Friday, February 27, 2009

Fear Fuels Firearms Sales

Many moons ago I sold AT&T Security Systems in the metro Detroit area. We were trained by Chaz Robertson, one of the slickest salesmen this side of the Mississippi, in the fine art of using scare tactics to sell security systems. But, we weren't selling security systems; we were peddling fear-of-the-unknown to folks who couldn't afford our overpriced protection. This was back during the last mini-depression in the early 90's. There were over 2,000 people who applied for 50 positions. I was one of the "chosen" 50 who were put through a month-long training program and memorized sales techniques that came straight out of the classic Tom Hopkins book, "How to Master the Art of Selling." This was Mr. Chaz Robertson's Bible. We were his disciples. Those who mastered the techniques were considered "champions."

We memorized a one-hour plus presentation that was filled with FBI statistics and trips around the home to show weaknesses to would-be thieves. The tipping point for virtually every sale was when we would go through the motions of kicking in the front door and highlight the deficiency of dead bolts (or lack thereof). It was hard-selling 101.

The fact is - fear is the driving force behind the skyrocketing gun sales in North America. Sales are through the roof. These banner ads were found at
The Outdoor Wire, the Outdoor Sports Industry's Daily Transaction Newsletter recently named President Obama as the "Gun Salesman of the Year." Claiming that Obama is the impetus for the surge in sales. Look at the FBI's latest statistics and you'll find the highest number of National Instant Check System (NICS) background checks in the system's history. The official total NICS Checks can be found here, and here.
Fear of increased crime, a majority leadership in the House and Senate, along with the inevitable reintroduction of the National Crime Gun Identification Act have all spurred on the spike in sales. Having just gone down to the AKC Dog Show in Detroit this past weekend I have to admit that there were a few times I wish I had some extra protection along.

BMW's Secret Weapon

Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark when the Arc of the Covenant was boxed up and put away in storage in the Smithsonian warehouse? (The government warehouse plot device even has its own website) It turns out that BMW sealed up a secret weapon of its own for long term storage.

Recently revealed in Issue #3 of BMW Motorcycle Magazine, is the 1934 R7 prototype. This stunningly creative, art deco concept was boxed up and shelved as World War II approached. With the economy the way it is, we all need lift. Perhaps with sales down, some engineers decided to see what was down in the basement. As the story goes, they opened up a crate and found this 70-year-old 800cc treasure complete with its innovative hydraulically dampened telescopic forks. Perhaps this is BMW's secret weapon hidden behind a glass plate that says “Break glass in case of economy.” This wickedly beautiful bike is just what the doctor ordered.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The future of pneumatic hybrid technology

With four boys (and friends like Eric Diem at work), I know all about air powered rifles, Vulcan Nerf® guns and pneumatically-powered toys like Air Hogs®. To paraphrase a article, the Swiss are coming to Detroit in April at the SAE World Congress to "Pump us up" on air power.

Lino Guzzella, a professor of thermotronics in ETH Zurich's department of mechanical and process engineering, states that his tiny 1.0L inline 2-cylinder engine can match the output of a 3.0L V6 engine. Wow! This might be the justification I need to finally buy that air compressor for the garage.

Search Google for "potato gun" and you'll find hundreds of designs for innovative compressed-air powered spud launchers. One of the key ingredients of any successful pneumatic system is the valve. The same applies here as the valve and control system will be the most expensive part of the pneumatic hybrid engine. Many a spud launcher uses a valve from a sprinkler system. Not the Swiss team, they're using an electronically-controlled hydraulic valve from Robert Bosch GmbH / Bosch Rexroth. Haven't seen one of those yet on a spud gun.

Electric motors and batteries will always be better than compressed air in regard to energy storage, but there may be hope for a pneumatic hybrid engine in China or India. Overall cost will be a big factor. I think I'll just put up with my foot pump for a little while longer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A New Beginning

Donna Harvey, a dear friend of the family, passed away at 1:15 a.m. this morning. This was her third bout with cancer. Donna has finally finished the race. The more I thought about her wonderful, rich life — the more I kept thinking of a flower. Donna’s life was a blessing to all those that had the privilege to know her. Donna gave her radiant beauty to everyone, without discretion. Her attitude was perennially upbeat.

My wife Heather and Donna shared perennials with each other. Most photographs of flowers are shown in full bloom. I like this image because it shows a new beginning. As one lily is closing for the night, another is rising up in preparation for a new day.

The name day lily comes from the fact that the blooms only flower for one day, opening at sunrise and withering at sunset. James wrote about the brevity of live in the Bible, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanishes away.” The frailty of man was further stated by Isaiah, and later quoted by Peter, "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever."

The Word of the Lord was implanted in Donna’s heart, it found good soil and it flourished. Donna’s love was especially evident in her love for Scott and her daughters, Rachel and Emily. Above all, the day lily is symbolic of motherhood.

Donna may have exchanged her address, but she will always be with us. Paul stated, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Donna lived live with passion, excellence and purpose. The finish line for Donna is just the beginning of a new walk with God. For God is not the God of the dead, but the living. The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the God of Donna. Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Memories in a Minox

Renee Lichtman, a friend and former co-worker of my mother, gave this German-made Minox to me as a gift. The miniature camera came in a beautiful hand-sewn leather case. Renee knew that I had a camera collection and thought I would enjoy it. The camera was a silky-smooth mechanical jewel.

Later, upon further inspection, I found that the camera contained an unprocessed roll of color film. The film couldn't be processed in E-6 chemistry, so I did some sleuthing and found a specialty lab, Rocky Mountain Lab Laboratory in Colorado that could process and print the film for me. The camera served as a light-tight miniature time capsule and preserved the film for well-over twenty years.

My thought was to present the photos as a return gift to Renee for his generosity. The intention was genuine, but was perhaps flawed by my naiveté. Behind my twenty-something rose-colored glasses, memories were golden and cherished. Hence my confusion at Renee's response. He opened the envelope and slowly sifted through the photos, one-by-one. Renee said they were photos from the late 60s or early 70s and politely thanked me. I wanted to ask for more details, but left it at that.

Now I sit here years after the event as I'm adding a description to a set on Flickr, and my eyes are finally opened, if only a bit. The unprocessed question that lay dormant in the dark corners of my mind has finally been answered by time and the illuminating power of the Web. I finally saw the light. My thoughts and understanding were now clear and salient, like Saul when the scales fell off of his eyes.

And I am disturbed.

Not at Renee's blank reaction, but rather to my tactless deed. I type in Renee Lichtman, to check the correct spelling of his last name, and the Web feeds me understanding. Renee is a child survivor of the holocaust, much in the same way as Anne Frank. I cannot even attempt to understand the complex web of emotions that arise with Renee and memory of his family.

I scold myself for not knowing, but how could I have known? Should some memories be left hidden in dark places and kept as shadows of the past?

I am comforted knowing that Renee has chosen to share of his past on the Web for others to see how evil affects everyone. An interview with Renee, and other hidden children, is available through the University of Michigan Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive.
Other information can be found here.

Dr. Renee Lichtman co-chairs the Hidden Children and Child Survivors of Michigan and is President of the Holocaust Education Coalition. He is a founding member and vice-president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust.