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Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Current State of Transportation

Its been a long time since I have had a good rant, so here we go:

There are several problems with the American auto industry. The fuel mileage problem stems back to the 1950s post-war was good, everything was bigger, better, faster. Prices were low because our economy was in a boom. Along come the 1970s....things weren't really the same anymore, but good ole America decided to keep trucking with the same values as the previous 2 decades....gas would be cheap again someday, why change the way we operate....Lets put a band-aid on the situation and keep making HUGE cars except put a few smaller engines in them and call it economical.

The past 2 decades have seen ups and downs, but people are finally realizing that those "good ole days" aren't coming back, so there is a fundamental industry shift happening. The most graphic example are the government bailouts of big auto.

I am often ashamed of the way much of this country works....paying union laborers insane salaries to produce really shitty cars is just one of the many low points we have seen.

Fortunately the past several years has seen a nice advance in the "mid-size" car segments. (anything roughly the size of the ford fusion). Automakers are still pushing vehicles that are too large.

I completely blame the automakers here: For several decades, all they sold were huge vehicles...suddenly everyone expects them and are trained to think that the bigger vehicles are better, more comfortable, and safer.

This strangles the small car segments that EVERY OTHER COUNTRY has. In USA, people purchase a vehicle with characteristics they *might* need at some point in the future. I would love for there to be some analysis of vehicle buyers and veto their choice of transportation.......

" you want to buy a Dodge Durango.....Does it snow where you live?"
"Do you have 4 kids?"
"Do you frequently go offroad?"
"Do you haul large loads of cargo?"
"Do you tow trailers?"
"No." wtf do you need this vehicle for? You drive 20miles per day in city traffic and you average was this a wise choice.?

It isn't wise, but people often have this inferiority complex. I go into a silent rage every time I seen a tiny blonde women piloting a Yukon Denali.....that is $50,000 of gass suckingness, and you use it to put around town.

People never purchase based upon their need, they purchase based upon this dreamy image of themselves that will never become a reality.

Like everyone who purchases a Jeep or Land Rover...extremely capable vehicles, but they will never venture off-road because they are scared of doing anything adventurous.

Everyday on my way to work, some asshole in an F-150 (or larger) passes me on the highway at 85....why do you need a pickup truck to commute? Get a second car and leave the truck at home. Take your truck out on weekends to tailgate when you actually need it.

Now lets talk about safety.
Safety is a good thing (to a point. I'm not sure how I feel about all the intelligent equipment the luxury cars have now...parallel parking, lane departure, blind spot warning, pre-collision braking...)

The biggest flaw in the safety is the drivers education program in this country. They need to weed out bad drivers before they ever get to the road. But nobody has the balls to fix it. Some states do not even TEACH parallel parking. The biggest progress i have ever seen was a panel discussion held by Autoweek Magazine where they run an entire issue around drivers education.

Some of the best solution I have ever heard: "Make everyone learn to ride a motorcycle before they can pilot a car" <- This way they will either learn to respect the road with other large shiny bullets flying around them...or they will die from their stupidity before they even get behind the wheel. I LOVE this idea (very darwinian)

The BIGGEST problem I see with safety is the huge disparity of vehicle sizes. In europe, everyone has roughly the same size vehicle. Same in mexico. When you crash, you are crashing into something your size. NOT SO in the USA. When big car meets small car...guess who wins? This perpetuates the idea that we need to put our drivers in BIG vehicles to protect them from crashing into someone driving the Excursion.

In response, we do our best to make smaller vehicles safer, and there have been HUGE advances since the Pinto. I owned a car that weighed 4800lbs and had no airbags or other electronic safety features. Now I own a car that weighs 2300lbs and has airbags. I don't really feel a big difference in my safety. I believe that the maneuverability of my Celica will help me avoid bad situations before they occur...again it comes down to driving skill.

Now we can get to MPG. All the safety features in cars comes at a price: Weight. In order to maintain the same level of performance with added weight, they increase engine size. Which directly affects the fuel economy. I still don't understand why engines are always getting bigger, and cars are always getting larger.....its unnecessary.

Finally we are getting back to the point: Mini Coopers get awesome gas mileage...40+ highway (below 70mph) Ford Fiestas 40+ MPG highway. But neither of these cars are "big enough" for the greedy americans.

My mother loved the idea of my car (sporty little Celica)...but the moment she got in it...she said: NO the hood is too short. WTF? Since when does hood length correlate to ANYTHING? That is a mental barrier that she has installed that comes directly from the American love affair with big cars.

Now onto CAFE standards......such a deceptive measure....only applies to actual vehicles as long as they sell enough of their fuel efficient models, they can tip the average in their favor.

AND light trucks are a completely different category subject to much more lenient requirements.

2011 Car: 30.2MPG
2011 Light Truck: 24.1MPG

on top of all this, certain huge vehicles (Excursion, Hummer) were EXEMPT because they exceeded the GVWR of 8500lbs. SO the biggest gas suckers weren't even counted against CAFE average....sell all you want...

AND automakers get ridiculous benefits for selling the Flex-fuel E85 ethanol vehicles....along with other credits for hybrids.

So automakers complain, but its really cushy.

And never mind the fact that few people will ever see the MPG ratings that are printed on the window stickers.....That comes down to driving conditions and driving style. I am fortunate to average really high due to the fact that 95% of my driving is on the highway. But I also know how to drive around town and still get good mileage.

And now to Diesels. Most of the stigma on diesels stems from cars like my Mercedes from the late 70s early 80s....lots of noise, fumes, and black smoke. That was a big turnoff for people. Even though diesel fuel was cheaper than gas through the mid 2000s...even though disel engines are far more efficient. My big mercedes never averaged below 24mpg and got as high as 28mpg. This car was made in 1984, back when all the other comparably sized american station wagons would get about 18mpg.

New disels have none of these fact, you are hard pressed to know they are a diesel from 10 feet away. They just purr now. AND they are emissions legal in all 50 states now due to new emissions control.

I really want to get behind the wheel and test things out:

Mercedes Benz E320 BlueTEC: ~26mpg full time average for a full size sedan...
Volkswagen Jetta TDI: ~35..up to 42mpg (Definitely no lower than 30) This is for a reasonable size sedan that would suit the needs of most americans...also available in spacious wagon form
BMW 335d: 28-35mpg

What is more impressive are the engines that we DON'T Have due to emissions or lack of demand...

Smart ForTwo Diesel: 50+mpg
Mini Diesel: 50+ mpg

Those are hybrid numbers without all the hybrid crap (weight, batteries that need replacing....lack of power)

What we need is more innovation and automakers who aren't afraid to cut the fat from their lines. The bad news is..the light truck segment is extremely profitable, but it is unethical and irresponsible to continue to make and sell vehicles that people don't need. While there are numerous exceptions to this rule and many individuals that actually use the utility of their vehicles....I would say they are the minority.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

New to Foursquare?

I wrote a new blog post concerning the benefits of Foursquare for small business (or any size business). Give it a read and let me know what you think!

Yes, take me to your awesome Blog Post!

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Blog Post

Hey there, I have a new blog post about Monetizing Twitter over at The Search Agency! Hope on over and take a read!

Tickle Me with a Click!


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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The iPad's Biggest Issue

Even as I type this, someone is enjoying their new iPad at the table in front of me. There is no denying that this sleek, innovative product will make a splash in the digital world.

Never before have all these features been combined in such a portable package. Like it or not, Apple is rapidly selling their first model (WiFi only) in stores around the world.

There is only one wrinkle in the iPad's otherwise smooth aluminum exterior. The stock background image used in all iPad promotions is the MOST BORING PICTURE to come out of Apple in all eternity! Everyone knows the classic, nebulous, purple Mac background that has graced our screens for years. The iPad would have benefited greatly from a similar, graphically appealing presentation.

While I'm sure that the mountain ringed lake displayed proudly on the iPad screen is beautiful and breathtaking IN PERSON, I find it prudent to market a device with a background that POPS off the screen.


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Monday, April 05, 2010

Why Twitter is cooler than you think

I discovered Twitter about two years ago. The fledgling company was already making waves in the new social media pool. I entered into many discussions about the validity of their service.

-Communication in just 140 characters?
-Why do I need another way to tell the world my status?
-All my friends are already on Facebook!

Some of my friends wagered that Twitter would be dead in a year (by 2009), having fallen out of the nest without learning to fly.

I still defended Twitter, even though I had no interest in using the service myself. I saw the value in this service, even if they couldn't make any money.

My Twitter saga began nearly two months ago when I created an account as part of a project. I never intended to use the service continuously, or obtain much value from the Twitter community.

I was dead wrong.

Since my arrival on Twitter, I have interacted with individuals and even made some new friends.

-I have worked on a collaborative project with someone from LA
-I have found potential employers in San-Fran and Chicago
-I have interacted with employees of companies I might wish to work at someday
-I have received valuable information about travelling from someone in New Zealand
-I have helped others with their college search

All of the above and more are the result of actual conversations, I have also emailed and called many of these individuals.

Unlike "old school" social networking sites (Myspace, Facebook, etc.) Twitter is uninhibited by a creepiness factor inherent to other services. There is only one privacy control: Everyone can see everything, or they can't. Pretty simple.

I often feel completely comfortable reaching out to individuals around the world if I feel they can answer a question, or provide some value to my life.

I encourage everyone to give this game-changing service a try and see what you can get out of it.

If you liked this post, use the following link to share it on Twitter! (or anywhere else)

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Who took the "Social" out of Media?

Social media used to be all fun and games, but suddenly everyone is looking at it very seriously. Some companies are using it to reach out in new ways, including marketing and employee screening.

Career counselors are warning us to check our privacy settings and clean up our profiles. While I do have privacy settings on my Facebook, doesn't this warning directly conflict with the mission of social media? If we censor ourselves in every medium, where can we truly express ourselves?

This leads to some serious questions:

-Should employers make hiring decisions based upon online content?

-Should employers be allowed to take punitive action against employees in response to online content?

This is a difficult issue which will rage on in the coming decade. I follow these guidelines when using social media:

1. Play fair, do not use your platform to bash other people or organizations. Do not hide behind your anonymity.

2. Keep it (somewhat) clean. Ask yourself "would I be embarrassed if my friends saw this?"

3. Don't take yourself so seriously. Social media was conceived as an informal (and fun) channel of communication.

While I have always believed in controlling personal information on the internet, the idea that a perspective employer may judge my character based upon my online content is unpleasant. While there are always extreme cases, I hope freedom of both information and expression will prevail.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Why are you taking so long Groupon?

Many are (im)patiently awaiting the announcement of the Live Off Groupon finalists. After submitting our applications February 24, we knew the wait would be long, but now we are in double overtime and the stakes are high.

Never before has the phrase "Many will enter, few will win" held such a prominent place in my mind.

Don't forget to support the Groupawn in his/her quest by joining the Groupawn Help Network!

What is happening at Groupon HQ in Chicago? We can only I will:

After selecting the finalists in their late night screening, there was much discussion and disagreement among employees. What started as simple dissent soon became heated arguments. These arguments led to a cultural divide between Groupon employees. Tensions continued until Monday when employees returned to work only to find their office ravaged by tribal warfare. It seems that employees divided into camps supporting their favorite entrants and the only way to resolve their differences was battle!

While the contestants all waited with bated breath, mashing F5 every 10 seconds (CMD+R for our Mac friendly friends), a civil war raged within the confines of 600 W Chicago Ave. The only thing that can save Groupon and the contest is that merlin of deals, Andrew Mason. He returned to the office after a business meeting to find complete disarray, desks and computers smashed.

He quickly restored peace with a wave of his Groupon Wand (I'm sure he has one, if he doesn't he will get one soon..) The contestants should have been posted at noon (Chicago time), but since all the computers were smashed and cellphones used as ammunition, no one could update the website, or even post to a twitter feed.

What happens next? Well no one rightly knows...perhaps a Groupawn intervention where all the contestants race to Chicago to help rebuilt the Groupon empire...

....or maybe they will update the website later....

They have made up the rules thus far, who would expect them to follow any of our notions?

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