Driving the Tesla Roadster 2

Last week I finally got my chance to get behind the wheel of the amazing Tesla Roadster. The Roadster is an all electric sports car with some amazing performance. I was lucky enough to be the only online auto writer to get invited to drive the car in it’s near production spec. Check out the whole story at ABG. I also have an alternative telling of the story at my day job at GreenFuelsForecast. Let me know which version you prefer. I love my job!

Racoon for lunch 3

On the way home today from my last day at the old job, as I was passing the Hyundai Tech Center I noticed a red-tailed hawk having lunch so I pulled into the driveway and grabbed my camera. I approached raptor slowly, snapping pics as I went. Eventually, the hawk decided I was close enough and headed off for the nearby trees.

More clarity

It’s come to my attention that my previous post on opportunity left some readers confused as to what I was talking about.  So let me make this perfectly clear.  I got a new job and today was my last day at the old place.  After 16 years the time has come to move on.  Not being one to torch bridges, I’ll just say that I worked with a lot of great people over my years at Kelsey-Hayes and it’s subsequent corporate incarnations.  As for the company itself, well enough has been said about that.

On Monday I begin my tenure at ICON Creative Technologies and I’m looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship.   I’m shifting from engineering to being a full-time automotive journalist, a role in which I hope to inform and educate readers on the latest automotive technologies and advancements.  And I’ll be doing it from an office in downtown Ann Arbor!

Opportunity knocks… 4

There’s a tap on the door, the phone rings, a message in your in-box, you bump into someone you haven’t seen for a while. Who knows how it will happen, it just does. For whatever reason sometimes you don’t feel like getting out your comfy chair, other times you respond. Sometimes you’re looking for it, other times it looks for you. In the fall of 1991, I called about a job that I wasn’t sure I really wanted, sixteen years later I’m still there, but not for much longer. In the fall of 1993 I responded to a message and ended up meeting the love of my life.

Over the years I’ve gotten many, many calls from recruiters and none ever felt right. When the company that I worked for decided to unilaterally cut the pay and benefits of many of their best people while at the same time continually increasing the compensation of those at the top, I began to express my thoughts here on this forum. This place became my soap-box, a place to just spout off on whatever I felt like, the good, the bad, the obscene. This little corner that I carved out for myself allowed me to find another part of myself, to use the knowledge I had gathered over the years and to find my voice.

As it happens it also allowed others who otherwise wouldn’t to hear that same voice. Some liked what they heard, others carried on about their lives. After the incident that prompted my set up corner here, another opportunity arose that I meant to pursue, but my response to the message somehow fell through the cracks. A few months later it thankfully popped up again in a slightly different form and I went after it with a vengeance. It worked and my name began to appear on another nascent site related to cars. I began to make some contacts and not long after that opportunity presented itself yet again. My colleague Alex was busy and I was on vacation from the day job. A quick day trip to New York and back introduced me to a remarkable new car and a lot of very interesting people. That quickly ballooned as I talked to those people on a regular basis.

During one of those events I encountered a pair of gentlemen who would soon reappear. In the fall of 2007, barely a year after I stumbled into automotive journalism, the message appeared in my in-box. I called back. We talked and eventually the deal was struck. A new phase of my life and career would begin. I wish to express my gratitude to the clumsy, ham-handed HR department without whose bumbling, this may not have happened. Thanks to Sebastian and John for plugging in the amplifier that allowed my voice to spread to a wider audience. I look forward to continuing to work with you guys for a long time to come. To John, Rob and Scott for giving me a chance to make a left turn against the prevailing traffic. And most of all to Jules, Sofia and Max for supporting me so much as I make this momentous non-trivial change. Sometimes when opportunity knocks you need to respond in the affirmative.

Politics and writing 4

Lately, I haven’t written much about politics at least in part because I have not been paying as close attention to politics as I had previously.  The past six years have been particularly painful for me from a political perspective, and I just needed a mental health break from it.  After the November elections it became pretty clear, that the democrats were not going to aggressively pursue impeachment, which means that we were looking at two more years of the village idiot in charge.

Fortunately, my other writing tasks have been giving me an increasing amount of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.  That’s something sadly lacking from the day gig as my real income has steadily declined in the past five years while at the same time, the CEO was making more and more.  So without really consciosly thinking about it, I have withdrawn somewhat from politics for a while.  I’m staying involved in school stuff with the school board podcast, and the tech committee, things that I can actually make a difference with.  Bigger stuff is so aggravating that I just need to turn away for awhile to keep from exploding or losing hope.  In the same way, I’ve been meeting people who read my ramblings on ABG and feel like I might just be having a little bit of impact in the area of alternative fuels and transportation.  So I guess want to focus on the areas where I can have some positive impact.   It’s a lot easier to feel motivated when I can see some results of my efforts.

To busy to write here lately

I haven’t posted much here lately because I’ve been pretty busy writing over on AutoBlogGreen and now also AutoBlog. Last week I covered the Detroit Auto Show and we got some unbelievable traffic. There were seven of us writing up all the stories from all over the show, and posting hundreds of photos. It was interesting getting such a close up look at how car makers deal with the media. GM really took a shine to the blogosphere this year, even inviting about twenty bloggers from various web sites to attend the show on their dime. They did encourage everyone to provide full disclosure that GM was paying for the trips, and given that most wouldn’t have the financial resources to cover something like this on their own, I can see why they would accept the offer. Fortunately, WeblogsInc (parent company of AutoBlog and ABG) covers our expenses and we have a policy of not accepting any paid junkets.

All in all the money and time that GM spent on bloggers this year was peanuts compared to what they and all the other companies spent on their displays in Cobo Hall, their hospitality areas and the parties they held all over town. There were over 6600 registered media at the show and all were welcome at the Firehouse after the show hours. The Firehouse is a bar across the street from Cobo, where for several years Chrysler has been hosting a party for media with free food and drinks served up by the likes of Dieter Zetsche and Emmitt Smith.

I got to meet and talk to a lot of interesting people and it was clear that in spite of all the problems of the domestic auto industry, there is still a hell of a lot of talent and enthusiasm, especially at GM. I’ve never been know as a fan of GM, but they really seem to be on the upswing right now. The production cars they unveiled here, the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac CTS are truly impressive, and the Volt concept is something truly special. When this car goes into production, it will be hugely important.

Ford showed some interesting cars but they don’t seem to be committed to actually building them. They still seem to be kind overwhelmed by the financial problems they’re having. Hopefully within the next few months Alan Mullaly will give the company some real direction and put the emphasis on creating great products. Chrysler, has some interesting stuff technically, but they seem to have lost their way lately with their styling. I think that next year will actually have some more interesting introductions from Chrysler.

Overall, it was a really good time and I’m glad I had the chance to do it. I did a lot of writing and photography and I have great hope for the future. From an environmental standpoint, there are some great developments coming. If you’re interested in reading more of the stuff I wrote at the show, just click on the AutoBlogGreen link on the sidebar.

I feel so appreciated!

Yesterday when I got home from work I found an large envelope in the mail from my employer. I open it up and found a really nice black cardboard frame containing a certificate. The certificate has a large color representation of my employer’s logo in the center and reads “Company Name Here” Congratulates you on 15 years of service. The only words I left out are the company name. Did you notice anything that wasn’t there? My name. After 15 years they couldn’t even print a piece of paper that actually acknowledged who it was that put in those 15 years. The company name was prominently featured but my was nowhere to be found. Typical. I love working for a huge corporation.

Facts you’re not supposed to look to closely at

I just got an e-mail at work from some new wellness (what a stupid word by the way) committee about some new walking program they are organizing. In the message they include a couple of facts:

• According to a Harvard University Study, you will gain about two hours of life expectancy for each hour of regular exercise, even if you don’t start until middle age.

• Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can bring heart-health benefits and reduce your risk for stroke by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and high blood pressure

If you add up the numbers you will find that in order to gain 1 year of life expectancy (8760 hours), if you exercise for 1 hour a day it would take 12 years (4380 days) to gain that 1 year. Now don’t get me wrong I am a proponent of regular exercise. It feels good, and will generally make you healthier. But people should really be more careful when they either read or use such statistics. If you go with the 30 minutes a day it will 24 years to gain that 1 year of life expectancy.