturers are down as much as they are, how can you expect anyone to come up with a viable plan for turning the company around and returning to profitability?  If people can’t afford new vehicles because they don’t have a job, or can’t get credit even if they do, how is that so much the fault of the auto industry?

The American (i.e. brands with domestic roots, not U.S.-based plants of companies with origins in other countries) auto industry may well be the next (or most recent, depending on your perspective) casualty of globalization.  It also may not be the best place to focus our attention, energy, and resources for the “next economy.”  But if that’s what’s happening we can take some of the sting out of it and stop heaping blame when there’s more than enough of that to go around.


(Almost) Back from the (Almost) Dead


So the kid got her driver’s license a few weeks ago.  And to think we thought it would be easier.  It is, at times.  But, more often than not, it means I end up without.  Even though our daughter hasn’t yet learned to drive a manual, my wife has.  Buying another car to solve this particular problem isn’t really an option (at least I would prefer to think not).  Instead, I spent about a hundred dollars on a new battery for our old Volvo station wagon.

The family car thrice removed (succeeded by the Audi wagon, M-B wagon, and Ford Escape) only has about 169,000 miles on it (just broken in, really, from a time when Volvos were really Volvos, not Fords with a funny accent) and some minor body damage on the driver’s side, and hasn’t been run in the last five years, but is still basically sound.  Took only two tries to start it after spending an extended nap in the barn.  Now if only I can get it refreshed, registered, and inspected, we may have a safe car for someone else to use.

Of course, the someone else will probably be me, since our daughter has told us, “If you think I’m going to drive THAT, you’re CRAZY!” (with apologies to Robert Munsch).  At least my commute is only six miles, and I have another vehicle I can use for official business.

Living in the Past

Friday was the sixth anniversary of my father’s death.  Lately I’ve found myself wondering whether I’ve been living too much in the past, or at least too much in reference to that event.  Granted, it marked a profound change in my life, but I think I’ve been using it too much as a line of demarcation, and too much as an excuse for things that would not have been acceptable in any other context (the extra thirty or forty pounds I’ve been toting around come to mind…).

The other day I found myself thinking about an interview I once saw with Bruce Springsteen on 60 Minutes.  It was in that interview, at least I think it was (though I can’t find it anywhere; therefore it can’t be true, right?), when Bruce said something to the effect of “You have to stop trying to be the man you want to be, and start being the man you are.”  I took this not to mean that we shouldn’t have goals, aspirations, or standards for ourselves, but that in our constant search for that ideal (and probably never living up to it) we miss being who we are and being true to that in that moment.

My dad was a practical man.  I don’t think he spent a whole lot of time musing about what might have been, but made the best of the situation at hand.  And though he wasn’t perfect, any more than anyone else, he never seemed to dwell on the setbacks in life but found satisfaction, and maybe even joy, in being the man he was.

Another lesson imparted.  See, your work isn’t done yet.  Thanks, Dad.

Arm’s Length

One of the dilemmas of social network sites like Facebook is what to do about all the people you knew at some point in the past and had lost touch with but that you were not uncomfortable about having “in the past.”  Not that there is anything wrong with them or with you and, no offense, but they were just part of a different part of your life that has had its time, come and gone, and is not particularly relevant in the present.  Nor am I any more relevant to their lives now since I am also a part of that time come and gone.

What does it mean to be somebody’s “friend” online anyway?

Resuming Our Regularly Scheduled Blog

Yes, it has been quiet around here of late, hasn’t it?  And yes I have been spending time on Facebook, but that’s not the only thing.  We’re also getting deep into the budget process and, like much of our economy, it ain’t pretty.  It could be worse, of course, and I don’t want to run the risk of being one of those harbingers of doom (see here for some thoughts on the adaptability of the human species and other things worth believing in) getting far too much airplay.  There are still opportunities to be found – or to be made – even though it’s hard to get people to see beyond the dismal news bombarding them at every turn.  There are opportunities to plan better, to set new directions, and not just crawl in a hole until it’s over.