The 7 Billionth Person Was Born Today

According to population estimates, today is the day that the 7 billionth person (currently alive) will be born.

It is a staggering number.

Bring on the Niche Automakers

The US auto industry is known for big cars, and big car companies. Unlike the UK (where the big car companies went under due to unions and excessive government interference.... sound familiar?), the US has never had much of a tradition of niche car manufacturing. While we have long had volume tuners (Saleen, Shelby etc), they take cars which are already registered and tune them to within an inch of the law. We have never had the little production companies which characterize the nature of the UK car industry. 

Until now: (from autoblog)

"Low volume vehicle manufacturers may soon find it easier to have their products approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Congressman John Campbell (R-Calif.) has introduced the "Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturer's Act," which aims to introduce a regulatory system specifically designed for companies that build fewer than 1,000 vehicles per year. Currently, it's difficult for boutique carmakers to shoulder the burden of safety and emissions evaluations tied to bringing a new vehicle to market. The bill, which has bipartisan support, would make it possible for the Environmental Protection Agency greenlight low-volume cars and trucks that use engines that have already been EPA-certified in other vehicles.

That would allow small carmakers to skip the costly exercise of having their creations subjected to emissions evaluations. The legislation also has provisions for alternative-fuel powerplants, which would theoretically make it easier for green-car startups to take to the roads. The bill is also being advocated by the Specialty Equipment Market Association."

This means we can look forward to lots of little car companies building cool vehicles like expedition vehicles, funky British sports cars, and of course, mid-engined exotic monsters =)


More Bad Karma

Bad kitty

The new Fisker Karma has been rated a... subcompact by the EPA. This, despite the fact that it is 16.5ft long and weighs 5,300lbs... for comparison, that is a foot LONGER and almost the same weight as my '96 Chevy Tahoe...

The hilarious part is, that this govt. funded savior of the environment only gets... 20mpg, when it is running on gas. It can go about 40 miles on electric power - which means like all these range extended vehicles - real world mileage will vary. If you commute 10 miles to work... great. If you take this thing on the highway... you would have been better off getting a Corvette, because that gets 26mpg highway. Oh yeah, and it's actually a sports car, not an something which can get beat by an old Buick (the Karma only has 175hp to move that ton of mass around).

Called it

Warren Buffett is a Buffoon

Read this (if you haven't yet) then get pissed off, then come back here.

From the start: "I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched." My answer? Fuck you.

If you and your "mega-rich friends" wanted to pay more taxes, do you know what you could do? Any ideas genius? You could PAY MORE TAXES. The IRS has been accepting checks since 1965. You could give them everything you have, if you think you really should be taxed more. Nothing is holding you back asshole, put your money where your mouth is.

But no, this is the reality: He says he pays a 17% effective tax rate. First of all, fuck you, because I pay higher taxes than that, so it is not a matter with the tax code, the problem is that you are spending millions on lawyers to HIDE YOUR INCOME FROM THE IRS.

If you really believed you should be taxed more, maybe you should not hide your income? Dipshit.

Secondly, a lot of his income actually falls under cap-gains taxes (which are double taxation in the first place) and which have a much lower effective tax rate... because they are double taxation.

Finally, because it would rather use its income for growth and investor returns, Berkshire Hathaway has not been a model tax payer. It owes taxes from 2002-2009 due to creative accounting, and pays an effective tax rate in the 20's, rather than the 32% they "should" be paying if they did not shelter income.

Long story short, STUFU Warren.

Amazon's on Fire

The Amazon Kindle Fire and new line of cheap Kindles have been a huge success (this is not really surprising, considering they cost about 30-40% less than the competition, and they are really nice products).

The company said that sales have from by 44%, and that last month it had its "biggest order day ever for Kindle, even bigger than previous holiday peak days." In other words, Amazon is kicking ass, taking names, and making other players in "the space" a wee be anxious.

And because of that, Amazon's shares are... down 12%


Analysts are idiots is the short answer as to why this happened. Because Amazon is selling the hardware at a loss, they saw only one number - Amazon missed its quarterly earnings target. And because of that, they hammered the stock. This is so amazingly stupid, I can barely believe it. Amazon is clearly going after an install base, using price as a hammer to knock Apple's overpriced iPad off its pedestal -- something Motorola, HP and Samsung were all too stupid to do, resulting in their pathetic market share (and the touchpad fire sale - which did finally get it some market share....) 

Again, as I wrote before, Amazon is first an foremost a store. The original Kindle was an amazing tie-in to one aspect of that store (books), but the Kindle Fire is a portal to everything that Amazon offers. From the excellent Amazon android app with its one-click two day shipping (damn I love that), to movies through Prime, to the Amazon app store (the only one you can use with the Fire) and of course, to books: these are not just tablets, they are recurring revenue streams. Even if the tablets average only a 2-3 year lifespan, Amazon will be making back their margin many times over. Any analyst too stupid to see that should be fired. 

Bad Karma

As I reported a long time ago, the US govt should never have been in the business of making large and risky loans to companies based purely on the sunshine coming out of their ass.

The failure of Solyndra finally has people talking about one of the other terrible loans we made to appease Obama's whims: namely the totally stupid loan we gave to Fisker so that they could develop and build a wildly overpriced hybrids sports car. We gave over $500MM to a company with no history, no proven management, no factory, and not even a terribly innovative product. Why did we do this???

Well, now it has all of a sudden become a big thing to talk about how the Karma is not even being built in this country..... but actually, that was in the business plan when we loaned them the money. The truth is that the amount of money to start a real mass market car company these days is more or less obscene, as brand, dealerships and govt regulations all play their part. The most recent estimate I heard is that it would cost about $10 billion to create a car company with a viable brand and dealership system in the US and Europe. 

The loan to Fisker simply does not make sense on a different level as well. This is not a green car for the masses. This is a famous car designer's dream of making a car in his own name. A car which is less practical than a Corvette.

It is very difficult to get a new car company off the ground. Regardless of how much press and free publicity you get, passing government regulations, actually manufacturing the car, selling it at a profit, and maintaining reliability and customer service are all very difficult steps.

Which reminds me, Apterra, once another Golden God of the media, is falling apart. Interestingly, they have posted a consulting project asking my business school to help them now that their business model has totally fallen apart and their investors are clamoring for money.

Yes... it is a flying sperm

Electric cars will come when they are ready and when the market is today for then. Unlike our good friend Obama says, it is not the role of the govt to tell people what they want.

Cavity searches for the highway

Scary article from The Atlantic on how the TSA is now moving into patrolling our streets (because clearly - they have done such a good job with the airports)...

What scares me the most is the attitude of those currently in postitions of power in this country - everything that we do is seen as a privilege, not a right, and they believe the government has the right to "inform" the people as to what their opinions should be.

Mission Creep: This Tennessee Highway Is Now Patrolled by TSA

OCT 24 2011, 9:25 AM ET 9
Despite billions spent on airport security, federal bureaucrats have escaped the terminal. Is your 4th Amendment safe?

tsa full grope.jpg

Most air travelers now endure naked scans or genital pat-downs by gloved agents of the government without surprise or complaint. But before invasive security became normal, there was a backlash. And at its height, Transportation Security Administration boss John Pistole said something revealing. "I see flying as a privilege that is a public safety issue. So the government has a role in providing for the public safety and we need to do everything we can in partnership with the traveling public, to inform them about what their options are," he told reporters. "I clearly believe that passengers have a number of options as they go through screening. But the bottom line is, if someone decides they don't want to have screening, they don't have the right to get on the plane." What perturbed me wasn't his defense of mandatory security screening. It was his assertion that air travel is a special "privilege" the feds grant citizens.

I felt the same uneasy twinge when Janet Napolitano, who heads the Department of Homeland Security, told USA Today that "if people want to travel by other means, they have that right." Because where does that attitude end? Is it a "privilege" to attend the Super Bowl, where TSA agents scan the crowd for suspicious behavior? Or to ride on a Metro system, an Amtrak train, or a boat -- other forms of transportation that Napolitano has mused about targeting? As Mark Browning wrote in 2010, using hyperbole and reduction ad absurdum to mock Napolitano, "The bus system could come next. Come to think of it, so could travel by automobile... Here, we find that not only are the crevices of our bodies searched, but so are the contents of our cars. If you don't like it, don't drive. Nowhere in that living document, the Constitution, are we assured of our right to move without hindrance from point to point by private automobile."

Of course, that would never really happen... would it?

In the local news report above, which my colleague James Fallows notes here, a Tennessee TV news broadcast reports that TSA is already operating on highways in the state. The brilliant reasoning? "Where is a terrorist more apt to be found? Not these days on an airplane more likely on the interstate," said Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons. Perhaps he can be forgiven for this absurd quote. After all, his job is to keep Tennessee safe from terrorists. By definition he's guarding against a remote threat. But it ought to make us all upset that the federal government assessed its counter-terrorism resources and decided that the best use of scarce funds would be random checks on vehicles on Tennessee highways.

Feel safer?

The TSA agents are urging all drivers to "say something" if they see something suspicious, which brings us to another great quote from the piece: "If somebody sees something somewhere, we want them to be responsible citizens," says Paul Armes, TSA Federal Security Director. "Report that and let us work it through our processes to vet the concern they had when they saw something suspicious." Granted, if I were driving (rather than traveling by train) to Chattanooga, and I saw an 18 wheeler with a "Death to America" bumper sticker and fertilizer spilling out the back, I'd call the cops; but if there were any actual terrorists on the highways of Tennessee, wouldn't their explosive filled truck look, from the outside, like any other truck?

The last thing America needs is to let TSA and its absurd, security-theater loving bureaucrats out of the airport. Reports a local newspaper: "Larry Godwin, deputy commissioner of TDSHS, said the checks at the weigh stations were about showing the people of Tennessee the government is serious about transportation safety." But quotes like that in fact show that they aren't serious about transportation safety so much as the appearance of it. I'd consent to beefing up airport security even more if it meant being able to keep TSA agents inside the terminal. The notion of random searches spreading everywhere in American life, whether you're exercising the "privilege" of going to a sporting event or driving down the highway, amounts to an unconstitutional surrender to terrorism in places where we've never even been hit by it. 


Android Patent Licensing and Litigation..... is ridiculous

Yes - what this is saying is that people are licensing FROM Microsoft so that they can continue producing Android devices. Turns out that the big 'ol boy has a few patents on this little thing called "an operating system" and they are none to please about the Android model of open source copying/duplication. 

Camaro ZL1 - True Value

Was reading Autoblog, and interestingly, these two came up one below another (see below).

The interesting part to me is that, yes, the McLaren is an amazing car... but it's only 20 seconds faster round the 'ring than... a Camaro... I mean, the Corvette has long been a giant slayer, especially the Z06 and then ZR1. But the Camaro? Welcome to the big leagues.

I am genuinely impressed with what the latest crop of American muscle cars gets you. From the 300hp, 30mpg $25,000 mustang up to this ($65,000???) beast, you get one hell of a lot for your money.

On a related note - my hat goes off to GM for understanding - finally - that "driving excitement" means handling well, as well as horsepower.

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 specs divulged

2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL12012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Posted Oct 24th 2011 1:01PM

General Motors has been noticeably tight-lipped about the specifications for its 2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, leaving enthusiasts to salivate and daydream over the sorts of possibilities that can arise from a supercharged, all-aluminum V8. Now we can wonder no more. According to a post in the Camaro5 forums, dealers already have the skinny on the meanest Camaro of them all. The model will reportedly arrive with a blistering 580 horsepower and 556 pound-feet of torque under its wide hood. Those figures are good enough to hustle the 4,120-pound muscle car around the fabled Nürburgring in a skinny seven minutes and 41 seconds, though something tells us that has as much to do with the car's 51/49 weight balance.

Two wheel options will be available, including a five-spoke and a 10-spoke design, and buyers can pick from a total of nine colors. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard equipment, though a six-speed automatic will also be available for those buyers who wish to leave the cog-swapping to the car. The Camaro ZL1 will also come with the same four-pack console gauges as the SS model, though a boost gauge is now part of the party. Head over to the Camaro5 for a full look at the vehicle's specifications.
News Source: Camaro5
Image Credit: Copyright 2011 Drew Phillips / AOL

McLaren releases montage of MP4-12C lapping 'Ring in 7 min, 28 sec

McLaren MP4-12C at the Nurburgring
Posted Oct 24th 2011 12:30PM

It's finally happened. The good people at McLaren have taken their latest wonder child, the MP4-12C, out for a bit of abuse around the Nürburgring to see how the supercar would perform on one of the world's greatest road courses. With Horst von Saurma-Jeltsch, Editor In Chief of Sport Auto, behind the wheel, the Mclaren MP4-12C was able to clip around the 'Ring in seven minutes and 28 seconds. That puts the carbon-fiber creation just ahead of vehicles like the Porsche 911 GT3 and Pagani Zonda F and four seconds behind metal like the Gumpert Apollo Sport.

Unfortunately, the video after the jump isn't an uncut clip of the MP4-12C doing the deed. Instead, we're treated to a quick synopsis of the vehicle's development as well as a brief dissertation on what makes the Nürburgring so special to manufacturers and

Get your motors out of my wheels

It's a funny thing, car design. Over the past few years, if you looked at the work of many top students, you would see a recurring theme of amazing (or atrocious) looking concepts all made possible by having their electric motors built right into the wheels. Turns out that Audi have been playing around with that design, and... it sucks. First of all, even just in terms of design, there is too much unsprung weight. It's like trying to walk in ski boots. Or dance in ski boots for that matter (not recommended) . But then the real world also kicks in. Turns out that having the motor in the hub is not a good thing when it cones to durability... basically, every little bump gets pounded right into your motive force. And if you get low profile tires... Score one for front and mid engined cars. Internal combustion may be doomed, but it'll put up a hell of a fight.


Deal structure should always be tied to financing structure and strategy. Don't buy a getaway car with your credit card.

Captive Tigers

What happened in Ohio wasckearly very sad. I am not going to say the police did anything wrong on this one, it was a tough situation. However, this is what really gets me: they now estimate there are 50,000 tigers living in the Us. WTF??? Where the hell are these 50,000? And who is keeping them? Surely we only have 1000-2000 drug lords, a couple hundred Russian mobsters, a handful of athletes dumb enough to do this, and one Mike Tyson... but where the hell are the other 48,000 coming from? Are there regular people out there keeping these things as pets? They say the problem is that they are given as pets when they are "small" but then they grow up to be... well.. freaking lions (I know, who could've seen that one coming?). That 50,000 is far more than there are in the wild (thought to be about 32k). Which means if you want to see a lion, forget Africa, head to Georgia.

Robot on Demand

Foambot Creates Itself Out of Sprayable Foam, Becoming Whatever Robot You Need -

Human Genetic Variation and Access

From an interview with Juan Enriquez, a writer, investor, and managing director of Excel Venture Management:

One concern about human enhancement is that only some people will have access, creating an even greater economic divide. Do you think this will be the case?

In the industrial revolution, it took a lifetime to build enough industry to double the wealth of a country. In the knowledge revolution, you can build billion-dollar companies with 20 people very quickly. The implication is that you can double the wealth of a country very quickly. In Korea in 1975, people had one-fifth of the income of Mexicans, and today they have five times more. Even the poorest places can generate wealth quickly. You see this in Bangalore, China. On the flip side, you can also become irrelevant very quickly.

Scientists are on the verge of sequencing 10,000 human genomes. You point out this might highlight significant variation among our species, and that this requires some ethical consideration. Why?

The issue of [genetic variation] is a really uncomfortable question, one that for good reason, we have been avoiding since the 1930s and '40s. A lot of the research behind the eugenics movement came out of elite universities in the U.S. It was disastrously misapplied. But you do have to ask, if there are fundamental differences in species like dogs and horses and birds, is it true that there are no significant differences between humans? We are going to have an answer to that question very quickly. If we do, we need to think through an ethical, moral framework to think about questions that go way beyond science.

Space Fog

Nope, not talking about "fog of war" or "I can't think of any damn thing because I have no idea which way up is" or even "I can't see right now because of this freaking sun in my window"

I am talking about water, in space.

A lot of water.

Astronomers have found a massive water vapor cloud, floating around a black hole in the universe, marking the largest discovery of water -- anywhere.The reservoir is gigantic, holding 140 trillion times the mass of water in the Earth's oceans, residing 10 billion light years away.

140 trillion times. You are going to need some really good windshield wipers on that space shuttle of yours.

The amazing thing to me is that this is still water in space. It makes no sense. Everything we know about space says... there is no water floating around.. some ice, sure, but no water. Water is meant to be special, rare, uncommon. There's water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, because most of the Milky Way's water is frozen in ice.

How did it get there?

Well, it turns out that it is the byproduct of a massive black hole/quasar, which instead of shooting out beams  of energy as most quasars do, has decided that it would be much more cool to be the universes's largest water gun. Clearly, this quasar is the fun loving little brother of the quasar family, much more interested in intergalactic wet-t-shirt contests than blowing stuff up with giant laser beams.

Inheriting Traits, not Genes

Turns out, yet again, that genetics is more complicated than we once thought.

According to new research... well, read on:
 The findings, published online today in Nature, present a modern-day version of Lamarckian inheritance, in which acquired characteristics can be passed to offspring without changes to the genetic code.
Marks of Methuselah: Glowing regions show chemical marks on the genome ofC. elegans identical to those in ancestors with life-span-increasing mutations—even though this descendant lacks the mutation.
Travis J. Maures


Worm Offspring Inherit Longevity Even without the Genes

Worms given life-span-enhancing mutations produce offspring that lack the responsible genes but live longer anyway.
  • THURSDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2011
Although much more research remains to be done, the new study raises the tantalizing possibility that if Grandma practiced caloric restriction—which affects the expression of longevity-enhancing genes—her descendants might reap the benefits.
The inheritance occurs through "epigenetics": alterations not in the coding sequence of DNA (those ubiquitous A's, T's, C's, and G's) but in chemical changes that affect whether genes are expressed. One such change involves histones, proteins that act as spools for a cell's long strands of DNA. Some of the best-known longevity genes, those belonging to the Sir2 family, make proteins that alter histones.
The tiny soil-dwelling worms C. elegans, when given mutations that make them live longer, transmit that trait even when their progeny don't inherit the life-extending mutations. 
In the new work, Brunet's graduate student,Eric Greer, blocked the three key proteins that make up the ASH-2 complex by mutating their genes. As expected, the worms lived longer—typically, an extra seven days beyond their lab life span of 20. Then Greer bred the mutated worms with normal worms until their descendants no longer had the mutations. Nevertheless, the progeny still lived longer, as did their own descendants: even though their genes for the key proteins were normal, an epigenetic memory of longevity persisted. As a result, their DNA was coiled up tight, and their suspected aging genes were sidelined.

This is also interesting in my believe that pretty soon we are going to see significant changes in the human lifespan, above and beyond our current biological limit. It seems that you might be able to pass the traits on simply by practicing (or therapy) which extends the normal lifespan.