Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Life After News92FM: One Year Later

Fifty-two Wednesday's ago I became unemployed, launching what would be the most interesting year of my life.
A few of my former co-workers have this week been describing their paths since that day.
This is my story.

The darkened and silenced newsroom of News92FM 10/8/14
I was one of the 47 journalists unceremoniously “separated” by RadioOne when they dumped our all-news format in favor of an all-Beyonce stunt to herald the installation of the company’s “Classic Hip-Hop” style of radio at 92.1FM.
I’d been fired many times before, and was confident I could find a new role at another outlet in a reasonable length of time.
Ha. It’s been a year.

The Program Director at KSBJ called me for coffee a month after the closure of News92.
KSBJ is a contemporary Christian music Radio station operated by the KSBJ Educational Foundation. It’s a non-profit station, and recently received “Station of the Year” honors from the Christian Music Broadcasters

KSBJ is a powerhouse of programming, street presence, and positive influence in the communities it serves. If more commercial stations were operated like KSBJ, fewer Radio people would be out of work.
Just sayin…
I was honored and blessed by the meeting, and soon after became an “occasional announcer” on KSBJ.

The Publisher of Houston Woman Magazine called me a week or so later to have lunch. She wanted a column for the women’s magazine written from a male perspective, sharing what men wish women knew. My “Man Cave Markings” pieces have explored the dynamic between the way women and men think, why women are better engineers than men, how buying back-to-school supplies has changed, and observations about one of my other “occasional” jobs--as postal worker.

A colleague called the following month, suggesting I look at an opportunity to work as an aerial videographer for a local television station. 

I love to fly in small aircraft. Flying in helicopters is nirvana for me, and the job is perfectly suited for my technical abilities, nose for news, and sense of adventure. 

I have trained in three aircraft on three different camera systems. I've covered building fires, traffic fatalities, cop chases, and grass fires. There is never a dull moment, and I've grabbed some memorable images of my hometown from 1,000-ft. in the air.
Yes, I'm still on call.

Next, the News Director at Houston Public Media emailed me a few weeks later about a part time position anchoring elements of the station’s NPR programming on the weekend.  With the demise of News92FM, HPM became the only all-news Radio outlet in Houston.
In addition to being the local ringleader for shows like “Weekend Edition,” Wait-Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” and “Car Talk,” I have also been pressed into service as a back up traffic reporter for the weekday-morning and afternoon shifts, and as an occasional weekday anchor.
But still no full-time employment.

The University of Houston Downtown reached out with an invitation to teach in its MBA program as a Corporate Fellow. I was paired with a professor to team-teach a section in the Spring semester, “Business Communication.” 

Being bitten by the teaching bug, I applied to the University and have been accepted as a returning student to complete my degree.
That’s going to be another story for another post.

For a year tainted by no full time gig, it was a pretty full.
I continue to co-host the Automotive Reporter Radio Show with the inimitable Harold Gunn, which airs Sunday mornings at 8 on ESPN 97.5FM.
I was inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.
Our adult children surprised us by sending us on a cruise (a much-needed break from the jarring reality of joblessness).
My wife was hospitalized for back surgery, and we spent Christmas Day in her hospital room.

Friends and family came to our aid and supported us.
One Sunday morning, a woman at church pressed an envelope into my hands and said, “I can’t tell you who this is from.” Inside were fifty, crisp $100-bills. Another church member wrote me a check for a large amount, and said, “this is not a loan. This is a gift.” Many, many similar outpourings of kindness continue to be shown to us. The LORD does provide.

I learned that COBRA is a blessing and a curse, reporting weekly job search activities to the Texas Workforce Commission is not worth the time and trouble it takes, and there IS an unspoken bias against the Silver Generation in the job search market:
No one wants to pay you for your experience, because it’s cheaper to hire a 20-something and train them to do the job you could already do in your sleep.

I’m the One in the government’s weekly Jobless numbers that’s not in that report: I’m no longer on Unemployment because it’s run out. I am technically under-employed, not unemployed. But I am imminently available for the taking, if you’re looking for someone who can read, write, video (not afraid of heights), photograph, teach, train…and tell others about how it’s done.
And I’m really, really over Beyonce.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Automotive Reporter Biz News for Wk of 10-5-15

As if the exciting previews of the new 007 movie aren’t enough brand placement for Aston Martin, the automaker is also capitalizing on the final flight of an iconic Cold War-era British bomber later this month.   

The Avro Vulcan XH558, a delta-wing  long-range bomber built in the ‘50’s, is being reunited with its modern day namesake, the Aston Martin Vulcan, an 800-hp, all-carbon fiber supercar. There are only 24 models of the racecar in existence. 

The company staged a flyby of the Vulcan bomber over the Vulcan race car at Elvington Airfield in Yorkshire. The final flight of the Vulcan will be this weekend (10/10-11).

The charity that owns and operates the XH558, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, has concluded it is no longer safe to fly the aircraft, as technical support for the bombers Rolls Royce jet engines and other systems are being discontinued by various vendors and providers. The Vulcan has already exceeded the maximum flight hours experienced by other Vulcans by more than ten percent, and it is the studied opinion of her operators that identifying and diagnosing future problems and maintenance issues with the aircraft would be increasingly difficult. Without such support, the British Civil Aviation Authority is effectively grounding the aircraft. The bomber will be on permanent static display in England at the Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.
I have no idea where that is.

Aston Martin says the first deliveries of the track-only Aston Martin Vulcan to customers worldwide will take place before the end of the year. This week Aston Martin also announced the appointment of Laura Schwab as President for Aston Martin The Americas, effective later this month.

The recent backlash over cellphone use in public places has created some interesting social solutions. There is an emerging trend to stack smartphones in the center of the table for the duration of a meal, and the first person to grab theirs has to pay for the group’s tab.

Chevrolet takes that notion one step further, while capitalizing on the need for personal connectivity in a new series of TV commercials you’ll be seeing this week. The point is memorably made.

“Focus Groups” are brought into a room with a big round table, and a big red wood chipper. They are told to surrender their devices for reasons of intellectual security, at which point the moderator calmly walks over to the wood chipper, and feeds the phones into the machine. The reactions of the group members are pretty priceless, albeit rather sedate compared to what my personal response might be in the same situation. The point of the exercise keys in on our perceived need for total connectivity at all times, which Chevrolet says it can deliver in the new Cruse Lite 4G Wifi automobile.

Has Toyota created a flying car? While the new Toyota Mirai Hyrdogen Fuel Cell electric car cannot literally fly, Toyota says it is flying off the virtual shelf!

Nearly 1,900 people have reserved their Miraii, exceeding the expected initial production run of 1,000 vehicles, and pushing the grammatical envelope on how to properly describe what is the plural of Mirai.
Mirai's? Miraii? What?  

Toyota’s order request portal now directs customers to a wait list until production can catch up with demand.  Toyota says existing order requests are being reviewed, and automaker will begin placing the first customers in the driver’s seat of their new Mirai later this month.   

A fellow Mazda MX-5 Miata owner pulled up in front of my house on Friday evening in his early-edition NB and turned off the engine. He sat in the car at the curb for a very long time, tapping on his smartphone, before walking up to my door. His clutch slave cylinder had failed, and he couldn’t shift the manual transmission. 

I repressed my urge to discuss with him the art of engine-rev clutchless shifting, and instead commiserated about the extent to which owners go to keep our MX-5’s running at peak performance, regardless of the vintage. The car remains parked in front of my house this morning, as I compose this column. I don’t know who his insurance company is, but my towing service would’ve been on scene within the hour.

As a public service to him, and to you, I am passing on Mazda’s just-released pricing points for its new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup cars. The version is Mazda Motorsports first-ever ready-to-race production MX-5 Miata, checking in at only $53k. It is an entry-level  racing car, and is Mazda’s contribution to growing the sport by encouraging new drivers to affordably enter the competition. What do you get for that price?

Long Road Racing, Inc. takes a street version of the MX-5 and strips it down to replace several OEM items with high-performance components, including a high-capacity radiator, limited slip differential, a racing cage, cooling lines, performance brakes, and racing fluids for the transmission and crankcase. 

Each Miata Cup car is built identically so that their performance on the track is altered only by the skill of who’s behind the wheel. You can order yours online at
You’re welcome.

Ford Motor Company’s newest advertising campaign for Ford service is themed, “The Specialists at Ford,” and will feature big-screen action hero, producer and business entrepreneur Dwayne Johnson.
Yes, The Rock drives a Ford—several, in fact. His favorite: The Ford F-150.

“The Specialists at Ford” are an elite crew of Ford technicians led by Johnson. This dedicated team has all of the training, diagnostic tools and Motorcraft parts that make servicing your vehicle at your local Ford dealership the right decision.

I wonder if he’ll glare into the camera and snarl, “Can you smell what The Rock is fixing?”

Listen to the Automotive Reporter Radio Show every weekend on, or from our webpage.  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Automotive Reporter Biz News for Wk of 9-28-15

If you missed that bombshell over Berlin last week, Volkswagen announced that numbers touting its clean diesel engines were not entirely accurate, thanks to a fudging of emissions control algorithms in the cars’ computers. Actually, the bombshell dropped in Wolfsburg, 230-km west of Berlin, but there’s still a lot of fallout raining down.

VW CEO Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn said, “"I am shocked by the events of the past few days. Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.” While completely unaware of what was being done to the cars, he took responsibility, and removed himself from the equation to allow VW “a fresh start.”

Stateside, the Diesel Technology Forum posted this comment, while painstakingly avoiding any mention of the letters “V” or “W”: “The circumstances involving a single manufacturer do not define an entire technology, or an industry. Vehicle manufacturers and engine makers have invested billions of dollars in research and development to successfully meet the most aggressive emissions standards in the world.”

Volkswagen has erected a webpage for VW owners, listing the affected models, and featuring a video clip from VW America President and CEO, Michael Horn, saying, “oops.” 

Porsche AG Chairman Mattias Muller is now acting interim chief for Volkswagen AG.  He began his automotive career as an apprentice tool maker with Audi, and earned a Masters Degree in Computer Science before returning to Audi. He knows his stuff.

Volkswagen’s internal review reveals nearly 5-million passenger cars with the Type EA 189 diesel engines are affected. VW says the cars “remain technically safe and roadworthy.” This morning, the Financial Times predicts the scandal could eclipse the Enron debacle.

Volvo Cars of North America is building its first American factory in Berkeley County, South Carolina.
The new facility will produce Volvo’s S60 sedans, and ship globally from the Port of Charleston starting in 2018.
In Bloom County, Berkley Breathed had no comment.

Forget the Amazing Race.
Ford Motor Company is releasing a series on the re-making of the Ford Focus RS, one of the most surprising small cars you’ll ever climb into. I rented one of these a few weeks ago while my beloved Silver Bullet was getting a nose job.
It was wicked-fast.
The Focus, not the cosmetic work on my car.

Ford this week launches the first in a series of eight films shot behind the scenes as the RS evolves, “Ford Focus RS: Rebirth of an Icon.” If the trailer is any indication of what’s in store, it should rival any “must-see TV” offerings on any network this Fall.

Nissan’s new 2016 Altima goes on sale this Fall, as well. Over the weekend, Nissan Chairman Jose Munoz undraped the extensively redesigned sedan in Detroit. 

Munoz noted that the Altima has achieved five consecutive years of sales growth, growing more than 60% since 2009. Nissan will offer the new Altima in seven trim levels, including an SR-version powered by a 3.5-L V-6.

Sunday night’s eclipse is big news on social media this morning.
Houston, alas, was socked in by clouds and rain. If you missed it, here’s a two-minute eclipse clip.
You’re welcome.

Listen to the Automotive Reporter Radio Show every weekend on, or from our webpage.