January 29, 2009

Horse 951 -

This is a case of a post having to be pulled before I even wrote it.

Last year, Team Vodafone who won Bathurst and who's driver Jamie Whincup won the V8 Supercar Championship, apparently spent some time in talks with Toyota:

In the wake of news that Ford will not back TeamVodafone next year, team owner Roland Dane has confirmed that he has been in talks with Toyota.
As reported in the latest edition of V8X magazine, Toyota Motorsport Manager, Todd Connolly, admitted that he has regular meetings with “a prominent V8 Supercar team owner”.
Dane confirmed that he is that man.
“We have not only spoken to Toyota, but other people in the industry over a long period of time just to understand what the demand is for the market,” he said.

I spent a bit of time, quietly hacking apart what a Toyota Aurion V8 Supercar might look like and came up with this:

Not that this matters much anyway, for I happened to hear the following news on the radio, and I would have provided a link but Fairfax Digital are not nice.
'The Australian Rally Championship has been left in tatters by the withdrawal of the last official factory team in the series and top-name drivers Neal Bates and Simon Evans.
Toyota withdrew its support from rallying yesterday, ending all involvement in Australian motorsport. It was part of a move by Toyota to cut non-essential costs.
It followed Ford and Holden in slashing its spending on motorsport but took it to the next level, trumping its rivals' multi-million dollar cuts on their V8 Supercar programs with a total withdrawal.
The decision ends 20 years in the Australian Rally Championship, the speedway support of national champion Brooke Tatnell, a program of drag racing and even support of the youth-focused Australian Drift Championship.
The biggest casualty is Bates, who won three national rally titles for Toyota and provided the cars to give Evans two more.
"I'm devastated by it. I only got the news last night (Tuesday)," Bates said yesterday. "I'm sad but I feel privileged to have had the success we have had from all sorts of cars, from the original Celica through to the latest Corolla we designed and built at our vase in Canberra. The worst thing is that people are going to lose their jobs and this is like a family."
Bates and his co-driver Coral Taylor still plan to compete in the opening event of this years ARC, Rally Tasmania next month, and the team's home event in Canberra in March.
He is also hopeful of finding buyers for Corolla rally cars.
"I want to keep going, but I don't plan to send myself broke," Bates said. "We've already had a few possibilities come along today, but there is a huge difference between a possibility and a signed deal."
Evans' plans are unknown, although he has rallied before in Subaru cars and has offers to compete in the China Rally Championship with his co-driving wife Sue. '

Herald Sun - January 29 2009.

So I guess that means that this whole post is one of what could have been rather than this might happen.

January 22, 2009

Horse 950 - Six Month Old Scoop!

I was walking through the newsagent this morning when I found this:

I find it a little amusing that Wheels Magazine are playing on the ignorance of the general public. I've already seen this trick before by Holden themselves, and perhaps this story was fed to Wheels Magazine by Holden simply for the publicity (I wouldn't put it past them) but nevertheless, Wheels have published a picture and emblazoned it with the word SCOOP as though it was a big deal.

Guess what Wheels, not only can I provide you with the details of your so called "scoop" but I can even provide a better still photo than what you can - this is why:

HOLDEN is believed to be preparing a twin mid-sized family car attack that will cover both the cheap and ‘prestige’ end of the segment.

In the surprise move that is set to mirror Honda’s successful two-pronged Accord/Accord Euro strategy, the Insignia – Opel’s new mid-sized glamour car that debuted late last month at the London motor show – will arrive in Australia priced between $35,000 and $50,000.

I note that this was dated the 11th of August last year. Also of note is that the Insignia won the 2008 European Car of the Year Award over the Ford Fiesta 7 by a mere one vote - it's little wonder then that Holden are so antsy about getting the car over here ASAP.

Personally think that instead of the grille treatment shown on the Wheels cover, the Holden Insignia/Torana will probably look something like this:

We'll probably be getting the 2L in-line 4 at 101kW, the 2L Turbo diesel at 122kW, and HSV will probably run the 2.8L V6 Turbo at 197kW.

In due course the current Epica (Daewoo Tosca) and the Insignia will both converge, into the new car on the Epslion platform at about 2011. Maybe by then the Commodore will have faded into obscurity, who knows?

The big question on all of this though is what happens to Opel, Daewoo, Vauxhall and Holden if Big Daddy GM in Detriot carks it. Opel have already threatened to buy themselves out for €1 and are currently considering a €1bn bid from SolarWorld AG. Whatever happens, if Holden decide to get the Insignia, there'll be a lot of hype for it.

January 21, 2009

Horse 949 - Not Laughing at $31

While the world goes O'Barmy, the BBC threw this report up during Background Briefing on the radio this morning:

Motorcyclists in Nigeria have been wearing dried pumpkin shells on their heads to dodge a new law forcing them to wear helmets, authorities say.
Officials in the northern city of Kano said they had stopped several riders with "improvised helmets", following this month's introduction of the law.
Kano Federal Road Safety Commission commander Yusuf Garba told the BBC they were taking a hard line with people found using the improvised helmets.

"We are impounding their bikes and want to take them to court so they can explain why they think wearing a calabash is good enough for their safety," he said.

This at first sounds like a haha that's funny story, until you consider all of the implications.

Even a cheap motorbike helmet in Australia is likely to set you back about $60. Remember that this isn't Australia we're talking about but Nigeria where the GDP per capita is about $2027 a year. If you assume that GDP is a fair measure of wages, the the average wage is a paltry $38.98 a week. This means to say that a helmet (not the motorbike) but just the helmet, is going to cost you one and a half times your weekly wage. If you then consider"passengers often steal the helmets once they reach their destination" then having what is in effect your weekly wage stolen every so often, is pretty scummy.
Let's put this in perspective, if someone stole $1500 from you, you'd be pretty miffed I'm sure of it.

It does however highlight something which I find a little disturbing though. When GM and Chrysler were given $25,000,000,000 the world seemed to breath a sigh of relief, yet if someone in Nigeria is fined 3000 Nigeria Nairas or just $31 for the privilege of barely scraping a living, the natural reaction is to laugh at them. Somewhere in all of this we appear to have lost the value of $1, it might not seem like a lot to us in the West, but in some parts of the world, people's livelihoods are eked out on less than what we might pay to go to the movies and there's not really a happy ending either.

January 20, 2009

Horse 948 - I Am Not Making This Up

This post falls into the realms of "I am not making this up... Seriously".

On the eve of Barack Obama becoming President of the USA, he's been compared with a few other presidents such as John F Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln; and perhaps it was a little perverse of me to notice that both of these presidents were assassinated - my sister came up with the supposition that Barack might be as well, simply because of the political tensions which might come about.
Here in Australia, we haven't had Prime Ministers who have been killed, but we do happen to be the only country that just sort of, well... lost its leader.

On 17th December 1967, the then PM Harold Holt decided to go swimming in the surf at Cheviot Beach. Admittedly he had sprained his shoulder previously and despite being advised against it, he went off for a dip anyway. As fate would happen, he never returned.

The Coroner's Report didn't find foul play or communists, submarines or as someone in my Year 9 History class theorised "Giant Migratory Squids" were the cause but rather a simple case of drowning caused by conditions with had turned nasty quickly.

Imagine my surprise then, when reading through The Age (the Fairfax newspaper of Melbourne) I happened to find this:

At first glance it would appear to be in rather poor taste to name a swimming pool after someone who drowned. After all, what sort of confidence could you put in such a venue? Then you realise after looking at their website that the title is probably worthy:

The new pool was to be named the City of Malvern Olympic Swimming Centre, however following the tragic death at sea in December 1967 of Malvern's local member and Prime Minister of Australia, the new pool was named the Harold Holt Memorial Swimming Centre. The Centre was opened by the Prime Minister, John Gorton in March 1969.

The truth is that Harold Holt was actually a rather good swimmer. Certainly it would be appropriate for the local swimming pool to be named after its most famous resident. Although having said that, it's still one of those little useless facts that makes you go "What?" and have to justify it with "I am not making this up... Seriously".

January 16, 2009

Horse 947 - What's good for General Motors

... is good for the USA.
But they're too stupid to realise it.

Almost a year ago I reported that GM through their Pontiac division were going to pick up the Holden Ute for their line-up but give it the rather stupid name of G8 ST.

352 days later, GM in America have announced they they're not going to take it after all.

Dealers were told today that the new Pontiac G8 Sport Truck, the car-pickup slated to hit the market later this year, has been killed, Pontiac spokesman Jim Hopson said.

Dear GM,

You could have practically invented a new market for a car in the US by undercutting the bloated and flabby "pick-up trucks" which dominate the roads (most of which I might add have the handling of a brick and the style of a freshly laid cow pat), but sadly this is not to be.

You've now rejected the idea of selling the ute and the stationwagon, both of which are based of the G8, so this more or less proves that:
A - you don't know a good idea if it bites you in the face, and
B - you don't really understand your own markets anyway.

GM, please die soon. You're already braindead. Please stop scything the American taxpayer's wallets by taking their taxes without just cause. Let me assure you that that bailout package you received, will probably amount to nothing anyway, so you may as well accept your fate and just apply for bankruptcy ASAP.

Your ex-friend,
Common Sense.


With Deepest Sympathy.

Dear America,
You got screwed out of the UTE! You poor unfortunate souls. I feely deeply sorry for you.

Yours regretfully,
The people of Australia.

January 15, 2009

Horse 946 - A Monetary Coup d'Etat

The Prawn formerly of The House of Bach and The Esteemed Empire of Toongabbie has of late become married to his belle and I wish them all due happiness together. The following however relates to a recent post from his blog and a due warning for the would be traveler.

And Fiji was incredible as well - so relaxing, so humid, so expensive. Well, sort of expensive - things were basically the same cost as $AU, and the exchange rate was pretty much 1:1. But then you go into a resort where there’s no restaurants outside or around the resort, and all the food inside is very expensive! But it was very nice.

The resort was pretty awesome all round... very luxurious and relaxing. There was plenty to do, and heaps of Fiji culture too, which made it great.

If you look at the above excerpt you find the word expensive mentioned 3 times. Now I know (but not from my personal experience - more on that later) that Fiji should be a relatively cheap place to buy anything because of its relaxed taxation rules. So then, why we're things so expensive? Again, we find the answer in the post itself.

"things were basically the same cost as $AU, and the exchange rate was pretty much 1:1"

Perhaps he could be forgiven with all else that's been going on for overlooking a minor detail that might have cost him a pretty penny and that is the currency exchange pitfall. A casual glance at XE.com this morning reveals this (at time of posting):

1.00000 AUD = 1.22927 FJD

Oh dear.

Instead of his A$1.00 buying nearly F$1.23 it was only buying F$1.00. This means that someone was having a rip to the tune of 23c of every dollar. If I use my Commonwealth Bank EFTPOS card they only charge me 3% on overseas transactions, so even taking that into account, things were 20% more expensive than they should have been for our unsuspecting traveler.

Why is this so, I hear you ask? Yet again, we find the answer in the post itself.

"and heaps of Fiji culture too"

Indeed there was.

Fiji in my lifetime has suffered four military coups. Corruption in Fiji not only runs rife but appears in some respects to be instituationalised. This is more or less accepted by the general public at large, and is practiced to such a degree that the Fijian Independent Commission Against Corruption was itself subject to its own inquiry at one stage. Businesses who's main form of revenue is from tourists, are relatively free to fleece their customers without fear of reprisal as in the above case. Personally I suspect that this general culture has been allowed to permeate generally through society.

During the trial of the 2000 Coup Leader George Speight in 2003 (of which I went over to Fiji to help record whilst still working for Auscript), the Australians who went over were advised to spend as few Australian Dollars as they possibly could, and wherever possible to deal with the locals in Fijian Dollars. At that time the Australian Government was so distrustful of the situation that they issued the warning to their employees directly and possibly in travel warnings documents.

All of this relates to the general warning from the Romans of Caveat Emptor, "Let the buyer beware". It also is good to remember Murphy's Golden Rule which states "Whoever has the gold makes the rules." If you have cash, it is normally advisable to hold onto it for as long as possible and wherever you can, to dictate the terms by which you'll give it away. Business operators and especially in places like Fiji know this, because once they have your money, you can bet your little cotton socks, that they're never giving it back to you...
unless you can stage a military coup of your own.

January 13, 2009

Horse 945 - The "All New" 2009 Chrysler CopyPaste

Plagiarize! Let no one else's work evade your eyes! Remember why the Good Lord made your eyes, don't shade your eyes, but plagiarize! Plagiarize! Plagiarize!
Only be sure always to call it, please, 'research'!

I am never forget the day my first book is published.
Every chapter I stole from somewhere else.


Sad but true, but the Chrysler 200C which has just been unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show and hailed as "innovative" is little more than a copy of GM's work in Europe with the Opel Insignia.

Seriously, can the people at Chrysler honestly claim that they came up with something, even down the to fold and trim lines at the front of the car as their own? It's like someone sitting in an exam room and turning in an identical essay to the person sitting next to them.

I understand perfectly well that Americans clearly can not style cars if the North American Ford Focus is anything to go by, but simply ripping off the work of another company must surely either rank as either plagiarism or copyright or trademark infringement or some such. It's as bad as Ligier's JS41 in 1995 which was an "independent" design and not at all a copy of the Benetton B194.

I know that you're in financial trouble Chrysler, but I'm going to have to give you an F on this and make you sit a make-up test.

And who deserves the credit?
And who deserves the blame?
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.

- Thanks to Tom Lehrer