Thursday, March 11, 2010

I am a huge fan of transportation and whenever my feet lands on another nation's soil I cant help but check out their transportation systems. One common denominator in all the places I've been to is the presence of a good railroad system. Rails are harbingers of progress and prosperity that allow easy access to natural resources and manpower. Sadly in the Philippines, progress is centralized mainly in the cities.

Progress needs to be distributed out to the countryside by and for the people under conditions of equality, I refer to this concept as the democratization of progress. And what better and cheaper way to democratize progress than to ship progress out of the cities and into the countryside using rails, steel wheels on steel rails in an intimate kiss of power, speed and adhesion.

Since the 1970's, rail transportation has been largely neglected, but over the past decade the amount of progress in the railroad sector has stepped up year by year. We have the MRT, the Purple line, North and Southrail, the purchase of new DMU's for PNR and other projects. My train loving heart leaps with joy at the prospect of riding a rail network that we can be proud of. But most of all I am hopeful that the increase in rail mileage also means an increase in progress out in the countryside, progress that can be felt by everyman.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Notes to self regarding investing

I felt that I should write down some things I have learned about investing so that I should never stray from my ideals. This is mainly intended for myself as I treat my blog as a personal notepad and I find that I remember things better if I write them down.

1.) Intuition should be balanced by facts in the purchase of any security, emotions are of no importance when buying a stock.

2.) The general public is fickle leading to large variances in stock price, never buy when a stock is experiencing a huge rally in a day because more often than not it is too good to be true. Instead try focusing on companies that have consistent growth in their fundamentals.

3.) There are no magic bullets in the stock market, if a stock seems to have risen too high then it is too high. Better be safe than sorry and wait for more information.

4.) Today's market is very volatile with a lot of "mini bubbles" happening over the course of a few months. Predicting the highs and lows of these bubbles is hard.

5.) Keep (daily if possible) notes of recommendations even of you do not buy or sell any stock. This is so that the past is put into proper focus because hindsight is 20/20.

6.) I am not a day trader, I invest long term in good companies that have a SOLID business model and good prospects for growth.

7.) Investing in foreign countries is lots better than investing in the Philippines.

8.) Try looking at stocks in developing countries that have good governance/corporate cultures.

9.) Knowledge is the key to beating volatility (in the long run).

10.) Greed or the acquisition of wealth is what motivates me. Being greedy is ok but to a point, always remember time is your friend. I can afford to go long.

Last: I can afford to wait but not to lose money.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I had the fortune of being in Taiwan when Morakot struck and now that I have experienced Ondoy, I can safely contrast the disaster response and preparedness procedures of both countries.

And since the topic is about what lessons could we learn from Ondoy, I present a few observations/tips.

1.) Declare a public holiday early. When I was in Taiwan, the govt declared a holiday early which meant that people could prepare, families were together and most importantly roads were clear of traffic.
Philippine version? No declarations till the morning, everyone went to work clogging up the streets which prevented emergency services from reaching affected areas and worst of all families were separated making finding immediate family members a daunting task post typhoon.

2.) People should heed storm warnings and not go about their daily business thinking that "its just another storm". Never underestimate mother nature. In contrast, when I as in Taiwan most everything on the TV was typhoon themed, the news agencies interviewed people preparing for the typhoon and gave out tips for preparedness, even the commercials shown had a typhoon theme.
Here in the Philippines, the night before, everything ran as usual as if they expected the next day to be a normal sunny day. Dare I say this, that part of the blame is on the public for being so nonchalant about a coming storm.

3.)PAGASA as a whole is an organization that is disrespected and ridiculed by the media and the public. The guys running PAGASA are the experts at weather and they should be the ones who should be charged(or be consulted) about announcements of suspension of classes et al. But what we have here is a system of signals where certain storm signals mean classes and no classes. Again this shows complacency as no two storms are the same and appropriate disaster response AND preparedness should be tailor fit to the situation.

In addition, there is no sense of unity in the government, as I am sure that PAGASA was at least consulted but the government did not act which brings me to my 4th point.

4.) Government preparedness, the government did not do any prepositioning of supplies, material and personnel to handle the situation. I might be mistaken, but the day before Morakot struck I was on a train towards central Taiwan and I could clearly some military trains loaded with HMVV's and other military vehicles at some stations. The amount of military stuff was probably some sort of preparation for the coming typhoon.

Military train at some station along the eastern main line. Photo taken the day before Morakot struck taiwan.
A picture of (i believe) another train taken the day before Morakot struck. One can clearly see the military ambulance loaded onto the flatcar.

Summing it all up, the Philippine government does not care about honest tax paying people.

PS: 3 storms incoming, but all show tracks veering away from the PH. But it is possible that those storms could interact which should be a very big factor in their track, hopefully going further away from us. Hoping for the best.

Monday, July 27, 2009

2007 Civic 2.0S

Was "forced" to use this car cause the Omega was out of commission.

Drove it before, within the village and I was impressed with the handling and steering. But once out on the road a different kind of impression overtook me.
The car looks good, it is wide with an aggressive stance, so wide in fact that when it was parked beside our Evo VII it seemed that the car was as wide as the Evo (I think it really is). The 2.0S exclusive wheels certainly do a good job of showing off the 4 wheel disc brakes and they look good in their own right.

Steering feel is very good with a perfect amount of weight while turning the wheel, it doesn't feel over or underboosted. Only gripe about the steering is that at low speeds the quick ratio rack tends to be a little too quick ratio leading to a little dartiness. But once speeds are up the feel is fine, even when you go into a turn with some speed.

Engine response is superior compared to our previous Civic (01VTI-S). The word superior is used because our old VTI-S had a very sensitive pedal where a small tap would lead to lurching as IF the car had gobs of power or lordly engine response (Note to Honda, 1.6l engines do not have MAD TORKZ, dont try to fool me). Thankfully in the new Civic they seem to have fixed the lurching, with me finding it easy to set off without tensing my foot too much finding the right amount of pedal depression to avoid lurching. An additional bonus is that my feet dont feel so tired after a long journey modulating the pedal to achieve a comfortable drive.

Suspension: Feels solid with no untoward sounds, tire noise somewhat reared its head at around 50km/h which was a slight inconvenience considering the pricetag.
The suspension feels more planted than that of the old VTI-S particularly around the rear where the old car's rear tended to raise when braking, wag around while cornering and bottom out when going over bridges or raised sections of road. The new Civic's rear end feels more planted now with no untoward movements. The front end is another story, though it feels grippy, ride quality is not top notch and I oft noticed the front bobbing up and down while going through Commonwealth. I feel that the main cause of most of my gripes about ride quality and noise are due mostly to the fitment of 17 inch wheels with low profile tires on an econobox car. I want to try fitting the lower end Civic's 1.8 16 inch wheels with higher profile tires to see if ride comfort and road noise decreases.

Surprisingly the interior is quite good, with a quality feel all throughout, I specially like the dashboard with its soft touch plastics that lend an aura of quality to the car. Seating position is fine with no plus or minus points, and visibility is superb. Bonus points to the large sidemirrors that enable the driver to see what is beside his car using only his peripheral vision.

As I was driving I ranted about the car's value, I do not get the point of spending P1m+ for a bigger engine slapped into what basically is an economy car. Sure it is well engineered and lots of things are well thought out but I just cannot find a reason to pay that amount of money for this car.
First of all, the car appears pretentious, it fooled me into thinking that it is not an economy car. That it is a car that aspires for the driving dynamics of the 3 series BMW which is a good thing, but what is bad about those aspirations is that it raised my expectations about it and when those expectations are raised the car falls short and I was a bit... disappointed.

Secondly, the price tag at something north of P1m (with used examples hovering near P900k) I felt that money could be better spent on buying a good used German sedan like say an Opel Astra or a BMW 3 series.

Oh an addition, the longer I do not use this car the more it dawns on me that this car is a good con artist. Because it fools the driver into thinking that it is more powerful than it really is by crazily downshifting whenever you so much as touch the pedal. This hurts fuel economy and makes me feel pissed off. Granted that the lurching of the old VTI-S is gone but still it pisses me off that this car is not honest.

Addendum: having driven our 2004 Honda Accord 2.0 it seems as though Honda deliberately tweaked the software in the transmission to downshift much more than that of the accord in an attempt to give a feeling of sportyness. Sporty it is to some, annoying to me. Honda should have provided the car with a "sport mode" button for the transmission, but then you could argue that it has paddle shifters, but then I would counter with "do you paddle shift your way around city (shitty) traffic?".

2009 Montero Sport

Dad once (finally) let me drive his new Montero Sport because he wasn't feeling well and as with most cars I drive I made a review.
What follows is my usual disjointed style of reviewing mainly culled from my observations while driving the car.

Powerful engine, responsive even though it is diesel, Smooth power delivery with good torque, throttle response is also excellent with the engine responding quickly to changes in throttle position. The automatic transmission does not make it seem that you are driving a diesel with low rpm limits cause it is smart, shifting when needed and shifting unobtrusively providing uninterrupted acceleration. Was singing praises to Rudolf Diesel and the engineers at Mitsubishi for 1/4 of the time I was driving it.

Ride quality is great with only a nibble of undamped suspension movement (mostly on the rear) on bumps when hit at speed. Manages to absorb every bump the road has, even expansion joints aren't felt in the cabin. One gripe is that the vehicle tends to lean when turned but this is an SUV so some lean is expected.

Steering feels somewhat numb, with somewhat large movements needed to elicit changes in direction. Also the wheel feels a bit underboosted at times but this may just be a precaution so that overeager drivers don't turn the wheel too fast and make the car roll too much.

One big gripe is the brake pedal, during the first few milliliters of travel the pedal doesnt give any feedback and is spongy. Though the brakes bite during the first few mm of travel, it is hard to modulate over a long drive and thus the top muscle of my feet feels tired. After the first few mm of travel though, the pedal feels firm and responsive with braking power easily changed by pressure on the pedal.

Ergonomics wise everything needed for driving is within quick and easy reach of the driver. The only downsides to ergonomics are the handbrake and the horn button. The handbrake needs a large amount of movement needed to achieve some braking action and it felt like driving a train, it is good to note that we didn't fiddle around with the handbrake adjustment and that this setting came from the dealer. The horn button is in the middle of the wheel and is hard to modulate to elicit short toots or one long angry toooooot, so I found myself beeping too little or beeping too much. Also the placement of the horn button is suboptimal because ideally a driver should have his hands on the 3 and 9 o clock positions on the steering wheel. The horn button forces you to take one hand off the 3 or 9 o clock position to press the button. As for the sound of the horn, the sound is tinny which doesnt match up well with the size of the vehicle, since by default big expensive vehicles should have big sounding horns and for a vehicle in this price range and size you'd expect something sounding a little more manly.

Driving position and view is excellent, with big sideview mirrors that permit the driver to keep looking at the road while looking at the sideview mirrors because they show cars well on peripheral vision.
Seats are supportive enough, not much to say about em except that the drivers seat lacks a little bit of forward lean range.

And uhhh what else? I still missed driving the Opel Omega.