Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Driving in the US

Cat's Eye, originally uploaded by xrrr.

I suppose spending 99.99999% of my driving life driving in Europe I have been spoilt. Here are some reasons why driving in the US sucks for me:

  • No cat's eyes - I have just driven 30 mins from Chappaqua, NY to White Plains, NY in the dark in the pouring rain and had absolutely no idea where the road was going 50% of the time. No wonder the speed limit is 55mph you would be mad to do more than that in this weather!
  • Bumpy road surfaces - you think Surrey's roads are bad, just travel up Highway 22 near Armonk, NY it is like it is peppered with mole hills. With nearly 4,000,000 miles of road in the US it is no wonder it is hard to keep them up to scratch but I now know why US cars have got such soft suspension!
  • Valet parking - I just tipped a guy $2 to fetch my car for me when it was parked outside the restaurant about 10 steps away from where I was standing - I had left my laptop and camera in the boot of the car and spent most of the night worrying about them because I had given the keys to some random chappie!
  • American cars - the middle to lower range cars are basically shit compared to EU cars. Poor spec, poor styling and all with automatic gear boxes.
Maybe I am in a bad mood because of the rain!

Monday, 28 April 2008


Adapted, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Is it me or is auto-translation of Russian far far better than French, Italian, etc? We got teflon and WD-40 from the space race; is usable Russian computer translation a product of the Cold War?

This is what got me thinking:
Google translated iPhone blog

Sunday, 20 April 2008

The Beast 2.0

2008 BMW 330i M Sport Coupe, originally uploaded by Me (?).

For the past 18 months I have been 'almost' buying a new car. My E46 BMW 330i (a.k.a. "The Beast") was fantastic but I always intended it to be an interim car whilst I waited for the new shape Coupe M Sport model to come out. The sport model came out and I ummed and ahhed about changing for about 12 months and then eventually in March I ordered one.

After lots of phone calls and messing about with LeasePlan I eventually got a call 2 weeks ago from the dealer telling me the car would be delivered on the afternoon of Friday 18 April. w00t!
That was almost a month quicker than I had been led to believe what the lead time was. w00t!
That also presented a problem...

I live in a street with permit parking and we are limited to two permits per house. If I did not sell The Beast before I got my new car that would mean having three cars. And three cars would be a pain. Here starts the problem...

It turns out that 3 litre sports cars are not exactly hot sellers at the moment. I have come up with the following factors that made selling a problem:
  • Global Credit Crunch - who wants to buy an expensive second hand car when the news is all doom and gloom about the economy
  • Petrol Prices - with petrol at 111p a litre large engined cars are not popular
  • Old shape - The Beast was the old E46 shape BMW and the new shape has been around for about 18 months meaning there are some new shape second handers for not much more than I was asking
  • No Sat Nav - I rang around a number of garages to see if they wanted to buy it and all but 2 said they were not interested because the car did not have sat nav
So regardless of those factors I needed to sell in a hurry.

First step Autotrader. I spent £50 on an advert for the magazine and internet for three weeks of advertising. I put it on at £500 more than the Glass.co.uk guide price I had bought (£3.50). After a week I had had one phone call from a chap from Scotland who never called me back. A week later I dropped the price by £1000. Not a sniff of interest.

Next step eBay. I spent £15 on an advert for eBay. Took lots of new pictures and gave a very detailed summary of the car. I put a reserve on of £1000 less than the new lower Autotrader price. I had some minor interest but the car did not sell, it got within £400 of the reserve but none of the bidders I emailed got in touch.

Getting a bit worried now. Contingency plans involved leaving the old car at work so as to avoid parking permit problems but that was going to be a faff.

Next step second hand car dealers. I rang around and had a few low offers over the phone. Hampshire Sports and Prestige Cars offered me the same amount as the eBay reserve but wanted to see the car to discuss formal price. When I went over there the chap spotted I had two very worn tyres and was concerned about the proximity of a service. We agreed on a price and I sold. It was a bit lower than I was hoping but the hassle of selling was over and I was finally car-less two days before the new one.

Friday. Afternoon. Working from home. Waiting for the phone to ring to be told about delivery time. 13:00 get call from Darren the delivery driver. Darren says he does not think he will get up my street in his 65 foot long car transporter so can I meet him somewhere in an hour. Oh yes!

2008 BMW 330i M Sport Coupe, originally uploaded by Me (?).

I meet up with Darren and he hands over the car to me. Worryingly I did not have to show any ID but then I guess who else would be hanging around outside Vines Mini in Guildford waiting for a 65 foot car transporter.

2008 BMW 330i M Sport Coupe, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Got the car and drove home. Now I had been planning this day for a long time, the idea was to take the afternoon off work and go somewhere picturesque and take some photos of the new car. Problem was the weather was rubbish. I went for a drive but it ended up being school chucking out traffic and so I got hacked off being stuck in traffic so I went home.

BMW Remote Control, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Eventually the weather was dry this morning so Alison and I popped over to Farnborough to go somewhere I had scoped out already. We went to Farnborough Air Sciences Museum where they have a load of historic aircraft that fortunately you can park right next to. I parked up next to a Harrier jet and set up my tripod etc. Within a few minutes a chap comes out and politely asks me what I am doing. I apologised and assured him I was doing non-commercial photography and I am just an amateur with a new car that I want to take some interesting pictures of. I made a donation of £5 to cover the fact that we were not going into the museum but were still making use of the outdoor parts. The guy was very friendly and introduced himself as Brian.

2008 BMW 330i M Sport Coupe, originally uploaded by Me (?).

After a load of 'photofaffing' around the Harrier, Brian pops out and asks me if I want to take some pictures through the barriers and with a load of additional planes - i.e. special access. Of course I said yes and spent another 30 mins photofaffing around an ex-Red Arrows plane whilst Brian's colleague Malcolm supervised. Excellent stuff :-)

2008 BMW 330i M Sport Coupe, originally uploaded by Me (?).

So I have the car, it is filthy already from the rubbish weather but the car is FANTASTIC! Well worth the wait (and money!). I am looking forward to a driving holiday to Reims in May and then another driving holiday to the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales in July. This is all practice for another European Grand Tour in 2009 or 2010. Can't wait!

I have created a PictoBrowser gallery below. Click on the image to move to the next picture and move the mouse over the bar at the bottom where it says PictoBrowser to select other images.

Saturday, 19 April 2008


Poppy, originally uploaded by Me (?).

We wanted to brighten up our hall and stairs and so decided to get a canvas print of one of my recent photos. Anyone who has seen my Flickr stream will know that there are quite a few to choose from!

We narrowed it down to the poppy picture above and ended up choosing a company called Photobloc for the printing. Photobloc's website looked the most professional and their prices seemed to be quite reasonable. I liked the way they offer a free photo tidy up and proofing service so that (if required) their in-house photoshoppers can sort out problems with pictures like removal of timestamps and the like.

We ordered Sunday, had the proof on Monday and the canvas on Thursday. That is pretty good service I think.

I put the picture on the wall this morning and I think it looks rather good :-)

Canvas Print, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Social Networn

Networn, originally uploaded by Me (?).

I invented a new word last week (technically 2 words but run with it):

so·cial net·worn
- adjective
1. Diminished in enthusiasm for participating in online social networking websites;

1. social netweary (adj.); Fatigued by social network site participation.
2. social netwear (verb); The apathy about keeping your multiple social networking site profiles up to date.

Is it just me that is feeling like this? Not a month goes by without an invite from another newly discovered networking site from one of my friends. It also seems to go in phases. A few years ago it was Friends Reunited, then MySpace, then Flickr, then Facebook and now LinkedIn. Don't get me wrong, I love my friends but I actually like to see them in real life and talk to them in person rather than via a proxy website.

Wikipedia lists 116 social networking websites and I am a member of about 5 of them and a lapsed member of another 3 or so. This does not count the 3 different social networking sites we have on our company intranet.

Of all those sites, the only one I actually participate in any more is Flickr. This is mostly because I consider Flickr to be best place to backup, share and discover photos and not a social networking site. Flickr's social networking is secondary to having somewhere to put my photos and share them with the world and long may it stay that way!

Am I the only social netweary person out there?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Gateway to the Summer

Pewley Down, originally uploaded by Me (?).

It was my birthday last week and in the past few years I have been calling my birthday "The Gateway to the Summer". This is because the clocks change to British Summer Time usually a few days before my birthday and spring normally starts springing around this time of year.

Spring is in the air!?, originally uploaded by Me (?).

Imagine my surprise to wake up this morning to find a blizzard going on outside the house! We had a good 6cm or so of snow this morning and it was a great morning for a walk out onto Pewley Down. Lots of other people had the same idea and were out walking in the 'winter' wonderland, having snowball fights, sledging and building snowmen.

Pewley Down in the Spring, originally uploaded by Me (?).

It is now gone 2 in the afternoon and most of the snow has melted in the sunshine but it was fun whilst it lasted :-)

The Thaw, originally uploaded by Me (?).