Peeing into the wind at the North Pole

The funny thing is, when I started reading Richard Hammond’s account of racing Jeremy Clarkson and James May to the North Pole, I did not expect to find out quite so much about the toilet habits of sub zero temperature travellers. Still, a fun read about the Top Gear crew.

“Bloody hell, guys, there’s a bog here. I’ve found it. It’s beautiful. I want to see if it’s real. Give me the gun. And the bog roll. If I’m not back in half an hour, tell my family I died a happy man.”

If that’s a little too squeamish for you, then you really should avoid Clarkson Island. Thanks Mark for twittering this excellent little piece. I love the bit where the young Clarkson gets on the quad bike, and the announcer’s comment that follows ..

PS. WP Super Cache update to follow in a few days. If your blog uses a mixture of query strings and fancy permalinks I’m testing a mod_rewrite rule that may make your life easier:

RewriteCond %{QUERY_STRING} !.*=.*

When is an Alfa Romeo really a Maserati?

When it’s the new Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. This is the first rear wheel drive car from Alfa Romeo since 1992 and there are only going to be 500 made in the first production run, with 500 made in the second in 2009. Don’t bother going to your dealer, they’re all sold out! As you may know I’m a bit of a fan of the Alfa Romeo 147 having owned one a couple of years ago. Such beautiful cars, and just about within the reach of a single, non-mortgage-paying software developer like myself. Times change however, but I wonder if I’ll ever be able to afford the €159,000 asking price of the Competizione.

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Jeremy Clarkson has quite a breathless review of the car, although he does finish by saying the steering isn’t up to scratch. Who wants to let me drive theirs to find out for myself? 🙂

Climb aboard the new Alfa 8C and you’re immediately aware that it feels “just right”. It’s a fairly intangible quality, but it means the cabin makes a Porsche’s interior feel almost dowdy by comparison. And as your eyes rove around, they avidly consume acres of leather, plentiful carbon fibre and generous milled aluminium before settling on the slightly swollen front wings that are visible through the little windscreen. It has to be said that the aroma of leather with the 8C truly reeks of promise.

What makes it a Maserati?

The only real question is whether it’s an Alfa Romeo at all. It was designed by Fiat’s in-house styling centre, and uses a Maserati platform as its basis. The engine is a development of one already in use by Maserati, and just to make matters a little more complex, the whole is assembled by Ferrari.

The gearbox and suspension are also derived from systems used on the Maserati Quattroporte and the car is built, not by Alfa Romeo in Turin, but instead by Maserati in Modena. And when those lucky 41 British buyers need their beautiful new vehicles serviced, they will drive them to Maserati dealerships rather than to Alfa garages.

There are a few promo videos on Youtube, and a boring spy camera video too, but this promo seemed to be the best. Just turn down the volume please!

When columnists go bad

It’s a wonder sometimes why some bloggers hold journalists to such high standards. Quite often what appears in our newspapers is ripped entirely from press releases, or is poorly researched. Case in point are the two columns by Jeremy Clarkson and India Knight in last week’s Sunday Times (I’ve been away, catching up on my blogging!)

Jeremy Clarkson may be a funny guy, but is he a little thick? In Biggles, you’re a crashing bore he says,

Then you have to spend more months learning how to use a radio. Why? I know already. You just stab away at various buttons until someone comes over the speaker. Then you tell him what you want.

Oh no you don’t. You have to talk in a stupid code, saying “over” when you’ve finished speaking for the moment and “out” when you’ve finished altogether. Why? When I ring the plumber or the local Indian restaurant, I am able to convey the nature of my request perfectly well using English. So why when I’m in a plane do I have to talk in gibberish?

“Hello, it’s Jeremy. Is it all right to land?” is a much easier way of saying, “Weston Tower, this is Charlie Victor Tango on 8453.113 requesting a westerly approach to runway 27.”

That’s not sarcastic and witty. That’s plain dumb.

On the same page India Knight states that many people suffering from allergies and food intolerances really don’t have allergies at all and are simply rude. Try telling that to me after I’ve had a cheese covered pizza.

Millions of people have imaginary allergies and food intolerances, according to a survey last week. Many of them have diagnosed themselves online; one in 50 says they only noticed their “problem” when a friend had similar symptoms; and 39% of people questioned think it is “trendy” to claim a food allergy. Twelve million people claim to suffer from allergy or intolerance, of which less than a quarter are medically diagnosed.

The mind boggles. I love cheese and milk. I would love nothing better than to drink a cool glass of milk with a spicy curry, or homemade brown bread with a thick slice of cheese on top. It’s not bloody trendy to have a stuffed up nose and phlemmy throat a few hours later. Poor Ms. Knight lives in a very black and white world.

Good to know I’m not the only one to think this way about India Knight’s article. Actually, India Knight was never good so she couldn’t go bad. At least Clarkson’s articles are mildly entertaining!

The red nosed Clarkson

The Internet is a great place to be. One moment you’re surfing through high quality blogs and the next you’re watching The Top Gear Band trying to play a Billy Ocean song for Red Nose Day in the UK last Friday.

Actually, I read Jeremy’s article in the Sunday Times and went looking for it so I had no excuse. I’m still amazed at how quickly these things make it online. I hope I don’t lose that wonder and become blase about this whole world-wide communications tool at our finger tips. Oh look! an email thingy. I should print that out and read it!

Did you see the last Top Gear of the season? Wasn’t it mad driving those “limos” through the heart of London? Looking forward to the Summer season! Oh look, there are clips of that too. It looks like the Billie Piper interview is in there somewhere too.

Simply because it’s unusual to get so many egos into one small room, here’s Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and others doing a sketch for Africa via Blogorrah. It’s a great laugh too.

Go out and buy the DVD when it’s available. It’s all for charity!

The bodies keep piling up

I remember something a friend said to me about the UK. He came back for the weekend a month ago and we were catching up. Traffic and road deaths and crazy driving came up in conversation and he said that in the UK they’re nowhere near as obsessed about deaths on the roads as the Irish are. People die here, people die there. So what? It’s part of society. That was shocking to me, but then I remembered that they have an order of magnitude bigger population yet a much lower per-capita death rate on the roads. Why is that?

Damien Blake asks what can be done to stop the carnage on the roads? Up to this morning 55 sites or posts linked to Damien Mulley’s post about Thinkhouse PR. We bloggers can do the same for road deaths. Unfortunately it’s unlikely that the guys doing 200kph are the ones reading blogs. What Damien Blake can do is present our ideas to the people in power. It’s been brought to our attention that no single body has responsibility for the roads. The responsibility is shared so nobody is blamed when things go horribly wrong. Damien can bring our ideas to the attention of all of them. Go read his post, he has some great ideas to start with.

I’ve given up ranting about the bad driving I see. A quick search of my blog brought me back 2 years and I’m still saying the same thing. There will always be idiots, no that’s not right, careless and irresponsible people on the roads. I could go on and on. I could tell you about the idiot in the sports car who tore down Sunday Well past the traffic jam, risking a head on crash, or about all the times people speed past me on the Commons Road. Gardai – post a guy permanently there. He won’t be bored, he’ll have a great time and an empty ticket book when he gets back to the office!

Jeremy Clarkson is so eloquent you’d almost believe him. Almost. Go on, read his car review. Three quarters of it is taken up with his speel against anti-speed campaigners. I am glad he recognises truly bad driving as a danger to the rest of us, but his blase attitude to speeding is doubtless upsetting to anyone affected by speeding incidents.

This follows a weekend in which 7 people lost their lives. A fifth person involved in the Monahan crash died this evening. I heard on the news yesterday morning that the speedometer of one car had frozen at 150kph. Don’t try to say that was simply inappropriate speed. That’s never an appropriate speed on Irish roads! Why were they traveling that fast?

As we are oft to do, the Irish Government is following in the footsteps of the British Government and introducing a proper network of speed cameras to the country. At the moment there are 20 fixed speed cameras with only 3 operating at any one time to serve the whole country but that will be increased to 600 including mobile cameras in the next year. It’s expected that 11.1m checks will be made which means you and I will be checked on average 6 times a year. If you don’t speed you won’t have anything to worry about. The private operators running the system will be paid a flat fee so there’s no incentive for them to catch people. Hopefully it’ll have the same effect that the introduction of the penalty points system had when people were actually afraid of getting caught. I admit it’s scary to think that going 1kph over the speed limit will result in a fine and penalty points, but the manpower isn’t there and nothing else has worked. People don’t respond to the carrot, only the stick.

What should we do? The country can’t be paved with motorways, there will always be back roads and bad roads. I have one suggestion. Time. Offenders should serve time. Haul a speeding driver to the nearest Garda station and hold him there for 6 hours or overnight. He’ll soon forget what he was rushing to. Lock up a drunk driver for a week. Even though it is drastic, can you weigh any solution unfairly against the life of even one victim of our roads?

I've had more fun in a road digger

Jeremy Clarkson reviews the latest Volvo digger, sorry, the BMW Z4 M coupé, although you’ll have to scroll down to the end to see what he thinks of this “hard-top, hardcore version of the Z4 M convertible”.

If you want this sort of car, the Porsche Gayman is an obvious rival. It goes harder but is deeply embarrassing to be seen in. So what I’d do is buy the soft-top Z4 M instead. Or if you want something really fun for the weekend, buy a digger.

Is this really Jeremy Clarkson’s myspace blog? Somehow I doubt it as one astute reader noticed he spells colour without the u.