Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Brian's Triumph
Here's a quick offer of appeasement to all you petrolheads who keep visiting this site in the hope of reading something about internal combustion engines and don't give a monkey's about horrible bugs, extraterrestrials and err, monkeys. Brian, an old school chum from the UK recently sent me this photo of his restored 1958 500cc Triumph T100. Classic ageless lines and quite fabulous. Peerless in its time and still a bloody good machine by any standards. Brian, I'm quite envious.

Actually Brian always had a knack of finding good bikes. I seem to remember he had a very decent 200cc Francis-Barnett when I was still fiddling around with my poxy BSA Bantam and later had a 650cc AJS when I was riding around, in between breakdowns, on a 350cc Ariel (this latter machine will be the topic of a future post). He obviously hasn't lost his touch.

No more blogging for today: my creative writing energies will be confined to grant writing...


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Answer to "Guess the Bug Competition"

To all(?) of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the answer to last week's competition "Guess the Bug" I can now reveal the answer. The bacterium in question is Brucella. The electron micrograph is actually of B. abortus and taken from a paper by Detilleuxet al. I would have accepted any Brucella species as correct. The grant is on B. melitensis which is a human (as well as animal) pathogen and is the cause of undulant fever. It's also classified as a category B bioterrorism agent by the American Centers for Disease Control. And they should know as apparently the US developed cluster bombs filled with the stuff in the 60's (one of Tricky Dicky Nixon's gifts to mankind was to cancel the biowarfare programme and destroy these stockpiles of nastiness).

So the winner, sort of, is SaneScientist, who got the answer after a bit of prompting. Sir, I shall buy you a cup of coffee or two when you next visit Seattle. But shame on the half dozen or so alleged scientists who I know read this blog and didn't even attempt an answer: feeble I say, and it's no good pretending that you didn't know because you are immunologists or virologists. Pah!



16 years of seti_1

Here's another piece of lightweight pop science to distract you from the fact that an automotive post is long overdue. Apologies but please bear with me until the end of the week when I've got my grant out of the way. For those of you who don't know, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is an arrempt to locate life forms that are, well, extra-terrestrial. The most innovative part of the scheme is that radio transmission and light pulse data from a radio telescope is analysed on individual computers using a piece of downloaded software tht functions as a screensaver. Back in August of 1999 I was intrigued by the idea and signed on with SETI. Since then I've put the colourful graphical analysis program on computers resident on both sides of the Atlantic. Last week I hit a milestone of sorts: 16 years of cpu time and in the top 0.65% of users out of more than 5 million worldwide. Indeed I've crunched more data than some countries including Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Grenada to name but a few. Now that's surely got to qualify me for someone's "Geek of the Week" competition.

Who knows where all this is going to lead. It seems there can be only two outcomes from the experiment (i) no extra-terrstrial life is detected in which case the whole thing has been a monumental waste of time, creative energy and electricity or (2) ET is detected in whch case it will probably be perceived as a threat and we'll re-enact War of the Worlds (getting hoplessly bogged down with Martian insurgents in the process) in a search for off-planet oil or weapons of galactic-destruction. Oh, don't get me started...


Monday, March 28, 2005

The Complete Works of Shakespeare

monkeys and computers

As the grant deadline draws closer, I’m reminded of an interesting experiment with monkeys and computers conducted a few years back by researchers at my alma mater, the University of Plymouth in the UK. To test the hypothesis that there is a statistical probability that a monkey will type the complete works of Shakespeare if left alone at a keyboard for long enough, the UoP scientists put several computers in the monkey house of the local zoo. At first the monkeys were intrigued with the computers and typed all sorts of stuff, even though it was meaningless gibberish. But they still typed. Further into the experiment the animals became frustrated and started banging the computers with rocks (that’ll teach them to use Windows XP, a Mac might have been a better way to go). Finally they ended up urinating on the machines and in some cases taking a dump on them in order to express their dissatisfaction.

Well as I continue to stare at my screen alternating between typing rubbish and hoping for Divine Inspiration I feel I’m getting quite close to the percussive therapy stage and I know what those monkeys were going through. OK guys, relax, I’m not going to pee on my keyboard….(yet!)


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Chicks with Guns

chicks with  guns
Ha! Ha! The title of today's post will probably get my site traffic up although for the wrong reasons. So to you web surfers who came here looking for scantily clad females firing machine guns I'd like to say: "Bugger off you sad bastards and get a life!" -to everyone else I wish you a Happy Easter weekend.


P.S. I've delayed posting the answer to the "Guess the bug" competition for a few days in the hope that I may get a couple of takers.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Bloody Hell...!


This truck crash happened in Seattle earlier in the week just a couple of blocks away from where I'm working. Amazingly no one was hurt. I'd better keep my wits about me in future. You can watch the incident by clicking here.


Friday, March 25, 2005

Retail Therapy -buy stuff and support Mad Dog Rallying

Maad Dog T shirt
By means of some cunning technology, it's now possible to buy a range of groovy merchandise and support Mad Dog Rallying into the bargain. Take a look at our shop, there's something for everyone and his/her dog (seriously) whether sane or not. Money back guarantee and all that, although in case of disputes you'll have to take the matter up with the nice people at CafePress. All profits (ha! ha! -believe me the mark up on this stuff is very modest) will go to the rally team's activities.


Thursday, March 24, 2005

Guess the Bug Competition

The spectre of a looming grant deadline is becoming all consuming and precludes a post on any of my usual topics. Unfortunately this is the lot of the modern scientist and chasing funding is an eternal treadmill. It doesn't seem to get easier with time either. Perhaps someone should have a word with SaneScientist who seems to be intent on walking the same pathway along which I've been staggering for the past xx years (no I'm not bloody well going to tell you how many decades I've been in this game as my brain refuses to accept my age and it's embarrassing to talk about how relatively little time there is before the free bus pass). Normal service, such as it is, will resume after April 1. Until then here's a picture of my latest "foe". I wonder if any smarty pants can guess what it is? Post if you can figure it out. The winner(s) will be invited to contribute to the grant writing and provided with a week's supply of Starbucks coffee. The answer and reference source will be revealed on my next entry.


Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Two Weddings and a Funeral

Two weddings

Now this may get me hate mail…

The upcoming Royal Wedding seems to have caught the attention of the Great British Public (GBP), if not that of the Queen. I read from the BBC website that Camilla Parker-Bowles will legally be entitled to be addressed as “Queen” should Charlie boy ever ascend to the throne following their marriage. Apparently a law will have to be passed to ensure that she is kept in her place and known as “Princess Consort”. Furthermore 45% of the voting public believe that Camilla should not be Queen vs. only 42% who don’t care.

Now, really -what is this all about (I struggle to remain polite)? I thought we’d all been bored to tears by the Royal Family after their antics over the past decade or so. You’d think that the GBP would have more to worry about than what the title of their possibly future Monarch’s wife will be. Like why they are paying Andrew’s helicopter bills (it cost £325,000 to fly him to golf courses last year) or for Harry to go drinking, smoking, brawling etc. Incidentally is it only me that wonders why Harry doesn’t look anything like Charles but bears more than a striking resemblance to that rotter James Hewitt? Don’t mention DNA tests, anybody!

Now my own view is that the pair should get hitched and try to live a normal life. They should have done it ages ago instead of trying, and probably failing, to appease those who held this view or that. I suspect that Camilla is really living in Diana’s shadow and the public doesn’t approve of her because (i) she is doesn’t have the latter’s looks and (ii) she is blamed for her unhappiness and demise. Come on everybody, let’s get a grip. Let these people live their lives. In any case it seems that C P-B is a straightforward, practical woman and may contribute a bit of common sense to the Windsor family. Or, not. Now please excuse me as I’m being overcome with weariness as I write… zzzzz, zzzzz.


PS. The “Two Weddings…” poster is from the excellent Beau Bo D’Or site and used with permission. Thanks, Neil.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

On Drugs?

Professional money raising activities, otherwise known as grant writing, are currently cramping my blogging style but the quest for the filthy lucre is never-ending, unfortunately. So today’s post is going to be brief and the first in an occasional series on signs and quirky roadside objects. Nothing that will tax the intellect.

So, I used to live in San Diego, California. In the 1980s this was a pleasant seaside town where surfers, sailors and biotechnologists co-existed quite peacefully. On a recent visit, I was shocked to observe that it had turned into an overdeveloped, gridlocked, smog-bound hell-hole. What a shame. Even my favorite road sign had disappeared and been replaced with something much more sensible. Fortunately I managed to get a photograph of the original a few years back. So voila…!

Cruise ships
Remember this sign is on the freeway; Heaven knows what San Diegans are on if they expect to see cruise ships steaming past en route to the airport!


Monday, March 21, 2005

John Z. DeLorean

DMC 12
So, farewell then, John Z. DeLorean, former General Manager of General Motors and architect of the DeLorean Motor Company who motored off to The Big Garage in the Sky over the weekend. At GM he was champion of the GTO and Pontiac TransAm, both hugely entertaining cars but whose charisma exceeded actual performance by a good margin. Also both were slightly fraudulent in their names. The GTO moniker was stolen from Ferrari’s “Gran Turismo Omologato” (meaning a Grand Touring class of vehicle, homologated for racing) and the Trans Am never competed in the Trans Am race series. Never mind, the cars were fun, even if their performance was a little lacking. I had two Firebirds myself over the span of a decade and enjoyed them more for their Mad Max gestalt than their road burning qualities. I still fancy a 400cu in Firebird convertible, in red, with a tachometer mounted on the hood (an absurd idea if ever there was one)…

So it was a nifty move that the DeLorean Motor Company was opened in Northern Ireland with the help of a big chunk of UK taxpayer’s money. I always felt the DMC12 (don't be fooled, it was a 6 cylinder), with its stainless steel finish, had the appearance of a kitchen sink on wheels, but not altogether a bad looking car. Now they have a cult following and can still be found in nice condition for very reasonable prices. Despite their elevation to cinematic stardom in the Back to the Future series of movies, these cars were not superstars in the performance department -a bit like their GM predecessors.

The DeLorean Motor Company foundered on the rocks of poor marketing strategy and dodgy dealings after a couple of years. JZD was infamously caught cocaine trafficking; the profits from which he allegedly was going to use to shore up his business. A lot of jokes about white lines (geddit?) ensued. Although JZD was acquitted, mainly due to legal technicalities rather than actual innocence, this was really the end of the road for his career in the automotive industry. Nevertheless I suspect he has long been forgiven for any perceived or actual sins and will be remembered for his entertaining, if not perfect, cars.


Friday, March 18, 2005

Deja Vu All Over Again (Once More)

On to Vals

Owing to malarkey on the Blogspot server, this is the second attempt at this post today. The first disappeared into the great black hole of cyberspace. Bugger! I really hate retyping everything from scratch...

I continue to pick up new readers and there is a nice international following. However I suspect many of you don't care one whit about my ramblings about genealogical and cultural issues and came here primarily for stories of derring do in Minis. So for all you automotive afficianados out there here's the link to the Omnibus Edition (all 10 parts) of the 2005 Monte Carlo Rally.


PS Have just checked the blog and found the missing post has mysteriously appeared. *?@#!!*! So I typed the bloody thing twice from scratch. I'll have to find some suitable acronym of the type that ScaryDuck would use for such situations. See his post of March 15 to catch my drift...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

On Irishness

Trinity College
Trinity College, Dublin (Dad's Alma Mater)

As I’ve intimated before, the title of the blog is a little misleading as I am, in theory, Irish. Bill Richards is definitely pure Anglo so I guess that in part legitimises things: somehow “Mad Dogs, Englishmen and an Irishman” doesn’t have the same ring to it. Anyway today is St. Patrick’s Day and I’ve been contemplating my Irish roots. Until recently I rarely bothered to dwell on this topic because (i) I was brought up and educated in England and mostly thought of myself as “English” and (ii) as a student in the 1970s, when indiscriminate IRA bombing was prevalent in the UK, I distanced, nay, rejected all things Irish. But the fact is I’m genetically and legally Irish: my Mother was from Co. Wicklow and my Dad from Dublin so that should be unequivocal. Right?

Well, no! As with most things, there are a few complicating factors. First of all my parents were Protestants. I suspect that when they were growing up this label was analogous to being a leper. I don’t know how they coped with the prevalent prejudices, but they took the opportunity to move to England after WWII was over and Dad had finished his education. The Old Man always attributed this move to employment opportunities (probably true; how many openings for virologists existed in the Emerald Isle?) but Mum muttered darkly that the Irish could be “narrow minded”. Hmmm, back then I never really knew what she meant. The second complicating factor is that Dad was born prior to Eire becoming a sovereign state i.e. when it was still part of the British Empire. As a result he and I had/have passports which state we are Irish Nationals but citizens of the United Kingdom. Or is it the other way around? It’s very confusing as I tend to think of nationality and citizenship as the same thing. It also makes my passport renewal ridiculously complicated. The third confounding factor for my identity is that I was born in Egypt. This is really as extension of Complicating Factor Number 2. Because of Dad’s United Kingdom affiliation, he had the great pleasure of serving HM’s Government as a major in the Army. For his sins he got posted to the Middle East with Mum. Clearly colonial life agreed with them as they were relaxed enough to produce both my brother and I while stationed in the Land of the Pharaohs. Now I can’t say I have any significant memories of Egypt as I left when I was 3 but it does make me feel slightly peculiar as to where I actually belong. Incidentally I was once refused car insurance in the UK when asked the place of my birth. When I inquired as to why I was told that the company didn’t cover non-UK nationals (racist gits). I explained that I was actually British and that I had left Egypt 30 years or so previously and had never returned and in any case I wasn’t a citizen of that country. The mentally challenged wage slave then retorted that I might take out Egyptian Citizenship and then his company couldn’t cover me. I guess the prospect of me somehow morphing into a Cairo taxi driver and terrorisng the streets of London was too much for him. Idiot! But I digress…

So within the last few years several people, on both sides of the Atlantic, have pointed out that I don’t really fit the English stereotype and behave in a more “Irish” manner. I’m not entirely sure as to what they were alluding but possibly the following:

• I can’t bear class stratification of any kind
• my sense of humour is irreverent
• I’m definitely “uppity” especially when it comes to idiotic authority figures
• although generally accommodating and conflict averse, I won’t back down on points of principle

This does seem to fit.

The OTT scatological Irish Blogger “Twenty Major” has a number of criteria to establish genuine Irishness. I meet some of them: I have a fondness for the Irish diet (soda bread, yum!) tea and beer. I hate everything U2 have done post 1987 (pretentious, over-produced twaddle) but generally like Irish folk and popular music (the Corrs are naff but the girls are pleasing on the eye -what it is to be shallow!). I 'think' a partial Irish vocabulary i.e. “ejit” and “banjaxed”, but rarely speak it as very few people will understand me, however my parents spoke this patois all the time when I was growing up. And I love the great writers, Yeats, Donleavy, Wilde and Joyce (I’ll finish bloody Ulysses one day, my God, all that rambling, Catholic guilt-ridden, repressive drunken nonsense: what a thing to inflict on mankind -the trouble is I’ll feel intellectually inferior until I’ve read it).
Oscar Lived Here

So with this background I wangled a junket to Dublin just over a year ago. I was very curious to see how the city had fared under the Celtic Tiger economics model and how the place had changed from the grey monocultural town I encountered as a young lad visiting my Grandparents. Goodness how it had been transformed into a vibrant modern colourful city. But the ghosts of Behan et al still roamed the streets which had a mystical magical quality. Quite wonderful; I didn’t want to leave.
Oscar's Dad
And Oscar's Dad Lived Here (seems like the old bugger put himself about a bit)

So can an agnostic Anglican with Buddhist tendencies (but that’s another story), born in Egypt, brought up in England and currently a US permanent resident who has a taste for balsamic vinegar and sund dried tomatoes be really called Irish and would he ever want to live in the Old Country? The answers are an emphatic “Yes” and “Yes”! Find me a nice biotechnology company in Co. Cork, or a suitable Chair in the same region and I’ll go like a shot…


P.S. I took the photos on a trip to Dublin a couple of years back.
P.P.S. There is a great tradition of rally driving in Ireland too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

In the News

Well no sideboard-ware for Mad Dog in the recent 2005 Bloggies. But then the site wasn't public during the voting period in January. Next year I'm going to ask you for nominations and your votes for one of these much-coveted awards, assuming of course that I can still think of topics to write about and do so in an engaging manner...

On Dan Rather_1
Last week the legendary Dan Rather retired from his position as anchorman on CBS news after exactly 24 years in the hotseat and four decades in journalism. I had my own 15 seconds of fame around 1985 when I appeared on his program(me) commenting on some topic to do with AIDS; I believe it was concerning the discovery of an HIV-related disease in monkeys. Anyway I've dug out a picture of yours truly in said interview, taken directly from the TV. I look young, thyrotoxic and uncomfortable (possibly at the shock of having to wear a tie in the lab).


Tuesday, March 15, 2005


A reader has kindly pointed out that the song Mad Dogs and Englishmen was written and performed by Noel Coward and not Flanders and Swan as I had stated in my post of March 10. I stand corrected and note that my grey matter has failed me once again! In fact the Noel Coward connection with this site is most appropriate as the great man's very last film performance was as Mr Bridger in the 1969 version of The Italian Job.


Monday, March 14, 2005

First Wheels

BSA Bantam

In pondering my interest in things automotive recently, I got to wondering about of this lifetime interest. It's difficult to know really. While I (mostly) reject gender hardwiring theories, I have to say my fascination for the mechanical has been around since as long as I can remember. Certainly as I young child I was obsessed with fire engines and locomotives (mostly steam, yes I know this dates me!) As a teenager I was totally smitten by model airplanes -there's a post or two back in the archives circa November 2004- particularly the internal combustion engines that would propel such contraptions. I even used to make my own fuel, the contents of which contained wonderfully volatile components such as amyl nitrate and ether. I swear I spent a large portion of those years totally zonked out of my head. I don't suppose there's anyway a 15-year-old could buy that stuff at Boots (popular UK drugstore chain) in this day and age.

Anyway around the age of 16 I felt I should put away childish things (I suspect I rally meant temptation) and gave up aeromodelling, ostensibly to focus on academic studies. Ha! Ha! The first thing I did was to go out an purchase a motorcycle. We a motorbike of sorts. It was a clapped out 150cc BSA Bantam that had been repainted red (probably by someone using a stick) and had a plastic leopard skin seat cover and a bulb horn which for some reason I thought was cute. I paid £5.00 for the thing. The seller's name was (wait for it) Geoff CLAPP. Even with a red flag like this being waved, I still didn't get the message. Geoff, should you read this, don't worry, I've long since forgiven you. I thought that the bike was going to endow me with enormous sex appeal and the transition from nerdy model airplane builder to hunky biker was going to have the girls falling at my feet. Sad bastard! But then I was very young at the time...

The bike somehow made its way to my house whereupon I discovered it wouldn't run. Then came an epiphany. On taking apart the little SU carburettor (it was full of dirt and the float chamber was clogged; I quickly cleaned it and had the motor running) I realized that there wasn't much difference between the bike engine and all the model aircraft engines I'd played with for years. It was just a bit bigger and had a gearbox. After that there was very little stopping me. Just as well as the list of mechanical problems had started to grow. I took out the engine, replaced the clutch (to this day I've never seen such completely knackered plates) reassembled the gearbox correctly in order to select first gear (some twit had put in the primary cog the wrong way round and the layshaft couldn't engage) and fitted a new carb the bike ran quite well. Needless to say it needed other work like a rebuild of the front forks before the thing would pass the rather undemanding MOT test they had back then. So although I was broke I did have a legal pair of wheels.

In the absence of hordes of adoring girls, I decided to apply my energies elsewhere and tune the engine a bit. I'd read an article in Motorcycle Mechanics about a 100mph+ Bantam and thought I could accomplish the same thing. So the engine came out again, I decoked it, polished the ports with my Father's Black & Decker and a rotating wire brush, spent a week "skimming" the head by polishing it on a piece of glass with valve grinding paste, drilled holes in everything possible and added a megaphone silencer. That was the extent of my budget in those days. Well the bike seemed go quite a bit faster, although it might have just been louder as I don't think I ever did more than about 55mph and that was downhill with the wind behind me! But there was always something dropping off -just like tuned Minis I drove decades later. I was also exceedingly jealous of a neighbour, Pete Newlyn, who had a much louder and faster bike, a 250cc Honda I believe. And Pete seemed to get the girls AND his bike was evidently reliable. In trying to emulate him, I stripped all the teeth off the primary layshaft while attempting a drag start just outside my house (fortunately not too far to push, for once). That was the final straw. I rebuilt the box for the last time and advertised the machine in Exchange & Mart. I sold it to a bloke from Esher, a town about 20 miles away that was even more boring than my own, for £15. He called me later to say he'd broken down in Woking (4 miles down the road) but managed to get home. I think I forgot to mention that I'd epoxyed the points in place. Oh well, I expect he's forgiven me too, by now...


Saturday, March 12, 2005

Top 10 Ugly Cars

I’m taking a cue from a recent article by the excellent Ray and Tom Magliozzi ,aka “Click and Clack, -the Tappet Brothers" (note to non-US readers, these guys host a hilarious car phone-in programme on National Public Radio). Anyway they recently did a feature on ugly cars. This got me thinking that there really are some dreadful looking pieces of automotive machinery for sale in America right now. And I don’t mean merely lackluster in the style department but God-Awful designs that are so irredeemably heinous I totally fail to understand why anyone buys them in the first place. Anyway here’s my own list:

10. Scion xB: This has got to be a joke,right?!
9. BMW M3 Coupe: Looks like a Honda Civic without the charisma.
8. Lamborghini (all models): Ferrucio Lamborghini started his commercial career building tractors: a pity he didn’t stay doing this…
7. Pontiac Aztek: What was the GM thinking when they knocked this thing up? A Friday afternoon design if ever there was one. The can’t spell either.
6. Dodge Magnum: a hearse on acid AND steroids.
5. Cadillac (all models): Extraordinarily horrible coachwork that ruins otherwise quite impressive vehicles.
4. Chrysler 3000: Clueless!
3. Chevrolet Avalanche: The epitome of everything that’s wrong with the American automobile industry.
2. Cadillac Escalade: the ultimate pimp machine -needs its own oil well.
1. Hummer: This idiotic thing has the aerodynamics of a shed but without the handling ability. Arnold Schwarzenegger has several which I believe says it all…

Now to be fair I should add a few caveats. First, this is not intended to be a rant against SUVs, -it’s just that some of these types of vehicles are particularly hideous. Second, I’m only talking about styling/appearance and not performance or capabilities (mostly). Third, apologies to European readers but I don’t have personal photos of these cars and if I swipe them from the manufacturers’ sites they will undoubtedly sue me. So if you don’t know what any of these vehicles look like, just Google them.

Watch out for top 10 best cars soon.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

A Site for Sore Eyes: Modifications and Upgrades

MDR Logo

Now that I've gone public on this blog I seem to have a truly international readership which is both gratifying and a little scary. I feel under pressure to keep the site looking fresh and entertaining. For devotees I would like to highlight the following changes (hopefully improvements) that I've made in the last few days:

• The title of the blog has been changed from the rather prosaic "Miscellaneous musings..." to "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" which is possibly more charismatic. Needless to say the Mad Dog reference is to our rally team as well as the occasional behavioural tendencies of the author (who is technically Irish). In any case apologies are proffered to Flanders and Swan. I'm wondering if I can get the logo modified to Mad Dog Blogging...?

• I'm in the process of putting a number of hypertext links to sites that readers might find useful in the sidebar.

• Likewise I'm linking to other blogs which I find entertaining. Some are overtly political and I make no apologies for this although I have tried to select a number of balanced views and opinions. This process is ongoing and I'm definitely getting better at manipulating HTML code.

• I've registered the site with various blog rings, purely for the purpose of self-aggrandisment.

• There is now a voting device to grade the site. You can press buttons on a scale of 1-10. A 1 being a miserable piece of excressence and a waste of pixels to a 10 which means I'm probably a candidate for a Pulitzer Prize. Please vote frequently from multiple computers (registering different IP addresses). Lucrative inducements will be offered to those ranking me as a 10.

• Mad Dog merchandise should be available in the not-too-distant future.

• And as I've said before, suggestions for improvements will be gratefully received.


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

MC Rallye 2005: More Photographs

I've just received a new clutch of excellent photos from Jim (our intrepid service manager) in Luxembourg. They capture some of the excitement of the high speed roadside services (bad news from your Navigator: Jim, Juliette, Steffan and Bill -listen everyone, in 2006 we will need to be even slicker as the ACM seem to be reducing road time on each event and some of the time controls were very tight). Anyway here are the pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Monte Historique PRX720B077

Monte Historique PRX720B059

Monte Historique PRX720B042

Monte Historique PRX720B020

Monte Historique PRX720B019

Monte Historique PRX720B018

Monte Historique PRX720B015


Monday, March 07, 2005

Reflections on 6 Months of Blogging

It's now 6 months since I made my first, tentative post. I wasn't sure where the whole blog thing would lead and to be honest I still don't. However it has taken on a life of its own and I feel it's only partially under my control. Building the site has been an interesting and creative process although I wish I'd paid more attention to the HTML class I took back in 1998. Once I'd figured out how to do picture hosting, the whole thing became a lot more interesting for me and, I'm sure, the readers. It wasn't my intention that my rallying exploits would become the central theme, it's just that the recent MC Historique was a very big event in my life. So be prepared for other topics to pop up although I don't think I want to make this too personal. Public displays of breast-beating become pretty dreary and the blogsphere is full of individuals ranting about their parents, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives, work colleagues and people they encounter at their local pub. And blogging about work seems to be a sure way to get fired (hardly surprising, especially if the comments denigrate the author's employer) -indeed the term for this is being "Dooced". So some random thoughts after the first half year are:

• The blogging process is satisfying, fun and therapeutic.
• I had no clue how many blogs were out there (literally millions); they make for quite addictive reading.
• Much of the writing is of incredibly high standard, particularly the left-of-center politico blogs.
• Conversely, many of the right wing blogs (yes, I do read them) are downright scary in their approach to life i.e. shoot 'em, hang 'em, flog 'em, deport 'em, nuke 'em (seriously) etc...
• The right wing commentators frequently resort to extreme and threatening language that is very often racist into the bargain and are totally intolerant of anyone with left-of-centre leanings (sacry, again).
• The practice of "trolling" (leaving viciously negative, inflammatory, comments) seems to be a full-time occupation for many people. Sad, really.
• Over time I will add a balanced selection of blog links to the sidebar. These will be both entertaining and political.
• I've discovered how to do "Google Bombing". Ha! Ha!
• The first rule of print journalism seems to apply, namely, "However carefully copy is checked and edited, prominent and painfully embarassing errors will be apparent immediately after publication". Aargh!

In any case thank you all for visiting my site; any constructive feedback will be received gratefully!


Sunday, March 06, 2005

Monte Carlo Historique Rallye 2005: The Omnibus Edition

Now I did say I wasn't going to write any more about The Rally. Well that's more or less true. I have a lot of things on my plate at the moment (one being how to manipulate the HTML code and and add some extra features to this site). However I've picked up quite a few new readers in the last couple of weeks and it's ocurred to me that many of the rally postings are now buried quite deeply in the archives and furthermore are in reverse chronological order and intermingled with other postings. So to make life a little easier, here are the links to all 10 parts of the Bill and John odyssey. Enjoy!

1. The Departure
2. The Start at Reims
3. The Concentration Run
4. The Classification Section
5. The Common Leg (i)
6. The Common Leg (ii)
7. The Night Loop
8. The Gala Dinner
9. Denouement
10. Some Insubstantial Words of Thanks
P.S. More Photos

P.P.S. Jim and Juliette have added even more cool pics to the Gallery section of the Luxembourg Mini Club's website.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Drinking Nescafe in the Land of Starbucks

Now this is a strange business, - actually a bit of rally fallout. For the last month I've been drinking Nescafé instant coffee at home as a matter of choice. Just in case anyone doesn't know, I'm a resident of Seattle, aka The Home of Starbucks. You know, the place where you fork out up to $4+ for a "handcrafted latte". Well I have to confess I've spent a good deal of money on legal addictive stimulants at Starbucks and its clones over the past decade or more. I do like it and indeed I haven't imbibed soluble coffee in any significant quantities since the early 1980s: living in America has caused me to believe that anything less than ground beans is not an acceptable drink.

Well here's the enigma. On the rally I purchased a small jar of Nescafé Gold Blend and made two flasks of the stuff for us every day. It was particularly useful on the Concentration Run where the only answer to chronic sleep deprivation was brutal levels of caffeination. Now back safely in Washington State I find that I prefer to make cups of instant at home and I'm constantly raiding that little jar. It's not actually coffee in the Starbucks sense but a pleasant drink nevertheless and it's certainly capable of getting me totally wired if I disrespect it. Definitely not wimpish! Now my stock is diminishing rapidly and it's not kept in any of my local supermarkets. I'll have to investigate my local British food emporium next time I go to load up on kippers, proper bacon and so forth. In any case I don't understand this reversion to 1970s-beverages. Maybe it's a nostalgia thing but in any case it's definitely most odd.


P.S. It's just occurred to me that I could ask Nestle for sponsorship on next year's event.