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since 14/09/2000


MINI Cooper 30/09/2001

Life in a goldfish bowl

MINI Cooper Ever wanted to know how famous people feel? Buy the new BMW Mini Cooper. Its drop dead gorgeous looks turn heads wherever you go. I picked mine up last week and nothing prepared me for the attention I would receive. Its a Chilli Red Cooper with white roof (a tradional Cooper colour). Wherever I drive people stop and stare. Wherever I park, I return to an audience, my girlfriend is gettin jealous. So what about the car. Well for a start its not mini in dimensions. Park it next to a classic Mini and you will be shocked at how big it is. Its in a similar class to a Fiesta. As I mentioned its looks are nothing short of stunning. Clever design has created a look thats is unmistakenly Mini yet almost futuristic. With the exception of the Audi TT, thaere is nothing on the road to rival it. The interior is equally retro-modern. The large central speedo of the Mini is there but in a very modern form. The cabin design is very well laid out with easy to read dials and a rev counter placed behind the steering wheel. A couple of critisms of the interior are the lack of storage space, no glove compartment and limited door storage and the plastick feel of the indicator and wiper stalks. These are more than compensated for by the comfortable sporty seats and the infinately adjustable driving position. The performance in mid range hot hatch, 0-60 in 9 seconds and limited to 125mph. Its a little wheezy in low revs but hit the sweet spot at 35000-4500rpm and the Mini is just ...

Cozumel (Mexico) 04/08/2001

The American Benidorm

Cozumel (Mexico) I have visited Cozumel on a number of occasions by cruise ship. If you are looking for a good beach style holiday you will get it. If you are looking for an authentic Mexican adventure you will be better of at your local Taco Lodge. Cozumel is Benidorm without the high rises. In Benidorm you have English Breakfast, fish and chips and to add the authenticity, Spanish beer. In Cozumel its Donughts, Cheeseburgers and Corona. If you are in need of a Mexican night, you can go to Senor Frogs, an alcoholic mexican Macdonalds and have great fun with several hundred twenty something septics (septic tank = yank) pouring neat Tequila down their throats, baring their backsides and belching. If the Britsh have a reputation abroad, the Americans like always go one better. My advice is to move on into the Yucatan Peninsular. Visit Chitzen Itza, the greatest of the Mayan temples. Go on the spring equinox and see the amazing serpent festival. Along with 80,000 others you will see the sun cast the shadow of a snake along one edge of the great pyramid, its spellbinding and thought provoking to think that the Mayans were so far advanced to be able to align their Pyramid with the equinox so accurately. It is also rumoured that the pyramids follow the exact lay out of their older brothers at Giza in Cairo. Scary stuff. All in all Cozumel is for beaches and beer, the Yucatan for adventure and learning

Rapa Nui 04/08/2001

Easter Island to you and me

Rapa Nui Its 2000 miles from any major town, the most remote inhabited island on earth. Scenery wise its not unlike a Scottish island, undualting hills and a rocky coastline, except of course its hot. But its most famous for its Moai, the huge haunting monoliths scattered around its coast. I was there for two days in early 2000 as part of a world cruise trip I was working on. There is no port so you are tendered ashore either by lifeboats or zodiaks. The little dockside is virtually open to the sea and over the 2000 miles the ocean has built quite a head of steam. Getting onto dry land was an adventure itself. We walked to one of the main Moai sites about 15 minutes from the dock. Nothing quite prepares you for the sight. They are enourmous, their huge eyes seem to follow you around wherether you go its almost chilling. Before landing we decided we were going to sleep underneath one of them that night, but even in daylight the erieness got to us. The Moai were carved as offerings to the Gods in order to create more food for the islanders. Ironically the very nature of stones was a part cause of the starvation. In order to move the Moai to there locations, vast numbers of trees were cut and the huge stones were rolled over them. This led to the natural defense against soil erosion being removed. In ever decreasing circles of dispair the Moai were carved, the trees cut, the soil eroded. Eventually the population began to starve and die off. The island was discovered by ...

Salvador de Bahia 29/07/2001

samba santa

Salvador de Bahia The phrase "cut the atmosphere with a knife" is often over used, but in the case of Salvador it is an understatment. In all my travels (109 countries on every continent) I have never visited such an electrifying city and that includes Rio. Perhaps it was the fact that it was Christmas but the city was alive with music, you hav'nt lived until you have heard "White Chrismas" to a samba beat. Salvador is unlike any other South American city, it was here that the black slaves were bought over from Africa to work the plantations. From this misery developed capoeira a strange but enchanting synthesis of dance and martial arts. It was started as a form of passive resistance to the colonial masters, the martial arts symbolising the aggression that could not be used and the dance the freedom they desired. Go to the main market near the port any day and there will be any number of capoeira teams dancing, but be warned, they do'nt do it for free and some will actually turn nasty if you refuse them money. A little tip is to carry some small bills, preferably Reais if you want to watch them Above the market, perched on a cliff and accessed by a lift is the old town, Pelourinho. Here I saw people dancing in the street for no particular reason, a huge Samba band playing the aforementioned christmas carol and drank caiprinhas till I was seeing double. For those of you who have'nt tried a caiprinha, your life is yet to be fulfilled. A mixture of Cacacha (brazillian fire water) fresh ...

General: Eritrea 22/07/2001

Great Welcome

General: Eritrea I visited Eritrea this year on board a ship, just before the re-occurance of the brutal war with Ethiopia. We were probably the first cruise ship to have ever visited the country and the welcome was amazing. We visited Mitsiwa, the main port and very much showing the scars of conflict. Many buildings had been reduced to rubble, bullet and shell hole riddled in many others. The locals had cottoned on to the fact that rich americans had arrived and the price of a beer went from a few cents to $5.00. The people were very nice and extremly inquisitive about their visitors but incredible poor. By all accounts the beaches nearby are superb but unfortunately riddled with mines. The Eritreans are a very proud and hardworking people and when they eventually rebuild their country, I am sure it will become a major East African tourist destination. I hope so, they deserve it.

Dixons (Shop) 17/07/2001

Would you like a warranty with that

Dixons (Shop) To me Dixons is the Macdonalds of the elctrical retail world. Spotty youths selling products they have little idea about whilst trying to push extra's on to you. My biggest bug bear with Dixons is the brainless efforts they make at getting you to buy an extended warranty. Last year I bought a cheap modem to replace my broken one. On enetering the store, I was immediately lept upon by youth number 1. "can I help you sir" "no I know what I want thanks" And so it went on. Every time I moved to a new section of shop, I was set upon by a Dixons Suit (a bit like a cheap suit only more dense!) Eventually I found my modem for a bargain £56 and took it to the till. "would you like a warranty with that sir" "no thanks it got a years guarantee" "this is for 3 years sir and only £30" "no thanks, its a cheap modem with no moving parts, if it goes wrong after a year I will buy another" "It covers theft sir" "I do'nt want it" "why not" And this stage I almost walked out. How dare he question my judgement. The reason I did'nt, and here is the point, there was no other retailer on this particular, fairly large high street, who could sell me a modem. Dixons have surreptisously monopolised the electronics business, not only on the High street but also the trading estates in the form of Currys and PC world. The upshot is that many of the expert small businesses who could advise you on exactly which product is most suitable, have gone bust and us consumers are being sold ...

Fly! 2K (PC) 16/07/2001

Climbing but not soaring

Fly! 2K (PC) I bought Fly2 via a company in Belgium as it was'nt released in the UK until the beginning of July. The initial product consisted of the ubixitous cardboard box, a single cd and what can only be descibed as a leaflet as a manual. Initial tests on the simulator were very dissapointing, low frame rates and very choppy. The visuals were very good but also very bugged and high res scenery was limited to a few areas of the world, Heathrow did'nt even have taxiways. My dissapointment led me to join the Avsim forums where I met a whole host of US customers with the same problems. Apparently the developers were forced to release the product before it was finished by the publishers. All credit to TRI the decelopers as they worked slavishly after release to provide 4 patch updates and high res scenery. The only problem is the high res stuff can mean downloads of upto 140mb. This took over 8 hours on my old 56k and very often the file was corrupted by the end anyway. So how is the product after all the patching. Well its very good. I am a trainee private pilot and the Cessna based aircraft feels very good. With flightsim 2000 the Cessna was stable and consitstent in any weather, Fly2 is much more realistic, little pockets of turbulance meaning you are constantly correcting you attitude. The visuals are excellent, hover the Bell helecopter over water and you see the disturbance in the water. Sunsets are gorgeous and the terrain mesh superb, much higher resolution than FS2000. ... 14/07/2001

Not so fresh to you We started using abot 4 months ago after some very dissapointing results with Tesco. We were very pleased, deliveries were prompt service excellent and missing items minimal. A few weeks ago we started to notice a problem. Some of the stuff we were ordering was on or very close to its sell by date. We took no notice assuming it was just a blip. Until last week. Our delivery arrived on time as usual and with nothing missing. This time though we checked the dates. A few example are Mushrooms - on their use by date Chicken - on use by date Tuna Steak - on use by date Bread - Use by next day and few other examples. Needless to say we dined on chicken, mushroom and tuna sandwiches that night. One of the breads we had delivered had two days togo before its sell by date. My girlfriend opened it the day after delivery to find mould like a carpet covering it. She sent an e-mail expressing her dismay at what she found but as yet we have not had the courtesy of a reply. We still use Sainsbury but reccomend that you do not buy perishables that you plan too consume later in the week.

Lloyds TSB 14/07/2001

Two banks or not two banks

Lloyds TSB Ive had a TSB saving accounts for longer than I care to remember. Last year after returning from a 10 year juant around the world and finding myself in a new job, I decided to open a current account. Unfortuantely TSB had become LloydsTSB and as I could only get to the bank on a saturday, I had to open my account in a Lloyds branch which was 25m from the TSB branch but opened on saturdays. This I duly did and have regreted it ever since. The problem is that despite being married for a couple of years, Lloyds and TSB hav'nt really conjugated their relationship. The main problem lies in that they cannot tie together accounts from the two different banks. Problems I have had have been calling my branch to transfer money from my savings to my current to be told its not possible. This is despite doing it the week before. In a similar situation I was told over the phone to register for phone bank as they would transfer money instantly. This took me several days as they do'nt allow you to register from a mobile and when I did get registered was told it would take 10 days for the account to be activated. It was activated in 8 days but I still ca'nt transfer money between the accounts. The exact same is true for the internet banking. Its great to see my accounts on screen but I can do bugger all with them. To be honest, all the time I was with TSB, I never had a problem. Im sure many Lloyds customers would say the same. If you are going to merge, it should be for the ...

Nikon Coolpix 990 14/07/2001

A professionals view

Nikon Coolpix 990 Since moving to to digital photography, professionally, I have used 1, Canon Pro70 as a stopgap, 2 Fuji S1 for my last company and currently the Nikon 990. So how does the 990 compare. Well for starters I will drop the Canon, its not in the same class, so the shootout is down to 2. The fuji claims to be 6.1 million pixels but actually obtains that through software interpolation. It is really a 3.1 megapixel camera. Here the Nikon wins as it is has 3.34mp. On quality, there is very little difference but I think the Nikon has the edge. In exposure the Nikon wins hands down, it deals with difficult exposure conditions much easier than the Fuji, particulaly with contrasty scenes. Ease of use goes to the Fuji as it is a true SLR camera which anyone with a film based SLR will be able to use instictivley. The capacity of the Fuji's IBM hardrive is way beyond Nikons biggest CF cards as its its speed. But the Fuji's achilles heel is the very fact it is an SLR. With CCD's being ultra sensitive to dust, as soon as you take the lens off, you will have a problem. The nikon with its fixed optics negates this problem and using a range of lens additions you can get a pretty versatile range of views. To me the real beauty of the Nikon is the swivel lens. In my profession as an interior photographer, you need to be able to get the camera into tight corners. With the Fuji when you do this you cannot see through the viewfinder, with the Nikon you can just twist the LCD screen to 90 ...

BT OpenWorld 14/07/2001

I wish I could say something bad

BT OpenWorld My experience of ciao suggests that negative opinions get read more than positive. I would love to be negative about Openworld, plenty of people out there are, but its just not going to happen. I had ADSL put in about 2 months ago after my company agreed to install it for me. I ordered online, specified a date and am/pm. I was fully informed all the way, my drivers and passwords arriving 4 days after ordering. The engineer turned up 5 minutes before the start of his alotted time. I had to check my order to see if this was BT I had signed up with. It was. Still, the installation must go wrong I thought, bound too. The socket was fixed in place in 5 minutes, the whoosh test gave a very impressive result. The engineer said he had to go to the exchange for some final tests. Ah I thought this is it, its bound to screw up now. Within the hour he was back. All fine no problems. Gave me the slick looking Acatel DSL modem and told me just to plug it in to the usb socket on the computer. With that he left. So I plugged in the modem and guess what. It bloody worked first time. The speed was electricfying compared to 56k. Ive been using it ever since with the exception of a few hours down time. Here I had heard horror stories about Openworld support but I was treated like a customer, not an irritation at the end of the line. The girl I was talking to was at the end of a long shift but was superb, she patiently walked me through potential solutions, and when none of them worked ...

Tanger (Morocco) 27/03/2001

If god had piles

Tanger (Morocco) this is where he would stick the suppository. As you can guess its not my favourite place. I have travelled to 109 countries on this planet and this is the only place that I wish never to return. Well this and Casablanca. My reasons are simple. The people are so aggressive towards westerners. They are either spitting and cursing you or trying to sell you a flea infested carpet. Sometimes both at the same time. Now whilst I respect every man or womans right to earn a living I do not appreciate being physically manhandled into every shop in the city. In one particulally memorable visit, I had arrived by ship, and went ashore with some friends just to look around the city. As our feet hit morrocan soil, one of the locals attached himself to us. It all starts friendly, always with the same script. "How are you sir" "Where are you from" "I have a brother in Clapham, maybe you know him" "Maybe you would like to visit my uncles carpet shop" Each statement is answered with an increasing impolite reply "fine" "London" "not very likely" "NO" This carried on for about 15 minutes until I started to lose my temper. I took the guy to one side and politely explained that I would'nt want to visit his Uncle if he was offering me a 17 year old virgin for $5. It didnt work. Another 15 minutes and I snapped I turned around with a face that would placate a raging bull "Look will you just F**k off" The guy jumped back about 6 feet and went as white as I have ever ...

Monty Python's Life Of Brian (DVD) 18/03/2001

Racist, sexist, blasphemous and brilliant

Monty Python's Life Of Brian (DVD) Im not going to quote any lines, describe any of the scenes or claim to be the world authority on Monty Python. I will just give you my opinion on this film. Its brilliant. There, finished. "What 90 words? Oh ok" its bloody brilliant. "Not enought yet?" "Ok how about" its fantastic. "Right I see, be a bit more descriptive." Its a cinematic feast of biblical proportions. "You want more?" Well go and buy the video. In fact if you were really clever you would have seen it on the telly the other night. But then if youve already seen it why are you reading this review. Oh god its all getting a bit complicated, where were we? Its brilliant Rats noses, otters ear lobes get em while there hot

Writing a CV 18/03/2001

Less is More

Writing a CV The secret of a great CV is simplicity and being concise. Looking at it from an employers perspective will help. When faced with several hundred CV's, which ones will he choose to look at. The ones that are easy to look at, 2 to 3 pages long and nicely styled. My personal preference is to use a simple modern typeface, in 3 sizes. 20 point for the main title 16 point for the sub titles and 12 point for the body text. I have the the main and sub titles in a dark blue and the body text in black. Everything is nicely spaced, to enable the reader to easily skim over the details whilst getting a good idea of whats going on. Another little trick I use is to put the first letter of each heading in a slightly bigger typeface than therest of the word. There is no reason for this other than it looks good. The final point is the printing. There is no point in spending hours writing a CV only to print it out on seconhand toilet paper. Go out buy the best quality paper for your printer, and print at the highest quality settings. And dont forget, less is more. Good Luck

Channel 4 - Big Brother 16/03/2001

Stripping Fame Bare

Channel 4 - Big Brother They started with six but are down to the final three, but the big question for me is are we seeing the real personas, the celebrities stage personas or channel 4's idea of what they think we should see. It is interesting to analyse what we see. Jack Dee, comes across as a deep and depressed comedian in his stage life. In Big Brother he started by maintaining that, but towards the end of this week, we have seen a soft sensitive side that seems so much more genuine. Vanessa was the suprise, the bold brassy blonde turned out to be a very insecure lady with a multitude of problems - or did she? Anthea, whose recent publicity would suggest a manipulative egotistical presenter, appears as a genuine friendly lady who was sadly manipulated by the media, but could this be an act to revive a flagging career, cynical, me? Both of the other two remaining contestants, I know little of and so shall not pass judgment, which leaves Chris Eubanks Chris has always given the impression of a self centered, arrogant yet strangly funny person. Big Brother confirmed this. All in all, its compulsive viewing and a phsycologist dream laboratory. I have to confess, begrudgingly, that I look forward to the next series proper. But where are the web cams. Why are why only allowed to see channel 4's highly edited version of what they want us to see?
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