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We live in litigious times, so I should say that content reflects only my opinions!

Saturday March 11 2006

Quietness here explained by my current immersion in online car configurators.

I like online car configurators; you go through a sequence of steps choosing your colour, model and options and at the end you get a little picture of your chosen vehicle and of course the price. Which is jolly good fun, and means that you have all the decisions pretty much made and a price in mind prior to enduring the depredations of your actual local dealership. I am looking for a supermini at the moment, which I will be using predominantly to hop around locally but also for a few lengthy European trips. And, dear readers, I have to say that the process is rather doing my head in. I am after something with decent performance and air con and a good stereo. I also want respectable economy and low running costs, but I'm not prepared to put up with something flimsy or gutless. These, as I see it, are my choices:

Mini Cooper

Fiesta Zetec S

Seat Ibiza TD FR

Toyota Yaris D4D

VW? Too much money for what it is. Seat is prettier VW-based car for less dosh.

All of which are well-made, well thought of superminis. I like the appearance of all of them, but then I'm pretty easily pleased in these matters. Anything that doesn't look like a complete shed is okay by me. Where it all gets messy is when I get to considering the details. Because really, the Mini is the car I want. The servicing package is so cheap that routine maintenance is a matter of £30 a year for the first five years. Lavish use of options gives me a hell of a stereo. Handling is great, build is great and the car is inescapably really cool. Not cheap, mind, but very fun. And depreciation is so slight that the high initial outlay is well protected. But then would I sell it or would I run it for ages? Economy is good given the performance. But where it all goes pear-shaped is when one or two practical considerations intrude.

There is no escaping the fact that the Mini has nowhere to put anything. That funky interior, and I do love it, has no real console for storage. And I always need a notebook and pen, torch, shades, maps, lighter, phone and music close at hand. And given that there is very little point in any luggage capacity that leaves ones stuff on view, the back seat is not a viable storage area. The boot on a Mini is vestigial. In fact it would suit me better if it were simply a two-seater car with a largish boot. My worry is that life with the Mini would be a constant struggle with trying to conceal things from prying eyes. Also, the fantastic handling comes at the price of a ride which is possibly too lively for protracted long-distance use. It's not a very comfortable car. And this is the problem. Can I get away with a Mini as my only car?

The Fiesta I quite like. It is well priced, has all the stuff and is a good car. It is not brimming with personality, but it is three grand cheaper than the Mini. It is nippy enough, and has a bit more of the all-important boot space. In fact, the same might be said of the Toyota and the Seat too. It's clear that the lack of luggage space is really the only reason why I haven't already ordered the Mini. That and the Yaris, whose build quality and cabin space and design coupled with blindingly good economy and keen price are constantly threatening to make me not care about anything else. Which is not necessarily good, because it is a little less nippy than I'd like - although as a diesel the torque does make up for this in real-world usage. Rather more comfy too. Then again, the well-made Seat is powerful and economical...

As I say, I'm having a hard time deciding. I am sure that I need to get something sorted out soon, not least because I cannot have two cars parked here and therefore must sell my Scirocco (a terrible shame). The tax on the Scirocco expires at the end of the month, and I really don't want to pay to tax it purely in order to keep it here while I sell it. The Mini would take at least a month to arrive, and that too is an argument against.

Heart or head. Which is it to be?

Posted at 6:18 pm by Jim Woods

Wednesday March 8 2006

I'm very pleased that the new series of Dalziel and Pascoe is quality,

because I did feel they'd lost it a bit in the last series. Well, the writers had at least. Warren Clarke can always bring a convincing Warren Clarke on. And that's a lot to do with why I watch, and pretty much always have. Those who know me will have no idea why.


Paperwork mountain is largely conquered, leaving only good clean fun type paperwork. I won't ever like it, but it's better than the other kinds at least. And it looks like a get to travel a bit this year, for the first time in three years, so that's very good news. Garden is clear of detritus, leaving only a weeding and setting in order exercise. This will not now require a biohazard suit, snorkel and machete. Less fun but less hard work. Mountain of unwatched TV on TiVo is badly hit, leaving only a few stragglers. Now it's time to cancel the satellite at long last, I think. Lord knows with the free to air satellite channels and Freeview too I hardly think I'm going to be short of viewing. It's not that I have a problem with watching too much TV. On the contrary, having it all there makes me feel like I should - and that's pressure I don't need when I'm trying to absorb so much art and music as well. If I wasn't paying the subscription, I wouldn't feel the pressure. Sorry Rupert.

Today's meteorology observation is that I'm so pleased that it's milder that I don't care that it's pissing with rain. I'm just staying in most of the time at the moment, so what the hey.

Vodafone's latest free phone donation to me is a nice Motorola Razr. I spent £25 on a bluetooth headset in honour of the cracking freebie, and if you phone me when I'm in the car I'll get to play with it. But don't bother following me around, because there's absolutely no way I'll be Nathan Barleying along the street on my bike with it on. And my bike is not tiny. If none of this means much to you, be sure that it's in your entertainment interests to check it out.

Posted at 12:55 am by Jim Woods

Monday March 6 2006

I have ordered the whole of the first and second series of Shameless,

thus guaranteeing some splendid DVD fun for the near future when it arrives. I thought I had better buy something to celebrate the return of weather which is actually non-lethal to being outdoors. Other exciting purchases today will include bread, juice and tea bags. For me, few things are more exciting than a good cup of tea. It's the rock of my faith.

I see from running NetStumbler that my area is alive with various people's wireless networks. I have improved the performance of mine by nailing it to a channel which no-one else is on. It took me ages to do this; it just never occurred to me before that this would make a difference. And I hadn't really scanned for other wireless here before. Why would I, when I have my own broadband? Still, I'm amazed to see how many people run their connections either wide open or using the largely useless WEP. Wise up, people, and use WPA with a decent key-length. Unless of course you really don't care what others do using your connection, that is. I don't think that's wise these days, but I guess it's one more sign of the same naïveté that has people running creaking systems burdened with spyware and out-of-dat virus checking. These days we all have to be a bit more on the ball.

And what's with Philips? I'm not buying another of their electric razors. The one I have is rather abusive to my face, which is because the little rotating blades have worn out from coping with the mato grosso that is my jowls. This, I might add, in only just over a year. My efforts to simply go and get replacement blades have foundered utterly. The only replacement blades I can find for Philips razors are in Boots, and they are fourteen quid each. That's twenty-eight quid to replace both and restore fun shaving. And the blades available are not for my model of Philips, which by coincidence cost about twenty-eight quid in total. No, they are for those ridiculous Philips razors you see in the Book of Args. The ones that cost hundreds. The ones I always think that you'd have to be some kind of sick mother to buy at that price. I always use electric razors, you see. And it is beginning to get really wearing that I have never yet been able to get parts for any of the ones I have. The result is that I have about four perfectly good razors which just need a part you can't get. It's ridiculous.

I am going to try to expunge my bile by going to the bank, paying in a few bob, doing a quick Tesco and then coming home to do some finishing-off work on some papers. I still await a huge gas bill. In many ways, this is the sort of thing better awaited than received. I must check some alternative suppliers. Good grief, even the electric has gone up a fair bit. It's the end of the bloody world coming, I tell you. And it's not helped by disposable consumer electronics that cannot be repaired.

Oh, and further to my comment the other day about how my fleet of old electrical products is forcing me to virtually sleep in the garden, if anyone has the vim and vigour to replace the odd drive unit on their own initiative I have several pairs of otherwise decent speakers which I'll let go for reasonable offers. Any takers?

Posted at 2:01 pm by Jim Woods

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