Saturday, February 13, 2010

Size Matters

I was recently stopped at a traffic light behind a Chevrolet Traverse, one of GM's newest entries in the increasingly-crowded crossover category. The Traverse, which was introduced in 2009, has had generally favorable, but not spectacular, reviews from the automotive press.

Sitting behind this Traverse in my Subaru Outback, I couldn't help but notice the size of the rear window on this vehicle, which is a mid-size crossover. The window was very small compared to the overall size of the vehicle and to top it off, the rear-window wiper was so small, it carved out a clearing I can only compare to the porthole on a battleship. With the recent snowfall in Northeastern Pennsylvania and the resulting road conditions, this porthole-sized opening was the only direct visual access out the rear window, since the rest was covered with road and storm slop. I don't know the exact specification for the wiper, but it looked about half the size of the 15-inch model that sweeps the rear window of my Outback.

"How on earth can that driver see out that tiny opening?" I thought. Yes, I know, there is a pair of side mirrors, but I would think being able to see clearly out the back window of such a larger vehicle might be important. The size of the window might matter if there's a small child behind the vehicle when someone's backing up their Traverse.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one to notice this fact, since the Associated Press noted in a review quoted on U.S. News & World Report's Rankings & Reviews web page, "I advise getting the rearview monitor because it's difficult for a driver to see what's going on at the back of the Traverse. This monitor does not substitute for a driver looking back there, but it provides extra help." (

There is an "ultrasonic rear parking assist" standard on most Traverse trim lines that alerts drivers to "certain stationary objects located behind the vehicle," that complements all the other modern safety features you'll find. But wouldn't a low-tech solution such as a larger rear window and a decent-sized wiper to help keep it clear do the job better?

Disclosure: I am not a professional auto reviewer, nor do I have any association with Chevrolet, GM, Subaru, Associated Press or U.S. News & World Report.

Friday, February 12, 2010

NEPA Memories

I was recently added to the blogroll at NEPA Blogs, "a clearinghouse providing links to blogs and other sites about Northeastern Pennsylvania or by people from Northeastern Pennsylvania." You'll find all kinds of great stuff there from a number of talented people, at

Although most of my current blogging involves public relations, advertising and language, I have a long-standing interest in history. I thought I'd mark my addition to NEPA Blogs with a few quick Northeastern Pennsylvania recollections from the early- and mid-1960s, times spent alongside my father.

I remember:

  • …walking from our home on Monroe Avenue in the Patch section of Dunmore down to the Catholic Youth Center (no car in those days) to see the University of Scranton basketball team play. The U of S played at the CYC prior to the opening of the Long Center on campus for the 1967-68 season. I remember one particular game there against arch-rival Kings College; a fight broke out in the stands and CYC officials were forced to halt the game and turn off all the lights in the place to get the fracas under control. (On the U of S web site basketball history section, the author mentions a fight outside the Long Center between Kings students and Scranton police due to an over-sold game, but I'm pretty sure the fight I remember was at the CYC.) It was certainly an intense rivalry. Of course, they had legitimate fights – boxing – at the CYC, to which my Uncle George took me during that same period.
  • …going to Schautz Stadium in Dunmore with my father during summers in that period to watch the fast-pitch softball, particularly the First National Bank of Dunmore team led by pitcher Paul Ross, a rather portly fellow with a wicked fastball. It was a great team and a great time. Every summer the softball legend Eddie Feigner made an appearance with his four-man team, "The King & His Court." In a 2007 obituary, the Washington Post acclaimed Feigner as "the greatest softball pitcher who ever lived."
  • …and swimming at Lake Lincoln, trying to find a patch of cool water amongst the hordes that descended during hot summer days when that great artificial lake was the only swimming game in town.

Again, thanks to the kind folks at NEPA Blogs for adding me to the roll. I'm sure I'll enjoy being part of this particular crowd and I hope the bloggers here find my scratchings interesting.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What’s A “hers” Conference?

I went for my usual morning dip into the New York Times online edition yesterday and was immediately attracted to the news that Toyota's chief executive officer Akio Toyoda had finally made an appearance to explain what his company was doing to extricate itself from the public relations nightmare of its sudden acceleration problems.

I clicked on the link and began reading the lead: "The president of Toyota apologized at a hastily arranged hers conference Friday night for the quality problems that led to the recall…" (emphasis added). I read it again; my eyes aren't what they used to be, I thought. But there it was. I finished reading the story and sought the Comments button. Quoting the lead, I asked, "What's a "hers" conference? Is it anything like a news conference?"

To their credit, the editors at the Times shortly did their job a bit more thoroughly this time and changed it to news conference.

Everyone makes mistakes; that's why we have copy editors (or at least we used to). That function, sadly, has fallen into disrepair from a lack of practitioners as wave upon wave of layouts and buyouts sweeps over newspapers. Even with a full staff, this one's hard to swallow. It's the lead of a major story, not paragraph 10 of an inside page snoozer. And it's the New York Times, for God's sake. It would appear the editing was as "hastily arranged" as the news conference. Doesn't anyone actually read copy any longer?

Here's my theory on how the error occurred: on the keyboard, since "h" is immediately above and slightly to the left of "n" and "r" is to the right of "e" while "w" is to the left, it's just a case of Misguided Fingers, the bane of writers everywhere – particularly those on deadline. But that doesn't excuse the copy editing nonfeasance.

Since Akio Toyoda is a man, at least they could have called it a "his" conference.