Car Envy - Car Reviews, News, and Auto Industry Insight from Alberta’s Heartland - Part 2

Surviving My Father With Wine, Turbos, And Bitcoin


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The Challenge(r) with Bitcoin

2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8 392

By Peter Dushenski

As we learned with Lira, my new Fiat 500, Bitcoin has already been a powerful force in my life.

Within days of my Eureka! moment, I’d booked flights to San Jose, CA for Bitcoin 2013, the first North American conference for the emerging payment system.

Being a diverse and resourceful lad, I decided to fly through San Francisco,  providing an opportunity to drive my favourite muscle car, the Dodge Challenger SRT8 392, on the Bay Area’s boundless roads.

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Here’s To The Crazy Ones: Why Saab Mattered

01 - Saab Logo by Artem N. Barsukov @barsukov
“On an early summer morning, July ’69” — thus begins a 2000 song “One Small Step” by the Dutch musician extraordinaire Arjen Lucassen. The song is likely autobiographical. One simply cannot fake the childlike joy that courses through its lyrics. The childhood experience of waking up at 3:45 AM in a small Dutch town Hilversum to watch Neil Armstrong land on the Moon foreshadows the rest of Arjen’s life. It marks the moment when he began his lifelong infatuation with space that would later take him to writing bombastic space-themed rock operas and becoming one of the most influential figures in the world of progressive rock. Those little things in our childhood do make a big splash.

My story begins at a different time of year and in a place much less cozy than Hilversum. A gentle night in July is replaced with a snowy March morning and a postcard Dutch town is replaced with a freezing Siberian city of Omsk, where Stalin used to send German POWs during WWII. It was Sunday, March 5, 1995, it was –25o C outside, and I was 7 years old. It was in that cold Siberian city on that very day when my fascination with cars began.

Back then, I lived in a very different world. It had been just 3 years since the Soviet Union had collapsed. The Iron Curtain fell almost immediately, and a sea of Western imports flooded the country. Among these, one particular import stood out for 7-year olds like me. Like millions of other Russian children, I would get up every Sunday at 9 AM — which was quite a feat considering we had a 6-day school week — to sit in front of a recently acquired Western-made TV to watch Western cartoons. As fate would have it, on that day my weekly fix of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe happened to be followed by a car show. I never knew its name, but this was a car show that would change everything.

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Stop Forecasting And Start Dreaming

ForecastMM_470x310

 

By Peter Dushenski

Forecasts are rational, useful, and necessary. Right?

Whether it’s 2013 US car sales forecasts made by Edmunds, Audi’s ambitious sales forecasts, population forecasts made by the UN, or inflation forecasts made by the Federal Reserve – everyone’s in on the forecasting game. But not all forecasts are created equal.

Listening to the weatherman for a week and comparing his predictions with climatological outcomes would show you how tough the forecasting game really is. And weather systems are far simpler than most of the systems we try to make date-specific predictions about. Is it really any wonder that everyone from Audi to the United Nations revises their forecasts until prediction and predicted merge seamlessly, like an outfielder catching a fly ball?

Forecasting of complex systems is nearly, if not completely, impossible. So why do we keep believing them?

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Reflecting During The Holidays

Every day is an opportunity for us to reflect and yet it’s during the holidays that we actually get enough breathing room between the incessant buzz of modernity and ourselves to make it happen. So let’s take this moment.

We have much to be grateful for: Peace in our country, heat in our homes, cars in our garages (maybe even a Fiat 500), food on our plates, and loved ones nearby. And more.

CarEnvy is also grateful for where we came from. Just over four short years ago, in October 2008, CarEnvy bursted forth from the frozen landscape with short drive reviews of the Lexus IS-F, Lexus LX570, and Lexus RX400h all in the same day. Oh how very, very far we’ve come. Exactly four years ago, we visited Cuba and marveled at the rolling automotive museums in the streets. Exactly three years ago, we played badminton in the Honolulu Open and saw Schumacher’s 2002 F1 car. Exactly two years ago, we volunteered in Costa Rica where we ran head-on into a non-Porsche Cayman and lived to tell the tale. Exactly year ago, we toured Maui in a Kia Soul and bicycled down the Haleakalā volcano. This year, we’re in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with friends and family, braving -30C temperatures and experimenting with low-carb nutrition just when ginger snaps and perogies are tempting us the most. The journey, as challenging and rewarding as ever, continues.

Thank you so very much for following CarEnvy’s journey over the past 4+ years. It’s been an honour to share our stories with you and we’re very excited for the year ahead.

Merry Belated Christmas, Happy Belated Hannukah, Happy New Year, and a very Happy Holidays!

Yours Most Sincerely,

Peter

[Image Credit: 500blog]

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Ferries, Fragility, and The (Volt-Shaped) Future

The Chevy Volt.

Ah yes. The very embodiment of the Obama Administration’s public appeasement after GM’s bailout in 2008. For years thereafter, the Volt wrapped itself in the untouchable US flag and became a symbol of innovation, risk-taking, and taxpayer dollars. But now the dust has settled and the car is here: for sale at your local dealership, miles away from the world of partisan bickering, if not public relations spin. It’s been four long years since we were promised a revolution. Has the wait been worth it?

Much like the President, I had high, but not foolishly untempered expectations of this American. With its 16-kWh battery and 60km all-EV range, Chevy claims the Volt will ferry 78% of us to work and back without a single drop of Alberta’s famous bitumen. Of course, since it only seats four people, each family will need their own, but you get the idea. General Motors, the profligate statue of American excess, couldn’t (or wouldn’t) offer us complete freedom from oil. Not quite. For those “once-in-a-whiles” – those fishing trips, those trips to the farm, and those trips to the mountains – there’s an 83hp 1.4L “range-extender” (read: engine).

As an igloo-dwelling urbanite with no plug-in at home or office, the Volt isn’t for me. But that just makes its forbidden fruit that much sweeter. While in Vancouver recently, accompanying my fiancée on a “continuing education” getaway (not as miserable as it sounds), I sipped the extended-range-electric nectar and indulged in a “once-in-a-while”. But enough quotation marks.

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Vieux Montreal, New Yawk, And The Sneaky Swede


Vieux Montreal, New Yawk, And The Sneaky Swede

Tweets and additional commentary from an 8-day trip to Montreal and NYC to celebrate the 7th anniversary with my fiancee, Mila.

Storified by Peter Dushenski · Tue, Nov 20 2012 16:53:32

Do airplanes have winter tires?Peter Dushenski
Day 1: Edmonton to Montreal
We started our journey by flying 3500km east from Edmonton to Montreal. We landed, checked in, went for a walk, and went to bed. Day 1 in the books!

Day 2: Montreal

We slept in, grabbed a coffee, and walked down St. Catherine’s towards my Grandpa’s place in Westmount where we were joined by my Uncle Justin and his wife Karen.

Landed in Montreal with The Future Mrs. CarEnvy on our 7th anniversary trip. This is our last November 12 anniversary, moving to August 24…Peter Dushenski
Obama only asked for 4 more years in the most RT’d tweet ever, I’m asking for 7 with the option for several more re-elections. #7moreyearsPeter Dushenski
We then sauntered over to the romantic Old Montreal and stopped into the Taverne Gaspar for cocktails. The Old Fashioned was delightful, but if you only order one drink, go for the signature Bourbon Lemonade.
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The Invisible Parasol And The New Ford Escape

By Peter Dushenski @carenvy

There are 31-year-olds who live in their parents’ basement and volunteer at the soup kitchen. There are 42-year-old single mothers who work from home as angel investors. There are 88-year-old snow birds who drive to Phoenix every winter, not to golf, but to run in the marathon. Everyone has a story. Some more unusual than others.

These stories, and generalizations thereof, are what marketers zero in on like Obama on Osama, and vice versa.

Marketers, like politicians and terrorists, want to know all about us. They want to be our pen pals but they don’t want to write back. That sounds a bit like stalking because it is. But the goal of marketing isn’t just to creep, it’s to sell.

Obviously, marketers can’t talk to every single potential buyer – asking them what they like and don’t like – that’s too time consuming and too expensive. Fortunately for them, there are terabytes of cheap personal data at the ready. As buyers have opened themselves to the world of the web, giving away their innermost desires as a means of “sharing”, marketers are now able to peg us with alarming accuracy. That’s part of the reason why, even though finding one without corn starch is nearly impossible, we have 145 kinds of yogurt at the grocery store. It’s also why Google Ads assaults my father with “Collector’s WW2 Uniforms” ads whether he’s checking out CarEnvy or IDF.il. It’s also why we have cars like the Mercedes CLS63 AMG and its simply sultry Shooting Brake sister. Specificity of both supply and demand are on the up and up. Differentiating ourselves from the masses has undeniable appeal.

As a result, as any marketer worth his square glasses will tell you, there are infinite and one niches. Due to the abundance of data now available, these segments of the population are often diced so finely that the greater whole to which they belong is lost entirely. Marketers are effectively staring at Georges Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte so closely that they’re unable to see even a single parasol.

In marketing today, a man who likes fast cars, cold beer, and high-impact sports is as invisible as the parasol. He’s too big to notice. And yet he exists, defiant of their ignorance.

Which brings us to the 2013 Ford Escape.

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