March 26, 2010

Horse 1081 - Thurn and Taxis?

Ford Australia have announced that the Falcon wagon has been axed as of mid year 2010. Ford cites economic factors are to blame for the Falcon Wagon’s demise, as well as the market’s shift to SUVs during the last decade, so really this is entirely based on profit motive, which is to be entirely expected from a corporation.

On the radio yesterday, taxi drivers did most of the complaining and lamenting the Falcon Wagon's demise. The simple truth is that a corporation is fully entitled to withdraw from sales anything which doesn't maximise their profit base. Ford isn't after all a charity is it? If people really wanted the Falcon Wagon to stay around then it stands to reason that they would have bought more of the silly things. Honestly, what are you people doing?

Of course me being the charitable sort of person I am, I have graciously provided what should be the obvious solution for you, that is if you happen to be too lazy to think for yourselves. The way I see it, which I might add is quite a nice and lovely way to see the world (full of daises and buttercups and chainsaws). The way I see it, the taxis of the future should have the following characteristics so that what's happened to the Falcon does not happen again. Taxis of the future should be:
- diesel
- reliable
- and iconic.
Fortunately such a thing already exists:

Tah-dah! The LTI TX4... the definitive Taxi.

LTI on their website proclaim that the TX4 is "the best and most advanced purpose-built taxi in the world". Well... this is probably in all likelihood a puff piece but somehow I'm inclined to believe it.

Taxis in London have nice big doors so that you can step in and out of them easily; I found this after getting off a crowded tube train and stepping into a Thursday peak period, and believe you me, with 10 million people who call London home plus another 6 or so million invading the city everyday, you need that.
The area inside can fit up to 5 people, and it's easy to fit luggage into them. If I was running a taxicab company, I'd seriously consider importing these things. Actually if a whole bunch of cab companies got together, then collectively they could persuade LTI to import them as a normal line of business. Hint hint hint... HINT HINT HINT... HINT HINT HINT... HINT HINT HINT...

The Falcon Wagon may have done good service over many years, but even Ford knows that when a horse gets old, sometimes you need to take it off the the knackers yard to be made into dog food and glue. Maybe it's time to employ a new steed; I for one would not be displeased if I saw "Black Beauty" out there.

March 25, 2010

Horse 1080 - The Falcon is Down
FORD AUSTRALIA HAS announced today that it will discontinue the Falcon wagon this year, with the last wagon to roll off the line in June.

The news follows reports last year that Ford was considering the wagon's future, Ford Australia CEO Marin Burela confirming that a decision would be made by this past January.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
- Winston Churchill.

This is not the end of the beginning. But it is the beginning of the end.
- Rollo

Ford have already previous announced that there probably wouldn't be a replacement for the Falcon at the end of the current model cycle. With sales flagging and having fallen from top spot to number 7 in the latest VFACTS survey, how long is it before the Falcon is axed entirely? Will this mean the final end for a car which as its origins back in 1963?

Of course my only interest in the Falcon has to do with V8 Supercars. There has been rumblings (and most of them proving to be false) that there were other players interested in submitting new cars to the formula in 2012. I would suggest that if anyone wanted to, that their submission plans have just been given a little extra boost.

I mean what exactly is V8 Supercars to do when there is only one make of car to choose from? With the Falcon slowly fading out of existence, what sort of series is viable with only one make of car? If the Commodore has no competition, would anyone even bother?

V8SA is due to make an announcement next Monday the 29th, to do with the so-called "Car of the Future". It could well prove to be either the single most significant document in the sport's future, or perhaps even the very instrument which signs its death warrant.

We shall see.

March 24, 2010

Horse 1079 - mX: The Stupid Newspaper for Stupid People

For those expecting a tirade against News Corporation, then you will not be disappointed, only this time, you might wish to turn the volume up a bit because I am seething.

I have been on the train for about the past month and a half whilst my Ka has been off the road due to being bashed in the rear end by an incompetent in a Toyota Echo (perhaps they should do a recall on the drivers as well), and as a result, I've noticed the free newspaper mX which is either given out at city train stations, or can be collected for free from special racks.

The Panorama National Survey puts the average circulation at about 100,000 copies a day (Mon-Fri), and I've also noticed on the western line, that train stations have now started putting recycle bins on their stations, presumably to alleviate the mess caused by people either leaving discarded copies on the train (of which there can be as many as two dozen per carriage) or overflowing from rubbish bins outside the station - on that note, it's kind of sad to see someone having to clean up someone else's mess; this case it's actually caused by News Corp.

Now for the ugly part:

I usually didn't bother picking up mX on the basis that I had something else interesting to read (I've just finished reading John Maynard Keynes' magnum opus, the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money), but on this occasion I wanted to find out what had been going on in the world.
Namely that the US Congress had passed the Health Care Reform Bill and that there was a significant speech made by President Obama which I thought would be interesting.

But what was mX reporting?

The death of the smallest man in the world, and pictures of footballers girlfriends. Is this what passes for news? I mean seriously. I have blown my nose and opened the contents of a tissue to find more interesting things. When I opened mX yesterday, I find pretty well much the same sort of content.

Just what the heck sort of newspaper is this?

If you do a wikipedia search on the subject you read the following:
Central themes of most articles include US celebrity gossip, new product lines, controversial events, rumours, celebrity trivia, and readers' gripes, amongst other attention-grabbing stories. Large photographs often appear without any related story, only a caption describing their contents; conversely news stories are rarely accompanied by photographs. Small, large and full page advertisements are also a major contributor to the paper's overall make-up.

Even more intriguing is the links at the bottom of the page; one of which is for "Junk Food News":
Junk food news is a sardonic term for news stories that deliver "sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia", especially when such stories appear at the expense of serious investigative journalism. It implies a criticism of the mass media for disseminating news that, while not very nourishing, is "cheap to produce and profitable for media proprietors."

I'd say that this is bang on the money for mX. It's a newspaper (of sorts) which actually panders to the lowest common denominator; and when I later found out that it's owned by News Corporation, it pretty well much explains everything.
News Corporation - a worldwide scum company which exists by producing toxicly crap media.

This is the same company which owns Britain's Sun newspaper, who in 1989 ran a campaign blaming Liverpool fans of atrocities following the wake of the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster:
... and which, since 1970 has put a topless model on page 3 of the newspaper, just to reinforce what the corporation thinks of its readership.

This is the same company who by virtue of owning the rights to the English Premier League and the A-League, denies me the right because I don't have Pay TV, of watching football. This is the same company who in 1997 nearly destroyed Rubgy League in Australia. This is the same company who via the Fox News network, has managed to convince many Americans that the idea of "socialised medicine" is evil.

It seems to me that mX falls exactly into line and character as a News Corporation publication. It is of little substance but there is one thing about it that is absolutely correct - the price. mX is free. I suppose that is their concession that the content isn't worth purchasing and quite literally they have to give it away.
However, with a circulation of half a million copies a week, it makes me wonder what it's actually doing to public opinion. What I can't tell is if it's read by people who wouldn't usually buy the newspaper anyway, or what percentage of people read it in addition to their primary news source, or even worse, for what percentage of people it actually IS their primary news source.

I can't decide if mX is a reflection of, or a contributor to the erosion of public morals and the increase of the stupidity of society. I concede that there is both a right to free speech and freedom of the press, but does it have to be so remorselessly puerile?

I also admit at this point, that because this rant has more than twelve words in it, most mX readers will have given up well before this... good. Society is better off without you and without mX.

March 23, 2010

Horse 1078 - Give Penalty Shoot-Outs A Red Card

Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory at the weekend played out a tension filled A-League Grand Final, ending up 1-1 at full time. The final should be regarded as a classic in years to come, but the final result is a travesty of justice.

One one hand, I am quite pleased that Sydney did win the title, but on the other hand, to win because of a penalty shoot-out is a hollow way to win anything. Both sides on the park have just played their guts out for 120 minutes, and the best they can come up with is a system akin to a lottery.
My opinion is shared at least by one other prominent person in the world of football:
"When it comes to the World Cup final it is passion, and when it goes to extra time it is a drama,but when it comes to penalty kicks it is a tragedy."
- Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA

How then can such a thing be allowed to continue? Penalty kicks as a way to end a match really are quite a horrid thing.

Before the World Cup in 1970 in Mexico, matches that had been drawn at the end of regulation time were either replayed, or extra time was played, or as in the case of the Euro '68 Semi Final between the USSR and Italy, decided by coin toss.
Now I'm not saying that a coin toss is fairer than a penalty shoot-out, in fact a coin toss is just as abhorrent. Surely there has to be a better method though.

In the "bad old days" when television didn't decide when fixtures were to be played, the most common method of deciding who would progress to the next stage of a knockout tournament was a full replay. Now I admit that for international fixtures, this poses a problem, but for a domestic competition it provides another potential chance for extra ticket sales.
The most protracted FA Cup tie of all time happened in 1955 between Stoke City and Bury, which wasn't decided until four replays later, being 1-1, 1-1, 3-3, 2-2 and finally Bury 2 Stoke City 3. The last FA Cup Final to be decided by replay was the 1993 final in which after 4 hours, Arsenal beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-1, then 2-1.

Admittedly the situation is a little bit different in Australia considering that we don't actually have a Cup, so they tack a cup competition onto the end of the league. Now I would have thought that the obvious thing to do would either be ditch the finals series and playout the rest of the league (since for some odd reason, everyone plays everyone else thrice), or in the event of a draw in finals series, simply force another replay at a neutral venue.
Or perhaps if that wasn't to everyone's liking, then why not simply award joint winners of the title. If two teams in a final have both played well (or even badly) and both of them deserve their name in the record books, then is there anything wrong with that?
If prize money is an issue, and if that truly is the driving the cause, then it stands to reason that neither side maximised a win, and therefore the total money on offer for the fixture should be split.

If you absolutely must decide a winner, then look at corners conceded and goal kicks forced. At least then you'd have an idea of who was attacking. For a supposed team sport to end as a battle of individuals in my opinion is stupid; it detracts from the game of football. For this reason above any other, the idea of penalty shoot-outs is wrong.

March 19, 2010

Horse 1077 - Driven: BMW 318i E90 - Smooth

Every so often, I get the chance to drive a new car. This happened this morning when I had to go to Trivett in Rydalmere to collect a pair of BMW kidney grilles for my boss' BMW 318i E90.

Firstly the name 318i is actually a misnomer. Underneath the bonnet is not a 1.8L engine as you'd expect but a 2.0L in-line 4 (N43B20 for all the nerds out there). The engine produces 105kW or 141bhp and is therefore almost spot on with the outgoing Holden Astra in terms of power.

The 318i aims quite squarely at its target market and is obviously a corporate-rep-box. It is appointed with leather seats, climate control, a decent stereo system with tweeters in the A-Pillars, electric everything, iPod connectivity etc etc etc. and therefore you'd expect it to be very easy to drive for extended periods.

The steering doesn't feel overly light nor stiff, in fact it's rather neutral in its posture. The handling of the car doesn't feel either heavy or lithe, and the engine and power delivery is very smooth. In fact that is the best way to describe this car, very smooth indeed. For the engine is whisper quiet, and apart from the rev counter going into fits and starts it seems unfussed pulling away from the lights or cruising down the motorway at 110km/h.

Yet this is precisely why I felt entirely uninspired by this car. BMW's corporate slogan is "sheer driving pleasure", and no matter where I looked, I simply couldn't find any.
Don't think by any means that this was a bad car, it wasn't bad in any respect. It's just that everything felt so polished, so smooth, so... bland and boring, that any character traits that the car may have had, have all been engineered out of it.
This car is the white bread of motor cars, the boiled white rice, the plain copy paper, the Staedtler 430M stick of the car world. It does everything properly and efficiently but there's no driving pleasure to speak of.

Driving this car has given me a new perspective on BMW drivers. There is one word which keeps on cropping up when you talk about BMW drivers; I have learnt that it's not the fault of the car, the car itself is very neutral. Therefore what they say about BMW drivers... exclusively applies to them.

March 15, 2010

Richard Dawkins ask the Questions... You Decide.
Thanks to the ABC's Q&A

RICHARD DAWKINS: The New Testament - you believe, if you believe in the New Testament, that God, the all powerful creator of the universe couldn't think of a better way to forgive humanity's sins than to have himself put on earth, tortured and executed in atonement for the sins of humanity? What kind of a horrible, depraved notion is that?

RICHARD DAWKINS: But the extreme is in the New Testament. I simply told you what is New Testament doctrine. That is St Paul's view, which is accepted by Christianity. That's why Christ came to earth, in order to atone for humanity's sins. If it's extreme, it's not me that's being extreme, it's the new testament that's being extreme.

RICHARD DAWKINS: Do you think it's admirable? You think it's admirable that God actually had himself tortured for the sins of humanity?

Is it admirable? I ask you.
Let's for a second run with Dawkin's own logic shall we?

If we accept that the problem of sin exists, then logically what chance does humanity have of ridding itself of it? If you have an organism, which is suffering because of a parasite or a cancer, you can either remove the parasite of cancer, or in the event that it can not be removed, the only sure fire method is to kill the host.

Suppose further that if you could find a second host organism that would act like either a sacrificial anode, and transfer the parasites or cancer to, wouldn't you consider that second host as admirable, or even noble?

The problem with this logic is that although you might cure the first organism, the second host, the sacrificial host would invariably die because it was carrying the parasite or cancer.

Suppose further that if the second host could regenerate itself after it had died, then it could in theory, keep on saving multiple target hosts that were in danger with this parasite or cancer. Wouldn't that second host because it could effectively solve the problem, be incredibly useful? What would happen if it could bear the parasites and cancers of many millions of diseased hosts at once?

Let's ask Dawkins' question again?
RICHARD DAWKINS: Do you think it's admirable? You think it's admirable that God actually had himself tortured for the sins of humanity?

I think...


Horse 1076 - How Much Non-News Do We Need?

On Saturday night I was about to watch the 6 o'clock news when Channel 9 had a "breaking" story that Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle had ended their relationship. Wanting to escape this and find some actual news I switched Channel 7 to find that they too were covering precisely the same "story"; then on SBS at half past 6, they too were leading with the same thing.
We were also bombarded with a story about an elephant called "Mr Shuffles", and with something about some fashion show in Paris. My reaction to all of this was to use that most magical of devices, the remote control... only to re bombarded elsewhere.

Now I hope that I've come to the wrong conclusion here but either there literally was nothing newsworthy over the weekend, or if the media are merely selling to and are therefore a relfection of society, then I am quite disappointed.

I bet that the only reason that the media cares about this is because they can sell more media and advert space (that is of course their whole raison d'ĂȘtre) and the best way to sell media is to publish something depraved if they can get away with it.
The thing is that, if the media is trying to sell us something, then there must be a ready market for it if it keeps on trying to push it.

From where I stand, I don't care, I don't want to care, I don't want to see, I don't want to know and I'm jolly well sick of it all.

The real news, because you couldn't find it is that:
- The Israeli plans to build settlements in the West Bank has finally been derided by the USA as hurting the peace process.
- Greece is looking for a €300bn bailout bond from the EU, possibly faces the chance of being expelled and that there is potentially a bigger problem lurking in Spain.
- Two Frenchmen taken hostage on Nov 22 last year have finally been freed in Dafur.
- The US Federal Reserve is expected to be given greater prudential regulation to help ward off the conditions which led to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis
- Kristina Keneally has wasted a stack of money in producing a pamphlet broadcasting that the NSW State Government has achieved in her first 100 days in office
- We are probably going to a Federal Election on the 14th of August this year.

It's utterly amazing and hopelessly disappointing that actual important news that has real effects on the world, doesn't even make the 6 o'clock news, because fashion, models and elephants are more "important".

If the world stops spinning tomorrow, I'm jumping off.

March 11, 2010

Horse 1075 - Camaro... Can I Smell Poo?

Today I turn your attention to the car which goes on sale next week, the Chevrolet Camaro. Now admittedly I haven't done a road test; I can't do a road test without getting my hands on the car, but by the same token I know that I'm fully qualified to give an opinion without doing one. Why? Because in all fairness, I don't even need to. I already know it's crap.

Now I don't say this to be jingoistic (though given that GM did kill what is essentially the same car in the Monaro), but rather on basic economic fact.

The Camaro was developed by none other than our own Holden, right here in Australia. It sits atop GM's Zeta platform, which was developed by Holden. It shares the same 3.6L V6 and 6.2L V8 engines along with the Commodore (and related HSV cars). It shares the same drivetrain and gearbox as the Commodore. In fact, the only real difference technically is a different set of springs and shocks, and a different set of engine management chips.
The Camaro for all intents and purposes is basically a two door Commodore; fulfils precisely the same function as the Monaro.

The biggest difference and in fact the main reason why I think that it is so incredibly crap is... the pricetag.
The starting price is A$134,990 as opposed to the top of the line HSV product at $87,690*. What that says to me is that GM think that it's worthwhile to give consumers the same car wrapped in a different skin, and charge them 40 odd grand more for the privilege of doing so.

Also I suspect after visiting America, that because the Camaro was built in America for Americans, it will be built to lower production standards. This was evident when comparing like for like - Cobalt and Astra, Malibu and Vectra.

All I can say is "Well Done" to GM for killing the Monaro and then selling a worse built car for 40 odd grand more. If the car had been built in Australia then it would have been done better, but then again Holden already inadvertantly admit this with their own advert tag: Holden. Go Better.
Well they would do, if they were allowed to.

*Actually the HSV W427 chimed in at A$155,500 but that's got a thumping 7L V8 in it, but they only built 138 of them and on special order only.

March 09, 2010

Horse 1074 - 3 Numb3rs

Back in Horse 928, I had a look at the more ridiculous numbers that have appeared on football kits over the years. Now I admit that I am perfectly used to seeing really high numbers on cricket shirts like Brad Haddin and 57, or Andrew Symonds 63, and I even remember New Zealander Roger Twose sporting the "devil's number" for Australian cricketers 87, on a few occasions.

It was therefore with a bit of surprise that I saw Tommy Oar who made his debut for Australia against Indonesia at Lang Park, in Brisbane (1-0 Australia, and qualification to the Asian Cup in 2011 thank you very much), sporting the kit number 121.

Is Australian sport now ready for such a thing? Should we now throw open the door and let everyone play in whatever kit number they want to?

In my opinion... Yes.

To be totally fair, it doesn't really matter what number someone plays in. As far as their ability to do the job, the simple affixation of a number means very little. Conversely the kit number itself connects quite well with the identity of a player. Think of Peter Brock and 05, Dick Johnson and 17, John Terry 26, Wayne Gretzki 99, Ferrari 27, and of course Michael Jordan 23.

Why not even take it a step further and allow other numbers? Should be go as far as 7/8 like Leela on Futurama? I don't know really.

I wouldn't even be surprised if at some point someone who is personally sponsored by 3 Mobile, puts their 3 on their kit. Now that 3 really would be a magic number.

March 08, 2010

Horse 1073 - Alternative Alternatives?

Thank you for calling the Australian Taxation Office's Personal Tax Inquiries Helpline on 132861. Unfortunately this service is not available at this current time. Please call our alternative phone number 132861. Thank you.

I thought I'd do a quick check of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to have a look what the word "alternative" actually means. Perhaps not surprising was the first definition which states that an alternative is something "available in place of something else". Materially if the alternative phone number of 132861 is in place of 132861, does that constitute something else?

Alternative music or culture can also be said to stand in place of something else. That something else being whatever the mainstream culture happens to be, be it music, film, magazine, lifestyle or whatever; again, the thing standing in place of the other thing, can not by definition be the first thing.

We find alternatives in the world of economics. If the price of something like the price of butter goes down, then more people will buy butter meaning quantity demanded increases. Butter and margarine are substitutes because either one of them can be used instead of the other. Since the price of butter decreased, more people will buy butter over margarine, and the demand curve of margarine will shift in. In other words, if you can find a substitute for a good, then those two goods have to be compared as alternatives.

All of this makes me wonder whether or not the ATO have actually grasped the concept of an alternative. By offering the same thing as a stand in or substitute for itself, is it really an alternative? I mean its not like they've directed me anywhere else is it?