Archive for November, 2005

"Blinkers"

Posted: November 27, 2005 in Rant

While I’m on the subject of cars, either the reliability of turn signals in today’s cars is abysmal or turn signals are now an option on most cars. (Rhetorically he asks) “Why don’t people use their turn signals anymore?”

Did they stop teaching people how to use them in Driver’s Ed? Do people believe that they can transmit their driving intentions telepathically? Did they take the need to use turn signals out of state’s vehicle codes? Perhaps the need to use a turn signal (especially with a large SUV) has diminished greatly in a society full of “go for it” people.

Personally I think that the diminishing use of turn signals is merely a symptom of the diminishing consciousness of our collective society. Most people are so wrapped up in the small world of their personal vehicle that the well-being of their fellow drivers is a minor consideration. How often do you see someone in front of you who has the “body language” of wanting to change lanes or make a turn? When do they actually use their turn signal?

It seems that most people use their turn signal as a last resort. I am supposed to know that they want to change their direction of travel. As part of my hobby of observing human behavior, people end up using their turn signals after they start to actually make the maneuver (changing lanes, making a turn, etc). The use of the turn signal becomes an after-thought or worse, a statement of “I’m coming through whether you like it or not!”

Do I see this problem resolving itself soon?

No. In fact, it is getting worse rather than better.

Why?

How many people can hold on to a steering wheel and a cell phone while using their turn signal, all at the same time? 😛

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Hybrid cars are becoming more popular (OK, that’s a bit of an understatement) and I’m all for it. Yesterday (Nov. 21, 2005), the Los Angeles Times ran an article about hybrids in the business section. They note:

American automakers are launching hybrid versions of those vehicles to remain competitive in the areas where they are most profitable, said Anthony Pratt, an analyst who covers hybrids for J.D. Power & Associates in Westlake Village. It’s cheaper to modify an existing model than to build a new one, and SUVs have more room for adding hybrid components than sedans, he said.

To attract drivers looking for large and luxurious vehicles, automakers such as Lexus and General Motors Corp. are building hybrids with the look and size of regular cars. The focus on performance sacrifices some of the efficiency that got hybrids noticed in the first place.

Environmentalists say automakers are squandering fuel-scrimping technology that reduces air pollution as well as the nation’s reliance on foreign oil.

“Consumers are enthralled by hybrids because they sip gas and don’t guzzle it, and they pollute less,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s global warming program. “So if you have a hybrid that guzzles and doesn’t pollute less, then what are you doing?”

Though sales of large SUVs have taken a hit, luxury and mid-size SUVs continue to do well.

Automakers say gas guzzlers also have the most room for improvement. But some hybrids barely get better mileage than their non-hybrid counterparts.

Take the hybrid Chevrolet Silverado, which gets the same 19 miles per gallon on the highway as a regular Silverado. On city streets it gets 17 mpg, 2 mpg more than the non-hybrid.

The Silverado is among six hybrids available from or being designed by GM, the world’s largest automaker. All but one are SUVs or trucks.

GM says small improvements make a big difference.

Upping an SUV’s performance from 10 mpg to 11 mpg will save 109 gallons of gasoline every 12,000 miles. That’s more than the 100 gallons saved over the same distance by lifting a sedan’s fuel economy from 30 to 40 mpg.

The reason for the greater fuel savings in an SUV is that the SUV uses so much more fuel than a sedan does. The 11-mpg SUV needs 1,091 gallons to go 12,000 miles; the 40-mpg sedan needs only 300 gallons.

An estimated 220,000 hybrids will be sold in the U.S. this year, about 1.3% of the market, according to J.D. Power. That’s a major jump from last year, when 87,000 hybrids accounted for 0.5% of car sales.

I am a bit irritated at either the true feelings of the “environmentalists” or the way the article characterizes them. Any implementation of hybrid technology into any vehicle is a win. The effect of the initial implementation is not nearly as important as the implementation itself.

Look at emission controls. Initially they caused significant fuel economy and horsepower hits. Now engines gasoline engines are cleaner than ever without needing all of the “contraptions” of the initial implementation. Technological evolution and breakthrough combined with economic and consumer forces have moved us to having clean engines and (relatively speaking) good fuel economy.

Another point is further reductions in pollution from hybrid technology. As an avid cyclist, I am frequently exposed to exhaust fumes — especially while waiting at an intersection. Numbers of cars sitting still with their engines idling produce exhaust emission while sitting still. Hybrids allow these engines to shut down while the vehicle is stationary. I see this as one of the biggest advantages of hybrid vehicles, yet almost no one talks about it.

So, bring on the hybrids, even if they are large, lumbering SUVs or trucks. The world will be better with more hybrid technology in any vehicle.

BTW, we are a two-Prius family.

Drugs in Sports

Posted: November 21, 2005 in Bicycle Racing, Sports

Let me be perfectly clear, I do not condone the use of drugs for the purpose of enhancing one’s athletic performance. Let me also be perfectly clear that I believe that we, as sports fans, put too much pressure on athletes to perform. Sport is about achievement, not just winning. It’s natural to focus on winning, but not at the expense of sporting integrity.

I know that there are people who don’t care if an athletic feat is enhanced by drugs but I believe that they are in a very small minority. Most of the people that I know want our athletes to be “clean” and we disdain those who we discover to be cheating. I can imagine the immense pressure that is on an athlete to perform when he or she knows that their fan base will be destroyed when (and I use that word purposefully) they get caught.

Tomorrow (Nov. 21, 2005) the drug testers will test the “B” sample from Roberto Heras to see if it confirms the positive result of his “A” sample from this year’s Vuelta a Espana. Could the testing protocol be flawed? Perhaps, yet without it how many drugs would athletes be pumping into their bodies? I really hope that the result will be negative as most people have viewed Roberto as one of the good guys.

More importantly, let’s try to figure out how to eliminate the current incentives to use drugs.

Here we go again…

Posted: November 18, 2005 in motorsports

OK, I’m going to try this blogging thing again. I’ll be posting things from my personal and business life (within the bounds of corporate policy and government regulations). 😛

Why am I blogging? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a way for me to express my thoughts in less private way without necessarily exposing my whole persona. (Maybe it will be very public if people actually start reading this thing!)

I hope to share my views on bicycle racing, motor sports, computers, digital photography, lean (aka the Toyota Production System), politics, and more.

So, if your interests are similar to mine or if you are a blog voyeur, enjoy.

BTW, the posts from 2001 are from my prior attempt to blog using an old web site. I’ve copied those entries verbatim for, if nothing else, my own posterity.

Last big time auto race of 2005

The final weekend of NASCAR racing is coming up and it’s also the last weekend of major motorsports for the year. My wife is always happy when the motorsports season ends.

Once again, Mark Martin will not win “the Cup” and I hope that Jimmie Johnson doesn’t either. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if Carl Edwards won? If not Carl then Tony Stewart (who’s currently leading the standings) is OK by me.