All posts by Shirley Perez

The Mack E7 Engine

Not long ago, a diesel powerplant rolled out of Mack R&D possessing a power-to-w eight ratio and level of electronic sophistication that would make a “seen-it-all” driver whistle through his teeth.

And if we had to explain it to him, this is what we’d say. More than 90% of over-the-road Class 8 used diesel diesel trucks are rated between 300 and 450 horsepower. Specific power output for modern heavy-duty diesel trucks typically ranges hetween 25 and 37.5 horsepower per liter. So what does that leave as the optimum sized diesel truck for today’s fleet operation? 12 liters. Which, not so coincidentally, is the exact size of the Mack E7 diesel truck.

The 14s are too much. The 10s and 11s are too small. And each one will find a way to dig into your pocket.

With its unstressed horses, the 12-liter E7 is proving to be the most durable Class 8 diesel truck on the highway today. Weighing virtually the same as com- petitive 10-and 1l-liter diesel trucks, the E7 is 600 to 800 pounds lighter than the “big blocks,” which allows it to haul bigger loads. Not only that, it’s available with up to 454 horses. So the E7 diesel truck can pull off most anything you’d expect from a 14-liter diesel truck.

As well as some things other diesel trucks can only dream about. Because it is compact, the E7 diesel truck fits snugly inside a medium-length conventional rig, without cutting into the cab. The result is maximum horsepower with even more cab room. And with the shorter nose made possible by an E7, the rig itself is easier to maneuver around tight shipping docks and city streets. It all adds up to happier drivers, maximize payloads and reduced trip times. Which might just make fleet managers happy too.

The E7 diesel truck breathes better. Mack’s own Chassis-Mounted Chargcd Air Cooling reduces inlet air temperature for greater density and more complete combustion. The burn is even more efficient since it’s the E7′s unique “swirl” injection system that feeds off the enhanced airflow. And because this is accomplished by improved airflow instead of greater injection pressure, you’ll find the E7 far less susceptible to problems like premature injector failure or high oil viscosity (from sooty blow-by past the rings).

Then there’s Maxidyne® diesel truck technology. Available on a host of E7 diesel trucks, this technology provides a huge torque rise for unparalleled lugging power. It means more fuel efficiency, since Maxidyne diesel trucks are designed to operate at lower rpm’s. Better acceleration and less shifting, especially in the hills. And more torque at the clutch, when you’ve got to move a load that wants to stay put. If you’re headed for the open road, you can get the same advantages with our new MaxiCruise’” diesel truck rating. It gives you legendary Maxidyne performance at a power level and diesel truck operating speed designed to match the needs of highway hauling.

Finally, servicing is faster and easier no matter which E7 you run. Since it’s compact, there’s plenty of elbow room for fluid checks, filter changes and other routine maintenance. V-MAC II diagnostics make troubleshooting easy with either a hand-held or your shop PC. Oil change intervals are 25,000 miles*, nearly twice the mileage competitive diesel trucks get before heading in for service. And with 600 dealerships in North America, parts are but a milk run away.

Firm lands $10 mil funding

Emageon, one of five Alabama companies that will make a presentation at this week’s Southeast Bio Investor Conference, has received $10 million in third-round venture capital funding.

Huntsville’s Southeastern Technology Fund led the investment in the Birmingham firm, which developed technology that allows film X-rays converted into digital format to be viewed over the Internet.

Emageon CEO Chuck Jett said Southeastern, which also has offices in Birmingham and Atlanta, put in about half the money at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Other investors include Paradigm Venture Partners, Harbert Management Co.’s Harbinger/Aurora Fund and Jemison Investment Co. of Birmingham and Delta Capital of Memphis.

All of the firms other than Delta have invested in Emageon previously. A 63-employee info tech company in the health care space, Emageon has now raised $24.5 million since it began commercializing its product in January 2000.

Jett says while such investment has led to “significant dilution” in the shares of stock owned by the company’s original management team, he thinks smaller pieces of larger pies are more valuable in the long run.

“If you’re building a business you anticipate being a major company with national and international reach,” he says, “it’s fundamentally important to have institutional investors starting with venture capitalists who will be with the company through thick and thin as it grows over time.”

Southeastern Managing Partner Paul D. Reaves says his firm thinks Emageon will be one of its “home run” investments.

“These guys solve a problem,” Reaves said. “They have a great technology and a great management team, so we really felt comfortable with this round of financing.”

Jett says increasing revenues are one indicator of his company’s upward momentum; Emageon posted $500,000 in revenues in 2000 and expects $4.5 million this year. Major clients are another important consideration for investors. In Emageon’s case, both Tenet Healthcare Corp. and Kaiser Permanente are clients, and have also made separate equity investments in the company.

While the CEO won’t comment on possible investor exit strategies, saying he’s still focused on serving current clients and growing the business, Reaves has some thoughts.

“With a company growing as rapidly as this one, there are any number of exit opportunities,” he says. “There are many very large players in the radiology space, so I think there are plenty of opportunities for a merger-acquisition, and fast enough growth for an IPO (initial public offering) one day.”

Nineteen companies will present at this year’s Southeast Bio Investors Conference at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. Designed to bring biotech companies and potential investors together, last year’s conference in Raleigh, N.C., drew some 400 participants, which is what organizers expect this year. The first conference was held in Atlanta. On the Web: Emageon Southeastern Bio Investors Conference

Siegelman uses ‘Wallace trick’

Siegelman uses ‘Wallace trick’

MONTGOMERY Gov. Don Siegelman last week sounded like former Gov. George Wallace when he said his $160 million tax plan would make big companies pay their fair share of taxes, political observers said.

“It frequently makes for good campaign rhetoric to beat up on people who are perceived to be unusually well-off or privileged,” said Brad Moody, a political scientist at Auburn University Montgomery. “He sounds a little bit like Wallace on this.”

Wallace in the 1960s and 1970s often blamed big companies, the “Big Mules,” for many of Alabama’s problems.

Siegelman on Thursday unveiled his proposal to raise $160 million a year by closing corporate income-tax loopholes and raising the business privilege tax on the net worth of large companies.

He said he’s pushing his proposal, despite the no-new-taxes pledge he took in 1998, because not doing so would bring a second year of proration across-the-board cuts in state school spending caused by low tax collections in a weak economy.

“If I have to choose between a no-new-tax pledge and the children, I’m going to be with the kids,” Siegelman said.

Friday, he hammered on the tax fairness issue.

“What we’ve got to have is these loopholes closed and we’ve got to ensure that these large corporations pay their share of taxes just like working Alabamians do,” Siegelman said.

He said 619 companies doing business in Alabama last year made a total of $850 million in profits here but paid nothing in state corporate income taxes, which flow to the Education Trust Fund for public colleges and schools.

“These multistate companies that come in here and make all these huge profits aren’t paying a dime,” he said.

Court reporters cases and changes in income-tax law pushed by business groups in recent years have slashed the income taxes paid by large out-of-state companies, Siegelman said.

He said big companies based out of state take Alabamians’ money at their stores here and then use smart tax lawyers to beat Alabama’s tax system.

“Let’s close these loopholes make these folks who are coming in here, taking our money, make them pay their fair share,” Siegelman said.

One out-of-state company recently made more than $100 million in Alabama but paid no state income taxes, he said. “It’s not right. It’s not fair,” he said. State law prohibits officials from naming companies and the tax they pay.

Bill O’Connor, president of the Business Council of Alabama, said business leaders are willing to meet with Siegelman “to try to find shared solutions to these problems.”

“But I can’t find any worse time to raise taxes than in a recession,” he said. “Business men and women in this state are struggling every day to try to make ends meet.”

O’Connor noted that Siegelman blasted big out-of-state companies Friday while saying waitresses, teachers and small business owners paid their fair share of taxes.

“Nobody wins when you try to divide and conquer,” he said. “To try to point fingers and place blame is to turn back the clock.”

Siegelman said his proposal to raise money for schools through raising business taxes by $160 million a year offered lawmakers, business executives and voters a stark choice.

“Is it a test case? Absolutely,” Siegelman said. “Because the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis maintain their neutrality.

“You’re either for education and against cuts or you’re for cuts and against education. It is that simple,” he said.

State Sen. Bill Armistead, R-Columbiana, said he expected Siegelman to borrow another Wallace tactic: propose his tax plan and then run for re-election next year against a do-nothing Legislature if lawmakers reject his plan.

“It’s the old George Wallace trick, in my opinion,” Armistead said.

Moody said Siegelman may figure he wins either way with his tax proposal.

If lawmakers kill it, he attacks them. If they pass it, Moody said, Siegelman can claim credit and maybe avoid a second straight year of proration. He cut state education spending last year by $266 million, or 6.2 percent.

“He doesn’t think he can be re-elected having proration of 5 to 6 percent for two years in a row in the education budget,” Moody said.

Last nine bodies taken from mine

Workers carried the last nine bodies of 13 miners killed by the Sept. 23 explosions at Blue Creek No. 5 to the surface early Friday morning.

Crews extracted all nine bodies at the same time, bringing them from a depth of 2,140 feet at the deepest coal mine in North America.

Those recovered were Gaston Adams Jr., 56, Bessemer; Nelson Banks, 52, Bessemer; Clarence Boyd, 38, McCalla; John Knox, 44, Pleasant Grove; Dennis Mobley, 56, Brent; Charles Nail, 59, Birmingham; Joe Riggs, 51, Cottondale; Charles Smith, 44, Brookwood; and Terry Stewart, 44, Cordova.

The bodies of Dave Blevins, 52, Tuscaloosa; Wendell Johnson, 52, Cottondale; and Joe Sorah, 46, Duncanville, were recovered last weekend. Ray Ashworth, 53, of Cottondale was injured in the blasts and died the next day at University Hospital.

Gary Tramell, president of United Mine Workers Local 2368, was at the mine’s entrance shaft when the bodies were brought to the surface shortly after midnight.

“I represented those men when they went into the mine and I was going to be dang sure that I was going to be there when they came out,” Tramell said. “It was a very somber moment.”

Tramell and officials from Jim Walter Resources praised the recovery crews for their efforts during the past few weeks. “They had their hearts in their jobs.”

The remains were placed in three vehicles from the Tuscaloosa County Medical Examiner’s Office. Tramell said workers at the mine stood side-by-side in tribute as the vehicles left.

Flags at the Brookwood mine, which have been flying at half-staff since the accident, were raised to full staff Friday morning.

“They weren’t going to raise it back up until the last man was out,” said Dennis Hall, a spokesman for Jim Walter Resources.

Not enough Harry Potter for you? Try this trivia

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone opens here today on 20 screens at six theaters, a record number of screens for the Birmingham market.

It’s showing on four screens each at the Summit, Trussville and Wildwood theaters, three each at the Carmike and Festival and two at the Brook Highland.

By our best calculations, the previous record-holder here was Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, which opened on 16 screens at five theaters in 1999.

Nationwide, Harry Potter is supposed to open on as many as 5,000 screens.

Director Chris Columbus, best known for Mrs. Doubtfire and the first two Home Alone movies, says he knew better than to mess around with J.K. Rowling’s much-beloved novel when he agreed to adapt Harry Potter for the screen.

The audience, he says, wouldn’t stand for it.

“I’d heard these horrendous and actually quite amusing stories about how certain directors had wanted to adapt the book like changing the locale to a Hollywood high school or turning Harry, Ron and Hermione into American students or making the entire film a computer-animated picture,” Columbus says in the movie’s press notes.

“I was stunned by some of these notions. I mean, it all feels painfully obvious to me. There’s a reason why millions of children and adults have fallen in love with the Harry Potter books. To destroy the basic foundation of this world and these characters would alienate our audience.”

Richard Harris, the legendary British actor who plays the wise, old Professor Dumbledore, almost didn’t take the part until he got a threatening phone call from none other than his 11-year-old granddaughter Ellie.

“Ellie telephoned me and said, quite simply, `Papa, if you don’t play Dumbledore, I will never speak to you again,’” Harris recalls. “So I didn’t have much choice in the matter.”

Pay close attention to that scene at the Gringotts Bank.

That’s Verne Troyer best known as Mini-Me from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me playing the goblin bank teller Griphook.

Daniel Radcliffe, meet Anne Robinson.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph following the London premiere of Harry Potter, 9-year-old guest critic Jessica Hatrick called the picture “the best movie I have ever seen.”

But she wasn’t quite so kind to the movie’s young star, the British actor Radcliffe.

“He’s a good actor,” Jessica wrote, “but he looks like the woman on The Weakest Link, which is a bit off-putting.”

Before casting Radcliffe, Columbus calculates he auditioned more than 2,000 potential Harry Potters.

The answer, though, was sitting on a shelf in his office a video copy of the TV movie David Copperfield, in which Radcliffe played the younger Copperfield.

“I picked up the video box,” Columbus says, “pointed to Dan’s face and said, `This is who I want. This is Harry Potter.’”

Then, by coincidence, Columbus and producer David Heyman ran into Alan Radcliffe, an agent whom Heyman knows, at the theater. Sitting with Radcliffe and his wife, Marcia, was their son, Daniel.

Call it fate.

“Lightning struck and the skies opened,” Heyman recalls. “All through the second half of the play, I couldn’t concentrate.”

One person who wasn’t so wild about a Harry movie was the boy wonder himself, the precocious Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense.

“Harry Potter is 70 percent imagination,” Osment said in an interview last fall. “When the movie comes out, it’s going to be such a stereotype for kids. They think of Harry Potter, they’re going to think of what is portrayed on screen.”

And contrary to rumor, Osment also denied he was ever in the running to play Harry.

“I never wanted to do Harry Potter,” he said. “I thought it should have stayed as a book.”

Lots of fancy dancing, live music make ‘Fosse’ fun

That’s what you get with Fosse, the national tour of the Tony-Award winning musical that opened in Birmingham Tuesday night.

It’s a retrospective of the work of master choreographer Bob Fosse, including his work for theater (Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Pippin, Dancin’), film (Cabaret, All That Jazz) and TV (Liza with a Z).

It’s classic stuff, and it’s performed by a cast with seemingly boundless energy and talent. Some have performed on Broadway before, and all of them would be at home in New York’s best theaters.

Fosse, who died in 1987 at age 60, is one of a handful of choreographers whose work is instantly recognizable. His trademark bowler derbies, gloved hands, toes turned in and sensual body thrusts energize the most mundane of material.

Take “Bye Bye Blackbird,” for instance. Originally staged for Liza with a Z, it’s recreated in Fosse, and it’s the sexiest, jazziest take on that song you’re likely to see.

The wonderful Reva Rice lends her voice to that and several other songs in Fosse (most notably with a hall-filling rendition of “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries”), but it’s the dancing that is front and center.

From percussion-driven numbers from Dancin’ to “Hey Big Spender” from Sweet Charity to the classic “Steam Heat” from The Pajama Game, Fosse’s fabulous cast exhibits some mighty fancy footwork.

The 2½-hour evening flies by until the finale. After a touching “Mr. Bojangles” (poignantly sung by Josef Patrick Pescetto), the cast returns to perform scenes set to Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”