Thursday, November 10, 2005

OK I'm sold on Flock

This is a much better interface than the Blogger web interface! Google take note! But I wonder what happens for blogs that require a captcha as my IP Inferno blog now does... Off to try it!

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Test from Flock

My first attempt to use the Flock blogging tool was a failure... Flock completely hung on my machine. But the good folks at Flock have been releasing new versions every week, so here is a second attempt.

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Good Customer Service from VW

As readers of this blog know, I am in search of a diesel to replace my current car, so that I can start burning biofuel instead of oil based fuel. One of the best options is the VW TDI engine (turbo diesel injection) as this engine can burn biodiesel with no modifications. We already have one in the family that my partner Erika drives.

I wrote to VW asking if they planned to again sell the TDI as a new vehicle in California, starting next year when California allows passenger diesel's to be sold again. California stopped allowing them to be sold in 2001 in order to reduce the amount of high sulfer diesel fuel that was being used. 2006 is the cutover year for all diesel supplies to be low sulfer.

While wrong in some of the details, I thought VW's email reply was thoughtful (although probably canned) and gave me the feeling (rightly or wrongly) that there was a real human being on the other end of the conversation. This is so rare that I thought I'd share their response. By contrast I received NO reply from Mercedes Benz after a similar inquiry:

Thank you for inquiring to our Volkswagen website. The TDI engine option will not be available beginning with the 2001 model year in the state of California.

Although the TDI remains certified to meet California's tough minimum tailpipe emission standards, Volkswagen of America's decision was made to best ensure that California's corporate fleet average for emissions would be met. This complicated standard calls for all automakers to formulate and sell a predetermined mix of its models in order to meet a strict corporate fleet average for emissions.

The Volkswagen TDI engine is the cleanest passenger car diesel ever produced, emitting about 20 percent less CO2 than a comparable gas engine. Additionally, the TDI emits less CO and hydrocarbons than gas motors and because of its fuel's evaporative properties, it doesn't release harmful fumes into the air at the fuel pump. The TDI's remarkable fuel efficiency also helps us preserve our planet's finite supply of fossil fuel.

The TDI is certified to the tough minimum Tier 1 requirement - this is the stringent California standard for what is permitted from a car's tailpipe. The TDI could have been certified to even stricter requirements if not for NOX and particulate emissions, which are naturally higher in diesel engines because of their exceptional combustion efficiencies.

Volkswagen is confident these NOX levels can be lowered using new technology if the sulfur level in our nation's diesel fuel was reduced. For this very reason, Volkswagen and the other members of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers have advocated lower federal sulfur content standards in both diesel and gasoline fuels. It is a sad fact that the most technologically advanced country in the world uses the world's most sulfur-laden fuels.

We apologize for any disappointment and hope this information shares insight on our position. If we may be of further assistance, please respond to this e-mail. If you prefer to speak with a representative, you may contact the Volkswagen Information Center at 1-800-DRIVE-VW.

We certainly appreciate your interest in the Volkswagen brand and invite you to visit again in the future.


It looks like I will have to purchase a TDI from out of state, or get one used that someone else has already imported into California.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I Voted

I am happily wearing my "I Voted" sticker, having just returned from the polls. I was having a little trouble this morning explaining to my eight year old step-daughter why only 6.8 million people in California are expected to vote today. She was concerned that the lines would be very long at the polling station this morning. I said no, there would be no line (there wasn't). But how could I explain to her that only 6.8 million of 15.8 million registered voters were going to vote today? Or the even more bizarre (and sad) fact that this is considered a strong turnout?

While I don't advocate her solution to the problem ("I thought everyone HAD to vote!"), it sure would be nice if people like Arnold Schwarznegger, the pharmaceutical companies, the teacher's unions... would spend some of their $300 million on getting people to vote on whichever side of the issue, instead of just the partisan (and, to me, often misleading) issue oriented advertising.