Category Archives: Opinion

Car Ownership

Sometimes you own cars and you keep them for a decade or more. Sometimes cars are only in your life for a short time. In the not too distant future it is possible that we won’t own cars and we will use cars as a service.

After my 2001 Honda Accord EX Coupe was finally put down I had my sister-in-laws Corolla. I don’t remember the year. It was much newer. Owning and driving the Toyota Corolla on a daily basis was nightmare. Well, a nightmare if nightmares are boring and lacking power. It was an ok car. Nothing to write home about.

Then I purchased the 2009 MINI JCW Clubman. It was an awesome car. When the air intake for the turbo didn’t blow off. The acceleration without the turbo was anemic at best.

The problem was that I kept hearing about a lot of people getting in to accidents in their MINI Coopers. And then I was in an accident in my MINI. In afterthought I think the car was too small that it began to suffer from things that happen with motorcycles – in essence – people couldn’t see it. Certainly, the woman that hit me didn’t see me.

It was repaired; however, circumstances change and a max 4 person car no longer suited my needs. At the time I thought there was a chance I would be carrying not only my 4 kids but two other kids and taking them out places and so a Honda Pilot made sense.

I like the car. It does what it is supposed to do. It drives well on bad surfaces, carries people. It isn’t particularly inspired in design. The music interface has much to be desired, but it works and you get used to it over time. It does make me take my eyes off the road a bit too much so I am extra careful.

The 2013 Honda Pilot EX L is a nice vehicle. While it isn’t much to write home about it is much better than the Toyota Corolla that I had once driven daily.

However; the biggest problem with the Honda Pilot is that we own a Honda Odyssey. A 2014 Honda Odyssey Elite.

One year newer – but the Odyssey is a much higher line and virtually everything is better. Not just things like electronics – but the design of a minivan is (sadly) far superior to the design of a SUV – even when both have the same engine, same transmission and likely share a large number of other components.

All that being said most likely I will be keeping the 2013 Honda Pilot for some time to come – probably exceeding the 11 years I owned the 2001 Honda Accord EX L and the 1992 Honda Civic LX that I had owned for 10 years before that. It has been a tumultuous time for my car ownership.

I don’t regret the MINI that I owned. It was a nice fast car. It was also expensive to maintain. If I had known how much I would have just gotten a used BMW 3 series – as the maintenance costs the same (virtually). The rough ride on the small car was not exactly enjoyable. I like feeling the road (which I can do even on my Honda Odyssey and Honda Pilot), but I don’t like having the road jammed in to my butt as if I was riding on the transmission on an old Camaro which I did while I was in high school.

Hopefully, I will make it out to the 2017 New York International Car show this year – and take lots of pictures of lots of interesting things – and I will post them up here.

Data and Information

The winds of fate hurled yon TPKoC (The Pirate King of Cars) to the shores of Barnes and Noble.  A favorite place to go from ages in the past and hopefully on to the future.

Of course, they may not have books there in the future, but I’m sure they will continue to have things of interest.

In any case, there I was on this beautiful place that should there have been fewer than 4 kids in my life I might spend hours there.

Time is of the essence and I found something interesting…  A magazine “Used Car Prices” From VMR Vehicle Market Research.

Methinks that from data just lying there this could become information.  I quickly seized the magazine (and paid for it) and left.

Oh, the analysis I could do and release information to the world.  I decide quickly to type the contents of the book in to an Excel spreadsheet in preparation to load it in to SQL Server.

But…  The data might be fine for someone trying to find out what a car is worth (prices seem 2K low, even for this); however, it is not fine for doing data analysis.

Vehicle descriptions differ from year to year for the same car.  Abbreviations are used, or not used willy nilly (look at Audi – Premium Plus or Premium+ or Prem+.

There are header lines for each model, but they include information that can only be on the detail level.  For example:

2009 Aud TT FW/2.0T-IfT (200hp) – this is all header information.

But when you look at the details, not all Audi TT coupes/convertibles from the year 2009 have the same engine (2.0T, 3.2 V6).  Not all Audi TT coupes/convertibles have the same drive train (FWD, AWD).  So, clearly, this information cannot be header information if it isn’t the same for all the detail/children records!

It is exhausting going through this data, but in the end it might be worth it.  Will the analysis of the data be perfect?  No, master data screwed means that analysis can never be more than ok…

The Predatory Practices of the Auto Business

Someone thought it was Christmas.  A mentally disabled woman went to a car dealership to get maintenance done.  They then ripped her off for $25,000 over the selling price of a new car they finagled her in to buying.

Have you ever been ripped off at a car dealership?  I have.  I have also known people new to the country buying their first car to lose thousands of dollars.

The fact of the matter is that a lot of dealerships out there wish we were mentally disabled and that they could take advantage of us.

But since we aren’t all mentally disabled the manufacturers and the dealerships collude to create overly confusing sales process – ensuring that few except the very savvy get away without being ripped off on something.

There are some very smart people out on this Earth.  Some of them own car dealerships.  How long until they create schemes that only other very smart people can figure out that – they have been had?

The problem this poses for the car industry – is that people get exhausted of this kind of thing.  They decide that rather than go get a new car and get ripped off maybe they’ll buy some junky used car for cash and run it until it doesn’t run anymore.

Cars should be sold online just like anything else.  If it is your first time you should have a friend help you.  If you don’t have friends or family familiar with cars a consulting company should be able to help you learn what you need to know for a modest fee.

Nobody likes being ripped off.  Even one price dealerships like the one’s for Scion have recently been ripping people off.  They get a nice car like the Scion GT86/FR-S and they can’t help themselves but find a loophole to charge people more for the car than it is worth.

The FR-S was a high-demand car and so what many dealerships did to up the price was add aftermarket items to the models (which is allowed by their dealership agreement) and charged more than they cost for these add-ons to the cars (also allowed).  But they then violated the spirit of their agreements with their parent company and overcharged by thousands of dollars for a few hundred dollars worth of add-ons to the cars.

TPKoC (The Pirate King of Cars) really likes the Scion FR-S.  But after hearing about this kind of behavior it has really soured us here at TPKoC.  Way to ruin a good thing.

Mazda6 Skyactive-D Delayed

This might not be a big deal for Mazda as described in this article; however, it is a big deal to TPKoC (The Pirate King of Cars)!

We here at TPKoC have been eagerly waiting for this car that brings small car fuel economy in to a mid-size car.  It is a mechanically far simply package than any of the hybrid cars.  Hybrid cars by their nature at a minimum have two power sources and typically (as in the Toyota Prius) have two drive trains.  More parts, more things to go wrong over the time of ownership.

In a time when people own their cars for more than 11 years on average – that is a big deal.

Universal Health Care, Paid Medical Leave and Cars

If TPKoC wasn’t incredibly lucky medical leave would have completely jeopardized his family’s financial outlook.  Presently, TPKoCs wife is recovering from a surgery that requires 2 months of recovery.  This lead TPKoC to ponder the questions of Universal Health Care, Paid Medical Leave and his favorite subject – cars.

Two months out of work.  There went the down payment for the car – almost immediately.

In fact a large number of bankruptcies are caused by a medical problems (62% According to this article).  It would be the same for TPKoC if it were not for a lucky set of circumstances.

Luck runs in TPKoCs history, but sadly this is not the case for everyone.

Sometimes a thought experiment makes things clear.

There are some premises that should be covered.

  1. People will work on average 4 or 5 decades.  + 2.5 decades for education means that people in the USA work until they 65 or 75 years old.
  2. There will be at least 2 points in time when a worker will be unable to work due to medical reasons each lasting two months or more.  Being involved in a car accident can never be predicted and the sudden onset of any number of medical problems cannot be predicted, either.
  3. Regardless of the wisdom of this practice the typical financial home does not have a buffer of two months of bills.  TPKoC knows that in the present era family there are so many expenses and so few incomes that not being able to maintain two months salary buffer in the bank is not necessarily practical.  Drops in wages due to employers inability to pay increases in wages on an annual basis also cause problems for the employed people of the USA.

Case 1 (The way things are at present):

Bob is married to Sue.  Both work.  They have two children.  Regardless of their salaries it always seems like there are just slightly less expenses than there is income coming in (and sometimes a lot more expenses than income) to the household.  Bob encounters a medical problem and is out of work for two months.  They normally share duties with the kids, but Bob is mostly incapacitated and one of their children is below school age and in day care.

Sue has to take leave from work to help attend to Bob and remove the high cost of day care from their expenses.  They don’t have a buffer of two months expenses.  While both are on leave or FMLA neither gets salary.  There is no unemployment either as both are still technically employed by their present employers.

Almost immediately, Sue begins to pick and choose what bills to pay.  While it appears to be a relatively brief period of time it impacts their finances for many years to come.  Their credit ratings have been reduced and their debt load becomes harder to carry.  In a last ditch effort to save their finances they file for bankruptcy to save the house months after Bob’s recovery from surgery.  They managed to save the house; however, their finances are such that their children have much less resources to go to college.  This in turn affects the incomes of the subsequent generation as well.  The purchasing power of the present family and the future families has been reduced.

Bob and Sue have much lower buying power for an extended period of time.  This reduces the chances of them buying cars and other large goods that help keep the economy growing at a steady rate.  Due to the way their health insurance worked (underinsured) hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical costs were unfortunately not covered.

End Case 1.

Case 2 (Universal Healthcare and Paid Medical Leave):

(First paragraph same as Case 1 – context for the situation)

Bob is married to Sue.  Both work.  They have two children.  Regardless of their salaries it always seems like there are just slightly less expenses than there is income coming in to the household.  Bob encounters a medical problem and is out of work for two months.  They normally share duties with the kids, but Bob is mostly incapacitated and one of their children is below school age and in day care.

Sue has to take leave from work to help attend to Bob and remove the high cost of day care from their expenses.  They don’t have a buffer of two months expenses.  While both are on leave or  FMLA neither gets salary.  There is no unemployment either as both are still technically employed by their present employers.

All of Bob’s medical costs are covered under universal health care.  While he may be temporarily disabled he will return to the work force with his full faculties in place.

At the beginning of Bob’s medical leave he applies to the government with the appropriate documentation (or Sue does if he is mentally incapacitated).  Sue also applies separately in order to care for their children and for Bob.  Based on their present salary levels they are fully reimbursed for their lost wages in a timely manner.

After Bob recovers there has been no damage to his family’s finances.  There is no change to the financing of Bob and Sue’s children’s college education.

 

Conclusion:  The effects of medical problems have profound repercussions.  A certain percentage of our population is in circumstances similar to the above.  This creates a situation where the reduced incomes of all these families has the effect of reducing overall consumer spending.  If you are worried about food or losing your house then you certainly are not buying new cars.  The potential reduction of the next generations economic potential means that it is not something that can be recovered from easily.  The medical costs that were not covered added financial burden to the family.

Recommendation: A loss of income from both wage earners happens to many families.  In fact, if there are children and one working adult is removed from the work force, often the other has to take care of their spouse and the children making present day work at a regular job untenable.  The covering of their costs while they are incapacitated plus any uncovered medical costs would mean that once the family is back to its wage earning normal they can continue buying new cars, saving for college educations and have a reasonable disposable income.  On an individual family level (leaving sympathy behind) it doesn’t have an effect on the macro scale of the USA economy.  However, medical problems strike us all at some point.  That means there is a good chance that those medical problems are affecting a significant portion of our population at any given period of time.  The effect of all of these people losing their income earning potential definitely impacts our economy.

If implemented there would definitely be a difference in our GDP between a year with Universal Health Care and Paid Medical Leave vs a year like now, without them.

There are lots of different situations that could be run through this kind of mental experiment and perhaps in the future TPKoC will go through some of them.  One could only imagine being a temporarily medically disabled person that is a single parent of 1 or more children!

Still there are limits in terms of what Universal Medical Coverage should cover.  Once people are in an end-of-life situation or other situation where there will not be a recovery this changes the equation in terms of the economy of the United States of America.

 

A Cure for Cancer

It is a common concept that pharmaceutical companies will not research and find a cure for cancer. This common concept is also extended by indicating that the pharmaceutical companies have large control over the rest of the medical establishment and that there is a conspiracy to not find a cure for cancer.

This is all completely false or if true is an entire industry acting on incorrect premises.

Businesses operate to make money.  However, typically businesses don’t make all their money at once.  Businesses look for stability and growth.

Pharmaceutical companies make money by selling medicine and they make a lot of money on cancer drugs.  While surviving cancer statistics are improving the type of money being made by selling cancer drugs tends to be parasitic and eventually the host dies and there is no more money to be made.

However, if there is a cure (or cures) for cancer then the host/patient lives – for unknown DECADES of life.  What does this host/patient need during those years?  You got it, drugs.

Who knows what other maladies might exist that we’ll need medicines that will keep the pharmaceutical companies going and making lots of profit.  Don’t forget the huge market for appearance, aches, pains and age reversing drugs.  More profit than these companies will ever get from short term sales of cancer drugs.

The longer people live the more they will purchase vehicles.  The person that bought 5 new cars over 5 or 6 decades will buy 20 cars in 10 to 20 decades.  In the end all businesses have a vested interest in people living longer or indefinitely if possible.  Malthus was wrong when he wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population and he continues to be wrong.  In later essays TPKoC will prove it.

Governmental Ignorance

The people that govern the citizens of the USA are ignorant as shown by this law.  It is a law that basically outlaws any device that can be networked and play gambling software.  Therefore every computer, every smartphone and some cars are illegal (And TPKoC’s TV which has internet access).

Good thing TPKoC doesn’t live in Florida.  The TV and my computer are not going anywhere.

Every day brings change to our world.  Somehow, people expect the governmental structures created over 200 years ago based on governmental structures going far in to the past to be sustainable in the present and the future.

There are no real requirements for education level of elected members of our government.  There is no general or scientific test for our elected members of government before they can take the oath of office or even become a candidate for office.  Science literacy is generally poor in the United States of America; therefore, science knowledge on the governing members of our society is poor.

Democrat or Republican it makes no difference, mates.  These poor slobs are slaves due to their ignorance.  Corporations can easily manipulate these people as they have no idea what the companies are talking about.  Hoping for public opinion they choose to go after online gambling.  It seems so safe.  Get the bad guys and be proud of the one or two things you actually voted for this year.

These poor ignorant fools have made all computers and networks illegal in Florida.  There was no technical review by a group of technical oriented people.  There is little to no technical knowledge in the elected governmental officials.  It is a recipe for problems.