Saturday, July 30, 2005

Travel Warning for Americans Abroad

Do not say you like George Bush. I repeat, do not say you like George Bush. He is universally hated abroad, and some believe he might be the anti-christ. I despise him so I fit in well here.

I have moved into my new flat, and am free from the pestilence of hostels. I've met a lot of foreigners in London, in fact most of the people I have met and had conversations with have not been British but in fact have been from around the Commonwealth and America. I hope to remedy that eventually, but for now it's interesting to meet every different major accent of English.

Here is a rough guide to national character. Stereotypes abound, so do not read further if you are easily offended:

Australians--Super kind and nice people. Attractive in general, their women are gorgeous. As nice as Southerners.

British--Cold and somewhat distant, though loosen up when drinking. Occasionally rude, but never overtly so like New Yorkers. Women are either stunning, or wholly unattractive. Very little in between.

South Africans--Very kind and nice. Might hold a different view of Apartheid then most peoples of the world including black South Africans. But still very nice people. Average attractiveness.

Kiwis--Cold and distant, somewhat haughty. Think they are all intellectuals. Have enormous inferiority complex to British. Sole donation to English culture limited to the Lord of the Rings films.

Those are all that I've met in large amounts so far. I will photograph the street I live on eventually. I'm sorry this isn't auto related, but since this is a blog I might as well have an occasional personal entry. On a side note, I knew there was a catch to my finding an apartment so cheap. The street that I live on has a mosque on it. Armed policeman stand in front of it 24 hours a day watching it. I expect them to stay there for a long time. I live in the Muslim area of London and there is heavy police presence. Gulp.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Alarum, New Blog, Alarum!

Auto IT blog is really interesting in that it is written by a Briton living in the UK who works in the auto industry and also does IT for them. This is of great importance to anyone who wishes to learn about the auto industry because virtually every car has a mini computer within it to control all kinds of things from bluetooth to climate control to ABS. I will be reading it often.

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Anyone have any requests for me while I'm in Britain? I'm going to be photographing strange cars once I move to my new abode out of the hostel. I've found that real photos instead of doctored studio ones give a person a really good idea about what t expect out of a vehicle. I'm really impressed by the way Peugeots look, as well as Alfa Romeos, though I haven't seen too many of the latter. The Euro Focus is just beautiful, and Ford should seriously think about importing it to the US, or maybe just change its face, call it a Mercury and have it compete against the Jetta. It is really nice. The Ford Fiesta and Ka are too dingy for me.

I highly recommend NOT living in a hostel for a long period of time in a foreign country, unless your idea of travelling is hanging out only with other Americans and watching reruns of Friends all day long. Which is what a good percentage of people in my hostel seem to really enjoy. Kind of frightening actually.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Enjoying Flint

I read on message forums, and on other blogs incredible distaste for Jerry Flint, automotive writer at large, but I really think that he's on the right track sometimes. He also relies mostly on his own intellect and a total lack of research to write his columns, much like most blogwriters. The one difference is that he is paid for his work, while the rest of us wish we were paid.

His latest column is just common sense. Make a small car, make it well, and you get buyers. Make a small car, make it crappy, and you are forced to sell a substantial number of to fleet sales. Of course the two automakers used in this example are Toyota and GM. You can imagine which is the former and which is the latter.

I've ranted and raved over how the future of the American auto market is what I'm currently seeing in Britain. The cars are honestly not that much smaller, it's just that there are a lot more small cars. I.e. there are a lot more VW Golfs, and Honda Civics. SUVs are nowhere to be seen (at least in the city). There are a lot more motorcycles and scooters. A minor digression: buy Harley and Honda stock, and hold them for a few years. Well only buy Harley if they can make their bikes more suitable to navigating an urban jungle.

Interiors must be tastefully and conservatively done, but with class. Cars must be fuel efficient. They don't necessarily need to be that reliable. They need to handle well, and they need to look competent. These are very doable things for the Big 3. But they don't do them, or at least not across the board.

I expect Toyota as a marque to decline in the US after it reaches the top, and Scion and Lexus to become the big money. After 1980, the market for large sedans never really recovered, and probably will never recover now with gas an issue.

In the next couple of weeks I should have secured some interviews of Britons working in some aspect of the auto industry here, and I will write them up when I get the chance. In the meantime wish me luck in getting a job here in the auto industry, or for that matter just getting a job.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Totally unnecessary and Extraneous Photos from the Tour De France

Taken by me yesterday in Paris. Lance is one of those blurs I think.

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Weaning a Population off of Oil

That's a photo of the Eurostar, or more popularly known as the "Chunnel". The photo is from yours truly just before I got on. It was my first time taking a so-called "bullet train", or a train that went over 100 miles per hour. While traveling the sensation is not one of high speed, with only the occasional ear popping to tell you that you are dropping in elevation at a high rate of speed.

Right now the Chunnel could hardly be called overwhelmingly popular, despite its novelty. Both times I took the train to and from Paris, I was next to or near an empty seat. And from what I have read, the Chunnel's competition of hovercraft, ferries, and airplanes still beat it in profitability. I think in the long run however, the Chunnel will beat all of them.

As fuel prices inevitably rise, since all of the Chunnel's competition comes from gasoline using vehicles, the cost to use such services will increase by necessity. The Chunnel runs on electricity.

Is there a use for such a train in America? Amtrak, the only American passenger train line has attempted to making a high speed train route from Boston to Washington DC. At last word, the train's brake system has malfunctioned and the train is down indefinitely. However, the train did have some measure of popularity.

If gas prices rise dramatically in an emergency situation, governments will need to be able to continue to move their citizens rapidly in order to keep the economy moving. Delays in travel mean lost working hours and lost profits. If there is a fallback system such as a high speed train that will enable people to travel from one city to another without using gasoline, this will compensate for some of that loss due to a gas price increase.

Some will argue that there is no market for a high speed train in many parts of the country. If the train route is created, a market might come into existence. Others will argue that a train system should make a profit. My answer to that is that no public transportation system in the world makes a profit, and most probably lose money. But part of being in a modern economy is having governments willing to subsidize their capitalist economies with transportation systems that work, even at a loss. Though the transportation system might lose money, the addition of taxes collected from successful businesses and individuals will make up for the loss. The lack of an impact from a gasoline shortage, and continued income from taxation of these individuals allows a nation to make more money and be competitive with other countries. The same people who argue Amtrak should be profitable, argue for a larger military. No military is profitable, and the arguments for a larger military, primarily to keep our interests from others, are similar to the arguments for having a healthy public transportation system. Indirectly through taxation, we all benefit.

Now if they could just eliminate that nasty little bombing threat, British public transportation would be perfect.

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Photo Issue

I'm trying to upload photos from my digital camera, but I never installed the drivers. If anyone knows where to get drivers for a DSC S40 Sony Cyber-shot, I'd be very thankful. Some of the photos are from the end of the Tour De France if anyone's interested. I would post them all here. It's not exactly car related, but what the hell.

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