New car: Skoda Yeti Monte Carlo

The Mercedes C220 is off to pastures new and has a not-quite-straight replacement in a Skoda Yeti Monte Carlo. Not many of these about, especially in Brilliant Silver. I struggled to find pictures of one when I was looking, so; you’re welcome, Internet.

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It’s one of the last with the 170PS engine (they’ve just swapped to a 150PS AdBlue-infected version – much slower) and has the four wheel drive that is soo important when driving to Tesco. Given how it goes and the appetite the chassis has, it’s a shame they don’t offer one with the 190PS version.

OK, there’s only so much you can do with a fundamentally awkward-looking thing like a Yeti, but I think it does cut a dash as far as these things go. Qashqai? Puh-leeze…

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The press vibe is right about it too, this is a great wee car. Practical, nippy enough (with this engine at least), amazing gearshift, has already swallowed bike, kids etc. with aplomb, enough trinkets to keep you amused. Dare I say, genuinely a better car to drive than the Mercedes? Yes, yes I do.

Finally some decent sidewalls again too, which means I can again drive up kerbs without worrying about ruining the Mercedes’ absurdly low profile tyres.

Bad points?

Well, the ride is certainly a lot more comfortable than the Merc but it can still feel a bit unruffled over broken tarmac, but that probably says more about the sad state of Buckinghamshire’s roads than any lack of competence from the Czechs.

The odd bit of interior trim is a grade or two lower than you’d ever find in an Audi or VW, but it’s just cosmetic.

The ‘Bolero’ audio is distinctly better than the older VAG touchscreen kit in terms of looks (had it in a previous Touran), but despite having an obviously faster processor and rendering to go with its high resolution display, it seems to have an engineered-in fade/delay which means it takes a second or two do complete most operations like changing radio stations. The screen is responsive enough, it really does look like they’ve made it this way to re-enforce some feeling of “quality”.

Minor niggles though.

Really, what more car do you need?

Car dealers report card

Shopped around for a new car recently. Vast difference in how the various dealers stacked up though.

Lancaster Jaguar: Wideboy-type salesman, far too keen to talk competitors down and stretched truths about the XF to breaking point. Actually said there wouldn’t be a test drive until he was sure we’d be buying a car from him! Took details with promise of quotes, never heard from him again. Not offered any coffee. 0/10

Perrys Ford (two branches): No STs in stock at either branch, nobody seemed interested in talking. Left after 5 minutes each time. 1/10

Chipperfield Land Rover: Disinterested woman on reception barely glanced up when we entered. It was quiet but no-one came across to speak to us. Left after 5 minutes as Evoque really too small anyway. No coffee tried. 2/10

Amersham Audi: Slick sales patter, seemed to be too keen to get us in the car he wanted though and not what we were actually after. No call back as promised. Coffee not offered. 3/10

SMC Ford: Initial chat went well, went back in a few days later though and after a 20 minute wait despite an appointment being booked, discovered they’d gone off the boil as they couldn’t/wouldn’t match online deals. Most 1980s experience of the lot, very shiny suits. Water only. 4/10

Hughes Mercedes-Benz: Not really willing to do much of a deal despite us being a current customer. Sensed that all was not well in the dealership as they were a bit disorganised (not responding to calls/emails) but have been very good in the past. Coffee pretty dreadful, so no change there, but play room for kids is good. 4/10

Sytner BMW: Friendly, relaxed and well organised. Offered test drives, called back when they said they would etc. Will probably buy our other car from them in 2016. Coffee passable, kids liked the nibbles. 10/10

Hughes Skoda: Second visit after quick poke round the cars the week before, got down to straightforward chat about specs and availability with business manager who was happy to tweak and adjust prices. Left after 90 minutes having put down a deposit on a Yeti. The way it should be. Coffee not tried. 10/10

It’s no surprise that the dealers who a) didn’t follow-up with calls/emails, or b) made it clear there would be no decent deals, test drives etc. were never really in the running for selling us a car.

Sales people need to be prepared to actually engage and promote their goods to sell? Whodathunkit, eh?

Election night thoughts

There’s only so much vacuous speculative election bullshit a man can put up with so I’m off to bed with only a handful of seats declared.

Based on the exit polling and the initial results it really does look like a fucking terrible night for Labour, almost a Tory wet dream.

So it may well be another five years of Cameron et al. But as I retire I will take comfort from the following, which hopefully all look like transpiring:

  • Even the Labour seats won plus the 30-40 they look like losing in Scotland would still be nowhere near a majority. Would prove that Labour’s plan to denigrate Scottish voters’ wishes was absolutely the wrong one, and may just have handed power to the Tories.
  • Nigel Farage not winning in Thanet South, maybe even coming third.
  • Jim Murphy losing his seat.
  • George Galloway losing his seat.
  • Danny Alexander losing his seat.
  • Margaret Curran losing her seat.
  • Nick Clegg losing his seat.
  • Green vote share increasing.
  • Lib Dems on a hiding to nothing, haemorrhaging votes to Conservative, Labour and UKIP. Karma’s a bitch, eh?

Night!

Crossing the meme streams

Stellar piece of work from Greg Moodie, mixing the Clarkson fracas into the SLab canon.

Frame from Greg Moodie cartoon about Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson

A horrific alternate universe

To RT, or not to RT, that is the question – A Retweet Guide

You’re a new Twitter user. The whole thing is very confusing. You see a tweet you like. Should you retweet it?

Print off this handy flowchart and stick it next to your computer or glue it on to the back of your phone so you can always find out in an instant!To RT or not to RT

Dress

People are asking about a dress. Someone took this photo of a dress and posted it to Tumblr.

The Dress

A dress (blue)

Apparently many people are convinced it is white and gold.

A great debate ensued, many Buzzfeed articles were borne of it.

It is not white and gold, it is blue and black.

Blue dress on website

The Dress for sale (also blue)

Ends.

The 9p Miracle

How much was your last toothbrush?

79p
£1.49?
£4, but on a BOGOF?
£39.99, but half price at Boots so only £19.99?

It’s very easy to spend upwards of £2 on what is literally just a bit of plastic, and much more if you believe the hype. I’ve tried many over the years. Gum massagers, flexible necks, cross-cut bristles, all that shit.

I was suckered into the electrics for a while but realised they didn’t clean my teeth any better. Also, buying the specific heads was a PITA and locked you in to the pricey OEM parts, razor blade style.

My lovely wife does the non-technical procurement in this household though so I got used to whatever she bought, which tended to mean whatever is on offer at Tesco at the time. All branded stuff – Oral-B or Colgate – though, none of the cheap crap. Teeth are, like, important, yeah?

As dentists recommend I much prefer a soft brush, but it seems that all the common ones are “medium” with soft very thin on the ground. Some of the branded stuff stretches the definition of medium though, with extra long ‘penetrator’ bristles and the like.

I began to look more closely at the price of them when the kids got to an age where they were needing proper brushes. “How much?!” was pretty much my initial response, “Fuck that!” being the second.

I needed a new plan. A Brushtrategy for the 21st Century.

I was working in Aylesbury at the time when I was due for a new brush. I walked past a branch of Morrisons (ack!) each day on the way to work so I popped in there. No deals on, but I spied a pack of two plain white and distinctly ‘70s-looking brushes in a pack labelled ‘Medium-Soft’ so thought I’d take a punt.

The price? 18p

Yes, 9p a brush. Bargain.

Finding out that they brushed much better than the previous Colgate job I was chuffed to bits. At that price you could use a new one every week and still be quids in!

Tooshbrushes

Some 9p miracles, yesterday


I’ve since switched to the Tesco equivalents as they come in different colours so me and the kids* can keep ours separate (important when you see how, erm…careless then can be with them). They are labelled ‘Medium’ but just as soft as the Morrisons’ ones.

Still only 18p a twin pack though. I suspect some cartel-like activity to fix the price of poverty-spec brushes…

9p

Can’t get over it.

What a rush.

Do yourself a favour and try these bad boys. Spend the money saved on beer or smack or handbags or whatever. Martin Lewis? Take a hike, buddy!

*The missus remains a stooge for Big Dental though, the snob in her insisting that a £2 toothbrush much be at least 20x better than a 9p one so she refuses to switch. I laugh at her pathetic profligacy.

3DO Need For Speed – Official World Records*

In the haul of ‘stuff I thought I’d lost in a hard drive crash but recently found again‘ was a folder of screenshots (literally, ancient Fuji digital camera pointed at my old rear projection telly) of the original Need For Speed on the 3DO. They were taken in about 1999 after I got my first flat and dug out the 3DO after a few years of Playstation-induced exile. I still have it, wonder if it still works?

Anyway, it was such a great racing game, real heart-in-mouth stuff. Of course the Ferrari 512TR bossed pretty much everything in the game, with the Diablo only really outgunning it in terms of top speed on the very open first stage of the City route. All the other cars were pretty much curios.

I’m pretty sure at least some of these records are about as fast as you could go on these courses. It seems the Internet is lacking a hall of fame for this game, I therefore humbly submit…

3DO NFS city1

3DO NFS city_total

3DO NFS coastal1

3DO NFS coastal2

3DO NFS coastal3

3DO NFS coastal

3DO NFS coastal_total

As the fella in the FMV clips said, I was one serious driving machine.

*may not be 100% official

Unexpected item in bagging area

Next time you are in Tesco, at the self-service tills, listen out for the phrase “Clubcard accepted” from the lady trapped inside the POS terminal.

Tesco self-service checkout

A Tesco self-service checkout, yesterday

Listen for it again. Shouldn’t take long, she says it a lot.

It certainly sounds like “Clubcard accepted”, doesn’t it?

Or at least it would do if she wasn’t actually saying “Clubcard excepted”.

Now listen again. Carefully.

Clubcard excepted

Did the money-crazed fools at Tesco think we wouldn’t notice? What exactly is their game?

Are they just trolling us?

Is it part of a NWO plot to keep us feeling uncomfortable?

Or is it a glitch in the Matrix?

Smart shoppers may want to keep their wits about when in Tesco stores. Who knows what other unsettling devices they have up their sleeves?

Multibuys that work out more expensive than buying individual items may have been just the start…

Oil Musings

So, US are trying to suppress oil prices to pressurise Putin. Everyone knows that.

But at the same time, Saudi Arabia are happy with a depressed oil price as they have enormous currency reserves and a low price can only strangle/defer US shale output, so they seem to be happy to pump as much as they can. There is probably an element of US/Saudi collusion in this as the US couldn’t manipulate the market on its own, but at the same time a lot of US shale and conventional companies are sure to be hurting with the price this low.

Saudi Arabia won’t want to slacken off its production and watch players like Iran move in and fill the gap though. And other OPEC members like Venezuela want to pump more, but really need a higher price as they don’t have the luxury of foreign reserves like the Gulf states nor the political goals of the Americans. There doesn’t currently seem to be the will within OPEC to make a co-ordinated approach to reduce supply and shore up the price, and with the boom in Russian and US production they don’t have the ability to control the market that they once did.

Where the US views its short-term target price is unknown, but I see a lot of figures suggesting $80-85 is necessary to keep its unconventional production in the black.

Who knows what under-the-table deals the US Govt. is keeping US producers sweet with while this all plays out; promises, guarantees or plain old subsidy dressed up as economic incentive. I’m willing to bet there have been many conversations about this on Capitol Hill though, with countless ‘off the record’ assurances. With the WTI price sinking under the symbolic $50 though there must surely be limits to the level the US Govt. is willing to underwrite or risk domestic production and, by extension, revenue.

What the US needs is for a way to stifle Gulf exports to allow its producers maximum control over the market without explicitly swatting down the Saudis or rattling OPEC via political tactics. What a surprise it would be, for example, if a security crisis started to unfold in the Gulf region that threatened exports just enough to restore the oil price somewhat but prevented Gulf states from influencing the price.

A tanker or two being hijacked/set ablaze in Hormuz should do it. Or perhaps an ISIS-themed skirmish in the Gulf itself. Just enough justification for the Fifth Fleet to steam in and monitor/chaperone traffic under the pretense of security, while of course severely hampering movements. The Venezuelans, Libyans and Nigerians would be jumping for joy, but I’m willing to bet that’s a price many in Washington would accept.

But of course the US would never get involved in something so underhand.

Would it?