Crossover

As Longtime Readers know, I’m a huge fan of VW cars. I’ve owned many:

  • Beetle (actually a former girlfriend’s but I drove it as much as she did)
  • Kombi panel van (carrying band equipment for many years)
  • Passat and Golf (both company cars, as a junior executive)
  • Jetta (actually three, two sedans and a wagon)
  • and right now I’m on my second Tiguan.

I would also have owned the magnificent W12-powered Phaeton, but in the early 2000s we were too poor to afford one and by the time we got the funds, VW had pulled it from the U.S. market, the idiots (see below).

VW seems to have (or have had) a reputation for unreliability, but that hasn’t been my experience, ever, throughout all those that I’ve owned and driven.

Let me now sing the praises of the car I’m driving now: the Tiguan — crap name, by the way, but at least it’s better than the “Toe-rag” (Touareg).

As I’ve got older, getting in an out of cars has become a pain in the ass. If it’s too low (e.g. sports cars and most saloons), getting out of the thing requires a crane lift; and if it’s too high (most full-size trucks and SUVs), the same crane lift is needed to get me into the damn thing.

Hence my love for the smaller “crossover” SUV type like the Tiguan. Getting in is but a step with hardly any climb involved, and getting out is likewise a simple step. (If I were taller or shorter, of course, this might not be the case, but that’s a moot point.)

I also like the Tiguan because there’s lots of room — two fat- or three skinny passengers can fit in the rear seat, and if I need more storage space, the back seat folds down easily. The venerable station wagon, of course, would pretty much do the same except that, as I discovered with my Jetta wagon, it’s a little too low to the ground and getting out with ease is problematic.

I also hate the current trend towards low rooflines and high door-sills because of head-bumping and poor visibility respectively, and the Tiguan has neither of those problems.

Lastly, the Tiguan has a lovely engine: the 2-liter turbocharged little four-banger — VW’s mainstay engine through out its fleet — has plenty of pep for this old guy, but at low speeds (sans turbo) it’s also economical, and I’ve got very nearly 400 miles out of a tank when cruising on the interstates.

It is, in fact, my perfect car. And as I’ve seldom cared about nonsense like being judged by what car you drive, the fact that my perfect car is a smaller SUV is of no concern. Couple that with VW’s reliability (in my experience), and it’s a no-brainer. In truth, it would take a massive change to get me not to buy yet a third Tiguan when the time comes.

And we all know how much I hate change.


The knock against the Phaeton was of the “why would anyone spend $80,000 on a VW?”, but that missed the point. With the Phaeton’s engine and build quality, you weren’t getting an expensive VW; you were getting an inexpensive Bentley (as proved when the W12 went on, almost unchanged, to provide the platform for the German-owned Bentley’s larger-engined models.

All that said, VW should instead have marketed the Phaeton under the Audi name (A12?), but then-head of VW Ferdinand Piëch wanted to improve the VW brand (forgetting the “People’s Car” heritage), which turned out to be a mistake.

I still think the Phaeton is one of the best large saloon cars ever made.

Timekeeping (Ladies’ Special)

Some time back, I spoke a little bit about buying a dress watch, and soon thereafter was asked to do a similar piece for my (few) Lady Readers. That’s a problematic topic for me to tackle, because as always with women, I have very little clue as to what makes them tick [sic] and therefore any advice I have to give must necessarily be fraught with caveats and such. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a shot.

As with my earlier discussion, I’m not going to argue about the merits and whatever of using a cheap and accurate digital watch, or about the merits or disadvantages of telling time via one’s smart phone. This post, therefore, will look only at the subject of dress watches — such as would be worn on special occasions, or for a job interview or whatever. As with the men’s watches, I’ll set an arbitrary budget of between $2,000 and $8,000 at first, then look at ladies’ watches from a different perspective at the end.

As women (even more than men) tend to treat watches as fashion accessories, something I’ll cover later, it may well be that choices may have to be multiple — i.e. one would wear this watch for that occasion, and that watch for another. Fortunately, women’s watches can be somewhat less expensive than men’s (although once one gets up there… phew), and so I’ll approach the topic from that angle.

Probably the most popular ladies’ watch ever made has been Cartier’s “Tank” model, worn by just about every fashion icon over the years (Jackie O., Princess Grace and so on).

That’s the Tank Americaine model, and while it’s spendy (the gold Cartier Tanks, as shown, can run anywhere from $7,500 to $10,000 depending on the bling level), I would respectfully suggest that if a woman were to own only one watch her whole life, this would be as good a choice as any. (Almost every ladies’ watch in this price range can add precious stones like diamonds or sapphires to the face, which drives the price up considerably. Your choice, your money.)

The stainless steel versions are the Tank Anglaise (also with the rectangular face) which is half the price ($4,000):

…and the Tank Française which is much cheaper (about $3,000) and has a square face:

Still beautiful, in my opinion, if a little more “masculine”, perhaps. But there are other brand options, so let’s look at a few. All three below are square-faced, and run around $3,000:

As with all things female, branding seems to be important — but I should mention that the lesser-known Baume & Mercier will have (I believe) a better action than the other two because the “fashion” brands carry a premium over their nominal price, for not necessarily better quality.

Should Madame prefer watches with a round face, or ones that look a tad more practical, there are these options, again all costing around $3,000:

“Nomos” is apparently watchmaker Glashutte’s “budget” line — GH watches typically cost well over $10,000 — and having myself owned a men’s Omega Aqua Terra before, it goes recommended; but Tag Heuer is excellent too.

Obviously, if a lady requires a very practical watch — Mrs. Free Market owns a Breitling because of her yachting “hobby” (obsession) — there are those types too, but be aware that their prices are usually well above what we’re looking at today.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t look at two of my favorite watch brands as well. Here are two from Jaeger-LeCoultre, at about $8,000 each:

..and another two from IWC, these running about $5,500 to $7,500 each:

Both the above are downsized versions of IWC’s Men’s Pilot- and Portofino variants.

Now let’s look away from the “one dress watch” category for the moment and examine watches instead as a fashion accessory — i.e. ones that can be matched to a particular outfit or occasion such as a garden party or suchlike. Here, the watches are considerably cheaper for the simple reason that Madame would probably prefer to have several different types. Here are some examples from the Olivia Burton line, which cost around $100 each:

OB is owned by Movado, so while they’re not Omega or Piguet, they’re not complete crap, either.

And should Madame wish to match her watch with her purse, here are some Michael Kors watches, each costing around $200 (i.e. somewhat less than the hand bags):

Frankly, however, if I talk any more about watches of this ilk, I’ll need to go and shoot something just to restore my testosterone levels.

Let me then, suggest a watch for those ladies who are independently wealthy, or who have indulgent husbands / long-time partners. It’s one for the ages, being feminine, practical, of high quality and eclectic enough so that anyone who knows anything about watches will give an approving nod. It’s a lottery watch, in other words (just as the Vacheron Constantine 1907 is my lottery watch), and because I’m an unashamed sucker for women, you get two choices, each costing around $30,000: a “plain” (classic) and something a little more ummm decorative.

Ladies: am I completely off-base here? (Wouldn’t be the first time.) Your thoughts in Comments, please.

 

 

 

Bonnie Scotland

Here’s where Mr. Free Market, Doc Russia, Combat Controller and I will be stalking deer for the rest of the week. The pics were taken in years passim, when the weather was fine (i.e. not freezing with rain/sleet/snow falling).




That’s Doc Russia and CC, suitably attired. I must tell you that if the weather turns anything like that, I shall be ensconced in our temporary home  with a roaring fire in front of my chair and a glass of a warming beverage in hand. Let the youngins freeze their thingies off; I’m too old for that nonsense. Fortunately, Mr. FM has arranged for suitable digs for us:

…and my bedroom, where I’ll huddle, shivering, if it’s too miserable to hunt:

And speaking of rogues, here’s Mr. FM on last year’s stalk, fresh from his day’s work:

…and lest anyone gets bent out of shape, let me remind everyone that what we’re doing is culling the game — injured deer and roes, not trophies — because without culling, the deer would overpopulate the estate and most would die of starvation as the grazing got sparser. And the meat goes into the estate’s freezers to generate income from venison sales to the public; we don’t get to keep any of it. (We can however, buy some from previous stalkers’ activities… watch this space.)

For those interested in such matters, the guns to be used are Mr. FM’s Blaser R98, Doc Russia’s blueprinted Remington 700 and Combat Controller’s Browning A-Bolt (all in .300 WinMag) and my Mauser M12 (6.5x55mm Swedish — because I don’t own a rifle in .300 WinMag).

Posting may be somewhat light over the next few days; there are no phone lines or cell towers, let alone an Internet connection, but I’ve put a few non-date-specific posts in the hopper to keep things fresh-ish.

See y’all next week.

 

Nobody Cares

Apparently, Rolling Stone magazine is on its knees (not to the Democrat Party, although that’s often been the case). Tim Sommer explains why that’s a Good Thing, and I can’t disagree with anything he says.

Even apart from its political stuff, I always thought that RS epitomized Frank Zappa’s trenchant comment about rock journalism: “people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t speak, aimed at people who can’t read.”

And their music critics were worse.

Read Sommer’s whole piece: it’s brilliant, and absolutely true.

You Motherfuckers

Even though I’m never going to qualify for this little “bubble” tax, it still makes me want to empty my gun into the TV the next time a Republican congressman shows his face.

Write to your U.S. Republican representative (if you have one), and tell him that if this piece of shit finds its way into law, you’re going to vote for his opponent next time round — because at this point, then, he’s no different from a fucking Democrat.

Your Money No Good Here

I have long viewed the efforts of banks, retailers and government to make us a cashless society. I’ve heard all their reasons: money-laundering, efficiency and so on, and I remain unconvinced.

It’s even worse over here, and Ross Clark of the Daily Mail takes aim at the process:

The argument in its favour is convenience, but the truth is that it’s all about greed.
Firstly, there is the opportunity to collect fees. The Boston Consulting Group estimates that banks and payment companies such as Visa and Mastercard currently make $1 trillion annually worldwide in fees — typically paid by the retailer — for processing electronic payments.

And it won’t be just the retailers who are being fleeced. Currently, consumers are rarely charged fees to use credit cards and debit cards, but you can bet that would change if there was no option to pay in cash.
An even bigger prize is the opportunity that cashless payments offer to large corporations to collect vast amounts of personal information about individuals.
We are familiar with how tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter harvest information about us via our internet searches and so on.
But few of us are aware that we are also feeding a vast data machine whenever we use our credit and debit cards.

It’s worth reading the whole thing, because Clark’s analysis is very good, especially hw going cashless makes us completely vulnerable to the vagaries of computer systems, their inefficiencies and the hacking thereof.

And while I share his cynicism about Big Business and its Marketing Department, I am even more cynical about Government and its attempt to make all transactions cashless — because as a former marketer myself I can at least understand the desire for more information about consumers (even if I don’t agree with the ruthless harvesting thereof) — but when it comes to government knowing every little detail about how I spend my money, certain part of my anatomy start to twitch uncontrollably.

And yes, we’re mostly talking about my various fingers.

Whenever I’m faced with any attempt to make a massive, wholesale change in society’s behavior, I get that same twitch — and this one strikes me as especially worthy of some digitized action. So I’ll start with the most innocuous one first.

Note to government and business: want me to stop using cash?

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the range, to rid myself of another twitch.