Revisiting my January 17, 2020 post

I set a calendar reminder to revisit this post from January 17, 2020 regarding who was going to be the 2020 Democratic Presidential nominee.

I’m going to make another prediction: Sen. Kamala Harris will be Biden’s running mate. At this point in time, we all know that she’s on his shortlist, has been vetted, and hasn’t opted out of the discussion. While Elizabeth Warren has more political experience and I agreed with her more progressive proposals, I believe that in this moment, Harris will be called upon to help lead, unify, and heal this country.

American Passports Are Worthless Now →

It’s funny to think that when I could travel abroad, that I would take the time to research if where I was going was safe. Now, most of the places I’d like to travel have deemed ALL OF THE UNITED STATES as unsafe and prohibited us from entering their countries.

Radiohead – Live in St. Gallen (July 2016)

If there is anything positive to come out of the pandemic 2020, one might be Radiohead releasing live concert performances every Thursday for the last couple of months. The video and sound quality of the performances has been excellent (to be honest, I’ve watched very little of the performances as they have all played in the background while working).

Last week’s release, Live in St. Gallen (July 2016) is worth sharing:

It’s a very similar setlist to Live in Berlin (Sept. 2016), but the St. Gallen set includes one of my favorite B-side songs, Talk Show Host.

Also excellent is The King of Limbs: Live From the Basement. It was only while scrolling through the comments that I learned about Clive Deamer (Portishead) helping the band for this performance and subsequently becoming the sixth member of the band.

A Brief History of the Ford Probe

This morning, /u/Smitty_Oom posted this 2018 article in /r/cars, A Brief History of the Ford Probe, and it hit on many of the points I made in my post last week. The post generated quite a few interesting comments, in particular was a comment made by /u/r_golan_trevize who helped fill-in some of the blanks on Ford’s decision making on the Probe, Mustang, and Thunderbird.

From the thread:

The MX6/Probe… debacle isn’t quite the right word… anyway, whatever you want to call that period in Ford’s sport coupe development history is an interesting one with ramifications that were felt well into the 2000s.

All Ford’s chips were in on the Probestang so when they got hit with all the backlash (Ford execs got death threats about switching the Mustang away from a RWD V8 layout) there was no money to develop another next generation Mustang so the Foxbody had to soldier on for another few years unchanged with mainly aero composite headlights and a ground effects body kit to distract people while they could work on a new RWD Mustang – and it worked as the ’87-’93 Mustangs were very popular.

At the same time, Ford was working on the new MN12 Thunderbird/Cougar platform which would debut in 1989. This was a completely modern RWD personal luxury sports coupe platform with a fancy IRS and designed to take Ford’s new modern Mod motor V8s and designed to take on the Germans. Ford put a lot of effort into the MN12 project and when the need for a modern RWD Mustang arose, they would have liked to have put it on a cut down version of the MN12 but unfortunately, development costs had spiraled out of control and made the MN12 too expensive to use for the low cost Mustang.

By the time Ford really had to get working on a new Mustang, there was no money left between the Probe and MN12 projects to engineer an all new one so they had to pull a rabbit out of the hat and rework the old Fox chassis (already dating back 16 years now at this point to the 1978 Fairmont) as best they could with no budget, rebody it and squeeze another 10 years out of it (and that’s how essentially a 1978 Fairmont ended up in the 21st century with a 400hp supercharged 32V V8).

With this additional information, I would add the third (1979-93) and fourth generation (1994-2004) Mustangs and the Ford Thunderbird/Mercury Cougar (1988-1997, MN12 platform) to Ty’s list.

The 5 Weirdest Cars That Ford Ever Made • Gear Patrol →

#4 on Ty’s list of Ford’s weirdest cars is the Ford Probe. And as a Ford Probe owner and enthusiast, I’m here to defend and argue that it’s not weird and that it’s worthy of being one of Ford’s greatest vehicles. Not top 10 great, but top 25, for sure.

Ty’s case for the Ford Probe being weird was that it was intended to replace the Ford Mustang, but it didn’t, but the fact that it existed is what makes the Probe weird. And because of the name. The former argument is just a sliver of the storied history of the Probe and doesn’t consider the circumstances that lead to its development and its importance in Ford’s history.

Back in the 1970’s, Ford purchased a 25% stake in Mazda. At the time, Mazda was a small Japanese auto manufacturer and Ford was purchasing transmissions from Mazda, but over time, the relationship grew and Mazda began producing cheap vehicles for Ford. One of the first vehicles Mazda produced for Ford was the Courier, a re-branded Mazda B2000 compact truck. In the mid-1980’s, the Courier was eventually replaced by the Ranger in the U.S. The Ranger was still a re-branded Mazda B2000, and later, B2200. In fact, up until 2012, Ford was still re-branding the Mazda B-series truck as a Ranger. The Ranger was one of the best-selling compact trucks during its original run.

Ford’s ownership (and success) in Mazda eventually lead to the two companies working more closely together on designing vehicles and manufacturing Mazda vehicles in the U.S.

In addition to the Ranger/B-series trucks, and the Probe/MX-6 which I’ll get to, Ford and Mazda would collaborate to design and manufacture the Ford Escort and Mazda 323/Protege, the Ford Focus and Mazda 3, and the Ford Fusion and the Mazda 6. Ford and Mazda also co-developed engines with the most notable being the 4 cylinder Ford EcoBoost and Mazda MZR.

Development of the Probe began back in the 1970’s when Ford was working with Ghia on a futuristic concept vehicle. The early design concepts for the vehicle included a wedge shape design, pop-up headlights, and a glass roof canopy/cabin. The Ford/Ghia concept vehicle was eventually scrapped, but these early design features would later influence the vehicle that Ford and Mazda would work on.

In the 1980’s, Ford and Mazda set out to design a vehicle to replace the Mustang. To give you a sense of why Ford was considering replacing the Mustang, by the late 1970’s, the Mustang was a Mustang by name only and hardly resembled the iconic, cool, muscle car Mustang of the 60’s and early 70’s*. By the late 70’s, the Mustang had evolved into the Mustang II (see Ty’s article) and it was an ugly, under powered, overpriced turd of a car.

The new Mustang being designed and developed by Ford and Mazda was going to compete with the hot sub-compacts of the day including the Honda Prelude, Nissan Silvia/200sx/240sx, Toyota Corolla/Supra, and Volkswagen Sirocco. The new Mustang would be built on a lightweight, front wheel drive platform with a small-displacement motor that would be cheaper and easier to manufacture. The appeal of this vehicle is that it would have Japanese underpinnings in its chassis, motor, suspension, etc. (read: greater reliability) and with American styling.

When Mustang loyalists learned about Ford’s plan for the new Mustang replacement, they lost their shit, objected to the plan in the form of calling and writing letters to Ford headquarters, and Ford eventually caved to the Mustang loyalists and began working on the Mustang SN95 platform.

I’m going to go on a short tangent here and go so far as to argue that the Probe saved the Mustang. If it hadn’t been for the Probe, Ford would have never invested in giving the Mustang the attention it truly deserved. Ford would have tried passing off the Probe as the Mustang and who knows where that would have ended up. Ford’s investment in and the development of the SN95 Mustang (1994-2004) helped revive the Mustang and the brand. The SN95 era of Mustang was just as cool and iconic as the original and it was a sales success for Ford.

The first generation Probe hit the market in 1988. It was also sold as the Mazda MX-6. The first generation Probe carried many of the Ford/Ghia design elements including the wedge design, pop-up headlights, and glass canopy. There was a base/standard model with a 4 cylinder motor and they offered a GT model with a 4 cylinder turbo. The base models were nothing to write home about, but the GT received rave reviews from automotive journalists for its performance. The Probe was a hit with consumers. They loved the futuristic styling, handling, and performance. The Probe was so successful that Ford couldn’t keep up with the demand. Once people found out the MX-6 was the same exact car (minus the styling), the MX-6 became a sales hit as well. In 1989, Car and Driver magazine ranked the Ford Probe in its Ten Best List.

The success of the first generation of Probe and MX-6 lead to Ford and Mazda teaming up again to develop the second generation of Probe/MX-6. The team stuck with the same formula but refined the design and improved the areas needing revision.

The newly designed second generation Probe (and MX-6) hit the market in 1993 and it, too, was an instant success. The Probe was sold in base trims (LX, SE) with a 4 cylinder Mazda motor and the GT was sold with a 2.5 liter V6. The Mazda KL-series V6 was a gem of a motor: great low-end torque, smooth and solid delivery across its power band, and it red-lined at 7,000 RPM. The 1993 Ford Probe was Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year. Car and Driver ranked the Probe in its Ten Best List in ’93 and ’94.

The second generation Probe was offered through 1997. Sales of the car eventually began to taper to the point that Ford and Mazda decided not to develop a third generation. By the late 90’s, consumer preferences had already begun to shift away from coupes and hatchbacks in favor of sedans, trucks, and S.U.V.’s.

It’s worth noting that the U.S. and European Ford design teams worked together to develop a successor to the Probe, but based on the European Ford Mondeo platform. Ford released the car in the U.S. as the Mercury Cougar (1999-2002) but bares no resemblance or shares any lineage with the Probe.

The Probe was definitely a car for its time. It came at a time where the automobile industry was experimenting with platform sharing. Today, it’s somewhat commonplace, but at the time, was new. GM was working with Toyota and Subaru. Chrysler was working with Mitsubishi. It also came at a time where Ford made multiple vehicles available at every price point. If you were in the market for a car and you were looking at a Ford, they were going to have a vehicle for you. Back when you could buy a Probe, a two-door hatchback/coupe, you could also buy a Ford Aspire, an Escort, a Festiva, a Mustang, or a Thunderbird, all two-door hatchback or coupes. This sales approach couldn’t be sustained and doesn’t really exist today.

After reading Ty’s list, I instantly thought of weirder Ford’s including the EXP, Edsel, Merkur XR4Ti, Freestyle, Tempo, the Aspire and Festiva (mentioned above), the 1999-2000 Mercury Cougar (also mentioned above), the two-door Explorer and Explorer truck (SportTrac), the 500 that became the Taurus, and basically any economy-level Ford in a GT trim, minus the Probe.

* I’d argue that the last great year of Mustangs was 1970, but that post and my deep dive into my top five weird Ford’s is a post for another day.

The CDC and States Are Misreporting COVID-19 Test Data – The Atlantic →

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons.

A negative test result means something different for each test. If somebody tests negative on a viral test, a doctor can be relatively confident that they are not sick right now; if somebody tests negative on an antibody test, they have probably never been infected with or exposed to the coronavirus. (Or they may have been given a false result—antibody tests are notoriously less accurate on an individual level than viral tests.) The problem is that the CDC is clumping negative results from both tests together in its public reporting.

With the missteps and mishandling of the current pandemic, I’m not surprised that the CDC continues to trip-up over itself. I can’t discern from the article if this is pure laziness from the CDC or bending to the administration’s goal of re-opening the country despite the number of confirmed cases holding steady in many states.

Inside King Arthur Flour, the Company Supplying America’s Sudden Baking Obsession →

But in early March, Ely noticed a change in the questions. Partly it was an increase in the sheer number of calls, a jump that seemed more sudden and pronounced than the normal mild pre-Easter build-up. But even stranger was how many of the callers seemed, well, clueless. How do you tell if bread is done? Do I really need yeast? And strangest of all: What can I use instead of flour?

Co-CEO Karen Colberg was staring in shock at the recent daily sales figures that had just popped up on her screen. “I fired off a text to the sales team to check their figures,” says Colberg. “It was obviously some sort of mistake.”

No mistake, came the reply. The figures had already been double-checked. They showed a 600% increase in grocery-store sales almost literally overnight.

Even before the pandemic really began to impact daily life in early March, it was nearly impossible to find all purpose and bread flour in our local stores. I chalked flour up there with toilet paper and hand sanitizer as things I didn’t understand the logic behind hoarding during a pandemic.

empty flour section

Empty flour section

It wasn’t until mid-March that I remember reading an article explaining that bread making and baking was an activity that people found comfort in which explained the run on flour.

I tried ordering online and it was out of stock everywhere. I tried OfferUp and Craigslist, no dice. It wasn’t until mid-April that generic all-purpose flour started showing up in stores. And it wasn’t until late April that I went to the grocery store, right at 7 a.m. when they opened, and finally found a bag of bread flour.

bread flour

bread flour

That day I made several loaves of Hokkaido Milk Bread.

milk bread

milk bread

And a couple more the following week. And then pandesal.

bad pandesal

bad pandesal

Except that I messed something up and they came out like rocks. They were so bad that I wasn’t going to feed these to the birds. They went straight into the trash.



The second batch came out much better.