Baby McLaren

British Formula One racing team McLaren are reportedly looking to produce an all-new entry-level ‘baby’ model supercar. This is a separate development from the P11.

This would likely be priced at Audi R8 V8 and Porsche 911 money.

A 0-100km/h (0-60mph for those of you on the wrong system) time of 4.5 seconds is pretty impressive.

The renderings are very Lotus Elise nose, meets Audi R8 body... and the tail looks weird.

Sadly, it’s unlikely to appear before 2012. :-(

Checkout these photo's from AutoExpress below:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:34 AM, ,

Does anybody gives a damn about global warming?

With the GFC dominating news of the day and the burden it has placed on everyones daily existence, has global warming been put into a box in the corner of everyones minds?

According to the article News flash: Nobody gives a damn about global warming on VentureBeat, the answer is: yes.

As I wrote about in Shell Global Scenarios to 2025, it would be a real shame for us to drop the ball on this as most research indicates that simply stopping extra emissions (i.e. staying put with our emissions right now) won't be enough to reverse the effects of global warming... but will put us on track to avoid a catastrophic ending to our existence here on Earth.

Yes, I'm aware that balancing short-term issues (like the GFC) with long-term goals (like reducing our influence on the Earth's normal climate fluctuations) is a tough gig. As Jack Welch said in his book Winning: "Anyone can manage short-term: just keep squeezing the lemon. And anyone can manage long-term: just keep dreaming. Real leaders able people who are able to squeeze & dream at the same time".

Let's hope the current leaders - people like Kevin Rudd, Gordon Brown and Barack Obama - can do this rather than get caught up playing politics as usual.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 9:32 AM, ,

Mac: 25 Years in Pictures

Checkout this great article from ReadWriteWeb - Mac: 25 Years in Pictures.

I fondly remember learning to programme on a 1st generation Macintosh at high-school.

The article also has a video of Steve Jobs introducing the Macintosh in 1984.


posted by Lee Gale @ 5:08 AM, ,

Old Pacific Highway

Whilst it doesn't really compare with Top Gear's challenge to find driving heaven, I managed to get my car out again last weekend for a drive around the old Pacific Highway.

As I mentioned previously, just North of Sydney, there are some great roads to take the car out on. This time I choose the Old Pacific Highway as it is pretty quick for me to get to and from.

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The great news for drivers is that the section from Berowra through to the Hawkesbury River (see map below) is being repaved and is still mostly an 80km/h zone.

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The good/bad news is that the section from the Hawkesbury River through to the Calga Interchange has been resurfaced... but is now a 60km/h zone. :-(

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I would estimate that on this road with my car I could easily do between 40km/h in the tight corners and 120km/h+ on the straights. This task is made a lot safer with sat nav. A quick look at the upcoming turns before going into them help you make far better judgement calls on speed going into the turn.

The Calga Interchange up to the Somersby industrial estate is a great stretch of road. It is a 60km/h zone but with the exception of a few places, you'll want to keep an eye on your speed entering corners. On a few occasions leaving the valley heading up to Somersby, I had to add a lot more braking to avoid pushing wide.

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Checkout these YouTube videos of the stretch of road I'm referring to:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:25 AM, ,

Bailing out the Thieves

A.K.A. Bringing in the Sheaves (the lyrics can be found here).

Over the last few months, myself and countless others have been providing commentary on the GFC and all the inter-related issues.

One topic that is certain to polarise people at your next dinner gathering is the issue of bank bailouts. Trust me - it's better than religion and politics right now!

One school says we can't afford to let the system crash. That is fair. Thomas L. Friedman makes this point in his article This Is Not a Test. This Is Not a Test: "You need to let failed companies, or homeowners, go bankrupt, unlock their dead capital and reapply it to thriving entities. That is how the dot-com bust ended, and out of that carnage emerged a whole new set of companies. The problem with this crisis is that A.I.G., Citigroup and General Motors — and your neighbor’s subprime mortgage — are not You let the market clear them away, and we could all be wiped out with them. Therefore, the president has to find a way to punish bad financial actors without setting off another Lehman Brothers domino effect."

To further drill-down on this issue, checkout Time's great commentary on How AIG Became Too Big to Fail.

Another school says we shouldn't reward fat cats and criminals for having gamed the system. That is also fair.

Clearly, any actions the authorities apply to move this thing forward needs to cater to both schools of thinking.

Looking at the SEC website, I hope the short list of charges for bankers and brokers is merely the start.

A good start was the news of Bernard Madoff's guilty plea on March 13th. As usual, Jon provides us interesting commentary (about 2min 20secs into the video below):

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:54 AM, ,

Audi R8 V10

Wow, talk about an excited motoring press. I wasn't planning to blog about the Audi R8 V10 as I'd mentioned it last October when looking at the V8 version we currently have, but with all this coverage in the press, you'd think that a deity had risen from the dead!

Check it out:
Hopefully this release will depress used values of the V8 version in the coming 2-3 years... just in time for a car upgrade for me (he says quietly hoping his partner doesn't read this blog).

And finally, checkout this video of the car in action:


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:00 AM, ,

Google Earth Reveals Racetrack Driveway

Living in the inner-city of Sydney, I'm struggling with how I can apply this to my driveway, but what a cool idea !

Check it out at WorldCarFans.


posted by Lee Gale @ 4:30 AM, ,

Brawl Street: Jon Stewart v Jim Cramer

It is without doubt, the news topic of the moment - the GFC. Along with the humour (see my past blogs here and here), the sorrow, the pessimism and the optimism, comes the blame.

I've already looked How culture has shaped the GFC but lately I've been watching the Jon Stewart v Jim Cramer saga unfold.

I'll declare my position right now on this one (after joining a healthy Facebook status commentary on the topic): I've worked in the funds management industry and dealt with the press enough to know what they both don't want you to know - nobody is doing the sort of analysis you would expect on every company all the time. They pick one or two to focus on and that's it. Combined with the fact that companies are using things like off-balance sheet entities to hide debt and liabilities, and you realise that even if analysts try to perform their jobs, it is largely irrelevant because they are missing the icebergs altogether anyway. It's like asking a ship's captain to navigate around iceberg's using only google map images from last year. You might by chance make it through (probably statistically more than you'd think) but sooner or later you are going to come unstuck.

Funnily enough, when someone does call it out ahead of the storm, it seems everyone feels safer to stay with the herd and deem it heresy. As both Mr Friedman (Obama’s Ball and Chain ) and Michael Lewis (The End of Wall Street's Boom) state in their articles, Meredith Whitney has become what Bethany McLean was for the Enron saga.

This is the sort of problem the regulators need to focus on. I know everyone is upset with the casino that is the financial markets, but that isn't the problem it really looks like. The issue is trust. If the dealer at a blackjack table can't trust that the $100 put on the table actually is that person's $100 to gamble, the whole thing goes out the window.

The tough part to reconcile is that these people often don't think they are lying. They really have drunk their own cool-aid and believe the lies - I suspect a variant on Joseph Goebbels oft quoted statement "If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it."

If you haven't checked it out yet, see the clips below in the order you should watch them. Part 2 below has the real meat and I think Jon really hits the mark about 3mins 30secs in:

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posted by Lee Gale @ 3:34 AM, ,

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025

I can't remember how I was put onto this book, perhaps it was even a recommendation by Amazon? Regardless, Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 was a pretty interesting read.

Now, the first thing to be prepared for, is that this is presented in the style of a companies' annual report or text-book, so if you are hoping to pickup a gripping novel, this book isn't what you are looking for.

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 provides us with an outlook on future scenarios influenced by the dominant forces of our times. The Shell website provides text from Shell Global Scenarios to 2050 and has a good executive summary available for download of the Scenarios to 2025.

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025 is particularly influenced by Enron and 9/11. In the book, we are taken through three forces at play:
The three core 'scenarios' influenced by those forces, with the associated trade offs between the above 'unachievable utopias', we are presented with are:
I'd love to read the 08-09 reports because the GFC will likely show a hybrid of the Low Trust Globalisation & Flags scenarios to dominate how we operate as a society during the period 2008-2011.

Of particular note has been how Europe and China are following the US lead on stimulus packages and the ensuring regulatory overhauls as forecasted.

Interestingly, little of the impact foreseen from Enron has occurred to date, but I suspect with Obama in office and the GFC still bubbling along, that will change rapidly in 2009.

The Middle East scenario has played out more, as you would expect given the troop levels of past years. This too has played out more along the lines outline in the Flags scenario - "a turbulent Middle East driven by conflict. Low oil prices provide additional incentives to attempt cautious reform, but this is bitterly contested. Groups unite against common enemies rather than for common objectives".

Both the Low Trust Globalisation & Flags scenarios review the cost of compliance and how that is likely to negatively impact trade. I'd argue the GFC definitely puts a dent in much of the Open Doors scenario panning out, and puts a question on how the Global Environmental Movement (GEM) with externalities such as carbon costs priced in via trading schemes will progress - if at all.

An an interesting point in the Flags scenario is the economic growth outlook. Despite the scenario being conceptually driven by security concerns, it is interesting to see how today's economic situation makes much of these hypothesis likely, including:
Conversely, some of the elements they predict will be unlikely, specifically "the reduced mobility of capital ensures emerging markets (BRICs) receive less foreign direct investment". I'd argue with the US domestic market unlikely to experience real growth in the coming 2 years, multi-nationals will look more intently towards emerging markets for growth.

Finally, one of the most fascinating reviews is between India and China. The historical comparisons of manufacturing value add, rural populations, IT&C services exports & numbers of computers per 1000 people was quite eye opening and provided good data for their summary - that India's sustained growth to 2025 will not be as great as China's (4-6%% to China's 6-8%). Regardless, it is clear both India & China will be the dominant growth engines in my lifetime. That is particularly enforced by the views on African futures and the current drain of critical skills they are experiencing.

In all, an interesting but reasonably technical read.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:30 AM, ,

0-60 champions!

For the petrol heads out there, checkout the article 0-60 champions! on AutoExpress.

For those of us on the metric system, this is the famed 0-100km/h time - a benchmark test that all car nuts use to to measure the size of their... um... car's performance.

What is interesting is that they have taken cars from different classes including the Telsa (from the electric class) and the Mercedes ML63 (from the SUV class), and in doing so have given you six different ways to go fast.

I must confess: I have a secret yearning for the ML63. I know this puts me in the eco-terrorist zone but I can't help it! For some reason, the BMW X5M just doesn't do it for me like the ML63 does. To see what I mean, checkout the Fifth Gear video on YouTube below.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:33 AM, ,

Today's moon shot

In my catch-up with some FastCompany articles, I was please to read that the latest US budget sees an increase in funding for NASA.

I think our generation needs new 'moon shot' to spur forward scientific and technical achievements. It's also worth noting that such a program isn't just for the US - every nation can play a part just as many did with the International Space Station.

Sadly, the punctuation point to that feeling was reading that March 2nd marked Concorde's 40th anniversary. Concorde's final flight brought out Jeremy Clarkson's poignant side: "This is one small step for man, but one giant leap backwards for mankind."

Image by Frederic Carmel


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:04 AM, ,

Fuel types compared

Checkout this great video from reviewing how 3 Toyota Camry's go on different fuel types.

By now, I think most people know E10 is not the cost saver it seems to be at the pump, and I sincerely hope 'drivers' (i.e. people like me) don't even think about abusing their precious toys with it. What was interesting about this test was the fact premium unleaded petrol performs equally with E10 on a city cycle from a cost/km perspective.

It's good to see they've done the test reasonably scientifically. As noted by Jeremy Clarkson in the "Prius vs M3" test I blogged about in October 2008, it's how you drive the car that counts for a lot.

Image by Hans Thoursie


posted by Lee Gale @ 2:09 AM, ,

Mercedes SLK Gullwing?

The news of the SLK replacement having a "gullwing" variant seems a little strange in the current economic climate. I would have thought Mercedes would be attempting to streamline manufacturing costs where possible? Interestingly, Audi aren't reporting much of a dent in their sales of the imminent R8 V10.

Regardless, the news of the SLK Gullwing comes via WorldCarFans, AutoExpress and AutoSpies.

They all suggest this car will slot under the SLC and the SL, at the top of the SLK model line up. Additionally, they are indicating this will be a hybrid car.

The baby Gullwing is still some way off yet, though. It’s likely that the new SLK range will go on sale in 2011, with this flagship version arriving in 2012.

I'm not sure I would swap my hard-top convertible for the Gullwing, but the new design is looking very sexy indeed. News suggests the availability of a folding glass roof for the first time. Nice!

Now all we need is news of some obscenely large and powerful AMG variant. :-)


posted by Lee Gale @ 7:09 AM, ,

Happy Mardi Gras !

Nations United is the theme for Sydney's Mardi Gras 2009. For the 5th year running we hosted our friends to watch the parade from our apartment.


posted by Lee Gale @ 6:37 PM, ,

Fitness update #4

Image by Stefan Krilla
In my last update I mentioned I'd enlisted Andreas' help three times a week during February, partly because I wanted to improve my workout intensity but also because I had some time on my hands.

This weeks DEXA scan wasn't exactly great news (21.8% body fat - increases of 500g fat and 900g lean muscle) as body fat had increased since November. However, a few things need to be factored in: I did almost no training in Dec and holiday season probably added a bit to the waistline. Interestingly, Andreas commented that I had probably also lost a fair amount of lean muscle mass due to the lack of training and in combination with my inferior 'muscle memory' (in the alternative context). So, I'm not upset and I can honestly feel the difference in last month's efforts.

So, checking back on the original goals of my fitness program started 9 months ago:
  1. I've lost most of the bad weight (i.e. fat) but would be happy with a little more and getting it under 20%;
  2. I can fit into all my old clothes again; and
  3. Once we figured out I was eating too little food, I have a lot more energy during the day.

The single comment I'd make to anyone else (which should be everyone) thinking of going to the gym: spending money on a trainer is money well spent. The business equivalent is hiring someone with the right skills for the task - you get the benefits of their years of experience from the get-go. You'll avoid injuring yourself (I'm sure you can justify an ROI for a trainer just by calculating your time off work and physio costs!) and you'll have the confidence to make this a permanent change to your life.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:39 AM, ,

Reviewing how culture shaped the GFC

Having blogged about Louis' & Michael's books and discussing my 'culture epiphany', it's interesting to look at the GFC with this lens.

Check out this delightfully hilarious view by Bird & Fortune on the reckless, but not unexpected, behaviour from investment bankers and mortgage brokers alike.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 4:23 PM, ,

Liar's Poker

I ordered Liar's Poker book shortly after having blogged The End of Wall Street's Boom having enjoying Michael Lewis's writing style. I was also intrigued to read his story given how long the boom actually lasted - I guess in an attempted to better understand the booms origins.

Within Liar's Poker, Lewis provides his account of his four years with Salomon Brothers from 1984 through the crash of October 1987. This includes his rather interesting (but not unique) hiring, the training program and years as a bond salesman in London.

It's an hilarious story and it will have you shaking your head in disbelief - unless you've worked in sales or on a trading floor: both of which I've done. If you enjoyed Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, you'll love this book for successfully combining history, behavioral science and humour. It also serves to explain the current sub-prime mortgage mess that was the catalyst of the GFC we are living through.

The backdrop to the drama was the economic decisions made by the US Federal Reserve in October 1979, chaired by Paul Volcker, whereby they announced that money supply would no longer fluctuate with the business cycle: money supply would be fixed and interest rates would float. As bond prices move inversely with rates of interest, this set the wheels in motion for the events that created the gold rush Lewis shares with us.

The title of the book refers to the game of deceit that many of the best traders (or "Big Swinging Dick's" as Lewis refers to them) played and the relationship the game had to their success as bond traders. According to Lewis, "In any market, as in any poker game, there is a fool. Warren Buffet is fond of saying that any player unaware of the fool in the market, probably is the fool in the market. Knowing about markets is knowing about other people's weaknesses. And a fool, they would say, was a person who was willing to sell a bond for less or buy a bond for more than it was worth".

To illustrate the "iron testicle, market whipping" behaviour at work, Lewis shares the example (amongst many others) whereby a trader attempts to buy on the money market as prices were rising against him. The trader explains to his boss that "He couldn't buy money as all the sellers were running like chickens". His boss responds "Then you be the seller". The trader then sells a hundred million dollars and the market collapses to the price he was originally trying to buy at. He buys back the hundred million dollars plus the fifty million he wanted, and books a tidy profit on the trades.

Having had it pointed out in the book that "Blackjack is the only nonindependent outcome game in the casino" and knowing that when you have the statistical advantage you need to bet big, I'll be reading up on card counting!

It's worth re-reading (or reading for the first time) Michael Lewis' article titled The End of Wall Street's Boom on from December 2008 - it provides a great footnote to the book. I particularly loved the story about Danny Moses:
When a Wall Street firm helped him get into a trade that seemed perfect in every way, he said to the salesman, “I appreciate this, but I just want to know one thing: How are you going to screw me?”. Heh heh heh, c’mon. We’d never do that, the trader started to say, but Moses was politely insistent: We both know that unadulterated good things like this trade don’t just happen between little hedge funds and big Wall Street firms. I’ll do it, but only after you explain to me how you are going to screw me. And the salesman explained how he was going to screw him. And Moses did the trade.
It also serves to punctuate the point: one man's misfortune is another's opportunity. Whilst most of us were watching our investments plummet, someone was on the other end of the trade enjoying the short sell.

Finally, this book provides an interesting counter-point to Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? in the sense that Liar's Poker shows us the dark side (just as Enron did) to 'culture'.

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posted by Lee Gale @ 5:24 PM, ,

Goodbye to the Honda S2000

According to the blogosphere, Honda are halting production of the S2000 in June 2009. Unfortunately, speculation last year that there was a replacement in the wings has been scuttled with this news, along with that the NSX project is also being cancelled (although there are some reports such as this one and this one that suggest otherwise).

The S2000 was released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Japanese company.

I owned a red with black interior '01 model. It was a very nice car, especially that gearbox!

Beginning in March, the Honda S2000 Ultimate Edition will go on sale to honor the car's short-but-sweet history.


posted by Lee Gale @ 1:25 AM, ,