Tuesday, September 29, 2009

It's Not the Speed that Causes Accidents

Yesterday's close shave in the wee hours of the morning affirmed what I've always known - it's not the speed that you're travelling at that causes accidents, it's driver carelessness and oversight.
I was cruising along minding my own business, when a little Proton Saga swerved into my lane, nearly forcing me off the road. I wasn't going at break neck speed, to be sure, and neither was he.
Fortunately, nothing untoward happened because I managed to swerve out of the Proton's way and the Proton driver managed to react in time as well.
Would there have been accident had either of us gone any faster? Hard to say, simply because accidents happen by the will of God.
No matter how good you are at driving, if it's your time to be involved in a crash, then that's that.
Of course, it pays to be careful, which is why defensive driving at any speed is important on open roads. But speed alone doesn't kill, which is why I don't think that it's reasonable for Malaysian roads to have a fixed speed limit of 110 km/h on most highways if not less.
Yes, there are black spots or danger spots that are prone to accidents, and for that reason, the allowable speeds there should be limited to 110 km/h or less. And it's a good thing that the Malaysian government is coming up with digital speed-trap cameras that detect speedsters at those spots.
But not on normal roads where 110 km/h or less is just ridiculous. At 110 km/h, I'd be in danger of falling asleep more than I would be in danger of coming to a crash because of speeding.

Friday, September 25, 2009

C200K - A Tail Happy Car

Sigh! There must be something about the way my Ford Focus S2.0 moves that attracts tail-gaters. Maybe they mistake my need for speed in my Focus as an invitation to a pissing contest - or at least that was how it appeared this morning when I found a C200K up my Focus' shapely rear.

The new C Class was so close, it looked like it was trying to ram something up my Focus' tailpipe.

Did I oblige? Never. I gunned the engine and accelerated further.

But being a far more powerful car, the C200K had no problem keeping up with my Focus, until we reached the bends in the road.

Those who are familiar with C Class reviews would know just how tail-happy it can be. So, while I had little or no problems negotiating bends at high speeds in my darling Focus, the driver of the C200K began slowing down.

And I don't blame him for doing that.

On the test track, the tail-happy C200K would shine by swerving its rear in and out to accommodate high speed turns. However, on roads with concrete-reinforced dividers and guardrails, such test track flair could prove disastrous.

So, while pissing contests can be fun, the C200K driver did the right thing - he saved himself from the agony of smashing his luxury car on a ego trip.

Haa! I'm the one to talk, huh?

Well, I too slowed down and reached the office safely. So, there...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Limit Your Own Freedom, Malaysiakini, Out of Decency

A man shoots his wife in cold blood and takes a chopper to her, dismembering her limbs. The heinous act is caught on video and distributed online, uncensored, via a news website.

A car magazine features a picture of a bloated corpse floating in a murky lake, on the banks of which lie squatter settlements. The picture is used to promote green technology via shock treatment.

A newspaper features a picture of the corpse of a driver decapitated in a gruesome road accident. The picture is published uncensored.

What do all these have in common with Malaysiakini's publication of videos that show protesters desecrating a cow's head? What they all have in common with Malaysiakini is unrestrained freedom of expression that resembles pigheaded irresponsibility.

The uncensored video of the man shooting his wife and dismembering her is so disturbing that it would cause serious mental and emotional trauma to children and adults alike.

Likewise, the picture of a bloated corpse, uncensored, is so shocking that it causes mental and emotional distress to the magazine's readers, both young and old.

Similarly, the picture of a decapitated road accident victim, uncensored, would cause serious distress to newspaper readers, young and old.

That is why all these are not shown to the public without some sense of self-censorship by most reputable news networks and publishers. They understand the importance of self-regulation.

Some also hold back because they are subject to government authority or state review - remember the Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction incident?

So, why does Malaysiakini think that it should be allowed to publish videos that would incite racial and/or religious upheaval in the name of freedom of speech? Where is Malaysiakini's sense of responsibility to the public?

The point that it needs to make, which is reporting on the truth in an unbiased fashion, can be made without showing inflammatory footage of the despicable act of some extremists desecrating a Hindu symbol. And Malaysiakini has done that with merit. There is simply no need for overkill by insisting on putting up the offensive videos and keeping them up at its website.

There are Malaysians who like to believe that we are a mature enough lot, such that we don't have to work hard at safeguarding racial and religious sensitivities. Well, if Malaysiakini's own reports are anything to go by, race and/or religious relations in Malaysia are on a decline.

And yet, Malaysiakini deems it fit to feature racially and religiously charged videos that fly in the face of common decency, which is akin to adding fuel to fire.

Really, Malaysiakini, you ought to have known better.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Eyes on the Impreza STI

When Subaru came out with its new Impreza, I thought it was the ugliest design Subaru could ever come out with. But over a year later, I've set my eyes on the new Impreza STi.

The change came about after a little visit to the Naza Auto Mall off the Federal Highway in Petaling Jaya. Stacked up against loads of other super cars, the Impreza STi really stood out - the black-colour STi is especially impressive.

I know I said that I'm determined to stick to mid-range fast cars, especially hatchbacks. But having pushed my darling Ford Focus S2.0 to its limits (or to the limits that I dare reach on Malaysia roads), I can't help but feel that I want more.

At 145 Bhp, the Focus S2.0 is a fast car, but that's nothing compared to the Impreza STi's 306 Bhp. With that much power, I'd be untouchable... well, almost.

There are more powerful cars in Malaysia but, in Malaysia, you really don't need much more than 300 Bhp, what with road conditions and traffic being what they are.

Also, in the affordability region, the Impreza STi is just within reach - just.

Of course, at slightly over RM200,000 (from Naza), it'd be like buying another house. And so, I'd be very reluctant to get one any time soon.

Instead of paying RM1,000+ per month on my Focus S2.0, I'd have to pay RM2,300+ per month for the Impreza STi.

Will I do it? I dunno.

There's so much more I need to do with my money, like putting aside enough for my children's college and university education, my own retirement, etc.

But damn! I've been dreaming about this car almost every night since I laid eyes on it up close.

I know I'm going to both enjoy and regret buying the Impreza STi, if I ever get around to buying one. I'd enjoy it because it's one of the best performance cars in the world that comes with 4 doors!

I'd also regret buying the car because the fuel bill and maintenance bill would make me sengkek (broke) almost every month.

But damn! It's an Impreza STi. It's going to take a lot to keep me from buying this car when I save up enough for it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

An Innovation that Should have been Malaysian

Imagine a car that fits into half a lane, travels up to 160 km/h but consumes only one litre of fuel for every 100 km. Imagine that car to be a Proton or a Perodua, or an Inokom, or some other Malaysian make.
Wouldn't it be ground moving? Wouldn't it be revolutionary? Wouldn't it put Malaysia on the world automotive map?
Sadly and as usual, Malaysia has been beaten to the punch, because VW has come up with a 'proof of concept' at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show. Looking like a silver bullet or a cigar, the VW 2-seater L1 Concept looks futuristic and stylish, and is reportedly close to production (sometime in 2013; see http://autos.yahoo.com/auto-shows/frankfurt_auto_show_2009/1106/Volkswagen-L1-Concept).
Now, why couldn't Malaysia Boleh result in this feat? We are not short of engineers and imagineers.
Yet, something as practical and as functional as the L1 Concept escapes every high-flying Malaysian automotive executive bigwig.
I'm sorry if this sounds scathing, but innovation is the way forward in any industrialised/industrialising nation and Malaysia is seriously lagging behind in the automotive arena.
Fortunately, all is not lost. Being first doesn't always guarantee success.
For instance, Tata of India wasn't the first to successfully produce small economical cars. Yet, Tata managed to produce a highly lauded small car that's cheaper than European makes, that is the Tata Nano.
So, why can't Malaysia come up with something like the VW L1 Concept meant for low income earners with up-scaling options for middle to upper income earners? It's not too late.
Malaysia Boleh, yes?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In a Traffic Jam, Learn to Give Way

Drive in Kuala Lumpur (KL) long enough and you'll understand the importance of giving way. Lane hogging and cutting off other drivers would only worsen the jam and cause tempers to flare.
Don't believe me? Try to cut off every single person who needs to switch into your lane and then try to switch lanes yourself in front of someone as uncompromising as you.
Infuriating, isn't it?
Unfortunately, not everyone is convinced that giving way is perfectly good etiquette and one that is to be expected of civil society.
"It's just so weird that people simply cut you off at the slightest opportunity here (in KL)," as a close cousin of mine from the UK said. "In the UK, this would be a major cause for road rage."
"Well, if you hold on to your right of way as though it's a God given right, at some point, you will have to switch lanes... then what?" I retorted.
"Well, you should raise your hand (as a way of asking permission) and say thank you...," he responded, reaffirming his stand.
Since it was a family get-together of sorts, I let it go - didn't want to sour the occasion by being quarrelsome over something seemingly minor. But it has been playing in my head ever since.
Really, now? Should giving way be done so grudgingly that you only do so when people take the trouble to lift a hand in salute or look you in the eyes with a smile on their faces?
In a typical KL traffic snarl where motorcycle riders zip through lanes at high speeds, there just isn't enough time or much opportunity for such niceties. If there's a reasonable opening, just signal with your indicator and move in.
What's wrong with that?
And what's reasonable? Well, reasonable is when you don't cause the driver whom you're cutting off to brake or swerve suddenly. Reasonable is when you allow the driver whom you're cutting off to slow down at a comfortable pace.
In other words, reasonable is when the driver you're cutting off experiences only a minor inconvenience - the sort of inconvenience he or she would inevitably impose on others as well. This is what giving and taking in a KL traffic snarl is all about.
If you haven't taken to this driving etiquette yet, eventually you will.
Despite his protestations, my cousin from the UK now drives like any other KL dweller when he's back in KL. Whenever he needs to switch lanes, he looks for a reasonable opportunity, signals with his indicator and moves in - no waving, no smiling; he just goes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Primax 95 Really Agrees with My Ford

I believe in paying less for more. With PETRONAS Primax 95, I'm getting exactly that.
Although two notches below RON 97 fuel, Primax 95 gives just as much gusto when used in my Ford Focus S2.0 - the engine doesn't need RON 97 fuel.
What's more, the cleaning additives in Primax 95 as well as its combustion improver makes hard revving in my Ford smoother.
Previously, the variable valve timing transitions would be somewhat rough and even audible. Now, it's almost imperceptible - I just floor the throttle and keep my eyes focused on the road ahead.
Unfortunately, there are some cars that won't take well to RON 95 fuel. Among them are the venerable Suzuki Swifts.
No wonder they were being sold at a hefty discount about a month or so ago.
Anyway, if you plan on switching cars, be sure to ask if the car you're eyeing can take RON 95 fuel.
Addendum: By the way, the Focus in the picture is not my Ford (no brainer there). It's a race version of the Focus S2.0 which, I hope, I can turn my baby into, someday.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Demotivated by Stupid Page View Counter

Have you ever tried talking to people who weren't interested in listening to the things you want to say? It's no fun, is it?
Yeah, well, that's what blogging is like if you don't know how many people are actually reading your blogs. You don't know if you're making the connection or not.
If I wanted to simply keep a log for myself or keep it personal, I would have kept a diary and stowed it where no one could get to it.
Thus, I've installed a new page view counter - one that works. Let's hope it works without a hitch.
The downside to this annoying affair is that I now have to restart the count - it's so annoying I actually stopped blogging for almost two weeks.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Slap Him - He's French!

What a madman, this Frenchie. As the picture shows, Alain Robert really has no fear of heights and is supremely confident of his physical abilities.

If it were me, I'd have nightmares - before and after the feat. Heck! If I ever make it to the top, like a cat, I'd be screaming for help to get down!

Alas, I'm not an Frenchie with a hidden deathwish.

Of course, it's amazing what he has done - so amazing that the helicopter in the picture risked buzzing so close to my window on the 70th floor just to get a closer look at 'spiderman'.

And for all his troubles, Robert's been fined RM2,000, which is really a slap on the wrist.
Well, at least he got slapped. After all, he's French!

Just kidding :D