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<This is a serious post>

Years ago I convinced (forced) my sister to buy a bike I no longer wanted. It was a Schwinn Hybrid bike, intended by the manufacturer to fill the spot between a road bike and a mountain bike. It was supposed to be perfect for a college student who needed to get to class. It could go off road if necessary. It could handle sidewalks and roads with ease. It was a Hybrid.

She hated it. And, in her defense, I’d hated the bike myself. It wasn’t tough enough to handle the intensity I expected from a bike. It bent (or broke) when I took it off-road. It was too slow when I was on-road. It was a geeky white color. It was called “Diamondback”…because snake names are tough, I guess. Although I did get a lot of good use out of it, I purchased a true mountain bike as soon as I was able (on credit at 18% interest). Despite my selfish reasons for suggesting she buy the bike, though, I did honestly think she’d really dig riding the Hybrid. She wasn’t the type that would try to tear up a bike. She wasn’t the type who tried to scare sidewalk pedestrians by speeding by them too closely. I figured the Hybrid was perfect for her. I was wrong, although her reasons for not liking the bike were different than mine. And, in the end, I think she drove over it with a car or threw it off a bridge or something.

Because of the poor experience with that bike, the word Hybrid has always carried a negative connotation for me. I saw a Hybrid as something that tried to fill two niches, but instead failed on both accounts. A Hybrid was a compromise. A Hybrid was weak. A Hybrid was not for me.

In the first 10 years of my illustrious career, my automotive manufacturing clients (of whose brands I have to drive) didn’t sell Hybrid vehicles. So, obviously, there was no thought given to them. A couple of years ago, though, these companies did start to bring Hybrid products to market. But, just like the Hybrid vehicles built and sold by the manufacturers we saw as competitors, these new products seemed to be VERY uncool and gimmicky…or they were just versions of existing products, with a much more expensive powertrain. So, I rationalized and justified not getting on the Hybrid bandwagon. “What good is a vehicle that gets great gas mileage”, I thought to myself, “if you get run over by a big truck while blissfully toodling along in the fast lane?” “Hybrids are ugly.” I said. “Who needs a Hybrid when we can just go bomb another country and take their gas?” I said. Or, “I’m stuck in this five year lease and am too far upside down to get something more practical.” Or, “I’m loyal to corn, let’s do E85 instead.” And even, “those Hybrid people are self-righteous wackos.”

A couple of things changed my thinking. And, I’m willing to admit I was wrong before. In no particular order…

First, I watched an “Inconvenient Truth” with Al Gore. It’s a powerful movie and he deserves every bit of kudos and praise he has gotten. Second, I changed jobs. I now work for an automotive client who made the sound business decision to be the leader in Hybrid technology and sales. Obviously, to be successful in my new position I needed to adopt their same mantra. Third, gas continues to get more and more expensive. Fourth, it has become increasingly evident that the type of democracy this country wants to create in the middle east would be one where a company like Exxon-Mobil would continue to report record profits…and that is not justification for even one soldier’s death (sorry for the rhetoric, but ‘gas=dead soldiers’ rings very true). Fifth, BetterHalf stated when I started the new job she wanted a Hybrid. Lastly, I realized the “eco-righteous” were suddenly cool…and I’m ALL about looking cool.

So, we got a Camry Hybrid.

With my “work from home position”, BetterHalf is now driving a lot more than I am…at least when I’m not traveling for work. So, she’ll drive the Camry Hybrid the majority of the time. But, even though it is technically her car, I am “digging” it too. But, of all of the reasons stated above for why my mind changed, the one hardest for me (and most people) to understand is the one having to do with gas prices and money saved. True, a Hybrid vehicle is a little bit more expensive. And, because of that fact most pontificators state that the increased cost for the vehicle is never going to be recovered by a reduction in fuel used. In other words, you spend the money either way…it’s a zero sum argument, they claim.

They are wrong.

The Ford Escape is what BetterHalf used to drive. It was a good family sized vehicle…not too big, not too small. She loved it. It was a good vehicle for her. And, it got 23 mpg on the highway!! So, it got a better mpg than all of the pickups and large SUVs out there. And, five years ago times were a little different. The decision to buy it back then was based on different world circumstances. Anyway, she put 80,000 miles on it. For the purpose of the argument let’s assume all 80K were highway miles. That means she used 3478 gallons of gas. At $2.00 a gallon estimated average, she spent $6956 on fuel in five years. (At $2.50 average she spent $8695…at $3 average, she spent $10,434…guess that extra dollar makes a big difference…and I’ll come back to this point.)

The Camry Hybrid gets 38 mpg highway. This is not a published or “theoretical” number. I know this number is factual and based on real world driving, because I have done it. I drove the car from Hattiesburg, Mississippi to Texas…575 miles of Interstate driving…with the cruise control set at 70 mph…and I watched the computer read-out the whole way. 38 mpg highway is what I got. Sure, I could have gotten worse mileage. I could have floored it every time some jamoke tried to box me in behind a semi in the right lane while they talked on their cell phone in the left lane blissfully ignorant of any other cars on the road. I could have driven 75 or 80 mph. But, I made good time all the while still driving responsibly.

So, at 38 mpg, those same 80,000 miles on the odometer will equal 2105 gallons of gas. At $2.00 per gallon that equates to $4210 in fuel costs over five years.

$6956 – $4210 = $2746

I can think of several things I could buy with $2746…or roughly an extra $45 a month.

But, the real wisdom in this argument comes with factoring in a higher present-day average cost for a gallon of gas. If the average was $2 five years ago, we owe it to ourselves to use $3.00 as an average going forward. We all know there’s no way the price will go down. The oil cartels…er, I mean, companies will continue to claim “refinery maintenance” or “futures fluctuation” as an excuse while they continue to collude and price fix. The Chinese will continue to require more and more oil to fuel their growing economy. And, Halliburton will continue to mystically lose millions of gallons of oil while “rebuilding” Iraq. So, anyway, let’s use $3.00 for the argument going forward. Those 2105 gallons of gas for those 80,000 highway miles will cost $6315 when using a $3 average. $6315 versus $6956, right?

What happened to the big savings? How can I justify the Hybrid?

That’s where the “pontificators” stop. That’s where they miss the argument.

Compare oranges to oranges. Compare $3 now to what $3 would have been in the past…(never minding inflationary adjustments of course…) $3 for the Escape miles and mpg would be $10,434, not $6956.

So, we’re comparing $6315 to $10,434…a difference of $4119 over five years…or about $68 a month.

Comparing the cost of gas at present…and thus the savings gained by driving a more fuel efficient vehicle…to a cost of gas in the past without including an “oranges to oranges” factor is missing the point of the comparison. The equation does change over time.

Looking at this another way, consider if we had gotten a new Escape (with the same highway mpg)…and paid $3/gallon while driving it for 80,000 miles, we’d pay again the same $10,434. The savings for the Hybrid when comparing present day to present day thus would also be the same…$4119 over five years.

Consider too, when doing all of these comparisons, that not every mile driven is a highway mile. And, consider that a regular motor gets worse gas mileage in city driving vs. highway while a Hybrid gets better mileage in the city than on the highway. For example, the Camry Hybrid is listed at 40 mpg in the city by the EPA. The Escape only gets 19 in the city. As a result, ALL of the comparisons used above were factored using the “best” number for the Escape and the “worst” number for the Hybrid. So, when real-world, day-to-day, bumper-to-bumper, gridlocked city driving is included in the calculations, know that the savings realized by the Hybrid will be about 20-25% better than the figures quoted above…that’s another $1000…

A rebuttal point to all of this could be, “so why not just get a car that gets high gas mileage? why do I need to get a Hybrid?” The answer is, “you’re right.” You could just get an econobox instead of the Hybrid and get great gas mileage that way as well. But, remember about tailpipe emissions. A Hybrid is considered a PZEV (Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle). When that electric motor is running, there aren’t any nasty things being put into the air. Unfortunately the best you can do with the econobox is ULEV (Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle). A Hybrid just happens to be a little bit better in that category.

So, what about the pontificators and their argument that the higher cost of the Hybrid motor would never be recouped through fuel savings? Well, a quick scan of the Toyota website shows the MSRP for a Camry Hybrid is around $26,900. And, the MSRP for a comparably equipped non-Hybrid Camry is around $22,900. That my friends is a difference of around $4000. Never one to let one example make the argument, I also took a quick scan of the Ford website to get prices for the Escape and Escape Hybrid. Without spending a lot of time on verifying whether the features for the two vehicles were exactly comparable, it looks as if the price differential is in the ballpark of $5000.

Therefore, it does appear that when buying the more expensive Hybrid, it’ll only take 5 years to recoup the investment…thus proving the pontificators wrong.  (Using a $3/gallon cost estimate…if gas continues to go up in price, the break-even point will occur even sooner.)

So, in the end, there are lots of reasons for making the switch. The money angle just happens to be the one where I spent the majority of my time in consideration. For you, maybe the missing oil in Iraq could be the more important fact…maybe the rise of Chinese industry is a powerful determination…or, maybe being one of the “eco-righteous” is appealing. Regardless, please give it your consideration.

Yes. I’m a convert. And, compared to some, I’m a very late convert. But, I’m a convert for pragmatic and rational reasons. And, frankly, I had career obstacles previously.

The Camry Hybrid is white, by the way. But, since I don’t intend on taking it off-road it should hold up just fine.

Maybe I’ll even call it Diamondback…

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The decision has been made…

After a 12 year span from when the work computer was switched from an Apple to a PC (or a 17 year break if considering the home computing situation) I am returning to my roots.

Hello, I’m a Mac indeed…

(creativity now knows no obstacle)

I’ve pretty much had it.

The use of a PC in this household will soon be ended.

And, while the current Apple TV commercials (with PC Guy and Mac Guy) have been top of mind the last couple of days while this thought has been contemplated, the reasons for the switch go beyond mere advertising influence. At present, my DVD Burning is sketchy at best. The video editing takes FOREVER. The software incompatibility is on-going. For example, on Wednesday Micro$oft installed a critical update. From that point, my Norton Antivirus/Firewall/Utilities has/have caused the system to run extremely slowly. Today, Norton tells me the ‘Trial Period’ has ended and I need to activate. Funny, I paid for (renewed/installed/activated) the software only two months ago. Ridiculous. Point is, there are multiple problems with PC Guy.

So, at this point, it just comes down to when I can convince the CFO (aka – BetterHalf) to free up some CASH for capital expenditures. Since I doubt I’ll get carte blanche,we’ll prolly end up with an iMac or a Mac Mini. Either way, I see it as follows. Spend money on updating/upgrading the PC to run better, burn better, edit faster, be hassle-free…or spend the same money on a Mac.

Beep…Beep…Beep

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep…….

UPDATE – spent four hours on a beautiful saturday a) chatting with Norton tech support b) removing all Norton installations c) re-installing all Norton software.

PRICELESS

For those that stop by here for insight…

Well, those that come by looking for something other than pic of Thongs…

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I haven’t been updating. This faze will pass. The Jamoker will return.

Until the poop-load of activities settle down, I’m just NOT able to dedicate myself to true irreverent thought and discourse. Bear with me though…

But, if you are looking for something to contemplate, have a look at this. The political and scientific debate about what humans are doing to the planet ranks near the top of my interests. And, this post from the VCinNYC blog is VERY GOOD.

I love technology. I want technology to succeed. I don’t want to live in a world where we have to make our own soap…kill our own food…die at 35 from an incurable flu bug.

Cincinnati…WKRP.

I mentioned E85 yesterdayZilla asked for more info…so, here's the deal…

You gotta buy a car with the E85 (flexfuel) capability in order to use E85 fuel. Unfortunately, you can't just run any car on E85 because it requires special gaskets, oxygen sensors, etc. in the motor. BUT, E85 motors CAN use regular gas. So, it is reverse capable/compatible…in the event you have trouble finding a station with E85.

Manufacturers (GM and Ford primarily) have been selling flexfuel engines for years…but, they have not really pushed/promoted them publicly until now…mostly because there is NOT a widespread availability of E85 fuel across the country. So, your city and military fleets and companies with lots of company cars have been the main user to this point. Typically, the automakers offer discounts on the E85 engine to make it the same price as the regular engine. And, there may even be tax breaks…talk to your financial advisor on that part.

The major problem is that there is almost no E85 production and distribution infrastructure in this country. Obviously, the oil companies have no incentive to add production capacity. Negotiations are currently underway between several automakers and several national companies (incl. mal-wart) to get E85 availablity more wide-spread. Stay tuned there…

Here's the rub though…E85 fuel does not burn as efficiently as normal gas…so it takes more to go as far, in essence. Assume it is 85% as efficient as regular gas, you a) have to fill up a little sooner and b) the price has to be about 85% of the price of base unleaded for there to be parity. But, this is typically what it is, from what I understand…(The Cool Cat up in Minnetonka may know for sure that last part…) So, fuel costs are a wash.

Here's the benefit…E85 burns cleaner, so it is better for the environment…and it is made from corn (since we invaded and took over Iowa years ago, there's an abundance of available corn…and that means no more soldiers dying…no more terrorists…you get the picture). Anything that ferments can be used to make E85. Brazil is 100% E85 and makes it from sugar cane.

Yes, Hybrids get all the attention. Toyota spent a billion dollars to make/promote the Prius…but it was done first for PR, not environmental impact. And, the net affect to their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) from the Prius is neglible. And, the grandiose fuel economy claims from Hybrids are never substantiated in real world driving. Also, Hybrids are more expensive than their gas counterparts…and the cost of ownership (using less gas) never overcomes that initial price premium. None of this is to say that people shouldn't buy Hybrids. People should buy whatever they want. But, those wanting to make statement with their vehicle should consider E85 too.

Hope that helps…

Arrrrrrrrr….. Read the rest of this entry »

This may be the best and most well designed web search engine ever for all I know. Read the rest of this entry »

Having snarked on Google before (here and here), it would seem disingenuous to let this latest opportunity pass by without again jumping onto the dogpile. So, “woof woof”…here goes…

Google has made some big mistakes recently. (For the record, I don’t own any GOOG…for that matter, I don’t own any stock at all…curses!) And, for a company made up of only the smartest and brightest (snark alert), one would expect better.

A week or so ago, BenBarren posted a link to a pdf of a Google Analyst presentation. I downloaded the file, scanned it quickly, and thought little of it. Turns out, the presentation included some projections which Wall Street has found troubling. Uh oh…

Now, the company has since announced that the info was dated and shouldn’t be considered seriously as a guide for revenue growth. If so, why was it published? Was it truly a mistake? Maybe we have a little spin after the fact goin’ on here. Maybe the info is true…but, they want us to think it isn’t…knowing that we will think it is…but, they think we think they think we think…to infinity and beyond…(BTW, amazingly, the link is still working…the file can still be downloaded.) The metaphysical mental exercise here is a little daunting. What is truth after all?

This gaffe come on the heels of the Google CFO telling Wall Street that their growth may plateau. Uh oh… Sure honesty is the best policy. But, I doubt he meant to say what he did and get the reaction he got.

And, third, the company is settling click fraud lawsuits. Yesterday, a $90 million settlement was announced. And there are more out there currently in play. The payola for the adsense fraudola could have some potentially huge ramifications.

Also, concerns about Google and privacy have really started to gain traction lately. Whether it is the congressional questions and stuff going on in China, or just the product line up (gdrive and gmail for example) announcements, Google has raised more questions than they appear willing to answer.

Check BW for the full story.

In their defense, Google claims:

“Our aim is to be transparent in our communications about Google’s finances and as part of that to add clarification when necessary. That, we believe, is the responsible thing to do.”

And, their faithful followers and users will surely come to their defense. They will probably claim “Google is a new kind of company and shouldn’t be required to play by the same kind of old school Wall Street rules.”

All well and good if not for their “public status”…and for the fact that their warchest is publicly funded. Their product lineup, both present and future, will be funded from that warchest and public investment. They owe their investors (and the users of the internet for that matter) a certain amount of responsibility that transcends the mere “don’t be evil” and “take it easy on us because we’re different” defense.

Wall Street is hammering them. (yes, I like the irony of using Yahoo Finance to chart Google’s stock price.) They are currently down about 2-3% today…and down over $100 in the past couple of months. Or, put this way…

“This signals that investors continue to have anxiety over the direction of the stock,” Foster said.

The anxiety could also be caused by a realization that the stock was overpriced and they need to get out. But, still…the current gaffes don’t help.

Google does many things right.
Google does many things wrong.
One would expect this to be the case…as it is for any company.

But, this one claims to be different…and smarter…

Maybe they have too many smart people there…a “too many cooks in the kitchen” type of thing. Maybe they need some better marketing people. Or, maybe, like Thomas Hawk says, “they need some better PR people”…

The Press Release.

The Quote –

The merger will streamline the ownership and operations of Cingular Wireless, which is jointly owned by AT&T and BellSouth. The new company will be more innovative, nimble and efficient (emphasis mine), providing benefits to customers by combining the Cingular, BellSouth and AT&T networks into a single fully integrated wireless and wireline Internet Protocol network offering a full range of advanced solutions.

As a result, the combined company will be better able to speed the convergence of new and improved services for consumers and businesses, and embrace the industry’s shift to Internet Protocol network-based technologies.

The Jamoker Analysis – I’m not buying a word of it.

Granted, I’m no expert on the telecomm business. But, I am old enough to remember the breakup of Ma Bell. And, I find it odd that 25 years later, it is mostly back together.

The reason? All that fluff talk in the Press Release about being more nimble and efficient. I thought that was what the monopoly breakup was supposed to do? Increased competition breeds innovation, right? Instead, it seems to me that this merger is more about enhancing shareholder return and hitting the quarterly revenue targets. Building a bigger bureacratic behemoth will NOT translate into increased innovation.

If they want to be nimble, they could instead look to companies like these and/or Skype.

I’m easily annoyed.
Ranting here will help alleviate the annoyance. Read the rest of this entry »