claidheamhmor: (Mondeo Ghia)
The traffic here in Joburg is notoriously bad, not to mention dangerous.

Here are a couple of interesting stats to do with enforcement of traffic law in the Joburg metro area:
  • Over 99% of all fines issues are for speeding, from speed cameras. Almost no moving offences are caught.
  • Only 13% of all fines issues are paid by the infringers.
  • If someone doesn't pay a fine, there are no criminal penalties.
  • There are over R2 billion (just under $200m) in unpaid fines in Joburg and Pretoria.
Those post brought to you in memory of all the people stuck in rush hour traffic this morning.

claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
An EDUP Bluetooth music gateway that I ordered from China finally arrived. Now this is neat! What is does is pairs with a Bluetooth device (like my phone, but it could be my Playbook or PC too). The EDUP then has a stereo socket that I can use to plug into my hifi or my car's sounds system. When I play music from my BlackBerry, it plays wirelessly on Bluetooth to whatever I have the EDUP plugged into. So I can wander round the house or have an untethered phone in the car, while playing (and controlling) music from my phone. The EDUP has an internal battery with about an 8-hour play life, and it's rechargeable with mini-USB (and I have a mini-USB car charger). Something quite neat is that when I turn it on, it connects with my BlackBerry, and the BlackBerry automatically starts playing.

 
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
World Wide Worx just completed a survey on mobile phone use in South Africa, and it's pretty interesting.

South Africans and their cellphones
Data dominates SA mobile trends

Some interesting bits:
84% of users are prepaid.
Most popular phone feature: FM radio

Cellphone (not smartphone alone) market shares:
Nokia: 50%
BlackBerry: 18% (up from 4% 18 months ago)
Samsung: 18% (down from 26% in 2010)
iPhone: 1%
(If you're looking at smartphone market share, BlackBerry has just over 75% (and increasing), with most of the rest split between Android and iPhone).

Social Networking:
Facebook: 38%
Whatsapp: 26% (up from 0% in 2010, driven mainly by Nokia)
BBM (BlackBerry Messenger): 17% (up from 3% in 2010)
Mxit: 23%
Twitter: 12%

QNX and car infotainment systems
For those still quick to write off BlackBerry, I suspect a lot of people have forgotten that RIM is not just about BlackBerry handsets. For example, the QNX software that is the core of the BlackBerry Playbook and the upcoming BB10 operating system is running on the infotainment systems of 30 million cars, 64% of the global market. The brands that QNX systems are in include Audi, Acura, Nissan, Toyota Honda, Mazda, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Chrysler/Fiat, and General Motors. Soon enough, you'll be able to download apps from BlackBerry App World for your car.

My tweets

Sunday, 18 September 2011 12:15
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Sat, 14:01: Saw a hulking guy in a red Mini (LILLETH GP) run stops/lights on 3 intersections within 1km this morning. Nice going, doos. #fb

My tweets

Thursday, 15 September 2011 12:15
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Wed, 18:34: The guy in the car in front of me is playing music videos on an LCD screen that has replaced his rear-view mirror. Very distracting. #fb
  • Thu, 05:54: RT @Jay_Naidoo: If you are patient in one moment of anger,you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. Chinese proverb. #fb

My tweets

Tuesday, 2 August 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)

My tweets

Thursday, 30 June 2011 12:15
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Thu, 07:29: I was just in a car accident. My car's towhook cover is scratched. Other car wasn't so lucky. #fb

My tweets

Friday, 3 June 2011 00:42
claidheamhmor: (Default)

My tweets

Friday, 27 May 2011 15:16
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Fri, 09:48: The only thing I don't like about winter: having the sun in my eyes when driving to and from work. #fb

My tweets

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Wed, 07:05: Spotted a Metro Police vehicle with foglights on. Don't they know the laws they should be enforcing? #fb

My tweets

Friday, 22 April 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Fri, 05:49: Hectic fog and traffic on the N1 JHB to Vanderbijl. Long queues at tollgates. Can use my foglights! :) #fb

My tweets

Friday, 1 April 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Thu, 16:10: Just drove through a cloud of bubbles, blown by a guy on the side of the road. Quite amusing! #fb
  • Thu, 16:40: Embarrassing to have spelling mistakes in your company name, especially on the company pickup. Yes, you, "Ilanga Skylights & Tornado's".#fb
  • Thu, 18:59: RT @FakeAPStylebook: Always remember to close all parentheses. We're not paying to air condition the entire paragraph. #GreatestHits

My tweets

Monday, 21 March 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Sun, 12:20: Typical. 5-minute thundershower the very moment I drove out of the car wash. #fb
  • Mon, 07:54: RT @DrTwittenheimer: Wouldn't it be more efficient to just label the things that are NOT made in China? (If any) #fb

My tweets

Thursday, 17 March 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Wed, 13:24: Earlier I saw a Shoprite 18-wheeler doing a perfect U-turn in an intersection. Damn impressive! #fb

My tweets

Monday, 14 March 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)

My tweets

Thursday, 10 February 2011 12:15
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Wed, 17:57: I just caught a tiny spider spinning a web from my steering wheel. That's how bad the traffic is... #fb

My tweets

Monday, 27 December 2010 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Sun, 14:03: About to see Mamma Mia at the Teatro in Montecasino. Bumped into an ex-colleague, had a nice chat. #fb
  • Mon, 06:19: On the road. About 900km to go. Roads are good so far. #fb

My tweets

Friday, 24 December 2010 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Thu, 15:47: RT @phaezen: But Power Balance does work - for the easy identification of fools :-P
  • Thu, 18:34: People reversing back up the Malibonge onramp to the N1 North in Randburg. Scary. #fb
  • Thu, 21:12: I now know exactly what parts of my body didn't get enough sunblock. *wince* #fb

My tweets

Tuesday, 21 December 2010 12:15
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Mon, 16:42: Traffic lights out, Wm Nicol & N1.
  • Mon, 19:30: Off to see Narnia. Ster Kinekor's self-service machines can be incredibly frustrating. #fb

My tweets

Friday, 3 December 2010 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Thu, 18:12: Ooh, that was annoying. Glad I had jumper leads in the car.
  • Thu, 22:06: Who thought it was a good idea for the Gautrain airport train to stop running at 20:30? #fb
  • Fri, 07:35: Time for a new car battery. Smart of me to park on a slope last night. http://myloc.me/eQZ4P

My tweets

Friday, 26 November 2010 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Thu, 07:36: Cops are out for Xmas bonuses, I think. Seen two speed traps already. #fb

My tweets

Saturday, 6 November 2010 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Fri, 12:00: Time for the fitting of new rear brake pads on the car. Must check why the last ones only lasted 20000km. #fb

My tweets

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 12:02
claidheamhmor: (Default)
  • Mon, 18:38: RT @bengoldacre: Homeopathic belladonna teething tablets turn out to contain belladonna: children poisoned, oops http://dlvr.it/7ZX1C
  • Tue, 05:59: @BridgetRegan In defence of cars, at least they go where you point them and don't take you under low branches. In my experience, of course.
  • Tue, 07:44: Singer Bryan Adams will be the voice of Jock in the upcoming Jock of the Bushveld 3D movie. #fb
  • Tue, 08:37: Top 10 tech tricks we're sick of seeing in movies - CNET News: http://bit.ly/9G0OBB #fb
  • Tue, 09:30: RT @laurenbeukes: Non-South Africans know that District 9 was one gigantic in-joke about the most sinister creatures in Joburg, right? h ...

My tweets

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 12:02
claidheamhmor: (Default)

My tweets

Saturday, 23 October 2010 12:03
claidheamhmor: (Default)
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
Some interesting technology news:

Jaguar C-X75
Jaguar showed off the C-X75 concept car at the Paris Auto Show. It's a really interesting hybrid: there's a 145kW electric motor on each wheel, so 580kW in total, powered by batteries and/or a pair of gas turbine engines that spin up to 80000rpm. On battery only, the car has a 110km range, but in combination with the turbines, it'll go up to 900km. 0-100kph in 3.4 seconds, and a top speed of 330kph.

I hope it goes into production.




BlackBerry PlayBook
RIM unveiled their tablet the other day, the PlayBook. Who the hell chooses their product names? RIM's development names for their products are almost always better than the final release names.

Anyway, it's a tablet, much like the iPad and Samsung Galaxy; I'm sure it'll do all the usual stuff. Where it seems like it will shine, though, is in its BlackBerry integration. It can be paired with a BlackBerry, using Bluetooth. Once paired, it can use the BlackBerry for its connection to the world - so it uses the BlackBerry's data for browsing, etc. It can display the BlackBerry's email, calendar, etc. on its own screen. Because it's using the BlackBerry, it doesn't need a separate data plan, 3G contract, or even special security or licenses in a corporate environment. For BlackBerry users, this will be absolutely fantastic; it's like an extension of the phone.

Of course, there are other nice things too, like HDMI video out, front and rear cameras, Flash support, HTML5 support, and even OpenGL, handy for gaming. A dual-core CPU and full multitasking are nice.

For an existing BlackBerry user, this is a killer device. I hope that RIM make the PlayBook somewhat open - like having its storage show up as Mass Storage when connected to a computer, and having expandable storage via SD card.

News articles

Wednesday, 15 September 2010 10:46
claidheamhmor: (Aes Sedai)
Some interesting news articles this week.

Horror video shocks parents
Basically, parents of children enrolled at a child care centre saw a video which showed children being abused. Naturally, most parents withdrew their kids from the place immediately. What I found interesting was this:
When teachers register their children at the school, they sign a document which states "I give permission for my child/ren to be disciplined within limits".

"Within limits means a whack on the bum. It's not a blow with a wooden spoon on the head or across the body," said the mother.
Apparently even parents aren't too clear on the law: a "whack on the bum", technically speaking, is illegal. From my point of view, there absolutely no way I would give any school permission to punish my child physically.


Why Belgian Catholic church is ignoring hundreds of abuse victims
The Belgian Roman Catholic Church is afraid to give a full apology for the sexual abuse of children by its priests. Bishop Guy Harpigny said: 'If we say "mea culpa", then we are morally responsible, legally responsible, and then people come wanting money'

I think this is symptomatic of the whole problem. The Church, by protecting abusive clergy, is morally and legally responsible for the abuse. If it had handed abusers over to the police and cooperated fully, no-one would have been able to fault the church; by protecting and concealing the abusers, and moving them from parish to parish, the Church becomes an accessory to the crimes. Monetary compensation and an apology should be the very least the Church should be doing to atone for it.


Metro police hunt PigSpotter
There's a Twitter user called @pigspotter who is tweeting the whereabouts of police speed traps and roadblocks in the Joburg area. The the police want to track him down and catch him for defeating the ends of justice. Personally, I don't see what the problem is: he is making people slow down where there are traps. Isn't that what the police want? As for roadblocks - I'm all for the police catching criminals and drivers of unroadworthy vehicles at roadblocks, but I'd like to know where they are so that I can avoid the resulting traffic jams if I'm in a hurry.
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo OTP)
For those of us who still think that "they don't make cars like they used to", watch this video clip. It's a crash test video of a 1959 Chevy Bel Air hitting a 2009 Chev Malibu, and it's rather eye-opening. Car safety has come a long way.

claidheamhmor: (Default)
This is the best "from basic principles" demonstration I've seen of how a car's diff works:


claidheamhmor: (Vendetta 2)
It's the 50th anniversary of the invention of the seatbelt today. The seatbelt, from a statistical point of view, is by far the biggest safety innovation in cars. The second-biggest, by the way, is electronic stability control, and third-biggest is airbags. ABS doesn't save lives, statistically speaking.

The modest seatbelt celebrates 50 years of lifesaving today )

Amazing how many people are still too ignorant to wear seatbelts, or worse, don't buckle up their kids.
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo Ghia)
This was amusing. Some seem so silly...

10 Worst Automotive Fads
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo OTP Xmas)
Now here's an interesting article for those who think it's a good idea to measure "fuel consumption"* in mpg or km/l:

Miles-Per-Gallon Is Just Stupid. No, Really, It Is.
By John Voelcker, Editor-in-Chief, March 13th, 2009

Americans aren't stupid. We're just badly informed. And occasionally, stubborn.

Why else would we ignorantly cling to using miles per gallon as the way to measure how efficiently a car uses fuel?

But maybe you don't quite see the problem. OK, so here's a little test: Which saves more gasoline, going from 10 to 20 mpg, or going from 33 to 50 mpg?

If you're like most Americans, you picked the second one. But, in fact, that's exactly backwards. Over any given mileage, replacing a 10-mpg vehicle with one that gets 20 mpg saves five times the gasoline that replacing a 33-mpg vehicle with one that gets 50 does.

Don't believe it? Here’s the math. If you replace your old 1990s SUV (10 mpg) with a new 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (20 mpg), over 100 miles you cut your gasoline consumption from 10 gallons to 5. That saves you five gallons. If you swap your old Toyota Echo (33 mpg) for a new 2010 Toyota Prius (50 mpg), that only saves you one single gallon over the same distance--down from 3 to 2 gallons.

Yes, the Prius uses less gasoline overall, and that's absolutely greener. But like it or not, lots and lots and lots of Americans need large vehicles for their jobs, their families, and their lives. Short of truly punitive taxes on vehicle weight, footprint, or engine size, that won't quickly change.

In other words, we could cut our petroleum imports, reduce our carbon output, green the planet, and all act like happy bunnies if we replaced all our truly low-mileage "guzzlers" (we're thinking 1978 Chrysler Brougham or, hey, late-1990s Chevy Suburban) with vehicles that get just 20 miles per gallon.

That'd save a whole lot more actual gasoline than, say, replacing 3% of vehicles sold in the US with hybrids. Which is exactly what we've done over 10 years. In fact, US average mileage has pretty much stalled as vehicles have gotten larger, heavier, and better equipped.

This has led to all sorts of misconceptions, including the impact of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) regulations now being written. We actually think that higher gas taxes are a smarter way to let the market sort out what fuel consumption it will pay for, but we're not going there. (This time.)

So that's the problem: Americans can't accurately work out how to save the most gasoline. What's the solution? Simple. Measure fuel usage the way the entire rest of the world (including Canada) does: consumption over distance. There, it's mostly liters per 100 km. Here, it'd be gallons per 100 miles.

Do you know all this and just do the math in your head? Well, you're way ahead of the curve. (Test yourself first, though...) Last summer, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business released a study that shows how much damage comes from using MPG instead of consumption to measure how green a car is.

Management professors Richard Larick and Jack Soll's experiments proved that consumers thought fuel consumption was cut at an even rate as mileage increased. Most survey respondents said going from 34 to 50 mpg saved more gasoline over 10,000 miles than did moving from 18 to 28 mpg. Their website, "The MPG Illusion," lays out the whole issue.

There are now a few moves toward putting consumption on window stickers, right next to mileage. And when both a Midwestern Republican Congressman and The New York Times agree on something, it's gotta have some merit, right?

That way, you could compare the Corolla's 3 gallons every 100 miles against the Prius's 2, calculate the extra cost, and decide if you wanted to make that Prius statement after all. For 8,000 miles a year, on $2/gallon gas, by the way, the gas will cost you $160 a year more.

But, hey, Americans are stubborn. We beat back the metric system, right? Consumption instead of mileage? Nah. Dumb idea. Never work. [sigh]

Source: GreenCarReports


* Of course, using mpg or km/l as a measure of "fuel consumption" instead of fuel efficiency is silly to start with anyway. What's your car's fuel consumption if it does 10 km/l? One litre. And 20 km/l? Still one litre. 30 km/l? Yep, still one litre.
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo OTP)
I've been witness to a remarkable mistake in public relations over the last couple of weeks: a web forum collapse.

South Africa's biggest-selling motoring magazine, Car Magazine, runs a motoring-related webforum, CarToday. This forum was started up in the late 1990s, with crude software. I joined the forum in 1999 after stumbling over it when looking for technical tips for my Jag. In 2000, CarToday revamped the forum software, and I was the first registered member on the new forum. Over the years, I had many interactions with regular forum members, met many in real life (at braais, breakfast runs, and motoring events), and racked up over 15000 posts (some members had over 30000 posts). While the core of the forum was motoring, the non-motoring section was even busier, with people discussing everything under the sun. Members shared their experiences, their thoughts, and there were "real life" occasions many attended - weddings, birthdays, events, and sadly, even some funerals (including the one I attended on December 24 last year).

A few years ago, two of the regular members were elected as moderators, and they did a good job of moderating the forum. The forum software was getting a bit creaky, but upgrades were promised.

There were clouds on the horizon though; a year or two ago, a new webmaster was appointed at CarToday. Like the previous webmaster, she never really actually participated in the forum. She got into the habit, however, of reacting whenever she saw anything she didn't like or had any complaints about (including spurious complaints by non-members) by simply deleting entire threads. None of this surgical single post removal or editing for her; she preferred a sledgehammer. This, of course, raised hackles, especially since the moderators had never been given the power to remove posts or anything like that. Rather than discussing issues with the moderators, she'd just hack stuff out, stating it was due to violations of the forum's Terms of Use, even though she could never state exactly what part had been violated.

Things came to a head a couple of weeks ago during a discussion about cyclists on the roads. A member of a cycling forum (who was not a member of the CarToday forums) took affront to some posts made, and complained to CarToday. The webmaster duly deleted the entire thread. Words flew, and she made some unpleasant insinuations about the volunteer moderators.

So one member offered some web space and bandwidth he had, others volunteered expertise and time, and overnight, a new motoring forum, CarForums, was born. All the regular members (almost 500) migrated across en masse almost immediately, leaving CarToday a ghost town, with maybe 5 posts a day, and CarForums with hundred of posts. An article on the whole drama even appeared in a local newspaper. Subsequently, CarToday's editor posted an "explanation" which is pretty much a pack of lies, to be blunt.

CarToday, perhaps, didn't really want their forums; the data traffic costs must have been really high. But they managed to build up a great deal of ill-will. Typically, they underestimated their forum users, just as they'd always treated them like children. This may have backfired though; there may only be several hundred affected users, but many of these forum users were readers of the Car Magazine print edition (not any more!), and many were influential in many different industries.

The Internet can make it so easy to lose customers very quickly. This should be a case study.
claidheamhmor: (F-111 in the Sky)
Yesterday had one of those perfect moments.

Driving, with the blazing sun beating down from a shining sky, icy air wafting from the aircon, and the hum of the tyres so quiet on the smooth road that I could hear the light gusts of wind fluttering around the car.

And almost all of the lights were green.
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo OTP Xmas)
There's blood on the floor, and I'm wondering if General Motors, Chrysler and Ford are going to survive their financial crises.

Of course, when the top executives of those companies arrive in Washington to beg the taxpayer for a handout, and they came via private jet, one can understand part of the reason their companies are in trouble.

Senators Mock Auto Execs Use of Private Jets )
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
For South African drivers, here's something really frightening:

Police horrified at state of SA's trucks
Henri du Plessis
October 27 2008 at 12:38PM


Trucks on our roads are death traps for their drivers and other road users, while law enforcers are neither properly trained nor equipped to ensure they are safe, traffic officers and experts warn.

And Cape Town was worst off, a heavy-vehicle expert said after a roadworthy check exercise on Friday.

Traffic officers tested 25 randomly picked trucks at the Brackenfell test centre and, to their horror, all 25 failed roadworthy inspections due to serious defects.

This discovery follows similar findings in other parts of the country and a number of fatal or near-fatal accidents involving trucks in Cape Town this year.

The exercise on Friday was part of a private initiative by transport industry magazine FleetWatch and a number of commercial partners to give traffic officers and police practical training to carry out roadworthy inspections of heavy vehicles.

But the programme showed that large numbers of poorly maintained trucks were plying their trade on the roads every day.

Badly worn and cracked tyres, non-functional load sensors, brakes that do not work properly, steering systems worn to the point of imminent failure and hopelessly inefficient cargo tie-downs were some of the problems identified in Cape Town on Friday.

Local and provincial authorities have been blamed for not taking road safety seriously, as they failed to provide law enforcers with proper support systems, training and equipment.

Officers doing the training course said they had preferred not to stop trucks for checks because they did not know what to look for.

Of 104 officers present at the start of a training course on Thursday, only two said they felt confident that they knew what to check for and only one knew about a piece of equipment on a truck called a slack adjuster, course presenters said.

During random checks of trucks in Cape Town on Friday, done as part of the practical training portion of the course, traffic officers pulled 25 trucks over and sent them for testing at the provincial traffic department's testing centre in Brackenfell. All 25 failed inspection so badly that they had to be taken off the road.

"Cape Town is the worst we've seen so far," said FleetWatch editor Patrick O'Leary, who co-ordinated the training effort.

O'Leary said the training group had been to various busy parts of the country, such as City Deep in Johannesburg, Kroonstad in the Free State and Estcourt in KwaZulu- Natal. At City Deep, officers pulled over and checked 24 trucks. Of those, 21 failed roadworthy checks.

"It is clear that the law enforcers do not have the support they need, they do not have the systems in place and they do not get given either the equipment or the training to do their work properly," O'Leary said.

"Very large numbers of heavy vehicles on the road today are a danger to their drivers and other road users, but many operators just do not care because they get away with it.

"This training exercise is a private initiative. We involved companies like Bridgestone, Alfa International, Wapco and Control Instruments to help cover the costs and provide expertise.

"We have had no support from the state at all to do this and yet it is very clear that our law enforcers are hungry for this kind of training. They desperately need it."

Traffic officers, who asked not to be named, said they were horrified when they learnt what they had been missing.

"Thousands of traffic fines are issued in situations where road safety is of no concern, but the real threats are not properly covered," one officer said.

"Those fines bring in a lot of revenue, but the priorities are skewed and the real dangers remain on our roads. We also need to do a course like this on the minibus taxi industry. We need that desperately."

O'Leary said truck operators should realise that they have a responsibility to other road users to ensure their vehicles comply with safety requirements.

Provincial traffic chief Pat Curren, who visited the Brackenfell Test Centre on Friday during the testing, said the issue of portable testing equipment was problematic, because of the calibration required.

"What we really need is many more effective testing sites, where test results cannot be doubted."

A combination of mechanical failures and negligence has led to numerous accidents involving heavy vehicles in the Western Cape this year.

Among them:
  • In March, a woman and her pregnant daughter were killed when a container fell off a truck on the M5 offramp on to the N1 and crushed their car.

  • In July, Franschhoek couple William and Annatjie James were badly injured when inadequately secured scaffolding pipes came off the back of a truck and speared their vehicle.

  • Earlier this month, a truck driver lost control of his vehicle when its brakes failed on Melbourne Road, Woodstock. The truck struck a car and both vehicles fell off a bridge. A woman in the car was critically injured.

Source: IOL
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
Here's a bit of a catchup on movies and books.

I saw Taken a couple of weeks ago. I must admit, it wasn't a great movie, but I like Liam Neeson, and I like revenge-themed movies, so it was a fairly easy movie to watch.



I finally got around to seeing Ultraviolet. Frankly, I wasn't impressed at all. I really like Milla Jovovich (hey, she's my #1 choice for Heinlein's "Friday", if it ever gets made into a movie), but the movie, bluntly speaking, was crap. A completely unrealistic character who gave you no sense of tension, a rather confused plot, and an over-stylised, fake-looking feel to it killed it for me. That said: I liked some of the background technology - things like a fold-up card mobile phone dispensed from a vending machine.



Then I watched the pilot for Knight Rider 2008. I must admit, I kinda liked it - but then, I'm a sucker for uber-cars. And the hero seems better than David Hasselhoff - that, to me, was always the weaker part of the original Knight Rider.



I just finished Roger Zelazney's "Great Book of Amber": it's a collection of both of his Amber quintologies. I found the first five books better than I remembered them from my youth, especially the last couple couple of books which I'd not liked much. The second quintology was also better than I remembered - but that's not saying much, because I couldn't get very far into it back then. The final two or three books were very complex, with a number of confusing characters and sub-plots, and much of that wasn't really resolved by the final book - a pity.

Planes & cars

Thursday, 18 September 2008 16:25
claidheamhmor: (F-111 in the Sky)
Crash tests

Here's a really scary video clip showing crash testing of a VW Beetle and a VW Golf 2. Bear in mind that the Golf 2 was safer than the Golf 1, which is still sold in South Africa in vast numbers under the guise of the Citi Golf. For comparison with more modern cars, browse around in YouTube; the difference in passenger safety between pre-1980s cars and modern cars is quite startling.




Big aircraft
This was interesting: Monstrous Aviation: World's Biggest Airplanes. It's a bit of a varied selection: I see that, among others, the Caspian Sea Monster was missing.

The VM-T "Atlant" impressed me though:

claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
I've generally had good experiences with government departments, but after today, my vote for most incompetent department is the Department of Transport, specifically the licensing department.

I've been trying to change titleholder on my car's registration, and find out what the cost of a personalised registration number is. After some searching, I found the government department web page listing contact details for the various licensing department offices in the Johannesburg area. I called at least 8 different offices, some with up to 4 separate numbers, and only one was answered (and they couldn't help me).

Yesterday I drove over to the big Sandton/Marlboro office...and the gates were closed. Turned out they had a big union meeting...so 4 different major offices were closed for the day. Nice customer service there. I went through today, and there was no parking, the information desk was clueless, and the staff slow. I gave up after an hour. Tomorrow I'll try again at the Johannesburg city office.

The Department of Transport could learn a lot from Home Affairs.
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo Ghia)
Here's one of the things that really irks me on the road. I take a bit of a hard-arsed attitude to it too; if someone indicates to move into my lane, I'll more than likely let them in. If they don't indicate, I "don't see them". And I've given a fright to a few people at intersections when I've treated them as if they're going the way they indicated (or didn't indicate).

Use turn signal? Why?

$75 TICKET | It's an all-too-common attitude, and it can cost you, cops say

August 11, 2008
BY MARY WISNIEWSKI

So you're driving along, eyes on the road, when suddenly the car in front of you starts acting weird.

The driver pauses. He weaves a little. He stops. He keeps going. He stops again. Then, suddenly, he turns -- without a turn signal.

These cars were turning from Wacker Drive onto Orleans Street — none of them using a turn signal. An observation of this intersection found that most of the cars that failed to signal were taxis. State Police report a rise in tickets for failure to signal.

Whether or not improper signal use is going up, it's something good drivers have to learn how to deal with, according to Andrew Danek, owner of the 30-year-old Illinois Institute of Driver Education in Chicago.

"If someone's doing something stupid in front of you, they're either turning or they're looking for a place to park," said Danek, who said he figures only about half of local drivers use their signals when they change lanes or turn.

State Police Master Sgt. Brian Ley said officers have been issuing more warnings in the last three years for "improper signal use," which usually means failure to signal. This could mean signaling is on the decline in Illinois, since Ley said police haven't been given any special directive to crack down on violators.

For all of 2006, State Police handed out 16,782 warnings and 2,069 $75 tickets -- a total of 18,851. In 2007, it was 18,089 warnings and 2,075 tickets, for a total of 20,164. The upward trend has continued this year. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, State Police issued 9,553 warnings and 981 tickets -- more than half last year's total.

Failure to use a signal can be a "very serious and deadly mistake," said Ley. "Officers know this can lead to a serious accident."

So why don't people signal? To paraphrase Tom Vanderbilt, author of the book Traffic, why are drivers willing to tell you their kid is an honor student at Knucklehead Academy, but they don't want to tell you they're changing lanes?

Danek says some people are afraid that if they signal to change lanes, the car in the next lane will speed up to block their car.

He said it's also a matter of habit -- like buckling your seat belt. Some people aren't taught properly and don't get into the habit of doing it.

He noted that turn signals didn't even become standard in cars until the 1960s -- people who wanted to signal used to have to stick their left arm out the window.

A 2006 survey by Response Insurance, a national car insurer, found that 57 percent of American drivers don't signal when changing lanes. Men are less likely to signal than women, and drivers under 25 are less likely to signal than older drivers. Their reasons were a bit scary:

• 42 percent said they didn't have time,

• 23 percent said they were lazy,

• 17 percent said they don't because they forget to turn it off,

• 12 percent said they changed lanes too frequently to bother,

• 11 percent said it was not important,

• 8 percent said they don't because other drivers don't. And, most disturbing of all,

• 7 percent skipped the signal to "add excitement" to their trip.

Danek says he teaches his students to signal because it's safer to warn people what you're doing, and anything that makes driving safer is worthwhile.

But Danek also teaches them to be prepared if someone doesn't signal.

"Paying attention is the most important thing about driving," Danek said. "If the car in front of you doesn't have brake lights, does that give you the right to run into them? No!"

Danek said if a driver is paying attention and keeping at least one car's length between her car and the next car, failure of another driver to signal shouldn't be a problem.

"If you drive correctly, what the other person does makes no difference," Danek said. "You are responsible for keeping your car in one piece."

Source: Chicago SunTimes
claidheamhmor: (Mondeo OTP Xmas)
So, Tata has bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford for about $1.7m. Personally, I think it's a good thing. Ford did some good things for the brands, but they're short of cash and vision; Tata (a company which has been in business for 140 years) has money, and judging from what Ratum Tata has been saying, a lot of vision too. He's very keen on producing the Jaguar F-Type, a concept that was sadly squashed by Ford's beancounters.

The new XF has been getting accolades from everyone who has driven one, so Tata has a good car to build Jaguar on. From the sounds of it, they have no intention of moving the British operations, and they want to maintain the luxury British image of the marques. They need to bring some life to Jaguar, and they need to improve Land Rover's reliability issues.

Autoweek has a peek at the future of Jaguar and Land Rover.

The F-Type concept )

The XF Coupe concept )
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
OK, I'm getting seriously annoyed with the damn load shedding. Not so much with home - heck, I can go without the computer for a couple of hours, truly - but with power to traffic lights. It absolutely kills the traffic. Damn the government for not allowing Eskom the funding for new power stations. Sure, Eskom has funding now, but it takes years to bring new power stations online.

I did have a bit on an amusing moment yesterday though. Power was cut in Bedfordview, and I was walking past the generator room at work when I heard the generator bellow into life and then settle into a deafening roar. At the outside vents, where the exhaust is, there was a car parked illegally because of the tight parking situation; it was directly in the considerable blast of the diesel exhaust. I expect that when the lazy owner got back to the car, the left hand side would have been coated in a nice black layer of greasy diesel exhaust.

Traffic has not been fun. For some reason, it was dozy day today, and there were heaps of drivers out there (especially in Mayfair, for some reason) driving along nervously at 40kph, with a long queue of cars behind them. It gets me all twitchy, and I want to ram them gently off the road.

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