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Commodore falls, how sweet it is.

January 14th, 2012 No comments

Sweet indeed Comrades to see Australia’s own Holden (do people still believe that crap) lose the best selling car crown to the Mazda 3. According to motoring journalist Pedr Davis you probably have to go back to WW1 to a time when a fully imported car was the best seller, before Australian’s fell under Holden’s spell the Austin A40 was the best selling car post WW2 but it was made (read assembled) in Australia.

It is nice to see the Mazda 3 score this win, but the invective that it launched on the Drive website in comments to the article was interesting. Australians are a parochial lot and when poor old Holden lost that top spot well it was like we had lost the Ashes for a century for some. They predicted the death of Holden and pointed out how great the Commodore was.

The reality is the Australian car industry survives on Govt. handouts and has since successive governments removed tariff protection for the industry. The problem is product development cycles take years to get into place but the market can change rapidly. Cars like the Mazda 3 and the Toyota Corolla (yawn) are now much larger than they were years ago. They offer enough space for many people and now oiffer excellent and economical performance. As such the need for big sixes like the Commodore and the Falcon is on the decline.and while people worry about their carbon footprint these big cars look indulgent, whether they are or not perceptions count.

Holden will ride this out, fleet sales will carry the Commodore forward, but Holden know where the future lie, hence why they are now assembling the Daewoo Cruze here and badging it as a Holden. The Cruze, Corolla and 3 will count for a huge chunk of the market.

But what I couldn’t help notice was the almost racist vitriol for Mazda in some of the comments. The latent racism that lurks in some Australians is indeed disturbing. The fear of the others and the latent dislike for other races comes forward when a sacred cow is challenged. When the Nissan GTR beat the Ford of Dick Johnson at Bathurst the bogans booed and the officials penalised the GTR out in future races. And when the Mazda 3 beat the Commodore that sacred Australian car (spare me bogans) well there was more than enough nasty comments about Mazda, tinged with words that belie a darker view of cars from elsewhere.

The Australian automotive industry is important for manufacturing skills but let us never forget it isn’t ours, those plants are owned by three multi-national companies, two American and one Japanese. They aren’t Australia’s plants. And one day the bean counters at those companies will decide they have had enough and move manufacture to some cheap country. Then what will Australians do when they can no longer cling to Holden like some security blanket?

So the anger directed at Mazda isn’t fair they don’t pretend to be Australian, they are Japanese made and proud of it. We have less to worry about from them than the damage Holden, Ford and Toyota will reap when they pull up stumps and leave. And it won’t be Mazda’s fault cause they made a car people liked. It is the “Australian” trio for not really caring about Australian manufacturing.

To declare bias in this rant, yes I happily contributed to Mazda 3’s sales victory in 2011, twice.

Categories: Cars Tags: , , ,

Then there were two Mazdas

January 7th, 2012 No comments

Well with great delight the family is now GM free. Yes in moves initiated a while back we now no longer own our Holden (read Opel) Barina, and instead own a second Mazda 3 Diesel. Yes I can hear you question the logic behind buying a second one but many things lead to a decision, some like a good deal can’t be predicted. But the thing that can be predicted is that if a car is damn good, owning a second one isn’t that hard to justify.

Our Mazda 3 Diesel twins

The Mazda 3 is the best selling car in Australia. If you take any fleet sales out, so that means people parting with their own money the Mazda 3 clears the Holden Commodore and the Toyota Corolla by a clear margin. It is easy to see why, they are not an unattractive car, they have plenty of room for a car their size, they have nimble handling and are fun to drive, they are Japanese so immediately more reliable than anything comparable care out of Europe, and once again the Japanese heritage means repairs tend to be cheaper than rival Euro brands.

Previously the family owned a Holden Astra and a Holden Barina, and after over 10 years of ownership it is hard to recommend anything from the Opel (let’s be honest the only thing Holden on these were the badges) stable, in fact I think the reliability matches what I expect of anything from the GM stable. While both cars performed well with spirited engines and good handling, they were maintenance hogs, so much so that I often suspected Alfa Romeo was responsible for parts of their design. Little faults cost a lot to repair but in the Barina’s case major flaws occurred that cost big money. Stuff like that shatters your faith in a car and then you want it gone. So my experience says anything Holden is bad news, they might not have made it themselves but they sourced it, promoted it and then maintained it, so to them I say your cars are crap.

And let me be clear Ford is no better, like Holden they have dished up average cars here in Australia for years and equally have imported cars from Europe that are underwhelming in terms of reliability. My mother owned a Ford Mondeo and after her experiences no thinking person could buy a Euro Ford and not expect a tale of woe.

So why diesel I hear you ask. Both cars use less fuel than the Barina did yet they go like the clappers. The days of diesels being slow is long gone. The Mazda can do 0-100 km/h in around 8-8.5 seconds which isn’t too bad, but while doing that they use very little fuel compared to a comparable performer. But it is in rolling acceleration they excel, doing 70 km/h in third gear the car is pulling around 2400 rpm, see a gap in the traffic, floor it and in a flash you are pulling 100 km/h and braking to avoid a ticket. Going up the Mt Ousley out of Wollongong the diesel motor easily propels it past the speed limit on the climb and under the bridge in 5th gear you are pulling speeds that would see your licence suspended, and it can comfortably keep accelerating.

The reason for this massive performance is torque and a prodigious amount of it. Peak torque is 360 Nm delivered from 1800-2600 rpm. To put that in perspective that is 10 Nm more than a 3.6 L Commodore, it is also 23 Nm than the V6 Toyota Kluger. Now both these cars eclipse the Mazda’s power figure of only 110 kW but as many have said, “Power is for show, torque is for go”. That massive torque that the Mazda diesel has means massive surging performance at the usable part of the rev range. There is no need to rev it’s head off it is flying before then. All this performance in the bottom end leads to lots of fun and it is fun that still sips very little fuel.

So now owning and driving two Mazda 3s it is easy to see how the Mazda 3 is the first imported car since WWI to become the best selling car in Australia. Doubly nice to see a GM product lose the top spot.

Categories: Cars Tags: , , ,

Safari – For the closet psychopath

January 4th, 2012 No comments

Last night I had the displeasure of watching Richard E. Grant and his The History of Safari programme on ABC. Well what does one say when the vitriol fills their mouth? I mean how can any thinking person who respects life enjoy seeing any animal killed for sport? Whether it is historical footage or not, seeing a black rhino, a highly endangered animal, downed in black and white film just fills me with rage.

I’m no vegetarian (except when my gall bladder demanded it) I eat meat, like any omnivorous animal, like a lion or leopard eats meat I understand that animals eating others is part of the way of life. Sure our overconsumption is another issue that we need to address as is our massive population. But the killing of magnificent animals like rhinos, leopards, lions, elephants and hippos for sport because they were vermin just sicken me.

Worse still there are psychopathic jerks who still want to go out, get a living animal in their sights and end its life, then admire their kill. I mean at what point does this count as sport:  ride a bike, sure; hit a ball, fine ; shoot at a target, OK. But killing another living thing isn’t sport. Now don’t mention culling animals, that is a whole other argument; massive issues there too. But I can’t help thinking that going out killing animals for pleasure and the “thrill” of the hunt is just one step short of a person killing others for pleasure.

Some will say they are only animals, we are part of the animal world and that argument just plays into the outdated idea that the world is ours to use as we wish. That has got us into a whole lot of environmental issues and seen us wipe out some beautiful creatures, in the name of progress.

I f someone kills a person for pleasure we rightly say they are disturbed and wrong, they are rightly stopped and punished. But in some parts of the world the killing of animals for the joy of it is OK. All I can say if you think it is OK to go out and take another creatures life as a sporting thrill you need to take a long hard look at yourself. No one should deliberately go out to take life for a sport. You are the vermin if you do that.

Categories: Rhino Tags: , , , ,

Latte Art – The Scream?

January 3rd, 2012 3 comments

OK I know I am drawing a longbow, but in the grand tradition of my latte art being like an ink blot test I poured the milk today, looked and thought… The Scream. You be the judge.

The Scream?

Categories: Coffee Tags: , ,

Just luck – Latte Art

December 31st, 2011 No comments

I have to admit I worry little about the aesthetics of my coffee, sure I don’t want them to look crap but my prime objective is that they taste good and that the stretched milk has the right texture. Stretching the milk is now even easier with the V3 steam wand fitted to my Rancilio Silvia; such a worthwhile upgrade, but I digress.

But every now and then I just luck it and the milk pour creates its own great latte art. Sure it never looks like the fancy latte art you get in a coffee shop, but like a good ink blot test one can see something in my “art”. So today I present the Lucky Leaf. Coffee on Comrades.

The Leaf - Lucky Latte Art

Categories: Coffee Tags: ,

Yes, I hate Apple

December 28th, 2011 No comments

OK I’ll admit it I do hate Apple. It’s not really the products, nor the users, it’s the bloody hyperbole that goes with Apple and I reckon man users and the company foster it.

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting back at a meeting and Apple was mentioned and a zealot said, “Yeah well they [Apple] manage to come up with innovations 15 years ahead of others.” Oh give me a bloody break. Yes that is the siren of the hyperbole police you hear. For a start 15 years is such a gross exaggeration. Yes the Apple Mac introduced the GUI when they reverse engineered it from Xerox, yes Apple zealots they didn’t invent it, they just redid it and marketed it. Partly cause Xerox didn’t realise they gold their researchers had developed. When Microsoft introduced Windows, Apple “visionary” (deliberate hyperbole used there) Steve Jobs was apoplectic with rage that Apple were copied. Clearly unfamiliar with the concept of the pot calling the kettle black he called Bill Gates over and questioned him about Gates’ “theft” of the GUI. Gates’ response was simple and clear: “…it’s more like we both had this rich neighbour named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it.” Yes Apple Zealots (would they be “Applets” :-D) Apple didn’t invent the GUI so stop whinging about Windows and any other GUIs copying.

Then Apple zealots want to tell you how innovative OSX is and how intuitive it is. Well OSX is good partly because it is built on a Unix back-end which makes it very stable. The interface is very pretty but intuitive? Well if you get a person used to Apple on there thewy love it. But get a Windows user on there, they will say it’s pretty, but they will be lost by certain things. No double click to install will be strange. Or when you click the red cross the program doesn’t Quit. No you have to select File> Quit. Now that’s intuitive… no it isn’t.

Pull out a thumb drive accidentally then try to plug it in again. Poor old OSX struggles there. You have to unmount it properly (that’s a Unix thing), which you do by trashing it, which always feels like deleting it. Strange, not intuitive. I once made this mistake of pulling out a thumb drive on a mate’s Macbook, to fix it I ended up in some disk management utility to correctly unmount the volume. He had no idea what I was doing. To a Linux nerd this was easy but to a new Mac user this would be a nightmare.

Then there is the whole iPhone and Android battle, which for the record Apple will lose. The iPhone is a cool device no doubt, but Apple didn’t invent the smartphone, or the touchscreen smartphone. They simply designed their own. It is good, well especially by the 3G model which could then be used here in Australia cause 3G networking needs multitasking which early versions of the iPhone couldn’t do. Ooh that’s a bit crap isn’t it. Oh it couldn’t do MMS either, also crap. Android just offers other hardware makers a mature and comparable OS to run their smartphones. Apple of course bangs on about copying, but what are other manufacturers to do, sit back and give Apple the whole market? Well that is what Apple would like, but sadly for Apple that won’t happen and Android will continue to push Apple and with a variety of handset makers will end up surpassing anything Apple will do.

I can hear the Apple zealots already talking about how much superior iOS is, like how it has this innovative notifications drop down in version 5… um, well Android has had that since Version 1 back in 2008! Apple isn’t afraid to copy either when it suits them.

It’s time for people to recognise Apple make some nice software and design some nice hardware too, but they certainly aren’t the second bloody coming, and Steve Jobs is certainly no messiah. As this New Yorker article explains, he wasn’t innovative, Jobs was the consummate tweaker. And this in itself is a skill, but he was no innovator. So let’s stop the hyperbole and just acknowledge they do some good stuff.

Categories: Computers Tags: , , ,

Everything’s Amazing & Nobody’s Happy

December 25th, 2011 No comments

I saw this recently at a presentation and I love it. I must admit I may be guilty of whinging about the lag my phone used to have (fixed now with a hacked kernel). But what Louis CK is saying is dead true. In the spirit of Christmas when we get even more stuff I hope you can watch this and ponder happiness. Enjoy.

Categories: Comedy Tags:

Saab’s Demise – GM has blood on its hands

December 24th, 2011 No comments

Sometimes an event occurs that just really bothers you. I mean they happen all the time from the mundane, like the whole Noël debacle, to the truly awful like the massive vote rigging in the Russian elections. But sometimes one event that isn’t earth shaking just really infuriates me and at the moment the demise of Saab has really managed to grind at me like a harsh grit abrasive. As you saw from my previous post I liked Saab, but I truly liked the pre GM Saab, when they truly were Saabs. But now that hatred and anger is squarely aimed at GM. Which clearly is an acronym for gross mismanagement or grotesque morons. This pack of moronic twits took a small niche manufacturer and tried to turn them into a Swedish clone of BMW. They progressively moved Saab mainstream and made them dependent a crap GM designs to achieve this. Their final act was to not guarantee access to GM parts, upon which the cars are now dependent.

When Saab aircraft offloaded the car division to unthinking owners like GM they effectively signed the death warrant of Saab. Immediately GM forced them to adopt GM technology instead of funding Saab to develop their own things. The post GM 900 was built on the Vectra platform and this alone is enough to raise the ire of Saab aficionados. This is the reason why the pre GM 900 is desired while the post GM one isn’t.

They also chose to turn their back on Saabs iconic hatchback designs because in GM’s eyes these weren’t what luxury cars had. BMW and Mercedes back in the 1990’s didn’t make hatchbacks so Saab should have sedans and wagons. What bloody idiots. The most desirable Saab 900s, the Aeros were always 3 door hatches, the nicest 9000 was the hatch. But in GM’s eyes the hatch had to go, forget other individual companies like Citroën that could make luxury hatches like the CX or the XM. So for the 93 and the 95 hatches had to go. Mainstream thinking.

Then there was the curse of badge engineering, this was a term coined by BMC in the 1950s where you designed one car and badged it as an Austin, a Morris, an MG etc. Well GM inflicted this ignominy on Saab too; in the US one could but the Saab 92X which was a rebadged Subaru Imprezza and then there was the truly gauche Saab 97X which was some hideous GM SUV. What the hell was Saab about these designs I ask you? Nothing is the response.

And then the final act of GM bastardry is that after making Saab wholly dependent on them for drive trains, they wouldn’t allow any new company that bought Saab to use any of these components, even in a transitional phase. This effectively gave any new owners incomplete models which had missing key components like engines.

So let me say this publicly and unambiguously: GM, I hate you, once I thought your vehicles were average to crap, but now I know it is worse than that, you as a company are rotten moronic arseholes who managed to ruin a small Swedish outfit that dared to be different. And for that I will never forgive you. Thankfully I no longer own any GM products and I never will again. And I will make it my life mission to point out what absolute dross your products are and ensure everyone knows that you dish up sh*t in just about every market you walk into. You GM are an example of everything bad about automobile companies. And a showcase car like the Chevrolet Volt doesn’t exonerate you from all the other garbage you’ve done.

Categories: Cars Tags: ,

Sad about Saab

December 21st, 2011 No comments

Years ago a Saab was a car I indeed lusted over. The family had owned Volvos (a 142S and a 244GL), but since I had an innate love for all things front-wheel drive , caused by my infatutaion with the Austin 1800, another Swedish car: Saab was my preferred choice. Thje Saab 900 was simply a dream for a boy that loved cars, front wheel drive and also planes. Here was  car made by  a plane company. With its cool wrap-around windscreen and aero inspired ergonomics it seemed like the ultimate car. It echoed the Saab 99 in styling and everything I read in the car magazines said cool things. Dammit they even had the keys at the gear stick, quirky coolness I tell you. The 9000 wasn’t as aero inspired, but it still was desireable.

Sadly though GM became the owner and well… just like most things GM, well Saab went from great to mundane. Oh there were flashes of great but the quirky invidual car company was gone for a more mainstream effort. The BBC mentions a word called snaabery, i.e. Saab snobbery, people who thing the orginal Saab models were great while the post GM Sabbs were a little ho-hum. Well I ham happy to be a “snaab” in that case, cause the 900 and its preceeding models were cars of desire and delight. What GM produced was a slow death march to the sad bankruptcy point we are at now.

For a nice montage of Saab check out this BBC slideshow.

Categories: Cars Tags:

Engineering Poem

December 19th, 2011 No comments

The other day my departing year 12 class provided me with a gift and a card. Residing in the card was this poem one member of the class (Andrew Solomon) composed. The card explained it didn’t rhyme as that was too hard, as many key words have a double meaning in engineering, e.g. upsetting is a forging process. Anyway a gem like this is to good to be left in a card so I’m publishing it here. I hope my class don’t mind. I should admit they misspelled Darth Vader, I have fixed that in the version below, some errors simply to great and must be addressed.

Engineering

By Andrew Solomon

Confronted by a class of nuts
On your first day last year
Some heads screwed on backwards
Others just cross threaded
You would’ve found abrasive personalities wearing
If it weren’t for your tungsten carbide shell

Some topics we found riveting
But others were a bore
Moulding sure was a drag
But somehow we managed to cope

The trial results were upsetting
But like spring steel we were resilient and forged ahead
You were happy to answer our questions
And anything about the force
would get your normal reaction
And we’d digress from an inclined plane to Darth Vader
But as work became harder we began to fatigue
And felt the same pressure, as if we were hydraulic oil.

In October we emerged from our concentration cells
to face the HSC,
Pitting our skills against the rest of the state
Did we nail it or fail? You’ll just have to see.

This poem meant heaps guys, you were a great class to teach. Thanks so much.