Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Why ALL Americans Should Press Pause, and Take Note of Rivian's New R1T Truck, Lucid's Air Sedan, Cryptocurrencies, and Space-X's Non-Pro Astronaut Spaceflight


Fans look on at Rivian R1T on display                                                                                                                                      Photo Credit: Rivian YouTube

 The world has Moved On.  That's the message I received loud and clear this week as I watched the future unfold in real time.  

A bit of an introduction.  I am a mid-to-late-range gen-Xer, born in 1977 and quite vintage at this point.  I grew up on Star Wars, baseball cards with gum in the pack, riding bikes off homemade jumps with no helmet, and getting into a whole lot of mischief that my parents never knew of, as long as I emerged from the woods at some point around dinner time without any visible cuts or bleeding.  My childhood was decidedly analog, with vinyl records, snowy antenna-fed TV, Atari and NES gaming on the carpet, and trucks that needed gasoline poured down the throat of the carburetor to get 'er going.  Fast forward to the mid-to-late-nineties when I graduated high school and entered the workforce, and things were beginning to accelerate rapidly.  Windows 95/NT/2000, Palm Pilots, the dot com boom and bust, Comp USA/Best Buy/Circuit City, raves and electronic music, and many other seemingly advancing technologies and ways to participate in consumerism told me that although I wasn't sure where it all was headed, one thing was certain: the world was moving on.  It was up to me to decide if I was going to be on board or not.  Many of us made it and function well amongst the confused boomers, snarky millennials, and sad or angry zoomers.

And so it has gone for us members of my generation.  We get used to how things are, technology leaps ahead, and we adapt or become forever lost, with outdated skills such as VCR programming or AOL IMing.  Only until now, there has always been enough analog to hang onto.  There has always been a usb adaptable turntable to play your records on.  A cassette tape adapter in your buddy's car stereo to play the mp3s from your player that he likely garnered from unsavory sources with names like Napster and lime wire.  This time though, it feels different, like there just isn't a use for those go-between connections anymore.  The times where these were effective are gone; we don't want a go between, we want the new world, and we want it set up and organized right for us to live our best lives, all of us.

Those 1984 Ford F150's that still need a little laughing gas down the throat to get going- they are now decidedly antique.  American companies that made them are now decidedly the underdogs, or are filling a role propped up by government programs, lobbies, and unions.  The new guard is comprised of visionaries, entrepreneurs, and adventurists willing to take long term gambles in funny money time for the possibility of success in the true long term.  They don't all make it; Nikola is down nearly 65% from it's high and will likely never succeed at bringing a product to market.  Tesla has reached yet another inflection point where the lack of continued innovation is no longer just an annoyance that can be marketed away.  Tesla has potentially met their technological matches, globally, and at home in America.  

The companies that have been methodically building real businesses are now poised to launch, launching, or have launched, and they are doing WELL.  Their products are astoundingly well designed. 

Photo Credit: Rivian YouTube

 AI, improved processing speeds, massive neural networks, new protocols for coins, and available design lessons-learned have allowed these companies to truly make ground breaking improvements to all transportation sectors, while improving energy consumption and lessening environmental impact. 


Photos Credit: Lucid

Space X just put four civilians into orbit and it just blends in with the news of the day.  Even the President of the United States couldn't be bothered to acknowledge it!  These are the new American times and Titans, and they aren't just playing around, these are real companies making history every day.  








 Photo Credit: Reuters

I'm getting that 1999 dot com feeling again.  The same way I felt in 1999 when I was working at The Good Guys electronics selling Compaq computers and Palm Pilots.  The world is moving on in so many ways.  It is my belief that fifteen years from now, three quarters of cars on the road will be electric, many countries will ban individual drivers in cities, blockchain coins and altcoins will rule the financial transaction world, Non-Fungible tokens or NFTs will be rolling forward strongly in contracts and sales, and space travel to the moon and asteroids for resource recovery will be commonplace.  America's new titans will be ushering in these times; pay attention to their morals and value propositions to make sure its the America you want to live in.  Seems young people today have an issue or two with our previous titans of industry; it's up to us gen-Xers to quietly mold the rest of the future from the background as we like, so the zoomers can have a chance at the living lives as rich as our parents had as boomers, but in a new, exciting, and less harmful way.  All Americans should take notice this week, and consider how well (or if) they are adjusting to the new norms in front of us.


Why I sold "The Blue Whale", my 2017 Tesla Model S 90D

 I'll own another electric car, but not a TMS.

Backstory:  I'm a huge electric car nut.  I've been drooling over them ever since I saw a Porsche 914 converted to electric at the Earth Day Fair in San Diego's Balboa Park in 2008.  I knew that I would own an electric car someday.  Fast forward to 2019, I'm living in the desert in east county, commuting 90 miles per day, and need to add solar panels to my house to be able to afford the monstrous electrical bills.  It just made sense to electrify my world.

It was my usual approach:  research the hell out of it and buy the most car I could afford that made sense I could find to buy.  So I didn't go for the P90D or P100D, but this 90D had just about every option available, low miles, and the rare gray interior.  The torque was not neck-breaking, but it was astoundingly faster off the line than anything else I'd ever owned, including my E39 M5 and my other various Porsches and BMWs from the past.  It was also incredibly roomy.

The problem was, it was too simple inside and wasn't truly the "luxury" car it was purported to be.  The doors had no pockets to put your trash or water bottles so there was always something rolling around or making a mess.  There was too much plastic chrome everywhere.  I bought some vinyl carbon fiber wrap to delete most of it, and added a true carbon fiber spoiler to complete the look.


The seats were just ok.  I had some custom sheepskin seat covers made; they really helped but didn't exactly put off the clean tech aesthetic that Elon had in mind.  


The windshield wiper intermittent feature was "smart", but would never do what I wanted it to.  The self-driving was ok in a straight line on the freeway in stop and go traffic but nowhere else.  Essentially, the car is a great feat of marketing and acceleration, but a luxury sedan it is not.  I await your challenge to this idea with baited breath.  I also took an experimental trip to San Francisco from San Diego over thanksgiving and found the supercharger network I-5 experience to be a hassle and overcrowded.  I can't imagine it now on holidays.  Superchargers are plentiful in San Diego County, and I have no complaints with their availability locally.  But supply and demand is tough during the holidays and Tesla (or any electric car manufacturer) hasn't gotten it licked yet.

So, with a divorce pending and the car not everything I had hoped it might be, I set her free, the sale going to a lovely couple from Escondido.  I'll own an electric car again, but likely it will be a Rivian truck where I'm less concerned with the interior posh factor, or a future iteration of an electric sedan that has more luxury and maybe a lower beta factor.

 One high note, in searching for the best place to take for sale photos, I found this amazing whale graffiti art in Point Loma.  I now take photos here for every car sale I have, and they get amazing hits because of it.  I haven't been able to find out the artist yet but when I do I'll definitely pass along credit!

Missing the 986S! My big mistake sale and what I learned from it

In 2016 I decided it was time to own a Porsche.  Now everyone knows that you have 2 choices as a entry level Porsche buyer: weird 70s or 80s cars (924/944/968) or a Boxster.  Having owned many a BMW at this point, I figured I knew my way around the cars these Krauts build, and it shouldn't be too much more involved than my 3 series had been.  So I set sail on the Craigslist seas, found the perfect example of my "poor man's Porsche", and after a quick brief to the then-wife about what my plans were, she dropped me at SEATAC where I jumped on a plane to Portland, OR.
Here are the photos I still have from the Craigslist ad:

The car was in absolutely great condition, a Black-on-Black 2003 Porsche Boxster S 6-speed manual with 19k miles on the clock.  I gladly paid the previous owner the $19,500 he was asking, and within 30 minutes and a Starbucks, I was on my way north.  Of course, it immediately started raining.  And gremlins began to show up.  Minor, but they were there.  Odd behaviors from the wipers, like the intermittent dial not working at all.  Headlights seemed to work at their own whim, not mine.  Key fob worked, sometimes, but not always...
I fixed all of these things, tuned it up, and drove the heck out of it for 2 years.  I began to wonder if I'd made a mistake bringing a 2 door car into my family's life.  Many little "situations" with the kids where I wasn't in a great position to get them both, etc.  As the mileage climbed, and I looked at prices falling on Craigslist for similar examples, I began to worry that it was time to get out and maybe I would not make my money back.  So I listed it and waited.
I got a bite shortly afterwards from a man I'll describe as an internet Porsche aficionado; the kind who knows everything there is to know, but has never owned one and wants to pay you half of what it's worth.  This man taught me that I will never again allow someone to drive my car without first showing me that he intends to buy it and has money available.  After his joyride ended, I left him crying in a coffee shop when I informed him that he was wasting my time with his IMS bearing lowballer approach.  No, I hadn't done the IMS bearing, and no, I had no intention of lowering my price from where it was set because of it.  I advertised this and he tried to talk me out of it.  No dice.  I walked.
Then I decided that I knew what the sale really needed.  It need inspiration.  It needed photos showing what the feeling is like to own the car.  I didn't really feel like dealing with action photos while driving, so I went ahead and took one last drive to Seabeck.  I pulled off to the side, and took the below 3 photos.  The car sold within 3 days of posting it for my asking price, to someone who had never owned a Porsche and could barely remember the last time he drove a manual.  Perfect. 

I've owned 2 since this one, a 1999 911 Carerra 4, and a 2008 Cayenne GTS.  Each one has had it's German idiosyncrasies, but all have been outstanding vehicles to drive.  But of all the cars I've owned to date (over 35 at last count), the 986 Boxster S was the best driver's car.  In fact, although it was very cheaply produced at a time when Porsche needed the car to succeed in order to stay alive, and the interior looked cheap for a Porsche, and the headlights are frowned upon by the tut-tut Porsche crowd, (and so on and so forth...) I think it looks better than most roadsters made since.

Where does this leave me today?  Had I held on to this car I'd have been a much happier resident of San Diego, for starters.  However, I learned to buy the right car for the right time of your life, and when you find that sweet spot hold on to it.  Also, watch out for those lowballer joyride types!


2016 Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe Sunrise

Copyright Kevin Torres 2016

 I began the drive to Tahoe the day after attending the wedding of my best friend from High School.  The wedding was in Geyserville, CA in the wine country.  I decided to head up to the mountains, find a great trail to off road in my Tacoma, then wake up at about 2am to try to get some star-trail photos over Emerald Bay.  My music was loud, Taco tires humming through Sacramento and up the hill; it was a fine drive. 

I ended up bouncing over boulders in 4x4 low with no spotter on the Rubicon trail.  Genius.  However.  I did find a wonderful spot to pull off and set up camp.  Locked myself into the camper shell covered bed, (hoping no bears considered me a midnight snack challenge) and I was soon drifting off, letting the previous evening's wine fog lift off the vineyard of my mind.  I woke up on time at 2am, still foggy but determined to get the shot.  I bounced back down the Rubicon trail boulder path, past vanlifers who definitely thought me crazy, and back onto the highway.

I got set up in short order, set my Canon EOS 5D Mark II to bulb, set the lock on the remote switch, and laid back on the granite, listening to nearby coyote and the occasional owl.  It was one of the most peaceful evenings I've spent alone.

Unfortunately.  Technical difficulties ensued.

I soon found that I used the same CF card for the night shot as I had for the previous day's wedding.  The card had been corrupted during the bulb shot somehow.  I was unable to read anything on the card, and I was devastated as I had hoped to share a ton of great photos with my friend from his big day.  With a heavy heart, I waited another couple of hours on the cool granite, biding my time until the golden morning sun made his appearance.  These shots are what came next.  Quality reduced for blogging display.  Enjoy your day, keep Tahoe blue.


Why ALL Americans Should Press Pause, and Take Note of Rivian's New R1T Truck, Lucid's Air Sedan, Cryptocurrencies, and Space-X's Non-Pro Astronaut Spaceflight

  Fans look on at Rivian R1T on display                                                                                                    ...