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How to rate and comment 12/10/2010

Lets Have Some FUN

How to rate and comment ~ ~ The question you may well be asking yourself when you first start out on an opinion site like Ciao is why you need bother to read others opinions at all. Well the answer to that is simple. You DON’T have to be bothered! BUT, if you want to get the most out of your experience at Ciao, and out of your membership of the site, or even if you’re only “in it for the money”, then the only way you can achieve these ends are by reading, rating and commenting on other member’s opinions. ~ ~ I know I still remember the thrill I got when I first started writing opinions on the site. I sat there in anticipation, flipping backwards and forwards from the “20 Most Recent Opinions” to my own profile page, eagerly waiting to see how my effort would be received by the other members, how it would be rated, and whether or not anyone would be bothered to leave a comment on my efforts. And this coming from a freelance journalist who is well used to seeing his “scribbles” in print. In a way, this “thrill” never leaves you, at least if you are “serious” about your opinions like me, because every new “offering” is like a new “baby”. You want it to do well and to be well received by the other members of the Ciao community. If no one ever bothered to read or comment on YOUR opinions, do you honestly think that you would stay a member of the site for long? I know I wouldn’t. ~ ~ So this ...

Mer Car Polish 18/05/2009

Shine On?

Mer Car Polish I first came across MER car polish donkey's years back when I used to do the rounds of various exhibitions while still earning my crust as a salesman. I'm sure that many of you who have ever attended an "ideal home exhibition" or the Motor Show have seen the product being demonstrated. In fact for many years I believe this was the *ONLY* way the product was marketed. The demonstrators/salespeople used to purchase a franchise, and then do the rounds of the various shows/shopping malls, etc selling it to the public at a vastly inflated mark up! Of course, as I got to know the salespeople I used to obtain the polish for next nothing. In fact, there's a half full gallon container of it lying out in my garden shed gathering dust right now. What's that I hear you asking? Why is it out in the garden shed gathering dust if it's as good as the manufacturer's claim? Well, the simple truth is that it *ISN'T* as good as the manufacturer's claim, and is a fairly ordinary car polish which has sold well due to its slick marketing. One of the salespeople's favourite tricks to convince potential purchasers of the veracity of their claims for MER polish was to get an old car bonnet, (the old Mini bonnet was the favourite choice) polish it up using MER, and then pour a small amount of lighter fuel over it and set it alight. A big whoosh of flame followed, the flames were then doused, and lo and behold the bonnet's paintwork was still sparkling and pristine with nary a blemish to be seen! Of ...

Miami Vice (DVD) 13/04/2009

Leave The Classics Alone

Miami Vice (DVD) FILM REVIEW ONLY As a huge fan of the original 1980's TV series starring Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas I looked forward with great anticipation to this 2006 movie spin off starring Irish actor Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett and American actor Jamie Foxx as his sidekick and partner Ricardo Tubbs. What added to my anticipation is that the movie was produced and directed by Michael Mann, who was responsible for the original TV series. So I expected great things. Unfortunately I was to be hugely disappointed. The movie simply isn't a patch on the original series, and while the acting from the two main characters is passable (they're both excellent actors) the storyline is both muddled and unbelievable and the character development totally non-existent. The story (such as it is) has Crockett and Tubbs working undercover to track down a team of drug barons who are flooding Miami with all sorts of naughty substances. (Some things never change!) You have the obligatory Ferraris, speed boats and designer clothes that so enhanced the original TV series, but somehow in the movie it simply doesn't seem to come together. You even have the song "In The Air Tonight" by Phil Collins that was used to great effect in an episode of the TV show, but this time it is a cover version by a Miami rock band called "Nonpoint". The dialogue between Crockett and Tubbs is often banal, and to make matters worse is often mumbled, so you find yourself actually straining to hear what they are ...

Nestlé Kit Kat Dark 13/03/2009

Take A Walk On The Dark Side

Nestlé Kit Kat Dark One of the most memorable and successful advertising campaigns of the 1990's was for Nestles Kit Kat. Who can forget their famous catchphrase, "Have a break, have a Kit Kat". It must have convinced millions of more customers to try this lovely wee chocolate wafer bar, as ever since it was first produced way back in 1935, Kit Kat has been a firm favourite of British and Irish consumers, (it's the UK's leading confectionary brand) and has long been one of Nestles' biggest money spinners. Everybody these days surely knows what a Kit Kat looks like, in its distinctive red and white wrapper. It's on sale practically anywhere you can buy a biscuit or chocolate bar, so is very hard to miss. These days Kit Kat comes in "foil-wrapped" bars which I suppose is to keep it fresh for longer and prolong its shelf life. Its popularity is well found, mind you, as it is the ideal wee snack anytime you are having a cuppa, be it tea, coffee, a soft drink, or whatever else takes your fancy. With its four fingers of delicious chocolate coated crunchy wafer (or the two finger variety if you're not so hungry) Kit Kat never fails to hit the spot. As well as in the biscuit barrel, I usually have a few bars in the glove box of my taxi, or stashed away in one of the pockets of my golf bag. Kit Kat is quite sweet to the taste, at least if you indulge in the milk chocolate variety. My own personal favourite is the relatively new "Kit Kat Dark", which is, as the name suggests, a plain chocolate variant ...

Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2i 03/03/2009

A Cracking Wee Car (But With Flaws!)

Vauxhall Corsa SXi 1.2i The Corsa is one of the small car offerings from Vauxhall/Opel. I say Vauxhall/Opel as it is only in the UK that it is marketed as Vauxhall and as Opel throughout the rest of Europe. They are one of Germany's oldest car manufacturers (1863) and manufactured their first motor vehicle in 1899. Since 1929 they have been part of the world wide General Motors Group. I was never a huge fan of Vauxhall cars, having been put off them at an early age when I was unfortunate enough to purchase an old 1960's Vauxhall Victor early in my motoring career. It was a total rust bucket, and wasn't much better mechanically, spending more time off the road than it did on it. But a couple of years back I rented a small diesel Corsa (1.3 CDTi) for a week while visiting Sicily, and have to say that I was highly impressed with the car. So when we decided around the middle of last year (2008) to get rid of my wife's Nissan Almera (we never liked it) the Corsa was high on our list of potential replacements, not least because my teenage daughter had just turned seventeen and obtained her first provisional license. (Corsa's are cheap to insure) Corsa's come in various different engine sizes. The smallest is the 1.0 litre petrol model. (Not enough poke) The largest engine is the 1.7 litre diesel and the 1.8 litre petrol. I decided that I would look around for a good condition used 1.2 litre petrol model as this would give adequate performance and good economy, as well as being cheap to insure. I ...

Philips SHC2000 Headphones 18/02/2009

Ba-Ba Boom

Philips SHC2000 Headphones I recently changed my old TV for a new flat screen model (Mikai), so at the same time decided to replace my ancient headphones which were quite literally beginning to fall apart from constant daily use over the years. The foam ear protectors were long gone, so after wearing the headphones for anything more than a few minutes your ears began to ache from contact with the hard plastic. The ratchets for adjusting the headset to fit your head size were also worn out, so the earpieces had a habit of slipping of your ears. My old headphones were made by Philips, and because of their years of faithful service I decided that their replacements would be from the same manufacturer. So off I went to one of my favourite eBay shops (name supplied on request) and after a couple of minutes browsing I found what I was after. A lovely set of big headphones (Philips SHC2000) at a bargain price. It was a fairly expensive visit mind you, as I was also tempted into purchasing a new surround sound system to supplement the fairly poor tinny speakers on my new TV (why are TV speakers ALWAYS so poor?) and a new 4Gb Philips MP3 player for my wife. Anyways, back to my new headphones. What I was after was a set of headphones that had large, well padded earpieces, were remote so that I didn't have wires dangling out of them, which gave good, undistorted stereo sound, and which weren't going to put too big a dent in my Paypal balance. The Philips SHC2000 scores on all counts. The pack consists of an ...

BMW 530d 18/12/2008

Just As Well It Doesn't Drink Red Bull!

BMW 530d I recently changed my taxi. (For the second time this year!) My old car was a BMW 525TDS which I'd run for about 3 years (and about 90,000 miles) practically trouble free, so my first choice of vehicle when looking about for a change of car was another diesel BMW. Unfortunately I was waylaid and seduced into purchasing a Nissan Maxima QX 2-Litre Auto back in June (2008). This big Nissan was/is a marvellous car (review to follow) but after the frugality of the BMW 525TDS I simply found that a overall miles per gallon figure of between 18mpg and 19mpg was simply unliveable for someone who drives such a huge annual mileage as I do, so after a couple of months I decided that much as I loved the car it simply had to go. I'd already decided on my next car. I was after an older model BMW 530D SE (E39 model) which many of my taxi driving buddies had already purchased and who gave the car glowing recommendations on all fronts especially economy, comfort and performance. After a few false starts I eventually found a 1999 model in a local garage with a mere 109,000 miles on the clock (this is nothing on a large diesel engine) and a full BMW service history. The service history is very important when buying a car as not only does it verify the mileage, it also shows it has been looked after properly and is thus less likely to develop serious (or even terminal) faults shortly after you drive it off the garage forecourt. After a bit of haggling about the price (I am a Scotsman!) ...

Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine 10/12/2008

The Ultimate New Car Shine

Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine After your house the most expensive purchase that most people will make in their lifetime is their car, so it makes sense to do your utmost to keep it in good condition for as long as possible. If you're the sort of person who keeps their car for donkey's years, or even if you're the type that trades it in every couple of years for a new model, it makes sense to keep your car in good nick and looking well. Apart from the pleasure it'll give you driving around in a motor that looks great, it will enhance the sale price you'll get when it comes time to either sell it or trade it in. The part of our car that is most exposed to the elements is obviously the paintwork. In our often wet and damp Northern Europe climate our car's bodywork has to put up with a lot of hard wear and tear from the elements. So a good wax polish should be an absolute essential piece of kit in every motorist's tool box to give your cars' paintwork the best possible defence. One of the polishes that I use on a regular basis is Autoglym, or to be more precise "Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine". It's produced by a UK company based in Letchworth in England along with a whole host of other car polishes, waxes, and car care products. Autoglym Ultra Deep Shine comes in a 500ml plastic bottle. One of the first things you'll notice when you look at it on the shelves of your car accessory shop is that it has a Royal Charter both from the Queen and from The Prince of Wales. If you pick up the bottle and look at ...

Volkswagen Beetle Standard 06/12/2008

Well Done Mr. Hitler!

Volkswagen Beetle Standard The VW Beetle, which began its life as Adolf Hitler's low cost "people's car", needs little introduction; its rounded exterior and the distinctive sound of its air-cooled engine is familiar anywhere in the world. The last of the German built cars rolled of the production line in Wolfsburg in Lower Saxony back in 1978, but the old Beetle was given an extended lease of life when production was moved to Mexico, where the last of the old style models was produced as recently as July 2003. This was car number 21,529,464, some 65 years after it was first made, and an unequaled 58 years after the year VW recognized as the first year of non-Nazi funded production. This astonishing sales figure is unlikely to ever be beaten. The Beetle overtook the old record of 15 million Model "T" Fords in the early 1970's. The original rear-engined, air-cooled car was the brainchild of Ferdinand Porsche, but very few were actually produced before 1939. Production started up again in 1945 after the end of WW2 with an extremely basic 1100cc model with absolutely no extras, a non-synchromesh gearbox, cable brakes, and very little bright work. In the USA the Beetle was responsible for starting a small car revolution as countless millions of Americans bought one as a second car that was practical, well engineered and very economical to run. The engine was a basic flat-four push rod design, and in the 1950's the size was increased from 1131cc to 1200cc, and the range was expanded to include ...

Golf Club Marco Simone, Rome 06/12/2008

Roman Decadence

Golf Club Marco Simone, Rome ~ ~ A glorious June morning in Palombara, a north-western suburb of Rome, and at 6.30AM the mad cabbie is already showered, shaved and fed and ready for some action! What on earth was it that could possibly have had him out of his scratcher at such an unearthly hour of the morning, especially when he was on holiday? Some of my regular readers have already probably guessed. A golf course; but not just any old run-of-the-mill links, but a course that hosted the Italian Open back in 1994. (Won by Italy's own Constantina Rocca) I'd managed to obtain a 7.30AM tee-time at "Golf Marco Simone", one of Italy's premier courses. ~ ~ Of course, it was purely a co-incidence that our holiday hotel was located only a hop, skip and jump from the golf course, although for some strange reason I had the greatest of difficulty in getting my wife to believe me! (Wonder why?) The wee lass was in tow, not to play herself, (the course was just a tad too difficult for her) but to drive the ride-on buggy that her old dad had booked to conserve his energy in the roasting temperatures you can get in Rome at this time of year. This was another reason for the early start. At 7.30AM the temperature was a very pleasant 25 degrees centigrade, although it rose to a stifling 40 degrees by the time we finished the round! (That's HOT when you're playing golf, believe me.) ~ ~ The Marco Simone Golf Club and Resort is one of the most luxurious golf and sport complexes in Italy. (If not in Europe) It's ...

Spooks - Code 9 (DVD) 28/11/2008

A Real Turkey

Spooks - Code 9 (DVD) I've been a huge fan of the BBC/Kudos Productions long running series "Spooks" ever since it first hit our TV screens in early 2002. Obviously other people agreed with me, as the series has run and run, with the seventh series currently airing on BBC1 and BBC3, and the series has won various awards down through the years including a much coveted BAFTA. So I looked forward in anticipation to the new spin-off series by Kudos called "Spooks - Code 9" which first aired in August of this year. (2008) Kudos had successfully (in my opinion) pulled off yet another winner with a spin-off series called "Ashes To Ashes" which was the successor to the popular "Life On Mars", and so there was no reason to believe that "Spooks - Code 9" would be anything other than yet another groundbreaking and thoroughly enjoyable series from this innovative production company. Well, sorry folks, but I have to say I think you got it wrong with this total piece of nonsense, which is a huge disappointment to fans of the original "Spooks", and which even if you don't compare it to the series which spawned its creation, simply doesn't hack it as good TV. So what's it about? Anyone who follows Spooks knows that the name refers to the agents of MI5, that stalwart organ of the state that is commissioned to keep us safe from all sorts of threats and terrorist attacks. In Spooks - Code 9 the original MI5 has failed miserably at their job, as London has been decimated by a terrorist nuclear attack during ...

Cloverfield (DVD) 13/08/2008

Godzilla Meets 9/11

Cloverfield (DVD) I'm not saying that it's totally impossible that we humans will eventually meet our nemesis by being wiped out by some monsters from outer space, or the bowels of the earth, or wherever such monsters appear from. Of course, anything is possible. But the scenario speculated in the movie "Cloverfield" (2008), which results in the almost total destruction of Manhattan and vast swathes of New York, is about as likely as the chief executive of the Esso Oil Company joining Friends of the Earth and devising a scheme to make the internal combustion engine redundant. New York is under attack by some huge unspecified monster, which starts of its rampage of destruction by lopping off the head of that most iconic of New York landmarks, the Statue of Liberty, which lands and bounces along the streets of lower Manhattan. Fair enough; that sounds like an interesting enough plot for a horror/apocalyptic movie to me, and a theme that could possibly have been turned into a fairly interesting (if unbelievable) piece of hokum. After all, Godzilla has been filling bums on cinema seats for generations, and has turned up in half a dozen movies and TV spin-offs. Unfortunately Cloverfield just doesn't cut it, and having to pay good money for either a cinema ticket or a DVD purchase or rental to view this piece of unadulterated garbage is about as close to plain highway robbery as it can get. I didn't like Cloverfield, I hear you say? You got that in one. How this movie ever got past the ...

Jaguar XJS 5.3 26/04/2008

A Beast Of A Jaguar

Jaguar XJS 5.3 The magnificent e-Type that Jaguar first produced back in 1961 took the motoring world by storm, but by the mid -1970's it was showing its age and a successor was badly needed. That car was the Jaguar XJS which had all the necessary credentials to make it perhaps the best car in the world; a glorious V-12 engine, a suspension system that was second to none, and all the prestige of the Jaguar badge. But somehow the XJS failed to recreate the magic that had made the e-Type so special. The styling seemed to grate on people's nerves, traditionalists be moaned the slab flanks, strange headlights, and non-chrome black bumpers, and hankered after Jaguar's traditional and distinctive grille and walnut veneer dashboard. Spots car drivers didn't like the styling or the cramped interior. I suppose the main difference between the XJS and the e-Type which it replaced was that while the e-Type had been designed by one very talented person, the XJS was styled by consensus, and as a result ended up being somewhat of a mixture of different designer's ideas of what constituted a great sports car. The XJS was built on a shortened chassis of the existing XJ12 sedan, so that it was unnecessary for Jaguar to come up with a totally new drive system, suspension, and brakes. The standard transmission was a Borg Warner three-speed automatic, and although Jaguar offered a choice of manual gearbox (shift change) only 352 customers ever took them up on the offer! You couldn't fault the ...

Cleveland Golf HiBore XLS Tour Driver 25/04/2008

Love At First Sight (Or Even Feel!)

Cleveland Golf HiBore XLS Tour Driver The Cleveland Hibore XLS driver is so new to the market that at present Cleveland are only just releasing it to golf professional shops throughout the UK and Ireland. Cleveland's marketing strategy is simply superb. Instead of spending an absolute fortune on *VERY* expensive TV and glossy magazine advertising, they have instead sent a selection of demonstration drivers to club professionals to be loaned out to golfers to play a round or two with before they decide whether or not to invest in the golf club. And believe me, this new Cleveland driver is indeed an investment, as it is to retail here in Ireland at a whopping 376 Euros! (That's about four times the price I paid for my first full set of 14 matched golf clubs!) I'll return later to why I think Spalding's marketing strategy is so effective, but for the moment let's look at the club itself. A few weeks back I turned up at my home golf club for my regular Tuesday morning fourball, and as usual popped into the club pro's shop to buy my soft drinks and choccy bars to sustain me during the round. The following conversation ensued. PRO: "Morning Ken. Seen the new demo driver's I just got in from Cleveland. I used one at the weekend and it's added about 30 to 40 yards to my drives!" (Ken's interest is immediately grabbed, as our young golf pro already hits the ball a proverbial mile) KEN: "Ah Tommy, (name changed) get away out of that will ya. You're always trying to flog me your expensive new drivers. Sure ...

Adidas Tour Traxion Golf Shoe 07/04/2008

Get A Grip!

Adidas Tour Traxion Golf Shoe I wasn't over enamoured! The runner-up spot in a team competition last summer at my golf club won me a new pair of golf shoes. Problem was, they weren't the Footjoy brand that I normally wear and which have served me well down through the years, but a pair of white Adidas shoes with black stripes which for all the world looked like a pair of my teenage daughter's trainers. I was even less enamoured when I discovered that they hadn't been purchased in the club professional's shop, which meant I couldn't exchange them for something else. Not that they were a bad looking pair of shoes mind you. Called the "Adidas Tour Traxion" they are a slightly less expensive version of Adidas's best selling golf shoe, the "Tour 360", which is worn by many of the top tour professionals. Anyways, as my old pair of Footjoy Dryjoys were becoming slightly the worse for wear, (hardly surprising the amount of golf I play!) and being a true Scotsman who never looks a gift horse in the mouth, (heh, heh) I decided to try them out. The first couple of rounds I played were fine. Comfortable, didn't let in the water, and with their new soft spike system they kept my feet firmly anchored to old terra firma when I was taking a swing. Then I played in a prestigious Scratch Cup that I had been gearing up to make a run at for ages. From about the third hole the trouble started! The constant ache in the ball of my left foot was bad enough, but then my heels began to rub on the high heel backs, and by ...
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